Studying Silvally

A Case Review on Deck Building through the Lens of Zoroark for London

Hey friends! Travis Nunlist here back with another piece, and I’m really excited to see what everyone has been coming up with since the release of Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion.

The Alolan Ninetales-GX/Zoroark-GX deck has been gaining a lot of hype lately as it swept some of the first tournaments with Shining Legends. Zoroark-GX is definitely the most hyped card out of the mini set and seems to have helped solve a lot of the weaknesses that Alolan Ninetales faced before. Zoroark-GX has found its way into all kinds of decks, and other cards like Shining Jirachi have snuck into existing Garbodor variants. But, we haven’t actually seen any official results with the full set of this block: Crimson Invasion.

My last piece was focused around the new Counter cards and all the potential I saw in their ability to shake up the format. It seems like the general consensus on these cards is that they’re clearly good, but finding the right partner is going to be the tricky part. Since then I’ve been toying with all kinds of ideas to see what I can come up with, and amidst my Crimson Invasion exploration, I became enamored with Silvally-GX. It has a 210 HP, a great Ability, and two incredible attacks! Gyro Unit gives free retreat to all of your basic Pokémon, and Rebel-GX does 50× for each of your opponent’s bench Pokémon, forcing them to play with a tight bench. The Colorless typing and Energy acceleration attack give it a lot of pairing flexibility, making it a very powerful support Pokémon.

Deck-building at the beginning of a new format can be quite challenging, as grinding out new concepts takes a lot of time and effort, especially when we have so many battle tested powerhouses to fall back on. When high stakes tournaments like the upcoming London Intercontinental Championship are the first event of a new format, it’s no wonder that a lot of players prefer to stick with what they know. Today I’m going to go over how I went about exploring my favorite GX out of the new set and give an overview of my general process when fleshing out ideas with new cards.

Silvally Lining Playbook: A Deck Building Case Study

Step One – Environment & Attribute Analysis

The first thing I do when considering a new idea is explore what inherent strengths and weaknesses it possesses, and how those interact with the existing format. I usually make a mental checklist, but here are some things I considered:

  • Pros ?
    • 110 HP Basic means less early game knockouts
    • Unique Ability
    • Flexibility
    • Relevant Type Changing Tools
  • Cons ?
    • Fighting Weakness
    • CCC attack means two attachments before anything can happen
    • Evolution

Now, I’ll consider these attributes within the context of Gardevoir-GX and Garbodor variants, which reigned supreme last format, and Alolan Ninetales-GX and Buzzwole-GX, the most hyped newbies.

The CCC attack cost and Fighting weakness are absolutely atrocious against Gardevoir-GX decks—leaving you very susceptible to both Gallade and Gardevoir. Psychic Memory lets you hit Gallade back for weakness, but it is an uneven trade. Both of your type changing tools are good against Drampa-GX/Espeon-GX, with the 120 from Turbo Drive being just enough to knockout both Garbodor as well.

The Fighting Weakness sticks out when up against Buzzwole-GX, who can 1HKO Type: Null with Strong Energy and Fighting Fury Belt—immense pressure. Psychic Memory allows you to hit Buzzwole back for Weakness, but their speed is going to be the main issue. Alolan Ninetales-GX can actually 1HKO Silvally-GX with Professor Kukui and Choice Band, but Silvally-GX is unable to do the same without using Rebel-GX, and has to constantly work around Ice Path-GX. However, with Fighting Memory, you can easily target down their Zoroark-GX and try to keep the Prize trade even.

Once we’ve identified the inherent weaknesses of a card and/or deck idea, we can begin to search for the right partners to fill in the gaps. This can prove especially daunting with a card like Silvally-GX that offers so many options, but that’s what makes it fun!

Step Two – Considering Comrades

Because we can play Silvally-GX with any type that we want, we need to first consider which types are the most relevant. The Memories cover Psychic and Fighting, giving us space to look elsewhere. While looking at the most common Weaknesses in the meta it is very important to keep in mind the viable set of attackers for each type. The next most relevant Weakness is certainly Metal, with both Gardevoir-GX and Alolan Ninetales-GX. Before Crimson Invasion, everyone desperately wanted to exploit the Metal weaknesses in the meta, but none of our Metal attackers were any good! Luckily for us, Silvally-GX was printed right alongside a slew of viable Metal attackers just itching for a home.

