Skating on Thin Ice

Brit on Consistency, a Trio of Glaceon Lists, and Solgaleo/Zoroark for Charlotte
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The format(s) are in a weird place right now.

Though Zoroark-GX seems to have been finally defeated after Costa Mesa, I am still somewhat skeptical that the format is in a good place. As I’ve noted recently, I really do like the Expanded format, and think that it has more to offer than Standard. Decks are more consistent while simultaneously having more options. This may sound impossible, or like two propositions in opposition with each other, but undoubtedly the two are intertwined.

When your deck becomes more consistent, you have a more consistent means to rely on your tech options. When your deck is inconsistent and teched out, then you are rarely able to meet your own goals, which is why it is it is very rare to see a surprising rogue deck in Day 2-of a Regional or International Championship. Admittedly, a lot of the “tech” options in Expanded amount to various Supporter cards, as it is VS Seeker that makes them accessible for multiple uses, which cannot be done in Standard format.

Supporter counts in the Standard format almost never deviate, and we do not have access to cards like Teammates, Xerosic or Hex Maniac—even if we did, I am not sure they would do a ton to shakeup the way the game is currently played. Puzzle of Time does open up a few additional possibilities, but its usage is generally limited to Zoroark-GX decks, which again only continues to compound the dominance of this card. Though not the best analogy, Puzzle of Time often acts as a poor player’s VS Seeker in its ability to get extra mileage out of small, but impactful, Supporters like Acerola or Professor Kukui.

The consistency of decks may be an initial litmus test one can use to gauge the validity of a format or deck, but Zoroark-GX is perhaps the first card to really make examination a null point. Unlike Claydol GE or Uxie LA from years ago, this card acts as the primary consistency engine of any deck, but in most cases, it also serves as the main attacker and provides an amount of support incomparable to anything before it.

I am not quite certain if we can clearly say that Zoroark-GX is “better” than Claydol, Uxie, Shaymin-EX, etc., but I do believe that is offers something unique in comparison to these other cards. At the cost of taking up the most space, with Zoroark-GX, you are given the utility of one of the best and most efficient main attackers and the freedom to pair whatever you want with it.

Initially the joke was that any deck can be competitive if you had the Zoroark-GX, shell but I now believe this to be less of a joke and more of an accurate assessment of both the Standard and Expanded formats. As we’ll see a bit later in this article, some more outlandish and crazier pairings are starting to pick up as competitive options for Zoroark-GX, and I am really enamored with the Solgaleo-GX pairing that has slowly begun to shine at League Cups this quarter.

I suppose that it is probably worth noting that this freedom for choosing a partner for Zoroark-GX is mostly reserved for Standard, where the best Zoroark-GX deck tends to change after every tournament, but Expanded Zoroark-GX have clearly proven that the Sky Field focus is the most successful building route. You do still have some freedom in choosing whether you want to play Alolan Muk, a heavy Exeggcute count, or a very small Lycanroc-GX or Ninetales DRX line.

Decks are more consistent in Expanded, but Zoroark-GX decks are even more consistent, and to me, the format really seems to have devolved into an absolute “if you cannot beat them, join them” mentality. Igor Costa is the first successful player to finally stop Zoroark-GX from winning a Regionals-sized tournament, which I think clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the problem. One of the best players in the world (and in this case, of all-time) playing a deck built specifically to counter Zoroark-GX with even more specific cards included in the list to make that matchup even more difficult, and he barely defeats a (mostly) standard “Lonzo” deck in finals.

This is not a knock on Phinn Lynch or anyone who saw success with Lonzo over the weekend, but rather an attempt to illuminate the problem even further. It takes the brains and skills of the very best playing a counter deck to thwart the Zoroark-GX menace, and if even Igor was close to defeat, what hope do the more average of us have?

Gliding with Glaceon: An Ice Trio

Though my testing was incredibly limited for Costa Mesa, as I knew early on that I would not be in attendance, I am happy to see that I was somewhat on the right track thinking Glaceon-GX had a real opportunity to shine in the format. The list I provided in my last article did one thing only—and that was evolve very quickly.

Ultimately, I think that it would prove to be not enough to stand on its own in Expanded, but was not too far away from the list that many of our writers would favor in Costa Mesa. I know that Travis Nunlist drew a lot of his inspiration from my initial list, and one of the things he told me was that the first thing he did was start with my list and simply cut a lot of the “fluff” from everything in order to find room for the wackiness that separates a regular list from a “Nun-list.”

One of the more interesting things about Glaceon-GX is that its viability in Expanded is not necessarily a result of the format being more reliant on Abilities but more a result of the fact that the field has become more predictable and various options are not viable as a means to scare Glaceon-GX away. On this point, I think I would actually argue that Abilities are more prevalent in Standard, but Expanded lists have a much slimmer Supporter count and need the first turn Wonder Tag to start the engine. However, they will rarely rely on it after the initial turn or two.

