North America’s Best Bets

Reviewing the Top Finishers from NAIC with an Eye to Worlds

Hello everyone! I hope everyone has enjoying the relief of the North American International Championships being over. For some, that means a short break before the World Championships, and for others it was the last tournament of the year. I am happy to say that after top fouring the NAIC, I finished fifth place in North America, which means I have an invitation to day two at the World Championships. It was a long and stressful year of Pokémon, which I mostly attribute to the lack of a best finish limit and increase in competition. I am very excited for the new set and the World Championships though, so it is pretty hard for me to not focus on Pokémon too much. Anyway, without further ado, lets review some cool decks from the tournament, and then wrap things up with some talk about Celestial Storm!

NAIC Review

What I Played – Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX

I think that this deck might not be “the play” for the World Championships, but I also feel that this deck is almost never a bad choice for an event. It is incredibly consistent, and allows more experienced players to take advantage of all the options it has and outplay the opponent.

Pokémon – 17

4 Zoroark-GX

4 Zorua SLG

2 Golisopod-GX

3 Wimpod BUS

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Mew-EX

1 Mewtwo EVO

Trainers – 36

4 Brigette

3 N

2 Guzma

1 Cynthia

1 Professor Sycamore

1 Delinquent

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Evosoda

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Field Blower

2 Counter Catcher

2 Float Stone

1 Choice Band

1 Max Potion

 

3 Parallel City

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

2 Grass

1 Rainbow

Card Choices

2 Tapu Lele-GX, 4 Brigette

I have been asked about this a lot, so I feel I should address it here. Having the 4th Brigette instead of the fourth Tapu Lele-GX slightly increases your chance of using Brigette on the first turn of the game. This is because you could start Tapu Lele-GX with no other basic Pokémon. More importantly, having a Brigette in your opening hand is much better against Parallel City, as having to use Tapu Lele-GX in that situation stops you from getting three other basics.

Last, and most importantly, you want to start a basic Pokémon that isn’t Tapu Lele-GX. Obviously it is nice for Tapu Lele-GX to be active at the end of your first turn in an attempt to let it take a hit. However, starting Tapu Lele-GX means you have one less “real basic” in play, which can really cause you problems if your opponent finds access to Guzma or Lycanroc-GX. Since you can only Brigette for three basic Pokémon, you will be forced between having only one Zorua or one Wimpod in play, which allows your opponent to eliminate one Pokémon from your board entirely.

2 Guzma

This is another weird count in this decklist, and easily the one I have gotten the most questions about. The two copies of Counter Catcher do a lot to help make up for the low Guzma count, especially considering that you fall behind in a far share of games with this deck. This Zoropod list was focused on disruption, which not only took up a ton of space in the deck, but also made Guzma a less necessary tool. Almost every game I played, I had to keep in mind that I only had two Guzmas, but I managed my resources well and it was never really a problem. I could see a third copy of this card needing to be added due to the surprise factor of the low count being taken away. Players might be able to exploit the fact that you only have two copies of Guzma if they know—or can reasonably guess.

Finally, my time.

Delinquent

This card was easily my favorite card in the deck! I used it to leave my opponent with zero cards in hand countless times, and that almost always resulted in a win for me. decks have a great way to recover from Delinquent, but using Delinquent as a way of winning the resource battle is a great way to get value out of it. This could mean Delinquenting the opponent to zero despite them being able to draw out of it, but even using it on a four card hand can often be very helpful. Even if the opponent discards junk with Delinquent, that means they are likely running low on Trade bait, which could help to limit their options.

2 Enhanced Hammer, 2 Field Blower, 2 Counter Catcher

These might seem like weird counts, but they were phenomenal throughout the tournament. Two Field Blower felt sketchy occasionally, but overall I was just fine with having the low count. The two Counter Catcher and two Enhanced Hammer were incredible all weekend, and really allowed me to outmaneuver my opponent. These techs certainly caught a lot of my opponents off guard, and really allowed me to manage my opponent’s resources. The deck felt a lot more controling than the other Zoropod lists I have played with recently, as it seems the overall strategy as gotten extremely aggressive. The Counter Catchers were especially strong against and decks, where you could aim to take out useful Pokémon such as Lycanroc, Octillery, or Malamar. The Enhanced Hammers were useful in the rest of the field, playing an important roll against opposing Zoroark decks, especially Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX.

