Gothitelle from the Ground Up (Featuring Harrison Leven)

Hey everyone, I’m back for another article this month. Just wanted to say thanks for all the love on my last article, it really meant a lot.

This month I’ll be covering a deck that seems to be picking up a lot of momentum as of late, Gothitelle, and some ways you can prepare to potentially use it for Nationals. I’ve also got an interview with Harrison Leven that discusses the deck and what you need to know if you’re going to step into the ring with this crazy lock combo.

Table of Contents

  1. The Skeleton
  2. The Strategy
    1. The Basics
    2. The Nitty Gritty
  3. Card Options
  4. My List
  5. Harrison’s Thoughts
  6. The Risk Factor
  7. Conclusion

The Skeleton

First I’d like to hit you guys with a sample list so those of you who may not be familiar with the deck know what to expect.

Pokémon – 16

4 Gothita EPO 43
3 Gothitelle EPO 47
3 Mew-EX
3 Shelmet NVI
3 Accelgor DEX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
2 Ghetsis


4 Pokémon Communication
2 Level Ball

1 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy
2 Pokémon Catcher
3 Float Stone
1 Escape Rope
1 Computer Search


3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

Okay so before everyone freaks out, yes I know there are only 55 cards here. I’ve chosen to approach this deck a little differently than I have decks in the past. Instead of throwing out a bunch of different lists and explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each one respectively, I’ll let you guys decide how you want to spend your space in this deck, just because there are so many options.

The reason I’m switching it up for this deck is because there is a ton of room for creativity, but I also realize there are a lot of consistency freaks out there so I’ll let you choose whether you’ll favor potency or stability.

The Strategy

Before I get into the various card options I could see for this deck, I’ll give a little background on how the deck is played and how to play against it. While some of the information I’m about to present is rudimentary, you still may benefit from it even if you’re a seasoned Gothitelle player.

The Basics
It’s like… magic!

The three big components of this deck are Gothitelle for Item lock, Accelgor to provide Deck and Cover, and Mew to copy said attack. In-game, the idea is first to set up a Gothitelle ASAP in order to prevent cards like Catcher and Laser from ruining the other parts of your set up.

This basically means that once Gothitelle is Active, not only is it difficult to 1HKO, but it will almost always stop your opponent from Knocking Out your precious benched Shelmets/Munnas/Mews/Duskulls, giving them time to develop into your ideal set up.

While getting the T2-3 Gothitelle should definitely be the focus of your list, it isn’t exactly smooth sailing from there either. As you’re looking for those Gothitelle pieces in the early turns of the game, you’re also going to have to be finding your Shelmets to get them down to turn into Accelgors between turns 2 and 4. Luckily with the current format, doing both things simultaneously isn’t incredibly difficult.

With all the hand refresh and Pokémon search cards in your list, you should be able to stumble upon the Accelgor pieces without much difficulty. You can bet, however, that if you happen to miss these cards within the first 3 or 4 turns of the game, you better be able to count on a second Gothitelle to keep them locked for that extra turn and execute the combo late game.

Now that you’ve got the Gothitelle and Accelgor down by turn 3 or 4 you have to begin looking for the Mew, the Double Colorless, and the Float Stone. Once you’ve found all of these pieces you can begin using Mew’s Versatile to flip it back into your deck with Deck and Cover while sending Gothitelle out every turn to keep their Items completely locked and their Active Pokémon paralyzed indefinitely.

Float Stone gives Gothitelle free retreat so you can keep the Mews coming every turn hopefully, and finding the DCE shouldn’t be difficult with the Supporters you’ve got in the deck. The later in the game, the easier it will be to find these cards because you’ll have fewer cards left in deck.

The Nitty Gritty

shelmet-noble-victories-nvi-11 (1)
Now we’re getting down and dirty.

Here’s where the vets and experienced Goth players will want to start reading. It seems to me, through testing, that the ideal set up includes a field of 2-3 Gothitas, 2 Shelmets, and Mews to fill the rest. The concern over Bench room shouldn’t be too great because there’s a lot of free retreating going on, and the need for Energies on the table is non-existent.

So I think a good rule of thumb for this deck is that you shouldn’t be worried about filling your Bench, that is, until we start talking about the fun mechanics of the deck: Musharna and Dusknoir.

