Hey all! I don’t know about you, but I have been having a very Pokémon-filled summer. Last week I ran a Pokémon camp through my school where I worked with seven 10-11 year old new players, teaching them how to play and working with them to get ready to join a league and start tournaments in the fall. It was a long week, but extremely fun! I have also been a part of many others’ content recently which has been awesome. If you enjoy reading my articles, make sure to follow me on Twitter to see all the other things I am a part of!
Since I was last with you, Burning Shadows discussion has been abundant. While most players are looking toward the new format, there is a very important tournament for a few hundred players in less than a month. As a lucky participant in the annual World Championships, I have been banging my head trying to figure out what is good and what is bad. Today I would like to offer a bunch of general thoughts about the game heading into Worlds and then talk about one specific deck I have been testing: Noivern.
I have played about 50 games in the new format, some against myself, some in real life with other Worlds players, and some online via PlayTCG. None of these options are ideal, so I am really looking forward to Burning Shadows coming out on PTCGO soon. I will be dedicating many more hours to testing once that happens. I’d like to share what I have “figured out” in my testing thus far:
- Gardevoir-GX is incredibly strong and beats most things. Travis’s article covered Gardevoir very well and my current list is similar to his. I like Sylveon in the deck: it gives the deck some versatility and consistency in setting up. That said, I also think no one has arrived at an ideal Gardevoir list.
- For set up options, Sylveon, Diancie, and Alolan Vulpix are all considerations. I do not think Diancie is very good at all. Having to play Float Stone with it is annoying, and while Sylveon has a similar setback, its effect is much more powerful than Diancie. I would either continue to play 2-2 Sylveon or look to include a copy of Alolan Vulpix.
- Though my initial testing showed Gallade was often unnecessary, I do think it should make the final cut in lists. It works well in countering Gardevoir’s counters too well not to include.
- Speaking of counters, Magearna-EX is not a very good counter, because of Gallade. Gallade with a Choice Band 1HKOs Magearna often before Magearna gets any value, or it trades with one Gardevoir-GX before being 1HKO’d by Gallade. Scizor-EX seems moderately better, but requires two Metal. Bisharp is okay but requires more space and even needs Reverse Valley, Professor Kukui, or Dhelmise on top of Choice Band to 1HKO a Gardevoir-GX. These are really the only “splashable” counters to Gardevoir-GX.
- While Gardevoir is indisputably the deck the Worlds metagame will shape around, I find it becoming increasingly weaker as more players test and figure out what beats it. We may see older decks come back, such as Vespiquen and Gyarados, that have positive Gardevoir matchups because of this.
- Volcanion is the other format-warping deck going into Anaheim. Kiawe and Ho-Oh-GX have elevated the deck to new heights. My current list, and almost everyone else’s I imagine, is based around Ryan Sabelhaus’s Top 8 Internationals list. Besides the addition of Kiawe and Ho-Oh, I have been experimenting with some differing counts of the Pokémon, such as only two or three baby Volcanion and a full set of Volcanion-EX. Almost all lists at Worlds will be less than 10 cards different from Ryan’s list.
- Kiawe is incredibly strong. While I do not mind Volcanion getting more support, this is not the type of support I like being printed. Going first has been a huge advantage for a long time now. This season, I have felt the impact of going first shrinking. Now Pokémon has introduced a card that exacerbates the issues of going first by quite a bit. Going first and being able to use Kiawe gives you a huge advantage as the Volcanion player. Not only this, but especially against evolution decks, going first as the Volcanion player means you have two turns to set up and start taking KOs on little basics before they get to evolve. I have played the Gardevoir vs. Volcanion matchup the most this format and I think the difference is most evident there: the matchup feels 70-30 or better for Gardevoir when Gardevoir goes first and 60-40 or better for Volcanion when Volcanion goes first. Having so much determined by the opening coin flip is not good for the game.
