I have to admit that I have been rather frustrated with the schedule of events recently. I believe that I somewhat hinted at this in my last article earlier in November but the lack of Regionals recently has made this season difficult for me to participate in. I knew I would be unable to make London Internationals at the start of the season and perhaps it is the main justification for this dismal gap between Vancouver and San Jose.
Over a month has passed and I have not been able to attend a single event despite finally having the time to do so. Why host an event over the busiest weekend of airline traffic and transit while all of November and early December was completely free? I apologize if this comes off too much as a personal complaint, but as someone who is itching to compete, I cannot help but be dissatisfied with a system unintentionally stacked against me. Alas, I will press on and should be at Cups and Memphis Regionals every weekend for the rest of the year after Thanksgiving!
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I am happy to report that I think the game is in an incredibly favorable position. Crimson Invasion, while perceived to be weak initially, saw some decent success this past weekend in London. Buzzwole-GX seemed the biggest breakout to me, as all the hype surrounding the card was paired with Garbodor and the old Po Town/Espeon-EX package, or as a lone tech in decks already playing four Rainbow Energy. Two mono-Fighting made Top 8 and proved most of us skeptics wrong.
Landorus-EX, upon its initial release was incredibly strong and preyed on the vulnerabilities of decks that needed to evolve to function while being a big, strong attacker against other big basic Pokémon. Buzzwole-GX is almost the exact same card, though is noticeably improved. I really loved the deck that saw success in London, and after watching the Top 8 stream, I think it probably would have defeated Zak Krekler’s Silvally-GX toolbox deck with a little more luck. Poor Max Elixirs in the second and third game and some incredibly ideal topdecks from Zak in the final turns of the game still made the deck seem powerful despite the loss. For those curious, here is the Lycanroc-GX/Buzzswole-GX list that had two placings in the Top 8:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 31
Energy – 13
Speaking of Zak, he and the whole Krekler clan hail from my area and always prove to be incredibly difficult opponents. All three of the brothers (with a fourth in one of the younger divisions) have a penchant for playing odd or unorthodox decks, many of them duds, but I think Zak was the only player to get his Silvally-GX toolbox correct. Many of the other lists had much lighter Metal focuses, and as a result, I think Gardevoir-GX was barely at a disadvantage (if at all). Zak’s choice to focus on Celesteela-GX was brilliant and undoubtedly a major contributor to his success.
I am uncertain of the deck’s overall viability in a more defined metagame but I think it will remain a tier 2 deck at worse. Celesteela is probably my favorite Pokémon from the Sun and Moon generation, so I am happy to see it find a home in this deck. Nonetheless, I cannot help but wonder how this deck will fair if—and when—Gardevoir-GX’s popularity begins to dwindle. Here is Zak’s list as well:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 29
Energy – 14
The other big story coming out of London is of course Zoroark/Golispod. Tord’s victory this past weekend definitely establishes an unprecedented dominance for the player is likely a feat not to be repeated soon. Outside of Jason Klaczynski’s resume, Tord just seems to have the it factor that separates the greatest from the great and I would be willing to wager that the odds of Tord winning a third International Championship are roughly more likely than another player winning their second International. Let’s briefly take a look at his list!
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 33
Energy – 7
The deck itself is brilliant. Very rarely do I see a list where I do not immediately wish to change 1-2 cards. I noted briefly in my last article that I was confident that Golisopod/Zoroark would be strong in Standard as well as Expanded, but I could not have been more wrong in my approach to the list. It takes a real master to get a list this refined but I think that Tord grinded accordingly and came to the appropriate conclusions. The deck features a relatively shallow count of draw supporters (one of the only times we have seen less than 3-4 Professor Sycamore or Juniper in a winning list since the inception of either card) and thus the the deck is heavily reliant on getting multiple Zoroark-GX on the board and Trading your deck away.
It may appear as if this list has a fair amount of excess or fluff, but I think that is justified as well. It is usually unnecessary for you to have four Field Blowers in any given game, but the useless copies become your ideal cards to Trade. Your goal with the deck is to make it as thin as possible, and then simply win in a few short turns, often using Puzzle of Time to acquire everything you need in order to secure victory. There were a few difference between Tord’s list and the other Norwegian lists that made Day 2 and Top 8 in London but they were very minimal. My good friend Benji Pham (who won the Anaheim Open in August) had a fourth grass energy instead of the Mallow, and I think everyone else was just between these two cards.
I do like the additional Grass Energy in the deck and will need to test further to see if I think I can get away with just three. The only change that I am personally considering with this list is attempting to cut some of the excess (Mallow, Bridgette, Field Blower etc.) in order to fit 1-2 copies of Professor Kukui.
I wrote at great length how I thought this card was incredible in my Alolan Ninetales-GX deck and I do believe that it could find a home in this deck as well. The extra 20 damage ought to be fairly impactful in an aggressive deck such as this one. Most importantly, this +20 helps Mewtwo EVO deal with a Gallade that has not taken any damage. Strong Fighting-type Pokémon are the only things able to keep the deck in check and so the more outs to them, the better. I think you would be reasonably justified trying to fit Professor Kukui into the list and should notice minimal impact on your overall consistency.
Looking forward with the deck, the biggest thing to figure out is how best to counter it and play the mirror. The mirror match should be a relatively skilled affair and will require players to keep their benches as small as possible and be incredibly careful with their DCE attachments. I am not sure if anything bigger than a more prepared mono-Fighting deck will be able to “counter” this creation, but I cannot wait to experience the metagame in greater detail.
