Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist back once again with some in-depth Pokémon analysis. I recently attended the Seattle Regional Championship where I ended up placing 25th with one of the only 8 (!!) non-Garbodor GRI decks in Day 2. My friend and teammate Chase Maloney ended up 24th, with a 1 card difference in our Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR lists, but ultimately, last format’s undisputed BDIF could not take either of us the distance against the powerhouses that emerged from Guardians Rising. My tournament ended up looking like this:
Seattle Day 1
R1 M Gardevoir-EX PRC (2-1)
R2 Drampa-GX/Garbodor GRI (2-0)
R3 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR (1-1)
R4 Vespiquen AOR (1-1)
R5 Espeon-GX/Garbodor GRI (0-2)
R6 Trevenant GRI/Garbodor GRI (2-0)
R7 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR (2-1)
R9 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR (2-1)
Day 1 Final Record: 6-1-2
Day 2 Final Record: 7-4-3
The biggest issue I faced throughout this tournament was Espeon-GX. With it being 3/4-of my losses, I think that I severely underestimated how powerful Confusion is against my deck and how popular the archetype would be. I put the majority of my testing against the Drampa-GX focused version of the deck and largely considered the Espeon-GX focused version to be inferior. While I still believe the Espeon-GX version is inherently inferior, it is undoubtedly better against Decidueye-GX, and is still powerful in its own right against an undefined meta.
Moving forward, I would definitely play the Espeon-EX tech I mentioned in my last article as I believe that absolutely flips the Espeon-GX/Garbodor GRI matchup around to favorable. Ultimately, I undervalued the card in general because I assumed the meta I ran into during my League Cup would be somewhat representative of the meta I would see in Seattle. There are too many different Evolutions popping up and doing well to push the card aside again. I honestly think Espeon-EX should be considered near staple in Decidueye, instead of a fringe tech due to the changed metagame that Guardians Rising has brought on.
Garbodor’s Gaze – How Trashalanche Trumped
We all know how the old saying goes: “If you can’t beat em, join ’em!” This would generally lead one to believe that we may as well jump on board the hype train after seeing Garbodor GRI absolutely crush Seattle and continue its run into the Madison Regional Championship.
While I don’t think there is any fault in jumping on board with an archetype that has shown so much power so quickly, there will always be those few of us that refuse to follow the hype and instead will look to capitalize on it by countering such a polarizing concept. If we are to do this, we must first figure out exactly how this concept was able to dominate in the first place.
Trashalanche is clearly a very powerful attack in its own right, doing 20 damage for each Item in your opponent’s discard. However, an attack like this does not come without its own weaknesses. Giving your opponent that kind of control over your output can leave a lot of room to be outplayed. In order to combat this, Garbodor GRI must be played with some sort of partner than can either force your opponent to play or discard Items. This is where cards like Drampa-GX, Espeon-GX, and Tapu Lele-GX come in to provide consistent damage and annoying effect, forcing your opponent’s Item play in order to deal with them.
With the most popular decks still running full counts of cards like Ultra Ball and VS Seeker plus high counts of cards like Choice Band, Max Elixir, and Trainers’ Mail (and other powerful Item cards like Super Rod and Rescue Stretcher), it’s easy to see where the power of Trashalanche comes from. Before Garbodor, there was no punishment for these sort of turbo Item engines. The ability to play all of these powerful cards in conjunction with draw power through Shaymin-EX are why decks like Turbo Dark and Volcanion were so powerful. You had the option to setup the majority of your board T1 and T2 through repeated use of powerful Items! Now, the existence of Garbodor helps to keep these broken engines in check.
