Hey friends! Travis Nunlist here to help with some last minute prep for what is looking to be the biggest Regional ever. Memphis Regionals is currently projected to have ~1000 Masters, which is incredible! For the past year or so I’ve been really excited to see the “Biggest Regional Ever!” record broken time and time again, and have been very genuinely happy with the growth the Pokémon TCG has seen.
Memphis has a lot going for it right now and should be an amazing event, and I’m really bummed to be missing it. However, I have been testing Standard quite a bit lately to prepare for my League Cups. We had our first League Cup of the quarter this past weekend in SoCal, and after seeing Buzzwole, Zoroark, & Gardevoir variants crush London and the first round of League Cups elsewhere, it seemed like my old friend Greninja was poised to do very well. I played Greninja at my League Cup and the tournament ended up like this:
R1 Zoroark/Golisopod (Tord.dec) W
R2 Buzzwole/Lycanroc W
R3 Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt W
T8 Decidueye/Zoroark LL
The deck ran fine during Swiss but I hit a string of very bad luck in T8 and lost in about 15 minutes to Kenny Britton’s Decidueye deck. Overall I thought the deck was a great meta-call and lost to “classic Greninja hands xD.” The list is essentially what I’ve been playing for Greninja in Standard except for the addition of Gladion & Tapu Fini-GX. Gladion is a very good card if you can figure out exactly what are in your prizes before you play it & draw into it before you take all your good prizes. I cut a Skyla for it because the logic is that it can do a very similar thing, but searches your prizes instead of your deck.
Overall I still really like Greninja and think it is a very good play for Memphis because it seems like everyone has currently packed away their Giratina Promos. However, I will not be going over it today because I want to touch on some other concepts that have been flying more under the radar lately.
Right before the event I had actually been testing Volcanion & Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt but didn’t know the meta well enough to rely on the former and unfortunately do not have cards/didn’t feel like scrambling last minute for the latter. However, I think both decks have a ton of potential going into Memphis and could easily see either deck come home with a win. Both have a lot of raw power & a track record of success, so don’t underestimate either going into Memphis!
Going into Memphis, I think the overall meta will be more in line with what we’ve seen at League Cups. Zoroark variants are very clearly the most dominant decks right now, with their partners being Golisopod, Decidueye, and even Buzzwole/Lycanroc! Zoroark-GX has proven to be an immensely powerful card capable of being in anything and everything. However, among all the Zoroark hype, let’s not forget about the true BDIF of Standard: Gardevoir-GX. I’ve been getting the feeling lately that people are starting to forget that Gardevoir is the best deck. Zoroark has taken more League Cup finishes & has been an integral part of a lot of new and exciting concepts we’ve seen emerge from the newest sets, but it’s still not Gardevoir.
Gardevoir-GX reminds me a lot of Yveltal-EX decks back in their hayday. Yveltal-EX was clearly the best card printed in a long time and Dark decks were very dominant for years. It didn’t matter what sort of ‘counters’ people would try and use to beat the decks because they were so adaptable. Having both Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX was insane for the deck because both cards have been some of the best that Pokémon has printed in years, and they helped to solve the other’s weaknesses.
Gardevoir having access to Gallade fulfills a similar role, and rarely can any deck handle both attackers efficiently. On top of that, no matter how good a particular deck is there is still an entire metagame that non-BDIF players have to account for. You cannot just play a Gardevoir counter deck at Memphis Regionals because you still have to deal with other Tier 1/2/3 concepts that you may run into at the event, and even then Gardevoir may just be well prepared to win.
Looking forward to Memphis I think that Zoroark-GX will be the most played card, but Gardevoir-GX will still be the best deck. As a result of this hypothesis I’m going to focus my deck analysis on these two matchups, with trying to cover the Gardevoir match up in detail and highlighting different pressure points of the various Zoroark archetypes.
Pokémon – 15
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 34
2 Energy Recyler
Energy – 11
This is a deck I’ve seen hyped up quite a bit recently. With Garbodor BKP trending down in popularity, the incredibly powerful energy acceleration of Vikavolt has no way of being stopped once it hits the board outside of being knocked out or simply running out of energy. 210 has also become a much more important number than it used to be with the explosion in popularity of Zoroark-GX, and conveniently enough is exactly how much damage Tapu Bulu-GX can hit with a Choice Band. I don’t think this deck has ever been taken too seriously, but I think the metagame shift heavily favors its viability.
Mew FCO – I think Mew is the best non-EX/GX that the deck can play headed into large events or blind metagames, as it does not attempt to solve a particular problem or matchup—instead, it just gives the deck a way to keep streaming big damage with a smaller guy to throw off the prize exchange. It’s important to note that the typing can be very relevant here, as Zoroark-GX resists Mew, but Parallel City will not reduce the damage of Mew like it will Tapu Bulu-GX.
