The Lay (and Law) of the Land

A Dissection of the Rule Changes, Standard, and Forbidden Light

Welcome back! This is my last article before Latin America’s International, where hopefully I’ll be able to get a few points and keep my road to Top 16 alive. At the time of writing, I’m #16, but should be able to maintain my spot if I continue to snag points at each event. Unfortunately, I’m missing Salt Lake City and Toronto Regionals, both of which the rest of Top 16 are going to. Nevertheless, I’ll be at both Mexico Special Events and well poised to keep climbing.

In today’s article, I’ll cover a wide variety of topics that may appeal to you. I’ll cover the new rule changes and how it might affect things. Also, I’ll briefly rehash my thoughts on the Standard metagame for those going to Brazil and my strategy going into it. Spoiler: not much has changed since the past few articles and tournaments. To conclude, I’ll write a little bit about Forbidden Light and its potential influence moving forward into Roanoke and beyond.

Rules Rewritten

It seems as if the rules are continuously progressing toward harsher punishment. It’s undetermined whether this will be good or bad for deterring cheating and the future of the community. There are definitely two ways to look at it, both of which I’ll cover, and then conclude with my own thoughts on the matter. To start, I recommend revisiting one of my former articles in which I talk about the initial leap in terms of penalties this year.

In my opinion, the most important change is in how the penalty is given. Instead of the player taking 1-3 Prize cards, they win by having however many remaining at the end of the game. For example, if my opponent received a Prize Penalty (under the old numbers) then I would win the game when I took my fifth Prize. This change is more effective when paired with the next major change: an increase in the Prizes taken for penalties. Under the old system, the penalties were given for 1 Prize and then 3 Prizes. Now, it is 2 Prizes and 4 Prizes. This ultimately helps tighten the reigns on severity and increase effectiveness of the former change mentioned. The 2nd Prize card taken is much more influential because of the 7 Prize game.

Because the lowest tier of penalty besides a warning is higher, I’m curious how much more often it will be de-escalated. Christopher mentioned this in a Facebook group a few days ago, and it really got me thinking. If a double Energy attachment, which is recommended to start at a Double Prize Loss, is caught immediately, will it continue to be de-escalated? In recent tournaments, it has always been nodded off as a warning, but I’m curious if any judges will interpret the overall changes made as a message to increase severity. If so, it’s possible that more judges will enforce this for what it is: a GPE Major, and issue a Double Prize Loss.

The flip side of this that the error is much more impactful on who will win, because the penalty’s effect is doubled, and therefore will be less likely to be given. The judge would be more lenient because the penalty will impact the game more than it used to.

Pros and Cons

In making these assessments, I’m only considering the change in how the Prize cards are “taken” and dismissing the change in number.


  • Anti-Counter cards and N.


2 > 1, but the pro(s) definitely outweigh the cons here. The biggest hit in the “cons” side is the loss of cards taken. Sometimes, whatever is drawn is the exact card needed. Greedy Dice and Missing Clover also become worse with this change. Greedy Dice is worse because there will be 2-4 unturned Prizes, and therefore missed opportunities. Missing Clover will be worse because one is likely to be Prized for longer.

The final point is one that will be resolved soon, but is completely mysterious as of now. It was mentioned that these Prize cards do count toward Prizes “taken” when determining Top Cut Time procedures, which is nice. Other cards like Buzzwole-GX’s Absorption-GX, Shaymin-EX’s Revenge Blast, and new Ultra Beasts are all Prize related. What will probably happen is that these “taken” Prize cards continue to be factored into these attacks. If my opponent gets a Quad Prize Penalty and I use Absorption-GX, I predict that it will do 80 damage. However, the wording is different on each card, especially throughout each era. The use of the word “remaining” and “taken” may very well be interchanged, or kept separate, depending on the card.

Editor’s Note: I disagree with Xander’s assumption as to the nature of these penalties’ interaction with attacks like Absorption-GX, but with a lack of clear direction, we’re still a bit in the dark right now. There is no directive, at this point, to believe that these Prize cards count as taken other than at the end of a timed-out Game 2 of Single Elimination when determining whether that game counts toward the overall match.

