The Ultra Road to Columbus

Looking at Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar for NAIC

Hey guys! Today marks the fifth day in the marathon, and what better way for it to be spent reading about Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar. This was one of the most hyped decks upon Forbidden Light’s release, and for good reason. Rayquaza-EX/Eelektrik NVI, commonly known as Rayeels, was a dominant deck in its time; there seemed little reason to doubt that Ultra Necrozma wouldn’t follow suit because it does more damage per energy, has higher HP, and has a decent amount of sidekick support in Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX.

Recent tournaments have proven this notion untrue due to the strength of Buzzwole. The only Malamar version that can consistently beat it is one including multiple non-Pokémon-GX like Hoopa STS or Mewtwo SM77. These are staples in the Psychic Malamar deck, which will be covered later in the marathon. The Ultra Necrozma version has a better Zoroark matchup—yet still not a great one. The trick in the current format is finding the balance between single-Prize attackers and the 1HKO potential of Ultra Necrozma.

One immediate concern to anyone playing Ultra Necrozma is the presence of two Energy types. This not only makes it harder to attack with each attacker (because of specific Energy requirements), but also worsens the first few turns of the game; it’s harder to put P Energy in the discard pile when there are fewer of them.

Skeleton List

Pokémon – 13

4 Inkay FLI

3 Malamar FLI

2 Ultra Necrozma-GX

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

 

Trainers – 25

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Guzma

2 N

2 Cynthia

1 Brigette

 

4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Ultra Ball

2 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Float Stone

Energy – 10

7 P

2 M

1 Beast p

12 open spots

The above list is close to the bare minimum on the type of cards that can be played. That’s not to say some open slots are immediately filled for consistency reasons, like the 4th Malamar, 3rd M Energy, and 2nd recovery card. However, there are many different ways to take the deck, and different techs are required. As an overview, a Parallel City version works, a hyper consistent version works, and a single-Prize Pokémon version works. Beast Ring works, and Professor’s Letter works too. The path you take is dependent on the matchups you’re trying to hedge, whether they be Zoroark, Buzzwole, or mirror.

The Pokémon line is straightforward. A 4-3 Malamar line is the bare minimum this deck should ever play because it’s simply too important not to prize Inkay. It’s also necessary to draw them ASAP if the turn 1 Brigette is missed, which happens sometimes when hands are clunky. 2 copies of both Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX and Ultra Necrozma-GX are standard for good reason.

In the skeleton, the Supporter line is a bit thin with only 8 draw Supporters. At least one more will be added, but it’s up to personally preference whether it’s an N or Cynthia. 7 search cards is the minimum that should be played, and it just so happens that Ultra Ball is the worse of the two when everything can be searched for with Mysterious Treasure. However, this count and the Rescue Stretcher/Super Rod count can be switched depending on how many other similar cards are being played. As a quick example, 2 M Energy is somewhat acceptable with multiple Super Rod, but is absolutely terrible with 1 or less.

Good Cards

4th Malamar

The 4th Malamar is somewhat of an auto-include despite it not making the skeleton list. It’s possible to omit it for the sake of extra techs, but it severely reduces the T2 attack potential of the deck. With one fewer Malamar, it’s also more likely to run out because of some being Prized. For a deck that has its squids killed often, this cut is one I’m unlikely to make. For comparison, cutting the 4th Ultra Ball is something I feel more comfortable with because it’s simply a dropped search card, not an important Pokémon.

Hoopa STS

Hoopa would be good in this deck for two reasons: softening Pokémon and acting as a single prize attacker. The first attack is great for weakening Lycanroc-GX, Zoroark-GX, and by extension anything with more than 20 HP. The snipe damage reduces the awkwardness of Ultra Necrozma math against things. The card can actually deal decent damage and 1HKO a Tapu Lele-GX with a Choice Band as well, another card that should be included in the final list. Malamar needs at least one single prize attacker or it will be run over by Buzzwole. It’s a shame to admit it, but Psychic doesn’t always trump Fighting without the proper Pokémon.

Clefairy EVO

Clefairy is another great single prize attacker that has a slightly different function. It’s good for taking a response knockout, like a revenge attacker, against a strong Pokémon like Lycanroc-GX, Ultra Necrozma-GX, or Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX. All of these Pokémon can’t be 1HKO’d by anything other than Ultra Necrozma-GX, which is hard to get attacking consistently. Clefairy is great as a single prize Pokémon to take these crucial knockouts for any combination of Metal and P Energy.

Mobility Cards

Extra mobility is always nice in this deck. The Psychic list commonly runs 4 Float Stone due to the absence of other tools, but in this deck there are other options. The argument against 4 Float Stone comes about when you’d need to Psychic Recharge to the Active Pokémon and then send it Active again, which can only be done with Guzma in the skeleton. Float Stone also doesn’t work with Choice Band well, because the latter usually falls on the Ultra Necrozma-GX that’s Active. I’ve tinkered with Switch and Escape Rope, both of which I like. The 4th Guzma is also worthwhile because this deck ahs the capability of effectively dealing with threats before they arise; it can take 1HKOs on anything with Photon Geyser.