Apart from these Pokémon techs, you’ve got a couple of other options to make strong strategic plays in the late stages of the game, other than “‘Cover, rinse, repeat.” Knowing when to Tropical Beach or just let Poison do its job is the hard part, and it’s really where the strategy of the deck comes into play.

The other really big part of the strategy of this deck is how you handle a bad set up. Sure, anyone can play with Gothita/Candy/Gothitelle/Juniper in their starting hand, but the Gothitelle players who make cut will be the ones who win games without Supporters for the first 5 turns of the game and still make the comeback.

I’m sure we’ve all seen what panic looks like, especially in the faces of those who have gotten two of their Gothitas Knocked Out in two turns, but the most important thing you have to have in order to play this deck at Nationals is patience. You’ll see in the interview with Harrison later on, and I agree with him on this sentiment, that most of the skill required while playing Gothitelle is needed early on, especially during a botched set up.

Now, I’d love to be able to give you guys a black and white description of how to overcome bad set ups, but the fact of the matter is that it’s completely situational almost every time. Sometimes you’re going to be staring down a T1 Thundurus with a ton of Deoxys down going to town on your little Basics, or a T2 Night Spear and the like, but it’s up to you to do the testing and figure out ways to get out of this.

As a matter of fact, the best way to improve your chances of winning the tough games is testing against those T2 Night Spears and quick Plasma decks, because if you’ve found confidence in Gothitelle, the only things that should be able to take you down are these fast knock outs. It’s how you play against these quick decks, and fast paced scenarios specifically, that could mean the difference between that 6-3 bubble and that 7-2 high seed.

Card Options

Now I’ll talk about the most effective ways to fill your last 5 slots in the list above, and what I would do to the list to fit my liking.

Dusknoir BCR
The combo can be downright spooky.

This card is a huge component of most builds of this deck, but I have yet to be convinced that it is 100% necessary. For those of you who don’t know, Dusknoir is the aspect of the deck that consummates the perfect combo.

By having the ability to move damage around, you can keep all the Poison damage left by Accelgor on the table, then move it all at once to draw 6 Prizes (hopefully) on the last turn of the game. This way you keep yourself from being vulnerable to N, and it keeps your opponent’s Pokémon from being Knocked Out going into their turn, invariably leading to an attack, which is exactly what the deck tries to prevent from happening.

If I were to play this deck at Nationals, I think Dusknoir would make the cut. The difficult thing with adding Dusknoir, however, is deciding between a 1-0-1 and a 2-0-1 line. Space is definitely a constraint with this deck, but when your sole Duskull gets KO’d, you’ve left yourself without the option of Dusknoir at all, barring a Super Rod potentially.

The other way of looking at Dusknoir is as a luxury. It is definitely possible to run this deck without Dusknoir as well. In fact, much of the time, getting Dusknoir onto the table is something that is very difficult for Gothitelle because they constantly have to worry about finding DCEs and Mews once they’ve set up. So if it’s not going to be played most of the time, why have it in the deck at all?

Sure, it’s nice to have the perfect lock option, but the lock is also attainable without having Dusknoir to manipulate damage; you just might have to let up an extra attack or two. There are more subtle, in-game ways to manipulate damage with the attackers themselves, like attacking into Resistance to decrease damage output (Mew attacking Darkrai) or attacking into Weakness to increase the damage output (Mew attacking Deoxys).

Another way is by passing and letting Poison damage Knock them Out going back into your turn. While you do let up an attack in this case, you can control when you are attacked, and if you find that the attacking Pokémon might 1HKO your Gothitelle, you can Catcher around it and manipulate the damage that way.

Some people, more than likely the highly skilled players, might find that they do not need Dusknoir, and devote those spots to consistency instead. This is not to say that playing Dusknoir means you don’t have the skill to play the deck without it, however. It really is up to the player, their list, and their testing results.

Musharna NXD
Goodnight, bowl full of mush.

Musharna is a really cool option and not being a Stage 2 makes it even more appealing. The first thing I’d like to point out is how effective Munna BCR can be, especially early on. If you can successfully put your opponent to sleep with Munna from the bench, this means that you could potentially go a turn without using Deck and Cover, for whatever the reason may be (damage manipulation, no DCE, very early game, etc).

