What’s up everyone! It has been a few months since my last article: the podcast has taken most of my content creation time and personal things (finishing up the school year at work and getting ready for a big move) have limited my ability to write consistently. However, I am excited to write not one, but two pieces for our mini-marathon leading up to the North American International Championship.
I recently reached the 400-point threshold to secure my Day 1 invitation. It took a bit more work than expected this year, so I am relieved to finally get there. I finished in the Top 128 at Virginia Regionals with Night March (one card off the list Michael Pramawat used) and got a Top 4 finish at a League Cup with Zoroark/Lycanroc, scooping to a buddy in Top 4 so he could get a Cup win and get closer to his invite. While I only attended a few Regionals this year, I did not make Day 2 at all, so it made my climb a bit more difficult than I anticipated. I am hoping I can make Day 2 at NAIC and/or Worlds this year to help redeem my season a bit. With school out I have lots of time to test and get ready for these tournaments and I am excited to prepare.
Despite the rock-paper-scissory-y feel of the format, I have actually come to enjoy it. I think all of the decks have a pretty high skill cap and lots of games are decided on little decisions. That said, there are still games where one person high rolls and there is little the opponent can do to counter play these actions (like double Beast Ring turns). I think this time in the season is always the best, as the card pool is the widest. This opens up the most possibilities and gives the best players the biggest advantages both in deck building and properly playing around certain combinations of cards.
As I said, I have two articles for you all during this stretch before NAIC. I am happy to be the one kicking it off. In my later article I will look at Zoroark/Lycanroc and perhaps some more under the radar Zoroark decks. Today, however, I want to look at my baby: Gardevoir-GX.
Gardevoir’s history is well documented, going back to the World Championships last year. Diego won that tournament in stunning fashion, with Pablo also making Top 8 (only losing to Diego, in fact!). Coming into this season, Gardevoir was well positioned to continue its domination. During the first few months of the 2017-2018 season that is exactly what it did. It put up strong performances in both formats: my buddies Sam Chen and Pablo made Top 4 and won the two Standard autumn Regionals in Hartford and Vancouver with the Sylveon version of the deck, while it even took some Top 8 spots in the Expanded Regionals at Fort Wayne and Daytona.
Heading into the first International Championship of the year, Crimson Invasion and Shining Legends had come out, but no one really knew what to expect from it. Gardevoir was still the most hyped deck. The hype went so far that a large contingent of American players ran a janky Metal deck just to try to counter it! The other revelation in the deck was Seena Ghaziaskar’s insistence on the “Broken” version of the deck, which dropped Sylveon in favor of four Max Potion. This made the deck much stronger in the mirror match, as you could effectively play around Plea-GX and simply run the opponent out of resources by playing eight Max Potion in a game.
Indeed, this opened up a whole different win condition for the deck: you could play as an Yveltal-EX deck, hitting them hard for 30x the amount of Energy, or you could play as a Wailord-EX deck, utilizing Max Potion and Twilight-GX to run the opponent out of resources and potentially decking them! I wrote an article outlining this new variant of Gardevoir in the week leading up to the event and our own Christopher Schemanske piloted this version to a Top 4 finish.
Following this tournament, things got…dicey for Gardevoir. The format shifted significantly, with the emergence of Zoroark and Buzzwole decks. Whereas Volcanion was the fastest deck prior to Crimson Invasion/Shining Legends, Zoroark and Buzzwole became the de-facto aggro decks and they matched up much better to Gardevoir: they required less Energy to attack, had more HP, and were more consistent. Though I still maintain that Gardevoir was underplayed during the next six months, it is undeniable that its time at the top had passed.
With the release of Forbidden Light I had just assumed Gardevoir was even more dead than before: Buzzwole—already an unfavorable matchup for Gardevoir—got even stronger. However, a couple of interesting things have happened that makes me believe Gardevoir is at least somewhat viable again:
- The emergence of Malamar. Both versions of this deck are good matchups for Gardevoir. Ultra Necrozma-GX can take OHKOs on Gardevoirs, but requires three Psychics and leaves a Metal on itself after attacking. With a Fairy weakness, it is pretty easy to respond for an OHKO on it. The Psychic version needs four Psychics on a Necrozma-GX to take an OHKO, while Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX keeps three Energy on itself, making it an easy target for Infinite Force. This matchup basically comes down to if the Malamar player can get three Malamar on the board. If not, Gardevoir almost always wins.
