How to Approach the Garchomp Mirror Match + A Quick Look at Ho-Oh EX

BulbapediaAs a recent graduate I have spent the better part of this week writing my resume, which I must say is a much larger undertaking than I was expecting. Essentially I have 30 seconds to explain to a potential employer who I am and why they should care. I instantly saw a lot of crossover between my resume and my article writing. When writing the article, I’m writing it to you the readers and I have a short time (usually my introduction and a quick glance through) to not only explain to you what my article is about, but also why you should care.

My article this month is going to discuss the new Battle Roads format and how this affects you. However, the main body of the article is going to discuss the Garchomp deck that made waves in Japan. Over the course of the article I plan on discussing different cards to consider when building the deck along with the pros and cons of those cards. I also plan on heavily discussing how I play the Garchomp mirror match as well as different way to tech your Garchomp deck for the mirror.

As for why you should care (generally what I consider to be the most important part of an introduction), Garchomp made waves in Japan when it won a Battle Carnival using the Black & White to Dragons Exalted format. What gave the deck even more respect was that it was piloted by the 2010 World Champion and generally accepted as one of the Top 10 players in the world, Yuta Komatsuda. Not only did the deck win a major tournament in Japan, but if one of the top players in the world had enough faith in it to play it in this format, then others surely will as well.

All of these things combined means that Garchomp will see a solid amount of play at least through Regional Championships. I understand not everybody is planning on playing Garchomp so I also plan on making a lot of this article relevant to people who not only want to get better at play Garchomp and the mirror, but those people who want to get better at playing against Garchomp at the same time.

Originally discussing Garchomp was going to be the entire article, but after seeing that Ho-Oh EX had some decent showings at BRs I decided to touch upon this deck as well. Despite it winning a few BRs, I still consider it a high Tier 2 deck right now. I decided to talk about it anyway because the deck is a lot of fun to play and it might catch a few people off guard if they’re not ready for it.

Should You Treat Battle Roads Differently?

pokemon-paradijs.comBefore I really get too deep into this article I want to discuss the new format for Battle Roads. To quickly recap the way it works is that BRs no longer have a top cut and your placing is determined after Swiss in the final round. The reason P!P gave for this change was to make BRs shorter and less time extensive.

Personally I absolutely hate this change and feel it’s a bad direction for the game to move. I feel it adds a huge amount of luck to a tournament performance and removes a good amount of skill. A single donk or even just 1 bad hand would remove you from contention for the title. I basically feel the winner of BRs will have more to do with who “ran hotter” than who was the best player on a given day.

That’s not to say that “running hot” or bad hands don’t have an effect on regular tournaments as well, I just feel they have less to do with deciding the overall outcomes. A lot of stuff can happen where a player will lose a game (both legitimate and illegitimate), which would leave the player feeling a bit sore. I think there is considerably less room to be upset about losing 2 games.

I think the only way that I would be okay with no top cut is if BRs were ran best 2-of 3 Swiss. I believe best 2/3 for Swiss is standard in Europe (correct me if I’m wrong) and it would have been great to see P!P try it here in the US on a low value tournament like BRs.

I do want to be objective though and look at both sides by listing some of the pros and cons with these changes


– It is much harder to win Battle Roads. I think with the increase luck it is much harder to win multiple BRs. I will be very interested to see at the end of the year how man people actually cap out. I am honestly a big fan of this as I always felt BRs were too easy to play such a large part of deciding an invite. While I feel they still are, I am in favor of anything that makes it harder for people to cap out at them.

– They end much earlier in the day. This is something that many of my football friends quickly pointed out. I never had any problem giving up my Saturday nights for major tournaments like States or Regionals, but I did kind of hate it for small tournaments like Battle Roads.

– The top cut for Battle Roads was often awkward. What I mean by this was usually the tournaments were too small and the Top 2 was simply a replay of the last round of Swiss (very valid) or they were too large and numerous X-1s missed the max top cut of 4 (I still don’t see why top cut isn’t always determined by attendance). I saw the impact of this a lot locally, though I still feel there was other ways to deal with this issue.


– There is too much luck involved. I won’t dive too much into this, but I just don’t think one bad hand or a single donk should throw somebody out of contention.

– People play less. It really takes away that goal of wanting to make top cut and how good it feels if you do. Second of all for somebody looking to travel for Battle Roads driving a couple hours to play 5 rounds with no top cut becomes far less appealing. I found it ironic that they took away top cut because P!P always stated they would never tell somebody they were playing too much.

