Hello once again everyone! Though I was initially somewhat reluctant in my choice to miss the Fort Wayne Regional Championship, I am currently compelled to believe that Expanded is perhaps shockingly the better format compared to Standard. I will talk much more about Standard below, but in general it just seems like the sheer amount of consistency and options available in Expanded outweigh the novelty of Standard.
I am not too happy to immediately be wishing we had VS Seeker back, but the current Standard format just does not have any options available to it. I am hoping that something new (and not a reprint) comes this way within the next set or two to make things more enjoyable but for now, I have 4 Professor Sycamore, 4 N and 4 Guzma (and often 4 Tapu Lele-GX for a further boost in consistency) in over 75% of my decks. I know that most of this skeleton has really been the core of things for years—what’s with the complaining now? Well, even though VS Seeker is questionably overpowered as a card, it did give players the versatility and freedom to choose from a wide array of options. With gift of freedom comes the burden and difficulty of choice, which not only rewards the better and more thoughtful player, but gives players the possibility to outplay the competition just by filling out a decklist.
I remember a similar occurrence at the very beginning of 2012 where there were basically no good supporters outside of Professor Juniper. The norm tended to trend around Bianca and Random Receiver, but, man, was that unenjoyable. Many games were won and lost at the luck of Random Receiver (and to think once upon a time we had to play Pokégear 3.0 shortly before) and similarly, a lot of games in Standard tend to be a matter of getting lucky with your timing. We play four copies of Guzma not because we need all four of them, but because we need to have the 1-2 uses of the card exactly when we need it. Thus, if you have to discard too many too early, then you’re likely to miss this window.
If you shift our gaze to other card games, there has always been a huge disparity between draw card and the supporter-esq spell cards and so on. In Pokémon, drawing as much as possible as fast as possible tends to be the name of the game. Cards like Sophocles are simply not good enough in the realm of Pokémon, but such a card would likely be way too good in any other game! It would be nice to see Pokémon slow down to be more comparable to other card games, because when the only thing your support and utility cards dictates is speed, then the game is just about drawing well and not whiffing your outs at the right times.
With a slower game, the focus is much more around managing what little you have as best as possible, which necessitates a slower, methodical and much more Chess-like game. Does this make sense? Am I trying to hard to make Pokémon into something that it will never be or is my appeal to a slower game appealing to anyone else?
While observing from the sidelines, I was happy to see that most of my predictions about Expanded game to fruition. Though the M Manectric-EX deck I wrote about did not make any sort of appearance (were there any Manectric-EX decks in the entire tournament?), the concept of pairing Garbodor with new things was all over the place. Sableye/Garbodor (which I mentioned) saw Igor Costa and our own Jimmy Pendarvis coast to day 2, and there were a few Seismitoad decks floating around.
Gardevoir-GX, my pet project for the event, did expectedly well, but I did not observe any one utilizing Tropical Beach in their list. I am still of the belief the Tropical Beach version of the deck is far superior to without, but the lack of availability of the card continues to be an issue. Looking the forward with Gardevoir-GX in Expanded, I think that my list from last article is still mostly correct.
The only thing that I would adjust is some small change (likely cutting a recovery card) for Karen in order to defeat Night March. I initially assumed that the matchup would be tolerable given Gardevoir’s large HP but I have clearly been proven wrong through the voices and opinions of others as well the direct result of Fort Wayne. I think that Karen is an easy fix but I will have to test to see if it is a cure-all or just a small bandage on an already-fatal wound. Regardless, I still have a lot of faith in Gardevoir, and think that it is very strong versus most of the meta-game—even with this one poor matchup.
The biggest surprises to come out of Fort Wayne for me was the lack of Trevenant decks and the resurgence of Night March. I think many players (myself included) assumed that Trevenant would easily be the biggest deck of the weekend. It has always been scarily good, able to beat even Dark decks with the appropriate draws, and very easy to play. Given this, I simply cannot tell if players steered away from the deck or were just out-countered over the initial nine rounds of swiss.
I heard a lot of people talking in the Twitch chat of the event that Giratina was everywhere, and personally, I do not think that this card alone could explain Trevenant’s lack of success. That is, I do not think that Giratina on its own is good enough to win a matchup against the spooky trees. Getting it on the board is difficult enough under item lock. In my own deck building, I tend to include Giratina as a nail-in-the-coffin tech in that I only include it in my lists that are not already even or better against Trevenant. For instance, in my Seismitoad/Crobat deck from Expanded last year, Giratina would not be good enough to overcome the plethora of disadvantages already present in the matchup.
