02/19/2020 by Malik Hisyam Zaihan
Hey readers, it’s me again with another metagame article. This time, we’ll be looking at the upcoming Oceania International Championships, which will be held in Melbourne, Australia this weekend.
Granted, things are looking to be very exciting as players prepare for not just the exciting introduction of a new set block, but with it a drastic new change in the rules for players going first. For a very long time, people have debated on how advantageous going first was in determining the outcome of 50/50 matchups, but now players going first will not be able to play supporters anymore! With such a big change in going first, this will definitely make decisions on going first or second more complex depending on how decks are built.
Anyways, in this article I will be going over the decks I am expecting to see play in Melbourne as well as rough predictions on how popular they would be. The metagame aspect is essentially a big guess on my part, but with some thought put into it as well. So without further ado, lets jump straight into it!
Sword & Shield
The new Sword & Shield set is set to shake up the metagame and how we build decks drastically, with the re-introduction of Professor Sycamore (or Juniper, depending on how long you’ve been around) in the form of Professor’s Research bringing back the raw draw power we have sorely missed. Marnie is a pseudo-disruption supporter bringing a new mechanic of shuffling hand cards to the bottom, making those cards in your previous hands essentially inaccessible when drawing cards. Other cards such as Quick Ball, Vitality Band, Air Balloon, Aurora Energy, and powerful Pokemon V cards such as the much anticipated Zacian V will set the new standard in deck-building moving forward.
Before going into detail with the different archetypes that I expect to see, I will first attempt to categorize them into different categories, starting with what I believe will be the most popular, and working my way down the ladder. I would like to stress though, that this is by no means a tier list.
Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX (ADP) / Zacian V
Mewtwo / Malamar
Zacian V / LucMetal
Blacephalon UNB variants (Green’s, Jirachi & Lucky Eggs, Pidgeotto)
Mewtwo / Welder
Giratina & Garchomp GX
Green's Exploration ADP variants
Reshiram & Charizard GX / Welder
ADP / Zacian V
What happens when one of the few top contenders from the previous format gets such a powerful and synergic new partner? At first glance, Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword ability does not sound that powerful as it means your turn essentially ends, but in a format where going first means no supporters – it’s a total game changer being able to draw additional cards and have a chance of attaching additional energy.
The addition of Zacian V and Metal Saucer into an already powerful deck such as ADP gives it a totally different dimension, with better outs to possible Turn 1 Altered Creation GX scenarios going second. What makes this deck so powerful is its newfound ability to hit such big numbers, and ability to quickly come up with checkmate scenarios after having taken the first 4 prizes on Tag Team Pokemon. With Altered Creation GX, Zacian V is able to hit for 260 damage, just 10 shy of the key amount of HP possessed by Mewtwo & Mew GX, which is usually solved by the new Vitality Band, Shrine of Punishment (although notably you lose the additional prize effect) and even Galarian Zigzagoon.
This archetype doesn’t lose much from the new first turn rule, especially if it is able to start with Jirachi and a benched Zacian V, being able to use Stellar Wish Turn 1 and ending the turn with an Intrepid Sword, potentially setting up for a strong second turn. These scenarios aren’t that farfetched with the introduction of Quick Ball, being able to easily get basic Pokemon out. With the amount of hype surrounding the deck as well as how inherently strong it is, I am fairly confident that it will see a lot of play. This, however, means that it may also be heavily countered.
Pikachu & Zekrom GX
After seemingly falling off the radar in the previous metagame (apart from some appearances at Cups), Pikarom looks to be making a strong return as a top tier deck with the introduction of Sword & Shield, with a strong showing at the recent Champions League Aichi.
Quick Ball gives the deck a much more consistent way of getting Tapu Koko Prism out, a card that is usually maxed out in Pikarom lists as it works for every Pokemon in the deck. This significantly betters the chances of hitting a Turn 1 Full Blitz going second, and almost guarantees a Full Blitz on Turn 2. Tapu Koko V is a strong new 2-prize attacker for the deck, with a base damage of 200 which is easily modified with Electropowers, and lists are seeing Big Charm being played, slightly messing up the math for opponents.