Note: I wrote this section before Jason posted his thoughts on The Top Cut. We echo a lot of the same sentiments, but I still feel like his article a great read.

pokemon-paradijs.comOnce I got my original reactions to this negative change out of the way I had to face the reality of the situation. This is the way BRs are going to be run, so how is that going to change things for the tournament and for me? Originally I wondered if people would be less likely to travel for them, but with BRs making up almost a 4th of the necessary points for a Worlds invite that thought was quickly struck down.

It has always been my belief that a Worlds invite should be earned at the major events (States, Regionals, Nationals, Worlds) and not at the small events that favor those who can travel the most. My problems with the rating system though is a whole different issue entirely, so I digress.

The clear and most obvious difference would be that a player would need to go undefeated in Swiss. This quickly led me to start thinking about how important it was not to take a bad matchup against a big deck. I also started thinking about how I could improve the consistency of my decks to avoid bad starts or bad hands. Pretty soon I also realized that despite this change in the structure of BRs my thought process in preparing for the events was the exact same.

I never choose a deck that has a bad matchup against something that is popular and I never play an inconsistent deck thinking “oh it’s fine I can take a loss due to a bad start.” Usually the difference between going 6-0 and going 5-1 is due to factors outside of your control. Sure, no top cut makes it more important to have a consistent deck and not to make misplays, but these are things that you should strive for anyway.

pokemon-paradijs.comFor me personally my preparations for Battle Roads are going to be exactly the same as they have been in past years. Of course everybody wants to win Battle Roads, but I always see the most important thing for Fall BRs is that it gives players a tournament atmosphere as they prepare for Regional Championships. While I of course want to win BRs, learning the strength and weakness of different decks heading into Regionals is the main reason I plan on attending them.

One change I do think is important to make when playing in BRs this year is a mental change. I am a competitor…I play to win and all to often my attitude heading into tournaments is if you’re not first, you’re last. I am certainly not a jerk if I lose nor would I ever cheat to win. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to win (as long as you keep your emotions in check), but there is always a sting when you know you won’t.

This is basically what happens when you lose a game at BRs. That 1 loss means that it is not possible for you to win the tournament. I think this is going to mentally defeat a lot of people and give them this “I don’t care anymore” type of outlook on the rest of the day.

It’s going to become just so important to accept that you’re not going to win the tournament, bury those feelings and go into the next round fresh. Going X-1 or even X-2 is still worth key points when trying to secure the invite for Worlds. I played in 5 BRs last year and won 3-of them while going undefeated in none. While I would love to show up to BRs and go undefeated at all of them I play in, realistically I’m preparing myself mentally for this sort of situation.


One of the biggest things I struggled with last month was finding a topic to write about. Heading into BRs I felt like the top 3 decks are Garchomp, Hydregion, and Eel variants. The problem was that my lists were so similar to the Japanese lists I just didn’t feel like I had new or different information for the lists to make a good article. After I turned my article in for last month I started thinking and realized that perhaps the lack of new information about these decks is exactly what makes them great topics to write about. After all the idea behind SixPrizes is to give an advantage to Underground members.

Since everybody has a good Garchomp list and its one of the best decks in the format it’s a safe assumption that it will see a good amount of play. I also realized just how important it is to have an advantage in mirror. So for this article I plan on taking on how I deal with the Garchomp mirror match. I plan on tackling this issues from different sides such as teching the Garchomp deck in general, teching it for mirror, and how to play the mirror.

Making the Deck Choice

pokemon-paradijs.comWhen making my deck selection for tournaments, I’ve always gone one of two ways. I’ve either played a deck that I feel counters the predicted meta or I’ve played what I considered the best deck in the format with the intention of simply playing it better than everybody else. Perhaps that statement sounded arrogant or cocky, but the truth is too many players simply go online, copy a deck, and show up to the tournament with it. In many of the cases they have no idea how to play the deck and in some of the cases their list is outdated or just plain bad.

Now in that first paragraph I made a lot of claims and statements that I would like to take the second paragraph to break down a bit more. The “best deck in the format” is always going to be open to interpretation. During States last year both Eels and CMT could make arguments for being the BDIF. Be aware of what is the most played deck in the format, but do realize that the most played deck in a format is not necessarily the best deck in the format. Obviously it’s the most played for a reason, but what I’m saying is don’t just instantly make that jump.

As for my statement of “playing it better than everybody else,” I feel like this isn’t me being cocky (though a bit over generalized) rather me playing to my strengths. If I don’t feel I can play a deck as well as or better than my competition then I need to find a different deck.

