A Blade of Glory

Teching out Lurantis-GX/Tapu Bulu, Considering its NAIC Playability, and Musings on Meta at Large

Hello once again! It’s good to be back, and I hope that everyone is starting to get as eager as I am for the North American International Championships that is less than a week away. I am trying to practice each and every turn to come to a reasonable conclusion as to what deck I should play and I hope that 6 Prizes’ marathon of articles is helping aid this process for many of us.

Being able to sift through the thoughts of so many different writers on so many different decks has really helped me cut some corners in my playtesting, and while I do not necessarily agree with every single utterance, I have found that I generally am on the same page as all of my fellow writers. The general consensus amongst my peers (and presumably much of the community) is that the biggest decks going into next weekend will most likely be Espeon-GX/Garbodor GRI and Zoroark BKT/Drampa-GX.

These decks have had very consistent showings since their emergence in the new format, and I would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks a third deck could possibly be more popular. This is not to say, of course, that there will not be a wide body of other decks within the metagame in Indianapolis, but I think acting as if Espeon and Zoroark are the tier 1 is a given moving forward.

Bulbapedia
Fading from relevance?

Not much time has passed since my last article, and subsequently, my progress toward the 500 CP finish line remains mostly the same. At the end of my last piece, I noted that I thought that Decidueye/Vileplume would be my ideal play leading into the coming weeks and I played the exact 60 (with a third Level Ball being the 60th card) at a smaller League Cup last weekend. My feelings on Decidueye as a whole have cooled a considerable amount, and I think I echo the thoughts of most players when I am skeptical of whether or not the deck can be viable with Espeon remaining so popular. I went 3-0-2 in Swiss rounds (best of three, 50 minutes) netting a tie round one against the mirror, beating three non-Garbodor decks and then intentionally drawing the final round.

After that, I unfortunately ran into Espeon in Top 8, and was promptly eliminated, netting me zero points for the weekend. The deck felt incredibly clunky, and while I suspected it for a while, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that Vileplume is poorly suited for the current format. The introduction of Tapu Lele-GX into every single deck throws a large wrench into its general machinations. Tapu Lele allows decks to consistently find ways to draw without relying on Items, and makes it easier to find Lysandre to bring Vileplume into the Active Spot — either as a means to stall the game or simply take the knockout.

Additionally, decks that have built themselves in a way to combat Garbodor’s Trashalanche are also that much better against Vileplume, which furthers the difficulty of certain matchups. Very small choices like playing a fourth N over that fourth VS Seeker ever-so-slightly tilt things against Vileplume, and at the end of the day, all these little things end up adding up to a much larger impact. While I do not deny the potential of Decidueye as a deck for the International Championship, I would advise all to work on lists sans Vileplume instead of the older forms of the archetype.

Thankfully, I do have two final League Cup opportunities this weekend, so fingers crossed that I am able to make the finals at one of these to set myself up to only need a top 256 to finish my invite. Unfortunately, both of my final Cups are Expanded, which is something I have absolutely no clue about — so, if anyone has any insight to the format, I am all ears. If anything, this occurrence really illustrates the continuous disconnect between tournament organizers and players. That is, why on earth would anyone schedule an Expanded event with the biggest Standard event of the year looming on the horizon? I digress.

Apex: Examining Standard’s Standard Bearers

Yeah, the Sandshrew is a bit out of place.

To begin the strategy portion of this article, I want to begin by highlighting what I believe to be the clear and distinct tier list for the current. As already discussed above, I think that Espeon and Zoroark will be the most popular decks, but I also believe that in terms of strength, they are also in a class by themselves. Both decks have so many things going for them that I would almost take too much space in this article to discuss each and every one of them, but to be brief, I think that we can simply say that both are consistent, need very little to function and have answers to (almost) every other deck in the lesser tiers.

Tier S: (no order within tiers)
Espeon-GX/Garbodor GRI
Zoroark BKT/Drampa-GX

Tier A:
Drampa-GX/Garbodor GRI
Gyarados AOR
Vespiquen AOR

Tier B:
Decidueye-GX Variants
Greninja BREAK
Vikavolt SUM/Tapu Bulu-GX
Metagross-GX
Volcanion-EX

Anything not captured by S, B or A simply does not exist in terms of a metagame presence, takes many losses to the listed decks, or is likely too bad to be worth considering. I think anyone could come up with a handful of decks that have noticeably been excluded, but with small exception, I cannot think of anything else worth including on this list.

Every deck included within the tier list could theoretically do well next weekend, but it will all hinge on the correctness of each assumption made in predicting the metagame, as well as overall consistency of the deck. For instance, Greninja is great in a metagame devoid of Grass opposition but you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who denies that the deck has some inherent clunkiness or inconsistency, regardless of how well made the list is.

As always, it is next to impossible to beat every deck in a format, so in determining the correct play for an event, we ought to tighten our focus and aim to beat the top tiers and most of the mid-tiers. Going into Internationals with a poor matchup to either (or both) of Zoroark and Espeon seems incredibly foolish, so our number one priority is to ensure an even to slightly favored matchup with both. After that, we should see how we stack up to the A tier, and then the B tier. If the outlook appears to be mostly acceptable, then the deck can be accepted as a reasonable choice.

