Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist here with another article. I’m happy to report that I’ve finally started ramping up my playtesting recently, and am relatively happy with how the standard format is playing out. The format after a rotation always feels a bit empty due to the sheer loss of cards, but the deck diversity that has stuck around is still nice to see.
The most common complaint I’ve heard from players about the format is the lack of consistency options. The loss of VS Seeker has definitely been felt. The card was an immediate 4-of staple in the vast majority of decks as soon as it was printed, and that trend continued until it rotated. Almost 3 years of reliable access to any Supporter we wanted, whenever we wanted, through such an insanely powerful item card seems to have spoiled us a bit. The adjustment is going to be tough, but I think every archetype will figure out their own way to deal with it. The two best solutions I see right now are simply playing more Supporters and or committing to some sort of board support.
As far as “playing more Supporters,” we really don’t have a lot to work with. The two most used options currently are Skyla and Lillie, but we do still have a few other options like Sophocles, Shauna, Mallow, and Hau to keep mind should the right deck come along. My personal favorite right now is Skyla, and will probably be my go to padding for most decks until a better option comes along.
N and Professor Sycamore are already such powerful draw options that I don’t feel like there is a lot to be gained by playing Lillie as another draw option. The plays that a dedicated search card can ensure as opposed to hoping for the right draws is incredibly comforting and gives enough flexibility to value it over Lillie, especially if you make minor list considerations with this in mind. Another reason I’ve found Lillie to be less useful is because most decks will actually never get use out of the T1 play with it. If you’re going to use an Ultra Ball T1 into a Tapu Lele-GX, most decks in the game are going to grab Brigette to get all of their basics into play, as opposed to drawing up to 8.
Board support comes in a few different forms right now. For draw, the two best options we have right now are Octillery and Oranguru. Octillery is usually the go-to for slower decks, while Oranguru has found a place in more aggressive decks. The third most common support I’ve seen is Starmie, which has found its way into decks that are really only ever looking for more Energy anyway, like Volcanion and Greninja.
Garbodor rounds up the end of this list by sitting there and shutting off everything. It doesn’t benefit you in anyway or push your board forward, but works to slow down your opponent instead. Regardless, I think just about every deck in the game should have at least one of these options right now. Board support has always had more value when Supporter options are limited, and I’m sure that will continue to be true as such moving forward.
Over the past two weekends I was able to play in two League Cups and was able to sneak away with a T8 and T16 finish. I’m not sure if its the new area, a increase in playerbase, or a little of both but the League Cups I’ve attended this year has been massive compared to any others I’ve attended in recent memory, with both being 7 rounds. My days went like this:
League Cup #1 – Greninja
R1 Gardevoir-GX (W 1-0)
R2 Gardevoir-GX (W 2-0)
R3 Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt SUM (L 2-1)
R4 Gardevoir-GX (W 3-1)
R5 Gardevoir-GX (W 4-1)
R6 Golisopod-GX/Garbodor (W 5-1)
R7 Gardevoir-GX (ID 5-1-1)
T8 vs Greninja BREAK (WLL)
League Cup #2 – Ninetales
R1 Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt SUM (L 0-1)
R2 Tapu Koko-GX/Aether Paradise Conservation Area (L 0-2)
R3 Ho-Oh-GX/Volcanion-EX (W 1-2)
R4 Golisopod-GX/Garbodor (W 2-2)
R5 Alolan Ninetales-GX (W 3-2)
R6 Greninja BREAK (W 4-2)
R7 Golisopod-GX/Lurantis SM25 (W 5-2)
The Greninja list was the one I posted in my last article with a couple of changes. I played:
The Ninetales list I played was card for card Michael Pramawat’s list I saw the day before and really enjoyed after giving it a couple of test hands. I admittedly kind of played it on a whim, and probably made a mistake or two in one of my first games, but I do think the deck is very good. With this T8 and T16 I’m sitting at 45/400, and the road to Worlds 2018 has begun!