In many cases I purposely avoided playing some decks (such as CMT for Regionals, or Eel for Worlds) simply because I knew that my experience level with the deck was much less than my opponents who had been practicing with the deck all summer/better part of the season. This would lead me to have issues in many of my matchups, especially mirror.

The Garchomp Deck

I am pretty sure by now everybody has seen the Japanese world qualifying lists that used the Black/White to Dragons Exalted format. If you haven’t check it out here as it is a great resource to have.

The downside (or upside depending on how you look at it) of having the Japanese lists released is that it creates a “standard” list. I’ve seen a couple different variations on the list, but for the most part they are pretty close. For the purposes of this article I am going to use Yutas list as a base point.

Yuta Komatsuda

Pokémon – 21

4 Gible DRX 87
3 Gabite DRX 89
4 Garchomp DRX 90
3 Swablu DRX 104
3 Altaria DRX
3 Emolga DRX
1 Rayquaza DRX

Trainers – 28

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Cheren
3 Bianca


4 Pokémon Catcher
3 Level Ball
3 Rare Candy
2 Super Rod
2 Switch

Energy – 11

7 Fighting

4 Blend WLFM

Very rarely do I look at somebody else’s list and feel it’s nearly perfect for me and my play style. However, this list is really close and Yuta and I have much more similar play styles than I realized. When I look at this list I see consistency in both the Pokémon line up and the Supporter/Item lineup. Yuta’s tech choices are very simple and are designed to keep the deck flowing smoothly over the course of a game.

The only difference right now between my list and his is that I run 4 Cheren and only 2 Bianca. This is because I just don’t feel like Garchomp can “burn” its hand down low enough easily enough to warrant 3 Bianca. Honestly, I wouldn’t even run 2 if I felt like the format had a better Supporter. Normally I’m only netting 3 or fewer cards off of it anyway and the times I’m netting 4 doesn’t make up for the times I’m netting only 2. You can make an argument that Bianca is amazing off of N, but we could go back and forth all day with pros and cons.

Teching the Deck

4th Level Ball

pokemon-paradijs.comThis is honestly the biggest card I want in the deck right now. There is really just no point in the game where Level Ball is a bad card. Early game it’s clutch to either set up an early Emolga or Gabite and it can be used any time during the game to search out key Pokémon like Altaria or Swablu (which you have no other way to search out). Sure you have Gabite, but it’s not uncommon at all to find yourself in situations where you need to search out more than 1 Pokémon in a turn.

4th Swablu

I feel like Altaria is really the weak link of the deck, since without it Garchomp is a mediocre Pokémon with very mediocre damage output. One of the biggest reasons to run the 4th Swablu is because you have no way to search out with the exception of Level Ball. It also really needed on the bench just to “threaten” that extra 20 damage and can really mess up the opponent’s math.

Keeping Altarias in play can be a challenge, so if I only have 1 in play my opponent knows if they KO it I don’t have access to another 1 next turn. Simply having a Swablu on my bench takes this plan away from my opponent regardless if I can actually get the Altaria or not. In fact simply having a Swablu on the bench could dramatically effect how my opponent plays their turn.

The downside is I’m adding another 40 HP Basic to the deck I desperately don’t want to start with. With BRs essentially being 1 loss and you’re done, one of the worst situations is opening lone Swablu going second.

4th Emolga

Emolga is by far the best starter in the deck and starting the game with it opens up a ton of turn 2 possibilities. Playing 4 gives you the greatest chance of starting with it, but at the same time there is simply no reason to play the 4th copy outside of the odds of starting with it. It reminds a lot of the debate of 3 vs. 4 Smeargle and how in the end many people opted for 3 and than use the open spot for a tech. Personally I feel 3 Emolga is the perfect number, but I really can’t argue with anybody who plays 4. I would just rather use that spot for something else.

Max Potion

I’ve seen this idea thrown around a lot lately, but to be bluntly honest I don’t like it. The idea behind Max Potion is to deny your opponent key KOs. This is why you see it a lot in Darkrai deck or Eel based decks. Unlike Garchomp though these decks have a vested interest in protecting and keeping either their main attackers or support Pokémon (Eelektrik) alive. Garchomp on the other hand really doesn’t operate under this principle.

With only 70 HP it’s very unlikely that Max Potion is going to do much to protect Altaria and I play the deck so Garchomp is nothing more than a self-replacing attacker. Sure you Knock Out my Garchomp, but I have two more waiting on the bench. We’re not trying to “tank” a Garchomp and since Garchomp isn’t an EX the “denying the opponent prizes” become less of an issue. I’m not saying Max Potion is a bad card for the deck, just I think there are quite a few better options.

