Welcome to August. Home of too much humidity, the last gasps of summer, and, of course, Pokémon’s premier event. The World Championships are less than 3 weeks away from kick off, and this year, the format matters to more than just those attendees—the Anaheim Open will play out in conjunction with Worlds this year. So, for all descending on Anaheim, it’s an important format.
In the rest of the Pokémon world, we’ve seen the Regionals schedule launch, received the details of the upcoming Championship Series’ changes, and more. It’s an exciting time in Pokémon, and it’s good to be on the ride. It’s been a hectic few weeks personally, so I’ve not had too much time to test with the new format yet. I’ve just recently gotten into it, and so far, I’m pretty underwhelmed with what Burning Shadows has added.
But, before I get too far into that, I want to take a moment to talk about some news for us at SixPrizes. With just over three weeks to the big event, it means we’re down to the home stretch in terms of Worlds content. Today, we dropped the August article schedule. A few of those pieces will be devoted to starting our post-Worlds preparations, but the bulk will be about Anaheim.
We’re excited to announce the addition of Jimmy Pendarvis to our writing team—beginning this Thursday! He has a great perspective on the game from his years at its highest level, and we’re excited to add him to the group.
At the same time, we have some others news to add: Michael Slutsky, who’s been with us for most of the past season, will be departing SixPrizes to pursue other endeavors at the end of August. He’ll be finishing out his time here this month with some coverage of the Fort Wayne/rotated Standard metas, as we have an otherwise short turnaround between Worlds and Regionals. We thank him for his time here and wish him well in the future.
With that out of the way, I hear there are some Pokémon cards to talk about. Obviously, Indianapolis is the current lens by which we’re looking through the meta. It’s additionally worth noting, though, that Liverpool Regionals this past weekend demonstrated the continued strength of NAIC’s champion: Drampa/Garbodor. In addition to Drampa, I’m also going to talk about the most enigmatic deck in the game’s recent history—Greninja—and take a look at Gardevoir’s place in the format.
Drampa is in a unique position as we head into Worlds. While it’s the reigning force out of the last few PRC-GRI events, it doesn’t seem to have captured the massive attention that a run of its sort seems to usually garner. There are a few possible reasons for this (my personal favorite is what I’m calling “Garbodor fatigue”—people are just really sick of talking about the Trash), but either way, it’s something to note for Worlds: I think a decent number of players that would be inclined to play Drampa are more likely to try to counter it than to actually play it.
Drampa is unique in the relatively cheap damage it puts out, and with Garbodor as a backup concept, there simply isn’t an easy way to “counter” it. Unlike Volcanion, who isn’t much a fan of Water, or Decidueye, that doesn’t like Fire all that much, Drampa/Garb is well-positioned to not be completely weak to any concept in the game.
It also has inherent strengths in the amount of flexibility a list has. While there’ve certainly been lists with a more flexible profile in recent years, Drampa is something of a beacon of that concept in the current format. As such, and unlike its Espeon counterpart pre-NAIC, there’re a number of things that can be done with any given list—certainly a draw to the deck.
I’ve been testing two variants of the deck. One is essentially Sam Chen’s NAIC list with some tweaked counts, like Guzma and Lysandre splits. I think Sam’s list is probably what most of the Americans at Worlds are going to default toward, and Tord Reklev’s is what more of the Europeans will tend toward. It’s funny trying to figure out why this happens, but there’s always been a difference in list construction between the two areas. The 4 Tapu Lele in Tord’s list is something that we saw in lists from Birmingham Regionals from earlier in the PRC-GRI format as well, but wasn’t something we ever saw take on much stateside.
These sort of differences are something to at least be practically aware of when playing at Worlds, and, fundamentally, it’s good to be aware that you could be playing against different styles of lists than you sometimes see. Those who’ve traveled to International Championships this past season might have some perspective to lend on this (or might call me crazy).
Here’s the weirder list of the two I’ve been testing:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
3 Po Town
Energy – 11
I think Po Town is strongly worth considering next to the other options for ensuring Berserk’s damage output, and I’d definitely play it over Team Magma’s Secret Base. A 90 HP Garbodor vs a 120 HP Garbodor isn’t a huge deal (especially when you consider the fact that a Trubbish impacted by Team Magma’s Secret Base is only an additional 10 HP swing).
