Hello everyone! It sure does feel like its been a long time since my last piece, and a lot has happened since then! As predicted, the Dallas Regional Championship was yet another record breaking tournament, with a total of 1,091 Masters in attendance. The tournament was an absolute blast, and it felt great attending one more record breaking event.
I ended up playing a pretty wacky Zoroark-GX/Counter Energy deck that Brit wrote a bit about recently here. I won’t bother repeating a lot of the same information, but I did have an absolute blast playing the deck. I have always been pretty vocal about my fascination with Counter Energy, and I’m glad I was finally able to help flesh out an idea that was actually competitive! Huge shout out to Dustin Zimmerman for introducing the idea to me less than a week before the event. I was really excited to see him take it to a Top 16 finish and Xander finish at Top 32.
I ended just short of Day 2 at 6-1-2, 45th Place. My day looked like this:
Round 1: Wailord-EX WW
Round 2: Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX WW
Round 3: Lycanroc-GX GRI/Zoroark-GX LL
Round 4: Night March W
Round 5: Zoroark-GX/Crabominable BUS WLT
Round 6: Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX WW
Round 7: Trevenant WLT
Round 8: Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX WW
Round 9: Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI W
My only loss of the day was to Kidd Stark’s Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX deck that he took all the way to Top 4. That matchup was much harder than I had originally anticipated because of how aggressive they can get with Bloodthirsty Eyes, and my slower-than-normal starts were severely punished both games. My ties were certainly my fault as both rounds I held onto Game 2 longer than I should have and left myself without enough time for Game 3. I’ve always had a bad habit of not scooping a game early enough because something about giving up on a game has always felt so unintuitive. It’s definitely my weakest point in tournament settings and something I need to improve on.
Overall I would absolutely agree with Brit about Expanded being in a great place right now. Most of my games were very interactive over the weekend, and I felt like I had a lot of control over the outcomes of my games. Zoroark-GX is certainly an incredibly polarizing force in the Expanded format, but that polarizing force has lead to an overall more consistent format with less dead-drawing and more deck interaction. I really enjoyed the Zoroark focused format that was Dallas, but I do think if it continues without much innovation then my attitude may sour a bit.
Future Thoughts on Counter/Zoroark
Moving forward with the deck I’ve made some radical adjustments: swapping in a Cobalion STS over the Entei and moving some other counts around for 4 Brigette and 3 Colress in anticipation of Glaceon-EX. I agree with the sentiment expressed by Pablo that we need to be more willing to stray from VS Seeker in counts of 4. With Puzzle of Time and VS Seeker, you never actually need to use all of those resources to keep playing Supporters, and I found myself often ending games with multiple left in deck. Glaceon-GX initially seems scarier in Expanded because of the traditionally lower supporter count. Being caught by a T1 Freezing Gaze is arguably worse than a T1 Forest Curse, so beefing up the Supporter count should significantly decrease our chances of getting cheesed out of the game. The Costa Mesa Regional Championship is also going to be Expanded, and is a very accessible event for me, making it my next Regional and 3rd Expanded event in a row.
However, this article is not about Costa Mesa! Collinsville is just days away and is poised to be another massive event. I’ve said over and over again how much I love the beginning of new formats. The first event always has an air of mystery as all the new concepts are still being fleshed out. I’ve always believed that players often misinterpret the impact of a new set when first introduced. We often see existing concepts with a few new cards do well at first, but eventually something always finds a way to burst through all the craziness.
I think that Magnezone will certainly be good, and the whole idea is clearly just an updated Black Kyurem-EX/Blastoise, which was good for the majority of the time it was legal. However, today I’m going to focus on a few of the more interesting ideas I’ve been trying out from the new set. If you’re looking for something new to try out for Collinsville then give these a shot!
Revamping Waterbox: Ninetales/Glaceon
Pokémon – 17
2 Alolan Ninetales-GX
Trainers – 32
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 11
Figuring out Glaceon-GX has been a bit interesting considering all of the hype behind it. Contrary to some popular belief, I do not think the card is good enough to stand alone as a deck. The partnership with Zoroark-GX felt awkward because Glaceon-GX needs two attachments to attack. This led me to try the card with Aqua Patch and other watery companions. Ninetales-GX has always felt just short of being good, and I think Glaceon-GX does a lot to solve problems the deck faced in the past.