I think that the biggest thing I overlooked about Trevenant was that Expanded really did not see any tournaments after the release of Guardians Rising, and so I did not have the foresight to predict the impact of Tapu Lele-GX on this card. Even in Expanded, Tapu Lele is still a 2-3of in every single deck and this gives players that many more outs against Trevenant. Jirachi-EX was far too fragile of a card to have had this large of an impact on the meta-game but as I observed with Tapu Lele-GX against Vileplume in the Summer, I think that its introduction into Expanded made Trevenant slightly worse giving other decks (like Fire and Goliospod/Garbodor) the time to shine.
To conclude this section, I do want to offer a new deck idea as a possible solution to this metagame. With Trevenant in decline and Night March on top, I would not be surprised if players were more prone to try Trevenant for the Daytona Regional. If anything, it should still be very favored against Night March and is a much better counter than just trying to add Karen to whatever you are playing.
So outside of Gardevoir-GX, the deck that currently has my eye is something like Israel Sosa’s Top 8 deck. Without Archeops, I was skeptical about Yveltal’s legitimacy in Expanded, but Israel once again proves that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. By adding a heavier focus on Seismitoad-EX, Israel gave Yveltal a nice secondary attacker that attempted to solve the deck’s problems with Night March and Fire variants. I will admit that the deck should have various other problem matchups, but as Israel keeps proving with this deck, in Expanded, sometimes just raw power and speed as enough to steal a handful of matches against decks you are theoretically unfavored against.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 37
2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick
Energy – 11
Expectedly, the list is heavily indebted to Israel’s from Fort Wayne but I have made very minor adjustments to try to fit Maxie’s and Gallade back into the deck. Something that the deck lacked before was a non-EX attacker in any capacity and this solves that issue while giving you a better attacker against Darkrai and Drampa-GX (which Israel lost to one more than one occasion, I believe). I think that the overall consistency is mostly unchanged and the access to Tapu Lele-GX for the Maxie’s combo is much better than having to include a Jirachi in your list. It is not something I have been able to test a lot, since my focus has largely been on Standard, but if I am somehow able to make it to Daytona, it is definitely something I am considering!
I was very excited to participate in my first League Cup of the season over this past weekend, but I was generally confused on where to start. Many decks in the Standard format seem good, albeit largely dependent on the metagame you are anticipating. Gardevoir-GX, for instance, is probably just the best deck but will suffer against an abundance of Metagross-GX. Fire decks contrastingly will thrive in that meta-game but will produce lackluster results against a large amounts of Gardevoir-GX, or even Greninja.
The outlier to a majority of these scenarios is Garbodor. While having few great matchups, Garbodor also has very few (if any) straight-up terrible matchups as well so given the unpredictability of the first event of the season, I knew I would want to play some sort of Garbodor variant. I tried Espeon and while incredibly consistent, I think it is somewhat underwhelming against newer threats in the metagame. Trashalanche’s power has diminished considerably. and without the AOR Eeveelutions to provide some needed type advantages, you are much worse against Fire decks and Metagross.
After talking to several friends and my fellow 6P writers, I had somewhat concluded that Golispod/Garbodor would be my best option. According to many, it’s matchups against Gardevoir-GX and Metagross-GX were even if not slightly favorable while retaining positive matchups against more fringe options like Greninja, the new Magnezone/Pikachu-EX deck etc.
Fire appeared incredibly problematic to me, so I attempted to assuage this problem somewhat by adding a small Zoroark line into the deck. Zoroark seemed like a smart inclusion, as it further enabled your options to use First Impression effectively every turn, as well as being a supplementary attacker against Fire and any deck that was not careful enough with their bench. It also had a fair amount of success in Expanded, with Dustin Zimmerman and Jose Marrero performing above average with Zoroark in their respective lists. I discussed the concept with Jose in the days leading up to my league cup and settled on this list:
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 28
Energy – 11
Unfortunately, my tournament did not go well, but I could tell early on that my deck list was not very good. My tie against Metagross was unfortunate, as my opponent N’d us both to one and played his one card, while I made a play to win the game on the following turn and he immediately drew Guzma to finish the game. The loss to the Golisopod-GX deck was fairly expected, as my opponent simply played things like Octillery and four Acerola instead of trying a backup attacker like Zoroark or Garbodor. This list was certainly incredibly very favored against my own, but seems much worse in general.
