Boo! Hello readers, and welcome to a spooky Halloween article. Whatever your plans may be—trick-or-treating, partying, or simply staying at home—I hope you enjoy this spooky night. My thoughts in these past few weeks have been about integrating new cards into previous archetypes. Gardevoir-GX, Drampa-GX/Garbodor, and Alolan Ninetales-GX are all archetypes with some competitive history before Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion. I love discovering and tuning new, unheard concepts that are birthed within a new set.
As with most other players, I’m intrigued by the new sets, but I don’t see as much potential as there was within Guardians Rising or Burning Shadows. Nonetheless, inherently strong cards like Zoroark-GX and Counter Energy are being printed. I don’t see many other cards that will re-define the meta like Gardevoir-GX did post-Worlds. It seems to me that this set’s purpose is to slightly alter decks rather than create new ones. Of course there are always new decks that are mainly focused on released cards—the Regi deck, Raichu-GX—but other cards like Shining Mew, Shining Jirachi, Kartana-GX, etc., all end up being minor players in another deck’s strategy.
Although there aren’t as many 5 star cards in the new sets, there are still some I plan to experiment heavily with. Those cards are on the edge of playability, but the ones in this section are those I categorize to be competitive. These cards will find their way into a competitive deck, one way or another, solely because of their strength themselves. Also, keep in mind that the cards listed here may not be the best from the set. I chose them out of interest to explore and share my thoughts on them, rather than to give a tier list.
Registeel is one of my favorites because of its typing. I’m always excited to see more strong Metal cards, especially one that provides such strong support for the type. Metagross-GX is another competitive Metal card, but takes up many cards within a decklist. Registeel is splashable, similar to Yveltal XY/GEN in that it functions as Energy acceleration rather than a main attacker.
I love Registeel because it can easily OHKO Ralts and Alolan Vulpix. Registeel also does 120 to a Sylveon-GX with a Choice Band, meaning that only 1-2 Ns are spent in the first few turns. The remaining few can be kept for the late stages of the game. Because of Registeel’s typing and Energy acceleration, it can effectively pressure and set up at the same time.
Currently, I don’t have a refined idea of what to pair Registeel with. My one thought is that it should include a 1-of Cobalion STS in order to OHKO Gardevoir-GX, but that’s about it. The possibilities are limitless because Registeel can attach any type of Basic Energy. Perhaps Silvally-GX works because it would add free Retreat to everything and can do a fair amount of damage. Psychic Memory and Fighting Memory would also be strong against Drampa-GX/Espeon-GX/Garbodor. Silvally-GX also has the benefits of not complicating multiple Energy types, such as Metal and Fighting.
Kartana-GX is strong because of its GX attack. With only the Ability, I doubt it will see competitive play over Enhanced Hammer. The tradeoff lies in being able to Ultra Ball for Energy removal vs. always using a Bench space. The GX attack compensates for the lost Bench space, allowing Kartana-GX to be useful. Think about a prize trade scenario, similar to one found in Garbodor mirrors. The late stages of the game revolve around who sets up more Garbodor. Kartana-GX can act as a Basic instead of a Stage 1 that takes a prize—reminiscent of Ditto from NA Internationals. There’s also nothing the opponent can do to stop Blade GX (what a dull name).
This buff bug is one of my favorites to come out of the set because it’s a new iteration of Landorus-EX. I miss announcing “Hammerhead,” but it turns out I’m still deprived of the glory because the attack name is “Jet Punch.” Anyway, this card is exceptionally strong because of its 190 HP and first attack. The second attack hits for 160, but has a pricey cost of 3 Energy. The GX attack is mostly useless since Buzzwole-GX should take a prize or two early on.
I see Buzzwole-GX as its own archetype with several different partners. Garbodor and Decidueye-GX are the two discussed variants at the moment. Further down in this article I describe my version of the deck. Buzzwole-GX provides a type advantage against Zoroark-GX and Drampa-GX, but is weak to Psychic. This makes it useless in a mirror match, but strong everywhere else.
Travis already posted his in-depth article about Counter Energy, so check that out if you haven’t already. My thoughts on this card are directly related to my mood. If I’m in a good mood, I’m all about pondering potential Counter Energy-reliant decks. While planning what to write about, I mused on Lucario FCO with Christopher, but he wasn’t especially impressed. And, my other thoughts were an updated Quad Sylveon-GX and Marshadow-GX box—similarly non-starters. I’m glad there’s someone there to rebound and throw away my bad ideas.