Though I have already dealt with Lurantis in considerable detail in recent months, and earlier on in 2017, I cannot bring myself to abandon it. I initially voiced my displeasure with the deck after Zoroark made itself known as a metagame threat, but I have come to adapt and embrace the difficulty of that matchup instead of just giving up on the work I had put into the deck previously. Some things (like matches up against Fire types) will likely be impossible to overcome, and while I remain in a large minority, I truly do believe that Lurantis has the necessary tools to be a metagame answer. So, once more, I will attempt to capture all of these thoughts and hopefully make a compelling argument for its legitimacy.

The Skeleton:

corsolanite.tumblr.com

Pokémon – 10

4 Fomantis SUM

4 Lurantis (GX/Promo)

2 Tapu Bulu-GX

Trainers – 25

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 VS Seeker

1 Field Blower

1 Revitalizer

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Float Stone

3 Modifying Tools (Choice Band, Fighting Fury Belt, Assault Vest)

 

 

Energy – 12

12 G

Total: 47

As you can see, the list of core “necessary cards” in this list remains relatively small. There are many options that you can potentially work with and while I have expressed a preference for a certain approach to the list, I will try to be as neutral as possible as I walk through all of the potential inclusions, so that everyone is able to make their one conclusions as to the ideal list rather than relying on my decisions.

These core cards fuels the deck’s intent and purpose. The core of the deck is simply using Lurantis to power up Tapu Bulu, and the rest should work itself out from there. Both are strong, efficient and relatively bulky attackers that tend to pair up well against the format, so making a gamble on what you expect to play against will be necessary as we try to fill out the rest of the list.

Pokémon

Lurantis: I refer to this deck as a Lurantis deck, so deciding how many of each Lurantis we need to play is the first thing we ought to figure out. Though it would be legal for us to play four GX and four of the promo, I do not think that would lead us to a very good deck. I have tested almost every combination of 4-5 total between the GX and Promo, and I think the ideal split is 2/2. There are arguments to be made for 3/1 and even 1/3, but with recovery cards in the skeleton, I think that you can find your third copy of either Lurantis with Rescue Stretcher or Revitalizer.

The two-stack of Sunny Day can help you reach critical math in slower matchups, and even one shot giant Pokémon like Decidueye or Metagross-GX, but you will not need two in a lot of matchups. Lurantis-GX, though outshined by Tapu Bulu, is still a great attacker, and I think often overlooked when analyzing certain matchups. Zoroark threatens Tapu Bulu, but in that matchup, I think that limiting your bench and attacking with the GX leads you to a victory.

Tapu Bulu-GX: Though largely the star of the deck, I think that limiting the copies of this card helps solve the decks matchup against the S tier decks. Bulu is good against Espeon, but you do not particularly want to start with it (to avoid Confusion), and it is harder to use against Zoroark with Foul Play being such a clean answer to the card. You very easily could opt for a third copy depending on the metagame, but this all depends on what you expect to face.

The Supporting Cast

I think that there is a very simple formula that can be used to ascertain the correct numbers for support Pokémon in your deck for almost every archetype. I would say that Gyarados, and maybe, Decidueye are the only things exempt from the following rules but here is what I have come to conclude:

Three total spots should be allotted between Tapu Lele-GX and Shaymin-EX, with two Tapu Lele being a must for every single deck, and then the final spot decided on whether or not you can/should play Fan Club in addition to Brigette. If you can only play Brigette, then use a third Lele, but if Fan Club, add Shaymin.

The Techs

The final Pokémon that we may consider for the list are the smaller, additional Pokémon that serve to succinctly solve outlier matchups. This includes things like Oricorio (either Psychic one, really), a Gyarados answer, Sudowoodo, and so on. I think that this deck could realistically fit every single one of these cards, so for your final list, you simply have to make a gut decision on what you expect to face. Sudowoodo seems to be the largest outlier of the three, but will always have its merits.

Trainers

The first and most important question to address in Lurantis is whether or not to include Max Elixir. The card is very good and gives the deck more powerful and aggressive openings, but ultimately this card fuels Trashalanche and is unnecessary with a perfect Lurantis opening. I think that if there was a reliable way to get energy in the discard (like Battle Compressor), I absolutely would not play Max Elixir but for now, it is a necessary evil. The standard for this card has always been four copies for any deck that chooses to play it, but I think that you can settle on three copies instead of four — though, again, this decision is ultimately up to you.

The biggest strength of Lurantis, in my opinion, is in the tech Supporters it can play. It has space for so many. Without deviating from the core counts listed above, I think that everything from Team Flare Grunt to Hex Maniac has legitimacy in this deck. As noted in the past, I think that there is some light synergy between Lurantis, Tapu Bulu and healing cards that makes including both Pokémon Center Lady and Olympia worth considering. Not only do both these cards serve a great purpose against Espeon-GX, but they can throw certain math off. If you can use either to turn a 2HKO into a three hit, and then you’ve shifted the tempo incredibly in your favor.

