Navigating the Intricate

Gauging the Strengths of Golisopod and Gardevoir, Manging the Matchup, and Deciding on Decidueye/Ninetales

Hey everyone—I hope you all have been enjoying exploring the new Standard format! Last time I was here, I recapped Worlds a bit and presented some Seismitoad variants for Expanded. Unfortunately, Seismitoad did not perform well in Fort Wayne, as the unprecedented rise of Golisopod kept it from finding success. I myself ended up playing Golisopod/Garbodor, finishing in the Top 256 for pity points. As Pablo wrote about a few weeks ago, he did quite well with the same list. My apologies we did not share our thoughts on the deck before the tournament, but we did not even know we were going to play it until the night before!


In any case, Golisopod/Garbodor is still a very strong play for the current Standard format and I decided to play it at a League Cup this past weekend. I had spoken with Mees a bit the week leading up to his regional in Germany and my League Cups. We were both set on playing Garbodor decks, considering Golisopod, Drampa/Po Town and Espeon-GX. On Friday, Mees sent me the Golisopod/Garbodor he had decided on:

Pokémon – 17

3 Wimpod BUS

3 Golisopod-GX

3 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor BKP

1 Garbodor GRI

1 Tapu Koko SM30

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Fini-GX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

4 Guzma

4 Acerola

1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball

4 Float Stone

3 Choice Band

2 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Heavy Ball

Energy – 11

4 Rainbow

4 Double Colorless

3 G

The list looked good to me and I enjoyed the Tapu Fini idea a lot: against unsuspecting Fire players I could make some nice plays, using the first attack (Aqua Ring) to do 100 and switch or use Tapu Storm-GX to bounce back the Pokémon they Kiawe onto. I ended up changing one card right before the tournament: -1 Acerola +1 Rescue Stretcher. With only three Wimpod and a thin Garbodor line, I wanted the extra recovery to ensure I had the Pokémon I needed. Note: I am a big fan of Rescue Stretcher in general. Though I almost always play it to get the single card back to my hand, it is a versatile card that packs a lot of power into a single deck spot.

My rounds:

R1: Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu L
R2: Volcanion W
R3: Metagross W
R4: Volcanion W
R5: Gardevoir/Sylveon T (ID)
R6: Volcanion W

T8: Gardevoir/Sylveon WLL

The Vikavolt loss was unfortunate – I played against my good friend Bob and he hit his last Grass+Guzma off an N to two to win the game, where I had the win the following turn. I IDed round five, as I got paired up to a 4-0 and thought the matchup was very close. I saw the other 3-1-1s playing and only had a bad matchup against the Volcanion. Lo and behold, Volcanion won and I got paired against it for the third time, but luckily I beat it again. I ended up playing the same person in Top 8 I played in round five, Lex D’Andrea, who beat me in three extremely close game.

While I will talk about the Gardevoir vs. Golisopod matchup in more detail below, I’d like to briefly highlight how I beat three Volcanion. First, Tapu Fini is obviously very important. The first two rounds I faced Volcanoin, Tapu Fini took out two Turtonator/Volcanion-EXs by hitting them for 100 twice. While some of the turtles had Belts on them, the two Field Blower were clutch in getting the 2HKOs. In my third game, Tapu Fini hit the bench T1 via Brigette, but I did not have the opportunity to attack with it. My opponent Guzma’d it out, but could only do 160. I used Acerola on it, played Rainbow+Band and hit his dude for 100. He had another Guzma, which now he could KO Tapu Fini with a single Steam Up. Though Tapu Fini did not do much damage in the third game, the threat of it was enough to make my opponent waste valuable resources and time to Knocking it Out. This allowed me to set up other threats (Koko, Tapu Leles) and N him more effectively as the game went on. Though I did not use Tapu Storm in any of the Volcanion matches, it is still a good option in theory.

Setting up a single Golisopod is necessary to ensure you can get an easy 120/150/180 at some point during the game. This will often allow Golisopod to trade evenly in prizes, which is fine. Garbotoxin + N is almost always your win condition, as it allows Lele to attack without risk of being 1HKO’d (except from Belted or Banded Turtonator). Baby Volcanion is quite annoying to deal with, as you cannot 1HKO it with Golisopod and it puts you on odd prizes. Tapu Koko can be useful when they start attacking with Baby Volcanion in the late game, as they can only do 20 and you are spreading 20 to everything, putting things in range of KOs from Lele or Golisopod.

