The last time I was with you, I was just coming off one of my better tournament performances in recent memory, with a deck that was straight out of the woodwork. Metagross was certainly a coup d’état on that metagame, as I truly believe it could beat anything there. Things have changed a bit, and we have a different scene now, but I do still believe Metagross could be well-positioned heading into the North American International Championships. As a result, I’m here today to kick off our “Road to Indy” series with a profile of the metal giant.
If you haven’t already seen it, be sure to check out our site update/coverage preview. In short, we have an article every day from now to Indy covering a different deck. Each article is going to be formatted fairly similarly, so we hope it’ll be pretty easy to follow once you get into it. Metagross is certainly far from the most exciting deck we’ll be getting to over the next week and a half, but we’ll get into its place in the meta today.
Method to the Machines: Metagross 101
First and foremost, Metagross is competitive because it’s a wall that very few decks in the format can capably 1-shot. Most that can achieve the feat rely on Weakness to do so, and in many cases, that type advantage is artificially induced via Flareon AOR. Once the deck achieves its setup, there’s not much many decks in the format can do to bring it down.
Strategic Strengths: Constructing the Conglomerate
In many ways, the biggest appeal of the deck is its linearity: unlike Garbodor GRI and Zoroark BKT, two mainstays in the current Standard format, you’re not really relying on your opponent to do something — or, not do something — for your damage output. Sure, that’s an oversimplification of those two decks’ strategies (players cannot cease to play Items, nor to Bench Pokémon), but Metagross enjoys an independence from your opponents’ actions that few decks can similarly enjoy.
At the end of the day, your goal is to setup multiple Metagross-GX, hit for 150-180 for X turns, and deny your opponent any chance to win once you’ve setup.
That linearity comes as a double-edged sword, of course: Zoroark and Garbodor both can play partners to improve the fluidity of their matchup spread, whereas so much deck space in Metagross is dedicated to the sole end of its strategy that you don’t have the flexibility to include techs that many of the other Standard options do. But, as noted, the fact that your strategy is not reliant on your opponent means you can tailor a list to do exactly one thing — and do it extraordinarily well — which is an incalculable boon to consistency in of itself. I would argue this is one of the advantages the deck holds over Vikavolt SUM/Tapu Bulu-GX, which diversifies itself somewhat more.
So, when building Metagross, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to reliably execute the basic strategy. There’s only so much room for things that don’t directly correlate to executing that strategy, such as techs like Dhelmise GRI and Mimikyu GRI. Furthermore, those techs which can inhibit the strategy — I’m looking at you, Dhelmise — should only be played with careful consideration.
pokemon-paradijs.comSimply achieving the setup is enough to be in a good spot in most games, but there are many where it’ll be necessary to sustain it for lengthy periods of time. Especially against things like Vespiquen AOR, which either house existential threats (Flareon) or are simply non-EXs that’ll require effort to deal with, the deck has to sustain itself. That’s where things like Max Potion, Olympia, and other cards dedicated to keeping the ship moving come into play. Balance is important, though, as these cards aren’t useful until the deck does achieve that point!
The final component of a Metagross list is the hard-counter techs. Even in a deck without the natural space for this sort of thing, sometimes they become necessary inclusions. In my Madison list, Field Blower and Professor Kukui are the two obvious examples. If not for Garbodor BKP, Field Blower, while broadly useful, would not have made my list. Similarly, Professor Kukui is pretty narrowly-focused on things like Espeon-GX and Umbreon-GX.
The difference between this sort of tech, though, and those decks like Vespiquen that can afford to play things like Flareon AOR, is the tech’s broad applicability. Those two cards may be primarily useful for those situations, but they’re not strictly bad against any matchup in the game. On the other hand, a Flareon in Espeon/Garbodor has a pretty niche use: things weak to Fire.
It’s critical in any archetype that your deck function at as high an efficiency as possible in as many games as possible. One manifestation of this is the number of games in which your deck is functionally 58 or 59 cards. When you hard-counter an opposing with a tech that is only useful in 1-2 matchups, in all other matchups, your deck is effectively less than 60 cards.
