From Rags To Riches

Jimmy’s Takes on Greninja, Vikavolt/Bulu, and Lucario for Standard

Hello SixPrizes readers! I am back yet again with another article for everyone, and this time I will be focusing on the Standard metagame. With the release of Lucario-GX, the metagame has shifted quite a bit from the previously Zoroark-GX dominated scene. Lucario-GX is a very efficient attacker that can take quick KOs, which really scared people off of decks for Portland. Instead, Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt saw a huge rise in popularity, and Sylveon-GX wandered its way into the mix. Additionally, the infamous Greninja BREAK performed pretty well, but was a small percentage of the field. These decks had great matchups against the popular decks, so it was no surprise to see many of them advancing to Day 2. With that being said, let’s take a look at three decks I have been testing for Brazil and upcoming League Cups.

Greninja BREAK

Pokémon – 19

4 Froakie BKP

4 Frogadier BKP

4 Greninja BKP

3 Greninja BREAK

1 Staryu BKP

1 Starmie EVO

1 Tapu Fini-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 31

4 N

4 Cynthia

4 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Evosoda

4 Ultra Ball

3 Choice Band

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Super Rod

1 Rescue Stretcher

 

4 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 10

6 Water

4 Splash

Card Choices

Tapu Fini-GX

This has made its way out of some Greninja lists recently, such as the one Joe Ruettiger piloted to a Top 4 finish at Charlotte. However, Joe clearly missed having Fini around, as he decided to include it in his Portland list. I definitely think that was the right call, as this card can make all the difference against Buzzwole-GX decks. It certainly won’t get used every game, but you’ll certainly notice a lack of Fini over the course of a tournament.

3 Choice Band

This is something we saw in successful Greninja lists earlier in the year, and I was always a fan of the high count. It is great for taking KOs while maintaining a Shadow Stitch lock, which is the key to beating certain matchups, such as Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt SUM. You might not use all three Choice Band in a game, but finding them at the right time is usually pretty important.

4 Brooklet Hill

Having 4 Brooklet Hill in this deck is necessary due to the lack of Field Blower. Otherwise, you have a hard time dealing with pesky stadiums such as Parallel City. Additionally, having 4 Brooklet Hill increases your chances of getting multiple Froakie down on the first turn, which is of incredible importance when going second. After that, Brooklet Hill is the gift that keeps on giving, and can fetch you important basics, such as Staryu or Tapu Fini-GX, later in the game.

Potential Inclusions

Espeon-EX

I removed Espeon-EX from the deck because it seemed to be more of a liability than it was useful. Starting it against any deck with Rockruff GRI can result in an instant loss, and just starting it in general is a pain. Whenever I actually used Espeon-EX to finish a game, it often felt like I was going to win the game regardless of Espeon-EX’s presence, which lead to me removing it for a third Choice Band.

Field Blower

I don’t have this in my current list because is being somewhat underplayed the moment, but I would definitely recommend playing two of these in place of a Professor Sycamore and a Brooklet Hill if you expect to play against Garbodor decks. For League Cups, it is a bit easier to make the call, but for a big tournament such as Brazil, not playing Field Blower is somewhat high risk-high reward.

Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt

Pokémon – 14

4 Grubbin SUM

3 Vikavolt SUM

3 Tapu Bulu-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Mew FCO

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Guzma

2 N

2 Cynthia

2 Skyla

1 Lillie

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy

4 Choice Band

2 Nest Ball

2 Heavy Ball

2 Field Blower

2 Energy Recycler

Energy – 12

7 Grass

5 Lightning

From Meme to Mean

When Tapu Bulu-GX was first released, it made its debut at Madison Regionals 2017, where a couple made Day 2. However, the deck was still looked down upon by many players and was considered somewhat of a joke. It was a relatively unpopular deck, and was never really considered Tier 1—until recently, at least. With the release of Ultra Prism, Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt has been increasing in popularity and has the finishes to back it up. It only gained Cynthia from Ultra Prism, and while it is a great card, it certainly isn’t ground breaking technology.

Why now, then? I think that the meta simply developed in a way that favored Tapu Bulu, which resulted in players who have a passion for the deck, such as Peter Kica, performing well with it. After the deck nearly finished in Top 8 in Charlotte, and took up several Top 32 spots, it became clear it was something to be taken seriously moving forward.

Headed into Portland, Lucario-GX was released, which is apparently just another good matchup for the deck. This meant that Tapu Bulu was a very strong play for the event, and it ended up being played by a ton of people. I fully expect the deck to be played moving forward, which means it will finally be stripped of its label as a “fringe” deck and truly be apart of the metagame.