- The de-emphasis of Lycanroc in BuzzRoc. Perhaps the Buzzwole lists will swing back to 2-2 Lycanroc after Tord’s performance at Sheffield, but the 2-1 and 1-1 Lycanroc lines we saw in Madison are a huge positive for Gardevoir. Bloodthirsty Eyes would allow the BuzzRoc player to easily target down Ralts and Dangerous Rogue was a guaranteed KO on a Gardevoir almost every game. With a thinner line, neither of these things come up as much and it becomes easier as the Gardevoir player to either play around Lycanroc or take out a Rockruff early on in the game to neutralize the threat.
- Mysterious Treasure. When Forbidden Light first came out I was focused on testing for Expanded. I had briefly discussed the idea of using Mysterious Treasure in Gardevoir with all the Psychic pre-evolutions, but did not seriously think it would be any good. At this point I had mostly played Zoroark decks in Standard for the past few months. However, once I thought about the first two points here, I thought it would be worth trying it. And let me tell you – this card makes a huge difference. I will discuss this more in depth later, but this card makes your deck way more consistent than it ever has been and is a huge addition to the deck.
With some of my justification for reviving this deck, let’s take a look at a skeleton:
Pokémon – 14
2 Kirlia BKT 69
Trainers – 27
Energy – 11
8 open spots
- The Gardevoir line should make sense. We play all Psychic pre-evolutions as mentioned because of the synergy with Mysterious Treasure. I don’t think you can play less than three Gardevoir-GX, but I have toyed with the idea of dropping to two. Playing two would dramatically change the rest of the list and how it plays. One Gallade is also mandatory, but I really like two right now. Gallade is obviously amazing against Zoroark decks, but it is also important against Baby Buzzwole. Gardevoir often needs four Energy to OHKO a Baby Buzzwole, but Gallade does it for a DCE, is a one-prize attacker, and is actually quite difficult for them to respond to.
- Tapu Lele needs no explanation. I have considered running four copies with Mysterious Treasure, as you need to constantly be playing a supporter with this deck, but I think three is sufficient.
- Mewtwo EVO is really great in this deck. It gives you a wall to put up early in the game via a Brigette and provides an efficient, bulky response to Buzzwole in the early game. I have loved having two copies as it protects against prizing it, you start it naturally more often, and in some games you can actually leverage both Mewtwos and Gallade as an army of one-prize attackers that your opponent must deal with.
- The Supporter line might strike you as a bit odd: Max N because you are slow and want to set up while disrupting your opponent should make sense, but higher counts of Sycamore and lower of Cynthia might seem weird in a deck that wants to get ahold of the combination of Rare Candy and a Stage 2. The reality is that you need to be drawing lots of cards to keep up with the speed of the format. There are points in games where even good cards (other supporters like Guzma, N, Pokémon pieces, Rare Candy, Max Potions, etc.) are not what you need at that very moment. It is often much better to just Sycamore these dead cards away to give you better odds of hitting what you need right now.
- Double Brigette is played to ensure you do not prize it. You don’t want to play all these extra turn one Brigette outs in Mysterious Treasure and then prize the actual card you need! The extra percentage of starting it naturally is also huge. Only two Guzma in this deck is fine. You need to prioritize setting up and you actually rarely even use one Guzma in a game. It does hurt when both end up getting discarded in the early and mid-game, but you can usually close out the game by just punching the active. Most opponents will play around a third Guzma anyway. Remember you also have Twilight-GX to recover these resources in a pinch.
- The rest of the list is straightforward and looks familiar sans the Mysterious Treasure. One Blower is fine in a format without much Garbodor and you often have time to Twilight the single Blower back in that matchup. Against the most popular Garbodor variant—Buzzwole/Garbodo—you do not even care too much about Garbotoxin, as you have a very efficient attacker in Mewtwo. Parallel City is the best card to play against Zoroark and can be devastating against Buzzwole in the correct spots. You also Parallel yourself often, getting rid of Tapu Leles or limiting your bench against Lycanroc.