Freezing Gaze gives you more control of the pace of the game by stopping abilities like Trade, and the chip damage from Frost Bullet can go a long way to setting up knockouts with Blizzard Edge or Hydro Shot. Beyond that you can currently wall out a ton of decks through the non-GX Alolan Ninetales’ Luminous Barrier. The metal weakness shared by both Ninetales-GX and Glaceon-GX is a bit concerning with the amount of support that Metal just received, but I think this deck may finally have what it takes to go the distance!
Lapras-GX, Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, Max Elixir – If Ninetales-GX proves to be an underwhelming acquaintance then going for a more streamlined approach with Lapras could prove to be better. With Aqua Patch and Max Elixir you can get blasting with Lapras-GX’s Blizzard Burn pretty quickly, with Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX resetting Blizzard Burn every turn with Invasion. Invasion is the exact same ability as Rush In on Keldeo-EX for those of you familiar with the card. Lapras-GX has the additional benefit of being weak to Grass instead of Metal, which will be quite useful should Metal find a way to compete.
Espeon-EX, Tapu Koko – Previous iterations of the deck included these guys to focus on a spread/devolve strategy. With evolutions being as prevalent as ever, devolving is a very appealing idea, but I think the strategy is in a weird spot right now with most Evolutions being Stage 1 Pokémon that are kinda tough to reliably devolve. I’m not convinced it’s the way to go, but if more decks follow Tord’s lead and start cutting their Stage 1, we may have to reconsider.
Zoroark-GX – Alolan Ninetales-GX/Zoroark-GX was actually the first hyped deck with Zoroark-GX to come out of the last round of new cards. It’s kind of crazy looking back to see that it was the only variant that just kind of stopped being good. I think this is because if you cannot commit to the entire 4-4 Zoroark/Puzzle skeleton then it’s likely not worth playing over a different support Pokémon like Octillery. Sadly enough, I don’t see much upside for their synergy right now with the Glaceon-EX hype, and believe Octillery will remain the superior partner without some drastic changes to the deck.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 30
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 10
This deck started off as kind of a joke to see how crazy we could get with Grand Bloom-GX, but ultimately has ended up being much better than anticipated. An early Grand Bloom after a Brigette can usually land you 2-3 of the Promo Lurantis along with your Octillery. From there, Lurantis-GX and Leafeon-GX are capable of reaching big numbers with Choice Band. Turtonator-GX is included because it also gets the boost from Lurantis, and a high damage Shell Trap can be quite a pain to deal with. Leafeon-GX’s Breathe of Leaves is much better than I thought it would be, and it really puts in a lot of work against Zoroark-GX decks because they rarely ever pull off a 1HKO. Overall I probably mimic Christopher’s sentiments that Leafeon-GX will definitely be good at some point, but that probably isn’t right now.
Golisopod-GX – This seems like such an obvious inclusion with the instant evolve and damage boosting. After Grand Bloom-GX, you can heal 50 from a Pokémon and run back for a First Impression that can be hitting some very important numbers: say, 190 with 2 Lurantis and a Choice Band. However, finding the space is quite difficult, as playing 3 different Stage 1 Pokémon can be a bit inconsistent.
Acerola – I’m not sure if this is better than Gardenia or not. Gardenia is better with all your Grass Pokémon and has a lot more synergy with Breathe of Leaves, but Acerola is much easier to use and works a lot better with Turtonator-GX. A 1/1 split is feasible, but obviously more inconsistent. Pal Pad has been a great addition to the meta so far, and makes low counts of tech supporters that much more viable.
3rd Field Blower, Parallel City, Champions Festival – This deck desperately wants a better way to handle opposing Parallel City, but there just isn’t a great answer outside of playing your own. Both sides can be quite the pain to deal with, and playing a 3rd Field Blower is probably the best option to deal with the threat. If neither of those options sound appealing to you and you would rather get a little spicy with the deck, then I recommend giving Champions Festival a try. The card allows each player to heal 10 damage from each of his or her Pokémon as long as they have exactly 6 Pokémon in play, complimenting the healing strategy enough to at least be considered.