Octillery BKT – I chose to go with Octillery over the traditional Oranguru to help smooth out late game draws. Sometimes the deck can be a little too fast for Octillery, but it helps to ensure you don’t get held up in the mid-late game if you can get it out.
Xurkitree-GX – Xurkitree-GX is a Promo that was released recently in one of the big boxes like Celesteela-GX, but I think it fits very well in the deck. It can autowin some of the Zoroark variants like the Fighting one that plays little to no basic energy, and generally can be a difficult wall to work around. The GX attack can be quite clutch, gives you something else to do with your Lightning Energy, and even mills with the main attack giving you some very interesting options late game or if your opponent has re-arranged their topdeck with something like Puzzle of Time or Gallade BKT.
Professor Kukui – This card is included exclusively for the Gardevoir-GX matchup. The Professor can give the damage boost needed to OHKO a fresh Gardevoir-GX, and is a big reason why the deck is so hyped right now. You have to be careful of the damage reducing side of Parallel City when looking for the coveted OHKO against Gardevoir-GX, but this can be worked around with a Field Blower or by attacking with Mew FCO.
Charjabug – The Stage 1 of the Vikavolt line is something I’m constantly back and forth on including. Most games you’re able to pull off a fast Vikavolt with Rare Candy and roll through with the one, but the Charjabug is clutch for the instances where you struggle to piece together Rare Candy/Vikavolt. It’s also very nice to hedge against having your Vikavolt knocked out & the occasional Espeon-EX, as seeing a Charjabug on the bench (or under a Vikavolt) makes these much less appealing plays.
Tapu Koko SM30 – This guy saw a lot of play in Vikavolt lists initially, but has since fallen out of favor for a couple of reasons. The free retreat was very nice, it could spread 20 to help math on things like Gardevoir-GX, and could attack for some decent damage with the second attack. However, I think that Mew FCO has proven to accomplish a lot of similar things but is much better at doing them. The spread is the only thing that Tapu Koko still has going for it, but the heavy Max Potion in Gardevoir decks has made this much easier to counter.
Tapu Koko-GX – The GX counterpart is honestly just worse than Tapu Bulu-GX. The swoop in effect is cool, but the crazy powerful energy acceleration of Vikavolt make that much worse. The only thing Tapu Koko-GX has going for it is the GX attack, which is admittedly very good especially against Gardevoir-GX variants, but ultimately I don’t think it’s worth the inclusion.
Clefairy EVO – This card caught a lot of hype when it was seen in Rukan Shao’s T8 list at Hartford Regionals. It was touted as a counter to Gardevoir-GX before the heavy Max Potion variant became the norm. The idea was that during the match there is always a point where the Gardevoir player will be able to get enough energy in play to one shot a Tapu Bulu-GX, and then Clefairy could swoop in to copy Infinite Force and OHKO the Gardevoir right back. The problem with that now is that Gardevoir no longer needs to try and push a OHKO because of the tanking strategy, so we see a big Gardevoir much less often.
This matchup is very close, and ultimately comes down to whether or not you can pull off the dream of Professor Kukui/Choice Band to OHKO a Gardevoir-GX. Pulling off the combo & avoiding being caught off guard by Parallel City are going to be the most important details to be aware of. Both sides of the stadium can be quite damaging, and it is very important to be aware of the issues it can cause. Fortunately enough most lists only play 1 and it is rarely a Twilight-GX target.
Tapu Bulu-GX can ohko a Remoraid early, and an early 30 on a Ralts can matter later into the game or at least force an early Max Potion. However, it cannot start doing real damage until Vikavolt hits the board. Everything not named Gardevoir-GX can be KO-ed very easily with Guzma, and it is quite difficult for Gardevoir-GX to knock out a Tapu Bulu-GX due to the energy discarding effect of Nature’s Judgement. Mew is important in this matchup because it can handle Gallade easily as a non-ex, and can work around the damage reduction of Parallel City should you be able to Kukui but not use Field Blower.
Xurkitree-GX has a place in this matchup, but you must be very careful with it due to the fighting weakness & the fact that it keeps energy attached. A Gallade with two basic energy is its worst nightmare, and even Gardevoir can KO it with 3 basic energy or 2 + Choice Band. When thinking about using it always account for how possible it is for your opponent to respond with a KO.
All of these variants should be easy, with the Decidueye-GX variant being the closest. Against Golisopod & Fighting variants you can hit them for weakness or 210 them repeatedly, and none of them can return a KO or even reliably OHKO.
The Decidueye version is much closer because Decidueye’s 240 HP is just out of your reach for an OHKO allowing them to abuse Max Potion, and the damage spread can help them reach numbers to trade with Tapu Bulu-GX. Tapu Wilderness-GX is going to be very important in the matchup, and if you’re able to take a KO while healing your Tapu Bulu out of OHKO range from Zoroark-GX then you should all but seal the matchup. You also want to be aware of Espeon-EX if you’re not playing Charjabug as that can really set you back if caught at the right time, but getting ahead on energy and/or conserving Rare Candy can help you ensure a quick response KO on the Espeon-EX.
