Full Circle

The Return of Raichu and M Gardevoir

Hey guys! Guardians Rising introduced so many new cards and completely shook up the format. The first weekend of tournaments with the set are in past, and many of the expected decks have seen success. and Greninja have been the most notable contenders, while everything else is trying to scrape together decent showings. There’s acceptable rationale for a number of decks to see play, and in this article I will cover my two favorite decks for Seattle Regionals.

I hope to perform well at these last few Regionals to secure a Day 2 invitation to Worlds. It’s awesome to be on the first page right now, (I’m at #21 as I write this), but hopefully I can push my way over the hump. I’ll be attending all 3 remaining Regionals, Origins, and North American Internationals. I’ve never been more motivated to put together ideas and find strategies to win. Aging up this year reintroduced my love for this game, mostly because I find it more challenging. Let’s get into today’s topics: Raichu and M !

Double Take: The Rationale for Raichu

pikachyu.co.vu
“I’m gonna SHOCK you!”

I was intrigued by Raichu after learning the results of a Japanese tournament. One person played a Lycanroc-GX deck with a 2-2 Raichu, most likely for the M matchup. I remembered Raichu/Bats back in 2015-2016, and was curious to see if it still worked out. My first idea was to combine Raichu with Lycanroc-GX; basically flipping the Japanese player’s evolution lines.

A Lycanroc deck is much harder to pull off while playing American Standard because Korrina and Focus Sash are in Expanded only (while Japan plays XY-on instead of PRC-on). Raichu has the benefit of being a 1 Prize attacker, just like AOR. I’ve found the first turns of Raichu to be more explosive than Vespiquen’s, allowing for a quicker start. Vespiquen has a tendency to be slow at the beginning of the game, but ramp up and 1HKO anything for a Double Colorless. Raichu still requires Pokémon, but can continue to push through turns with and -EX.

Once I built the core of the deck, figuring out what “sidekick” to use was the challenge. Lycanroc-GX, Golbat PHF, Salazzle GRI, Garbodor GRI, and even Alolan Sandslash were all options I considered. Golbat is the vintage partner for Raichu, while everything else came out in Guardians Rising. Alolan Sandslash seemed lackluster, and Garbodor had better partners in Drampa-GX and Trevenant GRI. Golbat was the most obvious partner; it can be searched with Level Ball, has free retreat, and can place the damage anywhere. However, since Lycanroc-GX and Salazzle came in Guardians Rising, one must experiment with them first, no?

Lycanroc-GX proved to be amazing, but hard to utilize against opponents who could withhold Tapu Lele-GX and Shaymin-EX. The main goal was to gust up easy prizes, then use Professor Kukui and Choice Band as the extra damage dealers to hit 210. This was great against decks like Volcanion, , M Rayquaza, and Garbodor, but was infinitely useless against Sylveon, Alolan Ninetales, Greninja, and other Pokémon with 210 HP.

A “Lysandre” effect wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have the needed damage against certain decks. Extra damage is more important than a gust to guarantee some type of knockout, rather than trying to play around high HP Pokémon by targeting weaklings.

Vespiquen can utilize Lycanroc-GX more effectively than Raichu because Vespiquen’s damage isn’t capped. However, I have yet to test whether this would be an effective partner for the Queen Bee. I don’t know if Vespiquen would succeed as a deck for Regionals, as it may fall to the same pitfalls as Raichu. If Greninja becomes the most played deck, it will be difficult for Vespiquen or Raichu to succeed. Lycanroc-GX would not help because it maxes at 110 (or 130 with a Strong Energy); Dangerous Rogue-GX is also ineffective against decks with a small Bench.

Salazzle became the best partner, and I continue to believe it is the best. Lycanroc-GX could bear some fruit with a variant using Strong Energy and attacking with Lycanroc-GX. I tried a version with both of them, but it really hollowed out the core of the deck. Some of my options like a 4th Choice Band, 2nd Float Stone, 3rd Level Ball, and Oranguru became cards I simply couldn’t fit if I ran both sidekicks. Wonder Tag + Lysandre is good enough to get by in today’s meta; what Raichu needs is pure damage.

Here’s where I’m at with my Raichu list:

Pokémon – 21

4 Pikachu SM04

4 Raichu XY

3 Salandit GRI

3 Salazzle GRI

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Dragonite-EX EVO

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac

1 Teammates

 

4 VS Seeker

3 Ultra Ball

3 Level Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Special Charge

1 Field Blower

4 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

 

4 Sky Field

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

One thing to consider in this list is that you can play one of two different Pikachu. One of them (XY) has 60 HP and Nuzzle: Flip a coin, if Heads, your opponent’s Active Pokémon is Paralyzed. The other Pikachu, as seen in this list, has 70 HP and two unusable attacks. There aren’t many situations where one should be attacking with Nuzzle, but it is another way to buy time, albeit it through luck. My only reason to run the 70 HP Pikachu is because of Greninja and Giant Water Shuriken. In every other matchup, the 10 HP difference doesn’t matter. Showing up to a large tournament I’d probably play Pikachu SM04, because the benefit of 70 HP is larger than the benefit of Nuzzle. Pikachu SM04 is more expensive because it’s a promo, but I’d also hate to lose out on packs/money because I lost to Greninja with the wrong Pikachu.