Finally, I lost my win-and-in to Fire after defeating it the round before. This matchup is noticeably unfavorable, but I think you can win a small fraction of games with Necrozma-GX, Garbotoxin, and lots of Energy Drives. I was able to do it the round before by just running well, and in the final round, the combination of poor matchups and a deck that did not want to corporate led to my elimination from the event.
I was struggling to find supporters almost every turn after the initial opening, and while I do not believe that Zoroark directly contributed to this lack of consistency, I would not recommend playing it. Instead, I would add more Supporters over anything else. I think the Standard format is in an interesting position where the options are not plentiful, so everything ought to play Octillery or Oranguru.
Unfortunately, Garbodor decks do not have this luxury, and so I think their only option is to pad their resources with less-ideal supporters. I think Skyla is the card with the most merit in this spot, but it seems a little slow to me. I think I want to experiment with 1-2 copies of Skyla and 1-2 copies of Sophocles in any of my Garbodor lists from here on out to attempt to resolve these consistency issues. Hala and Professor Kukui have their merits as well, but I cannot help but wonder if these options are just simply worse than Skyla and Sophocles. I will have to experiment around to discover more.
Standard, for the time being, seems to be mostly constituted of decks from last year…only, worse. Garbodor decks with Goliospod-GX, Espeon-GX or Drampa-GX are mostly still around, Gardevoir-GX holds somewhat of a stranglehold on the format, while Metagross-GX and Fire decks lurk somewhere in the background trying to find the right metagames to take advantage of. Even Decidueye-GX and Greninja seem to be lingering on somehow! So where’s the creativity?
I think the answer to this reflects us back to the discussion at the beginning of the article, with the general lack of consistency weighing our options down. However, there may be some hope yet! This is a deck that was brought to my attention by my teammate Curtis Lyon, and while it may appear as a joke or a meme, I have found that it is a step towards “breaking the meta”
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
4 Po Town
Energy – 11
At a glance, this deck might not make a ton of sense, but it really is not that complicated. At the core, it is essentially the classic Drampa/Garbodor deck with one Stage 1 exchanged for another. Garbodor, in my view, lacks a considerable amount of “oomph” with the rotation of VS Seeker, and while Garbotoxin is very appealing, I wanted to try on something new. The idea is similar to Takuya Yoneda’s deck from the World Championships in that you want to lead with fast and aggressive openings with Drampa-GX, and then try and close out the game with Salazzle swinging for upwards of 230 damage after you’ve taken your first 4 prize cards.
Po Town aids you by enabling Berserk, but it also helps to soften things up for Salazzle or potentially a huge game ending Black Ray GX given the right board state. I think that Metagross-GX tends to be favored against all of the Garbodor decks in the format, which is troublesome given that your Gardevoir-GX matchup is not favored either. Salazzle attempts to hedge against both of those cards while still being a powerful attacker with the right supplementary Pokémon.
For the time being, I think that this list is very, very close to being competitively viable. I have been testing it the most, and with the right starts, I can beat anything. Gardevoir-GX tends to be very difficult if they can setup and I am just not sure how to deal with that. I have toyed around with the idea of trimming down the Salazzle line to fit a copy or two of Enhanced Hammer but unfortunately, there is no easy answer to Gardevoir. I am happy with the concept, and am hoping I can take it one step further and surprise people with it at an upcoming League Cup. What does everyone think of this deck? Is it purely a joke or have I tapped in to some amount of potential?
Once again, I feel like I’ve been able to include everything I wanted to in this article. In the past when SixPrizes mostly wrote the strictly longer articles, many (myself included, of course) simply had to rant or invent filler to meet specific word counts. In the shorter format, it is much easier to be precise and keep ourselves intelligible. Between various decklists and ramblings on the format, it is always my duty and pleasure to write for SixPrizes, and I hope that I am meeting our reader’s needs and expectations. I think sometimes our position as writers can be misconstrued and an ego can be developed over being in a position of (light) power. It is our privilege to write and provide our thoughts for you, and certainly not the other way around.
With that in mind, I am eager to get my season going. Watching everyone travel and compete at Fort Wayne really has me itching to make my way to Hartford, Daytona or Vancouver. Unfortunately, I still cannot make any promises to attending one of those specific events and all I can say is “hopefully soon.” My new job and new life are certainly going very well, and while I am unsure if I am the type of person fit for such a corporate position, I have no complaints. My Regionals travels will simply have to wait until I have a little more time, but I am confident that the invite will come.
Until next time!
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