It always feels better to come back and write again after a big tournament performance, as opposed to learning from my failures. Since the last time I wrote, I’ve finished in the Top 4 of both Collinsville and Costa Mesa, turning my otherwise mediocre season around in short order. The decks and testing process that I used for each tournament were significantly different, but there are tons of lessons to learn from each instance.
This week, I’ll be looking back on these Top 4s and giving you all some food for thought as we return to very similar formats in the coming weeks and months. This article is part 1/2, about my Collinsville prep and run with Buzzwole. Later this week, I’ll publish a similar article about Glaceon.
I always enjoy writing these pieces where I’m sharing more about my preparation, deck choices, and in game decisions more than the ones where I talk in depth about a deck or two. The information may be harder to digest than a simple decklist but I think it will be more beneficial to anyone who really attempts to understand it. Let’s get started.
Absorbing the Competition: Buzzwole
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse as I say this, but my testing this year hasn’t been up to par. I’m busier than I was during college which is my normal excuse, but most of it boils down to just not enjoying sitting down and playing hours of Pokémon like I used to. However, leading up to Collinsville, I played significantly more than I have this entire season. Between streaming, a few coaching appointments, and my normal testing, I was playing 10-15 hours a week. I also was watching more Pokémon than usual, between the Australian Internationals stream and regular TCG streams on Twitch.
Now, the uniting factor in almost all of those hours spent playing or thinking about Pokémon was Buzzwole. It was played a lot on the Australia stream so I saw many of the deck’s matchups played out with a ton on the line. I expected it to be prevalent in the younger divisions so I played it a lot in my coaching sessions, giving my students more experience playing against it. I also was playing a ton of decks against Buzzwole, and piloting Buzzwole myself, in my own testing, as I thought the deck would be pretty popular in St. Louis after its success in Australia.
Coincidentally, I started to realize that Buzzwole was incredibly strong, especially once you knew all of the ins and outs. It was destroying all of the Metal type decks that I wanted to try out, something like 70/30 in Buzzwole’s favor. Zoroark variants were no worse than 50/50, and I thought that my experience with the deck could help me in those close matchups and also in mirror. I decided pretty early on that I would be playing Buzzwole unless something ridiculously broken showed up (more on that next time).
Common Misconceptions and Playing Tips
A lot of players underestimate Buzzwole, thinking of it as a good deck for a newer player but rarely played to great success. Mike Fouchet compared it to Volcanion on the most recent episode of the podcast, saying that the deck often wasn’t piloted optimally when he saw or played against it. Xander likened it to Garbodor variants, requiring a good game plan to collect all 6 Prizes.
The best ways to get an edge while playing Buzzwole are crafting a plan for your 6 Prizes as soon as possible, and recognizing the resources you need to do that. In most matchups, I take the role of the early aggressor and target whatever is easier easiest to KO. Common examples include Zorua, Rockruff and Ralts. From here, you often have to react to their counter, Mew-EX for most decks. As long as you have 2-3 energy on your bench, it’s not that hard to find an out to 1HKO it with either Mewtwo, Sudowoodo, or Lycanroc. As long as you hit a decent amount of Max Elixir throughout the game, or you can get your energy to stick for a few turns, you usually put enough pressure on to power you to all 6 Prizes.
Now, about the resources you need. In most games, you take around 3 Prizes from the Pokémon your opponent attacks with. I find that I take those knockouts in the middle of the game, with gust effects finding the other 3 Prizes in the early and late stages of the game. Early, Guzma is the most common option, often paired with Strong Energy and/or Regirock. However, if a KO is especially valuable, like a Mew-EX, Gardevoir-GX, or a Golisopod-GX that would leave a board without any Grass Pokémon, I can justify using a Lycanroc’s Ability to bring it up.
In the late game, you usually only need 1 or 2 knockouts with a gust effect. Some players seem hesitant to discard seemingly important resources, but I often find myself discarding 1-3 Guzma in a game where I know I have enough gust outs in Lycanroc or Guzma. This is especially true when the upside is to put an Octillery or 1-2 Energy the board. When played properly, you can thin your deck to a very low amount and rarely miss your outs as long as they’re not prized.
Another important decision when piloting Buzzwole is which Pokémon to grab in the early game with Brooklet Hill and/or Ultra Ball. Typically, I always grab Regirock whenever it is the difference between a 1HKO and being just short. I also grab it when I expect to need it in the near future, such as finishing a KO on a Zoroark that I drop 30 on with a snipe. Once I have the Regirock or if I don’t need it, I either grab Remoraid or Rockruff. Typically, my tier list for grabbing these cards goes as such:
1st Remoraid > 1st Rockruff > 2nd Rockruff > 2nd Remoraid
Now, there can be some changes to this order game to game, especially when Octillery or Lycanroc find themselves in the prizes or discard. I also sometimes prioritize Rockruff if I need to chase a threat or expect to attack with 2 Lycanroc in a game. Sudowoodo can also find themselves inserted in place of any of these options, especially if I expect to need an answer to Mew-EX. The last consideration here is to leave a bench space open for Tapu Lele when you need to, depending on the amount of Ultra Ball, Guzma, or other relevant supporters left in your deck at the time.
