(Polar) Spearing the Competition

A Look Back at Glaceon-GX/Barbaracle from Costa Mesa and Towards Zoroark-GX for Standard

Come one, come all! Another Regionals is in the books, with a somewhat predicted meta. Zoroark-GX continued to dominate, Drampa-GX/ existed after Dallas, and Glaceon-GX appeared in some form to disrupt the meta. It’s no surprise that the tournament’s Top 8—one could say Top 32—was filled with high caliber players. I don’t know if that’s attributed to skill playing a bigger role in Expanded, or if it was some stray away from the mean.

Glaceon-GX/Barbaracle

I played Glaceon-GX/Barbaracle alongside Travis Nunlist, Christopher Schemanske, Alex Hill, and Frank Percic. All of us adhered to a 58 card skeleton and 2 personal choice cards.

The former 3 decided that Team Flare Grunt would be worthwhile in the mirror match to outlast the opponent with Lusamine. Ghetsis was chosen as an all-around strong Supporter. Team Flare Grunt was also useful against random decks, importantly Zoroark-GX when an Enhanced Hammer was missed.

For Christopher and I, we thought that Team Rocket’s Handiwork would be good in mirror because the game will go on long enough anyway. This thought was somewhat correct, but would’ve been overturned by testing. Without any way to discard the opponent’s Energy, the mill strategy doesn’t matter because the game is a war of attacks. The Team Rocket’s Handiwork would have only been good in combination with Team Flare Grunt, since it could be able to win the mill battle after all Energy have been exhausted.

My thought for Oranguru UPR was to guarantee a tie against Wailord and have a chance at a war of attrition in other matchups. It was pretty lackluster for me, as I only played against one Drampa-GX/Garbodor over the weekend and 0 Wailord. However, I wouldn’t take it out of the list because it’s able to swing that one important matchup. Continuing on, Drampa-GX/Garbodor will be a popular deck in the format—one that’s worth countering.

Pokémon – 15

4 Eevee SUM

3 Glaceon-GX

2 Binacle FLF

2 Barbaracle FCO

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Oranguru UPR

1 Sudowoodo GRI

Trainers – 33

3 Professor Sycamore

3 Cynthia

2 N

2 Lusamine

1 Guzma

1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Enhanced Hammer

3 VS Seeker

1 Rescue Stretcher

4 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

 

4 Rough Seas

Energy – 12

8 Water

4 Double Colorless

Above is the list that I played—note the Handiwork and Oranguru UPR. The Glaceon-GX and Barbaracle lines are perfect enough to what the deck is trying to accomplish. Oranguru SUM is incredibly important too for recovering from a late-game N. Also, the single copy of Tapu Lele-GX is there to act as a buffer in case of a bad hand.

The 2 Lusamine and 4 Rough Seas are integral to the success of the deck. The maximum amount of Stadiums are played so that Barbaracle is online for the majority of the game. The Lusamine is there to recover Stadiums while somewhat raising the consistency level of the deck. The Lusamine loop is the reason why Team Rocket’s Handiwork or Team Flare Grunt can get enough value to be played.

Would’ve been a wise call.

For a brief moment, at 7:26 A.M., the group chat of us in Costa Mesa playing Glaceon-GX pondered the inclusion of Delinquent. Christopher and I both thought that it wasn’t as good for the Wailord matchup, while Travis, Alex, and Frank went with the Team Flare Grunt. Looking back on it, I think that Delinquent is 100% better than the Handiwork. Delinquent can swing mirror by putting your own Stadium in play so that your Barbaracle comes into effect. It also allows for a double Rough Seas turn to heal off any damage that would threaten a 1HKO by Polar Spear GX. I’m incredibly sad I didn’t swap in the Delinquent because I think it would’ve won me both of my early losses. From there, it’s likely that I would’ve been able to snowball into Day 2 and potentially Top 8.

R1 Quad Glaceon-GX (2-1)
R2 Primal -EX (0-2)
R3 Zoroark-GX/Eggs (2-0)
R4 Drampa-GX/Garbodor (2-0)
R5 Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX (2-1)
R6 Mirror (0-2)
R7 Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Vileplume (1-2)
R8 Ho-oh-GX/Kiawe (1-2)
R9 Zoroark-GX/Glaceon-GX (2-0)

5-4, 145th place

My day was much less exciting than that of Alex or Christopher, both of which made Day 2. If I remember correctly, Alex played 7 Zoroark-GX decks on Day 1! I played 4, but two of them were completely different than Zoroark-GX/Alolan Muk or Zoroark-GX/Exeggcute. Golisopod-GX was somewhat of a pain because it used Basic Energy, and the Vileplume was especially problematic in shutting off Enhanced Hammer. The games I lost were because the opponent set it up early, before I established Barbaracle, and therefore he was able to have enough Energy on the board to overwhelm me. All of my wins were decisive; all of my losses were close.

