Hey everyone! You’re probably excited to read another article about today’s wonderful Standard format! I’ve had my reservations about Standard because it lacks my two favorite cards, Garbodor BKP and N—no sarcasm. They add comeback potential and prevents Ability-heavy decks from running rampant. I argue that this describes our Standard quite well, and therefore the format is unappealing in my eyes. However, I know many people prefer this kind of format than what we had at Worlds, or even earlier in the year. A format without counter-play is good in some ways, but also atrocious in others. Games aren’t lost by N, but that means a strong start is required to win a game. Moreover, a bad start is incredibly more detrimental now than it was before.
I’m going to be looking at an archetype that carried over from last format, non-GX/Shrine of Punishment. The non-GX can be filled by multiple things, with Buzzwole FLI, Weavile UPR, Garbodor GRI, and Hoopa SLG being the most popular options at the moment. I think Buzzwole and Weavile are the strongest two because they complement each other nicely. Buzzwole is a great attacker early in the game, but also packs a big punch with Sledgehammer. On the contrary, Weavile is the mid-game beast that crushes the Ability-based decks.
It’s also good for me to explain why I dislike the other two. In short, Hoopa is too easy to play around and is difficult to set up without Max Elixir. Many decks are running multiple copies of non-Pokémon-GX, in some form or another. Zoroark-GX decks have Tapu Koko, which can become somewhat of a pain depending on how slow your start is. But in general, the problem is no Max Elixir. Hoopa will always take two attachments, which means other Pokémon are easy picking when your board is clear of Energy. If Hoopa is to truly shine, I think it’s on its own rather than paired with any of the above partners.
Garbodor GRI seems great in the format of Item engines without Brigette, but once again, it’s easy to play around. Many decks are fine once they set up, and that leaves very little reason to continue to play Items. In the Worlds deck, Buzzwole FLI was able to pressure because of the 70 damage output in that format. Without Strong Energy, its damage is smaller and can be contained. Also, Garbodor GRI falls to Zoroark easily. A Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX with a counter to Shrine of Punishment should match up quite nicely against Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 38
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 9
4 Unit FDY
1 Beast p
Here’s what I’ve come up with. A lot of the list is traditional, but there are a couple of differences from other lists. First, I’m unsure of Magcargo’s place in this deck. It seems amazing when paired with Acro Bike and Oranguru SUM, but those 4 spots can be allocated elsewhere. The 3-3 Weavile line, Energy Loto, and Marshadow are all conveniences available because of the extra space. These changes smooth the deck over, but in a different manner.
4 Buzzwole, 3-3 Weavile
Simply put, these are the main attackers. I run 4 Buzzwole because it’s the best starter by a large margin. Anything else is incredibly frail and falls to a T2 Riotous Beating easily. Also, I choose not to play Regirock CES because the 10 health matters more than the potential extra 10 damage. It also means that Beast Energy p will always have a target whenever I’d want to attack with a Fighting Pokémon. Regirock could be added to improve the matchup against Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine, but there are other means of doing that, like with Banette-GX. That would alter the deck much more and require Rainbow Energy, though.
3-3 Weavile is great because it prevents me from having bad Prizes. If I play 2-2 and prize a Sneasel, the opponent can stop me from ever attacking with Weavile. Weavile is a much stronger attacker than Buzzwole, even against Zoroark-GX, so it’s essential that it becomes online eventually. The 3-3 line also allows me to draw it more quickly than I would before, meaning that I don’t have to expend resources to search for it. Acro Bike and Ultra Ball are last resorts, and serve a much better purpose: thinning the hand/deck for the late-game. It’s costly to use those cards frantically in search of easy but key cards like Weavile, Diancie p, or Unit FDY.
Marshadow adds a key strength to this deck: hand disruption. Like Rayquaza-GX/Vikavolt, it also allows it to see more cards in a turn to improve odds of drawing a specific card. In any case, it’s great to have as Ultra Ball insurance without Tapu Lele-GX. It’s an all around solid card that I’m surprised hasn’t made its way into more decks. For Buzzwole/Weavile, there is plenty of Bench space so it’s not a problem to Bench it or start with it.
Professor Kukui is one of the best cards in the deck and makes up for the loss of Strong Energy. Its damage boost pushes Weavile and Buzzwole over the edge in terms of scoring 1HKOs. Against Zoroark-GX, 3 Abilities becomes the lethal zone against a clean Zoroark-GX because of Professor Kukui + Choice Band + Shrine of Punishment. Buzzwole can 1HKO Zoroark-GX with only a Shrine, Choice Band, and Diancie p as well. When playing against non-GX decks, I’m completely scared of Professor Kukui because its the best way for them to trade favorably. The 3rd copy greatly increases the probability of drawing it while also reducing the reliance on Pal Pad.