The last major gameplay decision you have to make in the deck is where to put your energy each turn. My favorite strategy is to flood the board with 3-4 relevant attackers in the early game, and spread an energy out to all or most of them. Sudowoodo and Lycanroc attack for 2 energy so you can just attach another one when you need to attack, and Buzzwole can be fully powered up with an Energy Switch and/or an Elixir. Since Buzzwole does want 3 energy a lot of the time, I often find any excess energy (past the point where all attackers on the board have 1 attached) going on a Buzzwole.
Spreading your energy out allows you to play better around your opponent’s sometimes unpredictable and explosive draws. Not only do you aim to have a backup attacker in case your first choice gets targeted, but you won’t lose too many energy in that case as well. I also often sometimes use energy as “bait” to dissuade my opponent from interfering with my game plan. For instance, if I have a Lycanroc-GX and a Rockruff on my bench, I might place an energy on one or the other based on whether or not I think it’s more valuable to give up 2 Prizes or the future gust effect. This often sets up a “checkmate” scenario of sorts, eliminating most of your opponent’s outs to win.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 32
Energy – 13
This is the list I ran in Collinsville, with really valuable input from Christopher Schemanske. Here are some of the more interesting inclusions or omissions in my list:
4th Float Stone – This count was picked at the insistence of Christopher after he played the deck leading up to and in Australia. I was pleasantly surprised at how rare I found myself missing a Float Stone, which led to more T1 and T2 attacks and more options to use Guzma in the early turns. You can also afford to just throw them on your Regirock and/or Remoraid/Octillery to thin your deck out a little bit more without worrying about not having one when you need it late in the game. This is especially important as many Zoroark decks are running 2-3 Field Blower these days.
The 4th Float Stone is probably one of 2-3 cuts that I can stomach if you want to fit something else in, but it’s not something I’d be terribly excited to cut. It makes your deck flow really nicely and increases your odds of consistently attacking turn after turn. Don’t underestimate this count until you play a good amount (30+) of games with and without it.
Super Rod – This is the omission that I get the most questions about, but I stand by it. That’s not to say that it’s a bad card in the deck, I actually had it in my list less than an hour before it was due. I took it out for the 2nd Energy Switch and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I could even see playing Super Rod in the future, but you don’t need it as much as many players think.
Most of the time, if you find yourself relying on or wishing you had Super Rod, it was your own play that led you to that point. Just like when I was talking about resource management earlier, it comes down to where your important cards are. If you have a Lycanroc or Octillery prized or discarded, you usually can’t afford to discard the other one. Often, I find myself using Brooklet to grab the basic, passing/not using Sycamore, and then evolving next turn. This might be a suboptimal play, but it gets the Pokémon on the board that you need to attack or draw with. Other times, I go out of my way to use a shuffle draw effect by means of Wonder Tag from Tapu Lele. This is especially true in the early game when I don’t have knowledge of my prizes and I don’t want to rely on good luck with what I prized and/or taking the right prize at the right time.
Here’s the thing about this deck: everything (except the Lele) is played in multiples! If you play around the fact that you don’t have Super Rod and aren’t caught in one of those unlucky games where you need to set up a 2nd Lycanroc or 2nd Octillery, you should be fine. In fact, my 2nd 1-1 line of Octillery and the Tapu Lele often finds themselves in the discard pile relatively early because I don’t anticipate needing them or having the bench space later in the game. These lines of play are often counter intuitive, and somewhat off putting for players who are concerned with resource management, so I recommend getting a lot of games in to see when this is the correct line.
The biggest draw of Super Rod is actually the ability to essentially guarantee your late game Elixirs. However, I found myself winning plenty of games in Collinsville even when I went 0/3 on Elixir. It doesn’t get much worse than that, but with a fast start and consistent pressure, you don’t even need to go ahead on energy attachments. There are games, though, where you need one more Elixir to close things out or make sure you have an attack for the next turn. If you find yourself wanting the Super Rod for this reason, it has a bit more merit than recovering Pokémon. This is also why I would consider Super Rod instead of the potentially more useful Rescue Stretcher, although the option to grab a Lycanroc and immediately play it is pretty appealing.
