Hey everyone! I have been enjoying this quick break between all of the Regional Championships this month, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting ready for Charlotte. Costa Mesa certainly could’ve gone better, as I finished the event with a 5-2-2 record, but I don’t regret my deck choice as Azul and Igor were both in top 8 with the same 60 cards. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and I have learned to accept that after years of getting unreasonably frustrated with my losses.
Anyway, whether you just want to touch up on the expanded meta, or you’re getting ready for Charlotte or Portland, this article will have something for you! I will take a brief look at the best deck in Expanded, Drampa-GX/Garbodor, and then transition into a format I’m not as confident in. The standard meta has been dominated by Zoroark and its archnemesis Buzzwole, will that remain the case for Charlotte?
A Pleasant Odor: Costa Mesa Recap
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 36
Energy – 9
Drampa-GX/GarbodorWhy I Played
gargolazo.tumblr.comAs I said in my last article, Drampa-GX was my favorite deck throughout testing between Dallas and Costa Mesa, so I was not surprised or worried when I sleeved it up Saturday morning. I expected a lot of Zoroark, some Night March, and some anti-Zoroark decks.
Despite multiple Zoroark decks being very strong in the expanded format, the matches usually playout very similarly, with the overall goal being to slowly chip away at them and run them out of resources. Parallel City and Sudowoodo are extremely painful for the opponent, as not only do they limit their damage output, but they make them discard several Pokémon each time. Without Exeggcute, this is problematic for them because it becomes quite difficult to continuously find enough Pokémon to boost Riotous Beating. In addition to this, Trade is also shutoff by the “homie,” Garbodor, which denies them a lot of card draw and slows them down significantly.
Anyway, enough about that evil fox—let’s talk about Joltik and company. Night March has always been around in Expanded, and will continue to see play unless one of its key pieces is be banned. While the deck generally has one horrendous matchup at any given point in time, it is so strong overall that players always come marching in with it. At Costa Mesa, I would say that the worst matchup it had out of the popular decks was LonZoroark, which has an array of tools that “soft counter” Night March. Drampa-GX/Garbodor also has a very positive matchup against Night March, which was yet another reason why I felt the deck was such a strong call.
No matter what any Night March connoisseur tells you, Oricorio is an incredibly strong card against Night March, and that will never change. In combination with the Garbodor twins, Night March struggles to keep up in the prize race. Garbotoxin is yet again the gift that keeps on giving, as it can result in Night March losing its flash-like speed. In the late game, N with Garbotoxin online can result in the opponent whiffing a crucial card or two and seal the win for Drampa. Garbodor GRI is truly an all-star in this matchup as well, Trashlanche can hit for an incredible amount of damage and 1HKO Zoroark-GXs like a piece of cake.
Moving on to the anti-Zoroark decks, there is really only one that gives ol’ Drampa any trouble, and that is the infamous whale. Wailord-EX is certainly a matchup I would like to avoid, but Garbage Collection Trubbish can help out quite a bit. One of my ties this weekend was against Wailord in a match where not a single game was completed, and I am confident we wouldn’t have finished even if we had another twenty minutes.
Another deck that aimed to beat Zoroark in Costa Mesa was Glaceon-GX, which I certainly feel is a positive matchup. Trashlanche Garbodor is incredibly strong against the frozen cat, which usually results in a massive tempo swing deep into the game. If you paid attention to SixPrizes’ very own Alex Hill‘s impressive run in Costa Mesa, you would’ve seen the deck in action. This includes his top four match against Igor playing Drampa-GX/Garbodor, which shows just how strong Trashlanche really is. (Editor’s note: Alex did beat Igor in R4, but Igor got rather unlucky in Game 3.)
After my last article, where I talked about Zoroark-GX like it was the Michael Jordan of expanded, I had several people ask me why I was trying to avoid playing a Zoroark deck so much. The answer is simple. I have said it before and I will say it again:
I despise mirror matches that are just a speedy prize race that have little counterplay and room to outmaneuver the opponent.
That being said, I certainly needed to beat Zoroark decks, and Drampa-GX/Garbodor was the best way to do it.