That’s detrimental to all matchups across the board no matter what you’re playing, but some decks can withstand that more than others. For example, Vespiquen can endure hard-teching more than most decks: in matchups where a tech Pokémon is useless, it finds use in the discard pile fueling Bee Revenge. In contrast, in something like Metagross, when such a hard-counter turns into deadweight, it can be disproportionately detrimental to the entire strategy. On a spectrum of “This deck can tech easily without consequence” to “This deck requires each and every spot to be utilized efficiently,” Metagross tends far more toward the latter.
In many ways, this is a point against the deck as a playable archetype for Indianapolis. In such a diverse metagame, it’s hard to swallow being unable to tech for any matchup effectively. This means that Metagross’ fundamental strategy has to stand on its own in a way that can net 7 wins. Not many cards are inherently powerful enough to do that, but Metagross’ bulk puts it in an oft-unappreciated category that might just be able to get it done. When your opponent can’t Knock anything Out, you’ve generally won the game.
Recent Resonance: Metagross’ Recent Performance
Obviously, a deck whose standard Pokémon lineup comes exclusively out of the most recent set cannot have a particularly storied history. As we all know by now, it broke out onto the scene in Madison, with runner-up, 9th, and 18th place showings. It saw some play in Mexico City, but did not return to the Top 8 at a major North American tournament until Origins’ Special Event. Unfortunately, its run there was summarily ended by an encounter with Volcanion, but its return is notable nonetheless.
In fact, I played against Wes Hollenberg’s list in Ohio this past weekend. One of the things I noted above was Flareon AOR’s utility as a “hard counter” to Metagross’ mere existence. Funnily enough, both Xander Pero and I played Espeon/Garbodor lists with Flareon and hit Wes’ Metagross at one point in the tournament — and both of us lost. Xander and I both find it likely that a Best of 3 Series would’ve still favored us, but the fact that this happened at all is testament to the fact that Metagross’ bulk is just sometimes too much for an opponent to overcome.
So, while Metagross doesn’t have quite the depth of pedigree that some of its counterparts do, I do believe its resume is quite strong given its competitive lifespan.
Machining the Monster: Developing a List
There’s more to a Metagross skeleton than there is to an average archetype’s. As I’ve discussed at length, Metagross needs to dedicate a lot of its weight to simply executing its strategy. As a result, there’s only so much flexibility to be had in the list. Here’s what I’d consider the bare essentials for any and every Metagross list as we head toward Indy:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 25
3 Tech Supporters
Energy – 9
15 Remaining Spots
I’m somewhat undermining my own point by the skeleton including a whopping 25% free space, but that number is deceptive to a first glance. While many of the specific cards in the deck remain undefined, at least 10 of those 15 belong strictly to Consistency options, and much of what will remain at that point will be headed toward cards that I’d say nobody sane will be ignoring (Field Blower, for example).
But, as a starting point, this is the absolute bare bones. If your Metagross list doesn’t have a card that’s on this list, I’d be genuinely interested in hearing the logic behind the choice, because I think this is as basic as it gets. Weirdly, I think the Pokémon line is where most people would raise an alarm as “skeletons” go, but I think it’d be unwise to cut below 4 Metagross and that 2 Metang is the absolute minimum.
The P Energy is too good to not play, as Tapu Cure is an option that seems to come up big in every couple of games. Adding the 2nd copy, as I have in most of my lists, is a bit more understandably debatable, because that nightmare scenario where you’re stuck with 2 Psychic, unable to attack, can happen. I think it’s a negligible risk, though, and have no hesitation playing the second copy.
I don’t think anything in the Trainer line ought to be the least bit controversial, so I’m going to move onto filling out the skeleton. I’m going to go card type-by-card type, highlighting the most important ideas under each one.
This card is a boon to a lot of different concepts, and something that I definitely would include in my list. Whether it’d be in a count of 1, 2, or 3 is still up for debate, but there’s no way I’d outright omit Vulpix. The search is simply too good to not play. Much like Algorithm-GX, I rarely actually mind an N after a Beacon, as a fresh hand of 6 is rarely something to sneer at. As such, there’s really no downside here in my view. A definite inclusion.
