Hello 6P! This past weekend was quite interesting, as we had two simultaneous Regionals with the brand new Ultra Prism set! Malmö in Sweden and Collinsville in the US had a lot of eyes peeled to the stream (including mine when I wasn’t playing at Cups) in order to see how well the new cards did.
The verdict? The new set overall is…underwhelming. For some reason, either small representation or simply not good enough, we didn’t see any ‘new’ archetype push through to the Top 8 of either tournament. Whilst Zoroark-GX / Weavile is itself a new combination with a newly release card, the solid base of 50ish cards for any good Zoroark deck was present—it simply included a new Stage 1 line. The biggest change this weekend was Cynthia, to no one’s surprise. It seems 3 Cynthia generally became a staple inclusion after this weekend, and decks are now closer to running 10+ Supporters for consistency reasons.
Before I delve deeper into what happened this weekend, I want to say that, whilst I wasn’t one to mind having to juggle League Cups and Regionals, I was directly affected by poor organization this weekend. Now, I’m not saying League Cups should cater to those in contention of Travel Awards or stipends, but I’m now of the idea that Cups should be irrelevant to said ranking and in determining Day 2 invites.
I had to cancel all plans for Collinsville last minute, as during the week, 2 League Cups were scheduled for this past weekend. Now, living in Mexico City means I usually get 4 or sometimes 5 Cups per quarter, and with the race for Top 4 in LATAM being so close, it is incredibly important for me to attend these to keep up with the competition. In order to achieve the potentially same amount of points that I achieved this weekend by playing around 15 games total (for the record, I got 3rd and 1st for a total of 82 CP), I would’ve needed to get Top 16 or better at an 1,000 person Regional.
I think the decision was easy to make, and especially because I knew there would be more conflicts in March. There is a huge pressure to not only attend but also perform at these League Cups, that when looking at the broader picture, maybe these would actually benefit from the most cut-throat competitive players not attending them, by making them not count towards the ranking, only for a potential invite.
Overall, I saw my friends, I played Pokémon, I did well and I had fun. Still, having to forego Collinsville was not ideal, as I love competing at the highest level, but it was a necessary evil. I’m glad I got those finishes out of the way though, and I will have a chance next weekend to get those missing 18 points at another Cup, but I won’t be sweating if I stick with 82/100 for this quarter. Why they would choose this weekend, or any in March, when there are literally zero events in April besides LATAM IC is beyond me, but thankfully it won’t be an issue this time around.
Despite being polar opposites in terms of attendance (Malmö had 278 Masters, Collinsville had over 1,000), the competition at both was fierce. The huge grind that was Collinsville is compensated by the huge concentration of top players in a smaller field that was Malmö.
I have to admit: Weavile UPR didn’t immediately catch my eye when reviewing the cards from the new set due to its [D] cost for Evil Admonition, and when paired with Zoroark-GX, the glaring Fighting Weakness was enough of a deterrent for me to avoid it. However, with the presence of Zoroark and Tapu Lele, and to a lesser extent, Octillery, Oranguru, etc., Abilities are everywhere—and Weavile is a great way to punish that. The Standard format, just like Expanded, has pretty clearly become a ‘play Zoroark, or heavily counter it’ metagame, which is why Garbodor BKP also made a big comeback this weekend in Collinsville, at least in numbers, and made it all the way to the finals.
So admittedly, nothing really changed much with the new set, at least not initially. Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor has solidified itself as a force to be reckoned with in Standard, Zoroark/Weavile is yet another good Zoroark variant, but that was pretty much it. Metal didn’t have a big enough impact overall and Glaceon-GX was also found to be underwhelming. I personally had the following Magnezone deck planned out as my second choice for the day, with Espeon-GX/Garbodor as my first:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
From my testing, it actually had pretty favorable Zoroark and Buzzwole matchups overall—at least against the standard versions. The quirky Lillie, Nest Ball engine actually felt very solid, and 2 Field Blower plus Solgaleo ♢ allowed a lot of options against Garbodor focused decks. The deck plays out very, very simply, with goal number 1 being set up Magnezone, and following that up with a OHKO on 3 big things. None of my friends ended up trusting the deck, and thus no one ran it.
I had a tough decision to make as I explained above: sit out this Regional or accept not getting any Cup finishes this quarter. Hence, I didn’t run this at any of my Cups because all my Ultra Prism cards were in Collinsville, while I was in Mexico…I’m confident in the concept, and will be trying to perfect the list moving forward, although I do have to switch focus to Expanded for now as Costa Mesa is my next stop.
My first choice, however, and one of the decks I ran for my Cups this weekend was Espeon-GX/Drampa-GX/Garbodor. Why this old thing, you ask? Well I’m sure you saw the huge amount of hype it was getting online, and for good reason. The deck actually has very decent matchups against Zoroark decks that run 2 Field Blower, simply because the combination of Garbotoxin + N + Parallel City on any given turn is very oppressive to any strategy your opponent might be trying to accomplish.
I also feel that, with Trashalanche’s disappearance from the metagame, players in general got more complacent with playing a ton of Item cards in their decks, and thus Trashalanche can get out of control sometimes. Finally, the huge presence of Buzzwole-GX, with Lycanroc or Garbodor itself, made the deck an extremely good meta call in my opinion. Here is the list that I used to win a Cup this past weekend, and what was my number 1 choice for Collinsville heading into the event.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 12
It’s basically as much consistency as possible, with the regular attackers you’d expect in a Garbodor deck. Drampa-GX was the MVP of the day, and I definitely would’ve liked to run 2 copies, as it was that good. Pal Pad was definitely the least useful card throughout the day, however, and I would’ve preferred to just run the 4th Guzma in it’s place.