Max Potion

In the NAIC format, Max Potion was strictly a better inclusion than Acerola. Acerola is an incredibly slow card, and having Max Potion instead really opens up your options. You can play a draw Supporter and still use Max Potion afterward, which is especially strong because you can use Puzzle of Time to allow this to happen multiple times in a game. Additionally, being able to heal and use Guzma in the same turn is a great thing to be able to do. If Acerola were in the deck instead of Max Potion, I am confident I would’ve lost at least two games because of it. This is because I had to use a Supporter in order to find Max Potion, and if I didn’t heal said Pokémon, it would’ve cost me the game. Max Potion was actually put in the deck the night before the tournament, as it was something my group had been debating throughout all of our testing. It ended up replacing a third copy of Counter Catcher, but the third copy of Evosoda was also on the chopping block.

Rainbow Energy

This was another relatively last minute addition, as it didn’t find its way into the deck until my group’s last testing session on Thursday. I am actually not even sure who came up with it, but it definitely wasn’t me. I am super glad this card made its way into the deck, as it came in super clutch round one against Grafton’s spread deck, as Tapu Cure made all the difference. I only played against one Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX deck all weekend, but this tech is very strong against that deck. Using Mew-EX to KO a Buzzwole-GX can sometimes be answered by the opponent using Lycanroc-GX to KO a bigger threat on your board, such as Golisopod-GX. You can then attach the Rainbow Energy to Mew-EX and copy Dangerous Rogue-GX to KO the Lycanroc-GX.

Potential Inclusions

This is a tech I have already started trying out. I have it in the deck I am playing in the team win & in tournament and it has felt strong so far. I removed the third copy of Parallel City for it, but I am not convinced that will be a permanent change. I am pretty sold on Oranguru’s place in the deck, but perhaps a different card should be removed. Oranguru greatly improves the matchup this deck has against the control Zoroark deck. Additionally, Oranguru can be used to answer cheesy strategies such as Hoopa or mill decks.

Having Oranguru in the deck also helps to make up for the low Guzma and Field Blower counts, which makes me a bit more comfortable with the deck moving forward. The low counts in the decklist will be much harder to exploit when Oranguru is included as somewhat of a safety net. Oranguru can also be used as a way of managing your items against Trashlanche decks, such as Zoroark-GX/ which has been increasing in popularity due to Stephane Ivanoff.

Copycat

I talk about why I am such a fan of Copycat later in the article, but Zoroark decks are an archetype that I think could benefit greatly from including a copycat in the deck. Using Copycat for a hefty amount of cards and then being able to trade afterward should allow you to accomplish pretty much anything in any given turn. Additionally, Zoroark is a deck that could easily make up for using Copycat for a lower amount, such as five. I plan to try one Copycat in the deck in replace of the one copy of Cynthia that was in the deck before.

My Rounds

Round 1: Tapu Koko/-GX Spread Deck WW (1-0)
Round 2: Zoroark-GX/Lucario-GX WLW (2-0)
Round 3: Malamar/Ultra Necrozma-GX WW (3-0)
Round 4: Psychic Malamar WW (4-0)
Round 5: Malamar/Ultra Necrozma-GX LWW (5-0)
Round 6: Yveltal BREAK (no Hoopa) LL (5-1)
Round 7: Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor WLW (6-1)
Round 8: Zoropod LWL (6-2)

Round 9: Zoropod LWW (7-2)
Round 10: Yveltal BREAK (no hoopa) LWW (8-2)
Round 11: Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX WW (9-2)
Round 12: Control Zoroark-GX LWL (9-3)
Round 13: Zoropod WW (10-3)
Round 14: Buzzwole/Garbodor/Garbodor LWW (11-3)
Round 15: Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX WW (12-3)

