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Nico Alabas

Finding the play for EUIC

Nico talks about his top picks for the European International Championships in Berlin, Germany.

04/24/2019 by Nico Alabas

What’s up guys, this is Nico and today I will talk to you about my Top5 plays for the upcoming 
European International Championships in Berlin, Germany. Most of those picks won’t come as much of a surprise because we’ve been playing in the same format ever since the Oceanian International Championships in Melbourne, Australia, so everyone is very used to the metagame by now which leads to a pretty fixed metagame. I will talk about why I chose to put the deck at a certain placement, as well as important card choices that may differ from the norm. 

 
No. 5 Blacephalon GX/Naganadel 

Most people thought that  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) would disappear after the release of Team Up because all the new decks from that set looked like they would have a pretty easy time to deal with Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) . Even dedicated  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) players like Zach Lesage weren’t confident in the deck’s future. And for the beginning of the metagame it looked like people were right. Only two Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) / Naganadel (LT; 108) decks made it into the second Day of OCIC, where both of them ended in the bottom five placements for that Day. The rest of Top 64 didn’t include any more  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) decks, so it really looked like the deck was about to disappear, just like Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) / Vikavolt (SUM; 52) did when  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) was released in Lost Thunder. The weekend after however proved that  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) still had a place in the metagame when Zach Lesage won the Regional Championships in Collinsville. Only three more  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) decks made it into the 99-people Day 2 of Collinsville, but it was safe to say that the deck would stick around. Up to this day Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) / Naganadel (LT; 108) is still a frequent candidate for Regional or SPE top cuts, so I don’t think that anyone would be surprised to see it in the Top 8 for EUIC, especially if the amount of Zoroark GX players keeps increasing like it is right now, because that’s the top deck that  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) can deal the easiest with. Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) / Naganadel (LT; 108) is also able to use  Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) very efficiently due to it already playing Mysterious Treasure which makes it a lot easier to deal with the  Zapdos (TM; 40) matchup. The matchup is still not in  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) favor, but playing  Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) at least gives it a fighting chance. 


Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  

Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  is really necessary to keep up with all the  Jirachi (TM; 99)  decks in the current format, because they will almost always win trades against your deck because they use attackers like  Zapdos (TM; 40)  and  Buzzwole (FLI; 77)  while you have to rely mostly on using Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) . Using  Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  will help you to make their set up a lot weaker and will force them to attack for lower numbers or even completely pass some turns. It also helps to decrease your opponent’s mobility when playing vs  Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  by taking away their ability to retreat freely thanks to  Zeraora GX (LT; 201) , which makes  Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  an essential part of  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null)  /  Naganadel (LT; 108)  in the current metagame. 

Energy Switch (LTR; 112)  

Playing one  Energy Switch (LTR; 112)  in  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) has become the norm, but with the increase of Stall decks I think it’s really important to allow yourself to power up  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) in one turn when you don’t have access to Beast Ring (FLI; 102) . Playing an additional  Energy Switch (LTR; 112)  makes these situations even more likely and favorable for you, which is why I chose to go for a second one in this list to make Stall decks a lot easier, and also have access to even more surprise Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null)

Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140)  

I like Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140) a lot in this deck because unlike Cynthia (UPR; 119) , she allows you to keep your  Beast Ring (FLI; 102) in hand while still getting to draw more cards with your Supporter cards. Most decks have to use a lot of bench spots anyways, which makes Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140) very powerful after your opponent’s first turns. Playing two Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140) is also the reason why I chose to still play Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60) , which some  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) lists have taken out in favor of a second  Marshadow (SLG; 45) . With a count of four Lillie and four Cynthia (UPR; 119) you could easily rely on  Marshadow (SLG; 45)  as your back up option in your first turn, but playing two Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140) instead of Cynthia (UPR; 119) just makes it significantly less likely to end up with a good turn one Supporter, which is why Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60) is still in here to help with awkward opening hands.  