I had a difficult day, battling against Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX or Golisopod-GX/Garbodor pretty much every round, but the Zoroarks were only running 2 Field Blower, so eventually they started whiffing once the lock was in play. The deck overall plays out very similarly to past iterations of it, as Cynthia is the only real ‘deviation’ from the past aggressive Garbodor lists.
Going back to Ultra Prism’s least hyped card: Weavile! The top 2 lists from Malmö showcased this Pokémon in a mirror match, but the overall winner featured a more versatile list with Zoroark BREAK, taking advantage of the Darkness energy that the deck is already running to attack with Weavile. Here is the list, courtesy of limitlesstcg.com:
Pokémon – 20
The list has the base 50ish cards for any Zoroark deck, and then moves on to include all these other tools which give the deck a lot of options:
Zoroark BREAK – With its Foul Play attack, you get to copy the big attacks from your opponent’s decks—and with a non GX attacker, too.
Zoroark BKT – This is not something new for Zoroark decks, but it had never been included as a 2-of. This might surprise some opponents, and although Zoroark decks can recover anything they want off of Puzzle of Time, having 2 insures against prizing it and makes Zoroark BREAK easily accessible. It also hits some pretty good numbers on the basic GXs if opponent’s over-benched and you have access to a Choice Band to hit for up to 190 with Mind Jack.
Tapu Koko SM30 – This Pokémon is a staple in ZoroPod decks, however it’s rarely seen in other variants. The fact that a single Tapu Koko spread can put benched Tapu Leles in range of Zoroark-GX’s Rioutous Beating with a full bench and a Choice Band is actually very relevant. The deck also didn’t run Float Stone, so this is a great pivot to have when utilizing Guzma to target opponents’ threats.
For Trainers, Cynthia makes an appearance as a 3-of, and the only novelty is the inclusion of Devoured Field. This Stadium allows Zoroark-GX to hit for up to 180 damage with Professor Kukui, and allows Weavile to hit for 210 with no Choice Band and 4 Pokémon with Abilities on your opponent’s side of the field. In addition, it can reach for that number with 3, when combined with Professor Kukui and a Choice Band. The fancy extra 10 damage actually has the potential to make a huge difference, and is something difficult for your opponent to account for at any given point.
The deck had an outstanding performance at Malmö, and a decent one in Collinsville where 3 players piloted a slightly different list.
The last piece of outstanding cards though, was the inclusion of Lurantis SM25 into ZoroPod. The little extra damage provided by Lurantis’s ability meant closing out games by KOing opponent’s Tapu Lele’s was a much easier ordeal, as the extra 20 and a Choice Band means you get a OHKO there and there. LycanZoro already took advantage of this with Zoroark-GX, Choice Band and Professor Kukui, along with Bloodthirsty Eyes, but this is the first time that we’ve seen such an inclusion. The rationale makes sense though, and in a best case scenario it opens up a few other nice numbers to hit too: First Impression + Choice Band + 2 Sunny Day + Professor Kukui = 210 damage!
Granted, if you have a field with Golisopod-GX, and 2 Sunny Day Lurantis, it’s going to be hard to stop you no matter what, but the idea is solid and it goes hand in hand with using Devoured Field or Reverse Valley to increase Zoroark’s or Weavile’s damage output by 10, it matters. This is Joe Ruettiger’s list from last weekend, which he took to an 8th place finish, after having gotten 2nd place in Sydney. Pretty impressive, if I may say so myself.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 31
Energy – 8
As you can see, the deck is basic ZoroPod, but with a few corners cut here and there. No Evosoda, no Max Potion, 4/3 Zoroark-GX line rather than 4/4, and 3 of each important Supporter rather than 4 Brigette/N/Guzma.
The list plays out a lot more aggressively than previous iterations, and I even had a 4 Acerola build a while ago. However, it seems as though the presence of Buzzwole, the resurgence of Fire decks and just the overall fast pace of the metagame is forcing this deck to adapt as well.
Moving forward, the next big Standard event will take place once again Brazil, the same day as Costa Mesa Regionals on the 3rd of March (in North America, we next see Standard in Charlotte). Costa Mesa is Expanded though, which is a whole different monster. Sky Field is a card that makes Zoroark that much more powerful, and even with Glaceon-GX being printed, I don’t think that will be enough to put a stop to Zoroark’s hold in the Expanded metagame as of right now.
I think a much more viable way to stop Zoroark is with Garbotoxin, and since I think I have enough Zoroark practice, I will definitely be setting my sights on other decks such as Drampa/Garbodor or Sableye/Garbodor. If they don’t pan out as I’m hoping, then I can surely just go back to good old trusty Zoroark, but if they do, then it could be a great way to attempt to counter such a centralized metagame.
And with this last thought, I’m out for now. I will see you guys back in March, where I will hopefully be grinding at least 3, possibly 5 ‘Regional level events’. Now that I don’t have to worry about League Cups anymore, I will definitely be setting my sights on being on top of my game for the March grind which includes: Costa Mesa, Charlotte, Portland, La Paz (Special Event in Bolivia), and maybe Bogota (Special Event in Colombia).
Thank you so much, and as always, feel free to leave a comment down below or contact me on any of my social media! Hasta luego!
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