Top 8: Psychic Malamar WW (13-3)
Top 4: Control Zoroark-GX LL (13-4)

13-4, 3rd Place

My Second Choice – Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX

I have a lot of faith in this deck heading into the World Championships! Despite bailing on my favorite deck in recent history at the International Championships, I knew the deck was strong and feel I would’ve done just fine had I played the deck. I obviously don’t regret playing Zoropod and I am super pleased with my result, but I also don’t underestimate Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX. The deck is stronger than people might think against the control Zoroark that the europeans have released into the meta, and still has close to favorable matchups against other decks. I also expect this deck to be even more popular at Worlds than it was at NAIC, so don’t forget about this beast.

Pokémon – 13

4 Buzzwole FLI

1 Buzzwole-GX

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

2 Rockruff FLI

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Diancie p

1 Octillery BKT

1 Remoraid CIN

 

 

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Guzma

3 N

1 Cynthia

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Beast Ring

3 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

1 Super Rod

1 Field Blower

 

3 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 14

9 Fighting

4 Strong

1 Beast p

Card Choices

Remoraid CIN

pokemon.comThis Remoraid is absolutely useless, obviously. You will never attack with it, but that is the case 99.9% of the time with any Remoraid you might choose to include in your deck. I have attacked with Remoraid once throughout the many, many tournaments that I have played one in my deck. But why take away the option of potentially having a useful attack in the deck? The answer is simple: Mew-EX. I value taking options away from my opponent who starts Mew-EX higher than I value the option that a different Remoraid may provide me. Going second, an opponent who starts Mew-EX would usually be able to take advantage of a Remoraid being in play by either discarding a Brooklet Hill, or getting Mew-EX out of harm’s way with Wild River.

3 N, 1 Cynthia

This was definitely the right supporter count at NAIC, as the only archetype this is worse against is Zoroark, and sometimes the extra hand disruption can help you out if you fall a bit behind. Going into the tournament, the biggest worries for our friend Buzzwole were Malamar and himself, in the form of Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor. Both decks are pretty weak against N in the late game, and can often run out of steam because of it. Since those decks were the scariest matchups, I decided to include three N in the list like my friends and I did in Mexico. It paid off there, and I am confident it would have been solid at the NAIC.

Field Blower

I had talked and talked about this tech a ton in my last couple of articles, and I was finally going to pull the trigger at NAIC. I would’ve had one copy of Field Blower in my deck had I played Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX, and I think that would have paid off quite a bit. Garbodor decks popped up a bit, Parallel City was in full force, and it would’ve given me a fantastic matchup against the Europeans playing control Zoroark.

Potential Inclusions

Copycat

You might be noticing that I really, really like Copycat. I think the card is not getting the attention it deserves right now, and it is certainly worth a try in an aggressive deck like this one. This deck essentially aims to draw as many cards as possible every turn, and use them to take whatever knockouts it can. It doesn’t usually care about the opponent’s hand size, so using a Copycat to draw additional cards shouldn’t bother it. For starters, I will be trying one Copycat and removing the third copy of N, but this is just temporary and not something I am committed to yet by any means.

4th Brooklet Hill, 2nd Remoraid

I lumped these inclusions together because I think they would help in swinging the Zoropod matchup in your favor. While I believe this deck is still great against a more normal Zoropod list, I have found it struggles against the more disruptive list that my friends and I played at NAIC. Part of that problem is that the deck needs to have a very smooth start in order to take control of the game. Additionally, Parallel City is quite a pain to deal with because you always need to find an immediate response, otherwise the Zoroark player will usually have a great opportunity to just run away with the game.

Zoroark decks also aim to knockout Remoraid/Octillery and keep it off the board, which is why the second Remoraid could go into the deck. Not only will you have multiple of them, which will make it a lot easier to keep in play, but you will also find it earlier and more often which is nice. As for the fourth Brooklet Hill, it will help deal with Parallel City by making it easier to find a counter stadium. Additionally, the fourth Brooklet Hill brings a bit of early game consistency to the table, and should help to smooth out the starts this deck gets.