While reading Xander Pero‘s article last week, he casually mentioned that Silvally-GX could be paired with Registeel and other attackers due to the acceleration and mobility. Christopher Schemanske mentioned Registeel as being the best of the Regi family, and thought it would find a home in some kind of “counter” deck. I’ve bounced ideas surrounding the concept off plenty of my friends and testing partners while absorbing as much info as I can that already exists.

Having friends and/or testing groups you can bounce ideas off of is immensely helpful to considering the range of possibilities with a new idea. They may offer an entirely different perspective, point out a flaw or strength that you hadn’t considered, or even be poking around with a similar idea! Utilizing networks of information is critical to success and essential to learning.

Right away, the Metal pairing with Silvally-GX seemed like the best way to do it. Once figuring out the general idea of Metal Friends/Silvally-GX, I went to flesh out a rough draft. When I first make a rough draft of a deck, I list every single card I want in as optimal of counts as I can think of, usually leaving me with ~70 card decklist. My initial draft looked like this:

Pokémon – 27

4 Type: Null CIN

4 Silvally-GX

4 Registeel CIN

2 Zorua SLG

2 Zoroark-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Drampa-GX

2 Cobalion STS

2 Kartana-GX

2 Scizor-EX

1 Celesteela-GX

Trainers – 35

4 Guzma

4 N

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Mallow

1 Brigette

1 Gladion


4 Ultra Ball

4 Choice Band

2 Field Blower

2 Counter Catcher

2 Fighting Memory

2 Psychic Memory

1 Float Stone

1 Rescue Stretcher

Energy – 14

8 M

4 Double Colorless

2 Warp

76 Cards, 16 Cards Over

I like to start with an initial list I know will be over 60 so that I can really get a feel for what all of my options with a deck are. Once I know how many cards are over, I can start to slowly chip away one by one at cards and counts that just simply aren’t worth keeping around. Usually around 62-64 cards you can really get a feel for where the more flexible spaces are and start to understand why certain counts may be better than others. The initial idea had these changes:

-1 Silvally-GX, -1 Tapu Lele-GX, -1 Cobalion STS, -1 Kartana-GX, -2 Scizor-EX, -1 Celesteela-GX, -1 Gladion, -1 Choice Band, -2 Counter Catcher, -2 Field Blower, -1 Float Stone, -2 Warp Energy

The Metal focus seemed very viable, and initially found success while appearing poised well against the sort of environment I anticipated. I was enamored with the control that the Mallow/Zoroark combo would give me once the game got going, and the Metal typing focus really helped against Alolan Ninetales-GX and Gardevoir-GX variants. The Fighting Pokémon still proved troublesome if they found themselves up against Silvally.

While Silvally can change its type to Psychic and dish out a 1HKO to Buzzwole-GX and Gallade, it is still weak itself and is reliant on having the correct tool attached to do so which can cause issues. Garbodor BKP is troublesome, shutting off Gyro Unit or Trade, but the reliant acceleration and type coverage go a long way.

It seemed promising against the concepts I was considering to the most threatening, but the nature of the game right now is diversity and trouble against more fringe concepts proved a bit of a setback. Having no consistent way to 1HKO Golisopod-GX proved frustrating, the speed and typing of Fire Decks gave them a huge advantage, and Greninja had no issue dropping Giant Water Shurikens everywhere with a the lack of pressure and time allowed to setup. Metagross-GX could just heal and slam similar to Golisopod-GX, and VikaBulu could 1HKO everything in the deck with a Choice Band. Addressing the next set of issues would prove to be the most interesting.

Step Three – Creative Solutions

When considering ways to handle the next set of issues I was facing, I decided to focus on the Golisopod-GX matchup. I tried Reshiram SLG to act as an annoying wall while poking Golisopod for relevant damage. If I can force them to burn their GX attack, only dish out 30 for a turn, or pass altogether, it could be worth the spot.

