What’s up, everyone! It’s been a couple of weeks since my two part set review dropped, and since then, I’ve been actively playing around with the new set as much as possible. At the start of the year, I was supremely hopeful for the game’s Standard format. With the release of Sun & Moon, I was supremely hopeful for Standard format. With the release of Guardians Rising, well, you see where this is going. The third time had to be the charm. They couldn’t keep getting away with allowing the game to exist in these states. They had to see the problems, they had to know to fix it.
Boy, did they ever. Guardians Rising might be the best set released since Phantom Forces, or even going way back to Noble Victories or Stormfront. This set is spectacular, phenomenal, incredible, you name it. The combination of Tapu Lele-GX and Field Blower alone have singlehandedly saved the format, in my opinion. The amount of viable decks and techs has skyrocketed, and even better, we’re seeing the long awaited reemergence of the lost “league deck.” You know, the ones that aren’t designed to win a tournament, but stand a chance at winning in a manner that’s actually enjoyable? Yeah, those. Guardians Rising brought those back. I’m rambling again, and there’s a ton I want to discuss regarding the state of the game and Seattle, so let’s leave this incoherent babble behind and get into it.
The State of the Game
Everyone was in agreement that Tapu Lele and Field Blower would change the game immediately upon release, and I too felt that when I originally wrote about them. For the first time this season, my optimism has been rewarded! It is normal for the game to have its better formats at the end of the season, at Nats/Worlds time, strictly because the card pool is largest then. While it’s no different here, the quality of our May set has been leaps and bounds above years of previous May sets. The amount of rogue potential buried in this massive set is through the roof, and the introduction of both Lele and Field Blower has brought a tornado of fresh air through our game. What’s interesting is just the impact the two have had on the game in their infant stages. Field Blower is fairly obvious, cracking open the Pandora’s Box of sweet abilities in the format. Lele, however, is a beast on its own.
For Lele, some people figured that it would act as a simple consistency boost, while Shaymin was still in the game. At least in my experience, and those of my friends who’ve likewise been testing heavily, this is patently untrue. Lele has turned deckbuilding on its head. The most powerful inspiration for our blossoming of creative deckbuilding actually hails from Japan: a lot of Japanese decks are including Lele and copies of Brigette or Pokémon Fan Club. That’s right, that card is back from the dead! The reason for these inclusions is simple: Garbodor!
The introduction of this card has forced a lot of players to immediately find alternate methods of setting up, with a slower, less volatile approach being one that’s already found success. I’ve noticed a lot of decks, such as Volcanion, still playing the turbo version that’s been common throughout the entire year: full stacks of Trainers’ Mail, Max Elixir, switching effects, a bunch of tools, etc. This style of deckbuilding will almost certainly go extinct, because the popularity of Garbodor will absolutely crush this.
What does this mean? For starters, it means that deckbuilding is finally going to have some semblance of importance again. The necessity of creative workarounds to common problems, primarily Garbodor GUR, will let skilled carpenters jump to the forefront of innovation. The players worried about Garbodor being too powerful or broken are likely coming from a place of fear, as the task of developing an entirely different style of list, one that’s been unfamiliar to many players for years, is daunting. Fear not! Within this article are three lists I’ve been messing around with that give a great idea of just how awesome deckbuilding is in this current format, and what we have in store for the future. Two of them are certainly competitive choices for Seattle, and one of them is more an illustration of the point I’m making (though it could be competitive someday!).
Rising From the Ashes: Volcanion
No surprise here that Volcanion is deck #1 on the list. Volcanion is the deck that gets the strongest immediate boost from Guardians Rising. Let’s start with the list I’m playing around with, one which was graciously shared with me by my friend Ahmed Ali:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
For starters, this list looks a lot different than the conventional Volcanion builds we’re used to. The style of the full-playsets of Items-heavy Volcanion build is long gone, thanks to the arrival of Garbodor GUR. When you examine what Guardians Rising has done for Volcanion on a fundamental level, this otherwise-whacky list makes a lot more sense:
- Through a majority of this season, Garbotoxin+Parallel City had been the bane of Volcanion’s existence, and often what kept it from being considered a legitimate contender in the eyes of many (including myself). Field Blower, however, is the obvious answer to that. Now, Volcanion can take care of both of those problems in one card, without using a supporter.
- Volcanion now has target supporter search in Lele, making finding cards like Olympia, Ranger, or Lysandre automatic. Finding your copy of these supporters has often been a huge deciding factor in whether or not Volcanion would actually win a game, and Lele is the out it’s been waiting for. The Lele+Fan Club combo is also a great substitute for Hoopa.
