The Rotation Rendezvous

Examining the Supporter Situation, Pokémon Possibilities, and Zoroark/Garbodor for SM-on

Hello 6P! I’m back and settled in Mexico City after a crazy weekend in Nashville. The Pokémon World Championships are always a great time, where thousands of Pokémon fans meet and enjoy a weekend doing what we will love. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend yet, perhaps that’s the reason why you’re reading this right now and you want to give your best shot at getting an invite for Worlds 2019 in DC next season.

Whatever the reason, I’m excited to start yet another competitive season of Pokémon and share my knowledge, expertise and experiences with the Undergrounders. We’re still missing one key piece of information for next season, which is, “how many CP does each region need to qualify for Worlds?” We can make educated ‘common sense’ guesses, but ultimately, one must expect to perform at League Cups and Regionals at the very least if they want to qualify.

The Rotation Rundown

Concepts to Consider

So rotation just happened, and after 7 long years, for the first time we don’t have the ‘discard and draw 7’ effect that Professor Juniper or Sycamore provided, along with no more N. Those are the 2 biggest losses in terms of Supporters, as they’re both so incredibly good and have been around for very very long. So the question is: how do we adapt our decks and what are the major changes to the format?

Well, to start us off I want to talk about a couple of cards which we lost that will probably end up being beneficial to producing a more diverse metagame aside from the previously mentioned 2 cards.

First in my list of impactful cards that we lose is Parallel City. The mere existence of this card, let alone it being a staple in every Zoroark deck, pretty much, essentially made a lot of us discard new ideas simply because they were weak to Parallel City. Set up decks such as Metagross-GX or Gardevoir-GX, spread damage tactics, and many other bench-reliant strategies such as Naganadel-GX and Empoleon were immediately disregarded. Now, however, the card is gone and we are all able to play by the same 5 bench Pokémon rule (or 4, in case Roadblock Sudowoodo becomes popular), and all the above strategies, along with future ones, are now way more viable.

Second only to Parallel City is Garbodor BKT, with its Garbotoxin Ability. Any Ability reliant deck that tried to make an impact in the metagame always had to face off against an eventual Garbotoxin + N counter argument to its viability. That is no longer the case, and I’m sure a lot of people will be happy they don’t need to deal with that particularly nasty combo. The only real disrupting card we have is Judge, but playing off of 4+1 cards at the beginning of your turn is a lot less restrictive than 1+1 along with no Abilities at all.

Let me go in depth now at some of the new strategies we might see making a comeback or simply flourishing in this new format we are about to embark upon:

Metagross-GX – The 250 HP behemoth is in a great situation right now for several reasons, but mainly because no more Parallel City allows for extra Metagross to be set up more freely along with supporting casts of Dhelmise and Alolan Vulpix. No Ability lock means nothing stopping you from recycling Max Potions to heal any damage off and cycling between them, along with powering up Necrozma-GX or Ultra Necrozma-GX in order to score 1HKOs. Lack of N also means the GX attack becomes a much more powerful tool, as you are more likely to keep those 5 Algorithm cards.

Decidueye-GX – Pretty much same deal as Metagross, except with a more versatile Ability and probably combined with Zoroark-GX as its best partner. However, no Ability lock and no Parallel City means having 2-3 of these on the bench is actually something viable and potentially very good.

Gardevoir-GX – Either paired up with Zoroark-GX or Sylveon-GX, Gardevoir is very well poised to make a huge comeback as it is a pretty powerful card. Lack of N and low Judge counts means Sylveon-GX is a very attractive option to support Gardevoir, as the likelihood that you get to keep the 3 cards you Magical Ribboned for is very high. The lack of Octillery and Gallade hurts for sure, and makes the deck a bit more one dimensional, but Max Potion and Acerola to stream Gardevoirs and deny 1HKOs is more viable than ever.

Greninja-GX – Slightly inferior to Decidueye-GX in my eyes as there is a finite number of times you can use the Abilities. Still interesting nonetheless as it does have more offensive power in its Attacks and the option to reshuffle the card back into the deck after attacking means it’s self sustaining to an extent.

