Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone is off to a joyous start. I am glad to see many players get a small break between Regional Championships to focus on smaller events and practice new, fresh ideas for either format. When grinding a massive tournament every weekend, League Cups (or even Challenges) seem like the best way to practice—or at least to try different tech options in a competitive setting.
I am always somewhat skeptical of anyone who tests exclusively on PTCGO and seems to think those results can be wholly indicative against real players at the highest level of competition. PTCGO is great to a certain extent but unless you are playing against someone you know the entire time, deck lists and player ability tend to be below average. League Cups, contrastingly, offer a friendly but competitive (hopefully) environment where players ought to be at their best while not necessarily displaying everything they know about the format. I have yet to be able to attend another League Cup since the ones I wrote about last article, but I am hoping to find the opportunity to test some wackier idea for Dallas Regionals at these events since I already have two placings for the Quarter.
There might be a small gap right now between events, but Regionals basically run every weekend in March, and by the time those are all through, the season will almost be at its end for most. It is crazy to think about, but I haven’t played in a Regional Championship since Mexico City last May. No doubt, the race for top 16 will be as cutthroat as ever in the later months of 2018 but for a player like myself dwindling within the “casual” label, the invite will be very close or as far way as ever. As such, I am struck by two, contrasting methods to compete for the rest of the season. Do I simply play for points at every event or do I play to win every event?
In a perfect world, I think both options would align in every instance but unfortunately, I am not terribly optimistic in those chances anymore. I think that for smaller events (most League Cups) these would also align once again, as the chances for smaller things to go wrong are far less likely than at a nine round Regional Championship. To make the distinction between the two clearer, playing to win is taking risks. A “go big or go home” mentality that acknowledges that you will either do very well or very poorly. Players like Ross Cawthon seem to embody this choice all the time as they consistently play rogue concepts at the highest level of play and, while these choices often go unrewarded, it does a good job to indicate an acceptance of the risk when making a deck choice.
Playing for points, on the other hand, would be choosing to play something proven good and consistent and just hoping to go 5-2-2 or better. It’s not necessarily the best deck or has a handful of very difficult matchups but you know as player that your own ability can pull some of the slack and with a little luck, this playing for points could easily send you to Top 8 as well. Talking personally, I know I am not the best player and more importantly I also know that I am largely inexperienced at Night March.
This lack of experience with the deck undoubtedly will hinder my results to some capacity and even if I do practice with it much more than I’ve played in tournaments (so far, I have played one League Challenge with Night March and that was over two years ago) it would be impossible to catchup to the understanding that players who sport that deck at every given opportunity, and thusly “playing for points” becomes hedging one’s odds. My chances to do above average are higher than my chances to do poorly, but I may be lacking a type of intellectual courage that prevents from succeeding even further.
Choosing Gardevoir-GX in Memphis strikes me as a moment of “playing to win” as the deck can beat everything if all goes well while Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX is much more of “playing for points.” Gardevoir-GX with perfect draws can beat even its most difficult matchups but this requires a great number of things to go well. You must start with Brigette, you cannot prize certain cards, you must play Rare Candy on your second turn and so on.
Compare this to the simplicity of Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX’s game plan of “draw lots of card and take fast knockouts” and it really is no wonder that Gardevoir-GX struggled in Memphis while Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX dominated. I am still optimistic about Gardevoir-GX’s chances moving forward (especially at League Cups) but at a tournament as large as Memphis, “playing for points” exposes itself as being far safer of an option.
Prescriptively, I do not think there is a right or wrong between the two options. Both have risks and rewards tethered to them and again with the right amount of luck, they are one in the same. It is important to think about the distinction on a personal level that not only analyzes your own strengths and weaknesses as a player but also considers your current Championship Point total to make the appropriate decision. I truly struggled to earn my 500 Championship Points last season and I think that’s because I “played to win” far more often than I should have.
Take the Mega Scizor-EX and Lurantis-GX decks I played for Fort Wayne and Collinsville Regionals! I still maintain that both decks were powerful and tested well against the projected field, but I think the mentality I chose became an unneeded stress on my season. In both instances, my days were swiftly ended because I faced too many Volcanion decks and I would’ve had a better showing by just choosing Greninja or Night March. Choosing “play to win” becomes more and more costly with the less opportunities one has and seeing as I have yet to attend a Regional Championship for the 2017-2018 season, I think that I must treat each opportunity incredibly carefully if I am to earn these last 300 or so points as safely as possible.