That’s when it dawned on me that if I could somehow hit into a Golisopod-GX with Scorching Breath instead, I would be in a much better position. I quickly realized that I only had two options to do that: play R Energy or attach Counter Energy to Reshiram when down on prizes. Both Registeel’s Turbo Arm and Silvally’s Turbo Drive allow us to accelerate any Basic Energy out of the discard, giving us a bit more justification for splitting up the Energy types. We also have access to Smeargle BKT to switch out our Basic Energy, ensuring we always have the correct one. Relying on more Basic Energy makes us much less vulnerable to Kartana-GX, Enhanced Hammer, and Drampa-GX but is a bit more limiting with the range of attackers we can support.

Alternatively, Counter Energy could surprise, and destroy an unsuspecting Metagross-GX or Golisopod-GX. As I addressed in my last article, the inclusion of Counter Energy also gives us a huge range of other Basic attackers we can tech in to solve problems. In addition to having access to this pool of attackers, they also get free retreat with Silvally-GX. This means that after they swoop in with Counter Energy and their big tempo-swinging play, they won’t be stranded in the Active Spot with an energy that is no longer providing what they need to attack.

Finally, the last reason I really enjoy Counter Energy is the presence of Mallow/Zoroark in the deck. Having access to this combo makes it really easy to Mallow for Counter/Attacker and draw them immediately with Trade. Even in matchups where you’re not relying on your tech attackers, you will still almost certainly have plenty of chances to use the Counter Energy on a Registeel or Cobalion for a bigger hit than your opponent was expecting. After adjustments I came to this:

Pokémon – 20

3 Type: Null CIN

3 Silvally-GX

3 Registeel CIN

2 Zorua SLG

2 Zoroark-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI

1 Drampa-GX GRI

1 Kartana-GX

1 Cobalion STS

1 Reshiram SLG

1 White Kyurem FCO

Trainers – 28

4 Guzma

4 N

3 Professor Sycamore

3 Mallow

1 Brigette

1 Gladion


4 Ultra Ball

3 Choice Band

1 Counter Catcher

1 Fighting Memory

1 Psychic Memory

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Special Charge

Energy – 12

7 M

3 Double Colorless

2 Counter

60 Cards: -1 Type: Null CIN, -1 Registeel CIN, -1 Professor Sycamore, -1 Fighting Memory, -1 Psychic Memory, -1 Metal -1 DCE, +1 Reshiram, +1 White Kyurem, +1 Gladion, +1 Counter Catcher, +1 Special Charge, +2 Counter Energy

Step Four – Finding Form Flexibility

The best way to think about my next step of deck building: imagine you’re playing a game of Jenga. Consider the decklist the Jenga tower you’re poking around looking for wiggle room in different areas to be aware of what you can feasibly remove and replace without causing the tower to come tumbling down. In the same sense you should be aware of which cards in your decklist can be cut, why you might cut them, and what you could consider replacing them with.

Wiggle Room – Considering Card Cuts

-1-1 Silvally – If you’re looking for more space, this could be a reasonable cut. Silvally-GX can easily be utilized to the same capacity as Zoroark by being support focused with an effective attacking option. Reducing the focus on Silvally makes room for other tech attackers and options to really focus on the single Prize Pokémon.

-1 Drampa-GX / -1 Kartana-GX – I lumped these two together because I’m certain that one of the GX basics is worth a spot, but I doubt that having both is optimal. They both have a ton of utility and for different reasons, but ultimately I think that one of these spots would be better served elsewhere.

-1 Reshiram SLG / -1 White Kyurem FCOI list these two together because they are our chosen ‘Counter Attackers.’ I alluded to my preference for Reshiram earlier as a hard out to both Metagross and Golisopod, but White Kyurem FCO is a card that has seen no play since it was printed in Fates Collide. It has essentially the same second attack as Reshiram, but as a Water type, giving you an instant 1HKO against everything in fire decks besides Ho-Oh-GX and Tapu Lele-GX.