- Mysterious Treasure gives the deck 11 turn one Brigette outs. That is more than a typical Zoroark deck! It also gives you two more cards that turn into Supporters throughout the game while finding you Ralts and Kirlia when you already have Supporters. This card has made the deck flow smoother than ever before. I started running four copies and only two Ultra Ball, then three of each, and finally have settled back on four Ultra Ball and two Treasure. Ultra Ball is too important to have so you can find your Stage 2 Pokémon, but a third Treasure would still be welcome in the deck.
To fill out the list we have a lot of options, some of which I have discussed above. Before we get into the true options, there are a few spots that must be dedicated to something specific.
- Draw Pokémon – Oranguru or Octillery. Historically I have been a fan of Octillery in Gardevoir, but with this new list I have preferred the monkey. It takes up less space, is easier to get out, and it is easier than ever to get rid of cards in your hand with Mysterious Treasure. The format is just faster as well, which makes Oranguru’s simplicity more appealing than another Stage 1. Oranguru is not a terrible attacker in some spots as well!
- Another draw supporter – a fourth Professor Sycamore or a second Cynthia. As I mentioned, Sycamore is generally better than Cynthia in this deck. Thus, we could run a fourth Sycamore and call it a day. I have been pretty happy with a second Cynthia, however, as it gives you some more options throughout the game if you are dealt a hand full of DCE or other combinations of important cards.
- Another recovery card – a second Super Rod or one Rescue Stretcher. Historically, most of the recent Gardevoir lists have run double Super Rod, and that is still where I stand. I did try Stretcher for a number of games but ultimately found it less effective. The flexibility of getting back a single Ralts early on is nice, but you almost always want to get back Fairy Energy with your recovery cards in the mid to late game.
- 2nd Gallade BKT – As discussed above, this is quite good in the current metagame against Zoroark decks and the multiple Baby Buzzwole lists.
- 2nd (or 3rd!) Mewtwo EVO – Also as mentioned above, Mewtwo is great for a number of reasons and I would highly encourage two copies of it.
- 2nd Parallel City – This is the best card against Zoroark and is good in general against the field. It is a bit weaker with only one Field Blower against other decks that run Parallel themselves, but I still think this is an important inclusion.
- 3rd Choice Band – Choice Band is obviously really great on Gardevoir, but can also be crucial to get on a Mewtwo against Buzzwole-GX. In the early game you 2HKO with Choice Band and late game take an OHKO if they have three Energy. I don’t think you have room for the third Band and the second Parallel, so you pretty much have to pick between the two.
- 3rd Kirlia – I have always been an advocate for three Kirlia, but I am not sure there is room currently. The Mysterious Treasures took up this spot in my mind. Ironically, Mysterious Treasure makes the third Kirlia even better, but I do not think there is room without dropping some of the great utility cards we can play.
- 3rd Guzma – As discussed, this would be nice, but ultimately not necessary.
- Max Potions – This card has had all different counts associated with it over different Gardevoir lists. Zero, two, and four seem to be the most common throughout the season. If I play Max Potion I would play two copies. These provide the same utility that they always have: making it more difficult for your opponent to 2HKO your bulky Gardevoirs. It also helps heal chip damage from Jet Punch and saves an early Lele or Mewtwo from being KOed by a Jet Punch later on after they take some early hits.
- 3rd Mysterious Treasure – Simply a consistency boost.
- A 10th Draw Supporter – Another consistency boost that I would really like. If we fit this in, the supporter count would be 4 N / 4 Sycamore / 2 Cynthia, not 4/3/3.
- 2nd Field Blower – This has always been in the list and would continue to be nice, but it is a luxury that I do not think we can fit right now.
- Fairy Drops – Instead of Max Potions, I have messed around with Fairy Drops. These can be useful against Jet Punch or Sledgehammer chip damage, but ultimately you usually want Max Potion over these.
- Wobbuffet PHF – This saw some play in the later winter/early spring in some Gardevoir decks. The idea was to Brigette for this and retreat back to it against Zoroark decks, giving you time to set up as they are significantly slowed down. I have not tried this yet, but I want to. This might have to go in over the second Mewtwo, however, which I am not super keen on.