Other Supporters – I alluded to this in the Super Rod section, but the Supporter you choose to play for turn often has a big impact on the game as a whole. I will always advocate for 4 Sycamore in this deck; you’re an aggro deck and you typically don’t care about the discard due to redundant copies of important cards. Sycamore works incredibly well in this deck, as the extra card that it gives you over a Cynthia often helps you set up another attacker (Ultra Ball, Brooklet, Energy Switch, or just an Energy or Pokémon). It also helps you thin your deck out. Don’t underestimate how much value you get out of discarding 2-3 mediocre cards like Ultra Ball or Brooklet Hill in the early game. That can translate to trying to hit one of 4 gust outs out of 10 cards in the late game as opposed to hitting that out with 15-20 card in your deck. When Octillery only draws 2-3 cards, every percentage point helps.
After the 4 Sycamore, the other draw supporter counts can differ. N isn’t that great in this deck, but I like having more disruption in a deck that otherwise has none. In the late game, N typically functions as an Ace Trainer, as your Octillery easily replenishes your hand. However, it’s usually just worse than Cynthia when you’re at 4-5 Prizes in the early turns. I often float the idea of a 2nd Cynthia or a Lillie for a better early game supporter, but I’m not upset about the supporter line in my Collinsville list.
Fun fact: I actually played most of my testing games leading into Collinsville with a list that featured 9 draw supporters. I really liked this count and it let me play a 2nd Cynthia without giving up an N. This is especially important when you prize your Cynthia as you often want the choice between it and N when you use Lele early. However, the 4th Float Stone took this spot and proved its worth throughout the tournament.
Field Blower – This is another omission that I get asked about sometimes but I almost never missed it. Garbodor decks are typically slightly unfavorable matchups, and the addition of 1 Blower won’t change that much. There’s no search for it or ways to reuse it, so you likely won’t even get it when you need it. The best use for a Blower would be to discard Fighting Fury Belt against other Buzzwole decks, as well as Volcanion. However, these matchups are winnable without it, and not terribly common, so I don’t think Blower is worth the spot right now.
Sudowoodo vs Mewtwo EVO (or Mew FCO?) – This was the first thing I thought about coming out of Collinsville. Sudowoodo really overperformed on the weekend, giving me a great attacker against Zoroark, Volcanion, and Mirror. It’s even the better Mew-EX counter over Mewtwo because you’d always rather have your energy on it, a great threat to Zoroark, than a Mewtwo (who you hope dies or can get it’s energy moved to other Pokémon). Sudowoodo also benefits from Brooklet Hill, which is incredibly helpful for a Pokémon that you need to find at will to Elixir to.
However, Mewtwo still has merit as a Psychic type attacker. It’s a great answer to a 1 energy Buzzwole in mirror, as even a 2HKO puts you way ahead in the prize race. Mewtwo also has a lot of use against any Espeon variants, as well as being a solid attacker against anything that loads up more than 1-2 Energy (Tapu Bulu-GX, Gardevoir-GX, Gallade [after a snipe]). Overall, I think I’ll be cutting the Mewtwo for a 2nd Sudowoodo moving forward.
My buddy Edwin has been talking about Mew FCO as a good Psychic attacker that can swing for 1 energy, potentially very valuable in mirror. You could eventually load up 2-3 Energy on it to double as a Psychic type Buzzwole even. However, Mew’s 50 HP is pretty abysmal, and the draw of free retreat doesn’t redeem it much in my eyes. Worth testing but I don’t like it at first glance.
Mew-EX isn’t worth consideration here, as you really want these slots to go to 1 Prize attackers. The other attackers cover about everything that Mew-EX would, and the draw of being able to use Lycanroc’s attacks aren’t worth the loss of 2 Prizes.
Remoraid – The choice between the two legal Remoraid (we’ll ignore the CIN one for now, it sucks) is pretty tough, but I’m not sure it matters. One switches itself to the bench, the other discards a stadium. The latter is probably the best, as it’s an option you don’t have many outs to with only 3 Brooklet, but there is merit to switching your future draw engine to the bench. However, you don’t really care much about leaving the energy on the Remoraid, so you always have the option to retreat it to the bench, though this leaves it open to being Guzma’d and stuck in the active, now without the energy you had to discard.
Honestly, I don’t even know which Remoraid I used in Collinsville. On PTCGO, I either used to or still do have 1-of each in my list. This wasn’t on purpose, I just didn’t have 2 of the same Remoraid! I wouldn’t fret too much about this decision, but I always like when my basics provide more utility.
Lycanroc GRI (and Forbidden Light) – If you’re worried about mill decks, Buzzwole might not be the best choice. An aggro deck like this is easily exploited due to its reliance on GX attackers and limited energy acceleration. However, if you want to shore up the matchup a bit, Lycanroc GRI is a good option to easily 1HKO Hoopa and threaten Xurkitree-GX.
Moving forward, the new Lycanroc from Forbidden Light could be a worthwhile addition to the deck, potentially over a Sudowoodo and leading toward a 3-2-1 type of Lycanroc line. Dangerous Rogue should be easily dealing 80-120 base, and then Regirock, Strong Energy, and Choice Band show up to help. This would potentially decrease the deck’s reliance on Dangerous Rogue-GX as the GX attack of choice, and free up more opportunities to use Absorption in the early game.