Teching for Mirror


pokemon-paradijs.comThis is probably the biggest tech you can have to improve your mirror match. Rayquaza is just so good in the matchup as it is easily searched out by Gabite and you put zero investment into it. It can 1HKO all of the main Basics in mirror (Gabite and Swablu) as well as 1HKO Altaria and opposing Garchomps if you have 2 Altaria in play (not always easy though). The big thing is it forces your opponent to deal with it rather than other threats like Garchomp or Pokémon you want protected like Gabite.

The downsides are while I really like 1 Rayquaza in general it really doesn’t do a whole lot in most of the other matchups and you certainly don’t need more than 1.

The other issue is you essentially only run 4 Lightning Energy, which means that it’s really hard to effectively use 2 Rayquazas in 1 game, or at least always have the Energy when you need it. The discarding of 2 cards can also really hurt, not enough to warrant not running it, but enough to be noted.

2/3 PlusPower

Not running PlusPower in the list is more of an issue of room than not wanting to run them. A very common strategy against Garchomp is to go after the Altaria to lower the decks damage output. In mirror 1 PlusPower allows you to KO an opposing Garchomp without an Altaria in play. The 1 PlusPower also allows you to 1HKO an opposing Garchomp with Rayquaza if you have 1 Altaria in play. PlusPower also sets up some nice situations math wise against other decks as well and is great for scoring surprise KOs your opponent doesn’t think you can.

The downside is as always room, there has been numerous times when I’ve been playing mirror I’ve thought “I really wish I had a PlusPower,” but I just see no easy way to put them into the deck.

I hope you weren’t hoping for a long section on how to tech for mirror because I certainly don’t have it. When I am teching any deck for mirror I normally prefer to go the route of more consistency than anything. Deck space is very valuable and if I’m going to waste it teching the card(s) better either… A: have a HUGE impact on the match up (like Rayquaza) or B: be visibility useful in a wide array of other matchups.

The only card I would honestly strongly think about teching for mirror in the deck is a 2nd Rayquaza. Considering how dead the card is in every other match up though I suggest against it, unless you’re positive a large portion of the field will be mirror.

What to Cut?

I talked a little bit about some different changes I would like to make to the deck and some different counts I’m trying in testing. One of the things I didn’t talk about though is how to find room for this stuff. I simply don’t think it’s a good idea to cut consistency cards such as Supporters or key tech cards the deck already plays like Super Rod. Here are some in my opinion more “open” spots to work with.

3rd Gabite

pokemon-paradijs.comI really don’t like this cut as turn 2 Gabite is just such a strong play. However, with 3 Rare Candy and 2 Super Rod playing only 2 Gabite becomes more feasible. Another option I have been playing with is going with only 2 Gabite and 4 Rare Candy to make the deck faster.


I already talked about bumping the Emolga count up to increase the odds of starting with it. Another option is to lower the count to only 1 or 2 copies. Basically you accept you’re not going to open with it very often and instead opt to play without it most games or search it out and rely on the turn 2 Emolga.

4th Pokémon Cather

Being able to pick off easy prizes or small threats before they become larger is huge in a lot of matchups. Playing only 3 Pokémon Catcher may seem risky, but if you’re upping cards to give you a stronger start, the tradeoff may be worth it.

Edit: After doing some more testing with only 3 Catcher I am firmly against this drop. You’re already losing 1-2 Catcher over the course of the game due to discarding cards like Juniper. I now feel playing with 3 is just way too risky.

2 Switch

The 2 Switch are nice little techs in the deck and can help setting up plays such as a Turn 1 Emolga or getting Rayquaza in or out of the Active spot. It can also set up nice situational plays like getting out of Special Conditions or not wasting an Energy to retreat if your opponent uses Catcher to bring up a Pokémon you don’t want active. The bottom line though is all of your Pokémon have a Retreat Cost of 1 (besides Rayquaza), so it’s far from a staple.

3rd Rare Candy

I think this makes the deck play a little bit slower at times and can make getting out Garchomps a bit harder. Usually (game state permitted) you prefer to evolve up through Gabite. Dropping the 3rd Candy for cards that increase your odds of turn 2 Gabite make the tradeoff worth it.

