The Big Kahuna

Junior/Senior Metagame Analysis for the North American International Championship
We have at least a little bit of data, right here!

Hey everyone! I hope you’re just as excited as I am for the North American International Championship (that’s a mouthful! Let’s stick with NAIC as an abbreviation) as I am. We’re only 5 days away from the first day of play!

I can’t help but feel that the metagame is relatively underdeveloped for what we’re used to right now. In past years, we’ve had the National Championships for many other countries before the US National Championship. This let us see how other decks fared in a large tournament setting. Now, we have just 3 Regionals (1 being a smaller one in Mexico) and a Special Event to base our understanding of the format off of.

Even so, I think we have enough data to make some good picks for Internationals with. Here’s what the Junior/Senior metagame looks like as we head into the NAIC:


Standard Top 8 Totals (PRC–GRI)

  • 4 Drampa/Garbodor
  • 2 Lapras
  • 2 Greninja
  • 2 M Ray
  • 1 Alolan Ninetales
  • 1 Wobbuffet/Garbodor
  • 1 Lurantis/Tapu Bulu
  • 1 Lycanroc/Carbink
  • 1 Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu
  • 1 Umbreon/Zoroark

Juniors Top 8 decklists for Seattle and Madison can be found at the preceding links.

I’ve chosen to only include Seattle and Madison for Juniors results. Mexico and Origins saw some of the top Junior players competing, but each event only featured a Top 4 cut due to the size. I don’t think those smaller events are indicative of the decks that are being played or of their tournament viability, so I’ve left them off.

As usual, Juniors seem to be all over the place with their deck choices. Drampa/Garbodor is the only deck with more than 2 total Top 8 placements, but Garbodor decks are not nearly as prevalent in Juniors as they have been in Masters.

It’s worth noting that the 2 Greninja and 2 M Ray are actually just the same 2 Juniors making cut at both events, so the decks aren’t necessarily being picked up by multiple players. This makes Garbodor and Lapras the only decks that multiple Juniors have piloted to Top 8 finishes.

Another interesting thing to think about is how the metagame shifted from week to week. If you look at Seattle and then at Madison, not much changes overall in the Top 8 between events. Unlike the Masters Division, Garbodor seems to do just as well in Madison as it did in Seattle, even winning the tournament. I would guess that Juniors aren’t adapting to play against Garbodor as much as they need to be, but it’s also underplayed for as much as it seems to be well positioned.

Otherwise, I struggle to see real trends in the division. I wouldn’t expect to see a large number of Juniors favoring any deck at the NAIC so prepare for the unexpected!

It’s a mad brawl to be the top deck in Juniors!

My top choice for a metagame as unpredictable as this would be Espeon/Garbodor. The general consensus right now is that Espeon and Zoroark are the top 2 decks, neither of which would be a bad choice. They both have strong matchups across the board, and very few bad ones. However, as it seems that Garbodor might be able to take advantage of less than stellar play in the division, I give the edge to Espeon.

Zoroark also can take advantage of a player’s mistakes, forcing them to keep a small bench or they’ll get blown out of the water. It can be a tricky deck to play with many options for attacking. Choosing the right one can be difficult at times. If you’re playing something else, make sure you get a chance to play against it before the NAIC. Or, if you want to bring Zoroark as your deck of choice, make sure you get a lot of games in with it yourself!

For an in depth look at these 2 decks, check out Pablo’s article on Espeon/Garbodor and Xander’s article on Zoroark (coming Monday).


Standard Top 8 Totals (PRC–GRI)

  • 8 Drampa/Garbodor
  • 3 Espeon/Garbodor
  • 2 Volcanion
  • 2 Decidueye/Ninetales
  • 1 Decidueye/Vileplume
  • 1 Greninja
  • 1 Metagross
  • 1 M Rayquaza
  • 1 Gallade/Octillery
  • 1 Vikavolt
  • 1 Zoroark

Seniors Top 8 decklists for Seattle and Madison can be found at the preceding links.

For Seniors, I’ve included Origins with the Seattle and Madison results as it had a Top 8, but I left Mexico off as it was only big enough to have a Top 4.

Now this is more of what I expected to see! Tons of Garbodor across all 3 events. The interesting part is that it doesn’t seem to have been heavily countered after Seattle like it was in Masters. In fact, it actually won all 3 events I’ve presented data from!

Past that, there aren’t any trends to really look at. Almost every deck in the format is accounted for, but only 2 (non-Garbodor decks) that have made Top 8 more than once. If you group both Decidueye variants together, they become the 2nd most popular deck, so there’s probably a good chance that’ll see more plan than I’d expect in Masters. Seniors have favored the deck earlier in the year so it makes sense.

Moving forward, I think we will see more Seniors picking up decks that beat Garbodor decks. Zoroark and Vespiquen both trade very well with Garbodor and will be popular in the Masters division. We’ve seen the Senior division follow the Masters fairly closely this year and that probably won’t change now.

However, I still think Garbodor will see some play. Espeon/Garbodor should become the Garb deck of choice, and will still probably see a good amount of play. It has good matchups around the board, and some Seniors likely aren’t yet adapting to playing around Trashalanche.


I’m relevant again!

For Seniors, I think there is a good risky pick and a good safe pick. Metagross is my top pick, but also the risky pick. It beats nearly all of the 24 decks that have made Top 8 in Seniors thus far, barring the Volcanion and potentially any Espeon/Garb that run a Flareon. It will have a field day against anyone playing Drampa, Vespiquen, or Zoroark, 3 of the decks I most expect to see. It even has a great matchup against Decidueye (though you might have to play it for yourself to believe it like I did). There’s not a huge reason to play Volcanion with Espeon and Zoroark being expected in high numbers, so I’m not even sure if it’s that risky to play Metagross. It’s just the potential to get blown out by near-auto-losses that makes me consider it a risky choice.

If you want to go with a safer pick, Zoroark is your best bet. Oricorio helps it beat Vespiquen and Espeon is slightly favorable as you have easy ways to get out of confusion in addition to your Psychic Restance. If you think Volcanion could make a resurgence for some reason, Zoroark would also beat that pretty easily. It has a lot of strong matchups, and should give most Seniors a good chance to make Top 32.

Metagross was covered earlier this week by Christopher Schemanske, and Zoroark will be covered in Xander’s article tomorrow! Check those out if you need a refresher on how they work.


Good luck to everyone at the NAIC next weekend! One last tip: don’t overthink your deck choice too much. It’s going to be the biggest tournament ever and there isn’t a “perfect play”. Just stick with something you’re comfortable with and the confidence in your deck choice will help you immensely.

I hope to meet a lot of you, especially anyone travelling from out of the USA. It’s going to be a huge tournament and tons of fun, can’t wait!


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