Card Choices

Mew FCO

Every Tapu Bulu-GX list plays this card, and I can see why! It is a great single prize attacker, and really swings the matchups where you “should” just be trading GX KOs back and forth. I would play two before I went down to zero, which is what some players did at Portland. I have chose to stick with one for now, but I could see myself putting in a second, especially if 1HKO decks become more popular. The Mew is also fantastic for dealing with any Hoopa SLG you encounter, which is not too unlikely after its decent showing in Portland.

2 Nest Ball, 2 Heavy Ball

This deck “normally” only plays three total ball cards outside of Ultra Ball, but once I felt that the third copy of Field Blower was unnecessary, I decided the spot would be best spent as a search card. This resulted in a second Nest Ball, as the list I was originally using was from Alex Hill‘s Portland Top 4. The more, the better, is how I feel with this deck, as it has a lot of moving pieces and the extra search helps things run a bit more smoothly.

2 Field Blower

While Garbodor isn’t very popular, Field Blower is needed in this deck for a multitude of reasons. First of all, just having two Field Blower is usually enough to beat Garbodor decks if used correctly and drawn at reasonable times. This is especially the case if either of the Field Blowers result in two Strong Charges, whether that means having two Vikavolts out or your opponent missing a Tool. I would compare these situations to those of the Blastoise BCR/Black Kyurem-EX vs Garbodor DRX wars that we saw a few years ago.

Field Blower is also very good against opposing Stadiums, some of which are more troublesome than others. Obviously, the opponent having a Brooklet Hill on the field isn’t the end of the world, but a Parallel City can be game changing. Both sides of Parallel City are annoying, as having your bench limited in the early game is no fun. The more popular strategy with Parallel City is to limit Tapu Bulu-GX’s damage output, which will stop it from taking the 1HKO in most situations. Without Field Blower, you would only have Guzma as a way of maneuvering this situation, which isn’t great in the long run.

Lucario-GX

Pokémon – 17

4 Riolu UPR

4 Lucario-GX

2 Remoraid BKT 32

2 Octillery BKT

3 Regirock-EX

1 Buzzwole-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Cynthia

3 Guzma

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Pokémon Catcher

2 Evosoda

1 Rescue Stretcher

4 Choice Band

4 Float Stone

 

4 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 9

5 Fighting

4 Strong

 

Deck Analysis

This definitely isn’t like some of the lists that were played at Portland or recent Special Events, but I have been a fan of this aggressive build since I started testing it a couple days before Portland. If I had a bit more time, I may have wound up playing the deck, but I didn’t feel like my list was optimal at the time, and the deck isn’t perfect.

The deck aims to just take three GX KOs as soon as possible, which can happen as early as Turn 4. It will sometimes just never miss a beat and achieve the dream of winning then, which is something almost no deck can beat.

A common strategy against the deck is simply targeting down the Riolu, as the deck needs those to function. This isn’t some sort of surprise, but without a recovery card, it was a very annoying strategy to deal with. Even in games where the deck took 3 Prizes before the opponent did anything of relevance, the opponent could simply target Riolu to make a comeback. This is exactly why I added Rescue Stretcher, and with some careful play, that strategy is not nearly as effective as it previously was.

In terms of Portland, I think I would’ve done at least decently had I played this deck. I certainly think I have an advantage in the mirror match, because Pokémon Catchers are better than Super Scoop Ups. Zoroark decks were all favorable, but I was occasionally “cheesed” in testing by Mew-EX attacking three consecutive times despite being killed over and over.

Tapu Bulu is an interesting matchup for sure, and is one I need to do some more testing with. 1HKOing Tapu Bulu is obviously a great thing to do, but targeting down Vikavolt is another option. If they ever take a KO with Tapu Bulu to leave themselves with no Energy on board and only the one Vikavolt, it may be worth the risk to KO the Vikavolt depending on the current board state. This is assuming they have a Grubbin in play—it is a no brainer if they don’t.

They can play around this by taking a KO with Mew FCO, as that keeps energy on the board—making KO’ing Vikavolt a poor idea, as they will take 2 Prizes again the next turn. The Mew is really the only problem in the matchup, as taking a KO on a non-EX/GX really stings when you are simply trading prizes. Getting the first KO in this matchup is huge, even if it is a non-Pokémon-GX. This puts you on odd prizes, and makes an opposing Mew not nearly as big of an ordeal.