Why I Added Sudowoodo
This may seem a little weird considering that this tree becomes a useless block of wood once Garbodor BKP makes its way onto the field, but I assure you it was a great inclusion. In the early game, having Sudowoodo in play makes it incredibly difficult for the opponent to 1HKO a Pokémon-GX on turn two, as it involves getting a full bench and the use of a Hex Maniac. This means that they can’t play a real supporter, and need a ton of pieces to be able to take the KO.
Later in the game, when Garbodor is in play at the same time as Sudowoodo, the opponent will think twice about using that pesky Field Blower. If they don’t, crucial abilities such as Trade and Prorogation remain shut off. On the other hand, if they decide to play the Field Blower, their bench instantly has a limit of four Pokémon, and another trainer card goes in the discard pile. It is certainly a pretty cruel lock, and I was absolutely a fan of the change in Costa Mesa. It truly is a shame that my Sudowoodo was more disobedient than Ash’s Charizard was at first, being prized in an absurd number of games.
Stinging the Competition: Charlotte Preview
The Standard Meta
If you don’t like Zoroark-GX, I have some bad news for you. Zoroark-GX is by far and away the best Pokémon in the game right now, so it should not be a surprise to anyone that it is dominating the standard metagame. This is because Zoroark is the king of consistency, and has a slew of partners available.
The only decks that seem to keep up with it are Garbodor decks, Fire decks, and Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX. Greninja is likely the best counter to Zoroark in most cases, but we all know how that turns out for people. The thing about Zoroark that makes it so strong is how easy it can adapt. For example, after the mosquito’s (Buzzwole) dominance in Australia, everyone on earth slammed a Mew-EX into their Zoroark deck. In another display of Zoroark’s flexibility, Igor Costa tossed a Sudowoodo and a Counter Energy into his Zoroark list for St. Louis. The point of this story is that Zoroark is quite difficult to beat in Standard too, thus limiting deck choices quite a bit.
The good news though, is that the mirror match in Standard is not nearly as frustrating as in Expanded. In addition to this, there are so many Zoroark variants available that you won’t even be playing a true mirror match most of the time. Speaking of Zoroark variants, let’s take a look at three Zoroark decks that everyone should test for the upcoming Regional Championships.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 34
Energy – 7
My favorite supporter since Pokémon Collector! Brigette is an amazing card, especially in decks that aim to get out multiple Stage 1 Pokémon as fast as possible. Brigette is the best possible play on turn one, and sets you up to have a great early game, so why play less than four?
This card is the whole point of the deck! Without Bursting Balloon, the deck just wouldn’t exist. Not only does Bursting Balloon on a Garbodor function as a Hex Maniac, but it can also add that little extra damage you need to take a KO. It doesn’t seem very threatening, but that sixty damage can make a world of difference. Attacking into a Bursting Balloon with a Pokémon that has 210 or less HP puts your attacker in range of dying to a Riotous Beating next turn.
Attacking into a Balloon with something like a Tapu Lele-GX ensures that it will be KO’ed, as a Riotous Beating with a full bench does the necessary 120 damage. Even with a higher HP Pokémon, such as a Golisopod-GX, the only extra card needed to take the KO is a Choice Band. Sure, the list only plays one, but that can be easily found through Mallow or Puzzle of Time and Trade can allow you to draw a ridiculous amount of cards in a turn.
This card is a fantastic inclusion in the deck, and I am pretty surprised that it wasn’t in more lists at St. Louis. I would have to say that it is an underrated card right now, and I suspect it will be more popular by the time Portland rolls around, if not at Charlotte. Evosoda brings a ton of consistency to the table, and allows for some great turn twos. Using Brigette on turn one is the goal of the deck, and Evosoda is a great follow up to that.
Is this the key to the deck? I don’t think so, but it did find its way into some lists at St. Louis, including a couple that did well. That being said, I found it unnecessary in my testing, but I could be convinced over a larger span of games that it is worth the spot. It is very nice for achieving the goal of essentially using Hex Maniac on the opponent every turn by putting a temporary tool on Garbodor. However, Bursting Balloon does a great job of this, and Puzzle of Time can help ensure you have enough of those to finish the game.
You can also just put a permanent tool such as Float Stone on your Garbodor in situations where the Ability lock is important enough. I know this isn’t what the deck aims to do, but your opponent will be struggling without the use of Abilities. This could very well mean that they use a Field Blower, thus allowing you to start your Bursting Balloon chain all over again. You also have your own copy of Field Blower if you really want to get rid of that tool on your Garbodor.
