Hey all – this may be the closest two SixPrizes articles I have written since my Mike on the Metagame series many years ago. Just like then, I have a very focused topic to discuss, which makes covering content much easier. Though there have been only a few tournaments in the past week, people’s mindsets have adapted and evolved as they begin to think about what decks to expect and what deck to bring to Indianapolis. My thoughts change almost daily, which makes it difficult to put into an article exactly what I am thinking.
Today, instead of going over one deck in depth, I will be rounding out most of the Tier 1/2 decks that we have not hit in our marathon. While Michael Slutsky will be ending the marathon with a dedicated Greninja article tomorrow, I want to discuss Drampa/Garbodor, Vespiquen, and Darkrai.
The first two decks helped shape the current format after their finishes in Seattle and Madison, while Darkrai is part of the old guard that was pushed aside with Guardians Rising. While non-trivial to play, all three of these decks have fairly standard lists available for them and have not changed much since the first weekend of tournaments in the Guardians Rising format. I’ll briefly discuss each deck’s strategy, present a list, highlight a few tech options, and look at its place in the metagame. Let’s get to it!
The initial GRI metagame was single-handedly shaped by the dominance of Drampa/Garbodor in Seattle. Though Espeon/Garbodor has recently been accepted as the better Garbodor deck for the current metagame, this may not have been the case without the results in the Emerald City. I would still expect to play against a Drampa/Garb or two at Internationals, as the deck has so many options. Drampa is truly an incredible card, evidenced by the fact we have seen it be part of two of the most dominants decks of the Guardians Rising metagame.
The pressure of Drampa often forces opponents to play Items, making Trashalanche stronger and stronger throughout the game. Add other cheap attackers like Tauros, Tapu Koko, and Oricorio, and you have yourself a nice little toolbox deck where your opponent has to play around many different lines of play. This deck has seen success as recently as this past weekend, with a Top 8 in the Madrid Special Event.
Drawing inspiration mostly from my teammates Tyler Ninomura and Sam Chen, who took 1st and 3rd in Seattle with this deck, here is my current list:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 32
Energy – 11
I think Team Magma’s Base has generally been accepted as standard in this deck, but I know Altar of the Moone lists saw success in Seattle (Brad Curcio’s Top 4 being most notable), and I know of current players running no stadium or Parallel City. The option to activate your own Berserk without having to attach an Energy is too strong to not include in my opinion. With the inclusion of Teammates, setting up Berserk becomes very accessible throughout the game. Without Magma Base, you also lose the option of ever getting a turn two Berserk for 150/180, which is just super threatening and forces your opponent to try to play around it.
The Tauros/Ninja Boy package is less vital to the deck’s success. I have enjoyed Ninja Boy much more than Tauros, but it feels bad not including Tauros if you are playing Ninja Boy. I often find myself using Tapu Lele for Ninja Boy and using Ninja Boy on that Tapu Lele. You can Ninja Boy into a Trubbish to evolve to a Garbodor when you do not have Trubbish on the board. Ninja Boy into Tapu Koko gives you a free retreat option. Ninja Boy enables a lot of wonky plays, and with three Tapu Lele in the deck, is easily accessible. You can certainly cut both of these cards, but even if you cut Tauros, I would consider keeping Ninja Boy around.
Tapu Koko and Oricorio are both great utility attackers. Tapu Koko takes the place of Azelf in Sam and Tyler’s list. As I mentioned, using Ninja Boy into Tapu Koko is great to get around annoying Lysandre plays or Confusion from Espeon GX. Both cards can help set up some damage and obviously Oricorio is fantastic against Vespiquen. I am currently under the impression that almost every deck that runs Basic Energy right now should run Oricorio, as it is a good card in many games.
Some things that did not make the list, but should be considered:
- Mewtwo EVO is a good tech for the Espeon matchup if you are particularly concerned about that. With a Choice Band, it will OHKO an Espeon with three Energy.
- Sudowoodo was played in the original list and is still a good card. Though its main function seeks to limit the bench of Sky Field decks, limiting any opponent to only four bench spaces can be strong, especially in a format riddled with set up cards like Brigette.
- Tech Supporters like Olympia, Professor Kukui, and Team Flare Grunt can be considered in here. All have their merits, and just like Ninja Boy, can be easily searched out with three copies of Tapu Lele. Olympia is good against Espeon and other random situations, Kukui helps mostly against Greninja so you can OHKO the BREAKs, and Team Flare Grunt is great in conjunction with Righteous Edge to remove two Energy from the field at once.
- The fourth Float Stone, second Rescue Stretcher, and second Field Blower would be great cards to have. Four Float and two Rescue Stretcher enable Garbotoxin much more readily, which is great in a format filled with abilities. More Float Stone also gives you more mobility in matchups like Espeon/Garb, where you need to constantly get around Confusion. It also just helps in general with attacking quicker and more efficiently.
- Parallel City and Altar of the Moone are two other good stadiums to consider. Parallel City is grossly underrated currently, after being played in many decks pre-GUR. Limiting your opponent to three bench spaces is quite good in this format and I would not be surprised to see more Parallel City played in Indianapolis.