7th Fighting Energy

Since Garchomp really only needs 1 Energy to attack, playing 11 Energy (and 2 Super Rod) seems like a bit of over kill to me. The 11th Energy though is less about being needed and more about being able to get an Energy when you need it. Not being able to attack because you missed the Energy drop even just 1 turn can completely turn the game around for your opponent. I really like how 11 Energy seems to play, but I feel like this is a pretty valid drop overall.

Edit: I tested this one a bit more as well and although I only missed a few key Energy drops it usually cost me the game if I did. I no longer consider this a viable drop.

Playing the Deck

en.wikipedia.orgThe first concept that I really want to get across about Garchomp/Altaria is that it’s a very linear deck rather than a circular deck.

A linear deck is a very straightforward deck that has one primary goal and plays virtually the same from game to game. A circular deck on the other hand has a ton of different options and how the deck plays will vary dramatically based on the matchup. Looking back at last season the 2 big decks that I feel emphasize this the most were Darkrai/Mewtwo and Eels. Darkrai/Mewtwo was a very linear deck in the sense that you only had 2 main attackers in the deck. In most matchups you would lead with Darkrai and than transition into Mewtwo EX.

Eels on the other hand ran a whole host of different attackers such as Raikou-EX, Mewtwo EX, Zekrom, and even a difference in Tynamos. Depending on what the deck was playing against would determine which strategy was used and which attackers would accomplish this goal.

Normally I find myself leaning toward a more circular deck because I like to have all of those options at my disposal, but in many cases a simple straightforward deck is the way to go. While this is a concept I want you all to be aware of don’t base how good a deck is on the grounds if it’s linear or circular. Rather look at the deck itself and judge it based on its own merits.

Note: While I never discourage linear decks for Masters, I do strongly encourage them for Seniors and Juniors. The simplicity and straight forwardness of the deck makes it the perfect choice for them especially if they are newer or very young. Playing a very simple deck well is much better than playing a much complex deck badly.

Playing the Mirror

cardshark.comMirror is one of the more interesting matchups the deck will play. Some times mirror is just downright stupid and other times it’s very skill intensive. The skill part is usually very subtle and it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to make some huge play that just leaves your opponent stunned in disbelief. The skill aspect normally comes from taking advantage of your opponent’s misplays while not making any of your own.

Due to the simplicity of the matchup, I feel a lot of players just kind of throw the game on autopilot expecting a furry of exchange KOs. One of my favorite sayings is little mistakes will cost you big games and the mirror is a prime example of this.

To start off I really want to make the point that Garchomp/Altaria really is a combo-based deck. The deck really needs both Garchomp and Altaria in play to function. Garchomp by itself simply has to low of a damage output and Altaria doesn’t have a decent attack.

When I’m playing against it with another deck I’ll always go after what I feel is the weakest link. Normally I see going after Altaria as the stronger play as denying the Garchomp player Altaria is the stronger long game play. The deck has so much built-in search (like Gabite) that trying to deny the opponent Garchomp is normally a feeble attempt that can easily backfire on you.

As I discussed earlier in the article Garchomp is essentially a self-replacing attacker and while Altaria is as well (to an extent), the lack of search on Swablu and normally thinner line (which is one reason I like 4-3) makes it harder to stream constant Altaria.

The exception to this is if it is simply not possible for my opponent to get another Garchomp in play next turn. An example of this would be if my opponent’s active Pokémon is Garchomp and their bench is Altaria, Altaria, Emolga. By KOing the active Garchomp my opponent has no way to KO my active in response (Rayquaza is a factor). Thus KOing the active Garchomp is the smarter play as it will most likely allow me another unanswered prize next turn.

pokemon-paradijs.comThat situation is pretty cut and dry on what the correct play is. It gets a bit more tricky when my opponent’s bench is Gible, Altaria, Altaria. In this situation I can KO the active Garchomp, but I could be possibly leaving myself open to a responding Garchomp by my opponent. Now the situation would basically determine the right course of action. What are the odds my opponent has the Garchomp? How much trouble am I in if they have the Garchomp? Etc. At this point though were getting too much into theory to really go too much further down this route.

The strategy in mirror on the other hand can be much more complex for the most part. Since all of the main Pokémon in the deck (Garchomp, Altaria, and Rayquaza) are all weak to themselves (Dragons) it takes very little to get a response knockout. In many cases it simply takes just 1 Altaria, so even if your opponent has 1 Altaria and 1 Swablu on the bench using Catcher on the Altaria is not a safe play.