- Latios SLG – I have tried this in so many decks and it has been disappointing in every one of them. This is no exception. Mewtwo is just a better Psychic dude.
- 4th Tapu Lele-GX – Good for consistency and with the Mysterious Treasures, but not necessary.
- Energy Loto – I’m actually going to experiment with this over the 7th Fairy Energy, as it is crucial to find a DCE at times and this lets you dig so much deeper to find it.
- Mr. Mime BKT – I tried Mr. Mime when I first started testing this again and it is really, really bad. Your first turn Brigette has to grab Mr. Mime, which means you are not getting Mewtwo and you only get two Ralts. The opponent will usually Guzma KO a Ralts the next turn, leaving you with only one Ralts, which is terrible. Then Mr. Mime is just chilling on your bench the rest of the game powering up Lycanroc’s Dangerous Rogue-GX. With baby Buzzwole becoming the main attacker, Jet Punch is less relevant than ever. Do not play Mr. Mime in this deck (or really, any deck right now).
- Diantha – Especially with our Psychic pre-evolutions, Diantha is terrible. Even with Fairy pre-evolutions Diantha is pretty bad, as the situations where it is useful are limited. If we had VS Seeker in format, then it might be a different story. This is no Teammates.
If I were playing in NAIC tomorrow and played Gardevoir, this is the list I would use:
Pokémon – 17
2 Kirlia BKT 69
Trainers – 32
Energy – 11
- Lycanroc – Slightly unfavorable to even (45/55)
- Garbodor – Even to slightly favorable (55/45)
- Get Mewtwo active ASAP. Starting Mewtwo is phenomenal in this matchup, but using Brigette and retreating into it is also good. Forcing them to have a gust effect to hit a Ralts is important. Mewtwo is a good wall even if it’s not attacking and if you happen to find a DCE in the first turn or two, you can pressure them right back.
- Be conscious of your bench size. A Gardevoir is (almost) always safe from a Dangerous Rogue KO if you have two benched Pokémon, but with three benched you really need to do your math and make plays with this in mind. Similarly, think about every Pokémon that you bench. You want to make them draw prizes in the most awkward, expensive way you can, so often benching an extra Ralts or even Oranguru is incorrect as the game progresses.
- Gallade is your ideal first evolution target. Gallade allows you to OHKO the Baby Buzzwole swarm that they will throw at you in the early game, so having efficient ways to deal with these are important. The most important one to OHKO is the Baby Buzz that hits when you have four prizes left, as you do not want to give them multiple turns of a boosted Sledgehammer.
- If you can avoid the Sledgehammer turn, do it! Sometimes this is not always an option, but they will often play Lycanroc early on to target down a Ralts. We can use this to our advantage, KOing the initial Baby Buzzwole and then using Guzma and a Gardevoir to take a knock out on a Lycanroc. This requires some good fortune to go your way, but should be a play to look out for.
- Buzz/Garb is a much easier matchup. They have a tougher time targeting down Ralts and are more susceptible to Mewtwo + Choice Band. A third Choice Band does wonders in this matchup. Garbodor is only marginally helpful for them even with your one Field Blower.
- Best cards to tech in: 2nd Mewtwo, 2nd Gallade, 3rd Choice Band, Max Potions, 2nd Parallel City
- Psychic – Slightly favorable (60/40)
- Ultra – Favorable (65/35)
- The Psychic Malamar matchup is interesting because their choice of attackers will dictate how the game will play out. The list only including GX-attackers is the easiest version to deal with. Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX might take them one or two prizes in the early game, but is then easily OHKOed by a Gardevoir at some point. They then have to resort to regular Necrozma-GX to take OHKOs on your Pokémon, but it needs four Psychics to OHKO a Gardevoir. This means that they need to have three Malamar in play to effectively get this off. With double Parallel in our list, we can usually prevent this scenario from happening.
- If they use non-GX attackers, it can get a bit trickier. Hoopa 2HKOs anything in our deck and Hyperspace Punch can actually punish our Psychic pre-evolutions. I had one game where I started Ralts and used Brigette to get some more out. He used Hyperspace Punch to do 40 to the active and 20 to a benched Ralts. I could not find a Kirlia or a Candy + Stage 2, so he used Guzma the following turn to take two prizes. This put me too far behind in the prize trade and I lost.