Very Favorable – Decidueye decks
Slightly Favorable – Volcanion, Mega Rayquaza, Mega Gardevoir, Gyarados
Even – Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Lurantis decks, Greninja, Vespiquen, Waterbox
Slightly Unfavorable – Zoroark/Drampa, Espeon/Garbodor, Metagross, Darkrai decks, Gallade/Octillery, Raichu/Lycanroc
Very Unfavorable – none
Drampa/Garb is okay in the meta right now. Unfortunately it has unfavorable matchups against the projected two most popular decks, Espeon and Zoroark, as well as many other popular meta decks. It does not have any straight autolosses, which is appealing, but it may be a tough road to 7-2 with all 40-60 to 60-40 matchups. Your only big win is against Decidueye decks, as they struggle to deal with Drampa. If you are thinking of playing Drampa/Garb, I recommend getting in a lot of practice with the deck, as there are so many little plays you can make that will help you win games you otherwise would have lost. Knowing your list inside and out is always important, but especially important with a deck like this.
Vespiquen has been a force to be reckoned with since its release. I have played many versions of Vespiquen, the weirdest being the Vespiquen/Yveltal/Octillery I played at Worlds last year that Ross made Top 4 with. Vespiquen is such a versatile card and it fundamentally allows itself to be played with many different partners. After Jeffrey Cheng’s second place finish in Seattle, it became apparent to the top tier players that Vespiquen was one of the best decks in the Guardians Rising metagame. After Madison, the rest of the player base caught on.
Though Oricorio will inevitably make its way into a number of decks because of its overall utility, Vespiquen is still a strong play heading into Internationals. With a skilled pilot, you can play around devastating scenarios that might arise from Supernatural Dance. You need to have an obscene amount of Pokémon in the discard for Oricorio to punish you in any significant way. Bee Revenge with Choice Band can hit some great numbers quickly and puts a lot of pressure on opposing decks. Add Zoroark to make your opponent have to play around more things, and you have a potent deck full of non-EX attackers.
Perhaps counter-intuitively and counter to what I said in my opening paragraph about Vespiquen’s versatility, I do not believe there is much room to change the list of the current iteration of Vespiquen. Michael Pramawat’s list (which came from Rahul Reddy originally, as far as I know) is pretty near perfect. Here is what I am working with now:
Pokémon – 27
Trainers – 29
Energy – 4
I prefer three Shaymin EX and just one Tapu Lele GX, as opposed to the two-two split. Like how Shaymin works in Gyarados, Sky Return is a very good attack in the early game to a) help set up damage for Vespiquen to easily reach KOs later and b) provide early game draw while not leaving a two-prize liability on the bench. Your early turns should be mostly Sky Returning, unless you can gain some heavy tempo by getting out an early Vespiquen with Forest of Giant Plants.
I played this at a League Cup the same weekend as Madison and unknowingly was just a few cards off Pramawat’s. One significant difference was that I only ran a single copy of Forest of Giant Plants. After doing more testing with the deck, two is crucial in some matchups. Anything that spreads damage, like Espeon, becomes almost impossible to beat without multiple Forest to evolve your Combees right away.
Oranguru is absolutely nuts in this deck. I thought about cutting it before my League Cup, but I would never do that. If you are not convinced on this card, I implore you to keep it.
The Eevee line may not be totally necessary heading into a big tournament like Internationals. Vaporeon is great only against Volcanion, which is slightly unfavored without it. Flareon is good against Metagross and Decidueye, but you can beat Metagross without Flareon (though its unfavored) and Decidueye is still an unfavorable matchup even with Flareon. If dropped, these spots would have to go towards Pokémon, which could include…
A lot of things! Tapu Koko, Oricorio, Sudowoodo, Mewtwo EVO, Absol, Mew EX, Tauros GX, Machoke, Octillery, Lycanroc, Garbodor, and more could all be considered in these four spots. You just need to think about what matchups you want to target. Unfortunately, the deck does not have enough space to counter everything, but you can choose the particular matchups you want to devote specific techs to combat. Vespiquen always benefits from the extra Pokémon to fuel Bee Revenge.
Very Favorable – Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Lurantis decks, Waterbox, Mega Rayquaza
Slightly Favorable – Drampa/Garbodor, Volcanion, Darkrai decks, Raichu/Lycanroc, Mega Gardevoir, Gallade/Octillery
Even – Greninja, Zoroark/Drampa, Metagross, Gyarados
Slightly Unfavorable – Espeon/Garbodor
Very Unfavorable – Decidueye decks
Matchups are a bit hard to discuss for Vespiquen. If any of the decks that typically do not run Karen or Oricorio (M Gardevoir, Metagross, Vikavolt) find space to fit one, the matchup for Vespiquen becomes slightly worse. Not overwhelmingly worse, but slightly worse. Its matchups are somewhat similar to Gyarados, losing hard to Decidueye and having some very strong matchups otherwise. Vespiquen has more of a target on its back than Gyarados does, which is a bit scary. Similar to Drampa/Garb, I would recommend playing many games with this deck if you intend to play it in Indy.
