Three Of A Kind

Exploring the Triangle of Matchups in Forbidden Light Standard

Hello 6P! Welcome back to another article by yours truly. Glad to be back and excited to comment and share my experiences and thoughts on the current Standard format, along with other musings such as the big debate that has sparked up regarding International participation of SPEs (Special Events).

Special Events are for everyone!

Let’s start with that, as I feel very strongly against the popular opinion that these events should be region locked. The only reason there has been this outcry and discontent for Special Events is because a bunch of them were scheduled (but not announced officially anywhere) in the LATAM region in March through May. What did this cause? Mayhem, as the Top 16-22 players in North America now had extra opportunities to add CP to their total, due to the lack of a Best Finish Limit (BFL). However, not all of them even knew about these events, and as of today, the official Pokémon website section dedicated to SPE’s hasn’t been updated since August of last year.

A series of events unfolded that caused the outrage, namely Caleb Gedemer winning in Colombia. Many players called this “foul play” and “elitism,” as not everyone has the money and time to go to a tournament every weekend. That is indeed very true, and a sad fact of life that we must all learn to accept at some point or another: as best as we try, more money will almost always lead to an advantage. The system put in place by TPCi and the removal of BFLs definitely encourages this, and thus this led to Sam Chen packing his bags to play and also conquer the Indonesian Regional Championship, another event not listed on the Pokémon website (to date).

The 2 North American players winning led to outrage not only at the possibility of traveling and the income differences between all of us, but also on the assumed outrage of local players at points being taken out of their region and being denied invites to Worlds. This is something that I completely disagree with, as I am part of one of these countries (Mexico) being directly affected by the Top 16 players traveling to other regions.

First of all, the “outrage” was made by American players, and other American players agreed, yet all those discussions included very little International input, i.e., none of the local players were voicing those opinions. In the end, it felt more like the Top 16 players who didn’t know about these events wanted to complain as we all already knew the removal of a BFL was a bad idea. In reality, the local players were happy to meet and play against top tier players like Sam and Caleb in those countries, and same thing for all the Mexicans who went up against them at Mexico City and Cancun these past 2 weeks.

Let me pose this question, why were people not outraged at the Americans (and Europeans: Tord Reklev was in Toronto!) taking away points from Canadians at Vancouver or Toronto? We’ve had Mexicans and Brazilians travel to the US; why aren’t people outraged at me taking over 800 CP out of NA? Well, because there’s no reason for it. Pokémon is pushing for a more International game, that is what they’re actively trying to do and the best example of that is the removal of region locked National tournaments in favor of open International tournaments.

The only thing that needs to be improved upon is the organization and scheduling of Regionals and SPEs outside of Regions that don’t have an actual TPCi office in their region. Having 6-8 SPEs in a region that had previously had zero big events is a terrible idea, and with cut-off dates for Travel Awards and stipends, organizing these sort of events in a timely manner in the Oceania and LATAM regions should be a top priority for TPCi. Outside of that, I don’t even think a BFL is going to come back, and we’re definitely not going to see any sort of region lock to events any time soon. I’d be very surprised to see either of those things once we have details of next years season at some point in July.

The moral of the story? Before jumping to conclusions, talk to the people actually involved in those events, aka the Colombian, Mexican and Indonesian Pokémon communities. It’s probably important to have their input before having 500 comment threads on Facebook groups about how they “feel” and what should be done to help them.

I wanted to get that out of my system in a more serious space than in a Facebook group. I’m part of the privileged group of people who can travel the world to play Pokémon, while also having a unique connection to the LATAM and NA regions which are directly involved in this whole conundrum.

Now let’s move on to the real meat of the article: the Standard format. There have been 4 “big” events in Standard so far since Forbidden Light came out: one in France, one in Australia, and two in Mexico. I have participated in both of the Mexico ones, and the format right now feels incredibly similar to playing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

I placed Top 16 at both Special Events, and won a League Cup, netting me a very nice 210 CP over 2 weekends, and allowing me to recover some ground against my LATAM competition and tie current second place at 1255 CP. With 2 more Regionals (Madison and Mexico City) and an SPE still to go, I’m fancying my chances to compete for the #1 spot of the LATAM rankings with a strong NAIC finish.