- The promo Mewtwo is a bit less scary, as it cannot 2HKO a Gardevoir without Choice Band (and most lists do not run it). Clefairy is scary, but you can usually play around it. The weird thing about Clefairy is that if you want to OHKO a Necrozma-GX after it has used Prismatic Burst, you need to play five Energy and a Choice Band on Gardevoir, making you susceptible to a copied Infinite Force with three Energy on their Clefairy. They can do this with only two Malamar, so be aware. Overall, I would say the matchup is still slightly favored for you, but you need to be careful of whatever non-GXs they play.
- The Ultra Necrozma matchup is a bit more straightforward. They tend to have less tricks up their sleeve because they need to dedicate more space to their Metal Energy and tools. The trade-off is that Ultra Necrozma can OHKO a Gardevoir for three Psychics, or sometimes with just two if they have Choice Band and Beast Energy. However, Ultra Necrozma leaves an Energy on itself and is weak to Fairy, which makes it a much easier return KO for Gardevoir. The Ultra Necrozma variant tends to be a bit slower and clunkier as well, which makes Gardevoir a solid favorite in this matchup.
- Using Guzma to KO a Malamar with Gallade or even a three-energy Gardevoir is a fine play in these matchups. As I said, preventing them from keeping three Malamar in play is one of the keys to winning, as it prevents them from getting a surprise OHKO with either of the Necrozmas. A great play is to Parallel them and then Guzma to take out a Malamar (or vice-versa, sometimes). As a deck, Malamar is almost as clunky as Gardevoir, so you often have time to set up without too much issue. The game then devolves into setting up your attackers. We have the benefit of our attacker also being our energy accelerator, so though we are a Stage 2, we need to find less actual cards to keep up tempo.
- Best cards to tech in: 2nd Parallel City, 3rd Choice Band, Fairy Ralts, more consistency, Max Potions (against a heavy Hoopa/Mewtwo build)
- Lycanroc – Slightly unfavorable to even (45/55)
- Golisopod – Even (50/50)
- Garbodor – Even to slightly favorable (55/45)
- Gardevoir versus Zoroark was a huge matchup during League Cups right after EUIC. I have played both sides of these matchups a ton of times and really consider them to be even. Zoroark’s speed and ease of Guzma access can make the matchup difficult. However, Gardevoir’s huge HP, use of Max Potion, and Gallade’s ability to OHKO a Zoroark for a DCE can make it problematic for the Zoroark player to close the game out.
- ZoroRoc tends to be the most difficult of the Zoroark variants, as they have even more ways to take out your Ralts early on. Lycanroc also provides them a way to OHKO a Gardevoir, which no other variant can do. Keeping your bench low is important in this matchup. With three benched Pokémon, they need a lot more than a BuzzRoc deck would to OHKO a Gardevoir with Dangerous Rogue: Choice Band, double Strong, Kukui (or third Strong) gets them to 240, but this requires a lot from their side. With two benched Pokémon you are always safe. If you can play around Dangerous Rogue or at least respond to it with an Infinite Force OHKO, the game will usually swing in your favor.
- ZoroPod is a bit easier, but still close. Golisopod attacking for a single Energy makes it difficult to OHKO at any point in the game, but if you can attach five Energy and a Choice Band on a fresh Gardevoir, the game is over. Otherwise, prioritizing Gallade is important. It can only be OHKOed by Crossing Cut-GX, so even hitting Gallade into Golisopod for a 2HKO can be effective. Of course, you would rather use Sensitive Blade on a Zoroark-GX if possible. Mewtwo is not the worst attacker against Golisopod either, as you can hit for 70 with a Choice Band and then finish the 2HKO much easier with a Gardevoir or a Banded Gallade. Mewtwo is also annoying for ZoroPod as it has 130 HP, meaning it is usually safe from a OHKO. If they use Crossing Cut on a Mewtwo you are very happy.
- ZoroGarb lacks an efficient secondary attacker against Gardevoir. Though Garbotoxin can be annoying with only one Blower, we can usually tank through Zoroarks. This is one of the few matchups where Twilight-GX is still used pretty consistently, as you negate Trashalanche as a viable attacker. The matchup is still close as they can cheese you with N + Garbotoxin.
