Experts' corner

Nico Alabas

The future of UPR-HIF

Nico takes a look at the current format and how it will develop after Worlds, the SPE in Melbourne and the Regional Championship in Sheffield

09/23/2019 by Nico Alabas

What’s up guys, this is Nico and today I want to talk about the current state of the format and how I expect it to develop within the next few weeks, leading up to the Regional Championships in Cologne and Atlantic City. In previous season this would still be a little too early to make projections on how the format is going to unfold until we get the new set in November, but thanks to the World Championships already being played with the post rotation format, we’ve already gotten much more information on decks than we would usually have at the beginning of the season. This article is going to be split into three primary parts about tournaments that we already got results from (Worlds/D.C Open, SPE Melbourne and the Regional in Sheffield) followed by a conclusion based on those results and how the format has developed so far. 


Worlds 2019/D.C Open 

With the World Championships being the most prestigious tournament during any year, it was already very foreseeable that the results from Washington would have a major impact on any tournament going further, because if people don’t try their best to find their deck for the World Championships, when else would they do it? Going into the first day of the World Championships, most players were expecting the top decks to be  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  with a heavy focus on  Green's Exploration (UBO; 209)Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 162)  with or without  Jirachi (TM; 99)  and  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) , followed by  Malamar (FLI; 51)  which people still expected being played, but was widely regarded as too inconsistent and just straight up inferior to the other top decks, mainly due to its bad matchups against the heavy amount of healing that  Green's Exploration (UBO; 209)  brings into  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  by being able to search out Potion and Herbs, as well as PikaRom being able to use a lot of non GX attackers and explosive set ups to overwhelm any kind of  Malamar (FLI; 51)  variant.The first Day 1 of the World Championships didn’t reflect those thoughts at all, with  Malamar (FLI; 51)  variants being the most played archetype by far, followed by PikaRom and  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) . Usually an argument that could be made for that is that Day 1 is not necessarily the tournament where people reveal their top pick for the World Championships, but seeing that world class players like Takuya Yoneda took the deck into Day 2, shows that there is still a big portion of players that considers  Malamar (FLI; 51)  a top pick, which makes sense, considering that it gets very good prize trades against Tag Team decks, especially if they don’t get access to their healing cards, or don’t include them in the first place.  Giratina (LT; 97)  itself is still a very strong card, being able to return every time after being sent to the discard pile. The deck also benefits from the lack of really good gust effects with the absence of  Guzma (BUS; 143)  which also makes it much easier to utilize Spell Tag to turn prize trades into your favor. Day 2 and the following tournaments made  Malamar (FLI; 51) ’s place in the current meta a little clearer. The World Championships concluded with only two  Malamar (FLI; 51)  decks being able to sneak into Top32, and the SPE in Melbourne taking it even down to one. Sheffield was way more generous to  Malamar (FLI; 51)  with six making it into Day 2, three getting to Top32 and one even placing in the Top16.  Malamar (FLI; 51)  is still missing that Top8 placement at any major tournament, but the season is still very new, so it’s going to be interesting so see if  Malamar (FLI; 51)  will be capable of netting some big placements at Regionals. 

The biggest Day 1 surprise in D.C surely was the amount of  Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130)  decks that made it to Day 2, especially considering the number of players playing it. In our testing we didn’t even consider the deck at all because we felt like its matchup against any kind of fire deck would be way too bad to justify playing it, but I guess when your entire tournament consists of PikaRom, {CARD 5744} and  Malamar (FLI; 51)  you won’t have to worry too much about losing to fire. Also going into the World Championships the  Green's Exploration (UBO; 209)  version for  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  was considered superior to the ability version that our group played, and managed to take Tord Reklev all the way to Top 4, and since the  Green's Exploration (UBO; 209)  version often isn’t the most consistent deck I can see why  Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130)  players didn’t value that matchup a lot. It was still able to earn two placements in Top16, out of which one had the same record as the 8th place going into top cut. You can definitely say that  Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130)  did better than most players expected it do to before the event. There was not a single  Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130)  in the Top32 at Melbourne and if you take a look at the rest of Top32 it’s very clear why. Ability  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  was by far the most represented deck in Top32, and since it’s one of the matchups that  Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130)  rarely wins, it’s no surprise to see its absence. But as always, if a deck exists, there will be players sticking to it, no matter how bad its spot in the current meta may be. This is exactly what happened at our first Regionals in Europe, last weekend in Sheffield. In a metagame that was flooded with ability  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) , three players managed to earn enough points to make it to Day 2. One of them wasn’t able to earn enough points to make it into Top32, but Steven Mao managed to get into Top16 by dodging  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  the entirety of Day 1, and squeezing out at least a tie in one of the two matches he played against the deck in Day 2. You can find his matchups on his Twitter. One guy took it even further: David Ferreira managed to take home the Champion trophy in Sheffield. At the point of me writing this article his list hasn’t been published yet, but as some people may or may not know, he played most of Day 2 with four additional fairy energies instead of  Custom Catcher (LT; 231)  due to a deck list error. Since we didn’t have a stream in Sheffield there is no telling in if this change actually helped him in some matchups, so we will have to wait for some feedback from himself on how his tournament went from his penalty and onwards. 

