Hey all! I’m back from Melbourne after an amazing time at the 2nd International Championship of the year. I felt sorely unprepared for this tournament, even though I tested the Standard format a ton before Anaheim. This is mostly due to the success that Decidueye-GX/Vileplume decks saw at Anaheim Regionals (John Kettler, Top 16), Sheffield Regionals (Gonçalo Ferreira, 1st place), and even John Kettler’s 2nd place finish at the Expanded Regionals in St. Louis. The deck came out of nowhere as a top contender and made me completely reconsider which decks I believed to be viable.
Despite this, I was able to actually pilot this Decidueye/Vileplume deck myself to a Top 8 finish in Australia. For today’s piece, I’ll be going over my testing mentality (and how to maximize that even while you’re in a brand new country you want to explore like Australia), my tournament experience (including some tips on how I stayed mentally invested in the tournament when things didn’t go according to plan), and how I think the Standard format will shape up in the coming months. There’s a lot to talk about so let’s jump right in!
- The Testing Process
- Game Day Down Under
- Day 1: Just Like London
- Day 2: Better than London
- Day 3: All Good Things Must Come to an End
- The State of Standard
- Counters to Decidueye
The Testing Process
Leading up to Melbourne, my thoughts on the Standard format drastically changed in two weeks. I thought Vespiquen was far and away the best deck for Anaheim, with favorable or even matchups against Yveltal, Mewtwo, Rayquaza, Turbo Dark, and Gardevoir (without Karen). While the same would be true moving forward, I thought the popularity and success of Vespiquen could lead to Karen being teched in some decks. I even heard players contemplating this in their Yveltal and Mewtwo decks during Anaheim.
In Theory …
My first thought for what to play in Melbourne was M Gardevoir. Yveltal, Mewtwo, and Turbo Dark were the three decks I expected to see the most play and Gardevoir had a favorable to even matchup against all of them. However, things changed drastically the weekend before the International event with the dominance of Decidueye/Vileplume at St. Louis and Sheffield Regionals. The deck was seeing little hype but was quickly forced onto my radar with 1st and 2nd place finishes at large events in two continents. I didn’t know how much play the deck would see but I typically don’t like taking a loss to the new deck on the block.
For the 11 days between Anaheim and the Thursday before Melbourne, my Standard testing was mostly “theorymon” as I didn’t have much time to work on any decks, and also had to prepare a bit for St. Louis’s Expanded event. I relied on the opinion of friends as I bounced ideas off of them and sought out any deck ideas I was overlooking. Typically, I sought the opinions of friends who weren’t going to the event to avoid any “hive mind” mentalities that would distort my judgement, and I thought I’d be able to get a good idea of what the players attending the Melbourne International were thinking once I got there.
After talking to a wide range of people, one notion stood out: play something that beats Decidueye/Vileplume. Everyone echoed that sentiment and typically agreed with my thoughts on Gardevoir, provided that it could somehow beat the new Decidueye deck. Past that, I started compiling a list of decks that could possibly beat Decidueye to test out, including Yveltal/Garbodor, Volcanion, M Rayquaza, and Vespiquen/Flareon AOR. These would be my focus during my testing session on Thursday before Melbourne.
Sightsee or Playtest?
After arriving in Melbourne, I faced a bit of a dilemma. I wanted to explore the new city I found myself in but I also knew how important it would be to prepare for the tournament ahead. I settled on this compromise: sightsee for a bit during the day, then buckle down and test for the evening. This made a lot of sense as I would be playing in the tournament during the daytime for at least one of the next three days, and hopefully more. I would be able to experience at least some of the nightlife in those days so I wouldn’t be sacrificing that by using that time to test on Thursday. In reality, the tournament was run incredibly well and I had plenty of time to see the city on Friday night, Saturday afternoon/night, and most of Sunday as well. This schedule worked out super well for Thursday and I plan to stick with it for most Internationals in the future.
I met up with Drew Bennett-Kennett and Kenny Britton on Thursday and we settled into our Airbnb, ate a delicious kangaroo burger, and wandered around the city for a few hours. We made our way over to the convention center around 5 PM to check in and talk with the other North American players. Most of them were pretty set on playing Decidueye/Vileplume, further perpetuating my thoughts that I needed to beat it with whatever deck I chose.
Running the Gauntlet
The first deck we tested was Gardevoir, to maximize the time we had to perfect the list since we favored it the most at this point. However, it was very weak to Decidueye/Vileplume, just on the basis of Item Lock and a 240-HP attacker. We tried lists with 2 copies of Hex Maniac and even Wobbuffet, but had no luck with anything.
Next, I moved on to Volcanion — not necessarily as a play, but more so to test out the fragility of Decidueye in a diverse metagame. My thought was that if the deck couldn’t hold up against the field in general, maybe I didn’t have to worry about it that much. However, Decidueye was more resilient than I initially imagined, and the combination of Vileplume with Tauros-GX and Lugia-EX, plus Feather Arrow damage gave it a fighting chance against Volcanion. Even when the Volcanion player plays the matchup right by not benching Hoopa and refraining from benching Volcanion-EX without attaching 1–2 Energy to them, it’s 60/40 in Volcanion’s favor at the very most.
M Rayquaza was a promising pick for a while, as 2 Hex Maniac and a quick Emerald Break for 240 gave me the tools to beat Decidueye. I went 3-2 with it against Decidueye, but Drew wasn’t drawing too optimally with Decidueye so I took the results with a grain of salt. I didn’t feel too good about Rayquaza’s potential against Mewtwo and Yveltal, and even saw it lose some games to Turbo Darkrai in the past few months. I kept it in the back of my mind as a possible option but was far from sold on it.