Let’s change this play again and say that your opponent’s field is Garchomp with a Fighting Energy active and 1 Altaria and 1 Garchomp on the bench. Even in this case, Knocking Out the Altaria is not a safe play because all my opponent has to do is attach a Blend Energy from their hand and they can KO my active Garchomp hitting for 200 damage. It is nearly impossible to find points in a game where you can take a KO and there is simply no way for your opponent to respond.

As I just talked about though there will possibly be situations where you can gamble and your opponent doesn’t have the out. You can increase your odds in these situation by preceding the play with N to put your opponent at a very small hand size, but your still making a gamble and simply hoping our opponent doesn’t have the out.

In most games the strongest play is going to be simply going after the Garchomp. This strategy will most likely win you the game if you get the first prize, but lose it for you if you don’t. If your opponent manages to get the first prize you have to hope (or hopefully make them) miss a KO somewhere over the course of the game. Trying to make your opponent miss KOs is also a strategy you should be using if you’re winning the game as well.

Depending on the situation and the board position in many cases I actually find the Gabite a much larger threat than the Garchomp. Even a single Gabite just sitting on the bench makes it much easier for the opponent to just stream Garchomps over the course of a game. Later in the game once your opponent gets a full set up with multiple Garchomps this is less of an issue, but early game if a player has a Gabite on the bench and the other doesn’t, the player with a Gabite is at a huge advantage. I would say in these situations I would normally Catcher the Gabite to KO it in mirror. If I wasn’t playing mirror though I would just target down the Altaria.

At this point I feel like I have discussed many of the larger or overall strategies I use both playing and playing against Garchomp. What I want to do now is start breaking down plays over the course of a game.

Right off the bat if one player opens Emolga or has the T1 search/Switch to it that player has a tremendous advantage. If I open Emolga, my first search in nearly every matchup is going to be for 2 Gible. I just feel this leaves me the strongest turn 2 play and leaves me less vulnerable to a T1 or T2 Catcher by my opponent. I like this play because it opens me up to a handful of options.

The most common are T2 Gabite, T2 Rare Candy/Garchomp, or T2 Gabite, T2 Gabite followed by a search for 2 Swablu with Emogla, or lastly T2 Gabite, T2 Gabite, Rayquaza (very strong in mirror). Now while this may seem like a long string of cards to have on your second turn, it’s really not that farfetched to be honest. Opening Emolga T1 and then having either a Gabite or a Level Ball (6 outs) will net you these plays. The ability to just explode T2 like this is basically the strongest reason I have found to play the deck.

Once you start getting set up it is very important to constantly think about getting the next Garchomp or Altaria in play. It’s very important that you never leave yourself in a situation like I discussed earlier where your opponent can take a key KO and you have no way to respond. Even by simply benching Swablu or Gible it makes it harder for your opponent to commit to a play regardless if you actually have the Garchomp or Altaria.

Also it’s key to get an Energy drop every turn because even if I don’t plan on using it, it is very important that I am able to threaten a Dragon Blade. To a less extent of importance, normally basic Energy are not something that I want to draw off of a late game N.

Garchomp’s Place in the Meta

It amazes me how many players are already writing off Garchomp after it only won 1 BRs the first week. This is a common problem of overhyped decks, since it’s nearly impossible for them to live up to the hype it causes people to instantly feel let down. Right now I still consider the deck Tier 1, but to be honest not the overly dominate deck I thought it was when I started testing for this article.

I feel the deck isn’t seeing more play because of how linear it is and many people are opting for more circular decks. The more I tested the deck this was the big issue I was having with it. Any game I hit turn 2 Gabite my set up would instantly explode and I would love the deck.

However, the games where the deck set up slower I usually lost. I quickly realized going up those early prizes was key. Of course the deck can trade with most of the other decks in the format, even without Altaria, 100 damage two turns in a row would KO basically anything. It’s just most of the other decks in the format can do it more efficiently.

The other issue I had with the deck was all of the low HP Pokémon like Swablu. This is the reason I actually rather play Garchomp at Regionals than at BRs. The odds of getting donked once is enough of threat I wouldn’t want to play it at BRs. I would have far more faith in myself to be able to play the deck to a 6-2 finish than a 5-0 finish.

Ho-Oh EX

pokemon-paradijs.comI’m going to start out by saying that this deck is still very new to me and I only started working with it after I saw some of its results. My main experience comes from play the deck (only recently) and watching Pooka’s video as he plays it on the stream. However, as the deck has taken down a few BRs I feel it is important to discuss it. At this point I am not really sold or not sold on Ho-Oh EX and I really don’t feel like you should be either. All too often people get into this mind set “it won a BRs so it must be good,” but this is simply not the case.

