Hello friends! Travis Nunlist here with an update on my Guardians Rising explorations. Since my last piece, I’ve done immense amounts of testing and even had two League Cups in the new format! One was Expanded and the other Standard requiring two entirely different formats to prepare for with this phenomenal new set. Having some League Cups with the new set legal was especially helpful in preparing for the upcoming Seattle Regionals, which I will also be attending.
Exploring the Guardians Rising format has been incredibly fun for me, and I’ve tried toying with just about every single viable card from the set to see what I can come up with. I believe this set is probably the best set I’ve seen since I started playing, and my very first Prerelease was HGSS: Undaunted in 2010! I cannot wait to see what everyone else will come up with at the upcoming Regionals.
Looking at League Cups
Expanded League Cup
Final: 3-1-1 (9th)
I chose Accelgor/Trevenant for my Expanded cup because I wanted to use GRI cards and decided that, with the release of the Grass Phantump, it would be incredibly easy to get a T1 Trevenant using Forest of Giant Plants. The deck was good overall, with my only loss being to a Virizion-EX. Bubbling Top 8 at 9th was a bit unfortunate, but I’m sure my list was a bit rough. I believe the concept is something to keep in mind if you find yourself toying with the new Expanded format.
Standard League Cup
R2 Tapu Koko (1-1)
R3 Greninja (2-0)
R4 Decidueye/Ninetales (0-2)
R5 Trevenant/Garbodor/Zoroark (2-0)
R6 Drampa/Tauros/Garbodor (2-0)
T8 Greninja (2-0)
T4 Drampa/Tauros/Garbodor (2-0)
T2 Drampa/Garbodor (2-0)
Final: 4-1-1 (1st)
I know my Standard deck selection is probably less than exciting considering it’s just an updated version of last format’s BDIF, but I knew there would be a lot of Greninja and Waterbox at my tournament so it seemed like an appropriate meta call. I also believe the deck has fallen out of favor because of everyone trying out Guardians Rising concepts, but forgetting about the Owl going into Seattle Regionals is almost certainly a mistake. Check out the list I used below!
After all of the time I’ve put into Guardians Rising, the following three decks are my top plays for Seattle Regionals this weekend. I think they’re all very inherently powerful, and are capable of handling the menace that is Garbodor GRI. I think any deck that can realistically handle Garbodor GRI (or is Garbodor GRI) is a good play for the weekend. I believe the first few tournaments with this set will be very centralized around the little trash monster in one way or the other, and I’m very excited to see how it plays out.
The Defending Champ: Decidueye/Vileplume
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 29
3 Trainers’ Mail
Energy – 8
This is the list I used to take down my most recent League Cup. It’s not particularly thrilling and is mostly just committed to consistency. I believe the release of Tapu Lele-GX helped this deck just as much as it did every other deck. The deck already played Lugia-EX, but now it can get you a Supporter as well! I think having this built in consistency/attacker frees up space for you to commit to other cards that you want in the list. I think this deck is especially well positioned at the moment because there are a few Grass weak decks like Greninja and Waterbox that are making a splash (heh). The deck has also shed the massive target it maintained through the end of the SUM format, which means there are less people aiming to beat it.
Espeon-EX: This was included specifically for the Sylveon matchup. The idea is that you can get 60 on all of their Sylveon and devolve them all at once, immediately winning the game. Furthermore, there are more and more Evolution decks that Espeon-EX can put in work against. It was definitely the most useless card in my deck all day, and the only time it would’ve won me a game I couldn’t seem to find it when I needed it. However, I do think the logic is still solid and I just never hit a matchup where it would be super useful.
3rd Lysandre: This is something I always enjoyed seeing in lists from last format and knew it was something I wanted. With 3 Lysandre, I felt like I always had access to the card when I wanted it, especially with Tapu Lele.
4th Grass: This is a concession to the amount of Energy denial that seems to be popping up. It was especially useful in games against Drampa-GX because it ensured I always had Energy that couldn’t be removed by Righteous Edge. I like having more Energy to attach anyway, as missing attachments in a deck like this can be game breaking.
3rd Float Stone is currently my 61st card and will probably be the card to go in if I cut the Espeon-EX. I really love Float Stone in this deck and believe that getting them down onto Decidueye-GX is just as important as getting them onto Vileplume. Having free retreat is just incredibly important under lock and blows your options open in any given game.
The 4th Trainers’ Mail is something I cut for the 4th N as a minor concession to Garbodor. The less Items the deck plays, the better, and 4 N was incredibly powerful in its own right. I generally dislike Trainers’ Mail as a card anyway, so 3 is reasonable enough for me.
Field Blower is an incredibly powerful card that can set your opponent back before you get your lock up. Being able to remove Tool Cards your opponent got down before Vileplume hits the board is invaluable as long as you can hit it at the right time.