The beauty in it is that Gothitelle will always be your Active, and it will never attack, so if you do happen to put your Gothitelle to sleep it isn’t the end of the world. This does mean, however, that you can’t retreat for a Deck and Cover, so be careful there. Munna is what makes the case for a 2-1 line over a 1-1.

Musharna can be a star in this deck though. Being able to look at the top 2 cards of your deck and draw one can be the difference between hitting a DCE and missing an attack, and I’m really not just saying that as a generalization. If you look at the odds of hitting one of four DCE’s late game with a thin deck as opposed to looking at 3 cards to hit the DCE, the difference is staggering.

An early Musharna can also mean a faster set up, and in some cases it can be the difference between losing to an N, or recovering within a turn or two. Musharna is definitely another card I’d like to include in my final list.

Tool Scrapper

Tool Scrapper is a situational card but it might be one necessary to this deck’s survival in an event as massive as Nationals. You’re bound to hit at least one Garbodor on your way through the tournament which is definitely not a fun matchup if you have no way to use your Abilities.

Nonetheless, the Tool Scrapper dilemma has been around since the card came out and since Garbodor became relevant. Really, the only deck that you could be certain contained it was Blastoise until now, and I think if you choose to go into a 9 round tournament without Scrapper, you’re bound to have a least one loss to Garbodor by the end of the second day.

Town Map

town map boundaries crossed bcr
Discovering prizes like it’s 1492.

I’ve seen more and more people using Town Map just in general lately, and I’ve got to say I’ve become impressed by the potency of this card, especially if you can play it early. I think it’s found its way into Gothitelle because it has the potential to access more cards. If you’ve prized one of your three Gothitelles, for example, and you’re having trouble finding it, using a quick Deck and Cover to draw it from your prizes can bring you back into the game.

Another one of its uses, which is seemingly the most potent, but ultimately the least likely, is that it allows you to use Dusknoir to manipulate damage for KOs and then pick the prizes you need for that very same turn. While late game you might not need much from your prizes, it could still very well make the difference after a late game N.

Basically this card is insurance, and it can very easily be used to get yourself out of a pickle both mid and early game.

Super Rod

The problem with recurrence cards in this, or any format for that matter, is that you run the risk of drawing it too early. Personally, I’d try my hardest play without this card and add cards that will help set up early. The problems you will find without it are obvious though.

Losing either Munna or Musharna to a KO or a Juniper means you will never be able to get Musharna on the table. The same goes for Dusknoir. The highest risk you run without Super Rod is running out of Gothitelles, especially if you’re only running 3, as I am.

This is definitely a card that I’d love to have room for, and will most likely make room for if I choose this deck for Nationals, primarily because Nationals is a long event, and you’re bound to prize key Pokémon at least one of your rounds.

Playing this card is a rush.

Keldeo is the last option I’ll discuss before moving into the interview and how this deck might impact your deck choice in Indianapolis this summer. The pros for this card are pretty obvious.

Firsly, Keldeo makes it so that with just one Float Stone on the table, you never have to attach any others to Gothitelle. Keldeo can Rush In and retreat, essentially allowing you to retreat Gothitelle without actually retreating Gothitelle itself.

In this way, it proves to be much more efficient that having to attach Float Stone to each Gothitelle that happens to hit the table, which could easily be all 3. It also makes Munna’s Ability more effective because now you have a way to attack even if you happen to put your own Gothitelle to sleep.

The last advantage to having Keldeo is it prevents your own Gothitelle from being locked by other Gothitelle decks. This is obviously a huge advantage in the mirror because you can execute the lock while they remain with very few options, though you will need to get the Keldeo and Float Stone in play before their Gothitelle hits the table.

Keldeo could be a huge play if Gothitelle becomes a powerhouse by the time Nationals rolls around.

My List

Working off the skeleton above, my choice of 5 cards would be 1 Duskull, 1 Dusknoir, 1 Tool Scrapper, 1 Town Map, and 1 Super Rod. Therefore, my list looks like this:

Pokémon – 18

4 Gothita EPO 43
3 Gothitelle EPO 47
3 Mew-EX
3 Shelmet NVI
3 Accelgor DEX
1 Duskull BCR
1 Dusknoir BCR

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
2 Ghetsis


4 Pokémon Communication
2 Level Ball

1 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy
2 Pokémon Catcher
3 Float Stone
1 Escape Rope
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Town Map
1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search


3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

I’ve talked about the pros for the cards I chose not to include, so I won’t dwell on why I did not choose them for my list. Musharna is a really strong choice, and testing may convince me otherwise, but for now, my list doesn’t play it, and it functions just as well.

