A Problem with an Egg-Ceptional Answer

Preparing Exeggcutor for NAIC

Hello everyone and welcome back to the marathon! In the days leading up to the North American International Championship, I think that 6 Prizes singlehandedly proves itself to be the best site around for providing competitive content. Not a single other website attempts to provide such in-depth content for practically every deck imaginable and at risk of tooting my horn a little too loudly, it is times like this when I am sincerely proud to have been a small part of this team for as many years as I have and I fervently believe that our writers and readers will be amongst the top performers this summer.

Historically, I know that I tend to go back and forth between stream of consciousness dumps and competitive decklist dumps, but for now I am happy to inform you that I will not be dabbling in anything reminiscent of the former, so let’s jump right in! I have been testing fervently almost every single day trying to prepare for this event and am very excited to share what I have found on my various attempts to make Alolan Exeggutor as competitive as possible.

Fighting the Triangle

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As I talked about in my last article, I tend to believe that the current Standard metagame follows a clear and distinct pattern of beating certain decks and losing to others. The top three decks are undoubtedly still Buzzwole, Zoroark-GX (in its many incarnations with Lycanroc-GX being the most popular and Golisopod-GX following close behind), and Malamar. All three of these archetypes are able to fluctuate somewhat in terms of what decks they want to hedge against and what decks they are willing to sacrifice ground against in order to be stronger others.

The best of example of this is perhaps Malamar forgoing a focus on GX attackers like Necrozma-GX and Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX in order to bulk up on counts of Hoopa STS and Mewtwo SM77. In doing so, we can observe a higher win-rate against Buzzwole decks and slightly lower win-rate against Zoroark-GX. What is most interesting about these fluctuations is that no matter how any of these “Big 3” decks tend to be adjusted, they almost always remain in the same corner of the Rock, Paper, Scissors triangle. That is, I think that a Malamar list that plays a lower count of 1 Prize attackers ought to still be somewhat favored against Buzzwole and indefinitely unfavored against Zoroark-GX and so on.

Fringe decks almost exclusively occupy one of the three spaces of this triangle as well, and so playing within the triangle almost becomes a simple question of deciding what you want to win against and what you want to lose to. The most optimal answer to this question is a mere assessment of what decks you think players are more likely to bring. Zoroark-GX decks in general to me seem to be the strongest within this triangle because you are favored against Malamar decks and can occasionally beat the Buzzwole decks, and so if you expect a higher percentage of Malamar decks, then a Zoroark-GX variant seems like the obvious play.

This, of course, can go on somewhat infinitely while considering what deck is the correct play for the event, but as a player, I have never been one who wants to settle. Perhaps all the way down to a fault, I will always go out of my way to play that one extra card or sacrifice a little bit of consistency in order to have even a slightly higher win percentage against something that is theoretically unfavorable. This has almost always been evident in my decklists even for popular archetypes but in today’s investigation, it has prompted me to try my hardest to find a deck beyond the triangle and search for something that is even to favorable against the big three while retaining a positive matchup against a majority of fringe decks. Truly, this is more than likely to be a wild pursuit of a Sisyphean task but will remain unrelenting in my attempt to find a better answer.

Zoroark/Exeggutor: Tropical Shake the Format

This deck was something I remember seeing discussed soon after the Forbidden Light setlist dropped. At the time, it was seen as little more than a gimmick and almost undoubtedly an inferior version to Golisopod-GX, but after seeing my good friend Zach Zamora narrowly miss Day 2 in Madison with the deck, it has been on my radar ever since.

