Hey everyone! Kenny Wisdom here, excited to bring you my first article of the new season, and since the monumental rotation that occurred just a few weeks ago! I chose this date for my article as I knew that we’d all have a few weekends to get tournaments under our belts before playing in the first major event in North America—this weekend’s Regional Champioship in Philadelphia. I won’t claim to have everything figured out, but I’ve been toying with a lot of new ideas and I think I have a pretty good grasp on the format thus far. I’ll start with some introductory thoughts about current Standard, move onto a few ideas for beating the deck that is on everybody’s mind, and finally conclude with a few lists that I’d be considering playing were I going to Philly. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right to it.
Firstly, I’m a pretty big fan of this format as it stands. I think a lot of players were shocked at just how many of our favorite staple cards were removed from the format, leaving the game looking very different than it has in years. In fact, this is probably the largest shake-up to the Standard metagame ever, as a lot of the cards that have rotated have been around for five or more years. The play patterns we’ve all grown accustomed to over the past handful of years largely don’t exist anymore, and I’d like to take a second to highlight some of those, and talk about how you should think about them going forward.
This is probably the one that is at the forefront of most player’s minds, as it was such a reliable Supporter card for such a long time, and has left us all looking for a suitable replacement in it’s absence.
I immediately starting looking for cards to stand in for Brigette, and there are two obvious ones left in Standard: Pokémon Fan Club and Apricorn Maker. Pokémon Fan Club, while less flexible than Apricorn Maker, asks a lot less of you from a deckbuilding perspective. You know exactly what you’re going to get every time, even if that is ultimately unexciting. On the other hand, Apricorn Maker allows for a lot more flexibility, but also requires you to include a number of different Ball Cards in your deck, therefore taking up more slots in a way.
Ultimately, if you’re playing a deck that relies on having multiple Basic Pokémon on board in the early stages of the game (such as any deck involving Zoroark-GX), I think you’re better off playing Apricorn Maker. You want to be playing cards like Timer Ball and Ultra Ball anyway, so the more powerful effect comes at basically no downside. It’s a lot stronger to be able to Apricorn Maker and choose which cards you want to get based on your opening hand, perhaps fueling your Turn 2 and even Turn 3 plays, than to just get two Basic Pokémon regardless of the situation, as you would with Pokémon Fan Club.
There are options besides outright trying to replace your copies of Brigette, as well. As evidenced in the results of the recent events in Melbourne and Santa Catarina, some players are opting to forego this ability, and simply rely on draw Supporters or cards like Mysterious Treasure to set up their boards. I think this is the appropriate option for most non-Zoroark decks.
I’ll admit that I didn’t realize the hole that N was leaving in the format until one of my first PTCGO games with a Drampa-GX brew (that I now realize is horrendous), wherein my Metagross-GX opponent used Algorithm-GX and I had no way to interact with their hand. The same went for my own Big Wheel-GX a few turns later. I’ve often joked on coverage that these cards read “take 2 minutes off the match clock and force your opponent to play an N next turn,” a riff that I will sadly have to retire for the 2018-2019 season.
Overall, the lack of N hasn’t been felt nearly as much as the other points on this list. If you’re playing a deck that can afford to go down in cards for the sake of disrupting your opponent’s gameplan, there’s always Judge. I’ve been putting 1-2 copies in all of my Zoroark decks. I’ve found that even if you don’t play against something that’s trying to take advantage of a huge handsize like Metagross or Drampa, it’s still a powerful card in the right situation.
Still, Judge is not N, and even the most dedicated Zoroark-GX decks can’t afford to run that many copies. I think this is an instance where we’re all just going to have to adapt. Although I can’t say for sure whether or not the game is better without N, I am positive the game is better when it’s constantly changing and evolving, something that has been lacking over the past few seasons.
When the rotation was first announced, I suspected that the lack of Float Stone would quietly be the most jarring change for a lot of players. It’s been so easy to retreat for so long that I still remember seeing tweets and Facebook posts of new players shocked when they realized Keldeo-EX was rotating, and they no longer had a perfect retreating engine every game.
I immediately build most of my decks to include multiple copies of Switch, worrying that I was going to need a reliable way to move Pokémon in and out of the Active Spot. Although Float Stone’s absence is certainly felt, I believe that I overrated how important it was to the format, and how much of a detriment it would be not to have it in 2018 and beyond. Where did I go wrong? Not believing in the power of Guzma.
Guzma is an incredible card in a lot of ways. The Gust of Wind effect is one of the most powerful things you can be doing, and switching your active Pokémon is a benefit most of the time you play the card. This was all known during the previous format of course, and Guzma’s power level hasn’t exactly changed since then, but new parts of it are certainly taking the spotlight.
Float Stone is missed, but if you build your deck correctly, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting your desired Pokémon into the Active Spot. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that people are playing too few Tate & Liza, but I’ll save that argument for another day.
The Buzzwole Menace
The Baby Buzzwole/Shrine of Punishment deck first appeared on the radar a few weeks prior to the 2018 World Championship. Although the playerbase at large had mixed feelings on the deck, it made it’s presence known on both days of that tournament, putting up a dominant performance in Day 1 and putting a few players into the money on Day 2 as well. Looking back, it’s no surprise this deck turned out to be great. The combination of the early game aggression of Buzzwole and the late game 1HKO potential of Trashalance is obviously very powerful, especially when you have a card like Shrine of Punishment that is difficult to interact with and speeds up your clock so much. Although it didn’t put anyone into the Top 8, it was the talk of both days of the tournament, and it’s strength was clear.