A neutral change that I’m unsure of is the right to decline the penalty. There was an obvious right to deny it before because of Counter cards and N. Under the new system, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reasons to decline. One thing this can do is relieve the pressure on newer players when they’re given the option to take or leave the penalty. This also prevents friends from declining the penalty against the other, which will result a judge not being called in the first place if they want to continue normally.

Standard Stuff

I would be lying if I said there was much change in this viscous format. Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Zoroark variants, Fighting decks, Greninja, and Espeon/Garbodor are all good enough to succeed! For me, it’s quite obvious that I like Espeon/Garbodor and am comfortable playing it in most situations. Likewise, other top players have their comfort decks that they’d play when given no better option. I truly don’t think people will try to metagame too hard, especially because it’s important to get some amount of points for people in the Top 16 race.

Of the decks listed above, here is the order that I would play them in:

  1. Zoroark/Lucario
  2. Espeon/Garbodor
  3. Zoroark/Golisopod
  4. Succumb and choose a luck oriented deck

Starting off the list is Zoroark/Lucario. I think this is a stronger deck than Zoroark/Golisopod when Greninja is ignored. For those wondering, I continuously chose to play the Golisopod version for recent Cups because there is a certain first year Master who likes to play Greninja in my area…

The Lucario allows for great tempo turns in Zoroark mirror matches and in finishing out games with 170 for an Energy rather than the GX attack. Sam Chen won Indonesia Regionals this weekend with Zoroark/Lucario for good reason. It’s unknown whether he’ll release his list following the tournament, but regardless, I think what Jake Morgan played is very close to ideal. There are only a few cards I’m uncertain on like the 2nd Float Stone and 2nd Mew-EX.

Next on the list is Espeon/Garbodor, my personal pet deck. The main reason I’d play this is to all-but-guarantee points, but I’d even dispute its position in doing so. Since Portland, I’ve accepted that the meta has moved past the initial surge of Fighting decks. Even in looking at Indonesia, Zoroark/Lucario has emerged as a strong hybrid. Oranguru UPR is extremely problematic for Espeon/Garbodor, and tilts that matchup fairly out of favor.

In extreme cases, Espeon/Garbodor can also lose to its amazing matchups. I lost to Buzzwole/Garbodor in the Finals of a League Cup because I failed to find Guzma for the longest time and was forced to discard a Garbodor GRI and Espeon-GX. This left me with only 2 Psychic attackers, meaning I couldn’t initiate the Prize trade first. My only way of winning at that point was to Guzma his Energy sources and have an attacker survive for multiple turns. To conclude this match, I played Professor Sycamore before counting the remaining cards left in my deck and decked myself. It wasn’t a fun time.

Finally, the remaining deck on my list is Golisopod/Zoroark. I don’t see a world where I’d play this over Zoroark/Lucario, but I’d consider it based on the hype of Greninja and Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu. The Golisopod version is better off against Tapu Bulu because of Armor Press. It’s also possible to finish the game with Crossing Cut-GX for 180, while Lucario is stuck hitting for 170.

The final section of decks I’ve listed are all labeled as luck decks. Whether it be Max Elixir or drawing cards in the right sequence, they all rely on some amount of luck to perform well. The proponents of these decks argue that it occurs more than 50% of the time, and thus they win more than 50% of the time. As Jimmy mentioned in his most recent article, he and I both favor decks with relatively close matchups that have outplay potential rather than polarized matchups. Buzzwole/Lycanroc, Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, and Greninja all rely on some amount of luck, as well as good matchups, to win.

Of these decks, I’d probably choose Greninja. In the end, I’m basically flipping a large number of coins to determine if I get points or not. In all honesty, it’s not even a consideration of mine to play it. Sam Chen and Jon Eng both played it in London and missed out on points, arguably in a format where it was better positioned than it is now. I wish those of you who still play the deck luck, and earnestly hope you find a better path to walk than the one which you do now.