The NA Spice – Yveltal BREAK

chipsprites.tumblr.com

This deck is definitely very cool, but I don’t have a ton of faith in it moving forward. That could just be because I haven’t played with the deck much, or because I am generally not a fan of the more gimmicky decks. However, I think that Shrine of Punishments could help the deck out quite a bit. I will definitely give the deck a try, but it is easily the deck in this article that I have the least confidence in.

Pokémon – 14

2 Yveltal BREAK

3 Yveltal XY

1 Yveltal SLG

2 Mewtwo EVO

2 Hoopa SLG

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Koko SM31

1 Latios SLG

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

4 Guzma

3 Cynthia

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Super Rod

 

1 Parallel City

Energy – 14

10 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

 

Card Choices

2 Yveltal BREAK

This is the main attacker in the deck, so it might seem to play only two copies. At first I was shocked by this low count, but after further review it seems fine to me. It is unlikely that more than two Yveltal BREAK would ever hit the field, especially all at once. The deck has Super Rod to make up for only having two copies, which can help make up for a prized BREAK or allow for a more consistent stream of them to happen in an ideal game. Yveltal BREAK is an incredible attacker, which is why the attack is so costly. For three Dark energy it does 120 damage to the active, and 30 damage to each of the opponent’s damaged bench Pokémon. This is why Tapu Koko is in the deck: just one Flying Flip makes Baleful Night an insane attack.

3 Yveltal XY, 1 Yveltal SLG

This version and James Arnold both played the Yveltal from Shining Legends! The Shining Legends is especially strong going first because you can use it to take a KO on turn two without missing out on Energy acceleration. I have to say, the Shining Legends Yveltal seems to make more sense in the Hoopa version of the deck just because of the Float Stones that are included. They make pulling off that hefty Oblivion Wing on turn two a much more realistic goal, which is when it’s at its best.

2 Mewtwo, 1 Latios, 1 Tapu Koko 2 Hoopa

These are the side attackers of the deck, and I have to be honest, I expect to remove the Latios for a second Tapu Koko after I play a few more games. Latios seems like it is generally good against only Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor, which this deck doesn’t have problems with regardless of that tech. Mewtwo is a great answer to baby Buzzwole, which is definitely a dominant force in the meta. Additionally, having Pokémon that attack for just a DCE in the deck is really nice due to how expensive Yveltal’s attacks are. Hoopa is why this deck was so good against what I played at the tournament, Zoropod, and other Zoroark-GX decks that struggled to KO even one Hoopa. Hoopa definitely isn’t a necessity in the deck, as James showed us with his day two placement. This has me wondering whether the Hoopa version is the best way to approach this deck moving forward.

Potential Inclusions

Reverse Valley

This card not only helps hit crucial numbers, but it provides a Parallel City counter. I understand that this deck needs minimal Pokémon in play to function, but having a Parallel City counter seems like something that could be useful. The crucial numbers that Reverse Valley helps to achieve, such as 130 to a baby Buzzwole is definitely something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Part of me wants to try this in place of the Parallel City that Travis and his friends played, but I know that it can be used to manipulate your board state and deny the opponent prizes, so I am hesitant.

Copycat

I actually put this card under potential inclusions to talk about why I am skeptical of this inclusion. I know this might be surprising at this point, but I actually don’t think Copycat will be great in this deck. The deck has no other draw power, and functions on minimal stuff, which makes me feel that playing a Copycat might just be too greedy for a deck like this. I will definitely still try it, but my expectations are low.

The EU Spice – Controlark

This is a deck that I recommend everyone try! I think it has a ton of potential for the World Championship. Losing its surprise factor definitely hurts the deck, but I also think the general concept of this deck is too good to ignore. It feels a lot like the deck should be built to handle the expected metagame, so perhaps the decklist could change pretty severely after players get some games in with it. I have definitely hyped this deck up a lot and still believe everyone should give this a try, but it is also a pretty difficult deck to play. This is a fair share of the reason why everyone should give it a try: I genuinely think that playing games with this deck will get you thinking and help you refine your gameplay.