Choice Band

The +30 damage is very influential for math on Moons Eclipse GX and Photon Geyser. The boost from 180 to 210 really helps KOs on Lycanroc-GX or Ultra Necrozma-GX. In a pinch, Mewtwo-GX can also hit 210 against a Zoroark-GX too. I’ve found that Choice Band is always more influential than Fighting Fury Belt, which I’ll get to.

Super Rod/Rescue Stretcher

I like running two recovery cards so that there’s always one in case of poor discards. There’s enough space in this deck to hedge for bad Prizes, so I’ll take it. I prefer Rescue Stretcher because there’s the added versatility of bringing it to my hand immediately. This is crucial when digging for a 1HKO by picking up a Pokémon or another Malamar. I also enjoy never having to worry about shuffling in Energy disadvantageously.

More Energy

Another copy of either Energy increases consistency. That’s it.

Debatable Cards

Beast Ring

Beast Ring is something I’ve seen included in everyone’s list but mine. It’s so good when it’s pulled off, but it’s usually live for a single turn. It’s pretty easy for decks to get off of 4/3 Prizes against Malamar because there’s always a weak target in Malamar. Aside from this, lists only run 2-3 copies, making it unlikely to find on the important turns. It’s not a key part of the strategy, and therefore is in a medium spot where it’s neither important nor unimportant.

Professor’s Letter

I’m a fan of Professor’s Letter because it does two things: searches for M Energy, and searches for P Energy. The former is important because there are few copies and its important to draw them for Ultra Necrozma. The latter is important for the reason that they need to find their way to the discard pile. Simply put, this card smooths early hands and alleviates any late game Ns.

3rd Field Blower

The 3rd Field Blower is something I would play if I was expecting lots of Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor or Zoroark-GX. Personally, I played this in my list at the Mexico SPE a few weeks ago, which I finished 3-1-2 at. My ties were to Zoroark-GX/Trevevant and Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX, my loss to Zoropod. It was useful throughout the day knowing that I always had a Parallel City counter and way to remove my own Parallel City if I so chose. The card is a luxury, but certainly helps.

Parallel City

Stadium control is something I wish more people paid attention to. Parallel City is great in Malamar for dealing with the mirror match and in general use. Tapu Lele-GX can become clogged on the Bench, and this is the surefire of preventing that. I tend to discard my own Pokémon more often than meddling with the opponent.

3rd Ultra Necrozma-GX

The point of a 3rd Ultra Necrozma-GX would be to ensure that 2 are always in the deck. Against Zoroark-GX or whatever else, it’s really important to always be using it rather than another attacker like Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX or Tapu Lele-GX. With only 2 copies, you run the risk of the second being Prized after the first is Knocked Out. 3 copies prevents this—and it’s seen in some lists—but I’d prefer to run a 2nd recovery card, notably Rescue Stretcher, so that it serves the same purpose of being brought back to the hand immediately. One caveat to this is that the high amount of search cards cannot work for finding Rescue Stretcher, meaning it will be unlikely to find the Rescue Stretcher.

Smeargle BKT

Ah, Smeargle. The one addition to this deck I truly wanted to make work. I tested this card heavily for Mexico, but alas it made its way out of the list (mainly because I played Psychic Malamar.) It was cute because I only had to play 2 M Energy, therefore making it a simple swap between 3rd M Energy and Smeargle. Its versatility was limited when Energy wasn’t drawn in the first place, and in some cases it would be KO’d before it could be useful.

Fighting Fury Belt

Fighting Fury Belt is supposed to help the Buzzwole matchup, but in practice it rarely does anything. The extra HP doesn’t really matter anywhere, and you’ll be missing the extra health in other matchups. The only thing I think it’s great for is sticking a Hoopa with 170 HP, but that can even be taken care of by Lycanroc-GX. Choice Band gives Ultra Necrozma-GX such better math that it’s by far the superior Tool.

Mewtwo-GX

The mirror killer. Mewtwo-GX is bad everywhere else, but works for mirror! I wouldn’t expect a lot of it, nor would I expect this card to be particularly relevant in it. Worst case scenario, just save a Guzma for the turn and plan to use your own Moons Eclipse GX. Mewtwo-GX is only good when you continue to aggress. It’s vulnerable to a single prize attacker picking up an easy KO on it afterward.

Marshadow-GX

Marshadow-GX doubles down on the Zoroark-GX counters. The most important attack that can be copied is Moons Eclipse GX because it keeps it alive for another turn.

Final List

“This is my ‘appeared’ face.”