- Ho-Oh-GX adds a lot to the deck as well. Though it might not make every list, its non-Water weakness and ability to hit 180 damage with no damage modifiers makes it very appealing in my eyes.
- Decidueye is still trying to find its place in the metagame. Both the Vileplume and the non-Vileplume versions should be considered. While both should have a slightly positive matchup against Gardevoir, its Volcanion matchup is shaky at best. The Vileplume version can and probably should play the new Vileplume to help with its Volcanion matchup. Whether this pressures Volcanion decks to sport Hex Maniac remains to be seen.
- Golisopod seems very strong as well in testing. Decidueye seems like the correct partner with it, but Eeveelutions or Vileplume also seem like options worth testing. While Golisopod’s first attack is the obvious reason to play the card, its other attacks have proved quite strong as well. Its GX-attack in particular has surprised me, as it hits for a bit more damage to reach key numbers while also forcing the opponent to have a Lysandre or Guzma to deal with it the next turn.
- Greninja seems well positioned in the metagame, minus green Pokémon. I have always enjoyed Greninja, helping build some of the initial lists last year at States and seeing some success early in the season with the Faded Town list. However, the deck remains clunky and “Greninja things” will always happen. As my friend Simon told me at NAIC, “I can’t do that to myself again.” Greninja will be on my radar to play against, but I will not be considering it to play myself.
- As I mentioned above, decks like Vespiquen and Gyarados seem strong if Decidueye is played less. Both decks have strong Gardevoir and Volcanion matchups, with Vespiquen also beating Greninja (and Gyarados is not even terrible against it). Oriocrio and Tapu Koko should see some less play, but we still have a lot of time for players expectations to shift and these cards could potentially make their way back into lists.
- The two front-runners heading into NAIC, Espeon/Garbodor and Zoroark/Drampa, seem all but dead now. Both struggle with Gardevoir, Guzma messes with Espeon’s Psybeam, and Zoroark also does not have a stellar Volcanion matchup. Perhaps these decks can innovate, but early testing shows they do not have what it takes to keep up in this new metagame.
- There are a lot of other decks I could talk about, but most of my thoughts would be theorymon for them at this point. Testing for this format will require a lot of work as we have literally zero tournaments to work off. Burning Shadows is a much more impactful set than Steam Siege last year, so we cannot rely as much on previous events as we did last Worlds. With a relatively small Worlds compared to last year, it will be even more important to understand the metagame, as you can bet that every player will be testing a lot and be prepared. Trying to stay ahead of the metagame will prove very difficult. We could even see very few Gardevoir or Volcanion decks on Day 1, as many players may attempt to counter these decks instead of playing them. With less players, the “expected” metagame will be much more variable. In a larger tournament, you can expect the player base to conform to the averages with more reliability. It will be very interesting to see what player’s perceptions will be immediately before Worlds and how that affects what the actual metagame ends up being.
With all that said, I want to showcase one of the cards I have been trying to make good: Noivern-GX. At face value, the card is quite strong: a more powerful Quaking Punch attack, a stronger Chaos Wheel attack, and a decent GX-attack. Add 200 HP and free retreat and the card, in a vacuum, is clearly terrific. However, as we all know, that little pink circle in the bottom left of the card is worrisome at best and catastrophic to Noivern’s playability at worst.
As someone who has played a lot of Seismitoad/Crobat, Noivern greatly interests me. Item locking your opponent with an attack is one of the most powerful effects we have seen in the game. Despite cards like Vileplume and Trashalanche Garbodor being so prevalent, Items have continued to be the most important type of card in the game. Despite the glaring weakness to Gardevoir, Noivern has the potential to beat almost everything else if built in the proper way. What that might be is still up in the air, so let’s explore some options!