Taking Out the Trash
Moving forward, it is incredibly important to keep the trash titan in mind when building your deck. As long as the monster exists as a force in the metagame, the days of playing 10 Items and using 2 Shaymin-EX in one turn with a deck focused around big basic EX/Pokémon-GX are behind us. It is imperative that we adapt the way we build decks and look at certain viable concepts because of Trashalanche. Here are a few different ways that decks can handle Garbodor:
The first is to simply play less Items! Cards like Trainers’ Mail and Max Elixir have disappeared almost entirely because their value has plummeted now that there exists a formidable punishment for their use. This will force players to find other ways to achieve the desired effects of these Items or simply play without them. The existence of Tapu Lele-GX aids in the movement away from Items, allowing decks to focus more heavily on Supporters while being able to consistently access the one they need when it is needed. This slows the game down just enough without really damaging any deck’s overall consistency. Tapu Lele-GX is also a viable attacker with reasonable HP so it carries a ton of appeal over the previously dominant Shaymin-EX.
The second is focusing more on board driven concepts that naturally rely on the supporters/Pokémon within the deck to achieve their win condition and desired board state. If that is a bit unclear, I’m referring to cards like Vikavolt SUM, Metagross-GX GRI, Lurantis-GX SUM, and Octillery BKT. While being tough to setup Evolution Pokémon, they are the sort of cards that can keep the board and game rolling with minimal need for cards from the individual piloting the deck.
Once you have one or two of these cards in play they can carry an entire game with little to no Item use, and you generally don’t use a ton of Items to get where you want to be in the first place. Better yet, they benefit even more from the general slowing down of the format, and having consistent access to cards like Brigette can be essential to their setup. Even once game-breaking cards like N can do very little to damage your goal as the Pokémon you’ve setup on board do all the work for you. Actually, this allows you to abuse the card better yourself!
The third way is by just playing comparably powerful non-Pokémon-EX that can keep up in an exchange with Trashalanche with little issue. Because Garbodor often relies on 2 Prize Pokémon-EX/GX in the early game any deck with a non-EX focus can try to take advantage of this and get ahead in the Prize trade. As long as there is minimal stumbling and you can limit your own 2 Prize liabilities, it doesn’t really matter how much damage Trashalanche is doing because they can only take 1 Prize at a time. Some great examples of Pokémon like this are Gyarados AOR, Vespiquen AOR, and Zoroark BKT. These Pokémon all have the potential to 1HKO many popular Pokémon-EX/GX while only giving up 1 Prize themselves, and have all proven themselves to be incredibly valuable early on in the Guardians Rising format.
I will now take a quick look at three different decks that are all adapted in each unique way to handle Garbodor, and will be focusing exclusively on how the concepts have adapted to handle a Trashalanche focused meta.
Wishing Big: Darkrai/Dragonair
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 28
Energy – 19
This deck was recently popularized by Benjamin Pham who won a European League Cup with a one card difference, and our own Alex Hill managed to take a down a League Cup (Editor Note: You can watch his recorded games here) this past weekend with this exact list! This is a perfect example of adapting an old concept to handle Trashalanche by playing less Items and finding an alternate route to achieving a similar effect. Turbo Dark used to play heavy counts of Max Elixir, Trainers’ Mail, VS Seeker, and EXP Share in order to spam energy into play and maximize consistency, but with the threat of Garbodor GRI this heavy Item concept is no longer viable.
The switch to using Dragonair SUM’s attack helps us to ensure we can still get a very large amount of energy into play in order to max out Dark Pulse damage while minimizing the amount of Items in the deck overall. The deck now only plays 11 Item cards, which is less than half of the older Turbo Dark lists. As long as you can keep a handful of them out of the discard the damage output from Trashalanche is severely limited. You even gain incredible options like Dragonite ROS 52 which can provide game changing plays with lesser known cards. Dratini is also my favorite Pokémon, so any chance I have to explore a comeptitve concept with it is absolutely something I look to take advantage of.
The Tapu Crew: Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu
Pokémon – 16
1 Vikavolt-GX GRI
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
This is a deck that has kind of came out of the woodwork at Madison Regionals due to the release of Tapu Bulu-GX. I first mentioned the viability of the Vikavolt crew in my initial GRI article, but I definitely think that the release of Tapu Bulu-GX has given the deck what it needed to be Tier 1 and am glad to see the concept fleshed out and much more refined. Hilariously enough, most people saw Tapu Bulu and immediately thought to pair it with Lurantis-GX (myself included), but I definitely think the Bulu/Koko combo is much more powerful in Vikavolt.