I believe this deck is absolutely still Tier 1. I think Drampa/Garbodor is definitely your hardest matchup of all the new stuff, but I believe it can be beat with some tight play. As long as you practice playing against the deck you should be able to figure out the appropriate lines of play. Decidueye/Vileplume is such a safe call for the event because it’s a proven contender. I don’t think it outright loses to anything, while it has a lot of favorable matchups becoming more popular.
The Challenger: Drampa/Garbodor
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
I think this is definitely the deck I’ve put the most time into since the set dropped. I believe it is absolutely a top contender, and that Garbodor variants will be the most played at Seattle Regionals. Drampa-GX is the key to mirror in these matchups, as Righteous Edge lets you remove DCE from their Tauros-GX or Tapu Lele-GX, while Big Wheel-GX gives you insane card access without having to use Items. Because of the boost Big Wheel-GX can give you, it’s not uncommon to pull of a T2 180 with Drampa-GX if they were unable to disrupt your massive hand.
Brigette: Your ideal T1 is Brigette into a Big Wheel-GX, ideally leaving you with a mostly setup field for the rest of the game. Brigette helps you setup while using less Items in mirror, which is incredibly important. I think Brigette is better than Pokémon Fan Club in this deck because your attackers are all either non-EX or GX Pokémon. You lose coming into play Abilities like Wonder Tag and Setup, but I believe the extra Pokémon is absolutely worth it.
Brock’s Grit: Being able to recover a lot of Garbodor pieces at once is incredible for forcing your opponent to deal with an army of Trashalanche. I also believe it is one of the best cards you can play to deal with the Sylveon matchup. Having reusable recovery against Sylveon basically destroys their entire Energy denial strategy and should give you a much better shot at defeating them. Loading up Tapu Lele with Energy has proven to be a pretty effective strategy, along with Trashalanche.
Delinquent/Team Flare Grunt: These disruptive Supporters can force Items into your opponent’s discard if your opponent is trying to play a bit more conservatively. Team Flare Grunt can also prove to be an especially dirty combo when combined with Righteous Edge. Having access to them from Tapu Lele is super good, and helps you drop them at the most impactful moment.
Hala: This is just another powerful draw option for any deck that aims to use the GX attack very quickly. Shuffle/draw 7 helps keep you from discarding Items, and I’m glad to see we have another draw option that can compete somewhat with Professor Sycamore and N in the right decks.
Garbodor BKP: I’ve noticed some lists choosing to exclude this card in favor of a 4th Garbodor GRI and think it’s borderline criminal and absolutely a mistake. Garbodor BKP shuts off so many things and is just an insanely powerful card in its own right. Just because Field Blower exists doesn’t destroy the power that is Garbotoxin. As long as you’re somewhat conservative with your 7 tools, re-activiating Garbotoxin after a Field Blower shouldn’t be too difficult.
I think the Tauros-GX version is a completely different deck than the Drampa version. I don’t think they really mesh well together because of their conflicting GX attacks. With Drampa you want to use Big Wheel quickly and try to pull off a quick 150-180 damage with Berserk, while Tauros is a bit lower/more control focused around Mad Bull-GX. I think Drampa-GX is just better because it puts on more pressure and is much better in mirror.
Team Rocket’s Handiwork is honestly a card that has tested fine for getting Items in the discard, but the flip effects are always annoying to deal with. It should average 2 cards off the top of their deck and can definitely catch an unsuspecting opponent off guard when combined with the new Trubbish from Guardians Rising.
I think everyone kind of forgot about Parallel City because Field Blower’s release helps balance out the power of the card, but it is still very good. Being able to clear off unwanted Bench Pokémon or limit your opponent’s Bench is still a powerful effect when timed correctly. Having a non-Magma stadium can be important to limit your Bench damage to only what you need.
I definitely think this will be the most popular deck going into Seattle Regionals. If you want to play a Garbodor variant, I think you need some sort of answer for the mirror match and should definitely be prepared to play it. I believe my current list is near ideal for the event and I’m very confident in the list. From my testing, this is definitely one of the most powerful new concepts from Guardians Rising.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 39
Energy – 13
This is a deck I’ve become enamored with after seeing it played by a local player. It’s incredibly fast when it wants to be, but against Garbodor it’s surprisingly easy to avoid Item use because of how good Collect is. Against non-Garbodor decks it can go off very easily and usually has Blizzard Burn by Turn 2 at the latest. The concept is incredibly straightforward and reminds me of Turbo Dark from last format because of how linear and aggressive it is.
4 Lapras-GX: I truly believe this is the only attacker you need. The rest of the Water Pokémon just aren’t on the same power level as Lapras, and I think you always want to be powering up as many of these as you can as fast as you can.