Before we look at the various ways we can play Noivern, we should have a skeleton of everything that should be included in every list:
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 18
Energy – 8
4 “other” Energy
Total: 34, Remaining spots: 26
At its core, Noivern does not take much to function. Most of these cards require no explanation, but I do want to hit on Acerola and why it is necessary in every Noivern list. Noivern has a lot of HP and will simply be using Distort every turn. If your opponent does not have a Fairy Pokémon active, it will be incredibly hard for them to 1HKO Noivern. Acerola punishes this by allowing you to remove the potential of a 2HKO and can be used multiple times over the course of a game via VS Seeker. This card will be similarly insane in Seismitoad/Crobat in Expanded.
With almost half of the deck slots remaining, we can create some very, very different Noivern lists from this. What Trainers and Energy we play will greatly depend on what Pokémon we decide to partner with Noivern. The following are all options I have thought about, though the list is far from exhaustive:
- Poison – Ariados/Poison Barb/Seviper
- Spreading Pokémon (Tapu Koko, Espeon-EX, Honchkrow)
- Ribombee (as seen in Xander’s article)
- Straight Noivern with disruption
In the same vein as Seimistoad/Crobat, the first four ideas all focus on dealing more damage to compliment Noivern’s relatively low damage output. Similarly, Eeveelutions look to give Noivern some type advantage and allow it to do more damage. Since Noivern takes Dark and P Energy for its attack, you can sneak an Umbreon-GX or Espeon-GX (or both) in the list as well. Garbodor should work well as you have unchecked Ability lock in Garbodor BKT and can punish opponents Sycamore-ing away Items they cannot play under Distortion lock. Spread is something I worked on a bit before NAIC and Noivern gives the deck another shot at living. I don’t particularly like Ribombee, but since Xander posted his list, I have thought about it a bit. Finally, we could just play Noivern by itself and utilize the extra space for disruption cards, such as Crushing Hammer and Plumeria.
Other Pokémon, agnostic of what direction the list goes, that should be considered:
- More copies of Tapu Lele-GX. The card is obviously insane, so we will likely sport at least two copies in any list.
- Shaymin-EX. Shaymin is welcome in a deck like this, where we make it difficult for the opponent to have Lysandre effects through Item lock. This makes it less risky to play Shaymin down in fear of giving up 2 Prizes. Shaymin allows us to more easily dig for Double Dragon Energy in the beginning of the game, as the deck relies on finding one early on. Shaymin gets even better if we decide to run Super Scoop Up.
- Tapu Koko and Espeon-EX. Even if we do not go for a dedicated spreading strategy, these cards should be considered in order to give us an alternate win condition against evolution decks, especially Gardevoir.
- Magearna-EX/Scizor-EX/Bisharp. These should all be considered as hard counters to Gardevoir, as that will be our most difficult matchup.
- 4th copies of Professor Sycamore and N should be considered. Running four copies of one of these is almost mandatory, in my opinion. I have preferred four N over four Sycamore in a lot of my decks recently, but this might be an exception as you do not want to give your opponent a new hand if you have locked them.
- A second copy of Guzma or a single copy of Lysandre will almost certainly make every list. Having two gusting effects makes you able to get it more consistently.
- Team Flare Grunt and Plumeria are strong cards to compliment the disruption of Distort. Depending on space you might opt to play one or the other.
- Professor Kukui can help you hit some numbers and allow you to turn 3HKOs into 2HKOs and 4HKOs into 3HKOs. It’s actually very useful in the early game to help reach 60 damage on Basic Pokémon, such as Alolan Vulpix, that you would otherwise awkwardly miss 1HKOs on.
- Hex Maniac is great for Ability lock in conjunction with Item lock.
- Wally gives you an option to get a T1 Distort if you go first. While this seems strong in theory, I think it’s actually quite difficult to pull off, as you need to start Noibat (or have a Float Stone) and Double Dragon Energy in hand, as you cannot play another Supporter.
- Skyla seems okay to fish out specific cards. Teammates seems okay to search for specific cards, but since the goal is to not let too many Noivern’s die, this does not seem as strong as in other decks.