I’d consider most of this decklist to be inelastic. There aren’t many cards I would feel comfortable taking out, but if I must construct a list, here goes:

I like Dragonite-EX because of Parallel City and Tapu Lele-GX/Shaymin-EX recovery. Most of the time Salandit and Pikachu will be benched when drawn, and don’t need to be recovered (usually) because of Rescue Stretcher. If I added another 1-2 Pokémon in place of Dragonite-EX, I’d be comfortable with removing it. Giratina XY184, a 4th Shaymin-EX, or Tapu Koko SM30 are options to consider (but note that Tapu Koko isn’t legal for Seattle).

The 2nd Lysandre is the first card I would cut in favor of Professor Kukui or Giratina XY184. It can never hurt to have more Pokémon in the deck, especially since it counters Greninja. Frogs eat mice for breakfast, and that’s no different in Pokémon. The struggle is that it’s hard to 1HKO a Greninja BREAK if Shadow Stitching is used, and our attacker only has 90 HP. It’s easier for decks like Turbo Dark to take knockouts on the first turn, and then snowball into 180+ damage for Greninja BREAK. Professor Kukui is there to do 180 under Shadow Stitching, since Salazzle and Choice Band are ineffective.

Cutting me would be a bad choice.

Cutting the 3rd Level Ball is a dock in consistency for the deck. If you’re feeling risky or want to keep the other 3 cards, take this out. The 4th Choice Band is a spot I see to be necessary, but others do not. The deck needs some sort of damage buff from 160 to Knock Out any GX, whether it’s in the form of Salazzle or Choice Band. Taking out a Choice Band would make all matchups with 200+ HP harder. Raichu can’t get by with trading evenly like Vespiquen since it requires a stable Bench. The other tool in the deck, Float Stone, requires a pair of copies as some out if one is prized, or if one is used earlier. Getting trapped Active is a huge fear of this deck because Alolan Ninetales or Sylveon can wreak havoc afterward.

Finishing up with the list, I’ve included 1 copy of Field Blower to deal with Garbotoxin. Without it, swing turns against any Garbodor deck are much harder to pull off. N is much deadlier without the help of Oranguru. Field Blower can also be helpful against Parallel City when you don’t have Sky Field, obviously. If Garbodor decks choose to completely omit Garbodor BKP, then an open slot for something else is better than Field Blower.

Moving onto matchups, I find that the deck has great matchups across the board. I’d say that Raichu does exceptionally well against all of the decks from before Guardians Rising, if anyone is still playing them. Decidueye/Vileplume is the hardest, but a good combination of Wonder Tag + Hex Maniac should hopefully keep you in the game. Salandit is great for attacking in this matchup because it does 20+40, +30 from Choice Band, then +30 from Poison and Burn. If Decidueye has 30 damage on it before, or you use Professor Kukui, that’s a dead owl. -EX is easily countered by Raichu. Don’t underrate Salandit, as it can be used in the mirror.

The deck’s hardest matchup moving forward into Regionals has to be Greninja. Raichu needs a fair amount to keep streaming damage, but the deck is built to continue doing it. Greninja is my biggest fear, with Sylveon next in line. Professor Kukui would also be helpful in that matchup, providing a 3rd option to boost damage from 160 to 200. Like I said earlier, I would include either a Giratina XY184 or Professor Kukui to help against Greninja. However, it may not be worth worrying about the matchup at all. Gyarados found some success last format with Decidueye/Vileplume present because every other deck was a great matchup. This is what I hope to accomplish in playing Raichu, but with Greninja as the Achilles heel.

Much Love for M Gardevoir

Back and better than ever.

Hurrah! — my pet deck has gotten so many cards out of this next set. Oricorio GRI 55 and Mallow really help to make the first few turns easier, searching out whatever is needed. Tapu Lele-GX is the unsung hero for this deck too. Unfortunately, it cannot be taken with Scoundrel Ring, but it’s good enough to Ultra Ball for it. It’s now much easier to get a turn 1 Hex Maniac to slow down an opponent. Sudowoodo GRI is a way to improve the M Rayquaza matchup, almost to the point where it’s favorable. I find that it’s reliant on who goes first and uses Hex Maniac, but Sudowoodo can be helpful later in the game.

