Digging Deep

Short Recap on Xander’s NAIC Run and Looking Ahead to New Options from Burning Shadows for Anaheim

What’s up everyone! For most players, now is a time to reflect and prepare for the oncoming season. Regardless of whether you have an invite or not, the new set will impact your next tournaments (aside from Birmingham Regionals). Burning Shadows won’t be as impactful as Guardians Rising, but still has many powerful cards to watch out for. I found that a lot of the new cards are on the edge of playability. Golisopod-GX, Gardevoir-GX, and Noivern-GX are all good cards, but may not be good enough compared to the Standard format.

As I look back on my NAIC experience, I’m happy with how it played out. I finished 6-1-2 at the end of the first day, then ended my run at 9-3-3. I even got to play on stream twice, but only one was recorded. If I were to play the tournament again, I wouldn’t change a single card in my Espeon/Garbodor list. My losses and ties came from poor draws, as much as I hate to blame everything on luck. Leading up to the tournament, I worked extensively on this list with Caleb Gedemer. He managed to finish 16th with an identical list.

Pokémon – 20

4 Eevee SUM

3 Espeon-GX

1 Flareon AOR

4 Trubbish BKP

3 Garbodor GRI

1 Garbodor BKP

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oricorio GRI 56

1 Ditto XY40

Trainers – 28

3 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac

1 Pokémon Fan Club


4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

1 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Choice Band

4 Float Stone


1 Parallel City

Energy – 12

8 P

4 Double Colorless

Old Ideas, New Tricks

Previous decks will love the new toys they get to play with, such as Kiawe in Volcanion or Acerola across all of them. Perhaps Tapu Koko-GX can see playability with Super Scoop Up, or Raichu XY in conjunction with the new Raichu BUS. There’s a lot to cover leading up to Worlds, and in this article I hope to share ideas to give you a better grasp on what’s worth testing.

The first deck I’ll cover is an updated Volcanion list. Like I’ve said previously, there isn’t much to change from an already successful deck. Kiawe and Guzma are automatic inclusions in the deck, but I wanted to try out Ho-oh-GX too. It has Lightning Weakness, but also has a base 180 damage attack. This matters since the deck runs Fighting Fury Belt, and can hit numbers without any Steam Ups.


Pokémon – 12

3 Volcanion STS

3 Volcanion-EX

1 Turtonator-GX

1 Ho-Oh-GX

1 Staryu BKP

1 Starmie EVO

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

2 Guzma

2 Lysandre

2 Kiawe


3 Ultra Ball

3 VS Seeker

2 Field Blower

2 Max Elixir

1 Switch

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Float Stone


3 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 14

14 R

To create this list, I adapted Ryan’s Volcanion list from Top 8 in Indy. Kiawe provides early acceleration, especially when going first. I think it also works when going second, or even later on in the game to reload. 2 Kiawe might be too many, but all-but guarantees one in deck for the first turn. I like running 2 Guzma, since it acts as a Lysandre just as much as an Olympia.

Volcanion had a good place in the meta before, and should be one of the best decks going into Worlds. Greninja is a very bad matchup, but that shouldn’t gain any popularity. Greninja destroys Gardevoir-GX, but also gets destroyed by Golisopod-GX. Not many other decks give Volcanion much trouble, but it can also be beaten by slow starts or other unlucky aspects.


Noivern-GX is a half-hearted fusion of Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX AOR. It combines Quaking Punch in its first attack with the Special Energy denial from Chaos Wheel with its second. The GX attack is mediocre compared to other powerhouses, but it may pick up a few knockouts depending on the situation. Noivern-GX is going to be the only attacker in the deck, aside from teching for certain matchups.

I don’t think there’s any way to beat Gardevoir-GX because of Weakness. For two Energy, Gardevoir-GX dishes out 240 to a Noivern-GX with a DDE attached. The only foreseeable way to salvage this matchup is through something that can 1HKO Gardevoir-GX or trade evenly, such as Magearna-EX. However, that would require Metal and Double Colorless Energies.

The list I’m sharing with you now is my own concoction, designed to beat the format (except for Gardevoir-GX). However, the format is undefined, so who knows!

Pokémon – 18

4 Noibat BKT 132

3 Noivern-GX

4 Cutiefly BUS

3 Ribombee SUM

1 Ribombee BUS

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Magearna-EX


Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Guzma

1 Acerola

1 Hex Maniac

1 Brigette

1 Plumeria

1 Team Flare Grunt


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Field Blower

2 Choice Band

2 Bodybuilding Dumbbells


3 Silent Lab

Energy – 10

4 Double Dragon

3 D

3 P


As a card, Noivern-GX is inherently strong. Denial has been a long-lasting, successful deck in the game. Dialga GL, Vileplume NVI, and Seismitoad-EX are all legends of Item lock. The problem is that in Standard currently, there are no sidekicks. Taking Espeon/Garbodor for example, both of the Evolutions share the load equally; both of them are equally as important to the deck. Noivern-GX is a lone rider, because Item lock or Special Energy denial must be kept continuous. Ribombee or other Bench-sitters are the best partners, since it doesn’t interfere with Distortion. (Awesome attack name, by the way).

