Bringing the Metagame Down to a Science – Identifying the Right Deck to Play and a Look at Ho-Oh/Archeops

scientist hello
It’s swell to see you again!

Hello again, SixPrizes! I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or anything else, hopefully filled with family events as well as Pokémon. This is my debut article into the SixPrizes Underground scene, so I hope that I can provide an informational and well-written article for you all to read, either during or after all of your holiday festivities.

My final exams are finally done over at Arizona State University, and so since then, my mind has been flooded with new ideas to discuss in this rapidly evolving metagame. Both fortunately and somewhat unfortunately, my December has been packed with family activities, and I have therefore not had too much time to go to many City Championships, but I have been doing my research on the Arizona metagame and how to use that knowledge to gain a competitive edge.

What I want to discuss today is tips on how to effectively determine what exactly your metagame is and predict what decks could be successful in such an environment, or effective metagaming.

One of the perks I guess of missing out on some tournaments is being able to watch from the sidelines what decks have been winning and what decks have not been. Arizona has been extremely fortunate thanks to Jeremy Jallen and On The Bubble, as we have live streaming at almost every event with a solid internet connection. This makes determining the Arizona metagame fairly easy, so today I’m going to give some tips on how to effectively metagame when those resources aren’t so readily available.

In fact, I believe that there is a method to effectively metagame; one that allows us to bring it down to a science.

Table of Contents

  1. The Scientific Method of Metagaming
    1. Observation
    2. Question
    3. Research
    4. Prediction
  2. Putting It into Practice
  3. The Epitome of Choosing a Deck Based on Your Metagame: Ho-Oh EX/Archeops
    1. How the Deck Works
    2. Decklist
    3. Card Choices
    4. Matchups
  4. Conclusion

The Scientific Method of Metagaming

If you haven’t been learning about the scientific method already since elementary school, then let me just give a quick overview of what it is in general. The purpose of the scientific method is to clearly experiment and try to explain how the world works. It basically is a series of steps that go into seeing a phenomena and discovering how exactly it works. These steps include: observation, question, research, and prediction. There are a couple more steps usually included, but those are the ones that we really care about in Pokémon.


scientist look out
Observe from near or afar.

The first step in the scientific method is to make an observation about any certain phenomena and question why it happens. When regarding how to effectively metagame, we want to be able to observe what decks are being played and which ones are doing well.

Just as Charles Darwin observed that different species of finches had different shapes of beaks on the Galapagos Islands, each area of the world that plays Pokémon are going to have their own distinct metagame. The first step to effectively metagaming is to determine what those decks are by going to leagues and tournaments, watching online streams, and generally scouting out how many of which decks are being played.

The way that I found out the majority of the decks being played in the Arizona scene was by going to tournaments and counting how many of each different deck I played. In one tournament out of 6 rounds, I ended up playing against 5 Virizion/Genesect decks. Keep in mind that it may also just be that a lot of people decided to play it that day, but once you go to more and more leagues and tournaments, you begin to have a more clear idea.


Once you observe that your metagame has a lot of a certain deck, like Virizion/Genesect for example, then comes the part of creating a question:

“What deck can I play to counter the most popular deck in my metagame?”

The key to this question is the knowledge that you have gained from observing and analyzing the decks played by other people. All decks have their weaknesses, so if you observe that the majority of players are running a certain deck and running it very consistently, then you will be able to exploit those weaknesses more effectively.

The Arizona metagame used to be filled with Virizion/Genesect. A friend of mine and I noticed this and began questioning what the hardest counters to Virizion/Genesect were, the most obvious being Rayquaza/Emboar. A few others made the list such as: Blastoise with heavy Black Kyurem EX and Darkrai/Sableye with Spiritomb PLB. He piloted RayBoar to a Top 4 finish at a League Challenge because he was able to observe the majority deck played and how to counter it.

However, he did not get first place I believe because we did not do enough research on what decks were doing well.


scientist research
Is what’s popular actually winning?

There is a major difference between the most popular deck in a region and the most successful deck. The third step in this scientific method of metagaming is to research which decks are actually winning tournaments in your area. If 90% of people are playing Blastoise, but none actually make top cut at any tournaments, then playing a certain deck to only counter Blastoise will only get you so far.