Monochrome Prism: Zoroark/Metal
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 10
This is still a fairly rough idea of mine that I haven’t put enough time into yet, but I am very confident that it can be good. After spitballing some ideas about combining Metal stuff and Zoroark-GX, a few friends and I eventually settled on this. It is essentially a Zoroark-GX deck with a handful of the good metal Pokémon for some tricks. The acceleration of Solgaleo p is phenomenal, and there are some crafty plays you can pull off if your opponent puts a lot of Pokémon in play.
A midgame N + Radiant Star can very easily put 3-4 energy into play at once, threatening an immediate Meteor Tempest or more. Rayquaza GRI can provide a bit of backup energy acceleration and has fighting resistance so it can slow down Buzzwole-GX. The heavy hitters are Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX and Celesteela-GX, both capable of taking a 1HKO on the majority of Pokémon in the format. With Gardevoir taking the W from the most recent International Championship, I’m sure that the deck will pop up a lot more than expected. Even with the new format I wouldn’t be surprised to see it floating around a decent amount, and has a very real shot at taking a big placement.
Genesect-EX BKP, Magearna-EX, Kartana-GX, Dialga-GX – All of these are quality support Pokémon that fit their own niche, which is nice to have as an option. Genesect-EX can hold onto all of your tools until the perfect time to use them, and can provide a decent attack capable of pulling off a 1HKO. Magearna-EX has always been limited in its usefulness, but the Mystic Heart Ability absolutely shines when there is time for it. Unfortunately I think now is the time to pack away Magearna-EX, but that could very easily change after this weekend.
Kartana-GX is something I’ve always been interested in having in a deck but that has also never worked out as well as I want it to. Wasting a whole bench spot on what an item can do, especially with how popular Puzzle of Time is, is generally a bad idea. It’s also tough to commit to that GX attack for a game, because while taking a prize seems good, if it’s not winning you the game, then you can lose a lot of important tempo in the exchange.
Dialga-GX is still card I have not quite made up my mind on yet. The GX attack is clearly busted and taking an extra turn is one of the most insanely powerful effects ever introduced into the game, but, man, 5 energy sure is a lot. Worst case scenario the first attack, Overclock, is always going to be useful for refreshing your hand early game or drawing after an N, and even Shred can come in handy against any wall you may need to blast through.
Counter Catcher, Red Card – These couple of cards have become a consistent interest of mine lately. Any card that can do something a Supporter usually does is very good, and having constant access to those kind of cards with the Zoroark-GX/Puzzle of Time engine is pretty amazing. Red Card loses some potency going back to Standard without the Ability to combine it with Hex Maniac or Ghetsis, but knocking a 7-8 card hand down to 4 without using your Supporter is still very good even if it doesn’t soul crush your opponent. Counter
Catcher is arguably a much more powerful card, but the nature of the Counter mechanic makes the effect a bit more unreliable. Playing both is probably not worth the space, but having access to at least one of these effects gives you some game changing options in the right situations.
Mt. Coronet – Definitely one of my favorite cards in the set, and ultimately a decent choice for this deck. I decided to go with the 2nd Parallel in my list above simply because Parallel City is one of the best stadiums the game has ever seen, but there are merits to playing a Mt. Coronet. The most redeeming quality is that it is a great counter stadium for any other match up where I may end up on the receiving end of Parallel City. The other bonus of getting back two metal energy per turn is quite nice to have as well so you never miss an energy attachment.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I am very excited to watch the very first Regional Championship with Ultra Prism cards play out! I believe that we will see Magnezone solidify itself as a real contender along with some other under the radar concepts showing up and making an impact. Older concepts like Volcanion, Ho-Oh/Kiawe, and Greninja will probably be making an impact as well. Fire and Greninja decks always seem to do well at the beginning of new formats, but then gradually fade back out of relevance once the meta begins to define itself. Gardevoir-GX/Zoroark-GX just won the Oceania IC and is somehow being left out of a lot of Ultra Prism discussions, leading me to believe that Gardevoir will continue to be very good in some capacity.
The only thing I have left to say is good luck to everyone playing at the Collinsville Regional Championship this weekend, until next time!
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