If you are considering this deck for Nationals, I STRONGLY recommend playing over 100 games with it if you plan on making a considerable dent into the tournament. I’m sure if and when I reach that point in testing, my list won’t be 100% the same as this, as it is a complex deck that takes time to perfect.

Harrison’s Thoughts

harrison leven

I reached out to Harrison Leven, a player with a name I’m sure most of you will recognize. While most of you probably know of Harrison as the second place finisher at the 2012 World Championships, what you might not know is that he was 12-0 at US Nationals last year as well, piloting his Chandelure/Vileplume deck all the way to the top 16!

I’d like to look a little bit at the similarities between Harrison’s choice for Nationals 2012, Chandelure/Vileplume, and their implications on Gothitelle for this year’s Nationals. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gothitelle is the lock deck of the season, but it wouldn’t be a lock deck if it didn’t come with a list of risks longer than Zeus’s beard. Harrison addresses some of the factors that made him choose this deck himself for Nationals and whether or not he thinks Gothitelle is a smart choice this year.

I’ll start off with the decklist Harrison used at Nationals 2012, straight from the man himself.

Pokémon – 24

3 Oddish UD

2 Vileplume UD

2 Litwick BW27

2 Lampent NVI
2 Chandelure NVI
2 Accelgor DEX
4 Mew Prime
2 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Shaymin UL
2 Relicanth CL
1 Pichu HS

Trainers – 24

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Sage’s Training
4 Twins
3 N
1 Professor Juniper


4 Rare Candy
4 Pokémon Communication

Energy – 12

4 Rainbow
4 Special D
4 Double Colorless

To draw some quick comparisons before I get down to the nuts and bolts, it’s pretty apparent that Vileplume gets the substitution for Gothitelle as the Item/Trainer locker. Chandelure also gets the ax, this time to make room for Dusknoir (most likely). Finally, Mew Prime gets changed out for Mew-EX, the starters get tossed by the wayside for some Shelmets, and voila, you’ve got a new deck.

While the cards aren’t all named the same, they all have functions similar to their predecessors in Chandelure/Plume. This evolution in ideas between the decks shows that the Accelgor lock is the thing that stays the same, but it’s the execution of the lock that has variance.

Harrison was able to play fewer Vileplumes then than Gothitelle plays Gothitelles now because, frankly, Plume could sit on the Bench whereas Gothitelle has to take hits now and then because it has to remain Active. Chandelure was played as a 2-2-2 line last year because of the need to rotate between them in order to use their Abilities, whereas Dusknoir can sit on the bench, allowing you to play a smaller line.

The Interview

pokemon anime reporter interviewBulbapediaI could think of no one better to interview for this article. I have tremendous respect for Harrison as a player, and I believe his versatility and deck choosing capability are what make him the great player he is today.

Switching from a very successful deck choice in Chandy which brought him to top 16 at Nats, to Darkrai/Mewtwo at Worlds probably wasn’t a very easy decision for Harrison. Having the impartiality to admit that one deck was a better choice than the other for Worlds specifically, shows a lot of discipline and prowess on his part.

I contacted Harrison about his feelings on the so-called “risky” lock deck of this season, Gothitelle, hoping he could shed some light on running a lock deck at a large event like he did with Plume/Chandy. Here’s what went down.

What was your mindset like when you chose to play Chandelure/Vileplume last year? Was it something you believed could win consistently or was it an all or nothing type thing, like high risk, high reward?

During testing with Chandy it was definitely something I wasn’t sure about at first. Mainly because the games I was testing it with usually went down to the last few prizes. I sometimes thought I was just getting lucky.

But after some extensive testing I was realizing I was winning pretty much all my games this way. Eventually I got into testing to play fast enough in order to beat the clock during top cut best of 3 rounds. When I went into Nationals I was obviously still nervous but after making it into top cut and seeing my bracket, I became confident I could make it all the way.

