Hello SixPrizes readers! I am Jimmy Pendarvis, and it feels good to be writing my first article for you guys. I have been playtesting quite a bit heading into this year’s World Championships, so I have a lot to talk about! As pretty much everyone did, I started testing Burning Shadows cards right away, but I was pretty unimpressed by any new archetypes outside of Gardevoir-GX. This lead me to start perfecting decklists for the decks that had previously been dominant, such as Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX. Without further ado, lets take a look at my thought process when building this deck.
At first, I was not sure whether this variant or Decidueye-GX/Vileplume was the way to go, but I quickly found that I liked this version better. While the Vileplume variant is viewed as faster, I often found myself having clunky starts or a dead hand. I have always been a consistency freak, so I would definitely not risk such an important tournament on a deck that is seemingly reliant on a good opening hand. I have also found the release of Guzma to really hurt Decidueye-GX/Vileplume because its previous strategy of trapping something Active is now next to impossible. In addition to this, I am a huge fan of the inclusion of Espeon-EX at the moment, which this version of Decidueye abuses quite nicely.
Pokémon – 21
1 Alolan Ninetales-GX
2 Vulpix GRI
Trainers – 32
Energy – 7
While this deck has been my favorite in testing so far, it did not gain a whole lot from Burning Shadows, and this list is actually very close to what Mees Brenninkmeijer played at at the North American International Championships. When deciding on the list for the deck, I was torn between this take on the decklist, and the faster one that Igor Costa piloted to a fourth place finish. After a few games with each engine, it became clear that Mees’ list was slightly slower, but all around much more reliable. Vulpix’s Beacon really helps to setup in the early game, especially when combined with a turn one Brigette. Let’s move on to talking about my reasoning for the card counts.
2-1 Alolan Ninetales-GX
Not only is Ninetales-GX a solid attacker that has great synergy with Decidueye-GX, but Vulpix is very solid in the early game. Vulpix can help to setup if the opponent is unable to find an N, and can potentially slow down the opponent by forcing the N. Ninetales-GX also gives this deck a chance against Volcanion-EX/Volcanion, especially with the inclusion of Hex Maniac.
2 Tapu Koko
While a lot of lists I have seen only play one, I am still not sure why that is. Tapu Koko is one of the best attackers this deck has to offer, and can start applying some insane pressure on turn one. If it is ever able to get off two or more Flying Flips, it will make taking knockouts the rest of the game significantly easier. Tapu Koko is also a great Pokémon to start because of it’s free retreat, making it very easy to utilize Vulpix on the first turn.
With only three VS Seeker in the deck, I have been liking the fourth copy of this card. Not only does it allow for more Ns throughout the game without wasting crucial VS Seekers on it, but it also provides more early game consistency. N can allow for some pretty insane comebacks in this deck, as this deck has huge swing turns through the use of Feather Arrow and it’s attackers Tapu Koko and Espeon-EX.
While this deck did not gain a whole lot from the new set, this card has been super impressive in testing so far. While a few of it’s uses are very situational, which is usually something I dislike about a card, I have been making enough game winning plays with Acerola that I have become a fan. A few different uses I have found for this card have been:
- Healing a Decidueye-GX in the late game to deny crucial Prize cards and to help maintain a strong board state.
- Acting as a switch effect, similar to the previously popular AZ.
- Gaining access to Energy cards that had to be attached earlier in the game.
- Reusing Shaymin-EX’s Setup Ability.
I have found this tech to be very strong in the current metagame as a lot of decks are very reliant on abilities. It can help a lot against mirror, Volcanion-EX/Volcanion, Greninja, and Metagross-GX. This inclusion also helps to prevent losing to a tech Mr.Mime, which was seen in a couple of decks at Liverpool Regionals.
While I do believe Garbodor decks are on the decline, I also think it is better to be safe than sorry. Not only does this decision help the Garbodor matchup, but it also improves the early game of the deck, as the fourth VS Seeker became a fourth N. Hollow Hunt can also help to make up the lack of a fourth copy of this card, which brings ease to my worry that I would run out of Guzma outs too frequently.
I have tried quite a few different changes with this deck, and the list posted above is definitely my favorite currently. However, these are a couple cards I have been thinking about when playing games but have yet to try.
4th VS Seeker
This allows for a stronger late game and more flexible Hollow Hunts, as more VS Seekers means you can usually grab something else. I talked about this card earlier in the article and I mentioned that I removed this for a fourth N. While I would not recommend going back on that change, having four VS Seeker and four N could be something I end up liking. Having the fourth VS Seeker is a liability against Garbodor, so I would probably base my decision around what I expect to play against.
