Hey everyone. We’ve finally reached the lethargic period near the end of the year, providing a much needed break for those of us who travel to Regionals too frequently to be considered healthy. This comes at an opportune time for me, at least, now that matches are starting in my tennis season. The one Regional I’m forced to miss because of scheduling is Toronto, which sucks, but I’m also grateful that other dense parts of the year like October-November and March fall elsewhere.
Because of school, tennis, and general burnout, I’m not looking to commit very much time to Pokémon in between now and Brazil. All of my Saturdays are reserved for tennis, effectively eliminating half of my opportunities for League Cup points. On the weekdays, there’s about 2-3 hours of homework each night just to get by with daily activities. As other people have mentioned, burnout is real and affects everyone, whether one plays casually or at the highest level of competition. I love winning and competing, however there’s a price other than money: time. It’ll be interesting to count the amount of weekends spent playing Pokémon, along with the time spent traveling as well.
One could say I’m doing this to myself; I’m choosing to participate in the perpetually more stressful chase for Top 16. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s my choice, yet even so, I wouldn’t choose it any other way. I’m extremely competitive and enthralled by the possibility of fame at the highest level of play. I don’t do it for validity, but as a test of my personal commitment and potential achievement. Simply pulling a “400 and chill” doesn’t resonate well with me. That being said, I have no disregard for anyone who’s doing that; they’re competing at a different level than of those heading for Top 16. Neither path is better than the other, just different.
Today, I hope to discuss a little bit into the meta of Standard as a whole, both in the environment of League Cups and of upcoming Regionals and Internationals. I’ll cover the deck I played last Saturday and Sunday, Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX, to a 2nd place finish at a decent-sized League Cup. In doing so, I hope to provide a better understanding in choosing the right deck, metagaming, and general strategy throughout unspoken aspects of the game.
Niles, IL League Cup
I did little preparation for this tournament other than reviewing what decks I have built and their lists. The several I considered were Espeon-GX/Garbodor, Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX, Greninja, and Gourgeist. I didn’t make any changes to Espeon-GX/Garbodor and Greninja, but tinkered a bit with the remaining two. I’ve standardized my list for Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX because I don’t think there’s a better way to run it. The final spots became occupied by meta-specific cards like 2nd Parallel City, Enhanced Hammer, and 3rd Field Blower. I truly think the extra copies of the cards would win me more games, especially in Best of 1, than Evosoda, 2nd Float Stone, and other luxuries.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 33
Energy – 7
There’s absolutely nothing special in this list. It’s built to run as smooth as butter on a piece of bread fresh out of the toaster, like socks on a clean floor. The luxuries I mentioned aren’t included in the list because I’d prefer to increase matchup percentages than consistency percentages. This especially makes a difference in League Cups, which I’ll get into later. In general, I think this is a better mentality to have. In reflecting upon my Collinsville and Portland Espeon-GX/Garbodor lists, the former was purely focused on consistency, while the latter found the perfect balance.
The main reason I chose this deck over my personal favorite, Espeon-GX/Garbodor, is because this fares better in an unpredicted meta. I expected at least some Zoroark-GX—because it’s a League Cup—but also a plethora of other decks. While exploring the room, I found Sylveon, Greninja, Espeon-GX/Garbodor, all Zoroark-GX variants, Fighting decks, and Vikavolt. Decks are widely represented at League Cups. It is unwise to pick a deck that hinges upon a certain meta, because it is quite likely you’ll pair up against something unexpected. I’ve played a fair share of narrow decks: Mega Gardevoir, Yveltal-EX/Garbodor, and Greninja to Cups before, and subsequently had my runs ended by ill-aligned decks that I happened to pair up against. There was a Mega Rayquaza in Round 2, multiple Jolteon-EX/Electrode, and a fair share of Giratina XY184, respectively.
Of the decks I listed above, I feel strongly that Espeon-GX/Garbodor can handle most of them well. However, as a competent Zoroark-GX player, I feel confident that I can win those matchups, so long as I draw as equally as good as the opponent. A flashy meta call isn’t a worthwhile risk to take when it’s safer to play a different deck, especially when you’re in the need of Championship Points. This choice differs for large tournaments like Regionals, where the winning decks will be all but defined near the later rounds. By Day 2-of Portland, the meta had cemented itself to be anti-Zoroark. There’s less variance there than in the random decks at League Cups.
Another thing to consider when choosing a deck, even for Cups, is comfort. Even with the perfect 60 cards of a foreign deck, it’s likely you’ll take losses due to unfamiliarity. There’s a reason I’ve almost exclusively played Mega Gardevoir, Garbodor variants, and Zoroark variants over the past year and a half. I may be a one-trick pony, so shame on me, but I can play the decks comfortably without too much thinking required.