Card Choices

3 Regirock-EX

willfosho.tumblr.comThis card is the key to the deck and I wouldn’t recommend playing less than three. I would put in a fourth copy before I cut down to two, so hopefully that conveys just how much I value the Regirock-EXs in this deck. Having two of them out allows you to hit 190, which is perfect for 1HKO’ing a and anything else sub-200 HP. However, unless your Buzzwole-GX has setup the KOs for you, you’ll need the entire trio of Regirocks to 1HKO an opposing Lycanroc-GX, which is something I value highly at the moment. Having three also makes Prizes less of an issue, and makes them easier to draw into early on.

1 Buzzwole-GX

This is a great attacker early on, as it can take easy KOs and setup hefty Pokémon to be KO’ed by later in the game. With so many Regirock-EX in the deck, Buzzwole is incredibly likely to be KO’ing whatever Basic it is presented with, which wasn’t always the case before. Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX only played one or two Regirock-EX, which somewhat limited Buzzwole’s Jet Punch potential.

3 Pokémon Catcher

This might seem like somewhat of a gimmick, and I was extremely against this inclusion when Igor repeatedly brought it up during Portland testing, but it is certainly the real deal. The flexibility it provides you with is unmatched, as you can draw a ton of cards in a turn and still have access to a gust effect. It essentially replaces Lycanroc-GX in the deck, and while it is a flip, you don’t need to hit all of them. Furthermore, Lycanroc-GX simply took up too much space in the deck, and on the bench, which made it an unreasonable inclusion.

I am definitely not a fan of flip cards, despite my recent love for Timer Ball and Pokémon Catcher, but trust me, this one is worth it.

2 Evosoda

Evosoda always makes its way into my lists! I am a huge fan of Evosoda and really do believe it is underrated, and was surprised to see how little it was played in Portland lists. In this deck, it is useful the entire game, as opposed to Zoroark decks where I will be forced to just Trade it away if I find it after Turn 3. It makes attacking on Turn 2 a piece of cake, as you have a ton of outs to Lucario in the deck. Additionally, Octillery gets setup very quickly in most games, and I would have to attribute some of that to this card. Later in the game, finding an Evosoda means you can evolve to Lucario that turn, which is obviously the whole point of this deck.

4 Brooklet Hill

I am always a fan of being incredibly consistent, and this card certainly helps the deck run more smoothly. While some people may point to all the Buzzwole lists that play only three Brooklet Hill and label this as unnecessary, I would have to strongly disagree with that conclusion. First of all, the decks are completely different, as Lucario absolutely needs to find at least one Riolu on the first turn. When going second, only benching one Riolu is very risky, and could result in an unfortunate loss if immediately KO’ed, as you will simply fall too far behind. I would compare the first turn or two of this deck to Greninja, as both decks pretty much have to get down two of their respective Basic on the first turn.

Potential Inclusions

Super Rod

pokebeach.comThis would have to replace the Rescue Stretcher due to space. While the idea of two recovery cards doesn’t strike me as bad, usually one recovery card is enough as long as you actually draw it. There will be some games where you don’t even need a single recovery card. The deck is extremely aggressive and aims to end the game as soon as possible, which means you don’t want a bunch of utility cards slowing you down.

The Super Rod may be better than the Rescue Stretcher though, as it can help make up for the deck’s somewhat-low energy count. The downside to this card is that it does not guarantee immediate gratification like Rescue Stretcher does, which can make all the difference in a close game.

Multi Switch

This is a card I tested in the original version of this list, which had Lycanroc-GX and was almost an entirely different deck. When I decided Lycanroc-GX felt clunky and hard to use, I revamped the list to focus on speed and consistency. This made Multi Switch get removed in the crossfire, as I thought it would be completely useless without Lycanroc-GX in the deck. The Multi Switch, although untested in this Lucario-focused build, seemingly has a few solid uses. It can allow you to pull of a surprise Cyclone Kick or Knuckle Impact, which should draw 2 Prizes and put your opponent in a position they didn’t expect to be in.

Conclusion

That is all for today’s article everyone! Whether you are attending Brazil or just looking to win a League Cup, I hope you got something out of this article! I know not everyone loves stage two Pokémon, but I would definitely still give these decks some thought. I will be attending every possible League Cup that I can this quarter, as I have been somewhat lazy about getting my finishes. On a more exciting note, I have the Brazil International Championships to look forward to at the end of the month, which is an event I plan to be fully prepared for. If you happen to see me at any upcoming events, feel free to say hi! Otherwise, I will be back later in the month with another article. Peace!


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