Overall, the matchup still does not seem favorable, but Tapu Fini makes it close – especially if your opponent does not know you are playing it. One last fun fact about Tapu Fini: between my three Volcanoin games and one other game, I did 1100 damage with Tapu Fini (using just his first attack) throughout the tournament!

This list ended up winning the first major tournament of this Standard format in Germany: Marc Lutz took down Tord Reklev in the finals. Marc made the same cut to the list I did: -1 Acerola. However, he added a 4th Choice Band over the 2nd Rescue Stretcher. I think this is wise and I would play those 60 cards going forward. Golisopod is extremely powerful and in contention for BDIF, perhaps only taking second to its fairy foe…


After my run in with Lex’s Gardevoir/Sylveon, I was pretty convinced I should play it the next day. Lex ended up winning the event, beating Ho-Oh/Salazze in Top 4 and Decidueye/Ninetales in Top 2 (my list and physical cards, piloted by my friend Mike Natto – more on this below). Lex posted his list on Heyfonte and we talked about it a bit on Facebook Saturday night/Sunday morning. I am very grateful for his input! I made one changed: -1 Giratina +1 Acerola.

Pokémon – 19

4 Ralts BUS
2 Kirlia BUS
3 Gardevoir-GX
1 Gallade BKT
2 Eevee SUM
2 Sylveon-GX
1 Remoraid BKT 32
1 Octillery BKT
3 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 28

4 N
3 Professor Sycamore
3 Guzma
2 Acerola
1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball
4 Rare Candy
2 Float Stone
2 Choice Band
2 Field Blower
1 Rescue Stretcher

Energy – 13

9 Y
4 Double Colorless

This deck is actually nuts. Let’s take a look at my rounds and then I will give some insight into the list and its matchups.

R1: Golisopod/Weavile W
R2: Golisopod/Garbodor L
R3: Gardevoir/Sylveon W
R4: Espeon/Garbodor W

T8: Golisopod/Garbodor W
T4: Volcanion WW
T2: Golisopod/Garbodor WW

Unfortunately, my Top 8 opponent did not write sets/collection numbers on his list and got a game one loss for that. With the exception of the Golisopod/Weavile deck that did not set up very well against me, all of my games on the day were quite close.

A rather magical addition.

Sylveon provides an otherwise-linear deck a myriad of options, as well as giving you a mental edge against your opponent. Magical Ribbon puts a lot of pressure on your opponent and often makes them play N when they would rather play another supporter, such as Guzma or Professor Sycamore. With VS Seeker gone from the format, the opponent only has four opportunities to N you. If they use a couple during the early game, they do not have them for the end game, and vice-versa. Often they will need to play down more Tapu Lele-GX at the beginning of the game than they might want, giving them less consistency as the game goes on – bench space fills up and Ultra Balls do not have live targets. Conversely, if they do not N you early on, you can often “go off” – setting up two Gardevoir easily, finding Field Blowers to counter Garbotoxin, DCE for an early Plea-GX, and more.

Speaking of Plea-GX, Sylveon’s GX attack got much stronger at the turn of the new format. With the metagame shaping to include more and more evolutions – and in particular, Stage 2 evolutions – Plea can give you a massive tempo swing at any point during the game. The mirror match, Decidueye, Metagross, Vikavolt, and Greninja can all be won much easier simply because of Plea-GX. I think the mirror match is strongly in your favor if you include Sylveon-GX and your opponent does not. Even though many of these matchups look scary on paper, Sylveon brings them very close to even, if not even or slightly favorable. Even Metagross! Plea-GX is simply that powerful and I absolutely believe it is the correct way to play Gardevoir-GX in this format.

Beyond Sylveon, the list is fairly standard. Only 3 Sycamore is a bit worrisome and there have been times where I have wanted the full 4. We played 3 at Worlds, but we had Teammates and VS Seeker. 3/3 Kirlia/Candy was correct at Worlds, but with Sylveon, 4 Candy/2 Kirlia becomes better, as we will want to search out Candy with Magical Ribbon. We also do not play Diancie anymore, so Kirlia becomes slightly worse there as well.