For the hyper observant, you may have noticed that I lost to one deck at both events: Tapu Bulu GX/Vikavolt. There was also a surprising number of them at my cup, leading me to believe that I may have been underestimating the deck a bit. It can be quite aggressive if you can pull off the T2 Vikavolt, and because Vikavolt is your support instead of your attacker, you’re not nearly as vulnerable to Espeon-EX plays. After getting dumpstered by the deck twice and seeing it put up more results than expected I thought that I should give it more serious consideration.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 24
Energy – 12
48 Cards – 12 Free Spots
I think this is about as bare bones as I could get the deck without excluding anything terribly crucial. The deck honestly has a decent amount of space to work with, which is nice to see, and you definitely have room to fit all kinds of fun stuff. The core idea of the deck is there: get to Vikavolt as fast as possible and start swinging with Tapu Bulu-GX. Tapu Bulu-GX is an incredibly effective attacker. Doing 30 for G with Horn Attack is a fine early game attack to start poking, and can KO Grass-weak basics like Froakie. Nature’s Judgement gives you great numbers to dictate the pace of the game: you either two shot everything by chaining 120, or reach for the OHKO with the discard and damage modifying tools. Tapu Wilderness GX being capable of doing 180 AND completely healing your attacker is great for maintaining pressure.
4th Grubbin, 1 Charjabug, 4th Vikavolt
If you’re looking to commit more to the Vikavolt line, then any/all of these cards are the way to go. The thing about this deck is that you really don’t need more than 1 Vikavolt out to win a game, but the second helps ensure you don’t hit weird situations where you’re missing the correct energy.
Tapu Koko-GX, 2nd Tapu Koko, Vikavolt GX
If you’re looking for something else to attack with outside of Tapu Bulu-GX, then these are really your only options. The non-ex Tapu Koko is very good in the deck to help fix numbers on bigger threats like Gardevoir-GX, and you can even use the second attack! A second one is likely good, but not needed. I really like the idea of Tapu Koko-GX in the deck and think it brings a decent amount of options. Tapu Thunder GX is very good against any deck that keeps decent amount of energy in play, and gives more use to your Lightning energy. Vikavolt GX is a card I’ve always really enjoyed. It provides a much bulkier attacker and a different GX attack, but ultimately may be a bit too slow and rarely worth evolving into over the non-GX.
Octillery, Oranguru, Smeargle
The Octillery vs Oranguru argument for the deck has been a bit difficult for me to figure out. The deck tries to be more aggressive, and when it succeeds, then Oranguru is clearly better, but Octillery always has that much more ‘oomph’ in the midgame when you can get it out. Oranguru seems to be more popular and is currently what I’m leaning toward because of the low maintenance and ability to attack. Smeargle is something I’ve considered if keeping out the correct Energy proves difficult. Second Coat switching out your Lightning and Grass helps maximize your outs to keeping the correct energy in play. The Energy acceleration is already powerful enough on its own, but Smeargle can ensure you never run into any problems.
The more Supporters, the better, and capping the both of these seems good if we can justify the space. As mentioned before this deck really wants Vikavolt as fast as possible, and Skyla can be the key to finding any missing piece to guarantee the T2. Guzma is especially important in the deck because you not only want gust effects when you need them, but everything has a pretty hefty retreat cost as well. 3-4 Guzma has been in just about every successful deck so far, and I’m sure it will be no different here. Brock’s Grits seems like a good 1-of here due to how fast you go through all the energy in your deck. Getting up to 6 Energy cards back with the potential for any Pokémon you might want is powerful, but using your Supporter for the effect can be a bit slow.
I’ve seen this debate a lot recently and the benefits of each Tool are quite appealing. However, I think there is no way you don’t play Choice Band simply because of all the math it helps you reach. Hitting 210 with Nature’s Judgement and 180 with Tapu Wilderness GX is just too good to pass up. There is merit to playing Fighting Fury Belt because the extra HP can help you survive against things that can hit 180 easily, like mirror, but finding space for all the Tools can prove difficult. I can accept playing Fighting Fury Belt in addition to Choice Band, but I don’t think that Fighting Fury Belt is worth playing instead of Choice Band.