In some ways, the 3rd Professor Kukui has a surprise factor. With multiple lists doing well with only 2, the opponent may expect that many and play to those numbers. the 3rd copy may win you the game outright, just like playing Giratina XY187 against a Greninja BREAK or Trevenant BREAK deck in Expanded.
Despite the lack of Magcargo CES, Acro Bike has a place in the deck. As said previously with Marshadow, it allows me to see more cards in a given turn than possible with only the use of a Supporter. In the deckbuilding process, Acro Bike acts as filler because it doesn’t have great card efficiency, but is great when there isn’t any card there to be added. I’d rather play a 57 card than a 60 card deck with 3 Acro Bike if there isn’t any other synergy. However, 1. that’s not legal, and 2. there are likely 3 better cards I have yet to find to replace these slots. As of now, Acro Bike works well as lubricant for the deck’s engine.
Energy Loto is great because missing Unit Energy FDY to attack with Weavile is bad. Simple, right? A majority of the swing turns come from the hands of Weavile or a 4 Prize Sledgehammer, so it’s great to have another card to get that right Energy. I prefer Energy Loto over D Energy because it’s more versatile and 9 is the right amount. In a pinch, Energy Loto can get F Energy, but also works just as well in getting Beast Energy p for swing turns.
1 Pal Pad
Pal Pad is something I saw in the list from the Santa Catarina list. It’s uses are obvious, yet worthwhile for a single slot. It’s great for recycling Guzma and Professor Kukui that are used quickly. At the very least, it acts as Acro Bike insurance and increases the deck’s consistency after turn 3.
In general, the gameplan is to attack with Buzzwole FLI at the beginning and use Weavile UPR at opportune times. Typically, Evil Admonition is used to clean up KOs after a softening from Shrine of Punishment or Sledgehammer. It hard carries certain matchups, like Metagross-GX, Malamar, and Vikavolt/Rayquaza-GX. Even if Evil Admonition isn’t taking a 1HKO, it’s still worthwhile to attack with it whenever possible. Acerola can ruin things by picking up Tapu Lele-GX or other heavily damaged Pokémon, so make use of the damage while you can.
The matchup against Zoroark-GX is generally the same regardless of their sidekick. It’s a very favorable matchup regardless, but becomes even easier if the sidekick has an Ability, like Lycanroc-GX or Banette-GX. The trick in this matchup is to spam them with Buzzwole FLI because it’s usually 2HKOd or forces them to waste Devoured Field or Professor Kukui early in the game. The Tapu Lele-GX they Bench will be the biggest threat, but make sure to take 1HKOs or plan damage accordingly. Acerola is their best countermeasure to Shrine of Punishment or residual damage.
If possible, always have 2 Sneasel/Weavile in play. This ensures that they cannot completely prevent an Evil Admonition for a turn. Buzzwole FLI does great work against Zoroark-GX, but can be rolled over by Lycanroc-GX or Golisopod-GX with Professor Kukui. Bloodthirsty Eyes is incredible at dismantling your Bench, so even be wary of benching Diancie p with little impact. Ideally, you play Diancie p to take 2 Prizes while your opponent is at 4 Prizes. This means that if they target the Diancie p, you’ll already have a Buzzwole FLI with an Energy ready to swing with.
Marshadow SLG is another key resource in this matchup. It’s best to save it as a last resort card draw when you miss the crucial card on your turn. As the favorable deck, you want to try and maintain your lead as much as possible. There’s no need to disrupt the opponent’s hand size unless they’re threatening to win the game. Needless to say, Zoroark-GX is the most consistent deck anyway so the 4 cards they get, with Trade, should be able to find whatever they need.
Against Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX, focus on threatening Weavile while hitting aggressively with Buzzwole FLI. The goal is to 2HKO a Golisopod-GX with Buzzwole FLI, forcing them to use Professor Kukui to take a 1HKO in return. If you do a measly amount of damage, like 60, then they can use Professor Kukui safely and Acerola in the following turn. If they play well, they may only have 1 Zoroark-GX in play. It’s somewhat good to target it if there’s nothing better to do, as it may force them to evolve another or run out of steam.
Importantly, don’t target Tapu Lele-GX in this matchup. They’re easier to kill with Weavile UPR than a Zoroark-GX, but you’ll quickly regret it later. Use them as tokens to fuel Evil Admonition for when your opponent has too many Pokémon in play. But as always, use your best judgement as to when you want to switch into a Prize race mode. If you can KO a Tapu Lele-GX, go down to 2 Prizes, and reasonably win on the following turn, go for it! There’s no reason to prolong games or attempt to win fashionably with a cool Shrine of Punishment turn. Remember that you only play non-Pokémon-GX; your opponent cannot win any quicker than the number of Prizes they have left (barring hijinks of course.)