Xurkitree can be very clutch against any/all Zoroark variants because they’re running 0-3 basic energy depending on the type. Even if it does not outright win you the game just slowing your opponent down for a number of turns while you damage/mill can be enough to seal the deal.
I’ve found from testing that as far as traditional Volcanion goes Igor Costa’s list from Hartford Regionals is still essentially optimal, so I thought I would introduce a new take on the deck for discussion’s sake:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 28
1 Professor’s Letter
Energy – 15
This is a bit of a weirder take on the deck designed to help hedge against Gardevoir-GX & explore Silvally-GX as your main switching out. The goal is still to try and be as aggressive as possible with baby Volcanion early on, but less T1 switch outs can make this a bit more difficult. I’ve found that against Gardevoir baby Volcanion is much less powerful in the mid-game because you cannot ping them as effectively with Power Heater due to the heavy Max Potions, so I decided to explore other routes to navigate the match up. Celesteela-GX only takes 1 Metal energy to attack, making it relatively easy to splash into any deck. Silvally-GX can also accelerate any energy giving you an out to recovering a precious Metal Energy alongside Super Rod.
Choice Band – I think in traditional fire variants that Fighting Fury Belt is almost always better because of the way the math works on their attacks when combined with Steam Up, and the +40 hp is very clutch against Gardevoir-GX. However, Choice Band can help Celesteela-GX hit some big numbers with the first attack allowing it to OHKO a Gardevoir-GX & the GX attack can reach 210. I’m not sure it’s worth including Choice Band exclusively for this reason, but there are some other scenarios where you really want the extra damage such as vs Zoroark-GX.
Enhanced Hammer – We initially saw this card find success in Igor’s Volcanion list at Hartford, but it has found its way into a lot of decks due to how popular Special Energy has been lately. There are a lot of very powerful tempo plays you can pull off with Enhanced Hammer, especially when combined with N and/or a knockout. The potential for setback in such an explosive deck makes the card very appealing, but unfortunately I dropped it to make room for some of the cooler stuff.
Escape Rope – You definitely want a switch card to help move Silvally-GX should it get stranded in the active spot, and Escape Rope could be worth playing over Switch. It can give you an out to being a bit more aggressive, but with the popularity of T1 Brigette your opponent may just have a few options theywon’t mind sending up. Switch keeps you out of awkward situations and is strictly more consistent, but Escape Rope can be more game breaking at certain times.
This matchup has always been bad, and is a big part of the reason why Volcanion has fallen out of favor lately. The Silvally-GX should help us a bit as it gives a Turtonator-GX with a Fighting Fury Belt a lot more mobility, allowing you to move between energy discarding attackers without fear of being stranded. The Celesteela-GX is intended to give you another out to taking out a Gardevoir-GX, but at 4 Energy it may be a bit too costly without DCE to supplement the steep energy cost.
The Max Potion variant is much more capable of handling mid-game pings should you fall short of reaching an OHKO, but will struggle to handle early aggression. Without Sylveon-GX they don’t have anything big to wall with in the early game, lose the consistency of Magical Ribbon to get them setup ASAP, and cannot fall back on Plea-GX to slow down setup attackers. It’s now possible for Volcanion to have a much more powerful early game to capitalize on the loss of early consistency, but should the game go longer it becomes even more difficult when you miss an OHKO. Ultimately I think the matchup should be a bit better than before without considering the techs because of the way Gardevoir is built.
All Zoroark variants are going to be pretty favorable for Volcanion. The GX simply does not do enough damage fast enough to keep up, and 2/3 of the variants utilize a high amount of Fire weak Pokémon. Your biggest concern in these matchups is going to Zoroark BKT because it can capitalize on your use of a large bench & score a knockout if caught off guard.
These decks usually play some form of heal through Max Potion and/or Acerola, so it is important to be aware of this when planning damage calculations. However, with 210 as their max HP and less of a chance to OHKO it becomes much easier to handle than in the Gardevoir-GX matchup.
The closest matchup will be against the Buzzwole/Lycanroc variants because Buzzwole can spread to setup knockouts for Zoroark-GX, Lycanroc can punish your large bench with Dangerous Rogue-GX as well as get aggressive on potential attackers, and the Fighting types can capitalize on your reliance of Silvally-GX. Overall I still think you’re faster and do much more damage, but it is the variant with the most potential to compete.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind going into the weekend is that Gardevoir-GX is absolutely the best deck in the format, and regardless of what you’re playing you should have tested that matchup a ton and expect to play against it. I’m excited to see what happens this weekend at the biggest Pokémon Regional Championship ever, but I’m even more excited to start preparing for my next event! Dallas Regionals is my next venture and I’ve been exploring the Expanded format quite a bit. Until next time!
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