Now that that garbage is out of the way, my thoughts: Counter Energy is very strong, but also very overhyped. There are obvious downsides and limitations to prevent Counter Energy from being overpowered. For now, I think its only uses are applied in what Travis covered: Type-specific Pokémon to swing a certain matchup. Cobalion for Gardevoir, Keldeo for Volcanion, etc. I haven’t found a suitable deck that completely relies on Counter Energy, nor will I ever. Building a deck that revolves around Counter Energy is unwise because it forfeits any chance of being in a winning position. There’s no lead to be taken; once you take your prizes with Pokémon + Counter Energy, you’ve disarmed yourself. An opponent passing their next turn is equally as strong to KOing your Pokémon.
Shining Mew is the card I’ve thought about the most since reading the set. Fun fact: when I started this article, it was about Lunala-GX and its imminent rise into the meta. It turns out that all good decks in the meta can actually OHKO things, meaning Lunala-GX sucks. Shining Mew was my way to empower it through Energy acceleration, but there’s no free turn to move Energy around.
The main deck I want to apply Shining Mew in is Drampa-GX/Garbodor. It seems incredibly strong in mirror, being able to power up Berserk very quickly. The game can be won outright through Berserk wars. Espeon-GX is the main hole in that plan, but Shining Jirachi + Choice Band removes Espeon-GX. Stellar Reign only yields 1 prize, but it neutralizes the only threat to a Drampa-GX.
The last thought I have on Shining Mew is its playability in decks that play Counter Energy. Despite my negative thoughts, I do think that the pros outweigh the cons. Shining Mew acts as a huge threat because it can apply so much Energy. It’s also N-proof compared to Sylveon-GX, which puts the cards to hand. Shining Mew must be knocked out, but then Counter Energy can be used effectively. Shining Mew being able to accelerate any kind of Energy (not limited to Basic) makes this scenario even more likely of a reality.
Vancouver Regionals provided accurate results of Gardevoir’s dominance and the inability of any other deck to dethrone it. Even Greninja managed to fall in Top 8 to Hale. “Greninja hands” can be blamed for this, or the matchup may simply be manageable with Parallel City, Max Potion, and Plea GX. Regardless, Gardevoir continues to show its dominance in League Cups since then.
The League Cup results that have been pouring in only debut Shining Legends, since Crimson Invasion won’t be legal for another few weeks. There won’t be any tournament results before I, and many others, turn in our decklists with Crimson Invasion cards in London. Like I’ve said, I don’t think there’s much within Crimson Invasion that will knock Gardevoir-GX below Tier 1, but we’ll have to see.
Buzzwole-GX works as a partner to Garbodor because it’s strong throughout the game. Garbodor needs a partner in crime to take early prizes while the opponent runs through Items. Drampa-GX and Espeon-GX do this by expending the opponent’s resources, but Buzzwole-GX can accomplish the same goal by softening big GX Pokémon like Alolan Ninetales-GX and Gardevoir-GX.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
4 Po Town
Energy – 12
As with all Garbodor decks, this variant maintains a pretty healthy skeleton. It’s more complicated to align the Energy count because Buzzwole-GX requires Fighting Energy. It’s more difficult to formulate than Drampa-GX or Espeon-GX per sé. For reference, here are the changes I’ve made to this list from my Vancouver list:
- -1/1 Espeon-GX, +1 Shining Jirachi +1 Choice Band
- -2 Drampa-GX, +2 Buzzwole-GX
- -1 Tapu Lele-GX, +1 Acerola
- -4 Double Colorless -3 Psychic, +4 Strong +3 Fighting
The changes I made were ones with intention of restructuring the deck towards a Buzzwole-GX version. Drampa-GX and Espeon-GX had to go because Double Colorless was taken out of the deck. There isn’t space for 2 types of Energy and Double Colorless. Rainbow Energy solves that issue, but I dislike taking 10 damage on Buzzwole-GX or Garbodor occasionally. Double Colorless is only good for attaching to Tapu Lele-GX as well, further suggesting its removal.
Energy: I chose to go with a 7-5 Energy count because I aim to hit the T1 Jet Punch. A 6-6 energy split hints at both parts of the deck being equally useful—which is true—but it’s more important to attach Fighting Energy on the first turn than Psychic Energy. 4 Strong Energy is necessary because it’s that good of a card. I don’t think there will be many times when I would need to attach it to Espeon-EX to attack or Tapu Lele-GX to retreat. Strong Energy can only be attached to Fighting Pokémon, which could be a hindrance during said scenarios.