Primed to make a resurgence?

Though Choice Band has been the main Tool card of choice since the release of Guardians Rising, I think that there is a quiet movement of players rethinking their lists and considering Fighting Fury Belt once again. I think the main motivation behind this new line of thought is that the standard Zoroark list does not play Field Blower, and thus you can attempt to punish them with cards other than Choice Band. Fighting Fury Belt notably helps Tapu Bulu survive Foul Play if there is not a Choice Band in play on Zoroark’s side, and I think that gives it a considerable amount of legitimacy.

In most matchups, missing out on that extra 20 damage matters little since it can be mitigated with one Lurantis Promo or Professor Kukui, should you opt to play it. In theory, you can still hit 180 with Chloroscythe-GX attack through either of the modifiers and if you are able to attach Fury Belt and dodge an opposing Field Blower, you are able to survive a plethora of other attacks. It may be risky, but I think the payoff can be incredible, so unless you hear of every Zoroark player deciding to play Field Blower, I would highly recommend Fighting Fury Belt in the list!

My Personal List

Now that I have tried to walk you through most possible inclusions for the deck, allow me to present you the list I have currently settled on:

Pokémon – 15

4 Fomantis SUM

2 Lurantis-GX

2 Lurantis SM25

2 Tapu Bulu-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Celebi XY93

1 Oricorio GRI 56

 

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 Brigette

1 Pokémon Fan Club

1 Olympia

1 Pokémon Center Lady

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

3 Max Elixir

1 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Revitalizer

3 Float Stone

2 Fighting Fury Belt

1 Choice Band

Energy – 12

12 G

With this final list, I have done my very best to attempt to hedge against almost every deck out there. There are little things that could be tweaked here and there to slightly improve the deck against certain decks but that is a call I will have to make after doing as much scouting as possible upon arriving in Indianapolis. The biggest exclusion is the lack of Hex Maniac, but for now, I am mostly betting on there being more matchups where that card does not matter compared to those where it makes a difference. Outside of this, I am very happy with where this list is currently.

For the Forest: Matchups

VS S Tier: Even to Slightly Favorable

I think in games where you are able to carefully and methodically control the amount of Items you play, Espeon is largely very winnable. Tapu Bulu has the potential to 1HKO Espeon, and the deck should have an inherent resilience to Confusion antics between Olympia, PCL and three Float Stone. Zoroark is considerably closer, but in this matchup, I think the key is to try and attack with Lurantis-GX as much as possible and keep your bench limited. Tapu Bulu can serve as an easy response to something like Drampa-GX but largely should be avoided.

VS A Tier: Even

With Celebi, I think that Gyarados is largely winnable — though I do acknowledge the loss to Machoke, I am operating under the assumption that few will play that card and most will opt for Mr. Mime, which you get around. Humoursly, I think Celebi is actually fairly useful against Vespiquen as well, and can be used to attempt to soften things up for an Oricorio play later on. As a whole, though, that matchup would still scare me.

I tested the Drampa/Garbodor matchup almost exclusively in my time with the earlier version of this list before Madison Regionals and I found it to be almost exactly 50/50. However, I think the slight adjustments I have made since then can help tip it ever-so-slightly in my favor once again. Drampa’s inability to reach past 180 damage is quite good for Lurantis-GX — and Tapu Bulu, should you be successful in sticking a Fighting Fury Belt. Should you succeed in that regard, I do not see you losing that matchup unless Garbodor’s damage gets out of control.

VS B Tier: Unfavored

With the obvious exception of Greninja, I think that most of these matchups are relatively poor. I would not go as far as to call any of them (bar Volcanion) an auto-loss, but they will likely be difficult. I would argue that Vikavolt is a very similar deck to my Lurantis is many regards. Simply put, it does the same thing, but better — at the cost of being less consistent and more vulnerable to poor set-ups, Item lock, Ability lock, and so on. I do not have a particular strategy against any of these decks, but I am somewhat optimistic that I could eek out close wins versus Metagross and Vikavolt given the right draws and proper play (and, perhaps, lack thereof on my opponent’s part).

Musings in the Meadow: Closing Thoughts

There are some fringe decks that I am confident I would beat (Water Box, Gallade, Mega Gardevoir, Lycanroc), and others that I would not (M Rayquaza) but overall, I think that the matchup spread I have presented should be satisfactory for the initial nine rounds of Swiss next weekend. If I am largely favored versus a majority of the best decks and my shortcomings only emerge against weaker decks, then I think we have arrived at a proper conclusion.

You will never beat every deck, and success always requires some degree of luck, but I am happy with where my investigation has led me with Lurantis. It has been a pet project of mine since the release of Sun and Moon. Perhaps I have become too focused on making a creation of my own succeed instead of conforming somewhat and playing what everyone agrees is good. I have no way of knowing where my thoughts will be a few days from now when I have mere hours to decide on a final list, but I am eager to compete and hope that for my sake that I see some success in Indianapolis and am able to report back with an interesting report. As always, I’d love to hear what you think about the thoughts I have cashed out today.

Until next time!


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