Hello everyone! We’re knee-deep in one of the more hectic stretches of the year—one that’s been causing me preemptive agony for months. It’s not quite this upcoming May, which is probably going to shave time off my lifespan, but it’s going to be close. It’s an incredibly fun time, but nonetheless fraught with a bit of stress.
I was supposed to be writing this next Monday, looking at Charlotte in retrospect as we headed to Portland. As it is, we’ve made a swap here to help you better prepare for the first of these pair of events. This was for a few reasons—one key factor is that Charlotte will simply be bigger, meaning it matters to more players. We’ll get a better “real” picture of the metagame, too, which will make everyone’s Portland prep just a tad easier.
It is possible—that is, I’m planning on it, but things could change—I’ll jump in with some quick analysis Monday in addition to make up the gap, especially if RK9 and I can get a metagame chart working in time to sketch up some analysis on it. Otherwise, I trust that we’ll be in good hands with Travis, Xander, and Pablo.
But, that isn’t why you’re here today. As you might’ve heard, there’s this “Jurassic Park” concept working its way around the community. Its origins can be traced to Zach Lesage who seems to have concocted the original idea in Costa Mesa. The duo of Xander Pero and Travis Nunlist took the idea and ran with it, creating and refining a list in the coming days. Alex Hill and I were witness to the deck’s initial creation, though we definitely hadn’t logged any games with it until very recently.
I’ll summarize a lot of cross-country discussion to explain how I’m the messenger on this one: chaos! A lot of issues that didn’t need to be major issues aside, the end result is that we decided it was important to have this deck talked about before Charlotte—and I was the one best positioned to produce this profile of the deck on short notice. Let’s be unequivocally clear here: the inspiration here was Travis and Xander’s work.
Somewhat complicating matters? The fact that I had never played the deck prior to setting out on this mission.
Rather than making a mess of this, instead we’re going to use my relative inexperience with the idea as a tool by which to frame this profile: I’m going to start with the list handed to me by Xander and Travis and work you through my impressions and testing. This way, you learn about the list, I learn about the deck, and we together can take a walk through the process of playing a new deck for the first few games. Hopefully it’ll be uniquely interesting, and perhaps useful as a future study of methods to write through a deck.
Here’s where we’re at: I’ve played as many games as you, if not less, with this deck. Yet, I’ve been assured it is highly playable moving into Charlotte. Xander and Travis have thrown me a list to base this article on, and here it is:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 35
Energy – 10
I’ve been told the following are techs I should consider in the deck:
The general idea here? Zoroark-GX runs this format. There’s no doubt about that in anyone’s mind—it’s very simply the most prevalent attacker in the game right now. Rampardos, for a single Fighting, OHKOs Zoroark. Despite being a Stage 2, that’s incredible value. For FFF, it also allows a simple knockout of any basic Pokémon—as easy as that. For those that’ve been around awhile, this is reminiscent of Machamp SF’s Take Out, which constituted a competitive deck in its time.
Talonflame helps in a few ways. For one thing, it allows us to easily set up Rampardos—after an Aero Blitz, your opponent is likely to either N or watch as you set up a Stage 2 on your next turn. Talonflame BREAK’s Fire typing is highly-valuable as well, though, allowing us to mow through Golisopod-GX—one way or the other. One of the big decks of this format—perhaps the biggest, in some minds—is Golisopod/Zoroark. Therefore, we have a pair of highly interesting counters to preeminent threats in the format. What’s not to like?
We’re working with a few different strange energy costs, which we can do only by the graces of Counter and Super Boost Energy ♢. Of course, both of these are conditional in their use, so there’s going to be some awkward inconsistency as we try to line up the appropriate attacker for a given situation. Do note that a Talonflame BREAK does not qualify for fulfilling Super Boost Energy ♢’s Stage 2 requirements.
The Trainers are pretty simply focused around finding our appropriate attackers, setting them up to do the maximum damage, and working from there. We don’t have any true draw power, but because there are no two-Prize Pokémon to be lost, there will be turns where it’s possible to Aero Blitz for consistency purposes without risking an opponent coming ahead on a large Prize swing.
In order to beat this deck, an opponent is going to have to go through multiple high-HP, one Prize attackers. This is no easy feat for many decks, and, admittedly, a key fact in this deck’s viability is that Zoroark-GX can’t deal with any of the Stage 2s in one shot. The fact that the card for which I’ve long run out of creative pictures to use in articles will be relying on its partner to deal with this deck is a serious point in its strength.