- Parallel is a key card for both sides in any Gardevoir/Zoroark matchup. If you can stick a Parallel on them early, you are usually in a good spot. As Gardevoir, you should almost never put five Pokémon on your bench on the first turn, as that is just asking for them to Parallel you and losing an important Pokémon in a Ralts or Oranguru. I have purposefully used Brigette to only grab two Pokémon multiple times in this matchup. Their Parallel matters less, as you can work with a smaller bench, but it does mean you cannot play your own Parallel.This is the biggest instance where playing only one copy of Field Blower hurts us. Using Parallel to limit your own bench size can also be an important play in these matchups. Against Lycanroc, this safeguards against Dangerous Rogue, and in general it clears your board of Tapu Leles, which are targets for Zoroark decks to steal their last two prizes. I assume that a Zoroark deck will take two early prizes on Gardevoir, so if you can force them to go through two Gardevoir or one Gardevoir and two Gallade instead of one Gardevoir and one Tapu Lele, you will usually come out on top.
- Best cards to tech in: 2nd Gallade, 2nd Parallel City, 3rd Guzma, 2nd Field Blower, 3rd Choice Band, Max Potions
At the end of the day, Gardevoir is a Stage 2 deck. You will get hands that are unplayable: clogged with Rare Candy and no targets, too many Energy, or a bunch of tech cards. Sometimes your Ralts will get picked off too quickly to play a real game. As someone who has played Gardevoir a lot this year, I understand. You bring Gardevoir to a tournament knowing this possibility and looking for lines of play to help in these scenarios. One common play is to load up a Tapu Lele-GX and start swinging with that if your opponent is going after your Ralts or you can’t find your evolutions. Sometimes the pressure from a fat Lele is enough that your opponent ends up having to deal with it and gives you the turn you need to finally set up a Gardevoir.
Despite its consistency issues, Gardevoir wins a high percentage of games where it sets up. With Mysterious Treasure you set up even more than you used to, despite the speed of the format. In a format that is defined by its matchups I am tempted to play Gardevoir, a deck that breaks the trifecta of decks and is a strong deck in its own right.
I should note that I would not play this deck unless you are willing to play a lot of games with it. I find it to be a difficult deck to play optimally. There have been a lot of games I lose because of something small that comes back to bite me: I bench a Pokémon I shouldn’t have, I promote a Lele to take a hit when I should let a Ralts die instead, I Ultra Ball the wrong card, use Max Potion at a wrong time, etc. Benching extraneous Pokémon is probably the biggest way to turn a win into a loss. This format is largely a prize race and one of the biggest advantages Gardevoir has is its high HP Stage 2’s. Benching an extra Ralts or Oranguru late in the game can give your opponent an easy prize to make it easier for them to close out the game. You need to constantly think about how your opponent will draw their six Prizes, and if possible, force them to draw seven.
I’ll end with an example of the above: I had a game against Buzzwole where my opponent had five prizes left to my six, but my board was awesome: two Gardevoir-GX and a Gallade. I thought I had the game locked up. I slowly began hitting into his things while he hit into mine. At three prizes each, my board was just one Gardevoir and one Gallade. He Beast Ringed onto a Buzzwole-GX and used Knuckle Impact for 200 on my Gardevoir. I couldn’t find a Max Potion, but anticipating an N after I KOed his Buzzwole to bring me to one prize, I benched Oranguru.
He was left with no Energy on board. On the following turn, he played a new Buzzwole-GX with a Strong Energy, used Guzma to bring up Oranguru, and used Jet Punch to win the game. I felt so silly! Even if I got N’ed to 1, if I had not benched Oranguru, there was no way he could have won that turn and probably not even the following turn. This would have given me time to utilize Premonition to get a Supporter and perhaps win the game with Sensitive Blade.
Thank you for reading my third? fourth? dissertation on Gardevoir. I really am enamored with the deck. My girlfriend actually knows what a Gardevoir is—perhaps the only Pokémon name she knows outside of some of the most famous original Pokémon. Though I am still unsure if I will play this at NAIC, it is high up on my list. If you are bored with the triangle the top decks I would recommend giving it a try for yourself!
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