Escape Rope/Float Stone/Olympia: Having all of these additional switch outs alongside Manaphy helps to ensure we can reset Blizzard Burn whenever needed. I included these because I don’t always want to rely on Manaphy as my sole switch out, and found the extra mobility incredibly helpful.
Pokémon Fan Club: I think this deck is a great example of where Fan Club is better than Brigette. Being able to grab Lapras and Manaphy quickly helps to ensure you can maximize your acceleration, and the quick Supporter search helps minimize Item usage against Garbodor.
2 Professor Kukui: I love having access to this card multiple times in a game. Hitting 180/210 is huge at certain points in a lot of matchups, and having multiple outs to hitting the numbers you need is great for aggressiveness.
There are a plethora of options that fit with Lapras along with a potential Ninja Boy package, but in testing I found that I very rarely ever actually wanted anything attacking other than a Lapras. Glaceon-EX has lost a lot of its walling capabilities because of Tapu Lele’s popularity in all decks, and found that streamlining Lapras was more effective than a box-style variant. I would love a non-EX in the deck, but have always found Articuno to be a little too squishy for the amount of Energy it takes.
Brooklet Hill is a phenomenal stadium for setup, but ultimately, between 4 Ultra Ball and Pokémon Fan Club, you don’t really need the extra search. Some number of Brooklet Hill could help fit the turbo style of the deck just for maximizing your early search to aid in consistency.
Fighting Fury Belt combos very well with Rough Seas, beefing your Lapras-GX all the way up to 230 hp. While the damage boost isn’t as impactful as Choice Band, it should ideally give your Lapras a bit more longevity. Fighting Fury Belt is actually better in the Greninja matchup because it lets your Lapras hit 170 to 1HKO Greninja BREAK without the need of Professor Kukui. I’ve chosen to maximize Choice Band for now, but there are merits to Fighting Fury Belt.
Gawking at Gyarados – Responding to the Milan Open
The Milan Open is a European event that happened this past weekend that had Gyarados come out on top with an incredibly decisive 10-0 win throughout the entire tournament, beating two decks in T8 and T4 that packed Gyarados counters. This kind of a decisive victory should prove how incredibly powerful Gyarados is, and if it goes unchecked I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gyarados run the same way at Seattle Regionals. The most obvious counter is obviously just playing Decidueye, but if you don’t feel like dealing with the bird brain there are a plethora of options to be aware of for countering Gyarados:
Spinda PRC/Hoopa STS: These are the most splashable counters to Gyarados as their attacks only require C. Spinda is a harder counter, but Hoopa is more likely to be useful in non-Gyarados matchups. It should be noted the Milan Open winner defeated a Hoopa STS in T8.
Yveltal BREAK: For DDD, this card Knocks Out a damaged Gyarados and all 3 Magikarp. I doubt they can recover from that kind of prize swing.
Celebi XY93: In any deck running Grass Energy, this card is comedically effective against Gyarados. For G it places 1 damage counter on each of your opponent’s Pokémon. Not only will it take out all damaged Magikarps, but if they’re able to respond to the Celebi they might not even be able to take a prize off of it, and you may be able shuffle it back into your deck for an easy re-use because of Leap Through Time.
Azelf XY142: For P, this card places 2 damage counters on any Pokémon that is already damaged. Not only is this incredibly effective against Gyarados, but can actually work very well when combined with Magma’s base in general in decks like Drampa/Garbodor.
Greninja XY162: For W, this card does 20 damage to all of your opponent’s Pokémon. This should theoretically clear your opponent’s board of Magikarps and win you the matchup, but the Milan Open winner defeated one of these as well.
It’s very important to note that now that people are aware Gyarados is good, Magikarp players may come packing counters to the counters in the form of Mr. Mime or Machoke. If this is the case and you’re truly looking to counter Gyarados, then be sure to bring Hex Maniac along with your Gyarados counter. I honestly think Gyarados is a top play and will most likely make space for a counter if I feel it will be a popular deck.
I hope everyone was able to learn from my explorations through Guardians Rising so far. I’m certain there are plenty of viable concepts that have still yet to be discovered, and am very excited to watch the game develop.
Right now I think the most expected decks are Garbodor variants, Sylveon, and Volcanion. Gyarados, Greninja, Waterbox, and Decidueye/Vileplume are creeping around as well. I definitely think these decks are ones you should have played against — and with — going into the tournament to be fully prepared.
If I had to pull the trigger right now, I would probably play the Lapras list because of how fun I think it is, but am also feeling really good after the cup win with Decidueye. I probably won’t settle on my deck until the night before the event, which is rather unusual for me.
I think Seattle is my last Regional of the season, and possibly my last event until Worlds depending on my life schedule. As a result, I want to make sure I’m prepared for the tournament, and am definitely looking forward to the event. As always, feel free to come up and say hello at any event! See y’all there.
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 90 days, we open each Underground (UG) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thanks for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.