Adding damage to an opponent’s board is more relevant when playing against Evolution decks than Basic-focused ones anyway, as the 180 from Berserk is usually enough in those sort of situations. Po Town can help significantly against things like Metagross and Gardevoir as well, as multiple evolutions can add up quickly—especially where Stadiums aren’t being played all that heavily.
Magearna has some niche uses for protection against some attack effects, but is mainly for Gardevoir-GX. With Ninja Boy, you can work it in and out of games, and Guzma can help double up on Soul Blasters. I think the Gardevoir matchup is very dicey without some sort of tech, and while the tech may not even make it truly favorable, it does keep you in series that otherwise aren’t contestable. It’s something I would especially keep in mind on Day 2, when ties aren’t the disaster they are on Day 1.
Tapu Fini probably seems even stranger, but I think it’s potentially very strong. Against Volcanion, sometimes they’re forced to Kiawe to something in the Active position, which you can immediately mitigate with Tapu Storm. Really, it’s an option against any deck that relies on setting up significant investment in its field. Metagross, Gardevoir, and others are all of that nature, so it’s something that could see play.
Many times in Madison, I got down to board states against Drampa with only 2 Metagross that I chained into a winning position. Tapu Fini removing one of those would’ve been majorly problematic. Especially since Garbodor punishes Item consumption, I think there’s real potential here. It doesn’t hurt that Ninja Boy into a dual-Rainbow equipped Pokémon can do interesting things against Volcanion.
I don’t think the list is all that crazy otherwise. Currently, this is probably my top pick for Worlds. The raw damage, decent matchups all-around, and flexibility can’t be matched. Gardevoir is something of an enigma as matchups go, but nothing beats everything and this gets decently close to beating what I want to on Day 1. Day 2 this year is probably going to feature a lot of meta calls.
While this may struggle with Gardevoir somewhat, I do find that games where Drampa can get far enough ahead on Energy attachments are winnable. Furthermore, the deck enjoys a fairly good matchups with Greninja, Decidueye variants, and much of the remainder of the format. It’s strong against Volcanion and, should it make an appearance, Darkrai, due to its inherent easy/quick damage output.
Overall, with a strong matchup spread, consistent damage, and the unparalleled power of Garbodor, I believe this is a strong Worlds contender. There’re a lot of ways to take this list, and I’m looking forward to testing out other options in the future.
Drampa has a number of consistent features going for it, in its simple strategy execution, easy setup, and powerful damage output. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Greninja…which is only consistent in its inconsistency.
Here’s the list I’ve been working with. It tries to remedy some of that inconsistency, but it still can struggle with the omnipresent battle between consistency and techs.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 32
Energy – 9
With Guzma replacing Lysandre, Octillery now fits in the deck decently well. Octillery hugely aids consistency, both in achieving key early game combos and in insuring against late game Ns, but it was always a liability before to be Lysandre-stalled. With Guzma allowing the extra switch, this is no longer a significant issue. Greninja also isn’t a deck that especially cares about “having” to switch, so there’s no need to keep one copy of Lysandre in the deck for key situations—generally, BKP’s free retreat is sufficient.
I started with Silent Lab, but switched to Brooklet Hill to help get the extra Froakie/Remoraid out on Turn 1. Generally, it’s ideal to end Turn 1 with 2 Froakie and 1 Remoarid on the board, so the extra search goes a long way. Definitely something I want to consider, but I do think Greninja should be playing a Stadium in this format, as I believe Po Town has too many convenient homes for Greninja to not have a ready answer.
That’s really the only significant change for Greninja itself as we move into Worlds, but things are certainly moving around it. On paper, it could be argued that it has the best theoretical matchup spread of any deck. In an ideal game, it sets up a behemoth labyrinth of 170 HP non-EXs to wreak havoc. There are so few decks that can deal with that sort of output (Golisopod is the only one that comes immediately to mind).