If you trust poll and content creators before Worlds, the biggest surprise by far should’ve been Tord Reklev’s Top4 finish with the ability-based version of  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) . If you asked anyone before Day 1, most people would’ve probably still told you that they think that the  Green's Exploration (UBO; 209)  version is a lot better for reasons like a lot of healing against  Malamar (FLI; 51) , or more reliable turn two energy acceleration thanks to being able to find  Welder (UBO; 214)  with  Green's Exploration (UBO; 209) . By now it has been widely accepted that the utility and explosiveness of ability  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  thanks to  Jirachi (TM; 99)Dedenne GX (UBO; 57)Ninetales (TM; 16)  etc. is the superior way to play the deck. The deck was mainly played by our testing group (Tord, Pedro, Mehdi, Fabien and me) and people that we talked to, but didn’t have access to our full list that we got to after testing the deck at our bootcamp in Germany (Steven Mao and Jose Marrero). Aside from Tord’s amazing Top4 finish, Pedro, Mehdi and Jose were also able to walk home with a Top32 finish. Fabien barely missed the jump to Top32 by one win and I ended the tournament with my worst record at the World Championships so far after losing my first three rounds due to playing incredibly poorly and conceding my rounds after, because Top32 was out of reach at that time. The deck definitely wasn’t the problem in my case and I still feel like it was without a doubt the best pick for Worlds. After Worlds ability  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  rose immensely in popularity and has been the most played deck at every tournament since which resulted into me disliking it a lot, due to being “too popular”. You might ask yourself what I mean by being “too popular”, so I’m going to explain my point a bit. At Worlds the deck was somewhat unknown and able to beat most decks thanks to its own raw strength and consistency when compared to other variants. Before us, no one was playing a deck with just four Supporter, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise that most other list were performing worse in testing and thus lead to people not taking the deck serious enough going into Worlds. After Worlds however the build we established became to go to build for every ability  Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  list and lead to mirrors just revolving around who would get his  Welder (UBO; 214)  and  Vulpix (TM; 15)  first to go ahead in the game. The common version plays one Stamp at most which limits its comeback potential a lot, making the mirror a pure tempo game where the player that takes the lead usually takes the game. Those are the main reasons why I prefer to not take the deck to major tournaments anymore, but others might still want to roll with it, since it’s of course still an incredibly powerful deck once it gets going. PikaRom, {CARD 5744} and  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null)  were expected to be key parts of the metagame, so it’s no surprise that all of them made it into Top8 at Worlds and still continue to place well at tournaments now. 

The D.C open brought a lot of rogue decks into the mix that some people still play occasionally, but none of them managed to make the jump into being a top deck after. The most popular, and probably also biggest contend The most popular decks, and probably also biggest contenders on being legitimate top picks, were Xander Pero’s  Naganadel GX (UB; 230)  deck that revolves around bringing your opponent into a checkmate situation where he doesn’t have any options to win anymore, without being a lock or stall deck, as well as NagQuag which is only marginally different from its pre rotation iteration and still uses  Naganadel (LT; 108)  to bring energies into play and  Quagsire (DM; 26) to move them to your active Pokémon, getting it ready to battle. Some more unique decks from the Open are an attacking Keldeo GX (UB; 47) deck that uses Victini (UB; 26)  to power it up, a deck featuring Slowpoke & Psyduck GX (UB; 237) and a deck using Malamar (FLI; 51) , Naganadel (LT; 108) and Poipole (FLI; 55) among a large variety of options to take cheeky wins. 

