The Middle Ground

Looking Behind to NAIC and Looking Ahead to Celestial Storm’s Worlds Format

Hello 6P! NAIC just took place and we were in for quite a few surprises honestly. I did not see Zoroark making such a huge comeback, and definitely not Zoroark/Garbodor or the one piloted by Tord, which was focused on resource denial. We’ll break down what happened in more detail in a bit, and I’ll also be touching up on the new Rayquaza-GX and what are my initial expectations for it now that we are looking toward the World’s format.

First, a quick note on my NAIC experience. I can’t say thank you enough times. The amount of people that came up to me to say they enjoyed my streams/videos/articles etc. is impossible to quantify, and it’s people like you guys that keep motivating me to do what I do. The season might be dwindling down, but you can expect the same and more from Tablemon no matter at which point where at of any season!

As for the tournament itself, I went 5-3-1 on Day 1, falling short of my expectations, of course, but of getting any CP too. I couldn’t build on the momentum from the SPE win and Mexico City Top 16 finishes, but I do think I made a suboptimal choice too.

To many people’s surprise, I went with Psychic Malamar with 4 Hoopa STS, rather than my good old trusty Zoroark/Golisopod deck. Being honest, and from the matchups you’ll see below, I think my tournament experience would’ve actually been exactly the same no matter the choice:

The Passing Chaos: NAIC Recap

R1 Buzzwole/Lycanroc WW
R2 Espeon/Garbodor WW
R3 Tord Zoroark LL
R4 Tord Zoroark LL
R5 Ultra Necrozma/Malamar LWW
R6 Greninja LWL
R7 (no show) W
R8 Xerneas BREAK WLT
R9 Lapras LWW

As you can see, had I played Zoroark/Golisopod, I would’ve probably ended up beating the Buzzwole/Lycanroc and Espeon/Garbodor decks, then proceeded to lose to the auto-loss matchup of the resource denial Zoroark deck. Would’ve then went on to beat a Malamar deck, only to succumb to Greninja’s Shadow Stiching in Round 6. Perhaps I would’ve lost Round 1 to Buzzwole, or perhaps won Round 6, but hindsight is 20/20 and I played with what I felt was a very polarized deck: if I hit enough Buzzwole’s on Day 1, I would be cruising, but if I hit Zoroarks, I’d be out early. That’s the format that we had at NAIC pretty much, and even with double Weakness Policy, I’m not entirely convinced that is enough to swing the Buzzwole matchup in Zoroark’s favor.

This is the list that I used at the tournament:

Pokémon – 17

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

4 Hoopa STS

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

1 Marshadow-GX

1 Necrozma-GX

Trainers – 33

4 Cynthia

4 Guzma

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

1 Lillie


4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Ultra Ball

3 Field Blower

2 Rescue Stretcher

4 Float Stone

Energy – 10

10 P

The 4 Hoopa STS was a concept that Chris Leandro showed me on Wednesday before the tournament, and made me rethink the possibility of Malamar as a deck to consider for NAIC. I was pretty set on Zoroark/Golisopod up until then, but after having faced Caleb’s Malamar deck at the SPE and feeling like it had a genuine shot vs Zoroark then, I decided I would give it a try. Worst comes to worst, I had Zoroark/Golisopod or Buzzwole/Lycanroc to fall back on pretty easily.

The 4 Hoopa deal perfect damage to follow up a Black Ray-GX spread (130 + 100 KOs every playable GX out there, including Zoroark-GX after Resistance), along with the first attack setting up Necrozma-GX pretty nicely to go down from 4 to 3 energy required to 1HKO stuff with Prismatic Burst. Them being a non-GX attacker allows you to trade very effectively with other decks, and the 130 HP makes it very very sturdy.

I think this deck still holds a lot of potential moving forward, especially as we saw Adam Hawkins, granted with a different build, go completely undefeated at NAIC Day 1 and up to Top 4 (meaning he went WW in all his wins, no WLW or LWW). The great news for this deck is that Tapu Lele promo (yes, the infamous one) is finally coming out as a blister pack promo at some point between now and Worlds, thus making it legal for the tournament.