It is also highly versatile in approaching matchups, with at least 2 GX attacks at its disposal. A common approach is going for late game multiple prize turns with Tag Bolt GX, making the deck less susceptible to Reset Stamps as it does not race prizes very fast. Alternatively, it can also go aggressive with Raichu & Alolan Raichu GX being able to hit big numbers with help from a single Electropower. Being a crowd favourite archetype before and having been given a fresh breath of life, expect Pikarom to be popular again in Melbourne.
Mewtwo & Mew GX / Malamar
The third most popular deck that I am expecting would be Mewtwo/Malamar, albeit with a difference in build as compared to the previous top tier Welder build. This newer build with Malamar has more focus on Psychic type attackers, with usually multiple copies of Trevenant & Dusknoir GX, so it is able to abuse Marnie and then use Night Watch to keep the opponent’s hand size very low.
In addition to Mysterious Treasure, Quick Ball gives it a beefier Pokemon search engine, consistently being able to setup multiple Inkays down early. A deck with multiple tricks up its sleeve, it can easily switch from having a more ‘control’ and disruptive approach to being aggressive, with players starting to include Ultra Necrozma GX to have an efficient high damage attacker.
Depending on the matchup, Mewtwo/Malamar may also opt to use an early game Horror House GX to slow the opposition down by 1 turn, or go with a Clear Vision GX early to disable GX attacks such as Altered Creation GX. A highly versatile deck, with fixes to its past consistency woes in the form of Professor’s Research – expect a fairly sizeable amount of Mewtwo/Malamar decks in the field.
This deck would be up there in the highly popular list if not for the general tendency to avoid playing mill decks, which also happens to not be very popular in the Oceania region. However, that does not mean that it will not be played, but perhaps in smaller numbers. The general build that is currently seeing hype makes use of Zacian V as well to draw additional cards early, and abuses Bellelba & Brycen-Man to discard cards from the opponent’s deck. It also makes use of Magcargo GX to use its Burning Magma GX attack to mill the remaining cards from the deck, which essentially puts players on a very fast clock before their entire deck is turned into a Discard Pile.
Zacian V / Lucario & Melmetal GX
A slightly different variant of Zacian V, this deck focuses on attacking with the new legendary Pokemon very early on, taking advantage of trading with 2-prize attackers over Tag Team Pokemon. It relies heavily on Metal Frying Pan, making the numbers very awkward for opponents to consistently knock out Zacians. Lucario & Melmetal GX gives it an additional option, with a very strong GX attack that will make it even harder to hit numbers. Its discarding effect is also very strong, potentially slowing down ADP decks and making it very awkward for Pikarom to keep energy on the board.
Blacephalon UNB Variants
This deck has been kept alive (and well!) by many European players, especially at the recent Regional in Bochum which saw an all Blacephalon finals, with different builds. The 3 main builds that see play are the Pidgeotto version, Green's Exploration version as well as newer the Jirachi, Lucky Egg, and Oricorio GX builds. There is always a debate on which build is better, but regardless of which one that is – it is a very strong deck going into the Oceania Internationals, especially with all the hype surrounding Metal type Pokemon.
Mewtwo & Mew GX / Welder
Albeit losing some early game steam with the new Turn 1 supporter rule, I would still not downplay this archetype as it is still a very strong deck. Notably it is probably much more explosive than its Mewtwo/Malamar counterpart and has an array of different attackers due to its use of Fire Energy, but ultimately it has lost some of its ability to put a lot of pressure early game. That being said, I would still not underestimate this deck for its ability to hit big numbers efficiently thanks to Welder, and players may adapt and make changes to lists to overcome the new Turn 1 supporter rule by supplementing with more items.
With that, I hope that this article gives a better picture of what to expect in the upcoming International Championships in Melbourne. It is still a fairly raw format with many unrefined lists, but that’s also what makes these Internationals very exciting for deckbuilders as well as for viewers.
In terms of numbers, I am expecting this IC to likely be the smallest IC of the entire season again, with the possibility of it being smaller than the previous edition too. In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak in nearby China, I’d like to also remind all players & staff to maintain a high level of hygiene going into the tournament and at the event itself. Remember, fist bumps are OK if you are not comfortable with handshakes!
I am unfortunately not able to attend this IC for the second time in a row due to Australia’s recent strict visa regulations. It's quite a bummer for me as it is the closest IC to Malaysia and especially after a strong showing at my last one (literally!), but in spite of that I would like to wish all players best of luck and may the best player win.
Thank you for reading!
- Malik Hisyam
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