Pokémon – 14

4 Zoroark-GX

4 Zorua SLG

4 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Mew-EX

1 Oranguru UPR

Trainers – 42

3 Brigette

3 N

3 Guzma

1 Cynthia

1 Mallow

1 Professor Sycamore

1 Acerola

1 Delinquent

1 Team Flare Grunt

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Evosoda

3 Enhanced Hammer

2 Max Potion

2 Field Blower

2 Counter Catcher

2 Weakness Policy

1 Float Stone

1 Rescue Stretcher

 

2 Parallel City

1 Reverse Valley

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

Card Choices

4 Tapu Lele-GX

I talked earlier about why I played a low Tapu Lele-GX count, but this deck operates much different than the deck I played. Due to an absence of a partner for Zoroark-GX, this deck has to play four Tapu Lele-GX so that it has enough basics for Riotous Beating. Having four Tapu Lele-GX also helps boost consistency a ton, which is something everyone loves to do.

Delinquent, Team Flare Grunt

These are the disruption supporters in the deck, and they are incredibly strong. Delinquent operates exactly like it does in Zoropod, where it can win games all by itself in different ways. As for Team Flare Grunt, it is great for keeping Grass Energy off of Golisopod-GX, and Fighting Energy off of Lycanroc-GX. This is because it can be used in conjunction with Counter Catcher, so no energy attachment on the board is truly safe.

3 Enhanced Hammer, 2 Max Potion, 2 Counter Catcher, 2 Parallel City

These are the disruption trainers in the deck, and arguably the most important part of the deck. I would certainly say that these cards are what make the deck what it is, and play a huge role in running the opponent out of resources. The Enhanced Hammers and Max Potions are obviously useful in a ton of situations, but they really shine against other Zoroark-GX decks, where you aim to run them low on resources and then take over the game.

Parallel City is useful against almost every deck in the format, including the entire big three, and especially Zoroark and Malamar decks that are very reliant on a huge bench. Against Buzzwole decks, Parallel City really helps to cripple their setup, as they usually need a big board to keep their draw power, in addition to multiple threats, in play. Using Parallel City in conjunction with a Counter Catcher or a Guzma, followed up by a knockout, will usually make things awkward for the opponent at the very least. Counter Catchers are especially good for keeping Octillery off the board and pressuring Lycanroc-GX before it gets out of hand. Both of which are crucial pieces to picking up a win against the powerhouse known as Buzzwole.

2 Weakness Policy

These are absolutely key against Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX and Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor. They are absolutely disgusting against Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor because the deck has no way to 1HKO a Zoroark-GX that has a Weakness Policy on it, other than Absorption-GX of course. Against Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX, Weakness Policy is still very strong, but it functions differently because the deck is focused on baby Buzzwole.

Buzzwole-GX will almost never struggle to KO a Zoroark-GX in this matchup, even if weakness Policy is involved. Not only does that deck have access to Pokémon like Diancie that increase damage output, but it also plays Choice Band instead of Fighting Fury Belt. However, the Weakness Policies are exploiting the fact that most lists only play one Buzzwole-GX, with the absolutely max being two nowadays. Including this card in the deck is really taking advantage of the fact that these Buzzwole decks usually don’t play Field Blower, which is something I think could change moving forward.

Rescue Stretcher

This is partially because of the aforementioned lack of basic Pokémon in the deck, but also because the Zoroark part of this deck is more important than ever before. Normally it would be okay for Zoroark to take a step back and let its partner handle everything, but this deck is fully reliant on having at least three Zoroark-GX in play. Rescue Stretcher helps make up for rough early games, where Zoruas die or Zoroarks are discarded. Additionally, Rescue Stretcher makes bad prizes much more manageable, especially when talking about prized Zoruas or Zoroarks. This inclusion makes the repeated use of Oranguru much more realistic because you can spend your Puzzle of Times on other cards, usually ones that disrupt the opponent in attempt to completely drain them of resources.