 
No. 4 Zapdos/Ultra Beasts 

It might surprise some people why Zapdos (TM; 40) /Ultra Beasts is so far at the bottom, especially if you take a look at recent results/statistics. The main reason is that ever since Denver Regionals, the meta has shifted to a very unhealthy environment for any kind of Zapdos (TM; 40) deck. Stall deck, thicker Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) lines,  Weakness Policy (PRC; 164)  are the biggest issues for Zapdos (TM; 40) /Ultra Beasts. It’s consistency and cheap attackers however, still make Zapdos (TM; 40) variants a decent choice for tournaments, you just have to hope to not hit too many bad matchups. When you play against a deck that run Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) , it’s important to target down Alolan Grimer (SUM; 57) or Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154) while also setting up your own Zebstrika (LT; 82) . This way your opponent will only have one Basic to evolve into Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) , which makes it easier for you to get the ko onto Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) itself at a later point with the help of Zebstrika (LT; 82) . If you can’t target down any of your opponent’s Alolan Grimer (SUM; 57) or Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154) , or play against a deck with a thicker Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) line like Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) Control, you shouldn’t really bother trying to get the ko because it’s very unrealistic to set up two Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) kos within a game. It makes much more sense to target other attackers in that case, but keep in mind to always try to get your Zebstrika (LT; 82) as soon as possible. 

Zebstrika (LT; 82)   

As you may have seen in the lists that I used for the SPE in Bolzano and the Regional Championships in Denver, I haven’t been a big fan of Zebstrika (LT; 82) , and I still don’t really am. Unfortunately, the number of bad matchups for this deck increased to you’re forced to play Zebstrika (LT; 82) now to keep your losses against unfavored matchups as small as possible. Zebstrika (LT; 82) is purely aimed at improving the matchup against any deck that plays Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) , but is of course also useful against any other matchup as some backup consistency in case your Jirachi (TM; 99) don’t get you all the cards you need 

Energy Loto (GRI; 122)  

I’m a big fan of Energy Loto (GRI; 122) because it allows you to use Buzzwole (FLI; 77) and Nihilego (LT; 106) a lot more frequent than lists that don’t run it. Getting your Ultra Beasts in their designated turns isn’t really hard with cards like Ultra Ball or Nest Ball in combination with Jirachi (TM; 99) , but often getting the right Energy is. Every  Rainbow Energy (SUM; 137)  that you have to use early to attack with Zapdos (TM; 40) because you didn’t have any Lightning Energies in hand makes it tougher to hit your Sledgehammer or Nightcap turn, but thanks to this deck’s natural thinning ability, Energy Loto (GRI; 122) increases your chance to get the right energy by a lot. It can even be grabbed by Jirachi (TM; 99) in your early turn to get your Lightning Energies for Zapdos (TM; 40) .  
 
 
 
 No. 3 Ultra Necrozma/Malamar 

I feel like Malamar (FLI; 51) has always been around the number 3 or 4 spot this metagame but has never really been able to climb any higher because it can't get good enough matchups against every other top deck without having to sacrifice too much consistency or tech slots for other matchups. That being said, Malamar (FLI; 51) has always been a solid choice that doesn’t take any really hard losses to any deck. This is mainly because the variety of attacking options makes it much harder to lose to some unexpected deck that you could prepare for. It's also very consistent because you can use the three best searching cards (Nest Ball, Mysterious Treasure and Ultra Ball) very efficiently. The biggest downside of playing Malamar (FLI; 51) is that you rely a lot on your early turns to get a good set up. If you can't get enough Inkay (FLI; 50) into play so that your opponent can just use  Guzma (BUS; 115) to take them out, you don’t really get to play the game, or it at least becomes incredibly hard. Once you get your set up (ideally with a Jirachi (TM; 99) that has an  Escape Board (UPR; 122) attached) Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) / Malamar (FLI; 51) is really hard to be stopped by any deck that has to use GX attackers. One very unfortunate matchup for any Malamar (FLI; 51)  deck that has gained popularity after Denver Regionals is Quagsire (DM; 26) / Naganadel (LT; 108) , because it’s able to use Magikarp & Wailord GX (TM; 161) ’s GX attack to remove all your Malamar (FLI; 51) s from your board. That being said, I don’t think you have to worry about it too much because people will eventually realize that “NagQuag” can’t beat the other top deck consistently. 

Tapu Koko (BW; 31)   

I already played this card back at the SPE in Cannes and I still wouldn’t take it out because it allows you to make a lot of matchups easier by setting up knockouts. In the Malamar (FLI; 51) mirror it’s incredibly strong to spread your opponent’s board to set it up for a Sky Scorching light GX sweep with Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) . If neither player plays any techs for the mirror, it comes purely down to who gets to use Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) GX first. A lot of players tried to fix that at OCIC by playing Acerola, but sometimes just getting rid of one of your damaged Pokémon isn’t enough.  Tapu Koko (BW; 31)  is a way more proactive approach by forcing your opponent to have an answer if he wants to be able to close out the game. 

Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  

I wasn’t a big fan of  Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  at the beginning of this format, but having a switching option against Stall decks and a good GX attack to make a comeback in some games are reason enough for me to include it. It also helps to have a larger attacker variety in general so getting the option to use  Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63)  is always nice. 

Marshadow GX (BUS; 80)  

With all the fighting week Pokémon running around, Marshadow GX (BUS; 80) is just a quick and easy way to deal with them without having the energy requirement that Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) has. The combination of Marshadow GX (BUS; 80) and Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63) also allows you to completely turn matchups like Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  or Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  if they don’t have Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) available to them. 

No. 2 Zoroark Control 

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) Control proved that the metagame wasn’t as figured out as everyone thought it was when DeadDrawGaming used it to great success at Denver Regionals. James PendarvisDaniel Altavilla and Caleb Gedemer managed to make Day 2 with the deck, and Caleb was even able to take down the entire tournament with it. After that a lot of people started picking up the deck at SPEs or League Cups and purely based on results it’s already safe to say that this deck will be a top contestant for EUIC. It’s main strengths comes from being a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) deck but not relying on insane early turns like Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) or Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) / Weavile (UPR; 74) . Thanks to its control nature the deck is built around turning games and winning games even though it’s down in prizes. You also have less Basic Pokémon that you need to bench because you only have one attacker that you need to evolve ( Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) ) and one support/disruption Pokémon that’s not a Basic ( Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) ). One downside that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) Control is going to face now that people know about it, is that people will try to build their lists to win against it. Cards like Field Blower to get rid of Bodybuilding Dumbbells (BUS; 113) , Oranguru (UPR; 114) to recover resources, or Faba (LT; 173) to run the Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  deck out of {CARD 1243} will become more popular so Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) Control will have to adjust to those changes. 

Faba (LT; 173)   

Playing your own Faba (LT; 173) will not just increase your matchup against a straight mirror, but also against any other deck that runs Special Energies, especially in combination with Oranguru (UPR; 114) . Decks like  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Weavile (UPR; 74) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) will have an incredibly hard time to win against this deck, even if they use Oranguru (UPR; 114)

Plumeria (BUS; 120)  

DDG member Daniel Altavilla said it himself in a Facebook posts after Caleb Gedemer won Denver Regionals, and I totally agree with taking out one  Crushing Hammer (SUM; 115)  in favor of Plumeria (BUS; 120) . She makes it much more reliable to remove energies which is essential against decks that need multiple energy attachments and can only attach one per turn (like Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) / Naganadel (LT; 108) ). As you can see in the list, I even went down to two {card 3589} to fit in Basic Energies, which I will talk about next. 

Basic Energy 

This is important to beat other decks that run Faba (LT; 173) . Stall decks will try to run you out of {CARD 1243} so it’s nice to be able to recover a Basic Energy while also being able to have one attached. Since there’s not really any good tech for this deck, just playing Basic Psychic Energy makes the most sense because it also allows you to use Tapu Cure GX. You could also play Basic Darkness Energy, but it’s really unlikely that you will get to, or even want to, use  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  GX attack. Articuno GX (CLS; 154) would be a very good addition to this deck while also allowing you to play Water Energies for the synergy, but its anti-synergy with Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) makes it impossible, because you want to have Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) up and ready in the matchups where you would also need Articuno GX (CLS; 154)

No. 1 Pikachu/Zekrom Tag team 

The number one spot goes to Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) , or as I will refer to it from now on, PikaRom. PikaRom has been a dominant force ever since OCIC, but fell behind the other lightning decks like Zapdos (TM; 40) / Jolteon GX (BW; 173)  or Zapdos (TM; 40) /Ultra Beasts when people started targeting it too much after OCIC. With the current development of the metagame however, Zapdos (TM; 40) versions become more and more risky calls because stall decks like Hoopa (SLG; 55) / Regigigas (CIN; 84) Stall or Celebi & Venusaur GX (TM; 1) are getting more popular at tournaments, purely to deal with Zapdos (TM; 40) since they can't really keep up with the other top decks. Zapdos (TM; 40) had already suffered by the popularity of decks like  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) or Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) versions that can set up an Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) fairly easy to make live very hard for any kind of Zapdos (TM; 40) deck. All of those matchups are way more doable for PikaRom because it doesn't rely on Jirachi (TM; 99) as much and instead of consistently having to get new attackers every turn, you can just use your Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) to deal huge amounts of damage without having to worry about getting new attackers too much. But you don’t even have to use Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) GX on its own. Thanks to a lot of different attacking option the deck becomes incredibly versatile and it’s hard for any of the other decks to have answers to all of your options. The power level of Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) GX on its own already guarantees the deck a spot among the top decks. Add all the lightning support that we currently have in Electropower (LT; 232) , Zeraora GX (LT; 201) , Zapdos (TM; 40) , Jolteon GX (BW; 173) etc. And you have a deck that might very well be a contestant for the best deck of all time.  

