Hey everyone! It’s Xander back with another article, once again about the Standard format. I hope you’ve seen the large picture we writers have painted with all of the meta decks. As with most post-rotation formats, it started out incredibly stale, but with more time comes more discovery. Gardevoir, Ho-Oh/Salazzle or Volcanion, and Garbodor variants came through from the Worlds format, but Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu has emerged as a decent pick—I say that because it was incredibly bad compared to other decks in Standard a month or two ago.
Going off of Bremen’s results, Golisopod/Garbodor and Gardevoir are the best decks. I’m still mingling with Ho-Oh/Salazzle because I’ve had success with it at League Cups. Golisopod is a good matchup, but players have started playing Tapu Fini to 2HKO your attackers for a single Energy. Tapu Storm GX is also good at removing the first Kiawe target. As for the Gardevoir matchup, I was consistently favorable as the Ho-Oh/Salazzle player, but a few games I played against Mike Fouchet changed that. Parallel City absolutely swings that matchup for variants like mine without Field Blower—swapped for heavier counts of Max Elixir. Octillery also makes a huge difference since it draws another 2 cards compared to Oranguru, increasing odds of drawing Guzma.
Other decks I think will have some amount of success are Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Greninja, Metagross, and Drampa/Garbodor. All of these have been covered recently with lists, so my idea is to cover some underrated cards that might make an impact at the upcoming Regionals.
As noted in my previous article, our current format revolves around the three best decks. In my opinion, all other decks are automatically Tier 2. They aren’t bad or clunky decks, but lack the brokenness of Gardevoir or Golisopod. As you can see, a lot of the decks I listed are also Stage 2 decks, with Drampa/Garbodor being the exception. I’d also consider Greninja in a class of its own, but that’s for another day.
There are certain Pokémon or Trainer cards with a specific purpose. Examples of this include Oranguru and Octillery: both add draw support at a measly cost of 1-2 spaces. They’re used to round out inherent inconsistencies of Stage 2 decks. It’s interesting to look at it from that perspective—a bonus—compared to the main attacker of a deck. The point I’m trying to make here is that we are in an era where a thin Evolution line for support, in any form, is good for decks.
The first one on my list is Gumshoos-GX. Previously seen in M Rayquaza as a counter to M Mewtwo, here it is with the potential to rock again. I hadn’t known how menacing Gumshoos could be until I faced down a Yungoos, causing me to hold back my Ho-Oh. It immediately changed my strategy, forcing me to play conservatively rather than take a large lead with Phoenix Burn. The goal of supporting Pokémon is to fulfill a niche not already present, but highly useful, within a deck idea. My opponent was playing an Alolan Ninetales deck, one normally defeated through early Ho-Oh aggression, but he compensated for it with Gumshoos.
Gumshoos is also great against Gardevoir, once again threatening a OHKO with Choice Band if they have 4 Energies attached. The point isn’t to carry the game with Gumshoos, but to force the opponent to play differently. If they choose to ignore the potential Gumshoos, then punish them with Gumshoe Chance GX.
The last beneficial part lies in its Ability: Search the Premises. Guzma is the most impactful card for decks to get ahead and take correct prizes. It’s common to see 4 in Golisopod and Ho-Oh/Salazzle because those decks rely on immediate prizes. Search the Premises gives you plenty of information to play your turn. It’s more useful than simply seeing if your Team Skull Grunt will hit, should you be running any.
Commonly found in Greninja and Volcanion, Starmie is useful for guaranteeing Energy without the use of a draw Supporter. It doesn’t find much use in other decks since others don’t rely on reusing Energy. Gardevoir is the only other deck I’d consider it in, but even then Octillery is superior. Twilight GX is also an added out to not running out of Energy, further proving Starmie’s unnecessariness.
In Volcanion, Starmie is important later on in the game, helping against low Ns. Plenty of Energy will be put on board with Power Heater, and any residual Energy in the Discard Pile can be used for Steam Up. Volcanion-based Fire decks typically don’t run more than 1 Ho-Oh-GX and Kiawe, meaning that Steam Up is generally required to pick up KOs on all Pokémon with more than 170 HP.
Starmie is the best Support Pokémon for Greninja in order to continuously stream Giant Water Shuriken. Starmie maintains the “unwinnable board state” commonly depicted with 2 Greninja BREAK out. Greninja struggles enough in the early game as a deck, so having a 1-1 Evolution line searchable with Brooklet Hill win the late game is quite nice. Starmie replaces Fisherman as the typical method of Energy recovery, due to the loss of VS Seeker.
A card that needs no explanation. I’ve found the best homes for Greninja to be in Gardevoir and Ho-Oh/Salazzle. Both of these matchups become favorable with Giratina, rather than unfavorable. Despite this, I still choose not to find space for Giratina currently. Unlike Gumshoos or other support, there is no secondary use.