I opted for a plethora of 1-of Supporters, despite Silent Lab being in the list. With so much utility, it’s possible to react effectively to however the opponent plays under Item lock. Plumeria is a very underrated card going into Worlds, since the price of discarding 2 cards is high. Plumeria will be insane against Decidueye variants, since Razor Leaf takes two Energy attachments. Team Flare Grunt is a great card like Plumeria, but is less situational, and doesn’t require a cost.

This deck is one that I think Wally might be worth running in. It gives another option as a set up Supporter for the first turn of the game. When going first, Brigette is obviously better. However, when going second and the opponent doesn’t expect it, Wally into Distortion is incredibly strong. The turn after can be followed up by Brigette.

Silent Lab is my Stadium of choice since it follows the locking premise of the deck. A Noivern-GX deck with Garbodor wouldn’t run Silent Lab, since it already has access to Garbotoxin. Commonly, Wonder Tag is the best counter to Item lock, like Stellar Guidance on Jirachi-EX in the past. Item lock is always a gamble of a deck that can win extremely easy off of poor draws from the opponent, but can also lose very easily if the opponent never lulls.

One thing to note about Stadiums: Decks like Metagross that don’t run any Stadiums, only Field Blower, would be susceptible to a locked Stadium under Item lock. The main Gardevoir-GX list runs Silent Lab too, leaving another matchup where it’s very possible to have one out the entire game.

Like Christopher said in his article earlier this week, most decks should be running an even split of Lysandre and Guzma. The reason why I run 2 Guzma and 0 Lysandre is because Cutiefly and Noivern-GX have free retreat, as well as the deck running 0 Float Stone. It’s much more common for something to start Active that I don’t want like Tapu Lele-GX or Magearna-EX. I have at least an 8/11 chance of starting a favorable Basic, since I can draw multiple and choose the preferred.

Another avenue of travel for Noivern-GX is to build it like Toad/Tina of the past. Remove Ribombee, Basic Energy, etc., in favor of Giratina-EX, Double Colorless, Super Scoop Up, and more disruptive Supporters. The last variant I could see picking up steam involves Eeveelutions, most likely Vaporeon and Flareon.

Alolan Muk-GX/Salazzle

This is an intriguing deck that probably won’t succeed, but it utilizes my favorite card out of Guardians Rising: Salazzle. I played Raichu/Salazzle upon its release to mild success, similar to the Raichu/Lycanroc deck. Salazzle acted as a means of surpassing the 190 damage cap. Alolan Muk-GX requires Burning Poison to buff up its first attack, Chemical Press, doing 10+70 for each Special Condition afflicting the Defending Pokémon. Without any Special Conditions, it does a measly 10 damage. However, when Exodia reunites with Burning Poison, Choice Band, and Poison/Burn damage, it hits for 210.

Pokémon – 18

4 Alolan Grimer BUS

3 Alolan Muk-GX

1 Alolan Muk

4 Salandit GRI

3 Salazzle GRI

1 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Yveltal STS

Trainers – 31

4 N

4 Professor Sycamore

1 Guzma

1 Lysandre

1 Acerola

1 Hex Maniac


4 Ultra Ball

4 Super Scoop Up

3 VS Seeker

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Field Blower

2 Bodybuilding Dumbbells


2 Altar of the Moone

Energy – 11

7 D

4 Double Colorless

There isn’t much to explain with this deck, other than comboing your Abilities and Attacks. Yveltal is in the deck for early attacking and loading up D Energy. Super Scoop Up is used for reusing Salazzle, or for picking up any heavily damaged Alolan Muk. The deck concept is quite silly, but simple. Gimmicky, but consistent.

Bodybuilding Dumbbells is great in this deck, opposed to Choice Band. Even though it extends the damage cap past 180, not many cards are at 210 HP anyway. 180 is enough to take down a majority of everything, except for the Evolution GXs. Tapu Koko PR would be a good inclusion in a version trying to 1HKO everything. Seviper BSH would work in that version, but without Alolan Muk SUM.

Despite being a cool deck, I don’t think this will have a large Worlds presence. Guzma gives decks an easy way around Tri Hazard-GX, which otherwise would have been amazing. Once the rotation happens, some decks will fall apart, but the format will remain the same. I predict it to be a BKT-on rotation, but I really hope it’s Fates Collide or Steam Siege. I’m hoping for a miracle…that will never happen.

Gardevoir-GX seems like an incredibly hard matchup because Alolan Muk-GX takes 3+ Energy to attack. Volcanion and Drampa/Garbodor should be relatively easy matchups since they rely on 180 HP, aside from Turtonator-GX. Even if they try to use that or Ho oh-GX, pre-damage it with Yveltal XY. Other matchups seem manageable through Super Scoop Up and Acerola. These cards are incredibly annoying, but make or break this deck.


Rhyperior is the newer, better version of Aggron DRX. Both of them have the exact same Ability: Upon Evolution, discard the top 3 cards of your opponent’s deck. This card looks terrible upon first glance, (and it sometimes is), but can win games given the right discards and draws. The point of the deck is to build these in the back while using Houndoom-EX to discard as well.