In the Standard format, Metal decks seem to have decidedly been settled as a tier two contender, but the threat of Metal is still more than enough to make Glaceon-GX players question their deck choice. In Expanded, contrastingly, there really is not any space for a Metal deck to be any sort of threat, as they lacks any way to combat the ever-looming menace of your Zoroark-GX + Skyfield decks.

All this being said, I still think that Glaceon-GX has a lot of potential in Standard (as well as to have a lasting presence in Expanded), and am happy to see others attempting to adapt it for upcoming events like Charlotte and Portland. Xander’s list in his latest article is a great starting point, and at risk of talking too much about things my fellow writers have already covered, I will simply gloss over it here. Another great list for Glaceon-GX comes from Andrew Wamboltd of The Charizard Lounge, and it an updated list from what he used to Day 2 (but not Top 32) in Collinsville. For those unfamiliar:

Pokémon – 14

4 Eevee SUM

3 Glaceon-GX

2 Zorua SLG

2 Zoroark-GX

1 Mewtwo EVO

1 Lapras-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Guzma

3 N

2 Cynthia

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Aqua Patch

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Field Blower

1 Pal Pad

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Rescue Stretcher

4 Float Stone

4 Choice Band

Energy – 11

7 Water

4 Double Colorless

In contrast to Xander’s list, Andrew’s list here is far less concerned with playing Zoroark-GX as a sort of focus, and is using it almost entirely as a support option. I like this idea quite a bit and think it suits this deck much better than trying to play Octillery BKT or Oranguru SUM instead—and, I think having as many non-Glaceon attackers as possible makes your chances against any pesky Metal decks much higher.

Bulbapedia
In this case, actually garbage.

I was not a fan whatsoever of the list that came before this with , and truly was surprised to see it in Day 2-of Collinsville, and so I think this is much more on the right track. It is a real shame that we cannot make use of Barbaracle FCO in Standard, as that card choice was the real genius of the deck in Costa Mesa, but there unfortunately is not a suitable replacement for Rough Seas. Brooklet Hill is the only stadium that comes to mind where you can realistically be expected to run 3-4 copies of the card. As such, here is a new list I have devised for Ninetales-GX/Glaceon-GX.

Pokémon – 14

4 Eevee SUM

3 Glaceon-GX

2 Alolan Vulpix GRI

1 Alolan Ninetales-GX

1 Alolan Ninetales BUS

1 Binacle FCO

1 Barbaracle FCO

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 35

3 Cynthia

3 Guzma

3 N

3 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Aqua Patch

4 Float Stone

3 Enhanced Hammer

2 Choice Band

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Field Blower

 

4 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 11

7 Water

4 Double Colorless

When I was testing for Collinsville, one of the more surprising things that I discovered was that Glaceon-GX/Ninetales-GX was actually a good deck. At a glance, there does not seem to be any synergy for the deck outside of simply mashing two Water Pokémon together and hoping that everything comes out okay. That may be a stretch to some extent, but in building a deck, I think a lot of time this concern with “synergy” of pairing two cards together may be an entirely fictional concern.

At any rate, Glaceon-GX/Ninetales-GX was highly competitive and really its only weakness was that it will undoubtedly get obliterated by any Metal deck in its (ice) path. There is not attempt to remedy that problem with this list, and that’s okay! I do not think any of the Metal decks are particularly viable, and while I know people will still continue to play them to some extent, I think you can still steal a few games here and there by evolving Eevee on the 1st turn and blocking your opponent from getting set up.

I lament that the deck does lack a bit of consistency without Zoroark-GX or Octillery. Both cards could perhaps be fit by cutting a copy of Enhanced Hammer and Brooklet Hill (this could also be done to add more Professor Sycamore and Cynthia as well), but for the moment I have not had too much trouble running with the list above.

Barbaracle is quite good and effective against almost every deck in the format (except for Metal, which, again, we ought to just cut our losses and move on) and ought to be incredibly effective once on the board. Safeguard Ninetales also should pull quite a bit of weight on its own, as many decks in Standard continue to lack a great option to dealing with this card. The popularity of these various mill decks is almost entirely predicated on your opponent’s inability to deal damage to Safeguard Pokémon, and I think if you play intelligently, it can certainly buy you a lot of time to continue setting up attackers—if the Ability does not win the game outright.

To conclude this section, I want to include one final Glaceon-GX list. This is the one that I believe to be the strongest of the three discussed today, and ought to appear more as a synthesis between Xander and Andrew’s list and less of a Barbarcle pipe dream:

Pokémon – 16

4 Eevee SUM

3 Glaceon-GX

3 Zorua SLG

3 Zoroark-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Mewtwo EVO

1 Lapras-GX

Trainers – 32

3 Brigette

3 Cynthia

3 Guzma

2 N

2 Professor Sycamore

1 Acerola

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

2 Aqua Patch

2 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Enhanced Hammer

2 Float Stone

1 Choice Band

 

1 Parallel City

Energy – 12

8 Water

4 Double Colorless

Like Xander’s list, there is a much stronger commitment to the Zoroark-GX strategy here, with the choice to play Puzzle of Time, a heavier Brigette count etc. I really like the option of having Lapras-GX as an additional attacker, and have stolen it from Andrew’s list and continued to include it here. Ice Beam-GX can be incredible in a pinch, and often Polar Spear-GX is unnecessary or difficult to achieve effectively (I do not think it is bad to ever have plenty of options for your GX attackers).