Tapu Lele Promo will augment the viability of Psychic spread decks, especially when combined with Black Ray-GX. This was a combo that was used in Japan with Dimension Valley, and I’m sure it’ll see some degree of playability, if not success, once it finally releases on this side of the world. I heard many different stories about its delay, and it probably would’ve been a bit more powerful in a different time, but as it stands now, it could still make a splash in the most prestigious tournament of the season.

Aside from Tapu Lele Promo, Acro Bike is probably a decent addition to this deck, in order to cycle faster and get P Energy more quickly into the discard pile. TV Reporter and even Copycat could also be considerations for the deck, and I think something like this is what I will start testing for Worlds:

Pokémon – 18

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

3 Hoopa STS

2 Necrozma-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

1 Marshadow-GX

1 Tapu Lele SM45

Trainers – 32

4 Guzma

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Copycat

2 Cynthia

2 N


4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Acro Bike

3 Ultra Ball

2 Field Blower

2 Rescue Stretcher

4 Float Stone

Energy – 10

10 P

One of the big new inclusions is Copycat, as a reliable way to draw cards and to ‘pop off’ against Zoroark decks, which accumulate huge hands against you. Acro Bike, which allows you to dig deeper into the deck and provides a way of thinning plus getting some Psychics in the discard, also makes its way in. To round out the changes, there’s the aforementioned Tapu Lele Promo and an extra Necrozma-GX, as the combination seems potentially deadly if pulled off at the right time. It basically opens up a new win condition for the deck which it previously didn’t have, by simply including one card. That to me seems like a great trade off!

Moving forward, on the next corner of the triangle, Zoroark had the best showing by far. Not only did it show up in bigger numbers than I expected, as people felt no fear of Buzzwole, but its pilots also went ahead and tried to counter it as much as possible with different Psychic attackers and the inclusion of Weakness Policy.

If you think of any given Buzzwole deck, you could almost always play under the assumption that they won’t run Field Blower. Ever since their introduction to the metagame back at EUIC, I don’t ever recall seeing a tournament-successful Buzzwole list containing even 1 Field Blower. Zoroark players took advantage of this and played Weakness Policy in their deck in order to prevent Zoroarks (or even Zoruas) from going down early.

Although it seems genius in the beginning, I actually don’t see how only 2 copies of the card would’ve been enough. You’re always aiming to have 3 Zoroark’s on the bench, therefore 1 will always be without a Tool, and that’s if you actually managed to find both. Having them early is not guaranteed by any means, so they probably won’t be useful in keeping Zoruas alive either, and even if you do have them, the idea that Buzzwole decks can’t deal 60 damage on turn 1 is laughable.

In my eyes, it would be either play 4 or play 0: anything less than 4 means not having enough for your Zoroarks, but I do recognize how it’s a big space commitment. Other than Weakness Policy, we saw a very standard Zoroark/Garbodor build take down the whole tournament, and a very innovative resource denial build take second place.

There’s not much to say about the Zoroark/Garbodor build, other than the inclusion of Latios over Mewtwo. The deck combines 3 of the best Pokémon ever printed (Zoroark, Garbodor GRI and Garbodor BKT) along with energy denial (Enhanced Hammer and Kartana-GX), a soft Item lock (Trashalanche) and consistency (Zoroark engine). You really can’t go wrong with all of these, and although I think Lycanroc should be a big issue for the deck, clearly Stephane was very well prepared to face any that came across him.