- Choice Band does wonders for boosting Volcanion’s power level, specifically making attacking with baby Volcanion a legitimate strategy far past the early game. Whereas before, baby Volcanion was there to power up your big dudes, it now has the option of going toe-to-toe with the big threats on its own, saving your Volcanion-EX from having to enter the fray until your opponent is exhausted.
- Turtonator-GX is a phenomenal late game support card, powering up an entire field with the GX attack. In addition, it provides an even higher ceiling for Volcanion, allowing you to more easily reach 250, if need be.
As I said earlier, deckbuilding is shifting to a slower, less volatile form of construction. This means that the idea of simply needing to GO has been replaced with some form of actual consistent and reliable setup. This plays closer to Volcanion’s Expanded counterpart (minus the obvious Blacksmith). That version, because of Jirachi-EX and Compressor, is able to play less of a glass cannon-style. While your acceleration is still worse compared to Expanded, the introduction of Choice Band makes baby Volcanion an extremely dangerous threat, and actually compensates well. The overall Item count is still high, because this is a rush deck after all, but if you play a few games with this list, you’ll see it’s actually a lot more tame and resource intensive than you’d think.
From a consistency standpoint, Lele is a boon and Scorched Earth provides more reliable cycling of your deck than Shaymin. Of course, Shaymin is still an incredibly utility so its included, but there’s only one of them now. This means you should look to use Shaymin on the turns where you really need to push for a knockout (such as digging for those Energy and a VS Seeker), instead of dropping them both immediately and then playing the rest of the game on the back of your VS Seeker alone.
I think this deck is extremely strong and, while the list may not be entirely optimal just yet, I expect this deck to absolutely have a strong showing at Seattle, Madison, and/or Mexico City. Many past critiques of this deck are remedied by this new set, and this deck should be taken very seriously.
Under the Sea: Water Toolbox ft. Wishiwashi
Our second deck utilizes the extremely powerful Wishiwashi-GX to completely dominate and overwhelm your opponents from the start of the game, combining cheap and devastating attacks with colossal HP to-well…not exactly. The deck is actually Waterbox, but it does have a Wishiwashi-GX! Let’s take a look:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
Before Anaheim Regionals, I was testing and wrote about this deck, which I thought was a relatively strong contender back then. It was a little inconsistent with only Max Elixir as the acceleration, and was generally kind of clunky. Also, Lapras capped at 170 damage, which was not enough to deal with a lot of popular threats. Like Volcanion, Guardians Rising was kind to this archetype.
- Aqua Patch should require no explanation. Now, the natural inconsistency of this archetype is rewarded, and you actually want to discard those four Water energy that you start with in your opening hand! Aqua Patch and Elixir give this deck pretty insane speed, and the most obvious comparison is Turbo Dark in Expanded. That deck is a force, and if you transplant the engine over to the blue team, you get Waterbox.
- Choice Band allows Lapras to hit for 190, which is actually significant, allowing it to 1-shot every basic EX and GX in the game (including itself!), and pushing it over 200 with Kukui, which is crucial to taking down Sylveon, Umbreon, Espeon, Lurantis, and Ninetales.
- The increased energy acceleration with Aqua Patch makes getting a turn one Palkia-EX even easier, which means even more energy! While this isn’t going to happen every game, I was able to hit a whopping six energy on the board turn one: two Patches, an attach, Elixir, and then Palkia’s charge. Pushing to five energy on the first turn is very common, and an extremely strong opener general.
- Being able to target your Ninja Boy with Lele to toggle between various attackers is a huge boon for the “box” part of the name, and really gives the deck a lot of options. Being able to target Kukui is likewise very strong. Lele is a great consistency boost to the deck and a welcome complement to Shaymin.
- Hala is actually a cool supporter that I think will see a lot more play going forward. I wanted another consistency card, didn’t want another N (as I hope to be taking prizes quickly), but wanted something that could draw a lot. Given the fact that you will likely use Ice Beam by the midgame, Hala is a strong choice, providing a great alternative to Sycamore when you can’t afford to discard those last crucial resources.
- Wishiwashi-GX may not be worth the space in this deck. I was able to pull off the Ninja Boy/Aqua Patch/Attach/Choice Band/GX attack combo to take down a fresh Solgaleo-GX once. Since then, I’ve kept it in as a challenge to myself to see how many times I can pull off some Wishi shenanigans. If I were to play this deck in a tournament, I’d probably cut this card for a Regice AOR, Tauros-GX, another consistency card, or…I don’t know yet. Maybe I’d keep him as a “team captain”. Everyone needs some love.