My matchups went as predicted—a little bit of everything. I managed to dodge the Lucario-GX decks all day, but most of them weren’t doing very well after the initial rounds. By the end of the day, I was pretty sick of playing against Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX, but nonetheless lost to it after the experience I gained throughout the day. Game 1 started out even with me slowly pulling ahead each turn. There was a strong turn where I Knocked Out his Active, reduced his Bench with Parallel City, and Enhanced Hammer’d a Strong Energy off of a Rockruff. Following that, I was donked in Game 2 and had a few missed cards in Game 3.
The matchup is very dependent on how easily I can set up Golisopod-GX. Parallel City and Guzma put a detriment in it, but nonetheless it should be fine. There should be VODs of my R3, Top 4, and Finals match for viewing, two of those being against Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX. My match against Abe in Top 4 is also worth watching, so definitely check it out! It’s much easier for you to watch the video than for me to recite what happened out of context. However, I’ll summarize the important cards I used in each matchup.
It was a nice change of pace to play it from the Zoroark-GX side instead of the Garbodor side. In doing so, I realized how amazing Oranguru UPR is at stopping Trashalanche in its tracks. I focused on that as my strategy rather than trying to be aggressive and target Garbotoxin. Without damage on the opposing side for Berserk, there is absolutely nothing that can 1HKO an Oranguru with a Grass Energy. (I suppose a huge Lele can, but that’s a very bad idea.) With my Resouce Management, I continuously recycled Items and Energy, eventually trapping a Garbodor GRI Active. Even if my Oranguru was KO’d, it did enough work to where winning the rest of the game would be easy. Enhanced Hammer, Field Blower, and Parallel City are the “spam cards” I’d try to re-use while keeping the monkey healthy with Max Potion or Acerola. The strategy switches into taking Prizes once a large enough lead has been established.
If you were watching the stream, you would have noticed I passed on a couple of turns when I had plays available to me. Key examples are as follows: Letting Golisopod-GX tank another hit before using Acerola, and waiting to attack with Mewtwo until it can take a Prize. In the first scenario, I had a dead hand with no draw Supporter. My Active Golisopod-GX had 60 damage on it and was safe from a KO for at least one more turn. I had an Acerola and a Grass Energy in my hand, so I could have used them to begin using Resource Management that turn. However, I held onto it for another turn in hopes of drawing a better card. At the very least, it buys me a turn.
In the second scenario, I also had a dead hand with little on my board. I had 2 Zorua, a Wimpod, and a Mewtwo. Abe had an Espeon-GX Active with a Psychic Energy. If I remember correctly, my dead hand came about from the N he played on his first turn. Off of it, I did happen to draw Double Colorless, Choice Band, and Float Stone. One line of play is to retreat Zorua, promote Mewtwo, and swing for 140. However, this play is awful because a Double Colorless from Abe would leave me with no Pokémon in play that can attack. Even a Psychic Energy for Righteous Edge is good enough to leave my Mewtwo stranded. Instead of this play, I decided to wait it out in hopes that he would attach a Psychic Energy to Espeon-GX to begin attacking for meaningful damage. It didn’t play out exactly like I wanted it to, but it did happen eventually. He correctly did not begin to use Psychic immediately, but blundered by doing it in the following turn and swinging at my Mewtwo for 120. Had he chosen to Psybeam and hold the Energy, I would have lost quickly.
Parallel City and removing opposing Energy attachments are the names of the game. It’s important to keep enough Wimpod on the board to prevent a Lycanroc-GX from taking 4 Prizes. That play is usually enough tempo to win the game, because they would’ve taken 2 from Wimpod earlier on. It’s easy to stop a Lycanroc-GX if a Strong Energy was attached; Enhanced Hammer does the trick. Fighting Energy is much more pesky to deal with, though, and usually requires the Guzma and First Impression. Another way to preemptively stop Energy from being attached to Lycanroc-GX is to remove the Energy attached to Zoroark-GX, either with a KO or Enhanced Hammer. That way, should they choose to attach to a Rockruff or Lycanroc-GX, they’ll miss a turn of attacking with Riotous Beating.
Vs. Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX
In this matchup, it’s very important to reduce their likelihood of taking 1HKOs. Armor Press and Parallel City can reduce the damage down to 190, which is enough to keep a Zoroark-GX or Golisopod-GX alive. It’s harder to prevent KO’s on Tapu Lele-GX, though. Also, it’s important to play around their GX attack as much as possible. Ideally, you’ll force them to use it in order to retain Energy on the board. In a worse case, they could use it with a Guzma to take a Prize and fully heal their Tapu Bulu-GX.