The benefit of the deck is simply that Alolan Exeggutor is a huge non-EX that can trade blows with almost every attacker in the game. Both Buzzwole cards lack great ways to deal with it over and over again, and everything beyond Malamar decks is forced to attack into it at least twice. If you are able to chain this approach with multiple healing cards then you are surely able to win the Prize exchanges. Admittedly, you are forced to cut some amount of consistency to fit the total amount of cards to make the Energy gimmick work, but at the end of the day, you are still able to fall back on the raw power of Zoroark-GX’s Trade attack. To get us started on this conception of the deck, let’s jump right into my version of Zach’s initial concept:

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

3 Exeggcute FLI

2 Alolan Exeggutor FLI

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Kartana-GX

1 Latios SLG

1 Mew-EX

1 Mewtwo EVO

 

Trainers – 29

2 Acerola
2 Brigette
2 Cynthia

2 Guzma
2 N
2 Professor Sycamore
1 Professor Kukui

 

4 Ultra Ball
4 Puzzle of Time
2 Choice Band
2 Professors’ Letter
2 Field Blower
1 Counter Catcher
1 Float Stone

Energy – 12

4 Double Colorless
3 G
1 D
1 Y
1 M
1 F
1 P

Unfortunately, this list is incredibly tight for space, and has far less wiggle room than any other Zoroark-GX deck. It takes a lot to get the right cards in the discard in order to make Alolan Exeggutor an effective attacker but I think that these cons are generally outweighed by its pros.

You have your general staples that come with every Zoroark-GX, and these require Double Colorless Energy and Puzzle of Time to make these select cards as powerful as possible. From there, we simply need to fill in the rest of the list with the proper energy to max Alolan Exeggutor damage out at 120.

What I think was missing from Zach’s list in Madison was an efficient way to deal that extra 10 damage with Alolan Exeggutor in order 1HKO baby Buzzwole. With the added Professor Kukui and spread potential from Latios, that problem now has realistic solutions. The colors of basic energy you choose to run alongside the three Grass and four Double Colorless Energy are somewhat irrelevant beyond making sure you have enough unique colors, but there is some merit to consider each of them to best let Mew-EX’s Versatility copy as many other cheap and efficient attacks as possible. I believe the currently select ones give you the best possible options but almost every type has a card to consider:

Psychic: Tapu Cure-GX, Prismatic Burst,Trashalanche
Fighting: Sledgehammer, Jet Punch
Fairy: Magical Ribbon, Infinite Force, Twilight-GX
Metal: Blade-GX, can be combined with Psychic for Photon Geyser
Darkness: Bluff a Trickster-GX, Oblivion Wing
Lightning: Lighting-GX
Fire: No real Mew-EX usage, but it and the Fighting have further utility against a random Scorched Earth

Against Fighting decks, your gameplan is to use Trade to get Alolan Exeggutor attacking as fast as possible and hopefully find time to use Latios or Mewtwo to start damaging the baby Buzzwole early. Against Malamar, you’ll want to be as aggressive as possible with against their board and more or less only use Alolan Exeggutor as a wall that can soften up their 2 Prize attackers. In the mirror, Alolan Exeggutor can easily threaten Lycanroc-GX and keep it out of the game (but you’ll still want to try and focus down any Rockruff as quickly as possible, just like you would with any other Zoroark-GX deck).

The Grass typing has the added benefit of giving you a great Greninja matchup without needing to play Giratina and I believe that the sturdiness and damage output of Alolan Exeggutor makes most fringe matchups (think Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt and Espeon-GX/Garbodor) even at worst. I have been completely surprised by how often I end up using Blade-GX to win games and highly recommend everyone testing this deck to think of this as the best way to close out games. You can always lead with Zoroark-GX and attempt to take the first two to 3 Prizes in an aggressive fashion, buy some time and trade small KOs for bigger ones through Tropical Shake and then force them to need to continually N you to prevent Blade-GX from stealing the game away from them.