Rock: Buzzwole/Lycanroc

Good old Buzzwole. This is a deck which I’ve been a fan of (when Memphis happened) then hated (at Sydney) and then felt meh about (at Toronto). The evolution of the deck has finally peaked with Beast Ring and baby Buzzwole, and on paper it has all the mid game stability it could’ve ever wanted thanks to those 2 cards. Now, if you’ve followed my Youtube or Twitch channel, or my previous comments on Buzzwole, I was a 0 Max Elixir + 4 Beast Ring enthusiast. That however has now changed, and I must admit I was wrong. Max Elixir are huge because they power up Lycanroc much more easily, it’s as simple as that. Getting a Dangerous Rogue out of the blue is huge, and being able to Claw Slash when you have so many damage modifiers with Diancie p, Strong Energy and Choice Band means it can easily KO a lot of things that try and ‘counter’ Buzzwole.

Having said that, this is what I had sleeved for the events this weekend, although I ultimately chose not to play Buzzwole at either event:

Pokémon – 14

3 Buzzwole-GX

2 Rockruff FLI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

2 Remoraid BKT 32

2 Octillery BKT

1 Diancie p

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Guzma

2 N

2 Cynthia


4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Beast Ring

3 Float Stone

3 Choice Band


3 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 14

10 F

4 Strong

However, despite the fact that this deck got stronger thanks to Beast Ring, it’s actually not the best deck in the format. It’s just part of this triangle of top tier decks that have good matchups against each other, but none of them can be crowned BDIF as long as the others exist as well.

Buzzwole decks have a definite favorable matchup against Zoroark decks, there’s no question about that, however they also have a definite unfavorable matchup vs Malamar decks. The Psychic version is the worst one by far, as it is more streamlined and consistent, but the Ultra version is just as bad as it has Choice Bands and Beast Energy to let Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX and Ultra-Necrozma-GX actually be able to 1HKO Lycanroc-GX.

In addition to this, the heavy presence of Parallel City right now means that Buzzwole decks always have awkward mid game decisions of discarding Diancie p or Octillery or some other Pokémon they may have already committed energy to.

All of this plays out against Buzzwole decks but don’t get me wrong, Beast Ring is as good as it was originally thought it would be. The deck is relatively linear for the most part, and inherently strong to where it even has a chance against Malamar decks, just not a great one. Even though this is still in my picks for this weekend, it’s definitely my number 3 deck.

Paper: Malamar
“Ash, stick with the paper.”

As we already know, there are two successful variants of this deck so far. The ‘pure’ psychic version with Necrozma-GX from Burning Shadows, is the more famous of the two right now as it is deemed more consistent due to the streamlined energy use, which is not split between Metal and Psychic, which also offers extra legroom in the deck. The Ultra version however, feels a lot more well balanced to me due to the inclusion of Choice Band, Beast Energy and Ultra Necrozma’s lack of weakness essentially.

I came to this conclusion after a 2-2 drop at a League Cup with the Psychic version, along with a Top 16 finish at the Cancun SPE. The Psychic version is really really good at one thing, which is beating and dominating Buzzwole, that much is true. Past that, however, it’s just not great against anything else. Even with Sudowoodo and Marshadow-GX, it still feels underwhelming against Zoroark decks, and due to its full blown weakness to opposing Dawn Wings Necrozma, along with the lack of Choice Band to hit the 200-210 damage threshold with only 3 energy, something just feels off about the deck. This is the list I ran in Cancun, with hopes that the Clefairy EVO tech would carry me through the Ultra mirrors and Zoroark Lycanroc games. In reality, it was a complete waste of space and nowhere near enough to justify its inclusion into the deck:

Pokémon – 15

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

2 Necrozma-GX

1 Clefairy EVO

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Guzma

3 Cynthia

2 N

1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball

4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Float Stone

3 Field Blower

3 Max Elixir

1 Rescue Stretcher


2 Parallel City

Energy – 10

10 P

The deck can have some exploding games, but the high presence of Parallel City really hurts it. It could maybe stand a better chance against even Zoroark if 2 Parallel City wasn’t the norm right now. However, it is, and Malamar decks will heavily struggle to function with bench space restrictions. The Elixirs try to compensate for that extra oomph, but as always, the deck struggles to run smoothly overall when trying to get energy in discard, set up Malamars and play around Parallel. The thing that sets this deck back far behind it’s Ultra counterpart is the 4 energy requirement to take those big KOs, and even Choice Band doesn’t fix the Zoroark issue.