I know this might seem like overkill, but I love Evosoda in Zoroark decks. It is a fantastic card that really smooths out the decks follow up to Brigette. It can allow for some pretty aggressive starts, as tons of options exist when you have two Zoroark-GXs in play without using a supporter for the turn or any “Trades”.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
Energy – 8
Why this deck?
You may have noticed that my opinion on this deck has “suddenly” changed. I believe that it is a much better call for Charlotte than it was for St. Louis, and that is simply because the meta will likely be much better for it. Buzzwole will still be played, but I don’t think it will be as popular as it was in St. Louis, and that matchup is certainly winnable either way. On a more important note, I think that this Zoroark deck is the dominant archetype when it comes to Zoroark fights, as Gardevoir and Gallade really rain on their parade in most cases.
Changes from Tord’s Winning List from Sydney
Don’t get me wrong: Tord’s list was certainly a good one, and congratulations to him for his win in Australia. However, with the way the meta has developed, and after some testing of my own, I think a couple changes can be made to improve the list. Let’s take a look at what I changed and why:
-1 Giratina Promo, +1 Brigette
This is a consistency boost for sure, and I know that Brigette is incredibly important for the setup of this deck. Not using Brigette on turn one already means you’re off to a bad start in that respective game, and that is always something I try to avoid. Giratina Promo is an incredibly useless card at the moment in my opinion, so I would definitely recommend removing it from the list even if you aren’t a fan of the fourth Brigette.
Cynthia is a fantastic inclusion in this deck, and it is absolutely better than Professor Sycamore. Not having to discard any precious resources is super nice with this fragile piece of art, and I have won multiple games in testing because I didn’t have to discard a precious resource, such as a Puzzle of Time. The deck has low counts of so many important counts. Sure, you can Twilight-GX, but you never really want to put yourself in a position where you HAVE to Twilight-GX in order to stay in the game. In my experience, a “forced” Twilight-GX in the middle of a prize race usually results in a loss and you are essentially just delaying the inevitable. This is why it is so important to time your Twlight-GX well, as it can be the difference between winning and losing, it is arguably the hardest decision you will make with this deck.
Some people may laugh at me on this one, but I am not even remotely kidding and I highly recommend giving this a try. On turn two, when Evosoda would be at its best, you still have a 75% chance of getting one evolution, and you aren’t forced to just get a Zoroark-GX anymore. This means you could grab a juicy Gardevoir-GX to pair with the Rare Candy that is practically glowing in your hand when you flip a heads on Timer Ball. 25% of the time you will bang out a double heads, which will result in a great advancement of your board state. On turn 2, this is the kind of setup that simply runs over the opponent.
On the other side of the die, the sad moment where you flip double tails does exist, and believe me, it will sting when it happens. Overall though, I have certainly been more impressed with Timer Ball than I ever was with Evosoda in this deck, and I think anyone who tries them both out will agree with me.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
I played 3 in my St. Louis list, and while it didn’t actively hurt me, it felt like three was too many unless one was prized. Even then, it isn’t the biggest deal because you can just attack with Zoroark instead in most situations.
Flying Flip is the key to beating Fire decks, and apparently Xerneas BREAK which I defeated in Round 9 in St. Louis, but other than that the little dude doesn’t really attack very much. More importantly, Tapu Koko’s free retreat is why it is so useful, as it pairs very well with Guzma and Acerola. Tapu Koko is also a great Pokémon to have active at the end of your first turn, whether you use Wimp Out to retreat to it or just happen to start it.
Whack, down goes the mosquito. Mew-EX is the key to beating Buzzwole-GX decks, and I would say it does a great job of it in this deck. I played against at least five Buzzwole-GX decks in St. Louis and I defeated all of them. Golisopod-GX does a great job of minimizing Lycanroc-GX’s impact on the game, while Mew-EX handles the main threat. Copying Riotous Beating or First Impression to 1HKO a Buzzwole-GX is very easily done, and can start happening as early as turn two.