Since rotation the deck was nowhere to be seen, with no copies appearing in the Top 32 of the Melbourne SPE. That all changed this past weekend in Santa Catarina Brazil, where it took a nearly unprecedented 7 of the Top 8 slots. Here’s a sample of the non-Weavile list, from second place finisher Samuel Jacques
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
First of all, this list is a thing of beauty. Very few techs, 4-ofs across the board. This deck has a game plan and it’s not interested in doing much else. It knows exactly the type of deck it is, exactly what it wants to be doing, and is built in such a way to allow that to happen as often as possible. I can’t help but look at a deck like this with joy. A work of art.
Now that this work of art has made it’s presence felt in the Sun & Moon-on era, I think the question that has been on a lot of player’s minds is: How do we deal with it? I’ve got a few answers for you, which I’ll order from the least to most evasive.
Manage your GXs and Items
This is very simple, maybe overly so, but I think it’s important to talk about. If you sleeve up a deck that doesn’t have a hard answer to Shrine of Punishment or Garbodor, it’s not as if you should just pack it in. Editing the way you play against a deck like this is just as, if not more important than editing your decklist to beat it.
The details here are pretty simple: Be mindful of how many GXs you’re playing down, and be aware of how Shrine of Punishment fixes your opponent’s KO math. Be aware of what can happen if your opponent has a Shrine that sticks for X or Y number of turns. That last part is easy enough, but the first can be very difficult to think about and implement. At some point, especially when playing a deck that benefits from having multiple GXs on the field at once (such as Zoroark-GX) you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and accept that if you can’t enact your gameplan, you’ve already lost. Be careful with your actions, but also keep in mind how likely you are to win in any given scenario.
The same basic rule can be applied to how many Items you’re playing over the course of the game. You’re certainly going to have to play some, but you should always know how many Items need to be in your discard pile for a Trashalanche to 1HKO your chosen attacker (remember to factor in Choice Band here as well!), and do everything in your power to play fewer than that for as many turns as you can.
There will come a point in nearly every game (especially the ones you don’t win very quickly/easily) where you’ve reached that number, and Trashalanche is now running wild. At this point, you should feel free to abandon all of your worries about playing Items, and instead focus on winning the game by whatever means necessary.
There are currently 13 non-Shrine of Punishment Stadium cards legal in Standard. While some of them are much, much better than others, they all have the second hidden mode of removing your opponent’s Shrine of Punishment and therefore saving your GX from accumulating damage counters. Here are a few of the Stadium cards that I think are reasonable:
This card already showed up in Shane Quinn’s Magnezone/Dusk Mane Necrozma deck from the finals of the Melbourne SPE as a way to recur precious M Energy from the discard pile. If you’re exploring any sort of Metal shenanigans, I would keep this card on your radar.
In my opinion, all Zoroark decks should be including some number of Devoured Field. The card is simply powerful in the archetype, and serving as a way to deal with opposing Shrines of Punishment is simply a bonus.
Perhaps the Stadium card that immediately jumped to everyone’s mind upon hearing about the success of Shrine of Punishment, Champion’s Festival not only removes Shrine from the board, but also directly deals with the damage counters that it leaves behind. Although this is an easy inclusion in a number of decks, it’s also important to note that having six Pokémon in play, especially in a world without Brigette, isn’t exactly free.
Lastly, if you want to take a very proactive role in beating the Big Bad Buzz, you can play cards that directly counter the deck’s primary strategy. After looking through the cards legal in Standard and talking with other players, I think the most powerful of which is Drifblim UPR 52.
It becomes trivial to Knock Out an attacker from the Buzzwole deck using Damage Transport after a few turns of Shrine of Punishment damage have left your board ravaged. When you factor in that Drifblim just actually removes the damage from your side of the board onto your opponent’s, this card is a no brainer in any GX-heavy deck that is already playing Double Colorless Energy.
Whether or not we need be specifically teching for this match up remains to be seen. It’s possible that this deck was just a reaction to the hype around Rayquaza-GX, and that it won’t be as successful now that it’s on everybody’s radar. Were I playing in Philly I can’t say that I would go so far as to pick up copies of Drifblim, but I would absolutely be prepared for the deck to make quite the showing.
Speaking of Philly, I want to conclude this article with a quick look at a few of the decks I’ve been testing in Standard in the lead up to this event. I’m confident that both of these lists are appropriately tuned for the expected metagame and would serve you well this weekend.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
Energy – 8
Although I’ve spent the majority of my time testing Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX and think it’s perhaps a more powerful deck, I’ve been playing a lot of Golisopod-GX recently and have come to understand the power of the card. The list is a little weird in all of it’s 1-ofs, a product of trying to maximize consistency while respecting both Rayquaza-GX decks and the Shrine of Punishment decks.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
This deck is where I started my exploration in the format and I can with a high degree of confidence that I would be playing something very close to this list were I in Pennsylvania this weekend. The list is pretty standard, with the usual Dedenne for Rayquaza, and a Multi Switch to help against Golisopod-GX, a match up I have been struggling with. I would like to fit another Devoured Field and Guzma in the list, but am at a loss for what to cut.
I’ve also tested my fair share of various Malamar and Rayquaza-GX decks, but haven’t felt confident enough in them yet to post a list and suggest that you play them. The decks are very clearly powerful and I’m sure taking one of the recent lists that has done well would lead to success in Philly, but I’m all Zoroark all the time right now.
Good luck to all of you playing this weekend. I’ll see you soon.
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