Hello everyone! I am excited once again to be back writing. For the NAIC, I tested more than I have tested in recent memory and I am happy to report that my preparations have been similarly intense for this year’s World Championships. There was a time before when I was very active in the game where I do remember testing quite a bit and not enjoying it a single bit but in this instance, I have been enjoying my testings and explorations of the Burning Shadows format. Perhaps that is in some part do to the fact that many, including myself, are greatly struggling to discern what is worth spending time on and what is merely an overhyped card.
There are so many ideas for decks—both new and old—and at times, I cannot help but wonder if I am spreading myself too thin. Is the proper testing regime one that involves an incredible amount of time spent on 1-2 decks or one that considers 6+ different decks in any given session? I am not sure if there is a correct answer to such a question, and undoubtedly different players will have different preferences. For me, I think I am somewhere in the middle (as I tend to be with almost everything), and I am excited to share with everyone today the multiple decks that I have been testing.
I shot myself in the foot by building most of my initial concepts around decks that heavily relied on the Tapu Lele Promo, which as we now know, will not be legal for Worlds. So, my initial findings for the format were completely devoid of value! I included the card in my Metagross-GX list last article, and I believe that any Metagross-GX deck is simply not worth investigating at the moment without Tapu Lele. Additionally, I became very fond of a spread-heavy Garbodor deck featuring Necrozma GX and multiple copies of both Tapu Lele and Tapu Koko promos. Perhaps these concepts will be worth coming back to after the World Championships, should we acquire this card before Fort Wayne Regionals (I suspect that the card is incredible in a Trevenant BREAK deck as Dimension Valley will make its attack all the more accessible).
As a result of this blunder on my part, a lot of my testing has forced me to play catch-up to every other player and so some of my findings were notably behind the curve. I began my investigations with Travis Nunlist’s Gardevoir-GX list from his article last month and was quickly won over by the card. It has been years since I have played a deck with Rare Candy and so I have always been hesitant towards Evolution decks in any recent format but it does appear clear to me now that their time to shine has come once again. As we’ll see in some of my lists below, I think that (with the exception of Greninja last year) that most of the top decks do evolve and will likely feature Rare Candy!
The biggest question mark for me at the moment is whether or not Garbodor will have a presence at the World Championships. While both Garbodor are very likely to be relevant for the entirety of their legality, I cannot help but be skeptical of whether they are worth considering at the moment. I have yet to see a list that seems competitive enough, which is such an interesting shift from the last format.
Some of my fellow writers here at Six Prizes have offered up lists for both Espeon/Garbodor and a Drampa-GX toolbox list, and yet neither of them seemed completely convinced in their potential. Similar to shift last format that I believed made Vileplume slightly less viable, I think there is a small shift in the way decks are built from Guardians Rising to Burning Shadows that ever-so slightly makes Garbodor less powerful. Whether it be the introduction of Guzma, which gives every deck a soft answer to Espeon-GX’s Confusion, or the general increase in HP that prevents Drampa-GX from reaching OHKOs.
It is probable that there is a list somewhere out there that is much better suited for the current format, but I must admit that I have not found it yet. I am, however, intrigued by the theoretical possibility of a good Garbodor list, as the deck does not have any autolosses. Gardevoir is likely very challenging, but even with their GX attack working heavily against your game plan, it is perhaps manageable with the correct cards. Most decks in the format suffer from a matchup that features their one and only weakness (Gardevoir v. Metagross, Greninja v. Grass, Volcanion v. Greninja etc) and this is largely not the case for Garbodor.
If anything, Garbodor decks are only weak to themselves, and if my gut assumption on Garbodor not being popular is correct then you would logically not be expected to face any mirror. I could be highly incorrect in this assumption, but from all the readings and discussions I have engaged with so far, Garbodor does not seem to be on many people’s minds. This could easily change between now and next week, so I encourage everyone to be mindful of potential meta-game shifts!
It is always important to avoid tunnel vision when considering a metagame, and this is a mistake I tend to make. Just because you personally do not think a deck is good or popular does not guarantee what other people will be thinking or playing. In fact, my invite was so difficult this past year because two of the events I attended, I made the incorrect assumption that Volcanion would not be popular and my M Scizor-EX and Lurantis-GX decks were both swiftly eliminated after being paired to multiple Volcanion decks early on in Fort Wayne and Collinsville.