Sudowoodo + Counter Energy
I honestly laughed at Igor for playing this and told him it was a bad idea, and so did the rest of the testing group. Igor believed in himself though and played this pair of cards in his St. Louis list, bubbling out of Top 8 while I was trying to avoid the death trap that was getting Top 64 despite being in Day 2. The Sudowoodo has a wide range of uses, as it can be used against the 1HKO Pokémon such as Tapu Bulu-GX or Necrozma-GX. It can also be used in a more basic fashion against an opposing Zoroark-GX, which Igor successfully did a couple of times. Heading into Charlotte, Zoroark-GX is incredibly popular, which leaves room for the 1HKO Pokémon to increase in popularity. This should allow Sudowoodo to shine at Charlotte, so I would suggest giving it a try if you haven’t already.
While this may seem like a card that could be removed from the deck without any regret, I assure you that is not the case. Mallow is absolutely insane in the current meta, and I can name a few instances where Mallow is game winning. On turn two against Buzzwole-GX decks, Mallow can literally steal a win by allowing you to take a quick KO on a Buzzwole-GX with Mew-EX.
Even if it doesn’t happen that early, Mallow can still be the key for using Mew-EX multiple times throughout one game. In other cases, Mallow can be used to grab Sudowoodo and Counter Energy to make a huge play, which is why it is okay to play just one copy of each card. Finally, Mallow can simply be used to build a very strong board on turn two, which is ultimately the goal of the deck. Getting a few Zoroark-GX out on turn two and taking a KO puts you in a great position to take a win.
Like I said, I did feel three Wimpod was too many when I played the deck in St. Louis. Igor played with just two in St. Louis, as he has done at League Cups in the past, and I have never heard him complain about the decision. However, I haven’t played with just two copies in the deck a ton so far, which means I could change my mind moving forward. This is especially true if the meta shifts in a way where Golisopod becomes a more important aspect of the deck, such as the increase in popularity of Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX.
I seriously love Brigette, and I love the concept of having four Brigette in every deck I am testing for Charlotte. I have four Brigette in both of the other Zoroark lists I posted in this article, but the Golisopod version just doesn’t have the same amount of space as the other decks do. Maybe I will see an opening for the fourth copy of this card before Charlotte, but for now I just don’t have the space.
2nd Parallel City
I played two Parallel City in St. Louis, and it was strong at times, but in some situations it was just a dead card. I think it will be less impactful in Charlotte because everyone should expect its presence, which means that it shouldn’t stick on the board for an eternity like it sometimes did in the past.
However, Parallel City is still great if you draw it early enough because it can really crush the opponent’s setups in a few situations, such as them having a bench of five with two Zorua, two Trubbish, and a Tapu Lele-GX. A Parallel City in a situation like that is very strong, as it makes them discard a Trubbish from the field. This play is especially strong if you can combo it with Guzma, assuming their active is not also a Trubbish, becuase then you can completely rid their board of Trubbishes.
It can be strong against other decks too, just take my example and replace Trubbish with any number of support Pokémon, whether it be Wimpod, Rockruff, or Ralts.
Shifting Sands: Meta Changes after Charlotte
While it is obvious the meta is going to shift, it is impossible to know what exactly will happen without seeing the Charlotte results. If you are going to Portland Regionals, I would highly recommend paying close attention to Charlotte Regionals. If you will be at both, that’s great, and you will get some good preparation in for Portland by simply playing in the event and seeing what decks perform well.
If you are not attending Charlotte, that’s okay, there is still plenty of room for you to prepare outside of just testing decks. I would certainly recommend watching the stream to get a feel for what decks you like/don’t like, and a general understanding of what the meta was in Charlotte. This will give you a great start on making those final preparations for Portland, which should make you feel very ready come game day.
On a more predictable note, Lucario-GX will be legal for Portland! I am not sure how I feel about this card quite yet, but it has the potential to really shake things up between the two events. It could give an unplayed deck that boost it needed to get things in gear and compete with Zoroark-GX, or it could just become yet another partner in crime for Zoroark-GX. Only time will tell, but I definitely think this is something on everyone’s mind already.
Zoroark is just so strong in both formats right now, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Whether you’re still trying to break expanded and figure out that perfect Zoroark counter, or getting in the zone for Charlotte with some testing, I hope that my article has helped you out. I will be doing a bunch of testing in the next to weeks in an attempt to finally get a regional championship win this year, and I hope that all of you are doing the same! As always, if you happen to see me at an event, please come up and say hi! If you’ll be enjoying the streams at home, that’s cool too, and I will be back at the end of the month with another article.
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