One neat thing about the deck is that a skeleton doesn’t require any Energy! Alolan Vulpix requires no Energy to use Beacon, and Abilities obviously don’t cost any Energy. Running Houndoom-EX or Tapu Fini-GX require their respective Energy types, but those didn’t come to mind until developing the Rhyperior aspects first.

Pokémon – 15

4 Rhyhorn BUS

4 Rhydon BUS

3 Rhyperior BUS

2 Houndoom-EX

1 Alolan Vulpix GRI

1 Tapu Lele-GX


Trainers – 40

4 N

3 Ace Trainer

3 Professor Sycamore

2 Brigette

2 Acerola


4 VS Seeker

4 Heavy Ball

4 Ultra Ball

4 Super Scoop Up

3 Devolution Spray

3 Field Blower

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Float Stone

Energy – 5

5 R

I run nearly the thickest possible Rhyperior line since I’m only relying on manual Evolution. Only 3 Rhyperior are necessary, since they’ll be picked up so often anyway. Decks like Decidueye-GX evolve them as fast as possible, but this takes an overly slow approach. Houndoom-EX applies early pressure, but Rhyperior has to finish off the job.

I only run 2 Houndoom-EX because that’s all I ever want to use in a single game and have access to Rescue Stretcher in the list for emergencies. 1 Alolan Vulpix and 1 Tapu Lele-GX are also enough, since Beacon is only useful at the start of the game. It’s more important to lay down Rhydon, then evolve them through Heavy Ball or Ultra Ball. 1 Tapu Lele-GX is good in all situations where it is isn’t prized. I’ve gone against 2 because old decks ran Jirachi-EX in the past as a 1-of, since it had no use other than the Ability. Tapu Lele-GX is the same for this deck; using Energy Drive is unhelpful to the deck’s strategy.

The Supporter line is extremely unconventional, but reflects what I came up with using my limited testing with the deck. Shuffle-draw is great for this deck since a lot of the Items are usable, and integral to winning. N and Ace Trainer are also great for slowing down the opponent. I run no Guzma or Lysandre because it’s very easy for the opponent to get out of it. If my opponent were to use Guzma, it undoes my Supporter, and lets them bring up one of my Rhy-Pokémon. Team Rocket’s Handiwork may be included, but I simply gave myself a consistent Supporter line to find necessary Items or prepare an Acerola.

The Item line is where it gets hectic. Maxing out balls is essential to the deck’s consistency. Super Scoop Up and Devolution are used for recycling Rhyperior. Super Scoop Up also doubles as a means of healing Houndoom-EX, therefore I run 4-of it. 3 Field Blower is important against Garbotoxin. I need to have 2 per game, accounting for 1 being prized. Since I won’t be taking any prizes, it can be extremely detrimental to prize lots of a single card.

Looking at the meta, this deck could succeed against other Stage 2 decks, or other decks that rely on 2HKOs. Golisopod-GX and Zoroark decks are a good example. These decks take really good trades to others, but can’t take any knockouts against Rhyperior. Gardevoir and Metagross are inherently slow decks. Gardevoir is a very easy matchup since the deck puts at most 1 Energy on Houndoom-EX, while Metagross can be a bit harder. Stall with a Rhyperior Active since it has 160 HP, then Acerola it back and evolve again.

A perfected Rhyperior list has a very good shot of doing well at Worlds or the Anaheim Open. Like Durant NVI, it can lose games solely off of its prizes. This deck is high risk, but also offers a high potential reward.


Pokémon’s next stop.

This is the 2nd year in which a new, underrated set has been released just before Worlds. Talonflame, an essential card in the 2nd place Greninja deck, made the highest finish as a card out of the new set. I predict that Gardevoir-GX or other new decks will finish highly, especially with the amount of people testing the set already. Some websites already have the scans uploaded for people to practice with. As always, another conventional way of practicing is to proxy the new cards and play in person at League or with friends. Skype is another tool I use when testing without cards on PTCGO.

The last piece I want to say is to enjoy breaks from Pokémon. The past few months have been a long grind for me, and most likely for other players leading up to North America Internationals. This time from July-August is my least favorite of the year, but also gives me an opportunity to enjoy my summer! Cause y’know, I’m still in school and stuff. Pokémon events take up over half of my weekends, so having any form of break is nice.

Like most writers, I also enjoy experimenting with the new set. The decks I wrote about have potential, but might not stand up to the current PRC–BSH meta. Gardevoir-GX and Golisopod-GX are the two best solo-decks coming out of the set, with Tapu Lele and Necrozma-GX being useful in some current decks like Metagross. Christopher talked about the Trainers out of Burning Shadows, which we will definitely see in the top decks at Worlds!

If you’re going to Anaheim for Worlds or for the Open, make sure to check out Disneyland. Even if theme parks aren’t your thing, it’s great to go once to experience it. Other than that, I wish you the best of luck going into Worlds or the incoming season! I’m glad to be relaxing on the first day of Worlds rather than playing. As always, feel free to say hi!


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