- Delinquent is another decent disruption card, but I think it is not as strong in a deck that makes your opponent unable to play cards, since they will often have extraneous Items to ditch.
- Super Scoop Up is a welcome addition to a deck like this. Depending on the partner, this card gets even stronger. With things like Salazzle or Golbat, Super Scoop Up has many fantastic targets, whether it be Noivern itself, Shaymin or Tapu Lele, or a support Pokémon.
- Crushing/Enhanced Hammer both provide some extra disruption. I do not think there will be room for these in anything besides a straight Noivern list, however. Perhaps a single Enhanced Hammer in other lists will work.
- Other tools, such as Muscle Dumbbells, Weakness Policy, Poison Barb and Float Stone are strong cards. Muscle Dumbbells further beefs up Noivern, practically ensuring it will never be 1HKO’d by anything not pink. Weakness Policy cannot be removed because of Distort lock, which could give it a way to beat Gardevoir-GX. Poison Barb could be cute with Seviper. Float Stone is more to attach to supporting Pokémon, and is required if we run Garbodor BKT. One thing to remember when trying any other Tool besides Choice Band is that Noivern will usually just be hitting for 50 damage then, which is pretty weak in a format where HP levels are pushing 200 and above.
- Recovery cards such as Rescue Stretcher and Special Charge could be played. Though I think the more difficult thing is finding a Double Dragon early on, a single copy of Special Charge could be useful. One or two Rescue Stretcher will likely make a lot of lists. Super Rod is probably omitted for every list, as you do not care much about recovering Basic Energy.
- Field Blower could make a list or not. If you do not play Stadiums, it is probably a good idea so you can remove the opponent’s Stadium card. Otherwise, it is only useful to get rid of Tools that were played before you could start using Distort, which is not always relevant.
- Red Card could be a cute addition to help with disruption.
- Energy Lotto is a pretty underrated card in a deck like this, which needs to find its Special Energy early on. It is better with Trainers’ Mail in the deck, though.
- Silent Lab is the obvious go-to Stadium for a disruption deck. It would help the Volcanion matchup significantly, putting Noivern out of 1HKO range from virtually everything.
- Parallel City is a pseudo-disruption card that could be used well here.
- Forest of Giant Plants is necessary if we go for a Decidueye build.
With all that in mind, let me give you some lists I have made to start playing around with. I have only played a couple of games with each list, but I am looking forward to trying these and more once Burning Shadows hits PTCGO.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 31
Energy – 10
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 29
Energy – 9
I am excited to continue testing Noivern decks. I think the card is underrated right now and may be strong if Gardevoir does not see as much play as anticipated.
Before I get out of here, as I was finishing this article, the HUGE news of next season’s details dropped. I’d like to just take a moment to give some of my thoughts:
- It is awesome to have all (or most) of the dates for the tournaments this coming year. This makes planning much easier than last year. I very much appreciate this.
- 400 CP should be very attainable to many players. In theory, someone could win eight League Cups and get their invite. I do not think this is realistic in practice, but it highlights the underlying point: an individual does not need to perform well at any higher level events to receive an invite to the World Championships. Many players will pick up 200-300 points at League Cups and take a couple of finishes at Regionals to round out their invite.
- The Day 2 invitees will have to travel A LOT with no Best Finish Limit on Regionals on top of the importance of ICs. I will feel bad for the individuals that really go for it and miss the Top 16, as it will be a large time and financial commitment.
- Day 1 Worlds next year could be the largest Day 1 we have ever seen. This makes this year unique in that it could be the smallest (by a lot) that Day 1 ever sees. It seems Pokémon wants Day 1 to be attainable, which is not inherently a bad thing. Maybe one day we will see a three-day World Championships, with different requirements for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 invites.
While I am excited for next year, we still have a big tournament happening in August before we get there. Please feel free to reach out on the forums or via Twitter if you have questions or comments about anything I mentioned in this article. Thanks for reading!
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