This is where I believe that techs become invaluable to a deck. A tech is essentially a 1-of card in a deck that can swing one of your matchups from unfavorable to slightly favorable. By including techs to beat the most successful decks and by playing an archetype that has an advantage against the overall field, your chance of success will be very high.

Going back to the example of my friend playing RayBoar in the League Challenge. He chose an archetype that would do well against Virizion/Genesect but loses horribly to a good Empoleon player without the right techs. Sure, it’s beneficial to have a deck that does well against the majority of the decks played, that should make you make cut if you did it correctly. But what good is it if your deck choice gets you into top cut but then makes you immediately lose to a deck that did not see much play but was very successful?

Deck choices going into a tournament should be based on the popular decks in your metagame, as deck techs should be based on the most successful decks.


Finally, the last step in the scientific method of metagaming is to make that prediction going into game day. Obtain a right balance between consistency and techs for what decks you expect to see going into the tournament. Consistency is what will win you matches against your already favorable matchups, and techs will give you the extra edge you need to win against your bad matchups.

Another thing to possibly take into account is that people may start playing “follow the leader.” What I mean by this is that some people may be changing their deck choices to match what decks are doing well. If everybody is playing Virizion/Genesect, and then an Empoleon deck wins a Cities, be prepared for a shift in the metagame, either big or small, toward the deck that won.

Ultimately, it’s up to your gut to make the right prediction of the metagame, but if you do, then the rewards will be plentiful.

Putting It into Practice

scientist yes
Time to test the theory!

I was able to attend one City Championship so far and was fortunate enough to get 4th place with Blastoise, ultimately losing against Jeremy Jallen in Top 4. For the longest time, I was set on using RayBoar for this tournament due to my observation of a large amount of Virizion/Genesect and Darkrai and knowing that RayBoar was a good play against both.

However, things started to change as the tournament that I was preparing for began to approach. Plasma Lugia/Snorlax began becoming a thing, even winning a Cities. This caused me to reevaluate my deck choice entirely because RayBoar has a very hard time dealing with Plasma Snorlax.

I decided to switch to Blastoise to have the ability to Rush In past Snorlax’s Ability and went heavy Black Kyurem EX to counter Virizion/Genesect. Darkrai/Dusknoir and Empoleon/Dusknoir also started to see success around my area as well, so I went into the tournament with this list:

Pokémon – 18

4 Squirtle BCR

1 Wartortle BCR

3 Blastoise BCR

3 Black Kyurem-EX PLS

2 Keldeo-EX

1 Exeggcute PLF

1 Mr. Mime PLF

1 Zapdos LTR

1 Zekrom PLF

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper

3 N

4 Skyla

2 Colress


4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

4 Rare Candy

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Dowsing Machine


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 12

9 W

3 L

I was very afraid of Dusknoir at the top tables, so I added Zapdos as it could snipe Duskull on the Bench as well as perhaps 1HKO a Lugia EX or Tornadus EX with Thundering Hurricane and a bit of luck. I knew my Empoleon matchup was not good if they played Frozen City or Leafeon, so to counter that I played two Lightning attackers and Mewtwo EX. I beat every Virizion/Genesect that I saw in the tournament (I ended up avoiding all of the Empoleon matchups, though one did make Top 8), but ultimately lost to the power of “the Yeti,” aka Plasma Snorlax and Frozen City.

I was very happy with my overall performance, but this tournament also caused me to make another observation: Evolutions are becoming more and more popular and successful. Over the past few League Challenges and Cities, I have seen successful Hydreigon, Empoleon, Dusknoir, Blastoise, Emboar, etc. decks, all revolving around Evolutions. This made me question:

“What is a good way to counter all of them all at once?”

The Epitome of Choosing a Deck Based on Your Metagame: Ho-Oh EX/Archeops

As evidenced by my previous article, Ho-Oh and friends has been my pet deck ever since the rule change. It is a very good deck that just has not seen a lot of success, I believe due to its natural inconsistency and unfavorable matchups against Blastoise, RayBoar, and Empoleon. However, I think I may have found a way to cover all matchups thrown at it with the help of Archeops DEX.

Many of you might not have even known this card existed as we just got out of the format dominated by huge Basic Pokémon-EX, which made this card essentially useless. It actually was reprinted as a Secret Rare in Dark Explorers, and I believe that it has the potential to come back in this new post-Catcher format.

How the Deck Works
Makes Restored Pokémon a lot more viable.