This is the list that won the whole thing, and it’s coincidentally very similar to the list that also Top 8’d in the LATAM IC a couple of months back:

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

3 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor GRI

1 Garbodor BKP

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Kartana-GX

1 Latios SLG

Trainers – 34

4 N

3 Guzma

2 Brigette

1 Acerola

1 Cynthia

1 Professor Sycamore


4 Puzzle of Time

4 Ultra Ball

3 Field Blower

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Evosoda

1 Mysterious Treasure

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Float Stone

2 Choice Band


2 Parallel City

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

3 Unit LPM

Mysterious Treasure is the only new card from Forbidden Light that made it into the list, and it adds a tiny tiny bit of extra consistency as you have a ton of Psychic Pokémon but essentially another way to find that turn 1 Brigette which is so good for Zoroark decks. There was no use of Bursting Balloon this time, in order to keep re-activating Abilities on your turn, but rather a more pragmatic approach of: I’ll shut off Abilities, and if you turn them back on, I’ll be able to keep Trading and generate more resource advantage.

As far as adapting this deck to the new set, the biggest unknown for the next metagame is which new decks featuring Pokémon from Celestial Storm will make a stride, and with Rayquaza-GX as the front runner, I would not be surprised to see Sylveon-EX make it into the list in order to have an easy 1HKO on it.

Tord’s deck is a lot more interesting in terms of its novelty, as the extra counts of Enhanced Hammer, Team Flare Grunt and even Delinquent gave the deck a new spin, especially when combined with Resource Management Oranguru to reutilize all of them. The deck’s goal is not precisely to win by taking 6 Prize cards, but rather to be able to deny enough resources from your opponent to either deck them out or win by taking 6 Prizes freely once you’ve exhausted their energy.

It has quite a few different win conditions and it operates as a very aggressive mill deck, if you will. It still needed protection against Buzzwole with Weakness Policy and Mew-EX in there, but overall it’s more a denial deck relying heavily on Oranguru. This deck probably requires an article on its own, so I’ll let another of our 6P writers take a good thorough look at it.

The Oncoming Storm: Rayquaza

There’s now the biggest break of tournaments that we have experienced since the season began back in September 2017, and we have Celestial Storm to look forward to. With Rayquaza-GX having won in Japan, everyone seems to be eager to play around with it and see just how good it is. I haven’t been able to actually test any of the new cards since coming back from NAIC due to other commitments, but the card has also piqued my interest, of course.

Building from the Japanese list that found success, I figured trying to adapt that to our Standard format was the best way to go about it, and thus this is what I came up with (completely untested as of now):

Pokémon – 9

4 Rayquaza-GX (SM7)

2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI

1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI

1 Latias p (SM7)

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Guzma

3 N

3 Cynthia


4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Max Elixir

3 Ultra Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

3 Fighting Fury Belt / 3 Choice Band

3 Float Stone


2 Parallel City

Energy – 16

8 L

8 G

At 16 Basic Energy, Elixirs are sure to hit almost every time, and you won’t be missing energy drops any time soon. The Mysterious Treasures, Ultra Balls and Professor Sycamore pretty much guarantee that Rayquaza-GX’s Ability will definitely have targets after it is used.

The damage output should build up pretty fast, and Latias p is just icing on the cake in terms of late game recovery to rebuild your damage output if your opponent was able to KO Rayquazas early. Latias’s Dreamy Mist attack reattaches 1 Basic Energy from the discard pile to each of your Dragon type Pokémon, so early or late, it’s going to be getting 2-3 extra energy which are invaluable for your damage output.

The biggest issue I foresee with this deck is all the discarding with Abilities and Professor Sycamores will likely mean you’ll use up key copies of Guzma, Max Elixir or even your Latias quite early and that could make the late game unnecessarily complicated. The benefit of all this though, is that you’ll have very little to worry about late game N’s, since your deck will be incredibly thin by that point.

The deck’s goal is to hit hard and fast, and I can’t wait to give it a try with some proxies and see how many energy we can build up by turn 2 or even turn 1! The debate between the longevity of Fighting Fury Belt or extra damage output of Choice Band is interesting, but Choice Band might win out in the end if the norm keeps being 200-210 HP Stage 1 GX’s meta, rather than 180-190 HP Basic GX’s.

And that will wrap up my article for today! I’m looking forward to testing the new set, but all the same having a good break from tournaments. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you guys again at the end of this month, hopefully with a bunch of new findings from testing the new set and adapting the current decks to the expected new metagame! Until next time!

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!

Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: 0