Non-Guzma switching options are definitely something the deck could enjoy having. As previously mentioned, a decent amount of the deck has hefty retreat costs, which means immobility can occasionally cause some problems. Float Stone has been the most popular switching card since it was printed, but Switch and Escape Rope have seen some success lately as well. Because the deck enjoys both Choice Band and Fighting Fury Belt, you may want to cater the list to be a bit Tool-heavy with 5-6 slots between the two, and if this is the case, then Float Stone loses a lot of value due to the sheer lack of targets. Switch and Escape Rope are still perfectly fine at moving your Pokémon around and can even catch your opponent off guard if they don’t expect you to be able to move something.
1-3 Field Blower
The number of Field Blower you want seems dependent on how much Garbotoxin you expect to see in a given meta. Because Tapu Bulu-GX discards with the attack, you definitely need to have access to your Abilities if you want to reach for OHKOs. Field Blower also lets you discard any annoying Stadiums your opponent might play down, like Po Town or Parallel City, which is nice because there aren’t many good Stadiums for the deck right now. Being able to remove the occasional Fighting Fury Belt can help ensure you don’t miss knockouts on key targets, but mostly everything else you might discard with it is a luxury.
More consistency is always a great thing to have, and having an easy non-Ultra Ball out to Pokémon in your deck can make Skyla a much more effective card overall. As previously mentioned, a lot of Pokémon in the deck can have a pretty hefty retreat costs, and while this can cause issues, it does give us access to Heavy Ball. Heavy Ball is a great option for the deck and gets a decent amount of Pokémon in the deck. Nest Ball is another out to a basic Pokémon should you need it, but it probably isn’t terribly effective or needed while you have Brigette.
This is probably the only deck where Energy Recycler is considered to be a staple, but man is it effective here. Strong Charge can very quickly leave your deck depleted of energy, and Energy Recycler helps make sure you can keep the energy pumping out effectively. One is the bare minimum I would play, and a second seems very nice to help make sure you don’t have energy problems. Super Rod can act as a kind of watered down version of Energy Recycler that also gets any Pokémon you may want back should you need them. Rescue Stretcher is the other end of things getting you back any Pokémon you may need immediately. Right now it seems like the way Vikavolt decks are built and operate you always need more Energy and rarely ever want more Pokémon back, but having options is never a bad thing.
I wanted to touch on these because they’re the only stadiums I could think of that could be good in the deck. Aether Paradise can help your Bulu/Koko survive some hits they may not have been able to withstand without it, but it is vulnerable to just being bumped before the attack. Parallel City can cut off some liabilities on your bench in a clutch situation, but watch out for the other side! Reducing your damage output is fine in some scenarios, but can cause some issues if you forget to calculate it.
More, Adjustments in Count
7/5 is the number I saw a lot of lists sticking to, so it’s what I decided to roll with, but it does seem like a generous amount and an appropriate split. The Energy count could be changed if more Lightning attackers are incorporated, but with a Tapu Bulu-GX focus you definitely want more Grass Energy. More Energy is never a bad thing, but finding the space is a problem.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
Rounding out the final list has been a bit difficult, but I think this is close to optimal. My 61st and 62nd cards are the 4th Grubbin and a switching card. 4 Grubbin is very nice for insurance against prizing and helping get them out, but I rarely find myself needing more than 2, much less 3. The only time it becomes an issue is if your opponent starts trying to knockout the Vikavolt pieces instead of your attackers, but if this becomes an issue, some intelligent attaching can still get you there with careful play. A switch card is something I don’t enjoy playing without, but so far it has been fine because Guzma is great. A Fighting Fury Belt would be nice for mirror, but I haven’t really wanted one outside of that and have really enjoyed the consistency of 4 Choice Band.
Diving deep into new the Standard format has been very exciting and there are still some new concepts I’m looking forward to fleshing out. The next big deck I’m looking forward to trying out is Decidueye-GX. With the loss of Forest of Giant Plants, a lot of people have written off Feather Arrow because it no longer has the ability to set itself up in one turn, but I think it has a lot of potential! I’m going to start working out the concept soon and I know our very own Mike Fouchet will be touching on the deck a bit later on in the week.
I’m looking forward to trying to top my current League Cup finishes. Despite the constant 7-round events, I’m still certain I can do better than I have so far and am excited about competing more in the new area. As always, it is a pleasure and an honor to write for SixPrizes and to have you all as readers. Until next time!
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