The deck plays a few more Items than Darkrai/Dragonair, but also won’t ever have the “burst turn” that Darkrai/Dragonair will that will require you to burn as many cards as you can to load up energy into play. Once 1 Vikavolt SUM hits the board you’re basically set as accelerating 2 energy per turn + having your manual attachment is generally enough to keep you going. If you can get one with an attacker going with minimal Item usage you should be able to play relatively conservatively for the rest of the game. Pulling energy out of your deck is a great deck thinner as well, and can allow you to draw into other more important cards at critical moments.
There’s a decent argument for cutting down to a 3-2-3 line because you generally only need 1 Vikavolt out per game unless it gets Knocked Out. However, I still value the addition of Vikavolt-GX into the deck which is why I’ve chosen to thicken the line. I have Brock’s Grit as my only form of recovery because of how much it can do for the deck and it is not an Item (fueling Trashalanche). Though, I’m sure some form of Item recovery would be a welcome addition if nothing else than for the diversity.
Big Bees: Vespiquen/Zoroark
Pokémon – 26
Trainers – 30
Energy – 4
This is a great example of a non-EX/GX focused deck that instead of limiting its own Item use, finding an alternate route to achieving a similar effect, or being a less Item focused concept, it simply just aims to out trade any deck it comes up against, Trashalanche included. The deck only plays three 2-Prize liabilities, which it can easily go an entire game without using, or simply remove them from play with Parallel City before an opponent can take a KO on them. The goal here is simple really, trade with Garbodor 1 for 1 with your plethora of single prize attackers until they’re forced to go in with an EX which you can take full advantage of by snagging an easy 2 Prizes with a 1HKO.
Vespiquen really hasn’t changed much as a deck throughout the entire Standard season, and basically only gained the same tools that every other deck also gained. Choice Band makes both Vespiquen and Zoroark much more fierce attackers, and gives Zoroark the 1HKO option between it and Professor Kukui that it has so desperately been looking for all season. The flexibility of Vespiquen is incredibly valuable in any metagame as well, and can essentially tech any number of Pokémon in order to handle a variety of threats.
Oricoro GRI 56 and Karen are definitely your biggest threats, but even the dancing bird has to be timed very well in order to be effective and can be played around to some degree if you know it’s coming. Karen is a much different beast to deal with, and I honestly think it’s incredibly difficult/borderline impossible to recover from a well-timed use of Karen. Not having access to full counts of your Acro Bikes and Ultra Balls is generally too much to to deal with as far as getting Pokémon back into the discard goes, but regaining Unown/Klefki definitely does give you some sort of hope.
Moving forward, I think that Garbodor GRI is incredibly good for the game. I saw and heard many players kind of freaking out after seeing the results of Seattle Regionals thinking that Garbodor was going to be incredibly oppressive and more or less become the new overlord of the Pokémon TCG. Madison Regionals has shown how incredibly adaptive players can be, and helped to highlight the positive shift that Garbodor has forced the meta to take.
I think our own Christopher Schemanske said that this past weekend he had players read Rare Candy because it has been so long since the card was playable that newer players were genuinely unaware that the card existed. Not only did he dominate the tournament with Metagross, but Vikavolt decks were able to find success as well! So, after years of near unplayability and only “cheating” Stage 2s being viable, we see not just one but two different Stage 2 decks find major success with good ol’ Rare Candy!
I, for one, am unreasonably happy about the shift the game is taking. I’m only getting more excited and optimistic about the future of the Pokémon TCG. I am a bit sad about the possibility of missing the US Intercontinental considering all the fun that is taking place, but that only motivates me more to grind testing and prepare for the World Championship in August.
I’ve actually very recently moved to the Los Angeles area for a new job and am incredibly excited to get to know the player base in the area here, and as always feel free to come up and chat if you ever see me at any level of event!
Until next time my friends, take care y’all.
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