Against Christopher in Round 6, we had two awful games that were decided by the first few turns. Christopher went first in Game 1 and drew the Rough Seas before me—though, neither of us drew it for two turns each. Neither of us played Delinquent or Field Blower, so the first one to put it into play would have Barbaracle online for the entire game. This happened again in Game 2, where I drew-pass the first turn into his strong start.

Game 1 was the closer of the two. I was able to set up two Glaceon-GX fully loaded with Water Energy, but in doing so I only left myself with one Water Energy remaining. Christopher, recognizing this, used Guzma on my Oranguru SUM. I had to play down my 3rd Float Stone the turn before because I used Professor Sycamore. At this point I had 4 cards left in deck, but Christopher took the safe route to a win by using Guzma. However, this could have very easily been the wrong play had my Team Rocket’s Handiwork, Guzma, or Float Stone been in my deck rather than my remaining Prizes. I had 2 Double Colorless Energy left in my deck, but because of Hand Block, I was unable to use them to retreat.

As I stated above, Barbaracle is huge for the mirror match. It’s generally unwise to attach Double Colorless because of Enhanced Hammer anyway, but Barbaracle decreases the amount of Energy in the opponent’s deck from 12 to 8.

Moving Forward

Salt Lake City, the next Expanded Regionals, will have a similar. but different format than Costa Mesa. Zoroark-GX decks will include the Exeggcutor, as it was incredibly strong for those who played it. It’s also safe to predict that people will lean more toward Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX than the straight version because it’s better against Glaceon-GX and Drampa-GX/Garbodor. Decks might drop down to 3 VS Seeker and instead add another Professor Sycamore or Cynthia in order to indirectly improve the Glaceon-GX matchup. I wouldn’t play this deck to SLC if I was going because it’s now expected, and therefore much worse against the decks people will bring.

I think Ho-oh-GX/Kiawe will do well in Charlotte, should people play it. The deck is strong, but relies on going first and doesn’t leave many options for the pilot. I went 6-3 with Ho-oh-GX/Salazzle-GX in Hartford because of 3 poor matchups. Similarly to Greninja, the deck will ride or die based on the opponents it plays and how well it draws. If you’re looking for a relatively simple deck to play, Fire is worth trying despite the stigma surrounding it. Buzzwole-GX and Zoroark-GX are two favored matchups but far from an auto-win. The right list will be one that predicts the meta well by adjustments in its final spots. For me, that’s evidenced by my performance in previous tournaments: Costa Mesa Regionals, 2015 Nationals, and 2014 Worlds.

Standard Ideas

Since Collinsville, there has been little development to the Standard format. Zoroark-GX/Weavile was somewhat played there, but didn’t score any major finishes. The deck has maintained popularity at the most recent European and South American events though, so I’m curious to see how much popularity it will have moving into Charlotte and Portland.

Unsurprisingly, Buzzwole-GX and Zoroark-GX decks continue to run the format. The new Zoroark-GX variation included a thick Garbodor line, of both kinds, that utilized Bursting Balloon to shut off Abilities on the opposing turn. This combo is something I never could’ve thought of—it’s super creative—and even took a few spots in Top 46. I expect it to be more popular at upcoming Regionals because it’s somewhat decent against the two aforementioned beasts of the format.

Glaceon-GX/Zoroark-GX

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I covered this deck in Expanded in my last article, but in doing so and critiquing my list, I thought about its potential in Standard. Andrew Wamboldt wrote an article on Glaceon-GX and its different applications in Standard, so for more information, refer there.

Pokémon – 19

4 Eevee SUM

3 Glaceon-GX

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

1 Mewtwo EVO

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Koko SM31

 

Trainers – 31

3 Professor Sycamore

2 Cynthia

2 N

2 Guzma

3 Brigette

2 Acerola

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

2 Aqua Patch

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Field Blower

2 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

 

1 Parallel City

Energy – 10

4 Double Colorless

6 Water

Compared to Expanded, there’s much less in Standard that can threaten a Glaceon-GX. The same loop can be achieved of Acerola, Aqua Patch, Double Colorless, too. Glaceon-GX is a good attacker against Buzzwole-GX because it shuts off Lycanroc-GX. It can effectively protect Zoroark-GX while threatening knockouts at the same time. The 30 damage snipe is effective for lining up math in conjunction with 150 from a Riotous Beating.