To be bluntly honest winning a BRs really isn’t that hard, so just because a deck won a BRs doesn’t instantly make it good or a major player in the format. On the other side of the coin though heading into Regionals it is very important to look closely at what did do well at BRs as it has a good chance of seeing play at Regionals.

The main Pokémon in the deck is of course Ho-Oh EX, which can be supported by a wide range of attackers. The idea is you get Ho-Oh EX and multiple Energy in the discard pile early by using cards like Ultra Ball and Professor Juniper. Then you can use Ho-Oh EX’s Ability to bring it back to your bench with 3 Energy. The Ability is on a coin flip, but you can use it every turn and you can even increase your odds by putting multiple Ho-Ohs in the discard pile.

At this point you have several different options you can either start going aggressive with Ho-Oh EX or use cards like Switch and Energy Switch to take advantage of your other attackers. Let’s start out by taking a look at my version of the list. While this listed borrowed heavily from Pooka’s concept, it is not his list nor have I had the chance to discuss it with him.

Pokémon – 10

3 Ho-Oh-EX
3 Mewtwo-EX
2 Tornadus-EX DEX
2 Terrakion NVI

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Cheren
3 Bianca


4 Ultra Ball
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Switch
4 Energy Switch
2 Eviolite
1 Super Rod
1 Energy Search

Energy – 16

4 Double Colorless
3 Fighting
2 Psychic
2 Fire
1 Grass
1 Metal [Basic]
1 Lightning
1 Darkness [Basic]
1 Water


As you can see with the Pokémon lineup I only ran 3 copies of Ho-Oh EX as I thought the 4th would be overkill and it is 1-of your worst starters. The rest of the Pokémon lineup is a host of Basic attackers that I felt could get quick prizes or be used for type matching.

There are a couple of things that I really want you to notice about the Pokémon lineup. Starting off I didn’t run a ton of different attackers that used a ton of different Energy types. I tried to keep it very simple for consistency. Nearly all of our attackers use Colorless Energy and the only real exception to this is Terrakion. I made Terrakion the exception because Fighting still matches up really well against the format (Darkai/Eels) right now and since Terrakion is the only non-EX in the deck I can force my opponent to KO 3 EX and a Terrakion to win the game. This essentially force them to take 7 prizes instead of the normal 6. This strategy might not be new, but it is still effective.

The other thing I really want you to notice about the Pokémon lineup is how easy it is to make “big plays” very early in the game. These can be very oblivious like getting a very early Ho-Oh EX or very subtle such as getting a Ho-Oh EX on the bench and than using Energy Switch to an attacker like Tornadus EX or Mewtwo EX. The thing I’ve noticed though is people seem to think its very easy to pull these plays off early like T1 or T2 and this simply is not the case.

The deck simply has so many different “plays” it can make big plays early, but I don’t find myself pulling them consistently every game. I am alright with that though because that’s not how I play the deck. The way that I play the deck is if I can get those big plays off early of course I am going to go for it, but my game plan is always to play the long game.


When I was making the Supporter lineup for this deck I once again realized just how limited we are on Supporters. The 4 Professor Juniper goes well with the strategy of getting Ho-Oh EX in the discard pile early and the 4 N are pretty much stable in everything. I like them especially well in this deck though as it is very easy to pull off a late game Ho-Oh EX into an N. The Bianca and Cheren feel like a clumsy attempt on my part to fill out the Supporter lineup.

Running 4 Ultra Ball usually screams to play 4 Bianca, but there are simply so many cards in the deck you really don’t want to burn (Catcher, Switch, Energy Switch), although it is nice to have that option available to you. The 3 Cheren are really just my attempt to fill out the Supporter lineup. My other thoughts were to go with 3 Random Receiver or 2 Random Receiver and a Bianca, but I really wanted the extra Supporters in the deck.

I did my best to maximize the Item lineup by running lots of copies of 3s and 4s. The 4 Ultra Ball not only grabs any Pokémon in the deck, but it also really works with the strategy of getting Ho-Oh EX in the discard pile early. The 4 Pokémon Catcher I feel is pretty standard in everything now days. The 4 copies of both Switch and Energy Switch set up a lot of nice little tricks the deck can pull off both in the early and late game.

pokemon-paradijs.comA common strategy against Ho-Oh EX might be to use Pokémon Catcher to bring up a Pokémon on the bench to buy time. Both Energy Switch and Switch really help you to play around this strategy. It might be surprising, but I only play 2 copies of Eviolite. Considering our entire deck is Basic Pokémon I would have loved to play more, but I simply could not find the room.