4th Grass Energy
The fourth Grass Energy is something that Mees’ originally had in his list, but I thought was unnecessary and immediately cut. That being said, I have noticed that when I am able to attach an Energy after using Brigette, I feel as if I have had a very strong start. Missing the Energy attachment their makes it harder to attack with Decidueye-GX later in the game, because you will have to miss a turn of attacking in order to do so. The fourth Grass Energy was something we saw in Decidueye-GX/Vileplume earlier in the year, and for similar reasons.
This is definitely an inclusion I have thought about quite a bit, but I always struggle to actually try it because I can’t find something that I feel is an appropriate cut. The most obvious removal would be the second copy of Tapu Lele-GX, but I really enjoy the consistency that Tapu Lele-GX brings to the table. The issue with cutting something else is that it would become somewhat difficult to manage bench space with two Shaymin-EX and two Tapu Lele-GX in the deck. Having the second Shaymin-EX would allow for more draw power in the early game, especially in situations where the use of a Tapu Lele-GX was not needed on the first turn or two. This situation allows the bench to consist of two Shaymin-EX, while still having enough bench space for a couple Decidueye-GX.
This card seems like it would help quite a bit in the mirror match, and against Garbodor variants. Plumeria in the early game prevents these slower decks that lack energy acceleration from attacking. Every turn that goes by without the opponent attacking means another Flying Flip occurs. This can get out of hand very quickly for the opponent, and it seems like a solid way to win the Garbodor matchup. In a less game changing manner, Plumeria is also seemingly strong in the mirror match, and more so against the Vileplume variant. Against opposing Decidueye decks, Plumeria can remove a crucial energy attachment off of a Decidueye which can cause them to miss an attack. I think that the inclusion of Plumeria would also make me want a second Shaymin-EX, as they have good synergy together and the Shaymin-EX is already an inclusion I am considering.
This deck has been strong for me in testing, so lets talk about its matchups and what to think about when considering this deck as a play.
Greninja is a good matchup for the obvious reason of weakness. It is very hard for Greninja to prevent two Decidueye-GXs from simply using Razor Leaf to rid the board of frogs. I do think that Greninja has a much better chance if it plays a lot of energy removal like we saw in older lists, but that hurts its other matchups and the consistency of the deck.
Metagross-GX falls victim to the combination of Tapu Koko and Espeon-EX. It is too difficult for Metagross to prevent the Espeon-EX from just devolving every Metagross-GX to leave them with a field of a couple Tapu Lele-GX. Feather Arrows and Flying Flips allow damage to add up very quickly, while the inclusion of Hex Maniac helps to prevent the knockout on the first Tapu Koko.
Gardevoir-GX is a similar matchup to Metagross-GX, in the sense that the game plan is almost entirely the same. The combination of Tapu Koko and Espeon-EX is too much for the opponent to handle most of the time, as the first Tapu Koko can generally get two Flying Flips off before being Knocked Out. When Feather Arrows and another Flying Flip or two are piled on to their already damaged field, it makes it very easy for Espeon-EX to devolve all of their attackers and prevent a relevant Pokémon from attacking back.
The Decidueye-GX/Vileplume matchup is sadly a bit reliant on who gets to go first, but overall I would definitely consider the Ninetales-GX version favored. Without going first and getting Vileplume out immediately, I believe it is nearly impossible to win from that point. Tapu Kokos and Espeon-EX make it very easy to just spread damage around, and then essentially win the game by devolving all of the Decidueye-GX. The inclusion of Hex Maniac is also a huge plus for this matchup, as it allows you to temporarily break the Vileplume lock at crucial points, while also preventing the opponent from using Feather Arrows.
Zoroark was incredibly hyped going into the North American Internationals and in some people’s mind, arguably the deck to beat. Decidueye-GX decks with Espeon-EX started popping up because of how easy the Zoroark matchup is, and I have to say it is still just as easy. Zoroark can take a lead in the early game, as it is quite an aggressive deck, but eventually the spread damage from Tapu Koko and Feather Arrows will be too much to handle. Espeon-EX is frequently used in this matchup to end the game. While you might not be taking the final prizes with it, completely ridding their field of Zoroarks in the late game is absolutely devastating.