First, I want to take a moment to say that Archeops would be such an incredibly broken card if it wasn’t the Stage 1-of a Restored Pokémon. The Fossil mechanic irritates me in more ways than even imaginable, but that hasn’t stopped me from making this deck work.

I knew that a Ho-Oh deck would be the best spot for Archeops simply because of the tremendous amount of space that Ho-Oh has and the fact that the deck is already structured around trying to discard Ho-Oh EX as soon as possible.

With the new Archen from Plasma Blast with Prehistoric Call, the Fossil mechanic is a bit more bearable and synergizes nice with Ho-Oh in just trying to discard them both as fast as possible.

Ho-Oh EX and Friends naturally has good matchups against Virizion/Genesect and Darkrai, but falls short against decks that are based on Evolutions, which is where Archeops really shines.

Imagine playing against an Empoleon player and instead of having to face Empoleon, after Empoleon, after Leafeon, after Flareon, you simply have to face your opponent’s army of Piplup, Eevee, and Duskull as you laugh maniacally at your opponent’s futile attempts to take down your Tornadus EX using Blow Through every turn. It really is a sight to see and so much fun to play.

Here’s just a short list of the relevant Evolution cards that are stopped by Archeops:
Yep, it got reprinted.

Okay, so maybe the list wasn’t so short. That’s simply because Archeops stops ALL Evolution cards. Considering how many Stage 1 and Stage 2 cards are out there, this list is relatively short. Archeops is the answer to all your opponent’s Evolution cards.

Tired of Gothitelle/Accelgor locking you? Archeops. Blastoise flooding your area? Archeops. Ninjask/Shedinja bugging you? Archeops. Ancient Power prevents your opponent from evolving, period. Just wanted to take the time to truly emphasize how good that is.

Now the only huge flaw in this strategy is the dreaded Fossil mechanic, which is why this decklist tries to make it as consistent as possible with a combination of Plume Fossil and Twist Mountain. I have tested this list a lot and am very happy with the result. There is nothing more satisfying than playing on the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online and seeing your opponent make a long stall and concede after they realize that they can’t play any Blastoise down.

This deck dedicates 7 spots to Archeops which I feel is a small price to pay for a more favorable Blastoise matchup and an essential auto-win against Empoleon.


Pokémon – 14

2 Ho-Oh-EX

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

2 Terrakion LTR

3 Archen PLB

2 Archeops DEX

1 Bouffalant DRX or Sigilyph DRX

1 Tornadus-EX DEX

1 Aerodactyl DEX

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper

3 N

2 Skyla

2 Colress

2 Random Receiver


4 Ultra Ball

4 Energy Switch

2 Plume Fossil

2 Pokémon Catcher

2 Switch

1 Float Stone

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Computer Search


3 Twist Mountain

Energy – 13

4 F

2 P

3 Other Different Energy Types

4 Double Colorless

Card Choices

3-2 Archeops DEX

I think I’ve made my point already on why we run this card. Rush Archeops out whenever you suspect that your opponent is running Evolutions, and you will completely shut their deck down. No more bad Blastoise or Empoleon matchup. You can even lock up Garbodor, the star of Ability locking, although it isn’t too likely that you’ll get up an Archeops before they get up a Garbodor.

Three Archen is necessary since you want to be discarding it as soon as possible. There isn’t any worry of having to start with it like there is with Ho-Oh EX, as it is a Restored Pokémon.

1 Aerodactyl DEX
Helps hit those magic numbers.

This is a card that I added sort of last minute, but not without good testing. Aerodactyl’s 10 extra damage from Primal Scream is actually extremely relevant.

First, I added it in the case of Empoleon to allow Tornadus-EX DEX to hit for 70 with Blow Through to 2HKO an Empoleon. It also allows Mewtwo to 2HKO an Empoleon with X Ball. This card quickly became to be even more useful as I kept playing it.

Aerodactyl also helps in the Plasma matchup to 1HKO a Deoxys-EX with just a Double Colorless on your Mewtwo EX. It also lets Ho-Oh EX step up to the plate against Virizion/Genesect to score 1HKO back-to-back with only three different Energy cards instead of four. Terrakion can 1HKO a Darkrai EX with an Eviolite, and Tornadus EX can 2HKO a 180 HP EX with 70 from Blow Through followed by 110 from Power Blast.