Some of the priority in the decision likely comes down to your goals as well. Would you rather win a Regional Championship or get your invite? I think that most would likely choose to focus on that precious Worlds Invite, but as a player who has come close—but failed—to win a Regional in my tenured career, it becomes a difficult choice. Chasing safety will always be more appealing as there is less risk associated but contrastingly, you gain much more when you do take that risk and succeed. What does everyone think of this distinction?
I think one of the more interesting things to develop with the results of Memphis Regionals was the performance of Azul’s Golispod-GX/Garbodor deck. I think so often that everyone within our community gets tunnel vision in how they go about constructing the list for a deck and often overlook very simple solutions to more overbearing problems. In this case, I think that Azul’s list shows us that Garbotoxin (with the right partner) is still incredibly powerful, but does not need to be paired with Trashalanche to be completely successful.
A large reason that Garbodor as a deck has declined in popularity recently is because it tends to be a little slow or inefficient against Zoroark-GX which is the new alpha dog (fox?) in both formats. Gardevoir-GX as a deck was always a huge counter to anything trash-related, and considering it was at the peak of its hype in London and Memphis, it is of no surprise that Garbodor continued to dwindle in popularity.
For some reason, Garbodor GRI has remained incredibly popular in my local meta-game at both League Cups I have attended this quarter and, so I can say first hand that I have observed their power in the current meta-game and remain mostly underwhelmed. Some of this is undoubtedly a result of subpar players with subpar lists being the main culprits behind the deck but I think this personal experience against the deck serves as microcosmic evidence that fits the mold of the macrocosmic evidence that Garbodor as we once built it is no longer viable.
I am still surprised that Azul did not end up winning the entire tournament as he undoubtedly beat Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX a great number of times before finally falling to Michael Pramawat in the finals. I think that his new take on Garbodor decks is incredibly refreshing and his specific Golisopod-GX variant will likely remain a top threat for some time.
Decks have so much more space when we return to the older package of just needing Trubbish, Garbodor BKP and some Float Stones compared to the much costlier version that need more Trubbish, several copies of Garbodor GRI and likely another energy type to make it all work together. As such, I have taken the time apply this method of thinking to create a new, but similar, deck with a heavier priority on beating Zoroark-GX, while also having enough disruption via Garbotoxin to stand up to the rest of the format.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
I have left this list incomplete for now, as I have yet to settle on these final few slots. The overall concept borrows heavily from Azul’s Memphis template, and I think is strong. What you lose in consistency by sacrificing the Octillery and Brooklet Hill package, you make up for with more disruption with the Garbodor line—and still, you can fit in a variety of options depending on your current meta-game. I am not sure if Zygarde-EX is the right choice, but I am certain that the deck needs at least one other attacker other than Buzzwole-GX and it seems like a decent option to me.
The other and more obvious choices are simple inclusions like another Trubbish, more supporters, another Enhanced Hammer, and Choice Band; but I am currently thinking a little more experimental. I think that Lycanroc-GX is likely too strong to pass up, even if you are going to have Garbotoxin online a majority of the time. It does not seem too ridiculous to include a 1-1 or even 2-1 line in the deck. This would likely require us to remove Zygarde-EX from the deck, but would give us an alternative attacker, an occasional option to use Bloodthirsty Eyes, and a much better GX attack. I am confident in my skeleton, but again unsure of the final slots. For reference, here is the version I have currently sleeved up:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
Energy – 13
Re-including Lycanroc-GX into the deck does open us up to the possibility of being vulnerable to Grass attackers once again but hopefully the presence of Garbodor is enough to keep Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX at bay and then we must simply do our best not to rely on it against any Golispod-GX decks.
As far as matchups are concerned, I think this deck should be favored against most of the current meta-game. Less popular decks like Gardevoir-GX and Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX are likely very difficult but certainly not unwinnable with enough early pressure and a fast Garbotoxin. The worst matchup, ironically, is likely to be older Garbodor variants still trudging along with Garbotoxin as their main attacker.