+1 Acolera, -1 Tapu Lele-GX: Without Double Colorless Energy, there’s little chance I’m going to use Energy Drive. This makes Tapu Lele-GX much worse of a starter than before, so removing 1 will decrease that probability. Acerola is better in this deck than the Drampa-XG version because Buzzwole-GX is a one Energy attacker. It’s also much more immobile because of 3 retreat cost and no Double Colorless Energy. It’s also much more important to put a Choice Band on it ASAP to do an extra 30 damage with Jet Punch. However, that Choice Band immobilizes Buzzwole-GX in the Active. The Acerola is a good means of scooping it up and transitioning into Shining Jirachi to OHKO the Espeon-GX that just used Psybeam.
This version can’t take OHKOs quickly like Drampa-GX can, which means that un-evolved Pokémon would be strong. Thankfully, there aren’t many good decks that focus on them (Volcanion? Haha). To make up for its lack of 180 potential, Buzzwole-GX is more effective against spread decks. Some Fighting type coverage also makes up for Garbodor’s inherent weakness against Zoroark-GX. Riotous Beating can do 120 easily and boasts Psychic Resistance. Resistance was the main struggle during the Espeon-GX/Garbodor vs. Drampa-GX/Zoroark matchup last year.
4 Po Town: I continue to play 4 Po Town because it’s essential at all points in the game to beat Evolution decks. It demands a Field Blower, which could otherwise be spent on Garbotoxin, or counter Stadium. There’s no positive benefit of self-inflicting damage in this deck, so try to avoid damaging your Garbodor. One important thing to note is that it’s easier for this deck to take devolve KOs than the Drampa-GX version because of 30-30 to multiple targets. Ralts, Alolan Vulpix, and Eevee all have 60 HP, just enough to KO with Jet Punch + Po Town + Miraculous Shine.
Jirachi XY67: Jirachi could be good to further improve the Gardevoir-GX, Alolan Ninetales-GX, and Golisopod-GX/Garbodor matchups. Stardust is great at hitting for enough damage to take a KO with Miraculous Shine. With a Choice Band, Jirachi does 80 to the first two and 40 to the third. 80 is enough to KO Ralts/Kirlia/Alolan Vulpix, while 40 is enough to KO a Wimpod/Trubbish with from another source. It should be relatively easy to place the original 30 with Jet Punch or from a well-timed tick of Po Town.
Both prevalent version of Garbodor maintain the same 55 card skeleton (excluding Energy changes), so it would be reasonable to assume that the matchups remain the same. However, the differences between Buzzwole-GX and Drampa-GX as cards is vast, one much different than the comparison of Drampa-GX and Espeon-GX. Instead of writing out the specific matchup percentages for each matchup, I’ll compare the matchups between Drampa-GX and Buzzwole-GX. This should give you a better idea of which variant is better for the meta.
- Gardevoir: Buzzwole > Drampa
- Zoroark: Buzzwole > Drampa
- Metagross: Buzzwole > Drampa
- Volcanion: Drampa > Buzzwole
- Garbodor Variants: Drampa > Buzzwole
- Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX: Drampa > Buzzwole
- Alolan Ninetales: Equal
- Greninja: Equal
I labeled some matchups as equal because there isn’t a consequential difference between the two cards. Each have their own strength in the matchup that changes how its played, but are equal. Buzzwole-GX needs a quicker start than Drampa-GX in order to apply pressure. It’s harder to pull this off since there are 7 potential Fighting Energies vs. 12 or 8 for Righteous Edge and Psybeam respectively. I doubt that the change of 2 Tapu Lele-GX vs. 3 will make a big difference in consistency, but if it does I would opt to take out a Field Blower.
As you could probably tell, the difference in effectiveness stems from whether we’re facing a Stage 2 deck or if their deck is weak to Fighting. Buzzwole-GX shines in these matchups; the early game strategy is always to pull off successive Jet Punches and take early prizes. Buzzwole-GX is better in that regard since Drampa-GX requires two attachments to do a reasonable amount of damage.
Another unheard benefit of playing the Buzzwole-GX version over Drampa-GX is the difficulty level. I’d consider Drampa-GX to be more intricate because of the variety of attackers in Drampa-GX, Espeon-GX, and Tapu Lele-GX. This makes it very difficult for both inexperienced and experienced players to maneuver the mirror match. Choosing which attacker seems like a simple choice, but can easily be erred into losing the game. Drampa-GX/Garbodor also has to consider their Energy attachments to set up Berserk and Psychic, while Buzzwole-GX doesn’t.
That’s it for today! I’m hoping to test more of the format in preparation for London, but it sucks that there aren’t any tournaments prefacing it. There’s plenty of time for unexplored concepts to emerge. It’s also possible that I’m completely wrong about Gardevoir’s dominance, which would result in a scrambled meta!
Goodbye for now, and happy Halloween!
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