1 Bouffalant DRX or Sigilyph DRX

Since the opponent’s Evolution lines will be shut off, all you’ll need to deal with is the opponent’s Pokémon-EX. Bouffalant and Sigilyph are both really good against Pokémon-EX, but one is more offensive and one is more defensive. Include one of these cards depending on what your play style might be.

2 Plume Fossil

This card is included to essentially give a back up way to get Archen out in case Twist Mountain fails you. Prehistoric Call has great synergy with this, since as long as Archen is in your discard pile, you can return it to the bottom of the deck whenever you need to.

2 Pokémon Catcher

After reading Erik Nance’s Underground article from November 21st, I have been convinced that Pokémon Catcher can still be a good card. It has won me more games than I can count, which is why I still like to play at least two to have an average of one working per game.


Vs. Empoleon: Highly Favorable
Not so scary when it can’t evolve.

This is definitely this deck’s most fun matchup. If Empoleon is running rampant in your area, then this deck will be sure to give you lots of laughs. Archeops stops all Empoleons, Eeveelutions, or Dusknoirs from coming out, so be sure to rush it out. It’s extremely hard to lose when your opponent is trying to take down a big Mewtwo EX with a Piplup. It’s even more hilarious when your opponent is forced to Duskull pass.

Even if your opponent can get an Empoleon before you get Archeops out, you still stop any more Evolutions from hitting the field which gives you the advantage. The only problem may be if your opponent is able to get out an Empoleon and a Dusknoir to KO your Archeops via Sinister Hand. In this case, target the Dusknoir with your Pokémon Catchers and hopefully Knock it Out before it’s too late.

Vs. Virizion/Genesect: Favorable

Archeops is completely useless in this matchup, so just ditch the Pokémon line and Plume Fossils in any way you can via Ultra Balls and Junipers. The most important thing in this matchup is to rush discarding your Ho-Oh EX. Start attacking with Bouffalant, Mewtwo EX, or Tornadus EX, and once Ho-Oh EX can have a fully productive Rebirth, you should be able to sweep with it. Get a Twist Mountain out whenever you see one and get an Aerodactyl on the Bench to make those Rainbow Burn 1HKOs even easier to stream.

This matchup is pretty straightforward as Ho-Oh runs right through all of their Grass Pokémon. If a Lugia or Bouffalant ever comes up, Mewtwo EX is a very effective attacker against them.

Vs. Darkrai: Favorable

This is another matchup where Archeops is also useless, so discard the pieces whenever possible. As long as you have Terrakions and Bouffalant powered up, this matchup is also slightly favorable for you. The only time I lost to Darkrai was when both of my Terrakions were prized.

Against a Garbodor variant, it will be more difficult to beat, but still slightly favorable. If you can get Archeops up before they get Garbodor out, then you’ll essentially just be playing against a less consistent Darkrai deck.

Vs. Blastoise: Even

As Jay Hornung explained last week, this is simply a race to see who gets their Pokémon up first. Because of this, a large determinant of who the victor will be is decided by the coin flip that starts the game. If you get your Archeops up first, the Blastoise player loses, if they get their Blastoise up first, you lose.

Vs. Plasma: Even

Archeops is again not very helpful in this matchup, but Aerodactyl makes Mewtwo and Tornadus very strong attackers against Kyurem PLF and Deoxys-EX. With three Energy, a Mewtwo can 1HKO a fully powered Kyurem thanks to Aerodactyl. Usually, the Plasma player is able to pull far ahead in the early game, but Ho-Oh EX allows for some cool late game plays to mount a comeback.


scientist ash misty
The scientific method can help!

Overall, I think Ho-Oh EX/Archeops is a very metagame-dependent deck. It would be an absolutely terrible idea to play this against a field full of Plasma players that don’t use Evolutions at all. However, if you can take the tips outlined in this article to scout out your metagame and discover that Evolution cards are the basis for a lot of successful and popular decks, then I think that Archeops can truly shine.

I hope that this article gave you some insight into how you can determine what your metagame is like and pilot decks that will hopefully allow you to come on top. Thank you all so much for reading, especially in the midst of all of your holiday plans, and I wish you all happy holidays and a happy new year!

If you enjoyed the article, please “Like” it below, as this helps me out a lot, especially as a new Underground writer. Thank you everyone! Till next time.

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