Jolteon GX (BW; 173)  

Having alternate attackers is always nice, especially if the offer you new strategies you can use in your deck.  Jolteon GX (BW; 173)  is one of those cards, because it adds a couple of things to this deck. Most importantly it adds a new powerful GX attack in Swift Run GX that allows you to buy yourself a turn or at least force your opponent to have a  Guzma (BUS; 115) or a different switching effect to be able to take a prize card. In addition to that you get the chance to use Electrobullet to target your opponent’s bench when he had to bring a heavily damaged GX to his bench, or if he/she has a Pokémon with a lot of retreat cost stuck in the active position.  Jolteon GX (BW; 173)  also helps you to not lose the Vileplume (BUS; 6) matchup, which shouldn’t be too relevant because the deck doesn’t really exist, but It’s still nice to have an option to beat it. 

Weakness Policy (PRC; 164)  

If you take a look at all of your GX attackers (except Tapu Koko GX (GRI; 135) ) you will notice that they’re all weak to fighting, and with cards like Lucario GX, Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) GX or Buzzwole (FLI; 77) being popular, that can become a problem pretty quickly. This is where  Weakness Policy (PRC; 164)  comes in, to help you to still be able to beat those decks while not just being limited to Zapdos (TM; 40) and  Tapu Koko GX (GRI; 135)  as your attacking options. If you should notice a trend of people playing larger amounts of Field Blower to target Bodybuilding Dumbbells (BUS; 113) or  Weakness Policy (PRC; 164) , I suggest taking out  Weakness Policy (PRC; 164)  for a Choice Band to have a tool that gets you immediate value. 


 
Closing Thoughts 

As I already said in the beginning, I think the metagame has come to a point where it becomes really hard for any new decks to make it into the top selection of this format. Trying to beat five decks with completely different concepts is incredibly hard so the most realistic way to figure out a play that hasn’t been mentioned above (or is one of the classic Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) variants) would be to take hard matchups or even auto losses against some of the top decks while trying to beat the other ones. I’m not a fan of that strategy at all because you’re rolling a dice every round, hoping that you don’t hit any of your horrible matchups. Instead I prefer to pick a deck that always gets to play the game against any expected decks, even if you might end up in a slightly unfavored matchup. I think my Top 5 selection represents those thoughts really well because any of those decks can win against the other ones, if played correctly. Decks like Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) / Vikavolt (SUM; 52) , Quagsire (DM; 26) / Naganadel (LT; 108) and Celebi & Venusaur GX (TM; 1) don’t have what it takes to win big tournaments because they will eventually run into matchups that they simply can’t win unless their opponent is basically sitting at the other side of the table doing nothing. Regigigas (CIN; 84) / Hoopa (SLG; 55) Stall decks have done very well in previous weeks but, especially with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) Control winning Denver, I think we’ve finally arrived at a spot where people are realizing that they need a way to beat it, which makes a lot weaker going into Berlin. We saw a similar trend last season when a lot of Stall decks were taking out  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  players at tournaments like the Regional Championships Leipzig in January 2018. No one was expecting Stall decks to be that popular, which is why they were able to succeed. Just a couple of weeks later at the OCIC in Sydney, Stall decks were basically nonexistent, and with the tournament legality of Oranguru (UPR; 114) one week later, they almost disappeared completely. If you take a look at the latest  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  lists, you can see that most people are playing Oranguru (UPR; 114) again. And with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) being very popular in Europe in general, Stall decks have a lot more to fear than before. In the end I expect PikaRom to be the most popular deck at EUIC, simply because it doesn’t get hard countered by any of the top decks, which makes it the top contender to win EUIC. That being said, I hope I get to see a lot of amazing people in Berlin at the first International Championships in my home country. 
 
 I really hope you liked my insight on what to play in Berlin later this week. If you want to keep updated about my tournaments, streaming or coaching, make sure to follow me on Twitter @LimitlessNico. 

[+28] okko


 

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