I’m just going to give my matchup percentages for the most popular matchups here, but feel free to ask (on the forums or Twitter) if you want some insight on the ins and outs of a specific one. I’ve already discussed tips for a lot of these matchups if you comb the above sections, and most matchups play out relatively similarly (take 6 Prizes on their most threatening or easiest to KO Pokémon).
Zoroark/Golisopod – 55/45
Zoroark/Gardevoir – 60/40
Zoroark/Lycanroc – 60/40
Gardevoir – 60/40
Volcanion – 60/40
Espeon/Garbodor – 40/60
Metal Variants (Metal, Toolbox, Garbodor) – 65/35
Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt – 50/50
Greninja – 45/55
My matchup spread looks really favorable for Buzzwole, though I do think that most matchups are favorable but close. That’s why it’s such a successful deck! I’m probably a bit high on the deck and giving Buzzwole a bit too much credit. Many players I’ve talked to have most of these same matchups turned 5-10% against Buzzwole. However, the skill of the Buzzwole player can significantly impact these matchups, as well as variance on both ends.
My matchup chart is also missing a few notable inclusions, specifically Zoroark/Garbodor, Zoroark/Weavile, and Buzzwole/Garbodor. The Garbodor variants I just mentioned probably have a slight edge in the matchup, but Weavile should be easy to deal with provided you prepare for a surprise Trickster-GX and don’t bench too many Pokémon with Abilities unnecessarily.
Takeaways (Food for Thought)
- Man, testing a lot helps! I typically spend my testing time on new ideas and trying to break the format, as opposed to getting tons of reps in with a top deck. The combination of playing one of the best decks in the format plus a ton of experience worked out surprisingly well! Who knew?
- I mentioned this post-match and post-tournament interviews, but every player in the room thinks they’re beating Buzzwole. Typically, players think that Mew-EX is a catch all answer against Buzzwole, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I played many Zoroark decks in the tournament, and the ease of Sudowoodo as an answer to 1HKO Mew-EX often took them by surprise. If they don’t deal with it immediately, I usually followed it up with a Guzma to take 2 more prizes later in the game, and your opponent is left looking at their board and prize deficit asking themselves where they went wrong.
- Speaking of which, Mewtwo EVO might just be the better Buzzwole counter. It’s significantly harder to deal with, though it can just get ignored if you can find enough gust effects. However, when you have to attack into a Mewtwo again, you feel terribly about it. What are you going to do? Load a Lycanroc with 3 energy to 1HKO? 2HKO with Sudowoodo? Attack with a Buzzwole and get 2HKO’d? Not a lot of good responses here.
- Brooklet Hill is incredibly powerful in this deck, but you don’t rely on it that much. I often use them as “bait” to get my opponent to blow their Field Blower or Parallel City at beneficial times, leaving my Tools unchecked later in the game. Don’t expect to get more than 1 use out of your Brooklets, but be happy when one sticks in the early game.
- The Promo Rockruff is easily the best choice. I had several moments across the tournament where I left an EX with 10-30 HP, the perfect amount to clean up with a Rockruff if you can’t find a Buzzwole to snipe with (or don’t want to open yourself up to losing 2 Prizes). The times where you’ll use Corner are few and far between, and the dream scenario of Corner lock for the whole game just doesn’t come up. If you are using the Promo Rockruff (which you should), do yourself a favor and find the non-holo Trainer Kit versions. You won’t have to worry about them being “marked” by warped holofoil as several competitors learned the hard way in Collinsville.
- Buzzwole is very good. It’s one of the top 2 decks in the Standard format, hands down. It comprised of around 10% of the metagame in Collinsville and I don’t think that percentage will decrease anytime soon. Expect to play 2-3-of this deck in your upcoming Standard events.
- Most cuttable cards: 4th Float Stone, Mewtwo EVO, 2nd Energy Switch
- Most desirable additions: 2nd Sudowoodo, Super Rod, 9th Draw Supporter
Conclusion (To Be Continued)
That’ll do it for today! I was originally planning for this to be one article about both decks that I’ve played recently, and then I started writing a novel about Buzzwole and decided to split it up. Look forward to the 2nd part about Glaceon in the coming days, I’ll link it here when I publish.
Good luck with the rest of your testing for Charlotte! I’m back on my, uh, bad testing habits, so hopefully I can find something good with a small amount of practice. But let’s be real, it’ll probably be Buzzwole again. I might even play the Buzzwole/Garbodor variant that Natalie Shampay took to 2nd place in Collinsville. She tells me that it’s favored in the Buzzwole mirror, but I’m hesitant to play without Lycanroc-GX. Guess I have to test more!
Til next time,
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.