Which brings us to my current iteration of Ultra Necrozma-GX with Malamar:

Pokémon – 14

4 Inkay FLI

3 Malamar FLI

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

2 Ultra Necrozma-GX

1 Mew FCO

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Guzma

2 Cynthia

2 N

1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball

4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Float Stone

3 Choice Band

3 Beast Ring

2 Field Blower

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Rescue Stretcher

Energy – 12

8 P

2 M

1 Unit LPM

1 Beast p

There are 2 basic assumptions that I make with this Malamar deck. One, I accept that it has a horrible Garbodor + (any partner) deck and thus only go with 2 Field Blowers, and have even considered going down to 0. Two, I can never win the Parallel war, so I’m trying to make my deck a bit more effective and less reliant on having more than 1 Malamar at any given time.

Max Elixirs can accomplish this, and I might be wrong again on this one after this weekend, but I think there’s merit to this after the games I’ve played with it. I like this version better because not being psychic weak and having access to 1HKOs with just 2 energy and a Choice Band or Beast Energy is huge. The more I think about it, the less I understand the Elixir vs Choice Band debacle from the pure Psychic Malamar deck.

The late game potential snipe on Zoruas and Remoraids with the GX attack also has a lot of potential, and it even sets things up like a Zoroark or a Lycanroc or even a Gardevoir nicely to be finished off without a Choice Band on the following turn.

Scissors: Zoroark

I’ll see myself out.

And finally we come to the last part of the Standard formats love triangle: Zoroark decks. Perceived as dethroned after Buzzwole’s dominance before Forbidden Light was released, I feel like all Zoroark decks (some more than others, of course) are well poised to have a good showing this weekend. They won’t be the most popular choice by any means, as they’re ‘boring’ and don’t have any of the cool new cards like Malamar or Beast Ring or Ultra Necrozma. However, they’re still as effective as ever, Trade is still a great (almost broken) Ability, Bloodthirsty Eyes is actually broken, and their inherent consistency is unmatched.

It seems to me like Buzzwole got stronger, yes, but it now faces down a new foe in Malamar and it feels like an uphill battle. With Buzzwole not in the picture, Zoroark can actually topple Malamar decks fairly easily, especially ones based around Lycanroc and Lucario.

These are my 2 favorite versions, although Zoroark/Golisopod actually has room in the meta with the most believable claim to the best Buzzwole matchup of all Zoroark decks. However, the raw power and burst potential of the other 2 puts them above the rest.

I used Zoroark/Lycanroc to win the League Cup on the day after the SPE in Cancun, and every time I stomped Malamar I questioned why I didn’t follow my gut to play it the day before. This is the list I used for the Cup, and the only change I would consider making would be taking out 1 Acerola for 1 Enhanced Hammer:

Pokémon – 18

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

2 Rockruff FLI

1 Rockruff GRI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

1 Mew-EX

1 Mewtwo EVO

3 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 33

3 N

3 Brigette

3 Guzma

1 Cynthia

1 Professor Kukui

1 Mallow

1 Professor Sycamore

1 Acerola


4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Field Blower

2 Evosoda

2 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

1 Multi Switch


2 Parallel City

Energy – 9

4 Double Colorless

3 F

2 Strong

The deck plays exactly zero cards from Forbidden Light, it just adapted to a more Parallel City oriented style, and keeps Multi Switch and other cool stuff like Professor Kukui. It’s biggest uphill battle is Buzzwole of course, but that’s where Mew-EX and Mewtwo EVO come in for the Buzzwoles, and Lycanroc-GX for their own.

Zoroark Lucario is also a strong contender as Diancie allows it to reach for 1HKO bursts on every 190 or less HP GX, (except for Dawn Wings, but that’s taken care of by Zoroark), however, the issues is still dealing with Lycanroc when it comes to Buzzwole.


So there we have it, a shake up in the meta, which leads to a Rock Paper Scissors style of game. Can anything break this triangle? Greninja BREAK could, potentially, but it’s always the same story with that deck. It already broke through in Melbourne, Australia. However, the deck, as far as I know gained nothing in terms of consistency, and Greninja-GX along with the new Frogadier were not played in heavy enough counts to say the deck is “different enough”.

I definitely haven’t found anything, so I will probably end up building up from the momentum of the League Cup and the 2 successful weekends of CP farming and just go with Zoroark Lycanroc for Madison.

And that will wrap up my article for today! I’m very much looking forward to Madison this weekend and hopefully get out of this slump I’ve been in 2018.As always feel free to reach out here or at any of my social media links with questions. Until next time!

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