One downside I see to this variant of Zoroark-GX is that the sidekick takes more space than the others. Naturally, the Pokémon line and Basic Energy are required, but Glaceon-GX requires a higher amount of Energy and Aqua Patch. The extra Water Energy are for discarding them with Trade for Aqua Patch and to increase odds of drawing it T1. While an early Freezing Gaze is nice, the main focus of the deck is to Brigette immediately and then begin streaming Glaceon-GX.

For those who’ve read my articles in the past, you’d know that I’m a huge fan of Missing Clover in Zoroark-GX. In the 6P Episode 14, I talked about how I’d include it in any Zoroark-GX list I’d play, but I realize others don’t have the same opinion. Anyway, there’s no way Missing Clover can fit into this list. With a thin sidekick of Golisopod-GX or Lycanroc-GX, it’s easy to include Missing Clover. The same goes for Lucario-GX’s release in a few weeks in time for Portland.

Quickly looking at matchups, Glaceon-GX will be effective against Zoroark-GX, Volcanion-EX, and Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX more so than other sidekicks. There’s less flexibility, but in turn comes a better matchup spread against the popular decks.

Zoroark-GX/Lucario-GX

ebay.com

Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX has been strong for quite a while, so what’s to prevent a new variation of it from succeeding? At the very least, I find it worth testing to see if it can hold up to Golisopod-GX’s strength or even exceed it. As a side note, Lucario-GX is not legal until the weekend of Portland, so do not bring this deck to Charlotte.

Pokémon – 17

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

3 Riolu UPR

2 Lucario-GX

1 Buzzwole-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Mewtwo EVO

 

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Cynthia

3 Guzma

3 Brigette

2 Acerola

1 Professor Kukui

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Field Blower

1 Rescue Strecher

1 Special Charge

3 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

 

2 Parallel City

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless

4 Strong

This deck will function similarly to Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX in the past, but has an alternative backup attacker. Personally, I think Lucario-GX is superior in every way possible. It has a better/more flexible GX attack, can reach 190 damage for a single Energy, Fighting type, and has a different requirement for the extra damage than Golisopod-GX. To be fair, I think the only downside is the different requirement. It’s much easier to use Guzma with Golisopod-GX for a KO than requiring an Acerola or a freshly evolved Lucario-GX.

Of the benefits listed before, I think the Fighting type is the most important. Buzzwole-GX can also be included in the list with the new change in type. I ran it in Memphis in my Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX list and loved it. The Jet Punch sniping is way too good in mirror and for setting up math not to run when possible. Considering the amount of Zoroark-GX in the format right now, it’s also great for taking early Prizes.

Because of the Fighting typing, Lucario-GX can easily take a 1HKO on Zoroark-GX. Indirectly, this improves the Volcanion matchup by introducing a non-Fire weak attacker as well. Strong Energy, Buzzwole-GX, and eventually Diancie p give this deck better tools than traditional Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX.

I think that the matchups of this deck are similar to that of the Golisopod-GX version, except for Volcanion, Zoroark-GX mirror, and Garbodor decks. Lucario-GX is weak to Psychic, meaning that it’s way worse against Mew-EX. However, this isn’t a huge deal because Zoroark-GX can then take a return KO. Although each player is taking 2 Prizes every turn, you’ll take your final 2 before the opponent.

As mentioned on Mike’s podcast, Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX mirror matches come down to resource management. Contrastingly, I think Lucario-GX/Zoroark-GX mirrors will be about whoever can start attacking first. Both decks play a majority of the same cards, but Lucario-GX is able to take 1HKOs while Golisopod-GX cannot. Acerola becomes much less useless, but then again incredibly strong when there isn’t the threat of Lucario-GX. Similarly, Parallel City is ran because it’s too good not to play.

The most important piece of this conversation is what could be cut for Missing Clover. The above list is the tame one, but here are the changes for the wild one:

The changes above are quite simple in that all of the excess cards are removed in exchange for a different excess card. Preferably, you should run the golden Missing Clover so that you win in style.

Final Thoughts

Both formats are fairly static, but have been innovated upon in recent tournaments. Zoroark-GX/Garbodor appeared out of nowhere, Lurantis SM25 appeared in a competitive deck; Carbink BREAK, Barbaracle FCO, Exeggcutor PLF are all back in some form. I’m optimistic about the meta, no matter how stale it may seem. I think that the most recent sets have done a lot to change the game, not improve or worsen, but to change it. It’ll be interesting to see how upcoming sets widen or shrink the competitive deck pool, alter level of skill required to be competitive, and especially introduce new cards. It seems that deck-building and tournament preparation is more explored than in past years.

I’ll be attending both Charlotte and Portland, with hopefully a better finish than my most recent tournaments. It looks like any chance of Top 16 has been crushed as I now am behind by about 100 points. Regardless, it’s still fun to see friends, compete, and even miss a few classes every once in a while.

‘Til next time,

Xander


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