What’s up readers! September is upon us, and the new season is in full effect. The rotation—both dreaded and awaited—left the Standard format with many contenders continuing on from the previous format. M Rayquaza, Vespiquen, and Vileplume AOR are the most important abolished cards. However, none of those made a lasting effect on the Worlds format. The current Standard reflects the previous iteration, but simply removed consistency options in Teammates, VS Seeker, and Dive Ball for select Water decks.
Plenty of previous cards also lost their strength because of the rotation. Garbodor GRI becomes worse as people increase their Supporter count now that VS Seeker is gone. Espeon-GX is worse compared to other partners because of others’ strength or place in the meta as well. This trend continued on into other decks like Alolan Ninetales with the loss of Dive Ball, Stage 2 decks without Teammates, and more. At first glance, I’m not sure I like the new Standard format, as it rotated out previous decks from PRC-on and has no current way to regulate the BDIF: Gardevoir.
Examining RPS Wheels
Pokémon has been home to many Rock-Paper-Scissors (referred to as RPS) formats in the past. This idea follows these conditions:
- The 3 decks are more popular individually than any other existing decks
- Each deck in the RPS wheel has an auto-win, but also an auto-loss
- All other existing decks must lose to 1 or more of the RPS decks
Now, this is a very formal way of classifying a simple, tossed around idea. However, I believe that it’s important to separate a true, RPS format from one that isn’t. Some formats may have self-contained cycles of 3-4 decks, but other decks also occupy a place in the format. An example of a self-contained cycle within a larger, diverse format is Volcanion (Rock)-Greninja (Paper)-Decidueye (Scissors). Other decks like Garbodor, Gardevoir, and Mega Rayquaza were also present, but were more popular than some decks listed in the RPS wheel.
The current wheel I will be talking about today is Fire (Rock)-Gardevoir (Paper)-Golisopod (Scissors). These are the 3 most popular decks, with none other able to topple all 3. For those wondering, here is the list of “other decks” I’m considering:
- Tapu Koko/Weavile
- Rainbow Road
- Alolan Ninetales
- Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu
Fire > Golisopod
Fire decks all-but-auto-win Golisopod-GX variants because Fire likes Grass. It’s simply because of typing. Salazzle-GX can 1HKO Golisopod-GX with the 110 attack, and Ho-Oh-GX still works as an insane starting attacker as well with no threat of a 1HKO from the Golisopod side. Due to Golisopod’s linearity, there isn’t much it can do to counter Fire. The most common variant I’ve seen has utilized Garbodor BKP, with GRI as a backup attacker and Bench-sitter.
Golisopod > Gardevoir
Golisopod variants have an easy time against Gardevoir because of Golisopod’s efficiency. The way to win is establish a quick Garbotoxin and T2 First Impression. Guzma is great at picking off Kirlia waiting on the Bench, as well as picking up stray knockouts. It may be worth it in some scenarios to take out Octillery in case they use Field Blower to remove Garbotoxin. Acerola is another tool the deck has to deny Gardevoir any traction until a huge Gardevoir appears.
Gardevoir > Fire
Gardevoir decks eat Fire because Gardevoir can easily bounce back from the early aggression and take return-KOs. Ho-Oh-GX is easily Knocked Out by a 3 Energy Gardevoir, and Salazzle only takes 5. 230 HP is also a hard number for Fire to hit. Phoenix Burn with 2 damage modifiers gets there, but then can easily be Knocked Out by a returning Gardevoir. Fire often cannot get the 4 Prize lead with Ho-Oh before sweeping with Salazzle, resulting in the matchup falling short.
Fire has made itself a contender in the format since its inception after Worlds 2016. The power spike came from Steam Siege; Volcanion STS and Volcanion-EX had great synergy and provided high damage outputs at both ends of a game. The current, most successful adaptation is derived from Japan following last year’s World Championships. This version set aside the mainstream Volcanion STS engine in exchange for Kiawe. Volcanion-EX is also largely unnecessary as an attacker because of Ho-Oh-GX and Salazzle-GX, both debuting in Burning Shadows. The concept is incredibly simple: It utilizes Ho-Oh-GX to take immediate prizes, while powering up Salazzle-GX in the back with spare Energy attachments. Salazzle-GX serves as an insane late-game sweeper with Diabolical Claws, capitalizing on the early aggression from Phoenix Burn. For a list, take a look at Travis’ latest article.
The deck’s matchups aside from the wheel are fairly positive. Fire’s consistency and linear game-plan prevents fringe decks from overcoming it. One important thing to note is that Ho-Oh-GX has Lightning type weakness instead of Water. This improves the Greninja matchup significantly, almost to the point where it’s close. Against Greninja, the goal is to use Volcanion STS to take knockouts ASAP and power up Ho-Oh-GX in place of Kiawe. The importance is to take a prize every turn, then be able to transition into Phoenix Burn while the opponent is still setting up.