One of Buzzwole-GX’s biggest assets is the fact that the Psychic-typing in unpopular now, but when presented with a deck whose main attacker is a non-EX/GX Psychic Pokémon that attacks for one Energy then we are certainly in a world of trouble. However, I think this is a loss I am more than willing to take and do not expect to be popular for some time as the Crimson Invasion–on format seems to be pretty “solved” until we are able to add Ultra Prism to the fray.
I would like to think that this deck is well-suited to handle Zoroark-GX as the combination of Fighting and Garbotoxin ought to create a “sum of all fears” scenario but the raw ability of Zoroark-GX is never to be underestimated. Lycanroc-GX is a scary partner and Dangerous Rogue GX can always threaten to clear off Buzzwole-GX. If we are incapable of spreading our energies out and thus forced to Jet Punch exclusively in the latter portion of the game, I can only imagine that the Zoroark-GX deck will come out on top. With careful play and mostly ideal draws, I think that we can absolutely outmatch any threat Zoroark-GX has to offer but if I continue to test this current list and find the matchup to be closer than ideal, I think upping the counts of Enhanced Hammer and Parallel City would likely solve this problem.
The final matchup to consider then is our close relative in Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX. The decks are practically identical, but swap out the auxiliary Octillery for Garbodor. As noted above, this undoubtedly will cause a small dip in consistency (which is one of the biggest appeals of the current Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX) in exchange for better answers to more Ability-reliant decks.
I think our Garbodor version will be much more favored for the current meta-game and will also be more reliable in this pseudo-mirror scenario. Our few inclusions of Acerola ought to be huge against the standard Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX which usually do not play them as well as our Enhanced Hammers and Parallel City. Octillery is certainly a huge boon in late game consistency and allows you to draw out of any N threat but ideally, we will have cut that option off with Garbotoxin.
From many of the games I watched from the Memphis stream and have played against personally, I have noticed that the Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX deck is incredibly reliant on getting Octillery out as fast as possible and tends to stutter tremendously when it is unable to find and evolve any Remoraid. As such, I think we can attempt to prioritize taking KOs against it to make our strategy more efficacious in the end-game.
To end this section, I did want to include one more list for a Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor deck! Ironically, this list in this section was inspired by Azul’s own deck and while I had completed the above section before this morning, Azul himself tweeted that he was playing the deck at a League Cup today (1/7) and so I figured it only fair to give him his due credit and include his own personal take on the article. You’ll quickly see that he has gone a much different route with the deck. Take a look!
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 36
Energy – 10
Dallas is likely to be the major focus of many players for the rest of the month, but given as most of my League Cups (and most Cups in general, I believe) are Standard, I decided to focus on that format for this article. With moderate adjustments, I think a similar concept could do very well in Expanded. I think Christopher somewhat alluded to playing a Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor deck in his article he co-wrote with Xander Pero and I have faith it could do very well. (Editor’s Note: I’ve been playing Pablo’s Buzzwole/Garbodor list and really liking it!)
Zoroark-GX is undoubtedly going to be incredibly popular in Dallas and I think it will be the most popular deck played (between its many variants) with Night March being the second most popular. Countering both decks seems very difficult but if I had to make a bold prediction, I would say that Wailord-EX will be a surprise success in Dallas with Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX following close behind. The consensus is that Wailord-EX makes short work of any Zoroark-GX deck but struggles with Night March but with some of the lists that have come out more recently, I think that Wailord-EX is fine against Night March as well.
The Seismitoad-EX list that Jimmy Pendarvis talked about in his article last week is incredibly powerful as well and does not have any apparent weaknesses either. Like Wailord-EX, Seismitoad-EX attempts to strike in a format where Grass-types are at a minimum. Should enough players commit to this deck (a strong possibility at this point), I would not be surprised to see some Vespiquen or Golispod-GX variant steal the tournament.
I am incredibly excited for the event and hope that nothing goes wrong that prevents me from attending. My track record for showing up to Regionals is laughably poor at this point, but I truly hope to be there and focus on playing better in 2018.
Best of luck to all those in attendance and I hope to see everyone there!
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