Tapu Fini-GX is something that came out of winning Golisopod decks from Bremen. Their lists were heavily focused on Golisopod/Garbodor, but ran a 1-of Tapu Fini. With limitless utility, Tapu Fini acts as an easy way to send away a thick Gardevoir or Ho-oh. It also is great to use with Choice Band for Aqua Ring.
Tapu Fini only has a home in Golisopod for the time being, since no other deck runs Rainbow Energy. I don’t think a Water oriented deck can succeed because of Golisopod. Golisopod is already broken for doing 120 with a single Energy, let alone doing 240 after Weakness.
I think a 1-of copy in Decidueye/Alolan Ninetales could be very intriguing. In that version, I’d play Rainbow Energy instead of Grass seen in Mike’s list that debuted last week. Also, for anyone playing an Alolan Ninetales-GX deck, consider increasing your count from 1 to 2. It’s incredibly important against Gardevoir (at least, if they’re not running Oranguru). It’s also amazing against Golisopod and Fire. Long story short, an unexpected Safeguard can win the game depending on how many Guzma the opponent has left.
Despite the loss of VS Seeker, 1-of Supporters are still seen to great success. Gardevoir lists have been running 1 Acerola, just for that one turn. I think this logic can carry over with Professor Kukui. The first deck that comes to mind is in Ho-Oh/Salazzle. It’s incredibly hard to OHKO Gardevoir with anything other than Ho-Oh since Turtonator normally requires a Choice Band and 2 Steam Ups. With Professor Kukui searchable with Wonder Tag, it can alleviate that pain. The -20 from Parallel City could also be counteracted for the turn.
The other deck I think Kukui can find success in is in Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu. Tapu Bulu runs into trouble against Gardevoir when it can’t find a Tapu Koko to soften up Gardevoir-GXs. The 230 damage is impossible to hit with Tapu Bulu currently, but it can be found with Professor Kukui. The other option for this niche I’ve seen being played is Tapu Koko-GX, once again only for the GX attack. It’s easier to pull off than Professor Kukui, but is worse in other matchups. Anyways, why not both?
Since Worlds, I’ve been enamored of Takuya’s Ho-Oh/Salazzle deck. After updating Espeon/Garbodor, I focused my attention on recreating and testing Fire. With unparalleled aggressive potential, Ho-Oh/Salazzle is the best deck at winning through the best start. This deck also takes the biggest advantage out of any other when going first: Kiawe. Getting the first manual attachment is also huge because that threat can deal with your opponent’s 1st attacker. It plays out like this:
- Kiawe to 1st threat, manually load up a 2nd threat.
- Opponent builds response a to 1st threat
- 1st threat takes a knockout, and is then removed by the opponent’s opening attacker.
- Your 2nd threat KOs that opening attacker.
- Salazzle sweeps.
The time between these steps has one simple goal: keep creating attackers. The best attacker to create is Salazzle, since it can start taking OHKOs after 3 prizes taken, with a Choice Band. Turtonator is the best 2nd threat since it only takes 3 Energy, has 190 instead of 180 HP, and discards Energy against Gardevoir. Power Heater is also great for forcing 7 prizes and softening up a target.
I find myself playing the deck as a race against the opponent to who can take 6 prizes first. Nevertheless, here’s a brief review of matchups I played and the list I won with on Saturday.
R1: Espeon/Garbodor W
R2: Rainbow Road W
R3: Ho-Oh/Salazzle L
R4: Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu W
Top 8: Ho-Oh/Salazzle WLW
Top 4: Ho-Oh/Salazzle WW
Finals: Metagross WW
Nothing too special upon the reflection, but I did manage to dodge Gardevoir all day. Upon further reflection, I think the matchup is 40-60, Gardevoir favored, if they run Octillery and Parallel City. Octillery matters because it’s an extra 2 cards to find Guzma each turn. In the long run, this matters a lot since the way Gardevoir wins is to take care of threats before they can attack. Parallel City is game-winning because it’s 2/3 of a negative Steam Up.
My current list:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 31
2 N (?)
Energy – 14
The list remains relatively the same, with very minor changes to smooth over the deck. A 4th Max Elixir was added to increase the chance of drawing into it—not necessarily to use 4 within a game. It’s especially important to draw them for the mirror match, something I expect to play a few times at tournaments. I took out Giratina/Field Blower for it, since I decided I would take the loss to Greninja and hope to avoid Parallel City in Gardevoir.
Next, I added 1 Professor Kukui over the 3rd N. My rationale was that Professor Kukui can act as a Field Blower against Parallel City—the detrimental nail in the coffin for the Gardevoir matchup. I’ve lost many games because I was 20 short of KOing the Gardevoir after I took out Field Blower. Professor Kukui is better in the sense that it can be easily searched out with Tapu Lele, rather than hoping to draw it off of Professor Sycamore or another Supporter. Field Blower is a more versatile card, but isn’t necessary at all for this kind of deck.