But enough on Garbodor decks! For today’s article, I want to give everyone a run-down of the three decks I have spent a considerable amount of time with and breakdown the format where they would be an excellent play and the opposing format where it would be a disastrous play. An honorable mention will go out to Decidueye decks as I am still quite fond of this card but I believe that Jimmy’s recent article (shout out to the new addition to our team) does a great job covering this deck in length, I would most certainly consider Decidueye in any environment where Volcanion is not popular but if I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s to never underestimate the popularity of this deck.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
1 Pokémon Ranger
3 Trainers’ Mail
Energy – 13
This was the first list that I began testing after my Tapu Lele debacle, and you’ll likely notice that it looks a lot different than recent Volcanion lists (and even the one I began with featured in my last article). The assumption behind the whole list is that Garbodor does not exist—and I acknowledge that this list has next to no chance of beating any Garbodor deck without an incredible start—but if we pretend that I am correct in this assumption, I believe that this deck has a lot to offer compared to most lists. Speed is the name of the game and as such, I want to have incredible speedy opening every single game. I found early on that the coveted turn one Kiawe is much easier said than done, and while I still feature the card in this list, it is rare that you are able to find the time to use it.
I believe that the Brooklet Hill lists were mostly built around trying to be competitive against Garbodor while preying on decks like Decidueye-GX and Metagross-GX and in the current format, I think that is too slow. It gives the new evolution decks like Gardevoir and even Greninja far too much time to setup without putting enough pressure on their board. With this list, the objective is to accelerate multiple energy to the board on the first turn through Elixir and hopefully use your first Ho-Oh-GX to sweep through the first three to four prizes before your opponent are able to stabilize.
Sky Field lists were to be the norm for Volcanion very early on in the format, and I have always found those lists to be much more threatening in terms of offense and speed, and I think with the right openings that you can easily overwhelm Gardevoir-GX, the mirror, and even Greninja! Guzma is arguably at its best in this deck, as both Ho-Oh-GX and Volcanion-EX require you to negate an effect on your Active Pokémon to attack consecutively—and, it acts as both Lysandre and a Switch at the same time and thusly, I have minimized the counts and cut Olympia in favor of focusing more on Guzma.
I have not spent any time testing against Goliospod-GX, Decidueye-GX or Metagross-GX but I will operate under the assumption that both of these matchups are highly favorable. A Vileplume build of Decidueye will, of course, prove to be a little more problematic but with Guzma in format. I think you have more outs against their strategy. Outside of these two decks that both bear a weakness to Fire, I have found that Gardevoir is usually favorable as well. The Nun-List with Sylveon-GX is noticeably more difficult than a list with Alolan Vulpix or Diancie as you lack an easy KO on their means to getting set-up. Even if you have the N to combat Magical Ribbon, Sylveon-GX takes 2-3 attacks in order to knockout and sometimes, that gives Gardevoir more than enough time to deal with any of your attackers.
However, your speed ought to give you the time to be able to get far ahead in the prize race and then slowly eeeeek out your last remaining prizes. Finally (and controversially), I have a winning record against Greninja with this list. I will admit that in an objective examination, I would likely still list Greninja in the “bad matchup” category, but I think my winning record is still worth reporting. Sometimes speed can outweigh any other factor in a matchup and considering Greninja’s perceived inconsistencies, you can always steal a set against this deck if their draws consistently stumble.
Similar to how I have not tested against what is weak to Volcanion, I have not spent any time testing against any Ninetales-GX or potential WaterBox decks. Though Ho-Oh-GX gives you some degree of a chance against either of these concepts, I imagine they are still incredibly difficult. You have a nice answer to the Safeguard Ninetales with your baby Volcanion’s but they can focus their gameplan around knockout out all of them and then just walling you off as well as simply out-tempoing you with weakness and Aqua Patch. M Rayquaza proves to be very difficult as well and as it seems to be on the rise in popularity, I think the list can be adjusted slightly to be more accommodating in that matchup but for the moment, their speed and damage tends to outclass yours and without a strong Max Elixir opening, you will struggle to keep up.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
After moving on from Volcanion and its fire friends, I quickly turned to Greninja. In theory, I think this deck is a very optimal play. On the assumption that grass decks will be mostly scared away by the fiery hype of Volcanion, Greninja ought to be able to beat most everything else. Even the Decidueye matchup tends to be a little closer than one might think! That’s something I learned in my preparations for the NAIC with the sans-Vileplume build of the deck.