SPE Melbourne 

Melbourne was a classic example on how influential the World Championships are when there’s still tournaments after it. The most played decks were the decks that did well at Worlds, and Henry Brand and Kaiwen Cabbabe were even able to follow up their incredible Worlds runs with a Top4 and a Win in Melbourne respectively, using almost identical lists as they’ve used prior. Being scared of Victini Prism Star (DM; 7) , Henry put in a Wobbuffet (LT; 93) to improve his matchup against ability Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) , which is also very nice to block Tapu Koko Prism Star (TM; 51) when playing against PikaRom. Surprisingly way more people started to pick up Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) instead of Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) which placed higher at Worlds. Instead a lot more people opted to play Fini in their decks to counter those who would take the deck that made 2nd at Worlds.  I can’t say too much about how the complete metagame looked like in Melbourne because I didn’t attend, so I’m going to focus more on giving insight on what happened in Sheffield. 


Regional Sheffield 

Going into Sheffield I expected the most played decks to be PikaRom, Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) and Malamar (FLI; 51) , which turned out to be true for the most part. A lot of people tried to adapt Tord’s Worlds list to the increasing popularity of Wobbuffet (LT; 93) in {CARD 5744}, but also the potential of it being included in any other deck. We decided that the best way to adapt the deck to the changing meta was to take out a couple of energies for Fire Crystal (UBO; 230) and also adding a {CARD 5678} to not only make use of Fire Crystal (UBO; 230) more efficiently, but also to have another really good non GX attacker in the deck. Other players stuck with the heavy fire energy version and put in Stealthy Hood (UBO; 186) to help against opposing Ninetales (TM; 16) and Wobbuffet (LT; 93) . In the end I think the correct play for Sheffield was the list that Robin and Tord used, but taking out Reset Stamp for a 14th fire energy. The third Vulpix (TM; 15) helps a lot against the mirror because it comes down to who gets Welder (UBO; 214) earlier while also benching a Vulpix (TM; 15) to target down your opponent’s board.  

Even though it performed relatively poorly prior to Sheffield, there were still a lot of people that decided to play Malamar (FLI; 51) , which was expected, because it’s a comfort pick for a lot of players. Surprisingly, even two-time International Champion Stéphane Ivanoff decided to go with Malamar (FLI; 51) , who previously wasn’t known for playing this deck, aside from a one-time appearance at the SPE in Cannes last season. Just like Malamar (FLI; 51) a lot of people chose their comfort pick Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 162) for Sheffield, pushing its presence. 

PikaRom and Malamar (FLI; 51) being so popular is most likely the reason why Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) was able to place so incredibly well in Sheffield even though Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) was so popular. Both PikaRom and Malamar (FLI; 51) are incredibly unfavored against Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) , thanks to Fairy Charms and a lot of healing cards. Fairy Charm L (UBO; 172) takes away all of PikaRom’s heavy hitters and  Fairy Charm (Psychic) (LT; 175)  allows Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) to stay safe from Latios GX (UB; 78) , which normally would be able to beat Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) on its own. At the end of the day, most decks have to rely on dodging their bad matchups throughout a 17 round tournament, but I don’t think anyone would argue about that Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) is the deck that relies the most on hitting the right matchups, but to win a tournament you also need that little bit of extra luck. 



Going forward into this format I think it has been well established that there is a very large variety of top decks that all have a set spot in the meta and could take a tournament down. So far, we had three different decks win the three major tournaments, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) or Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) win in Cologne or Atlantic City to increase that the variety of winning decks even further. Malamar (FLI; 51) and Oranguru (UPR; 114) have also established their spot in the metagame, but it still looks like they lack the tools to beat the other top decks consistently. The biggest question continuing this format is going to be which decks are able to keep up with archetypes that make use of Welder (UBO; 214) , and thus far it looks like only PikaRom is really able to keep up with them consistently. There is no way Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) wins a tournament where it faces more than two or three Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) , which is why I wouldn’t include it among the Tier 1 decks. PikaRom, Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) , {CARD 5744} and Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  look like the best picks to take into any given format. Malamar (FLI; 51) , Gardevoir & Sylveon GX (UBO; 130) and Oranguru (UPR; 114) control seem like you need to either be really confident into the deck itself, or take it into a tournament where you expect it to have a good matchup against a large portion of the field. 

I hope I was able to give you a good insight on the current meta and how I think it’s going to develop in the next week. If you want to keep updated about my tournaments, streaming or coaching, make sure to follow me on Twitter @LimitlessNico. 


[+20] okko


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