Lastly, you should’ve noticed I put a question mark next to N. This is because I’m very unhappy with how it’s been playing in the deck. I’ve always found myself wishing it was a Professor Sycamore. N is a great card in decks that aim to keep pace or come from behind. However, Ho-Oh/Salazzle tries to go as fast as possible. N has been providing me with 2-4 cards; the time I need the most cards to dig for Guzma. Possible replacements I’ve discussed are Judge, Ilima, Lillie, and Shauna.
Ilima: The tricky brother of the Ace Trainers. In order to properly evaluate this card we have to look at the 4 potential scenarios. I’ll refer to them as X-Y, with X being the cards we draw and Y being the opponent.
- 6-3 | best case scenario
- 6-6 | 2nd best
- 3-3 | 3rd best
- 3-6 | awful.
I’d say that 75% of the time we’re getting a good or even outcome. As long as we’re keeping pace with our opponent, I’d call it successful. One benefit to Ilima is how easily it can cripple the opponent before they’ve set up Octillery or Oranguru.
Lillie: The card that should draw the most on average, but follows the same problem Oranguru does. My hand can get clogged of unplayable cards like Basics, Switch, Kiawe, etc. At that point I want to refresh my hand rather than add more to it.
Almost certainly, I see myself playing some Fire deck for Hartford. It’s most likely going to be something close to what’s seen above, but I may also go in the other direction, closer to Christopher’s Volcanion list. I see Fire as a spectrum for the moment, with Ho-Oh/Salazzle on one end and a pure, Brooklet Hill Volcanion list on the other. Some happy medium may be achieved, but being extreme works too!
Sylveon-GX was quite possibly the most overhyped and underwhelming card to come out of Guardians Rising. Everyone thought it would take over the meta as BDIF, given that it was a strictly better Quad Lapras. However, everyone’s attempt at creating a winning list fell through. But why? I dont know, and I’m not here to answer that question.
For today’s format, a Sylveon deckout deck still has some struggles, most notably against Fire decks and Gardevoir, two of the top decks! To be honest, I don’t think Sylveon can compete against those two decks. Despite this, it can compete against the others! Vikavolt, Golisopod, Greninja, and Metagross are manageable, if not favorable matchups.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 40
2 Red Card
Energy – 11
This is the best list I could iron out with my little knowledge on the deck. Garbodor is here to serve as an out to every deck in the format, otherwise Sylveon-GX is easily OHKO’d. I only run a 1-1 copy, otherwise I would be starting Trubbish way too often. It’s already ≈ 20% to start Trubbish, so increasing that any further is a huge mistake. There isn’t much to this gimmick of a deck other than setting up a Sylveon, which guarantees the second Sylveon, then use disrupting cards to lock out the opponent.
One new method of locking is with Red Card + Delinquent + Tormenting Spray. This guarantees the opponent of having a card in hand other than a Supporter. Under Garbotoxin, there’s nothing the opponent can have to draw more cards. They’re either forced to fall into the trap and hope you don’t have Tormenting Spray, (keeping a Supporter), or keep the best card they drew, most likely an Energy.
Guzma and Mount Lanakila is present to initiate after initially depleting the opponent’s hand. This adds another layer of safety for when they draw a Supporter. Combined with Hammers and Plumeria, this is another way to win.
The last way to win is to remove the opponent’s hand and take 6 prizes. This will most likely happen against Fire and Gardevoir, otherwise it’s impossible to deck them out. One version of Sylveon I want to try involves relying on the hand depletion combo, then taking 6 prizes without any form of deckout. This version plays no Hammers, Plumeria, Handiwork, etc. This version certainly has more room for consistency, and I’d widen out the Pokémon and regular Supporter line accordingly.
Fire is my favorite deck of the new format because of how strong it can be early on. After the first turn, it’s then all about keeping the lead—how fun! The exact opposite of the fun spectrum is Sylveon, which I don’t expect to make a competitive splash at Hartford. The deck is too hard to play for the average player, and the top-notch competitive players would rather play something more defined and consistent. There isn’t much love for deckout decks right now since other cards are so strong.
I’ll be at Hartford, Daytona Beach, and Vancouver to hopefully pick up more points on my journey to Top 16. Having an automatic invite is nice, but I do miss the 500 points I could’ve gotten in 2016. I can’t complain though, doing so well at Worlds and having Pokémon be this huge in my life is all I could ever ask for. It’s indefinitely better than all of my AP US History and Calc 3 homework!
‘Til next time,
… and that will conclude this unlocked Underground article.
(After 90 days we open up past UG content for public viewing to help preserve the history of the game. New articles are reserved for Underground members.)
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Users: Click here to view the registration page if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.