Pokémon – 16

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

2 Ultra Necrozma-GX

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Hoopa STS

 

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Guzma

3 N

2 Cynthia

1 Brigette

 

4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Ultra Ball

2 Field Blower

2 Beast Ring

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Choice Band

3 Float Stone

Energy – 12

8 P

3 M

1 Beast p

As you can see, I’ve outfitted the deck with cards that were my favorite. The theme of the additions is consistency. Malamar is a relatively simple deck, and keeping it that way reduces the amount of misplays that are possible. This is helpful for newer players trying to learn a deck and for advanced players who will be in contention for Day 2 for all 9 rounds, only succeeding if they play at the highest skill level. You’re helping yourself succeed by picking an easier deck, and there’s no shame in that. Now, back to the deck.

I added the 4th Malamar and pair of Hoopa so that the deck can exhibit a better Buzzwole matchup. Many players—including top players—will play Buzzwole. That’s a fact. It’s best to be prepared for this matchup than to sign it off as an auto-win because you’re playing Malamar. Skilled Buzzwole players can maneuver this matchup to a 50-50 or favored depending on how the draws play out. The other important card I added to beat the big three is Beast Ring, my love-hate card. I cannot deny its strength against Zoroark-GX because you’ll usually have 2 turns where its active against them. Their game plan is to target Malamar, and Beast Ring is great for punishing that.

Matchups

Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX—Even/Favorable

I label this as anywhere from even to favorable if you play at least one single prize attacker. From there, there’s nothing that can be done to improve the matchup than to play more and to draw better. Reasonably, the current list is as good as it will ever be against Buzzwole. I’d even go so far as to say that this current version is favored because of the multiple Hoopa. The trick in this matchup is to set as many Inkay as possible, attack with Hoopa whenever possible, and save Moons Eclipse GX to KO a Lycanroc-GX. Lycanroc-GX is their one saving grace for this matchup, so make sure to have an answer. Likewise, if you can target the Rockruff, by all means do it.

Zoroark-GX/Whatever—Unfavorable/Slightly Unfavorable

As it is with Psychic guys being good against Fighting guys, Dark guys are good against Psychic guys. The deck is outfitted as best as possible to hedge this matchup, but there’s little that can be done to swing it to even or favorable. Zoroark-GX, the Lycanroc-GX notably, is too good at targeting “Bench-sitters” like Malamar and disrupting other decks. Likewise, there’s nothing in our deck that can trade efficiently with Zoroark-GX other than Ultra Necrozma-GX. Hoopa STS is something, but falls to the Reverse Valley or Professor Kukui techs appearing in lists. Mewtwo isn’t as good as Hoopa, so don’t bother, because it requires a Choice Band to 2HKO a Zoroark-GX.

Of the Zoroark-GX variants, Lycanroc-GX and Garbodor are definitely the worst two. Lycanroc-GX is annoying because it provides them an easy time to KO Inkay, while Garbodor is pesky because it’s an efficient single prize attacker and shuts off Psychic Recharge. Golisopod-GX is the easiest to deal with because its the fairest of the three decks and cannot take a 1HKO on Ultra Necrozma-GX.

Malamar—Even-ish

The mirror matchup comes down to who plays the most techs and who draws the best. The goal is to continuously take Prizes wherever possible and have an answer to Moons Eclipse GX. Without Mewtwo-GX, it’s harder to pull off, but the maxed copies of Guzma should ensure that you have one when needed. There’s nothing that can threaten Ultra Necrozma-GX other than itself or a boosted Moons Eclipse GX, so play around those and have an appropriate answer. If you’re truly scared of mirror, add the Clefairy EVO or Mewtwo-GX.

Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor—Slightly Favorable/Favorable

This matchup is dependent on the amount of P Energy and Field Blowers you play. With more of either copy, you’ll likely succeed more often. Hoopa is great in this matchup because it can 1HKO a clean Buzzwole-GX. This and Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX are the two matchups where Fighting Fury Belt would be great.

Greninja—auto-loss/Slightly Favorable

If you don’t play Giratina, it’s the former. If you do, it’s the latter.

Conclusion

Malamar is set to make a grand appearance at NAIC depending on the number of people who choose to pilot it. With the right list, it boasts a good matchup against Buzzwole and a well enough plate everywhere else to succeed. Like any deck, it requires practice to get the hang of. I think that between this and the mono-Psychic version Pablo is writing about, I’d rather play this version. The Psychic version is very strong against Buzzwole-GX, but really fails to have any shot of winning against Zoroark-GX. Ultra Necrozma-GX at least gives this deck unlimited damage potential and the ability to highroll against Zoroark-GX to an easy win.

As for my top picks right now, I’d say that I’m leaning toward this, Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX, or Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX. In Mexico, I played Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX and went 5-3-1, netting a Top 64 finish. I still want to experiment with all of these in hopes of finding a good list that I enjoy playing and can overcome bad matchups with. There’s no Espeon-GX/Garbodor this year, so hopefully I can find something to replace it with.

Xander


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