As I prepare for Hartford, I will be messing around with the list and playing games to figure out matchups a bit better. For example, I thought the Fire (Ho-Oh/Salazzle) matchup was incredibly favored, while Xander thinks it is 50/50. We played a few games the other night and he beat me 3/5 games, but besides a dead-draw game on each side, every game was quite close. There are probably some small tweaks we could make to the list to make it slightly favored. I will be doing this with each matchup that seems potentially troublesome – the mirror, Vikavolt, Golisopod, Fire, etc. The goal will be to pick the cards in the last few spots that help the most in the most matchups. Here are the list of cards right now I want to test out:

Mr. Mime is definitely the most appealing card on the list to me. Many decks play Tapu Koko: Vikavolt, Golisopod, Alolan Ninetales, Decidueye, and sometimes Garbodor decks. Stopping the spread option from them can be game-winning. Parallel City is also super interesting against other Stage 2 decks, in combination with Plea-GX, and against Fire decks that are not sporting Field Blower (I’m coming for you, Xander).

Gardevoir is almost certainly the best deck in the format. I am excited to try and optimize the list once again going into Hartford.

Golisopod vs. Gardevoir

Every format seems to have a “format defining” matchup. This seems to be that matchup in the BKT – BUS metagame. With the two lists I have presented above, I think the matchup is straight up 50/50. Gardevoir can play some cards to help the matchup (Max Potion, Turtonator, Mr. Mime, 3rd Acerola), while Golisopod has Tapu Fini-GX and Bodybuilding Dumbbells as options to help swing the matchup in their favor. I should note that if the Gardevoir does not play Sylveon (or Turtonator), I think Golisopod is a definite favorite in the matchup.

In any case, there is a lot of room for either player to outmaneuver the other, though the Gardevoir player is ever so slightly more a slave to her draws. Resource management is extremely important in this matchup, especially without VS Seeker. Knowing roughly the list of the opponent can be huge in expecting what your opponent will do next. In a best of three, I would pay careful attention to what cards your opponent plays (and does not play) during game one, so you can capitalize on this knowledge in games two and three.

I was lucky to play a handful of games this past weekend on both sides of the matchup. Here are some key takeaways, beyond the obvious:

As the Golisopod player:

  1. The most difficult part of this matchup is closing out the game. In general, this is a problem for Golisopod decks. The first 4 Prizes are usually easy to take and if you can do so without using your GX-attack, then you should be good to eventually eek out the win by using Guzma + Choice Band + Crossing Cut on a Tapu Lele.
  2. Getting Tapu Koko spreads in can be a huge part of victory. One Flying Flip will put Tapu Leles in range of a Banded First Impression KO, which saves your GX attack for other uses. If you can put pressure on with Flying Flip early and the Gardevoir player struggles to set up, the game becomes much easier. Remember you need three Flying Flips on a Gardevoir for it really to do anything, but two Flying Flips still puts Gallade in range of a First Impression KO.
  3. While Garbotoxin is obviously very important, it can also hurt you in the late game, as you often just need to find a Guzma to close out the game. Crossing Cut into Garbodor can be a good play, as you sacrifice Garbodor and then Lele for the win. Remember you can also Field Blower your own tools to get rid of Garbotoxin.
  4. Trashlanche can also be a game ender. One of the great things about this Garbodor variant as opposed to Drampa or Espeon variants against Gardevoir is that you put on so much pressure. This makes it difficult for the Gardevoir player to find time to Twilight-GX. So, keeping a Trubbish on your bench starting in the mid-game can be key to closing out the game. In one of the games against Lex, he actually had to Guzma out my Trubbish with no Energy, no Tool, just because of the threat of Trashalanche.
  5. Tapu Storm-GX can be useful if the opponent goes for a big Gardevoir that threatens to take 4 Prizes before you can take it down. I would rather save my GX-attack for Crossing Cut, but Tapu Storm is definitely something to keep in mind. The worst part of using Tapu Storm is that you have Tapu Fini active next turn.