There may be an argument to beef up the line and play it closer to what Xander, has but I think that emphasis somewhat misses the point. This is, after all, still a Glaceon-GX deck, and I want the focus to still be an attempt to maximize the chances of a first turn Freezing Gaze. Zoroark-GX is still the most suitable partner for consistency reasons, and I think you will have a much more agreeable time trying to play with it rather than without it.

Solar Flares: Solgaleo/Zoroark

The final deck I wish to discuss today is Solgaleo-GX/Zoroark-GX. Though it has become less of a mystery and more of a metagame force at this time, I think the power of the deck still may surprise many. I was defeated very handily by the deck during the first day of Swiss in Collinsville, and the deck has lingered in my mind ever since. I am not sure if there is a communal consensus yet on how the list ought to look.

I have based my list largely on what I think Sydney Morisoli’s (I believe she received her list from the Some1s PC crew, so here’s some credit to them as well) list was, as she is the one who defeated me with ease. I have made some personal and wacky changes of my own which I will do my very best to explain and justify but the core of the deck should be easy enough to understand. Let’s dive in!

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG

3 Zoroark-GX

4 Cosmog SUM

1 Cosmoem SUM

3 Solgaleo-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Solgaleo p

1 Hoopa SLG

Trainers – 29

3 Cynthia

3 Brigette

3 Guzma

3 N

2 Mallow

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy

3 Field Blower

2 Max Potion

1 Evosoda

1 Super Rod

Energy –

4 Double Colorless

7 Metal

1 Darkness

The strategy of the deck is fairly simple. Like every other Zoroark-GX deck, your main goal is to play Brigette on your first turn, evolve into as many Zoroark-GX as possible on your second turn, and then speed-Trade through your deck through the rest of the game to draw into all of your “backup” cards. The main reason I think Solgaleo-GX is an excellent partner right now is that it is an incredibly bulky and dangerous attacker. While it does require more resources than any other Zoroark-GX, partner Solgaleo-GX can 1HKO anything while can usually soaking up 2-3 hits (outside of Fire attackers) from anything else.

This gives you ample amounts of time to evolve, use Sol Burst-GX and Solgaleo p to power up three attacks, and take three simple knockouts on any GX or EX Pokémon. Not being able to include Puzzle of Time in the list is somewhat of a bummer, but given the heavier needs of Solgaleo-GX, it is a small sacrifice to make. In certain scenarios, the deck really functions fine without Zoroark-GX as both Solgaleo-GX and p are incredibly powerful on their own.

The only real “spice” or wackiness that I have opted to include is Hoopa from Shining Legends. I’m sure this may seem strange or out of place, but I do think it has its merits. As discussed above with Ninetales, Safeguard is an absolutely incredible ability right now, and one a lot of decks (mostly Zoroark-GX ones) do not have an answer for. They may have a few cards here and there that are able to damage Hoopa, but your strategy with the card is to buy time and be annoying rather than mill your opponent.

In the time it takes your opponent to figure out a way to deal with the card, you will have likely had the time to prime Solgaleo-GX for another 2-Prize KO. The main reason I have chosen to play Hoopa is that this deck, while favored against most of the metagame, greatly struggles against any Fire deck, and this was the best solution I could think of. An old school Volcanion will likely have our number every time, but the heavier Ho-Oh-GX and Kiawe emphasis lists only play 1-2 Volcanion STS which should not be too difficult to deal with if we play our board right.

It may be a stretch and may not be a wise inclusion to the list for a larger and more unknown metagame, but if I think I am attending a League Cup with a few Fire decks roaming around, I think Hoopa will definitely stay in my list. If you are so inclinded to remove it, I would simply swap out the Darkness Energy for a Metal and either include Mew-EX (meta depending) or another Guzma.


As far as competition is concerned, it looks like I am going to be back on the bench for a little while. I had strong intentions of making Portland in a few weeks, but it looks like that is going to fall through, unfortunately. I will say that there is still a slim chance that I am able to swing it, but I am not holding my breath. Charlotte is a definite no, and I have a wedding to attend during Virginia. After that, Madison is about a 100% chance, with Salt Lake City and Toronto look like strong maybes at this point.

I will do my best to iron everything out in the coming weeks but if I am unable to attend any Regionals until May, definitely expect lots of League Cup reports and metagame analysis from me in the meantime. If you have any questions or concerns about the lists provided, I would be happy to field any sort of discussion in the comment section or on Twitter.

Until next time!


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