Shiftry-GX – Most likely combined with Zoroark-GX to ensure matching hand counts is easily done, Shiftry-GX will most likely be making a splash with its ridiculously high damage ceiling. The fact that the format is now slower makes Stage 2 Pokémon a lot more viable again and Shiftry’s powerful attacks earn it a spot in my future ‘to be tested’ list.

Naganadel-GX – No Parallel City means this card’s damage output isn’t almost cut in half by a single card, and the myriad of Ultra Beasts and Ultra Beast support cards means it’s likely we will be seeing this Pokémon paired up with Buzzwole-GX, Stakataka-GX and maybe even Xurkitree-GX.

Empoleon UPR– One of the most hyped cards to never see the light of day competitively, it might be in for its first showings as people will be benching Pokémon more freely and there is no Parallel City to disrupt its damage output harshly. Both the Water and Metal versions of this card hold potential at the moment.

Ludicolo CES – Combined with Magcargo, once again another card that can hit some good numbers as a non-Pokémon-GX, and combos well with Magcargo to revive the old LudiCargo archetype into a potentially viable one moving forward. Getting specific 1 or 2 cards you need every turn is nothing to scoff at, as you can play a Supporter past that point as well.

And, I genuinely think I could go on with another 10+ strategies that are now suddenly a lot more attractive than before. Having said that, the reality is that not all decks will be able to compete no matter how you end up building them, and thus I have a lot of testing to do to figure out which ones will be best by the time Philadelphia Regionals comes around.

All of these strategies are definitely worth exploring, but one big question is what Trainer engine to run in these decks in order to make them work? Now that Professor Sycamore and N are gone, we need to figure out what the optimal engines are in order to have our decks run adequately.

The Supporting Staff

After a few games of testing in the new format, I think these are some of the best Supporters and Item cards to include in almost any deck as we move forward:

Lillie – Not just as a one of, but 2-3 copies in order to increase the chances of drawing it early on, along with its later game use seems like a good call. Hand sizes aren’t as big as a I initially predicted them to be, and thus I’m leaning more toward this card than Copycat.

Apricorn Maker – When combined with heavy counts of Nest Ball, Ultra Ball and even Timer Ball, Apricorn Maker is a really good card to help thin out decks. I’m not a big fan of Timer Ball, but some decks probably won’t want to end up discarding too much with Ultra Ball. The combination with Nest Ball and thinning 4 cards out of the deck after using it is very appealing and should find its way into decks that aren’t super tight on space.

Pokémon Fan Club – The opposite to Apricorn Maker, as it doesn’t thin nearly as much, but it does reduce Item usage by simply directly searching for the Pokémon. Another benefit is putting the Pokémon in hand, which can sometimes be relevant when trying to get a follow up Tapu Lele-GX or using an Ability such as Kartana-GX’s Slice Off.

Cynthia – Of course, this now stands as the best Supporter we can play, I’m assuming 3-4 copies will be put in every deck.

Guzma – Again, one of the best cards at the moment and thus 3-4 counts should be expected in almost every deck.

Judge – The best way to potentially disrupt your opponent’s hand, but not quite as oppressive as N. Zoroark decks will be the best ones to utilize this in, but every other deck probably wants 1-2 copies for that crucial turn in which you want to decrease the chances of your opponent finding the perfect cards.

Steven’s Resolve – Every deck can Magical Ribbon? This card as a 1 or 2-of seems pretty good, especially in decks like VikaBulu, Magnezone or Metagross which love a turn 2 Stage 2. Immediate search for Rare Candy, the Stage 2 and a draw Supporter for next turn? Sounds beautiful. Of course, your opponent might go out of their way to Judge you.

Tate & Liza – The versatility that this card provides is really good, and I expect at least 1-of copies to be included in many decks. You never know when the Switching effect will be good, and at worst it can be a slightly less good Cynthia.