Weavile is the MVP in this matchup because it hits a majority of their Pokémon for Weakness. Ultra Necrozma-GX is the more popular version, but Necrozma-GX and Shining Lugia exist as well. The matchups vs. 2 Prize versions are fairly easy because Shrine of Punishment + Choice Banded Sledgehammer are absolutely insane at trading evenly. Their deck requires Malamar, so Weavile will eventually take a 1HKO and swing the game.
However, the matchup against Shining Lugia is much different. They run a surplus of single-Prize attackers that are about as strong as yours. This is a match of Weavile vs. whatever they have, but Buzzwole plays the part of weaving itself in to take Prizes with Guzma or whatever else. Sledgehammer is a key turn that can score 1-2 Prizes depending on what the opponent has in play. However, be careful not to take a Tapu Lele-GX prematurely. Even if you go down to 2-3 Prizes with that, the final Prizes will be much more difficult to take if the opponent only has 1-2 Abilities in play. It’s much better to KO the Shining Lugia every turn, forcing them to have at least 2 Malamar in play. The final Ability can come from the Tapu Lele-GX, Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, or whatever else they started with/were forced to bench.
This matchup is extremely intricate, as I was playing from the other side at a League Cup. My opponent played Hoopa/Weavile, so it was a bit different, but similar enough that I felt uncomfortable against it. Anytime the opponent uses Rayquaza-GX, immediately retaliate with Choice Band + Shrine of Punishment. The goal is to KO Vikavolts because they’re costly to set up and will do a majority of the attacking. If the opponent doesn’t attack with Vikavolt repeatedly, then Weavile should be able to 1HKO each Rayquaza-GX they promote.
A timely Marshadow can win this matchup if you pair it alongside a KO on their lone Vikavolt. In my match, I was forced to keep only one Vikavolt in play because I had a Tapu Lele-GX I started with. If I had evolved another or gone into Rayquaza-GX, he could blow me up with Evil Admonition.
In this matchup, the key is to use Buzzwole FLI as much as possible. Weavile is relatively useless unless they evolve into Magcargo and some other Ability Pokémon, like Lycanroc. It’s also helpful if they have to bench a Tapu Lele-GX at some point. The goal is to trade as evenly as possible while planning for Sledgehammer. You want to maximize its damage, meaning you want to always take 2 Prizes with it at one time. If you soften up their only GX in play down to 100 or so when they go to 4 Prizes, you’re doing a bad job. A Guzma to tag the Buzzwole FLI they’ll attack with on the following turn would’ve been smarter.
Vs. Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine of Punishment
This is the worst matchup because their sidekick is Psychic type and hits for a lot, while your sidekick does absolutely nothing. Only Oranguru and Diancie p have Abilities, but I trust that your opponent won’t bench them. Their Trashalanche 1HKOs anything impotant after 4-5 Items, so once that happens it’s practically over. The only hope is to play fewer than that many while maintaining pace throughout the game.
An Oranguru UPR could be added theoretically, but in practice wouldn’t work. It gives up a Prize at the cost of 3 Items, but even then you’re losing the Buzzwole vs. Buzzwole war. Once you go up to 2 Items, the opponent can reasonably attack with Garbodor GRI because it effectively 2HKOs.
The Counter: Champion’s Festival
Now that there’s large hype around Shrine of Punishment, and that there’s no reason to run Field Blower, will Champion’s Festival see play? I’m completely not sure myself because it depends on the deck it goes in. In most decks, a full field would mean many Abilities in play for Weavile to take advantage of. However, this doesn’t matter against the Garbodor GRI version of Shrine.dec. I think Champion’s Festival might emerge in some Zororoc lists, but not in anything else. Other decks have amazing stadiums of choice—even Zororoc does—but there’s not much past that. In all honesty, Champion’s Festival might not even work there because Devoured Field is necessary to easily hit 130 against Buzzwole FLI.
Shrine of Punishment decks are great in the post-rotation meta because they can trade effectively and counter all GX decks. The Weavile version has stronger matchups than Garbodor GRI against everything except other Shrine decks. The Garbodor version is more well-rounded and has closer matchups vs. everything, including mirror.
That’s all for today. I’ll be in Philly, the first Regionals of the year. It’s always exciting to start the season fresh with a minuscule amount of points. I’m currently at a whopping 12 Championship Points, so I’m not really looking too good for T16 at the moment. There will be plenty of tournaments to bolster that total in time, though.
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
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