Hey everyone! When I wrote for you last, it was at the dawn of Sun & Moon’s release, when players started their first serious look into a game with GX Pokémon. It’s only been a few weeks since then, but it feels like we’ve already learned so much! The slate of articles in that time have all had some top-notch discussion on Sun & Moon decks, ranging from zany new creations like Travis Nunlist’s Hoothoot/Decidueye deck to more user-friendly updates on decks like Volcanion. The only constant for me has been my adoration of this format: as was the case then, I am still enamored! While I’ve cooled on it a bit after discovering it is still heavily matchup based, I have noticed it feels a little less rigid than before. Don’t get me wrong — games are often decided before they even begin, though this will likely remain at least until Shaymin rotates. This doesn’t mean we aren’t on the right track! The meta is still diversifying, and we’re getting a glimpse of a great game, just on the horizon.
As with a good chunk of our writers, I’ve had my nose to the grindstone for Anaheim. In one of my earlier articles, I talked about the necessity and importance of serious testing. While it does seem quite obvious what benefits come from putting in hours of work, I really can’t stress enough how it’s been a boon for my mental state going into this tournament. While I’m not 100% set on a deck just yet, I haven’t felt as prepared for a tournament as I have for Anaheim this season. Not only do I feel like my playing ability has increased a few levels due to the sheer amount I’ve been playing, but I have a much greater clarity of the format thanks to constant theorying I’ve been able to have with a wide array of top players. I try not to predict how I’ll end up finishing at a tournament because it only leads to disappointment, but I definitely feel more confident for Anaheim than I have in quite some time.
All of that said, there’s a lot to discuss. My last article was an exploration into this format, and I’m definitely coming back with more experience this time around. Sadly, the time of boundless optimism has passed and some ideas just fizzled. Many decks from the previous format are still good, which has pushed some of the crazier ideas to the wayside, for now. As such, this article is going to be less exploratory and more definitive; I’ve got some new takes on decks from last time, as well a brand new deck that’s risen into my top three picks for the tournament. Onward, to Anaheim!
Owls Fly Together: Decidueye
One thing I stressed in my last article was that the lists and ideas were conceptual rather than concrete. The headliner of my last article was Vespiquen/Decidueye, a deck I felt was an initially strong contender: theory and early testing showed a powerful deck that traded very favorably with a lot of Evolution-based decks, though one mired by slight inconsistency issues with the departure of the crucial Battle Compressor. As I tested it more, I came to the unfortunate realization that Vespiquen/Decidueye is unfortunately not as strong as I originally thought, and that there are better partners for Decidueye. When I originally wrote about the pair, I was still in the “try everything!” phase, and felt that many of the Evolutions from the new set, both GX and non, would have an immediate impact. In that hypothetical scenario, Vespiquen shines once again as the model of efficient trading.
As it turns out, what we’re seeing is more a fusion of PRC–EVO and PRC–SM, meaning that some of Vespiquen’s struggles have remained, limiting the power of the card in a deck like this (as opposed to the more streamlined Vespiquen lists that focus on just Stage 1s). Vespiquen/Decidueye was a great starting point for me though, as the games illustrated the power of Decidueye, which is as tremendous a GX as ever. Everything about the card is still as powerful as I’d thought, and Feather Arrow is game-changing when you’ve got access to multiple in a turn. I still think the idea is a strong one and is one I will probably revisit in the future, perhaps when the format is more rigidly defined and I can see a more concrete place for it. Decidueye is still a prominent player in this format, so I’m going to label this one a half-bust. The deck itself didn’t bear fruit, but some of the same concepts from it have transitioned over to the “standard” form of Decidueye, meaning it wasn’t a total waste. Further, I think there is still untapped potential there, and it was a pet deck of mine so I’m a bit biased overall.
What’s emerging now as the most successful strategy for Decidueye is far more linear than what I had, eschewing the swarm of Vespiquen for consistent Basic attackers like Tauros and Lugia. Here’s a basic idea of the deck:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 36
Energy – 8
This list is very similar to the one that’s been seeing a lot of playtime on Azul Griego’s stream, and one I concocted based on watching his stream, with a couple of my own changes thrown in.
2 Lugia-EX, 1 Tauros-GX
Here are your main attackers. By focusing more on abusing Decidueye’s Ability and keeping the attacking simple, this deck simply outmuscles your opponent. Lugia is as efficient an attacker as they come, and with the benefit of added damage from Decidueye, X Ball is as strong as it’s ever been. Tauros is a great attacker as well; sitting Tauros as a wall to build behind is already a known tactic and part of why Tauros is so good, but that strategy is magnified with your ability to push for much higher numbers thanks to Decidueye. Rage and Mad Bull are now even deadlier, and Horn Attack turns from an otherwise paltry 60 damage into a legitimate two-shot mechanism. It goes without saying how strong Aero Ball can be, and Deep Hurricane provides you with a powerful one-shot attack, with Decidueye’s help.
The logic here is the same as it was in Vespiquen, though here you want to set up as many as you can, instead of pitching it at all. Over the course of a game and with the combination of prizing, Revitalizer, and Super Rod, you’re likely to set up 3 Decidueye; as a result, I don’t know if the fourth Owl is needed yet, or if it can be dropped in lieu of something else. In the few games I’ve played with the 4-4-3 line, I haven’t noticed too much of a difference, especially against things like Garb.
Not much to be said here, other than the fact that you want to have ample retreat/tagging options to stall. Decidueye has a ton of HP and is great to stall with (especially when using Hollow Hunt GX) while you build up a fat Lugia, and the Float Stones and Olympia give us plenty of outs to a Garbodor deck that tries to catch us unprepared with Lysandre tricks. I think Olympia is a card that will start seeing play in a lot of Ability-based Evolution decks (or even decks that simply have an Ability as a utility, such as Solgaleo) as it is a reusable switching effect against Garbodor. The healing is mostly negligible, but it may come in handy now and again.
4 Forest, 1 Delinquent
This idea is one I’ve been trying out after chatting with my good friend Ryan Sabelhaus, who also runs it (he gave me the idea). Simply put, with five outs to Stadiums instead of four, you should be able to get on top of any Mega Ray deck, significantly lowering their damage output and putting control of the game in your favor. On an even two-shot playing field, Lugia and Tauros trade much better with Ray than the inverse, and this is our best bet at accomplishing this. Delinquent also gives us a minor facet of control, which can be expanded upon with good Decidueye placements.
. . .
The rest of this list is fairly standard and self-explanatory. Set up as many Decidueye as fast as you can, and hit quickly with efficient DCE attackers. This deck is likely quite susceptible to Volcanion and Rayquaza — if you are unable to get a handle on which Stadium sticks — but can compete with and defeat most other decks.
The Safe Choice: Turbo Dark
Last time, I talked about how Turbo Dark was one of the decks that would survive the format change and excel, and my thoughts on that have only been reinforced. Turbo Dark is still as fast and strong as ever and is currently my “safe” choice for the tournament. If all else fails, I’m falling back on Darkrai, a phrase countless players have said for the past half-decade. Here’s where I’m at currently:
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