Zoroark-GX stole the show in London this past weekend, but Gardevoir-GX should not be counted out just yet. I think leading into the weekend, almost every North American player was onboard with a “beat Gardevoir or counter Gardevoir” mentality. As a playerbase, none of us had really considered the strength of Zoroark and I believe that every North American player who made Day 2 (with exception of Michael Long, who has been playing nearly the same Greninja 60 all year) played Gardevoir-GX or the Sivally-GX box.
“Broken Deck” had become the meme of that weekend, which refers directly to Gardevoir-GX sans Sylveon-GX and with 3-4 Max Potion. Jokes aside, I do not think that anyone really denied the power of the deck but I was personally somewhat skeptical. I had become a strong believer in double Gallade and thought that it would be great against anything attempting to take advantage of Gardevoir’s weakness.
If I had attended London, I know that I would have played Gardevoir-GX in some capacity. Given that many other players know the deck much better than I do, I likely would have trusted their judgement, but perhaps it becomes a metagame call between whether or not you play Sylveon or Max Potions. Though useful in many matchups, I think the large motivation between shifting the focus away from Sylveon-GX was to mainly counter or hedge against Drampa-GX/Garbodor and other Po Town/Espeon-EX strategies. With those decks now in the background rather than the foreground, I do not think it is unreasonable to think that Syvelon-GX could make resurgence.
Travis Nunlist’s patented PPGX play (Parallel City + Plea GX) was always meant to be an answer to other Stage 2 decks and just be generally as disruptive as possible. Zoroark-GX/Golispod-GX does not fit quite into the criteria where Sylveon-GX is at its best, but it’s worth noting that Parallel City can be difficult for the deck to deal with if there is not an immediate response via Field Blower. Golisopod-GX is needed to carry the matchup against Gardevoir-GX, and thus Parallel City has the two-fold effect of crippling the draw by limiting the number of Zoroark-GX able to hit the board and not allowing multiple Wimpod and Golisopod to stack up on the bench. If I were to play Broken Deck at an event tomorrow, I think my list would look something like this:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 31
Energy – 11
The main skeleton of Broken Deck is present here once against. I mirror most of my choices of Seena’s initial list and our own Christopher’s third place list. I know a lot of players tend to swear by that fourth copy of Max Potion, and while I remain uncertain on whether or not 3 or 4 is correct, I am currently willing to experiment with a little greed. You can always get more back with Twilight-GX and instead of the fourth copy, I have tried to shift the focus slightly to be more able to spam Gallade. I think that given the right draws, this deck can easily beat Zoroark/Golisopod and Gallade is the key to making that happen. At 150 HP, the card is fairly awkward to KO outside of Golispod’s GX attack, and so any time you are able to get two attacks out of the same Gallade, things must be looking incredibly favorable.
Your strategy hopefully revolves around picking up 2-4 free prizes off Zoroark with Gallade and then hopefully closing out the game with a fat Gardevoir-GX or another cheap prize on Tapu Lele-GX. In Christopher’s top 8 match (which I had the pleasure of watching live), he seemed to draw relatively poorly throughout the whole match and still earned the 2-0 victory. Against a better player like Tord, I can tell that the matchup is likely to go a different direction, but I am reasonably confident that the matchup is even when both players play well.
The final deck I wish to discuss today is Decidueye-GX/Zoroark-GX. While it did not have quite the impact those who piloted it expected, I still think the deck has far more promise than London results may indicate. In theory, I believe that this deck ought to be favored against both Gardevoir and Golispod/Zoroark. With time and more players dedicated to testing the deck and finding the optimal list, I am certain it could easily establish itself as a top tier threat by the time Memphis Regionals rolls around.
I acknowledge the loftiness of such a claim, but I think the logic is sound. That is, Decidueye-GX was almost good enough last format and was mostly scared away by the presence of Volcanion decks and the overall popular opinion that the deck could not function without Forest of Giant Plants. Zoroark-GX gives the deck an additional attacker and consistency engine to help produce more and more Owl Pokémon throughout the game. You have the tried and true devolution strategy of Decidueye to fall back on against decks like Gardevoir that need to evolve and the overall strength of both cards to easily handle any sort of Metal-typed counter decks.
I want to end by showcasing two different lists to show that there is a fair amount of disagreement on how the deck ought to look. Stephane Ivanoff had a Top 16 finish with this list:
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 33
Energy – 7
I had the pleasure of meeting Stephane at the North American International Championship this past summer where he defeated me in the final match of Swiss to prevent me from making day two. He was playing Decidueye-GX then as well and so it should go without saying that he knows the ins and outs of Feather Arrowing. The list is fairly straight forward and incredibly focused on consistency. This deck list was piloted (within a few cards of each other) by our own Jimmy Pendarvis and other notable greats such as Igor Costa, Daniel Altavilla and Mees Brenninkmeijer. None of them made Day 2, but all except Mees were very close, with Jimmy starting out at 5-0. (I haven’t seen the exact list but I’m pretty sure this is within a few cards):
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 33
Energy – 6
As a spectator, I had a great time watching most of the European International Championship unfold and it really has motivated me to try to attend either Brazil or Australia this season. The points that the ICs give out are incredible, especially for a player like myself who is unable to attend every event and will undoubtedly be scraping for points to earn my invite. To be the very best, you have to beat the very best and there seems no greater stage (other than perhaps Worlds but there will always be the debate over which is harder) to do so.
If you are attending San Jose this weekend, I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing what Crimson Invasion has done to Expanded. I think I would play a Night March/Zoroark-GX list very close to what I wrote on last article, but I would not be surprised if the Garbodor toolbox deck remains incredibly popular.
Until next time!
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