Potential Inclusions

Copycat

I have already talked about this card a ton in the article, and I think its potential is no exception here. I plan to try one Copycat instead of the third N, as I think drawing extra cards on an important turn sounds really strong in a deck that has so many powerful combos at its disposal.

Celestial Storm – Favorite Cards

While I did say this was going to be a list of my favorite cards, I will be taking a look at this cards from a competitive point of view. While I think the Ariados reprint is phenomenal and very nostalgic, I don’t think the card has a ton of potential in modern day. These cards might not all be used right away, but I see a ton of potential for them to be good at some point. This list is in no particular order.

1. Copycat: I haven’t heard everyone’s opinion on this card, but I also don’t see this card getting any love online. This is pretty surprising to me, because I think this card will be at least a one-of in most decks. Obviously Cynthia is a safer inclusion, but it is super unlikely that you will get stuck with Copycat as your only supporter in hand, and then have to play it for less than six cards. My thinking is that your opponent will have a couple turns in the game where their hand is greater than six cards, even seven does the job! This allows you to draw extra cards because of Copycat. This is especially true in decks that run multiple Tapu Lele-GX. Copycat is also obviously strong against Zoroark-GX decks, so it has that as an inherent advantage.

2. Shrine of Punishment: Obviously this deck has the potential to go into spread decks, such as the literal Tapu Koko spread deck, or something like Yveltal BREAK. I haven’t played with the card yet of course, but this card seems worth trying in more ways than one. After getting my lists refined for all of the popular decks, and forming opinions on all of the more streamlined stuff, I plan to try this card out in a few decks.

pokemon-paradijs.com3. Super Scoop Up: This is definitely a card that I don’t have an intended purpose for, but I feel like Super Scoop Up always finds a way to be relevant, even if it is just played in one solid deck. It might take some time, and I honestly don’t expect this card to be used successfully at Worlds, but I would be surprised if this card ends up going untouched from this point on.

4. Magcargo: At first, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this card. Parallel City makes it a lot harder to use, and I didn’t think straight Zoroark-GX was a truly viable option. First of all, Tord obviously proved me wrong with his NAIC run, which gave me a lot more confidence in the card. Additionally, Parallel City rotates after this year’s World championships, which really opens up the door for Magcargo and other bench sitters.

5. Banette-GX: The only thing holding this card back is the unfortunate Dark weakness it possesses. If it was weak to an irrelevant type, such as fairy for example, the card would be absolutely insane. It has a pretty solid ability and some great attacks, and having the option to include the non-GX Banette definitely helps its case. That being said, this is probably the riskiest inclusion to my favorite cards list, but I truly love this card and hope it pans out.

It might surprise you that Rayquaza-GX is not on my list! I have to be honest, I don’t have a ton of faith in the card, and I am certainly not a fan right off the bat. Randomly milling your own deck has never been a strong mechanic in the game, and the current meta has tons of different counters for this hyped up dragon. I am curious to see how Rayquaza-GX performs at worlds, and if the card becomes a force to be reckoned with in the future.


That is all for today everyone! Whether you were interested in hearing about some old decks and how they might fare in the new format, or if you are stoked on Celestial Storm, I hope you found some value in this article! I am extremely excited for the World Championships this year as always. I will be preparing as much as I can, but day one results will certainly play a role in my deck choice. I have been on a bit of a tear recently, and I am really hoping I can continue my streak at Worlds.

If you are going to be in Nashville, whether it is for the main event or the Nashville open, I wish you good luck and promise it will be an incredible experience. If you will be staying at home, I highly recommend watching the stream as much as possible! The World Championships is always super hype, and a few cool decks usually pop up over the course of the tournament.

If you’ll be in Nashville, feel free to come up and say hi! If not, I will be back here with another article next month!


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