When this deck is operating well, it’s going to have a fair amount of Items in the discard. While the overall Item count on these decks is down to what I think is the bare minimum, it does necessitate playing Items frequently. Garbodor should naturally prey on this, but it’s actually not as bad as you think. Water decks and Pokémon have the advantage of naturally bulky stats and Rough Seas to soak up a lot of damage. By setting up an early Palkia and utilizing him as your form of energy acceleration, you can do wonders in denying Garbodor the ability to run amok. Glaceon is an option to deal with Garbodor as well, though they likely will have some complimentary attacker, like Tauros or Drampa. Articuno is supreme at targeting down Trubbish. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that this deck can afford to take its time thanks to Seas, while something like Volcanion is unable.
This deck has a favorable Volcanion matchup, and is genuinely a very strong deck. You can go from a field of nothing to a banded Lapras swinging for 190 in a single turn, which is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. The long list of attackers that can work in this deck also makes it versatile, and the healing from Rough Seas makes it one of the bulkiest decks in the game. While I’m still messing around with other decks, I continue to find myself winning games with this I have no place doing so. I like this deck a lot and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a way to take full advantage of Aqua Patch.
Pedal to the Metal: Metagross/Genesect
I told you I’d cover two competitive decks, and one deck to fully illustrate my point on what Guardians Rising has done for the game, didn’t I? This deck is freakin’ sweet.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 33
Energy – 10
The strategy here is simple: set up as many Metagross as you can, attach energy from your discard to your Active Genesect, discard a bunch of energy, do a bunch of damage. Everyone’s familiar with Eels, this isn’t a new archetype by any means. At any point between September 1st 2016 and May 4th 2017, however, this deck would have been absolutely in a large tournament, unless you were 100% confident that there would be virtually no Garbodor and Volcanion. It’d likely be unplayable even if they weren’t there, because your consistency boost from Lele didn’t exist. But it’s after May 5th now, and the new toys that have entered our closet make a deck like Metagross actually… competent!
I want to stress that I don’t consider this deck to be a legitimate contender by any means. Volcanion will surely be a force and should be more than enough to put this out of commission. The game is still pretty fast, too, making a deck that requires multiple Stage 2s to function almost unthinkable (Decidueye/Vileplume gets Forest, that’s different). Just look at this deck, though! If the combination of Tapu Lele and Field Blower had not been released, this sort of deck simply would not exist! Isn’t this exciting?! Metagross seems like a card that will likely see legitimate competitive play in the future, once Shaymin rotates. Perhaps this archetype, Metagross/Genesect, even! Solgaleo is also a great partner, as is any Psychic type Pokémon! The future is bright for Metagross, but this isn’t really about Metagross.
Not to brag, but I have actually beaten at least one Sylveon, Rayquaza, Solgaleo, and Waterbox. This is what a league deck used to be: a deck that can, on a good day, beat top decks in the meta, but one that is built purely for the enjoyment of the player. I’ve played this deck a bunch and have an absolute blast playing every game. Whenever I boot up PTCGO, I make sure to play at least one game with Metagross, because I use it as a reminder to myself of where we’re headed for the future. These kinds of decks will return to our game after a long hiatus, and I have never been happier this season with the state of the game than I am right now.
If you’ve been wanting to play that card for a long time, but were worried about some deck and the threat of Garbodor, I implore you to build it and try it out! You will be absolutely shocked at the validity of many cards that have been hiding in plain sight. I’m not telling you to head to a Regionals with these or that your ideas will even succeed, but you must look at the game differently, because it’s truly wide open now! There were legitimate arguments to make as to whether Standard or Expanded was the better format, and I think the release of Guardians Rising has ended that debate. While cancer still lurks in the format (looking at you, Sylveon), I think the general metagame is ripe for exploitation. There’s a rogue deck out there, or some overlooked ability that’s just waiting to tear the game up, and now’s the time to start looking for it.
One thing I want to do before I go is to let everyone know that I’ve recently entered the streaming/YouTube game. I’ve already started streaming, doing so three times this past week, and hope to do so regularly, 2-3 times a week, going forward. I’ve already been testing PRC–GRI heavily, and have played each of these decks on stream for a couple of hours; there’s even a past broadcast out there where you can catch me in some great games with Metagross, including an incredible comeback! I haven’t uploaded anything to YouTube (Ssky Productions) yet as I’m still learning the editing software, but I hope to get content out there soon as well. Check out my Twitch, SSky57, or you can see updates on my Facebook page. I should warn you that my stream is not PG rated, but I try and make it as entertaining as possible so I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today! I hope you guys are finding your own pet decks thanks to the new set, or have been working hard on breaking the game for Seattle. I’m trying to make it out there myself, and if I can find a decent flight, I’ll do so. Otherwise, I’ll see everyone in Madison! As always, let me know what you think, check out my channels, and have a great day!
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