The next deck on the list was Vespiquen/Flareon AOR. I loved Vespiquen after playing it for a good chunk of the season, even though I was uninterested in being known as a “Vespiquen player.” This happened a few times in Anaheim as my opponents remarked “I think I know what you’re playing” before our match started, just due to the fact that I played the deck in London and at a League Cup. Typically, I would just rather my opponent not know which deck I’m playing for as long as possible as to not give them advantage when choosing their starting Pokémon or as they make decisions on their first turn. However, I still want to always play the best deck in the format no matter what it is so I considered Vespiquen. This was short-lived after I got the “perfect” setup with a T2 Vespiquen + Flareon + Bee Revenge for 240 in the first game, but still handily lost due to Item Lock and slowly-placed Feather Arrow damage. I unsleeved the deck immediately after that.
The last deck I tested was Yveltal/Garbodor. I was very close to playing the deck in Anaheim as I thought Tauros-GX + Ninja Boy gave Yveltal a lot of interesting options to complement the raw power and consistency it thrived on before. Earlier in the day, I watched Michael Pramawat’s Decidueye fall to Kian Amini’s Yveltal/Garbodor several games in a row, where Pram remarked “I don’t think it’s a very good matchup.” This led me to believe Yveltal would be a safe call for the event and I resigned myself to playing it at this point.
I sleeved up the list I showed off in “The Joey Report” from last week and played a handful of games against Decidueye just to see how it goes first hand. I learned a lot about the matchup in the first three-game set even though I lost 2-1. The two keys were that Trubbish couldn’t be benched without Float Stone and that I couldn’t be afraid to load up a giant Yveltal-EX, even with the threat of Lugia-EX’s Aero Ball. We ended up playing two more games where I had a better game plan going in and even got Garbodor online with a Float Stone in both games. However, I still lost both due to either Beedrill-EX + Lysandre or just the consistent 90 damage from Razor Leaf combined with Decidueye’s massive 240 HP.
A Final Decision
It was at this point where I first contemplated playing Decidueye/Vileplume myself. The deck held its own against everything I threw at it, as well as against Turbo Darkrai in some matches I wasn’t part of. I was a little bit concerned as it was almost 1 AM at this point and I hadn’t played a single game with the deck, so I questioned my ability to properly pilot the deck. Decidueye-GX’s Feather Arrow Ability requires you to think several turns ahead and there are a lot of decisions to make when you play with 2 GX attacks in a deck, one of which lets you pick 3 cards out of your discard, introducing more and more crucial decisions.
I also thought the metagame would be incredibly favorable for Decidueye. The American players seemed to be mostly favoring Decidueye or Turbo Dark, giving me at least 50/50 matchups there, but they weren’t a large portion of the metagame. I guessed European players would stick with Dark decks after the best players were known to play them in their most recent tournaments. Yveltal and Mewtwo were the most popular decks in the Oceania region for the past 2 months, and I heard that many of them would be playing Darkrai or Yveltal. Volcanion had seen little to no play, further reinforcing Decidueye’s strong spot in the metagame.
In the end, I decided that I would be able to play the deck decently at least. I’ve had a lot of experience with Vileplume decks in the past 12 months which paid off in the tournament as I had to decide when to and when not to set up a Vileplume in several games. I also had just played 20+ games against Decidueye, which gave me a really good idea of how the deck wants to function. Playing against a deck is one of the best ways to get the full picture of how it operates, and I always suggest players do this before playing a deck in tournament. Drew and I played one game of the mirror match, contemplating when it was/wasn’t beneficial to get out Vileplume, came to few conclusions other than “feel out the situation,” and went to bed, satisfied with our list.
Game Day Down Under
I woke up in the morning and felt very confident in my deck choice. Drew Bennett-Kennett and Jay Lesage had worked together on perfecting the list on Thursday and I really liked how it turned out. For the most part, it was almost identical to the list that John Kettler piloted in Anaheim. I knew that they tested all kinds of card counts like 2 Shaymin, 3 Lysandre, 4 N, and more, so I felt very comfortable that the list was as optimized as could be.
Here’s the list that Drew and I played:
Pokémon – 25
Trainers – 28
Energy – 7
The card that stands out the most is the single copy of Unown AOR. I had more questions about this inclusion than almost any other card I’ve ever played. The thought behind it was to never have to waste a Level Ball (or Ultra Ball for that matter). In some of our games, the Decidueye player ended up with a board of Rowlet + Oddish + Tauros/Lugia + Shaymin-EX/Rowlet or similar without finding a Forest of Giant Plants. Typically, I want to save the remaining 2 Bench spots for a Shaymin-EX and another Rowlet or attacker, depending on what I draw off of my upcoming Sycamore/N. If I have a Level Ball in hand, I can’t use it to put a Gloom or Dartrix in play since I didn’t find the Forest. Instead, you can grab the Unown to keep your options open with your Bench space, and dig one card deeper after playing your Supporter card, helping to find your Forest, Energy, or Evolution card.
In hindsight, this spot may have been better served as one part of a Trevenant-EX + 3rd Lysandre combination. We gave the list to the US Senior players to play on Saturday and they chose to include the Trevenant over the Unown, making decks with Garbodor or Hoopa even better matchups. It also helps against the mirror match (Lysandre Vileplume, snipe around it, KO Vileplume with Feather Arrow, get Items back on your turn while setting up a Vileplume of your own so your opponent doesn’t get a turn of Items). However, I’m not upset that I played the Unown as it bailed me out of some bad situations throughout the day.
Let me know if you have any other questions; the list is pretty standard but I can go over gameplay and matchup tips where requested.
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