The Vespiquen matchup is actually somewhat similar to the Zoroark matchup, but it is a bit trickier depending on the list. In most cases, I would actually consider Vespiquen to be slightly favored in this matchup if built correctly. The key inclusions that Vespiquen utilizes in this matchup are Mr.Mime and Flareon. Mr.Mime prevents Tapu Koko from doing anything at all, which usually shuts down the main approach that Decidueye should take in the matchup. In addition to this, Flareon makes it so that Decidueye get Knocked Out incredibly easily, which applys a lot of pressure. However, the inclusion of Hex Maniac in this Decidueye list changes the matchup completely. Hex Maniac allows for Flying Flip to occur a couple times throughout the game, and can even help to knockout Mr. Mime. I would definitely say that Hex Maniac brings the matchup from slightly unfavored to favored.
Vikavolt is actually a pretty interesting matchup, unlike most evolution decks. The difference between Vikavolt and the rest of the evolution decks I have talked about, is that Vikavolt is merely a support Pokémon. Tapu Bulu-GX is the main attacker of this deck, and its GX attack can be somewhat annoying to deal with. I do think the matchup is favored though, as Feather Arrows and Tapu Koko can make it super easy for a Decidueye-GX to knockout a Tapu Bulu-GX. The inclusion of Hex Maniac could come in clutch, as sometimes a Tapu Bulu-GX will leave itself with no energy after attacking.
Darkrai-EX is one of the easier matchups from what I have tested so far. Darkrai just is not as aggressive as it once was, which was how it used to stand a chance against Decidueye decks. Tapu Koko almost always gets two Flying Flips off, which makes killing Darkrai-EXs very easy later in the game. The two copies of Field Blower will help to limit Darkrai’s damage output, as they should be used to remove EXP. Shares when about to take a knockout. Another thing to note is that if a knockout is taken with Decidueye’s ability, EXP. Share does not activate, which can also hinder Darkrai’s damage output.
Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX, Garbodor Variants
Mirror matches have almost always been my least favorite aspect of Pokémon, as I feel they are usually the matchups where skill influences the outcome the least. In this case, I have to say that I feel going first is incredibly important, as it leads to you usually having the stronger setup. One advantage of going second is being able to Flying Flip right away, but that comes with a decent risk attached to it. If you opt to attack with Tapu Koko going second, and they are able to Knock it Out on their turn with a Decidueye-GX, you are in a pretty bad position. Hex Maniac will help turn the tides in our favor if the game is a close one, but it won’t do a whole lot in terms of staging a comeback unless it is used on consecutive turns.
Garbodor variants are somewhat of a tricky matchup, and I would definitely say that the games are usually very close. One card that could be added to help these matchups would be Plumeria, as it helps to slow them down while Tapu Koko spreads damage. As things currently stand, Tapu Koko and Ninetales-GX should be used to apply pressure in the early game. Ninetales is especially good at Knocking Out Trubbishes, and Eevees against Espeon-GX/Garbodor. Playing conservatively against Garbodor variants is a key to success, as not discarding a bunch of trainers will help to win the Prize trade. I would also like to mention that in my opinion, Guzma is a huge nerf to Espeon-EX. Not only will people have easier access to a switch effect, but it also allows for a gust effect to be used at the same time.
Volcanion has always been quite a rough matchup for Decidueye due to the weakness factor. Ninetales-GX and Hex Maniac do help to make the games closer than expected, but I have found that Volcanion still walks away with the win most of the time. I have found the best way to approach this matchup is to not use Beacon, as sacrificing a Vulpix really hurts. Instead, get aggressive with Tapu Koko to soften up a couple of Volcanion-EX on the bench. In the middle of the game, a game winning play can be to use Hex Maniac in sync with Ninetales-GX taking a knockout. This makes it so the Ninetales can’t be Knocked Out on the following turn, and it gives you the opportunity to knockout yet another Volcanion-EX.
While I was fairly underwhelmed with what Burning Shadow brought to the table, I am pleased with the current format. I liked the format at the North American Internationals, and I think it has slightly improved since then due to the release of interesting utility supporters.
I do think it was a necessary move to ban Forest of Giant Plants from Expanded, as Vileplume’s influence was simply out of hand. However, our bird friend was hit in the crossfire, so this is probably its last chance to be played in a competitive deck.
That being said, I am very excited to play in day two of the Pokémon World Championships, and I am curious to see what decks are popular at Worlds and the Anaheim open. I had a blast writing this first article, and I look forward to being back at the end of the month for another one!
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