To finish off our Item line up we have two “1-of” copies of Super Rod and Energy Search. The Super Rod at first seemed very counter productive to me since I always wanted energy in the discard pile. The more I played the deck though I realized that throughout the game I might have to make discard choices with Juniper or Ultra Ball that I might not always want to make. Benching Pokémon like Terrakion at the wrong time could be very dangerous.

By playing Super Rod I can safely discard these Pokémon and than simply get them back later. The same goes for discarding Energy. I really only need 3 different Energy types in my discard pile to make Ho-Oh EX live. The extra Energy (especially Fighting Energy) I might actually want back in my deck to draw into again.

The last card is a simple Energy Search, which I originally put in the deck to help me search out my Fighting Energy for Terrakion. It can also be usefully in getting an Energy type in your discard pile you don’t already have in there, or searching out a different Energy type to attach to Ho-Oh EX.


The Energy lineup I feel is pretty standard though I do think it could be adapted depending on the Pokémon you use. The 4 DCE go well with basically everything in the deck and allow for some of the big plays that I discussed earlier with Tornadus EX and Mewtwo EX. I play 3 Fighting Energy to increase my odds of being able to pair it with Terrakion when I need to. The 2 Psychic Energy are for Mewtwo EX’s second attack. While it may not be easy or common to get both Psychic Energy under Mewtwo EX, playing the 2 does leaves the door open for some interesting plays.

There really is no reason for the 2nd Fire Energy over any other type and it’s mainly in there just because I wanted a total of 16 Energy. I could put a bit more thought into which Energy type I wanted to run 2-of in the hopes of “bluffing” my opponent into thinking I’m run a Pokémon tech I’m really not. To be honest though that is probably way too subtle and it’s unlikely even the most experienced players would pick up on a such thing.

I just simply run 1 copy of all of the other basic Energy just to get the most out of Ho-Oh’s Ability. While getting any 1 copy of a single basic Energy in the discard pile may be difficult, the 8 different types usually makes getting 3 different types of basic Energy in the discard pile early a snap.

Tool Scrapper

pokemon-paradijs.comThis is something I am sure most of you noticed missing from the Trainer lineup. My original list ran 2 copies of the card, but I was also sitting at 62 cards. I need to make a cut and I thought Tool Scrapper would be an easy cut. This way I could test a more consistent version of the deck in match ups where Tool Scrapper is key like in the match up.

Right now the only real easy drop I see for the 2 Tool Scrapper is the 2 Eviolite and that really wasn’t a drop I was ready to make without testing the deck first.

There is no doubt in my mind that Tool Scrapper is a great card and useful in a wide array of matchups. Even if the opponent isn’t playing Garbodor it’s still a great way to remove Eviolites and make sure your opponent is staying in the 2HKO range. The larger issue is getting the Tool Scrapper when you need it. If you play 1 copy you’re never going to see the card and if you play 3-4 you’re always going to wind up with them hurting your consistency. I do feel 2 is the perfect number where you’ll see it often, but not too often it’s dead.

My issue though is for me to devote the 2 spots to run Tool Scrapper, it has to win me the Garbodor matchup by itself. If I find the matchup is winnable without it or if I feel it still a loss regardless then it’s not worth running it. Because basically what Tool Scrapper does is give you 1 free turn to use Ho-Oh Ability. They run 5-8 Tools and you only run 2 Tool Scrapper, so the odds are they will simply drop another tool down on the following turn.

Ho-Oh’s Place in the Meta

Right now Ho-Oh is still sitting in my “fun deck” box and I consider it a high Tier 2 deck. I feel my list is still very young though and I am still testing it and working out the kinks. The deck is actually one of the most fun decks I’ve played in a while which makes me excited to work with it. I’m really not quite sure how much play this deck will see. I only heard about it last week so it wouldn’t surprise me if it saw a little rise in play at BRs by people excited to try it out.


freespirit.comI really hope everybody enjoyed the article and got some good information out of it. The one thing I’ve promised is that I’ll always try to be upfront and honest about decks. When I started writing this article I thought Garchomp was one of the top 2 decks of the format. While my opinion of Garchomp is still rather high, it certainly isn’t as high as it was when I started writing this article.

I don’t think the deck will be the BDIF some people were predicting, but I do think it will be a strong player in our meta and a deck you will surely see often. We still have a few weeks left of BRs and I’m going to try to make it out for a few local ones, but my right now I’m really looking toward Fall Regionals.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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