Depending on how quickly you set up, there are different modes of attack. In Game 1 I started spreading with Tapu Koko so that it would be easier to close out the game with Guzma. I was dead-drawing, but managed to pull off two Flying Flips. On the following turn, I was lucky and drew Ultra Ball, netting Lele -> Cynthia, and then into Double Colorless, Choice Band, and Zoroark-GX to KO his only Tapu Bulu-GX. He made the mistake of not using the GX attack out of safety because I wasn’t doing anything productive. After that turn, I set up enough to where I could Guzma two Tapu Lele-GX for my remaining 4 Prizes. They both conveniently had 40 damage on them from my Flying Flips earlier on in the game.
In Game 2, I was forced into avoiding Tapu Koko and instead had to begin attacking straight away. He took a Prize on my Wimpod with a Grass Energy with Tapu Lele-GX, to which I responded with Mewtwo for 80. Tapu Wilderness GX KO’d my Mewtwo, then I swung for 80 and reduced his damage with Parallel City. He had Field Blower + Choice Band to KO me, putting him down to 2 Prizes. I used another Zoroark-GX to KO his Tapu Bulu-GX, putting me at 4 Prizes. My way to win was to KO his Tapu Lele-GX on the Bench with First Impression, then use the GX attack on his Tapu Bulu-GX. He missed a Choice Band here or else he would’ve won with Nature’s Judgement. Fortunately for me, my plan worked as I had hoped.
Berwyn, IL League Cup
I didn’t do well here. I decided to play the same 60 after joking around that I’d play Greninja. I also had Espeon-GX/Garbodor with me, but decided to hold off on it for the same reason; perhaps I’m overstating its unreliability against Zoroark-GX. In my eyes, there was no blaring reason not to repeat decks, and thus is my story. I finished 1-2 after three pathetic rounds of Pokémon. My first round was against Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX/Basics, not the Magnezone version. I went second and never found Tapu Koko to ease up my KOs for the rest of the game. I tried to hold out for as long as possible, yet fell short a few minutes from a tie. There was a legitimate possibility of me winning had he missed Guzma off of an N. My strategy was to Armor Press to 2HKO things, but I never was able to get ahead on Energy attachments to do so. I played Parallel City to prevent Tapu Lele-GX at the cost of hindering my own strategy.
Round 2 was somewhat alright, once again against Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX. I went for what I described above, winning with a First Impression with a clean Golisopod-GX into a Crossing Cut GX on a Lele. An earlier Max Potion turn halted his attempts at removing it before it became useful.
Finally, in Round 3, I didn’t set up against Golisopod-GX/Garbodor. I had a Zoroark-GX in play, but no Supporter in the top 12 cards in my deck. My one out to churning through the deck faster was KO’d, and I was left stranded. It was pretty depressing to have a great day, then flop in the second due to variance. I hate League Cups because of this; they take up an entire day or can pair you up with bad matchups and lose outright.
In this sea of League Cups, there’s no better deck to play than the one you choose. You know yourself better than anyone else, so listen to yourself rather than being convinced by others. Obviously, don’t go too crazy over ignoring others; Multiple inputs are generally healthy and can only help the situation. In my case, I was drawn by others not to play Greninja, even though it would have been the perfect deck on Sunday. Finally, don’t be afraid to stray away from absolute comfort. Playing decks in a competitive setting that you have some experience with is the best way to learn. PTCGO does little more than teach you the basic understanding of the deck you’re playing.
I’ve noticed that I contrast myself often in my articles, not because I don’t believe in what I say, but that these are my opinions and there are others out there. Forcing my own methodology without contrast would be detrimental to you, the reader, as it would provide a small scope of possibilities when my goal is to educate thoroughly. Having written for almost a year and a half now, I definitely see improvements both in my writing and my ability to put my thoughts into words. I hope to continually improve, both for the sake of your viewership and in my achievement as a writer.
My time will be jostled around in the next month until the conclusion of AP tests in mid-May. The tennis season conveniently ends on the same weekend of May 12. Past then, it should be the home stretch of the tournament season. I’ll be at all of the Regionals afterward, and I hope to see you all there. As always, I’m humbled to talk in short, make introductions, etc. should we happen to run into each other. My next article will be about covering my plays for Latin America Internationals. Until then, good luck at Cups and in closing out the Pokémon season, whether it’s to snag final CP or to enjoy what’s remaining.
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