Greninja, unfortunately, will be our poster child for years to come of the important distinction between theory and practice. These distinctions exist separately for a reason and as such, just because Greninja should beat things does not mean that it will. My first games with the above list was against a Volcanion list, and to my own dismay, I lost back-to-back best of three sets in the matchup. Admittedly, every game I lost was because I drew dead two games out of three, but the fact that it happened in consecutives sets immediately scared me away from Greninja.
I applaud anyone who chooses to take this deck to either day of the World Championships because I do think it can do very will with the appropriate amount of luck. Unfortunately, I’ve never been much of a gambling man, thus my time spent with Greninja is almost certainly at its end. I will still do my best to discuss its matchups below!
Of course, the most obvious matchup here would be Volcanion. Despite my results being somewhat indicative of the contrary, I think it would still be foolish to consider it favorable for the fire types. I think Gardevoir tends to struggle aginst you as well but I have struggled to deal with Sylveon-GX’s Plea GX at times though it is unclear to me what the standard Gardevoir list will look like. I think my M Rayquaza matchup is fairly strong with the inclusion of Parallel City in the list and finally Metagross-GX remains incredibly favored.
Grass, grass, grass. It goes without saying that any Grass deck will be incredibly difficult for our poor frogs, with anything Goliospod likely being the most difficult. As noted above, Decidueye can be won with some late-game luck and I really enjoy Plumeria and Enhanced Hammer as a means to try and keep Grass Energy off the board as much as possible. Garbodor is an interesting case, which I think does not quite fit in either category. In the past, I believe that your Drampa matchup was even to slightly favorable, while Espeon is favorable.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 28
Energy – 12
Given how much I’ve talked about Travis and his Nun-List for Gardevoir, it should not be terribly surprising that my list still very much resembles his own. The only slight departure is that I’ve cut down on the Octillery line for a Mr. Mime and Hex Maniac. I think both of these cards slightly hedge against some decks that are slightly favorable against you and while they do not win any matchup outright, I think their inclusion is warranted.
Mr. Mime can be a great boon against Decidueye, as it minimizes the effectiveness of Tapu Koko and can maybe buy you enough time to overrun the opponent before a large Espeon-EX play is possible. Hex Maniac, similarly, can prevent things like Feather Arrow but also has uses against almost everything ranging from Greninja to M Rayquaza and can be even more devastating if you are able to combine in our Parallel City + Plea-GX power play.
I believe that Gardevoir-GX’s best matchup is likely a Garbodor variant. You have a massive advantage that strongly neuters the effectiveness of Trashalanche in your own GX attack and many of their attackers like Drampa-GX are very easy to KO. After this, I think that Volcanion can be very close though I would probably rate it as even and then similarly, Greninja is close to even as well but I would tilt it slightly in favor of Gardevoir. Finally, there are fringe decks like Noivern-GX, Darkrai, and perhaps even Zoroark that I believe you will be highly favored against.
Weakness tends to be the name of the game for most matchups in this format, so Metagross-GX will be our biggest foe. After that menace, I think that Decidueye-GX is unfavored and then some more fringe concepts like Gyarados or Vespiquen could show up simply to counter Gardevoir.
I do apologize that many of the decks posted today being ones you have likely already read about, though I also believe that it is important for me to cash out my own thoughts in such a way in order to explain my own beliefs as a result of plenty of testing and theorizing. I think that this current format is absolutely wide open, and I look forward to watch it figure itself out in little more than a week’s time. I will be arriving in Anaheim next Wednesday, and of course will begin competing on Friday. If I fail to make it out Day 1, I hope to be able to acquire a spot in the Anaheim Open, but I have a gut feeling that it will be difficult to get unless I am eliminated very early from the first day.
In other news, I will definitely be going for my invite once again next season! A lot of the time around this latter portion of the season, I tend to feel a little burnt out and consider not trying next year but things are considerably different this time around and I know I will be playing much more next year than I have in the two previous.
I have recently accepted a new job working doing software and statistical analysis for a Healthcare company in Kansas City, and I will be relocating immediately after Worlds. This is a huge step for me, and one that I am very excited about but I think it will somewhat inhibit my ability to compete for the beginning part of the season. Right now, I am 100% sure I will not be attending Fort Wayne, with London and Connecticut being both about 50/50s. At any rate, I look forward to attending much more next year and even chasing the top 16, should the opportunity present itself! I look forward to seeing everyone at Worlds this year!
Until next time!
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