Additionally, it has a pretty solid first attack should the opportunity to use it appear. The reasoning behind choosing both of these attackers is because outside of the specific matchups where they shine they also deal a very solid 130/160 with a Choice Band as a single Prize attacker. Having a tech that can be key in specific matchups but also a good card in general compliments the deck very well.

-1 GladionI decided to include Gladion in this iteration of the list due to the nature of playing with a slew of tech attackers running the risk of prizing key cards when you need them. Gladion gives you access to cards stuck in your prizes when you need them, and the game breaking plays it makes possible are amazing and well worth the inclusion over additional copies of Professor Sycamore or Mallow.

-1 Psychic Memory – I’ve been really back and forth on this card for a while now. It is perfect against Espeon-GX giving you a very easy out to pulling off a 1HKO on them, but against Buzzwole-GX and Gallade it loses a bit of its potency due to their speed and equally favorable typing. Overall I think committing too many spaces to the Memory cards will prove troublesome when looking for other coverage as well. In my experience, you really only need one well timed type change to swing the game in your favor. The Fighting Memory has been worth its place in the deck, but the Psychic type coverage may be better served by Mimikyu GRI or something similar.

-1 Counter Catcher – This card in tandem with the rest of your tempo swinging possibilities can create game-breaking plays on a dime. I’m convinced I want another one, but this could easily be cut for a Field Blower or any other want in the deck.

-1 Special Charge – I decided to include this when I made room for 5 total Special Energy. I’m not quite convinced that playing this is better than a 3rd Counter or 4th DCE, but it does give a lot of flexibility in recovery should you run into some unplanned issues.

Replacement Rotation – Testing, Training, and Tune-Up

+1 Shaymin SHG, +1 Keldeo SHG, +1 Stunfisk BKT, +1 Sudowoodo BKP, +1 Giratina XY184, +1 Marshadow CIN, +1 Mimikyu GRI, +1 Mew FCO, +1 Mr. Mime BKT

This list of potential techs is rather long, but none of them should be too surprising. I simply took what I determined to be the best relevant options this variant can utilize from the list in my last article and highlighted them here.

The set of techs you decide on will 100% depend on what you expect the meta to look like and the issues you’re facing or are looking to exploit.

Narrowing down the best choices will certainly prove interesting. I have Keldeo SLG listed here as a potential Water type, but for now I think that White Kyurem FCO is superior. While it does take one more energy, it has more HP and the damage isn’t conditional, making it much more consistent. With your two main attackers both accelerating Basic Energy, the extra requirement is much less of an issue than losing the total surprise package from Mallow/Trade.

+1-2 Field Blower – The exclusion of this card has been a tricky decision. The only thing I have ever found myself truly wanting it for is to clear Garboxtoxin, because it can really throw a wrench in our Mallow/Trade plays. Being able to clear away a troublesome Parallel City is an added bonus, but other than that I think the space can be better used. Field Blower is an amazing card that covers weaknesses, and is rarely ever dead in a matchup even if it isn’t particularly impactful. It’s not currently in my list, but is something I’m aiming to work in if I can figure out a balance within the T/S/S.

+1-2 Warp Energy – This card is capable of serving multiple purposes in a deck like this. It gives you a way to move Silvally-GX or Zoroark-GX should they end up in the Active Spot when you don’t want them there and/or cannot play Guzma. It also gives you a way to move any Pokémon in your deck when Gyro Unit is offline, such as having your Silvally-GX Knocked Out or Abilities locked out through Garbotoxin.

Finally, it can simply be an energy card whenever you need one along with the added bonus of mobility. It could cause a stink in niche scenarios where you cannot/do not want to switch and don’t have access to Gyro Unit, but could also be very clutch in situations where you want to Guzma and use the current attacker without access to Gyro Unit.

+2nd Counter Catcher, +3rd Counter Energy, +4th DCE, +8th Metal, +2nd Fighting Memory, +4th Professor Sycamore – These are some cards that I would love to have more access to in a game, but just cannot currently find the space for additional copies. Mallow/Trade helps to make most of these accessible when we want them, but having more to take advantage of would be great.