Famously, my least favorite card in my Madison list. Theoretically, it’s good for dealing with Lurantis-GX. On paper, it’s useful against Espeon-GX. Talking aloud, Anchor Shot is a strong attack for softening up bulky threats so that a Metagross 150 can finish them off.
If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, this card is gifted with a fatal flaw: two little specks of black surrounded by white in its bottom right corner. The 2 Retreat Cost is simply brutal on here, as if you start it, you’re committed to letting it die or getting Lysandre’d before you come anywhere near executing the rest of your strategy. I actually do wonder if it might be a consideration now that Espeon is so big, but even then, I’m still not sure it’s something I want to go near. For now, not something I’d play.
I would say it’s time to get prepared to hear about this card in anything playing DCE or Energy Acceleration and Choice Band. For 2 Colorless and a Choice Band, you can dispose of any pesky Espeon-GXs hanging around. For that same Energy cost and a Professor Kukui, you can also dispatch Garbodors. I’m not sure it’s the greatest fit in the world in here, but it’s something to mind if you find the Espeon/Garbodor matchup particularly loathsome.
I’m really not a fan of this in here, but it does offer you a higher damage cap without exposing your Metagross to fire. If only it had a different Weakness. It’s something to potentially test out, but it didn’t make my initial list for a reason.
Overall, a pretty strong card against a few matchups. Particularly against Zoroark, Vespiquen, and other non-EXs, it can trade effectively. It’s also potentially useful against Espeon-GX. At the moment, I think it might be too niche, but is something I’m going to test out and I’ve heard a lot of talk around.
Obviously, the Supporter skeleton is bare bones. I think it’s immediately easy to say that all of the specified options (Sycamore, N, Lysandre) need to be bumped up by a count of 1. After that, figuring out tech Supporters is a little weirder. Brigette is without a doubt something I think the deck ought to include. There’s simply no better way to aid your setup, and with an Energy, you find situations where you can use Beacon immediately to put yourself in a commanding spot. Often, that Beacon results in an N, which somewhat makes up for spending a turn using a non-draw Supporter in Brigette.
Hex Maniac is broadly useful against a number of different situations, and is generally something I think more decks should be looking to take advantage of heading into Indy. Karen, or Oricorio GRI 56, should be in every list, I’d argue. Both have different exact niches, but each serves the purpose of dealing with Vespiquen in some way. Vespiquen is something worth dealing with, I’d argue, so pick one and add it.
Olympia is similar to Hex Maniac in that it doesn’t aid any specific matchup, but a variety of situations. Actually, it’s good against opposing Hex Maniacs because you can Olympia into a Tapu Lele, attach, and retreat, allowing consecutive turns of Giga Hammer without relying on Abilities. Professor Kukui fills a pretty specific niche, and while I can understand lists that are choosing to omit it, I think Espeon-GX is posed to be too big to ignore Kukui. Without it, you have no decent way to deal with Espeon, and Confusion+Garbodor BKP can get annoying quite quickly.
Other options I’ve seen discussed include Teammates and Skyla. Both have use as search outs, though I’d never play both in the same list. With Tapu Lele, you obviously have easier access to each than in the past. I think I’d lean toward Teammates if I were to include one, because it has more upside (plus, Vulpix is pretty fragile), but I can see the argument for Skyla’s usefulness in the later game (searching a critical Max Potion or Field Blower).
Transitioning to the Item lineup, there’s no doubt in my mind that VS Seeker and Max Potion are each deserving of an extra copy relative to our skeleton. Field Blower is not in the skeleton, as it’s not critical to the incumbent strategy of “setup multiple Metagross, do stuff,” but I absolutely believe it’s a necessary practical inclusion — Garbodor isn’t going anywhere. In addition, after Madison, I’m strongly of the belief that a 4th Rare Candy can do nothing but help, given the deck’s relative reliance on it for at least 1, if not 2, of its Metagross.