Metagross and Spread.dec are amazing matchups once again because of type advantage and the fact you use Basics to attack. Metagross has access to Necrozma-GX as an alternate attacker, but it requires 3 P Energy to 1HKO either of your attackers. Simply outspeed them and target down the Necrozma-GX if possible. The Tapu Koko/Weavile deck has no chance; Neither Ho-Oh nor Salazzle have an Ability. Despite Po Town existing, Salazzle is a great attacker with 110. However, have a backup Ho-Oh in case they use Espeon-EX to devolve Salazzle.
Options for the Gardevoir Matchup
Volcanion STS: More Volcanion STS means higher odds of using it to start taking early prizes. Ho-Oh is an awful attacker since it’s so easily Knocked Out for 2 Prizes, but Volcanion STS is different. The trouble in this matchup is getting down to 2 Prizes remaining. Once you get there, you’re home free with Diabolical Claws + Choice Band.
Turtonator-GX: This card is self-explanatory. After using it to blow something up, it’ll discard it’s Energies, making it harder to 1HKO. Despite this, the problem occurs during the following turn when Turtonator is stuck active. It can’t accomplish much, nor hit good numbers against Gardevoir-GX.
Incineroar-GX: I believe this can maybe work with Ho-Oh’s GX attack, Eternal Flame-GX. Once Incineroar comes out, it can handle Gardevoir with insane efficiency. The magic number of 120 is hit with a Choice Band and 4 Bench Fire Pokémon. Other than this, it lacks any sort of purpose. I don’t believe this to be competitive, but it’s something I plan on testing.
Ah, the more competitive, more oppressive version of M Mewtwo BKT64. X Ball effects have been around forever, with most of them being highly competitive. The most commonly known format was that of 2012—Mewtwo Wars. Decks were revolved around streaming Mewtwo-EX with 2 Energy and a damage modifier like PlusPower or a 3rd Energy. In this format, decks that didn’t use Mewtwo-EX were inefficient. Darkrai-EX was another staple, creating its own archetype and combining itself with Mewtwo-EX.
The current Gardevoir builds are fraught with consistency; Brigette for the early set up, Octillery to carry as the game goes on, and Skyla to search for Rare Candy/Ultra Ball to evolve. It’s truly disgusting how powerful this deck is when it sets up. On top of all this, the deck has access to Twilight-GX—the best way to outlast the opponent in a resource battle—and one attack that counters Garbodor GRI into oblivion. For a list, see Jimmy’s article.
Gardevoir’s matchups outside of Fire look bleak, but really aren’t. It has bad matchups, but those are still very winnable with the right hands. Many decks claim to have a good matchup as well like Metagross, but can still be overcome through equal Prize trades. The worst matchup has to be the spread deck, since it can easily put on immediate pressure with Tapu Koko and Po Town. I don’t even think Espeon-EX is required to win this match since Weavile does plenty of work as well.
Gardevoir’s strength comes from being able to deal with decks that aren’t made to beat it. Most normal, balanced cards can’t deal with Infinite Force and a 230 HP beast. Gardevoir can also be teched out to help against certain matchups. For example, I thought I was going to destroy it with Greninja, but my opponent ended up playing Giratina. There was nothing I could do other than 3HKO Gardevoir, and my opponent eventually came back.
Options for the Golisopod Matchup
Golisopod runs on a relatively new concept compared to the other two. Previous attacks have had the same effect as First Impression, but haven’t been able to make as much of an impact. The bread and butter of any Golisopod deck is Guzma. It allows you to take an easy prize on the Bench and rotate your Golisopod at the same time. Acerola is another key Supporter for obvious reasons. Garbodor is the best partner for Golisopod since it helps in every matchup. Garbotoxin prevents Secret Spring, Strong Charge, and Geotech System. Without it, Golisopod would be run over by these strong Abilities that facilitate 1HKOs.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 32
Energy – 10
The list above is fairly straightforward, but that’s how Golisopod should be built. Garbodor GRI takes a backseat in this deck, since it’s really only used to finish off the game. At any other point, Golisopod can take the same 2HKOs without being as vulnerable. Like I said earlier, Garbotoxin is the main component for slowing down the opponent.
2 Choice Band: I opt to run 2 Choice Band because 120 hits good math on everything already. I plan to conserve both of them for the later stages of the game when Crossing Cut-GX and Trashalanche can take 1HKOs. I cut it in favor of Skyla—my 9th consistency Supporter—to smooth over some potential bad draws.
4 Guzma/4 Acerola: I think 4 Acerola is necessary because it’s such a powerful card. Guzma is great because it not only activates First Impression easily, but also gusts an easy prize or two. Remember: Acerola is great for getting ahead in the Prize trade early, but is rather useless when the game is ending.