Type Exploration

While the Metal version currently appears superior given the popularity of Gardevoir-GX and Alolan Ninetales-GX, it’s always good to keep in mind the best type options should the relevant Weaknesses in the meta rotate. The Pokémon considerations I’m presenting for each type will all follow a similar theme: Additional Energy acceleration, reasonable damage output from non-EX attackers, and the ability to utilize Counter cards—without relying on them.

Grass: Virizion SLG, Shining Genesect SLG, Shaymin SLG This typing scheme can follow a similar format as the Metal version. Virizion can accelerate Energy, though only to itself. Shining Genesect can move energy around (including Counter when activated) while having a theoretically unlimited damage cap, and Shaymin SLG is a potent revenge attacker with a consistency attack.

Lightning: Raikou SLG, Raikou BKT, Stunfisk BKT Hilariously enough. the Lightning selection has a lot of similar attributes to the Grass and Metal variations. Raikou SLG is a Lightning Registeel CIN, while Raikou BKT and Stunfisk BKT are Lightning versions of Shining Genesect SLG and Shaymin SLG with minor differences.

Psychic: Shining Mew SLG, Shining Jirachi SLG, Latios SLG, Mimikyu GRI, Wobbuffet GEN, Mew FCO The Psychic type offers a sizable amount of options, as there are a lot of viable candidates who can fill different niches. Both Shining Mew SLG and Mew FCO immediately stand out to me as the best options. The Energy acceleration on Shining Mew is unparalleled, and Mew FCO can utilize Counter Energy to copy any other Basic’s attack you have in play. Other Psychic selections will depend entirely on what you’re aiming to counter.

Dark: Yveltal GEN, Darkrai BUS, Yveltal SLG, Hoopa SLG With Yveltal-EX falling out of favor in the format due to the popularity of Tapu Lele-GX and Gardevoir-GX, Dark types are going to have to adjust their strategy to be competitive again. Fortunately we have two different single Prize Yveltal that can accelerate energy, a Darkrai that can swing for 160-190 if your opponent has used their GX attack, and a terrific safeguard Pokémon in Hoopa SLG. Utilizing Yveltal SLG’s Strafe attack into Hoopa SLG is very easy with Gyro Unit, and can lock your opponent out of the game if they struggle to answer it.

Fairy: Xerneas STS, Xerneas BKT Despite less exclusive typing options. the Fairy focus can actually get quite intricate depending on how you decide to move forward with it. Xerneas STS can quickly begin to accelerate energy from the deck all over the place taking the form of the Xerneas BREAK deck we’ve seen pop up here and there. Xerneas BKT can utilize Silvally-GX as energy acceleration, mobility, and additional type coverage for its Rainbow Force attack.

Step Five – Grinding Games and Meta Awareness

Once you’ve figured out the general idea of what you want your deck to look like, the final test is figure out exactly which 60 you’re going to be turning in come tournament day. The two biggest factors in narrowing down the final spots in your decklist are going to be perception of the meta and some good ole fashion testing. Grinding games against troublesome matchups is the true key to fleshing out a new concept before it hits the mainstream, and learning their ins and outs is going to go a long way when your opponent may not be as familiar with them.

If your considered techs have as many applications as the options within Silvally-GX variants then you’re going to really want a good feel for the exact strengths and weaknesses of each card. The beauty of getting your reps in as far as testing goes is that once you establish what you think the meta will be, your tech choices should be easy enough to narrow down. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each option will help select the correct comrades moving forward, and will give you the best chance for success at the event.


Unlike a lot of people who have began their initial testing with Crimson Invasion, I’m still quite hopeful that we will see a lot more creativity flowing from these sets than initially anticipated. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the London Intercontinental Championship plays out and what sort of archetypes we will see emerge. Leading into the event the general consensus I’ve gathered is that most don’t expect the meta to change much from pre-CIN/SLG, so I hope that gives some new or underrated concepts an opening to break through.

I’ve very recently booked my flight to the Dallas Regional Championship, so I am confirmed attending that event for sure. I’m still on the fence about Memphis, but am always looking for more chances to attend events whenever I can. Hopefully this case study on my deck building process has given you some insight on how to go about crafting your own creative concoction. Until next time!

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