The problem, of course, as we all know, is that it doesn’t execute all that often. So many games with Greninja are lost to its inability to setup—or to prizing 2+ copies of any one part of the line, or prizing Energy, or…I could be here all day. This makes it an interesting choice for Worlds, especially on Day 1. In theory, you only need to execute 8 games to advance. But, the key is getting those games to occur in pairs of 2, and before you fall victim to “Greninja hands” in more than 2 matches. It’s a lottery.
I expect a decent number of players to take the chance on Day 1, as the X-2 bar is more forgiving. Day 2 is a bit more interesting, requiring even less error by the Greninja deck, but with a matchup spread like the one it theoretically has, it’s truly a maddening proposition.
As for me personally…I spent Worlds 2016 on Greninja, and have no intention of spending this year’s on it as well. While that may change, should I find a list that magically cracks the Skasis Paradigm or simply determine I lack a better option, it’s not something I have any intention of doing at this time.
The last deck I want to talk about today is Gardevoir. Lists for Gardevoir have blossomed into quite the spectrum over the last month or so, to the point that trying to assess it as one cognizant archetype can be rather difficult. Personally, I currently favor the Sylveon idea first featured here by Travis Nunlist.In addition to Magical Ribbon being an excellent setup utility (for one thing, it either forces your opponent to play N [which is not Lysandre/Guzma or things like Kiawe] or to let you setup however you wish), Plea-GX is incredibly strong against a number of decks in the format. I’m not going to feature a list today because it’d be almost exactly the same as what he featured there.
I think Gardevoir’s biggest problem lies in Metagross-GX, which I could see making an appearance in Anaheim. I haven’t yet gotten around to testing Metagross since the set’s release and my initial Necrozma list was posted, but in theory, Necrozma is a serious boon to its chances. Considering it should be fairly strong against Drampa as well, it truly is an interesting potential inclusion in our upcoming format—which does not make life easy for anyone trying to play Gardevoir.
In my experience thus far, Wonder Energy is a cute niche, but Espeon/Decidueye isn’t totally a lost cause without it (nor is it a foregone W with the Special Energy). It’s really hard to judge whether or not it’s an inclusion that should be made. While we’re still playing Sylveon, I lean pretty strongly in the negative, but should Diancie prove a better setup partner, I think Wonder Energy gains some strength back in the list (and, as I’d likely reduce the DCE count, some room to actually fit).
Drampa/Garbodor, without any frills, has proven a fairly manageable foe. When teched, such as with Magearna-EX, it’s been a bit stranger, but still mostly positive. I don’t imagine this being a matchup that Drampa can swing all that well, though I do imagine that Po Town is probably part of making it happen (since, in theory, a Gardevoir created through Kirlia evolution would be within Berserk range after Po Town exposure). Drampa lists with Po Town, Magearna, and Professor Kukui could be a struggle. So far, I’m not sure the aforementioned describes the average Drampa/Garbodor list.
Golisopod and Greninja are both interesting (that is, difficult) in that they attack for little Energy, leaving Gardevoir unable to capitalize too well. I think this is a serious potential problem for Gardevoir, but Greninja is, as noted, inconsistent, and Golisopod isn’t yet seated as a serious contender in my mind.
Should the metagame evolve to put Gardevoir in a position where it won’t succeed, I can see it flopping heavily at Worlds. With that said, Volcanion and Drampa are both generally pretty good matchups for it, and those are the two decks (aside from Gardevoir) that I expect to see the most of at Worlds. As for Gardevoir itself, I believe the jury is still out, though I expect to see it in high quantities for sure in both Juniors and Seniors.
Worlds is on its way, and we’re glad to have you along for the ride. While this year has sometimes felt like a constant road trip of sorts, it all culminates in Anaheim—only a few short weeks away. Personally, it’s the last tournament of consequence I’ll be playing before I begin my journey this fall at the University of Michigan, and while I’ll still be engaged with the game, it does give this Worlds some extra meaning personally.
As always, if you have any thoughts on this article, SixPrizes, or the game in general, feel free to reach out to me on the forums, Twitter, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, as always, all the best.
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