Pokémon – 18

3 Gardevoir-EX PRC

3 M Gardevoir-EX STS

4 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Tapu Lele-GX
2 Hoopa-EX AOR

2 Dragonite-EX EVO

1 Oricorio GRI 55

1 Sudowoodo GRI

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

2 Hex Maniac

1 Mallow

1 Brock’s Grit

1 Professor Kukui

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

3 Mega Turbo

1 Escape Rope

1 Switch

1 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

4 Gardevoir Spirit Link

 

4 Sky Field

Energy – 7

6 Fairy

1 Psychic

Like last format, the list is incredibly tight. I’m struggling to find a correct balance between Pokémon and Items. Before Guardians Rising I ran 16 Pokémon, 2 less than what I have now. It might be overkill to have 18, but there are so many good Pokémon that I can’t figure out what to cut. Tapu Lele-GX is the newest addition, while Oricorio and Sudowoodo replaced Rattata and Hawlucha. I was thinking of cutting a Shaymin-EX, but it becomes problematic if I prize one of them. It’s slightly more difficult to utilize Mallow with 3 Shaymin-EX, but it might be doable. The last Pokémon I’m on the fence about including is Absol ROS. Gyarados might have a presence in Seattle because Tapu Koko SM30 isn’t legal until Madison. Absol does a great job of countering Gyarados, and can be useful with Gardevoir-EX PRC. Life Leap is more useful than Link Blast now, given that Turbo Darkrai is gone from the format. There are several high HP GXs that are better off softened before Despair Ray.

I want to keep a low amount of Items for the Garbodor matchup. I think that it’s fairly favored for M Gardevoir, but can be brought out of hand with a costly Professor Sycamore. Trainer’s Mail became unnecessary, and extra counts of cards took its spot. Mallow really helps the consistency by enabling search for Gardevoir Spirit Link, Sky Field, Ultra Ball, etc.

The main strength I see in M Gardevoir is the lack of an auto-loss. It could be said that M Gardevoir is bad given that its best matchups, Volcanion, Turbo Dark, and M Mewtwo, have fallen out favor. However, I believe that M Gardevoir can succeed because it has no weakness. M Gardevoir can even succeed against Decidueye/Vileplume because of Tapu Lele-GX and Hex Maniac.

Against the newer decks in the format, I believe that M Gardevoir will do well. It’s always had a fair matchup against Greninja; the only problem is a slow start or Silent Lab. I chose to run 4 Sky Field because of decks like Sylveon-GX and Greninja. Garbodor GRI decks should be a good matchup, especially if they’re running the Espeon-GX version. Drampa-GX and Tapu Lele-GX don’t do much to M Gardevoir. The main threat is Garbodor and taking poor prize trades. Against Garbodor, there isn’t much you need to attack other than a single M Gardevoir. Focus on using Mallow + Set Up to get exactly what you need.

The single Psychic Energy is there to utilize Tapu Cure-GX. I don’t think it will be useful very often, but there is some niche where it can be utilized. It’s all about measuring the potential benefit or loss from a card. The Psychic Energy could potentially win a game by healing, but could also lose a game. I could draw the Psychic Energy over a Fairy Energy on the first turn of the game, preventing me from using Life Leap. This 20 damage could be costly later on in the game, assuming I can’t find Professor Kukui or extra Pokémon.

I tried playing a version with a 1-1 Sylveon-GX. It originally sucked, but once I learned to utilize it, worked out well. I could use it as a way to set up with Magical Ribbon, search for the one Double Colorless in the list, then have Plea GX as an option. It was great for working under Item lock. Looking forward, I do not think this type of tech can work in M Gardevoir. I think that Sylveon-GX may be able to replace Gumshoos-GX in M Rayquaza since M Mewtwo is gone. Gumshoos-GX was great because it took care of a M Mewtwo for a single Energy. I think that Sylveon-GX is the best GX replacement because it’s a great way to set up the board without Items.

Conclusion: Infinity and Beyond

We’re leaping into new territory.

I’m excited for the next 6 weeks because it’s a race to the finish line: North American Internationals. I’m attending these tournaments as I finish up school and start the summer: Seattle Regionals, Mexico Regionals, Madison Regionals, Origins, a pair of League Cups, North American Internationals. Before the current Regionals system, I’ve only been able to attend 2-4 every year, depending on scheduling and schoolwork. It’s been such an opportunity to travel the country (and to Australia!) to play the game I love.

My next article is out a few days after Seattle Regionals, where I’ll briefly cover my tournament experience, but mainly focus on Madison. I expect a diverse amount of decks to succeed at Seattle because of the unfocused meta. Decks that performed well before Guardians Rising will continue to be played, similar to how the majority of the decks in Top 32 of Anaheim were archetypes from before. I predict this will change in the long run because while Sun and Moon didn’t offer much to the meta, Guardians Rising offers a lot.

Anyway, thanks for reading this article! Like I said earlier, I’ll be in Seattle, so feel free to come up to me about anything really. If the tournament was tomorrow, I’d play M Gardevoir. I need to do some fine tuning with the lists I posted, but I am going to be at most 1-2 cards off. Raichu/Salazzle is an awesome deck to play and feature, but may ultimately be too risky because of Greninja. I hope to see you guys there!

Xander


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