You mentioned 2/3 rounds. Do you think Gothitelle has similar struggles with time/best of 3 in this format?

Any sort of lock deck is going to suffer from time and I don’t expect it to be any different for Gothitelle this year. However, I don’t expect it to have as much of a problem this year against time as Chandy did last year. If the top cut is 75 minutes as opposed to 60 minutes, it will be able to get all its games done within time. That extra 15 minutes is huge.

Why did you switch from Chandelure/Vileplume to Darkrai/Mewtwo for Worlds?

I switched because I felt like more people at Worlds would know how to play against Chandelure, not only because there were more better players but also because Chandelure no longer had as much surprise factor going for it.

In terms of this format, do you think the fact that Gothitelle won’t be a surprise will have an effect on how it places at Nats?

I believe so. That, and the fact that there are better counters to lock decks like Gothitelle/Accelgor this year will make it harder for it to cut deep.

A lot of people refuse to even consider Gothitelle for Nats because, despite the fact it may win the majority of its games, it is very vulnerable to donks or failing to set up. Do you think this is a wise notion, or would you suggest going for it if it’s winning in testing?

I believe that unless the opponent is teched out for the matchup, Gothitelle stands the best chance in a best of 3 environment. Any good player should definitely not refuse to consider Gothitelle, otherwise they’ll just end up losing to it. The deck is good, and the deck will see play. Better to be prepared with an actual strategy than just hope to donk them or expect them to crap out because that doesn’t happen all the time.

Where do you think the most skill is involved when playing Gothitelle? Setting up Gothitelle and using Deck and Cover every turn seems slightly auto-pilot. At which points in the game do skill come into play most?

It’s kind of hard to explain that one. I think the most skill might involve actually setting up and making the right decisions as to what to prioritize as far as setup goes. The deck, in my opinion, definitely takes a lot less skill than last year’s Chandelure deck. I guess the Gothitelle player’s skill shines when they’re put under pressure during an aggressive start from the opponent and are forced to make key decisions in keeping their game going.

You seem to have difficulty with Shaymin. How many Shaymin would you recommend for this year’s Nationals? Whether it be in Gothitelle or just in general.

If you don’t run it you can’t prize it!

That brings my interview with Harrison Leven to a close and not without some information for you guys to chew on! Harrison answered each of my questions really thoroughly and I hope you take the things he said to heart because, after all, he did pilot a very similar deck to a 12-1 finish at Nationals last year, and some might call him an expert in this area.

Again, I tried to address the questions most relevant to my topic for you guys and I’d like to thank Harrison for giving me this feedback. (I really appreciate it!)

The Risk Factor

It’s not quite as dicey as this card, but Evolution-based decks do come with the risk of being donked in this format.

I’d like to end this article with some final thoughts on choosing your deck for Nationals. Gothitelle is absolutely a deck to be reckoned with come July, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it, especially without extensive testing.

This is not to say the deck is bad or could not win the event, though. The thing I’d be concerned about going into Nationals with a Gothitelle deck is that it can take easy losses. While Harrison brought up the fact that donks are unlikely, and cheap quick wins aren’t the norm for other decks, I’d rather play it safe rather than risk being knocked out of the tournament, however unlikely these circumstances may be.

If I am to leave you with anything from this article, it’s that playing a deck like Darkrai, Plasma, or Big Basics will give you a fighting chance no matter what the matchup. Getting past turn one with a top tier deck means that you’ll always have a chance of winning that game, even if your start is subpar.

In fact, these subpar starts I’m talking about often lead to the more skill-based games in the format. It gives you, the player, the chance to make a series of well-thought moves to overcome the deficit you’ve picked up early on and win the game in the long term.

Again, the difference between a deck like Plasma and set up decks like Blastoise and Gothitelle is that the former has a lower chance of being donked, and in such a large tournament, even the smallest percentage loss can happen, which is why I generally choose to minimize my chances of being donked as much as possible.


That’ll do it for my article this month guys. I hope you liked it. I tried to cover the risk factors involved with playing such a developmentally based deck for Nats when there are other, safer options out there.

The real challenge for you now is discovering if Gothitelle is good enough that you wouldn’t mind taking donk losses because you’d expect them to be your only losses.

Thanks for reading, and toss me a “Like” if you enjoyed it. Happy testing everyone, see ya next month.


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