4 Grass/3 Rainbow: I run more Grass than Rainbow because the 10 damage will matter in some situations. 3 Rainbow is enough to use with 1 Garbodor GRI, but if I ever included more I would switch the counts.
Golisopod has amazing matchups across the board. 120 damage is perfect against Xerneas BKT, Garbodor GRI, and any EX/Pokémon-GX for a 2HKO. Many decks can’t 1HKO Golisopod, resulting in an even or favorable Prize trade for us. The deck is also incredibly consistent with its attacks, and doesn’t require much to set up. In all matchups, it’s important to attack on the second turn and set up Garbotoxin. From there, your opponent can’t do much without being a Fire type or trading unfavorably.
I’d argue that Golisopod would be the BDIF if Fire was somewhat winnable. That matchup is an auto-loss, with no hope for a win. On the contrary, Gardevoir can steal games against Golisopod. It’s still favored, but not as much as other matchups.
One thing I hope to see in future Golisopod lists is how the style of deck adapts. I foresee a version that uses Puzzle of Time to potentially pick up Golisopod 8 times with Acerola! This version would focus around survivability; Bodybuilding Dumbbells does an excellent job of extending it into a 250 HP monster. Another potential idea involves Decidueye or Lurantis PR as means of increasing damage output up to the point where First Impression can score 1HKOs. There’s lots to be tinkered with involving Golisopod, since it’s such a versatile card.
Options for the Fire Matchup
Zebstrika BKP: Zebstrika had its debut at London Internationals last year by our very own Alex Hill. Zebstrika’s niche is to KO flying Pokémon: Yveltal, M Rayquaza, and Ho-Oh. When Yveltal/Garbodor was the best deck last year, Alex used Zebstrika as an easy means of getting ahead with Vespiquen. Eventually, Zebstrika was replaced by Zoroark to accomodate for the format. In today’s format, Zebstrika serves as an easy answer to an early Ho-Oh.
Mewtwo EVO: A 1 Prize equivalent of Tapu Lele in response to Ho-Oh. Mewtwo can hit Ho-Oh for 100 damage, which sets up the math for a KO using First Impression the following turn. Normally, Tapu Lele would give up 2 Prizes in this exchange, further catapulting Salazzle.
Mimikyu GRI: Mimikyu can return KO Ho-Oh for 2 Energies and a Choice Band. In general, Mimkyu is a strong card because it keeps you at pace with your opponent, worst case scenario. The problem with it currently is that it requires two Energy attachments; those would normally be falling on Golisopod.
Additional Golisopod Variants
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 31
3 Po Town
Energy – 11
This is my first take on a list involving Lurantis. The idea is to start off spreading with Tapu Koko, then be able to transition into First Impression KOs. Po Town is there to soften up larger threats like Metagross and Gardevoir. Instead of relying on Garbotoxin to win those matchups, I’ve tuned to the deck to win by quick damage and leads. Throughout the course of the game, the small damage increases from Tapu Koko, Po Town, Lurantis, and Professor Kukui will make the difference.
The strength of Golisopod comes from efficiency. No other Pokémon can do so much damage starting from the second turn consistently. This leaves plenty of options for archetypes involving Golisopod to succeed. Another variant I need to test is a Stage 1 deck, similar to Yanmega/Donphan/Zoroark in 2011.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 28
Energy – 11
This version focuses on changing strategies and attackers quickly based on the matchup. Bisharp is great against Gardevoir, as well as low HP attackers. Bisharp is great in the mid-game because it gives up a single prize, compared to Golisopod’s two. The list is less focused on Acerola since it can make up ground with the diversity of attackers.
The heavy Octillery line is something I thoroughly enjoy, since this deck needs the correct cards to retaliate correctly. If Teammates was legal, I would be running 2-3 copies of it. I’d argue this deck plays like the first 5 turns of Vespiquen: slow, focused on 2HKOs, and methodical. Past that point, the two decks diverge in strategy and purpose. Both decks run Oranguru or Octillery to keep up the mid-late game pressure. Otherwise, N would cripple this deck.
That’s all, thanks for reading! Like Alex, I thoroughly enjoy the diversity possible within the Standard format. Although most ideas of mine end up in the dumpster within the hour, others have potential to counter the meta. Some other deck ideas I’ve been tinkering with are Sylveon and Alolan Muk. Both cards are decent in their own right, but simply don’t have a place in the meta. Perhaps one day!
As for my upcoming schedule, I should be attending a multitude of Regionals. I hope to finish within Top 16 again this year, but school would be the biggest prevention factor. Catch me at Hartford, Daytona Beach, and Vancouver within the coming month. If only Pokémon could be my lifelong job, then school wouldn’t matter! Alas, I must focus on US History more than Pokémon. See you all soon!
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