Buzzwole, despite our best efforts, can still be an incredibly difficult matchup but not an unwinnable one, but perhaps instead of relying more on this Puzzle of Time list, we can transition into the new Zoroark-GX build I discussed in my last article with Garbodor and make it work with our new, tall friend. My friends have taken my advice of taking away Puzzle of Time and trimming down on Zoroark-GX to fit more consistency and Buzzwole answer to various other archetypes and have come back reporting considerable amounts of success. I acknowledge that this evidence is still mostly anecdotal, but it leaves my optmisitc that this approach can work with Alolan Exeggutor as well. Here is the “new” list that I would advise you try should you remain uncertain in the traditional Puzzle of Time build:

Pokémon – 20

3 Zorua SLG

3 Zoroark-GX

4 Exeggcute FLI

3 Alolan Exeggutor FLI

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Kartana-GX

1 Latios SLG

1 Mew-EX

1 Mewtwo EVO

Trainers – 27

3 Brigette
3 Guzma
3 N
2 Acerola
2 Professor Kukui
2 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Ultra Ball
2 Choice Band
2 Field Blower
2 Professor’s Letter
1 Float Stone
1 Rescue Stretcher

Energy – 13

4 Double Colorless
4 G
1 D
1 Y
1 M
1 F

1 P

Like we managed to do with the Garbodor list from last article, very little about the deck actually changes when we take the focus away from Puzzle of Time. All that happens is that Zoroark-GX stops being the focus of the deck and we are no longer able to fit any number of cute, but useful, 1-ofs. Instead, we bulk up the counts of most other cards and attempt to play the deck in the exact same manner, but have less need to stack the board with as many Zoroark-GX as possible. I added the baby Buzzwole to the list simply because I think the card is just that incredible and can potentially assuage any difficulties we might be having against the mirror. I think with less Zoroark-GX and more Alolan Exeggutor, we increase our chances against Buzzwole by at least 10-15% while a majority of the other matchups being as favored as before.

My results may still be preliminary, and I have plenty of testing to do before actually arriving in Columbus, but from my current set of data, I truly do believe that this deck does exist somewhat outside of the aforementioned RPS triangle. I think that you are even-to-favorable against Zoroark-GX decks, Buzzwole and Malamar while retaining very positive matchups against the bigger fringe decks (Greninja, Beast Box, Espeon-GX/Garbodor etc). Buzzwole-Garbodor is quite the interesting case in my experience with Zoroark-GX as the heavier focus on the GX over the baby tends to make your Psychic Pokémon more effective and it is never to daunting of a task to simply KO their Garbodor once and resume a game with plenty of Trades. I could be incorrect in this assertion but as the popularity for the Order Pad/Garbodor list continues to rise, I cannot help but believe that this is an advantageous occurrence for Zoroark-GX decks.

This is not to say that I think I can beat every deck as that is likely an impossible any deck, and am confident that decks like Mikey’s Gardevoir and other decks that manage to equal our 2HKO strategy with similar big, non-GXs will prove to be unfavorable. I know that this is a lofty claim, and many of you are likely to be skeptical as we get closer and closer to Columbus but I urge you to at least try the deck before casting (Land’s) Judgement. One of the bigger talking points I have yet to mention about the power of the deck is that the abundance of a big, strong and most importantly Grass attacker is that it makes Lycanroc-GX a liability in most scenarios. One of the things that I think tends to be overlooked about the Buzzwole decks is actually not the power of swarming the baby Buzzwole but the threat that Lycanroc-GX provides. Many decks simply fold to this card on its own and Alolan Exegguctor is one of the best answers available to this card.

Solo Shake

pixiv.netI have been unable to figure out if a Zoroark-less Alolan Exeggutor is actually on the rise in terms of popularity or if it was something tried once and abandoned but in my examination of the above lists, I have also spent a considerable amount of time trying to make this unconventional version of the deck work as well. The idea was initially brought to my attention by top European player Benji Pham who piloted the deck to a top four finish at a League Cup. Quietly, I began to test the deck and discuss it back and forth with him and surprisingly, both of us found it to be incredibly powerful, if somewhat on the inconsistent side. Here is his initial list from several weeks ago:

Pokémon – 14

4 Exeggcute FLI

3 Alolan Exeggutor FLI

2 Latios SLG

2 Octillery BKT

2 Remoraid BKT 32

1 Buzzwole FLI

Trainers – 34

4 Guzma
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Sophocles
2 N
2 Acerola

 

4 Ultra Ball
4 Professor’s Letter
4 Choice Band
2 Nest Ball
2 Max Potion
2 Super Rod

Energy – 12

4 G
3 Double Colorless
1 P
1 M
1 D
1 F
1 W

The strategy of this deck is to simply double-down on the “force you into a war of attrition that (in theory) you cannot win.” Between the Acerola, Max Potion and fact that there are 0 EX or GX in the deck, you want to grind out your opponent and slowly 2HKO everything. This is a practice I found to work much better in theory than in practice, and without Zoroark-GX, your consistency is not as powerful, and you lack a a great way to continually put your basic Energy in the discard.

I believe that Sophocles (while having written some dope tragedies) is just a bad card but a necessary one to make this deck function properly. You could consider meddling with other discard options like Plumeria and Psychic’s Third Eye, but none of these are anywhere close to ideal. Despite these general issues, I do believe that the deck is still viable and incredibly powerful with the right draws but from this base list, I have refashioned the list into something I believe to be far more powerful:

Pokémon – 15

4 Exeggcute FLI

3 Alolan Exeggutor

2 Octillery BKT

2 Remoriad BKT 32

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Hoopa STS

1 Kartana-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore
4 Guzma
3 N
2 Sophocles
1 Acerola
1 Brigette

 

4 Ultra Ball
1 Mysterious Treasure
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone
3 Professor’s Letter
3 Max Potion
2 Super Rod

Energy – 10

4 G
1 P
1 F
1 M
1 D
1 Y
1 L

The strategy of this list is unchanged from the initial list but I have made a few adjustments and cut a few corners to try and make getting our energy in the discard a little bit better. I think Tapu Lele-GX is simply not good for any deck not to play and so adding one allows us to play Brigette as well and ideally will make our openings more consistent. I never liked the Latios in the previous list, as the Double Colorless felt unnecessary and inconsistent at playing only three, so I removed them entirely in order to add more basic energy. Hoopa STS serves a similar purpose as you can use it to soften up all those pesky 130 HP Pokémon and also take advantage of some Psychic weakness should the opportunity present itself.

I am less confident in this list and deck idea compared to either of the Zoroark-GX lists, but I think that it has a lot of potential. This is ultimately the version I settled on and one I think is the best but there is some merit to trying to add Lurantis PR to the list and I have also considered playing a small Trashalanche line in the deck simply to give you another powerful 1-Prize attacker. I think the concept is very strong, but the execution of it is what is difficult to achieve at times. In your best games, you can be doing 80-100 on your second turn and in my experience, those games are next to impossible to lose but in others it will be your third to fourth turn and you will be hitting for a meager 40 damage and at that point you’ve already lost.

Closing Thoughts

If you are looking for a deck somewhat out of the ordinary that at minimum can compete with the big three, I do not think you can do better than Alolan Exeggutor. I would likely agree in the assertion that decks like Gardevoir-GX or Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt are stronger in theory, but Rare Candy is too high variance of a card for me to want to consider either. Particularly in the case of the latter, you win almost every game you find the card and evolve on your second turn but lose in almost every other scenario. Alolan Exeggutor has power and consistency and never feels like you’re trying to highroll your opponents. My preferences as a player have always leaned toward wanting to play something that is a surprise or unorthodox if only to win a few more games due to my opponents unfamiliarity with my list. When you play Buzzwole or Malamar, I think your opponent know almost exactly what to expect as soon as you flip over your cards and I would love to avoid that if at all possible.

I will be back in just a few short days with one more article in this marathon. My focus in it is to briefly cover any rogue archetypes that have yet to be mentioned in our series of articles and so if there is something you would like me to cover, please let me know here on the forums or on Twitter and I will do my best to give them the attention that they deserve.
Until next time!


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