Mashed-up Meta

Indonesia Regionals is the closest to a meta update we’ll get, which sadly, is on the opposite side of the world. The results won’t change anything about the meta; it’s simply too defined. Likewise, it won’t deter anyone off of a deck if it doesn’t succeed. The Regionals was only 7 rounds, 70ish people if I recall correctly, and is in an entirely different part of the world. The list of Top 8 decks can be found on Heyfonte, though, if you wish to assess the state of a deck moving forward. Take the results with a grain of salt.

I doubt that there will be any rogue or unexpected decks emerging this weekend. The Europeans made (or should I say innovated, improved upon, whatever) Zoroark/Golisopod and Zoroark/Gardevoir, and did extremely well with them at the last two Internationals. I’ll be very surprised if there’s a third rogue deck that emerges because the meta is in such a defined state. We as a community have run out of things to pair Zoroark-GX with, and all other decks without it have already been conceptualized. Simply put, this will be the most predictable Internationals of the year. As a bet to place now, I predict that Top 8 will be made up of top players playing top decks, with perhaps 1-2 tech cards for specific matchups. An example of this is Ditto XY40 which Caleb Gedemer and I included in Espeon/Garbodor for last year’s North America Internationals.

Forbidden Light

New sets have always added good cards, whether they be Pokémon, Trainers, or Energy. Just recently in Ultra Prism we had Cynthia and Oranguru. There were also other dark horses like Glaceon-GX, the Metal package, and Weavile. Forbidden Light has many more influential cards that stand out. The Malamar + Ultra Necrozma-GX is all too reminiscent of RayEels; Zygarde-GX + Bonnie is like a worse Primal Groudon. These combinations are prime examples of inherent printed synergies. Older examples are Darkrai-EX BKP + Hypno BKP, and Garchomp UPR + Lucario UPR.

Aside from these teams, the set offers strong cards that will make their way into current decks. Diancie p is insane compared to Regirock-EX. The extra 10 damage and status as a non-EX/GX is amazing. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these was thrown into Zoroark/Lucario so that Aura Strike can reach 190. This will also be a staple in Buzzwole/Lycanroc and Lucario/Regirock/(Diancie p).

Beast Ring is the next oppressive card on the list. When you didn’t think Max Elixir could get any worse, look no further! The Prize restriction will do very little to stop this from seeing play. In Buzzwole/Lycanroc, the deck aims to use Jet Punch for a few turns anyway before swinging with Knuckle Impact or Dangerous Rogue-GX. Japanese lists have been running 2 Max Elixir and 2 Beast Ring so that there’s the potential for both.

Speaking of Ultra Beasts, Naganadel-GX exists. I doubt it will be as good as Zoroark-GX in the 2HKO department of decks. What’s missing from the deck right now is an Ultra Beast that can boost damage output. Easily, if there was one that was +10 damage, then it could work. However, an inherent failure of the deck is that it requires the Pokémon to be Ultra Beasts. Tapu Lele-GX won’t add any damage, and therefore is detracting to the deck. The main way to get around this problem is to not run any, but that’s a recipe for disaster. In time we will see how strong this card is.

Baby Buzzwole is overpowered. 120 for one Energy is insanely good in any way you look at it. The 4 Prizes remaining condition is one of the harder ones to fulfill because the opponent can KO a Rockruff or Remoraid first, then a 2 Prize Pokémon. This is one effective way of playing around Buzzwole. The second option I’d like to mention is using Guzma on a different Pokémon and KOing it the turn after they attack first. In this scenario, they get one attack off, but you have the ability to nullify the Buzzwole and kill a different attacker simultaneously.


There’s a lot of fun stuff coming up in the next few weeks. Brazil, Salt Lake City, and Toronto are all in the following weekends, each of them alternating formats. There should be more coverage for them moving into the weeks preceding them. As for past that, Roanoke and Madison will be the final American Regionals. Forbidden Light is legal at that time, so be ready for Buzzwole wars! Finally, there’s the always amazing NAIC. For those of you who’ve achieved your invite, congratulations; to those who are digging for the final few points, good luck at whatever remains.

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