While not as versatile as Vespiquen, Darkrai has been in as many — or more — successful decks in the past few years. From Darkrai/Giratina hype before Nationals last year, to Turbo Dark in Expanded and Standard, Darkrai packs quite a punch. Its strategy is very linear: power up Dark Pulse and punch, punch, punch.
With the release of Guardians Rising, many wrote Darkrai off as dead. Field Blower to knock off Darkrai’s coveted tools in Exp. Share and Fighting Fury Belt made the future look dark for Darkrai. However, one of the masters of darkness, Robin Schulz from Germany, reimagined the deck early on in the metagame. Though it did not catch on for most of the players, many of the top players took notice and have since iterated on it. Running less items, more Energy, and sporting four copies of Altar of the Moone has kept Darkrai relevant in this new world.
My list does not deviate far from Robin’s initial concept:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 36
Energy – 15
The Pokémon line has not changed much from Robin’s list. I am a bit skeptical of the 3rd Yveltal, but it has been good to have an extra Pokémon to play Energy and Tools onto. A 3rd Tapu Lele could be considered in its place. I have dropped Sudowoodo, as I wanted space for other cards, but it is good and can be considered. You do not need a big bench and mostly just need Pokémon to spread out your Energy. Sudowoodo is a good disruption card that fills this spot. We could also consider adding an Oricorio to help with the Vespiquen matchup. It also helps finish off KOs that Darkrai fell just short off, but Yveltal is just usually better at that.
The Trainer line is quite similar, with the addition of a Hex Maniac and another VS Seeker. Turning off abilities is really important in this metagame, with cards like Metagross and Vikavolt being so powerful. With Hex Maniac in the deck, I actually think Darkrai can compete with these decks. We put on so much pressure in the early game and can ramp up to big damage, stalling them on key turns with Hex. A second Hex is even considerable.
Quad copies of each tool has been strong. I have been experimenting with Fighting Fury Belt as well, but I’m not sure on the correct count. Less than four copies of any of the tools tends to be inconsistent, but I also do not want to drop Choice Band outright. Any split would require an additional tool slot, as you would need something like 4 EXP Share/3 Choice Band/2 Fighting Fury Belt. I am not sure what is most correct just yet.
14 vs. 15 Dark seems fairly negligible to me. I feel safe at 14, especially considering most old Darkrai lists only played 12, but am not sure what I would want more than the 15th. I will continue to test these counts this week.
Very Favorable – Espeon/Garbodor
Slightly Favorable – Zoroark/Drampa, Drampa/Garbodor, Volcanion, Lurantis decks, Mega Gardevoir
Even –Greninja, Decidueye decks
Slightly Unfavorable – Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Metagross, Mega Rayquaza, Vespiquen, Waterbox
Very Unfavorable – Raichu/Lycanroc, Gallade/Octillery, Gyarados
Darkrai has a decent spread of matchups, but its draw to me is the favorable matchups against Espeon/Garb and Zoroark/Drampa. As I expect these to be popular decks, Darkrai is at least somewhat appealing as a play for Indy. Its weak matchups against Metagross and Vikavolt is worrisome. Perhaps the biggest thing Darkrai has going for it is its straightforward nature, consistency, and the pressure it puts on the opponent almost every game. Even decks that are very favored against it, like Gallade/Octillery, can lose if they do not get to their evolutions quick enough, as Darkrai can just mow down basics and jump far ahead in the prize exchange.
That about sums up my analysis of these three decks. There are so many decks out there going into Internationals, so I want to end with something that has been driving my thinking of what to play: a popularity tier list.
T1 – expect to play 2-3 on Day 1
T2 – expect to play 2-3 on Day 1
T3 – expect to play 1-2 on Day 1
T4 – expect to play 0-1 on Day 1
Mega Rayquaza variants
T5 – expect to play 0-1 on Day 1
T6 – expect to play 0-1 on Day 1
I am sure this will turn out to be slightly off. I have heard some hype about the Decidueye/spread deck that has been dominating the Australian scene, so that is something to watch out for. Other than that, I do not think anything else will be too surprising. The metagame is one of the most established heading into this tournament its ever been. Though this might allow a rogue to capitalize on a known metagame, the issue with countering everything is the wide variety of play styles these decks have. There are aggressive decks like Vespiquen and Darkrai, mid-range decks like Zoroark and Gyarados, slow set-up decks like Metagross and Greninja, spread and lock decks like Decidueye, and everything in between. This variety makes any “counter” deck rely on dodging one type of these decks in order to be successful, as its nigh impossible to beat each play style.
That about wraps it up. Please feel free to come up and talk to me if you see me at Internationals. I look forward to an amazing weekend with friends and Pokémon. If this is your first time going to such a huge tournament, I am jealous – the first time is truly something special. Good luck!
… and that will conclude this unlocked Underground article.
(After 90 days we open up past UG content for public viewing to help preserve the history of the game. New articles are reserved for Underground members.)
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Users: Click here to view the registration page if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.