As the Gardevoir player:

  1. If you can attack with Gallade at any point during the game, you will probably win. Forcing them to go to odd prizes is one of the main ways Golisopod can lose the game, as it has trouble closing out the game under its own Garbotoxin lock. If you can N them to 3, 2, or 1 as the game goes on, they will have trouble switching their active out and their damage output becomes significantly less. Gallade helps this a lot. In addition, Gallade can only be 1HKO’d by Crossing Cut-GX, so if they have used that already, Gallade is even more powerful. If they do use Crossing Cut on Gallade, your Tapu Leles will be safe for the rest of the game.
  2. Tapu Lele-GX is also a good attacker. It can hit for 60+ damage easily and set up an easier KO on a Golisopod. It is most effective after your opponent has used Crossing Cut-GX, but do not be afraid to use it to set up a Guzma KO with Gardevoir or Gallade the following turn, anticipating the Crossing Cut.
  3. Save your Field Blowers for opportune turns. You only have two, but two turns of abilities is often all you need to get yourself back in the game. In addition, the longer you hold Field Blower, the more likely it is your opponent will have to discard or attach Float Stones to other Pokémon, making it so your late game Field Blowers might give you multiple turns of Abilities.
  4. When and what GX-attack to use is non-trivial in this matchup. Twilight-GX can be great, but also difficult to find time to get off. Similarly, Plea-GX can set the opponent back and give you a turn to breathe (by bouncing back their only two Golisopod or only two Garbodor/Trubbish), but it is not the same as against a Stage 2 deck. If you see a halfway decent opportunity to use a GX attack, do not be shy, as these openings do not come as often as you might think.
  5. Going for a big Gardevoir is usually correct, despite Tapu Fini-GX in the opposing deck. Gardy with Fairy+DCE+DCE+Band can easily take 4 Prizes if unanswered, and if coupled with an N to mitigate the chance of Tapu Storm-GX, will often do so.

If you are planning to play either of these decks in Hartford, I suggest you get a lot of practice in this matchup. It is intricate, skill intensive, and fun to play!

You’ll never get rid of me!

Lastly, I want to provide a bit of spice that I have worked on besides the two aforementioned decks. As I mentioned above, my friend took my Decidueye deck to the finals of our local League Cup. Here is the list he piloted:

Pokémon – 21

4 Rowlet SUM

3 Dartrix SUM

4 Decidueye-GX
2 Alolan Vulpix GRI

1 Alolan Ninetales-GX
2 Tapu Koko SM30
1 Espeon-EX
3 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 31

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Guzma
2 Acerola
2 Skyla
1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball
3 Float Stone
3 Choice Band
2 Field Blower
2 Rare Candy
1 Rescue Stretcher
1 Revitalizer

Energy – 8

4 G
4 Double Colorless

This list is not all that different than one that got Top 16 at the Bremmen Regionals this weekend. The major difference is that list played three copies of Max Potion and a thicker Ninetales line. I think Max Potion is much weaker without Shaymin in the format, as a common strategy was to put a Choice Band on Shaymin, Sky Return for 60, and go back to Decidueye. Decidueye, with its massive 240 HP, would take a hit, and you would Max Potion it. Maybe I am missing something, but Max Potion makes less sense to me now.

However, the larger Alolan Ninetales line (3-2) is also something I had in the list prior to the tournament. We decided to cut it for the Oranguru and 2nd Tapu Koko, as there was not too much Fire at our event. The thicker Ninetales line should absolutely be considered, though, as it gives the deck a chance against Fire decks.

I think this deck is still strong right now. Hollow Hunt-GX is one of the best GX attacks in the game right now with VS Seeker gone. Unfortunately, I do not think it takes great matchups to what I consider the best three decks: Golisopod/Garb, Gardevoir/Sylveon, and Fire. Sylveon makes the match really difficult, bouncing back Decidueyes after they have taken a few turns to set them up. Despite the spread and Espeon-EX’s Miraculous Shine, the matchup has always been relatively close. The addition of Sylveon makes the matchup quite difficult for Decidueye. The Fire and Golisopod matchups are a bit more self-explanatory – Fire hits for weakness, Golisopod 2HKOs everything in your deck for an Energy, and Garbodor is inherently difficult to deal with. None of these matchups are unwinnable, just difficult. Outside of these matchups, Decidueye enjoys some strong matchups across the rest of the format.


Despite a small card pool, this format has been fun to play in thus far. Players are still learning how to play without VS Seeker in their lists, so if you have figured out how that works, you are at a huge advantage in whatever matchup you play. Resource management is super important right now and requires thinking many turns ahead.

Good luck to everyone in Hartford and come say hi if you see me!


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