To fill out one of the final spots, I’m a fan of the full set of Choice Band. There’s an argument to be made for a copy of Float Stone, but I’m not sure it’s worth having Energy “trapped” on a Float-equipped Metagross. Something to test, perhaps, but not strong in my experience.
I can see the temptation to cut to 8/1, but I do believe the 10th Energy is important. The dream of setting up 3 Metagross is not going to happen in all, if even a majority, of games, so attachments from hand become very important. You could go either 9/1 or 8/2, though adding a Psychic attacker above would definitely make me lean more toward 8/2 than I already do.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 35
Energy – 10
This list is focused around sheer consistency, ignoring many of the tech options present. The 61st card is definitely a Mimikyu, and I do expect it’ll probably make its way into my list before Indy — the question is what it’ll be over. I’m currently not sure how to solve that issue, so for now, it rests on the proverbial sit-out bench.
I’m sure many will wonder why there aren’t more copies of Alolan Vulpix in the list. I can see an argument for two, insuring against prizing one, but I would never play three. Simply, it’s partially there to make sure you play a 7 Prize game as often as possible. Giving up 2 Vulpix on game is counter to that goal.
Otherwise, I feel the list is pretty well explained by the preceding sections. If you have any further questions, though, feel free to pose them through whatever means you can find me.
Reflection on Spatial Position: Meta Viability
As I’ve noted at length, Metagross’ greatest strength and biggest weakness is its linearity. You’re not going to be adapting to your opponent’s actions in any hugely identifiable ways, but simply trying to win a long game of attrition. As a result, this matchup section will not be as nuanced as some others will be during our series.
Against decks like Decidueye, Drampa, Zoroark, and Vikavolt, you somewhat just seek to execute your strategy and create an impenetrable wall of Metagross. Most of those decks have some way to annoy your strategy, but none of them have a truly effective way of dealing with it.
Volcanion is an outright poor matchup. There’s not much you can do about that Weakness. Vespiquen sometimes features that Weakness via Flareon, but not certainly not always. I believe that matchup is still positive, Flareon or not, but obviously more care has to be taken when they’re able to actually deal with Metagross. I do not expect Vespiquen to be all that big either way, but it’ll be the choice of a few top players for sure.
Espeon/Garbodor is an enigma of a matchup, and is easily what I’m most scared of when considering Metagross as a play. Volcanion isn’t enough of an entity at this time for me to truly worry about its presence, but Espeon — with or without Flareon — can make life pretty interesting in my experience. The matchup is close, and series are easily losable for either side. A Flareon makes life significantly worse, though it isn’t the death knell one might suppose: if they’re using Flareon, it at least means that Garbodor BKP hasn’t removed all hope for Ability usage in the game.
Overall, I believe Metagross to be fairly well-suited to make a run in Indy. Its straightforward goals, bulky durability, and general inelasticity make it uniquely well suited to the giant bowl of chaos Indy is likely to be. Even in the face of more obscure rogues, I’d argue Metagross will generally have a shot — as long as Fire is kept away, of course.
The Final Touches: Meta Beyond the Metal
That brings me to the close of my discussion on Metagross today. Before I go, I do briefly want to touch on my current favorite in the format: Espeon/Garbodor. Over the last two weekends, I’ve won 2 League Cups and Top 8’d Origins’ Special Event with the archetype, and I believe it’s extraordinarily well-positioned, as it lacks a solid hard counter.
Over those two weekends, I’ve dropped matches only to Zoroark (x2, though the 2nd by a razor thin margin) and Metagross (x1). The Zoroark matchup is incredibly close in my experience, but I know many disagree with that assessment. It’ll be interesting to see what Pablo has to say when he covers the deck in full later on in our series.
While I’m the first in our series, I’m far from done with our NAIC coverage. As mentioned in the “news briefing” I linked at the start of the article, I still have a number of projects underway before Indy here. I’m going to get the fantasy competition situated shortly, and I’ll be on our pre-Indy podcast this weekend. I hope we’re able to make the next week and a half on 6P as beneficial, and enjoyable, as possible.
As always, all the best.
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