Copycat – At first I thought this card would be a huge staple in the format, as it used to be 14 years ago. However, I’ve found myself cutting copies down to 1 or 0 in most decks, simply because it has been netting me overall less cards than Cynthia, Tate & Liza and even Judge. I bought 20 copies of this card expecting it to be a staple and I think it’s gonna stay in my binder for a little longer.

Zoroark/Garbodor Rebuilt

Rotation? What rotation?

And so, with all of this, I think we have a great introduction to the SM-on format. Philadelphia Regionals is in around 2 weeks time, and I’ll be at a wedding the day before, so it’ll be an interesting tournament experience for me. I only started playing SM-on after Worlds, but so far I haven’t seen anything telling me not to play Zoroark-GX/Garbodor. I’ve adapted the Worlds winning list to SM-on and played a few games both on stream, my own practice and in coaching sessions, and this is where my list currently stands at:

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

3 Trubbish GRI

2 Garbodor GRI

1 Kartana-GX

1 Oranguru UPR

1 Tapu Koko SM31

Trainers – 33

3 Cynthia

3 Guzma

3 Judge

2 Acerola

2 Pokémon Fan Club

1 Apricorn Maker

1 Mallow


3 Mysterious Treasure

3 Nest Ball

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Timer Ball

1 Counter Catcher

1 Escape Rope

1 Field Blower

1 Pal Pad

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Switch

2 Choice Band

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless

2 Unit LPM

2 P

There are a lot of things going on in this list, most of which are personal preference as well, and surprised me that they were not included in Robin’s list, such as Counter Catcher.

I have a split of Apricorn Maker and Pokémon Fan Club. Both are good in their own way, but Zoroark is not too concerned with a lot of thinning early on as it does have Trade. Apricron Maker gives you an out later in the game to search for Timer Balls, which can then in turn get you a Zoroark-GX or Garbodor. Pokémon Fan Club, on the other hand, allows you to be more conservative on the Item count, which can be especially important if this deck stays as competitive and popular as I expect it to be.

3 Cynthia, 3 Guzma and 3 Judge feels like will be standard in most Zoroark decks. Zoroark is the best card to ‘abuse’ Judge with, as you can always find cards to trade away and get an advantage that way by denying resources. Cynthia and Guzma will be staples in pretty much every deck, and I’d be running a 4th Guzma if it not were for the 1-of Counter Catcher which I love. 1 Mallow is also included in order to ensure you get the correct cards in any given turn, and it’s power with Counter Catcher is unmatched.

2 Enhanced Hammer + Kartana-GX is incredibly good as it is a lot of Special Energy denial, and with Puzzles of Time gone, recovering those becomes really difficult at any given point. This is also the reason why I have a split of Basic P Energy and the Unit Energy, to be less susceptible to Special Energy removal.

No more Garbotoxin or Parallel City means just 1 Field Blower has been fine, but extra copies would be nice as it does power up Trashalanche. 2 is probably the better number, but I’m currently at 1 until we see how the metagame develops further.

Double Acerola is important for possible Zoroark mirrors. While before 1 would be enough, without Puzzles, we do need extra copies of our Supporters—so much so, that we’re also playing a copy of Pal Pad to be able to reuse Guzma and Acerola toward the end of the game.

As I am writing this, I have not tested a deck as in depth as this one so far, and it’s been working great. With the perceived ‘slower meta’ that we are approaching, I think Zoroark is still going to be one of the strongest contenders, if not the strongest. It mostly comes down to its Ability and the fact that its natural counter, Buzzwole/Lycanroc decks, is now extremely weakened after the loss of Max Elixir, Strong Energy and Octillery.

Next up in my list for testing are Zoroark/Lycanroc and Metagross/Ultra Necrozma. Lycanroc will always be extremely powerful, but the slower meta definitely favors the super late-game decks such as Metagross.

And with that, I will be seeing you guys again after Philly, after we have SM-on in full swing and results from THREE different major events to look at and analyze. Thanks for reading as always!

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