The key to playing the deck is to setup and stream the appropriate attackers as much as possible. My first inclination upon reading the first draft of the list was something to the effect of “there’s no way this isn’t an unplayable gimmick.” Now, looking at a more revised draft, we’re looking a bit more serious, but it’ll take a few games before getting a true feel for it.
Something I’m considering is Skyla—being able to search out extra pieces to Stage 2 combos, or Unidentified Fossil itself seems pretty valuable. I’ve been assured—and I don’t doubt the assurance—that Order Pad is a poor use of space. It makes sense: using Coin Flips as a consistency solution is typically a fairly terrible approach.
That’s the list, the justification for the deck, and a primer on how to play it. With all that in mind, it’s time to move onto testing. Now, in an ideal world, I’d play a few games against the “big” decks of the format, but given my odd availability this week not matching up with that of any of my usual testing partners, instead I’m at the mercy of PTCGO’s random matchups. It makes for an interesting day, if nothing else.
Well, to say the least, it’s an interesting play. While TCGO is never a guarantee, I did manage to hit a few matchups one would consider normal in my few hours of testing this deck—and, it’s a promising sign that I didn’t give up early. When faced with Zoroark decks, the deck performs quite well. There are times where you’re essentially in a holding pattern until your opponent walks into triggering a Counter Energy, but if they want to win the game, they have to do so eventually.
I was initially very concerned about the deck’s relative rigidity and lack of all-purpose attacking options, but it turns out that the flexibility of those attacking options is enough to deal with all of the realistic scenarios in the current format as long as your opponent is doing something. And, if your opponent is doing nothing, a solid 60-90 with Choice Band from a high-HP Rampardos or Talonflame BREAK isn’t anything to complain about either. Eventually, they have to move, and you’ll be ready to answer.
Games where you start Fletchling are sad, and it’s easy for me to see how the deck could be simply overwhelmed in some scenarios. However, it does execute well in those games where things work, and it’s a powerful suite of attacking options for a variety of scenarios.
I could see the 4th Guzma (as mentioned earlier) being valuable for reaching that last Zoroark-GX or other critical knockout. The same can be said for the 4th Choice Band. I didn’t try Parallel City at all, but in my games so far, I’ve yet to see a real scenario where it would be useful.
The play for Charlotte? It’s hard to say. I know that Xander has moved on, and Travis isn’t attending, so 6P’s own are probably walking away. I’m admittedly more impressed than I expected to be when I first saw this list, but I think I’m leaning toward a more conventional play. I’m intrigued enough to send an SOS home and make sure Fletchling makes the trip to North Carolina, but not yet sure I’d commit to it for a Regional event.
Obviously, there’s more to life than this Rampardos madness that’s plagued my circles over the last few days. As we consider other decks in the format, it quickly becomes apparent that the format is wild. Even if Zoroark runs everything, there’s a definite element of “you could play anything” running around in it as well.
My de facto choice at the moment is probably Golisopod/Zoroark, with the Sudowoodo GRI and Counter Energy included. I believe this deck has the best suite of options the format has to offer at the moment, and its sheer viability is probably why Rampardos/Talonflame has been able to rise at all in prominence. I’d probably go back to the list Igor played in Collinsville, consider small alterations, but otherwise stick with what worked. Standard hasn’t really changed, so it ought to work again—short of the world plunging back in time.
Golisopod/Zoroark has the advantage of being able to attack with a more diverse spread of Energy. One of my primary concerns with Zoroark decks in Standard is the number of games I’ve played with them where I simply struggle to find DCE. Often, Cynthia for 6 finds some, but not all, of the combo I need to attack on any given turn. Being able to also attack with Grass, via Golisopod, significantly raises the chances of doing something on a given turn, even if it’s not quite exactly what I set out to do.
My big concern with the deck is the mirror match, which can be rather mundane in a lot of scenarios. Things to consider for that include the 4th Guzma that’s oft-omitted, higher Acerola counts, and more. Anything that helps prevent your opponent from picking up 2HKOs is probably going to be valuable. On the other hand, I do believe the Lurantis Promo we saw included in a few lists in Collinsville is not a serious way to improve the deck in the long run, as well as it worked for Ian Robb before.
Something I’ve recently considered is Bursting Balloon—we’ve seen Zoroark/Garbodor start to use this to decent effect, and I think the same principle could be usable in Golisopod mirror. Realistically, it’ll probably only stick once—if ever—but that’s sometimes all you need. Turning the game on a single KO is fairly important.
An interesting dynamic emerges between the fluctuating Guzma and Wimpod counts we’re seeing in a number of lists these days. Right now, the trend is to cut to 2 Wimpod, which is probably fine against most of metagame. However, in mirror, I believe it could be a liability if an opponent is able to deal with one Wimpod early. If one is Prized, it’s immediately a very messy situation, but even a single copy in deck can be awkward at times. I believe the mirror is likely to be very important, and so will very seriously consider 4 Guzma while also trying to preserve the trio of Wimpod if at all possible.
The other deck on my radar is Buzzwole/Lycanroc. Not a revolution by any means, it’s the tried-and-true non-Zoroark entity in the format. It has the benefit of being good against many of Zoroark’s other counters, and is generally pretty good against Zoroark decks itself. I believe its hardest matchups among the Zoro-partners are Golisopod and Garbodor. The Golisopod matchup probably cannot be helped beyond hoping your opponent isn’t playing a sufficient complement of counters, but the Garbodor matchup is possibly even weirder.
I’ll take this moment to work Garbodor/Zoroark into the conversation at this point, too. I played it for a Cup this weekend at my brother’s recommendation, and while I made Top 8 at my Cup (and he won another), I find that the departures we made from the conventional list were pretty terrible. The list Jimmy provided last week is probably about where I’m at on the deck at the moment.
However, even with a “better” list, I’m not entirely convinced of the deck’s chops in this Standard format. It’s highly awkward: trying to find Bursting Balloon to navigate your own Garbodor, trying to use some of those Balloons as an opposition effect, having a resultantly-skewed Tool complement, and also trying to draw into everything is a tall ask. I strongly feel the Klefki STS we saw in a few Collinsville lists should be kept out of the deck, but beyond that, my strongest opinion after playing the deck at this Cup was that it seemed poor.
It’s possible that the paltry supply of Psychic Energy Alex talked me into was the root of my problems, but in general, I find myself struggling to acclimatize to Standard Zoroark decks that are completely reliant on DCE for most fo the game.
I’m concerned on Buzzwole’s behalf not because I believe Garbodor/Zoroark is particularly good, but because I believe it will be played to a decent level. I’ve talked to a few good players whose opinions have similarly been something to the effect of “it sounded great on paper, but was terrible in practice,” and at this point, I think that’s probably the story of Garbodor/Zoroark. Of course, the perils of writing the week before a tournament is making profound statements like that only to have them thrown back in your face after the weekend. Will that happen here? Probably not, but I won’t say never.
Moving back to Buzzwole, it’s one of my preferred choices simply because of its linearity. While I’ve had unremarkable records of ~16-18 points in every tournament I’ve played it, part of its allure is that it’s not going to get worse than that on a normal day. For someone concerned with keeping pace in a Top 16 race, or someone trying to find their way over the 400 barrier, it can be a good pick because it probably guarantees you’re going to walk out with some points. With that said, it probably isn’t the fast-track to a tournament win, so if your heart is set on a goal of glory, probably look elsewhere. List-wise, nothing has changed significantly from what Alex Hill and I settled on in Collinsville.
Buzzwole/Garbodor, played by Natalie Shampay to 2nd in Collinsville, could be highly valuable in the upcoming weekend as well, but I’d readily admit I’ve not tested it enough to make a solid call. I believe Buzzwole/Lycanroc ought to have a decent chance against its Garbodor brethren, at least where Trashalanche isn’t in the equation, and I’d lean toward Lycanroc as a partner. Nevertheless, I’m sure Buzzwole/Garbodor is reasonable play for the weekend as well.
That’s all I have for today. Hopefully you enjoyed the profile on “Jurassic Park” as it is, and if you have any questions about the deck, feel free to drop me a line. I’m not sure it’s a top tier play for the weekend, but I’m sure it will see some play, and for that alone, it’ll be interesting to watch Charlotte unfold.
As mentioned, I may be back Monday with some short thoughts to supplement the loss of my article in that slot to today, but that’s contingent on a few things. Otherwise, the next time I’m in this space, we’ll be pointed toward the Latin American International Championship and the mind-numbing run of Regionals and Special Events that’ll finish out the season before the road ends in Columbus.
Wishing you the best.
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