Hey all! I’m fresh off participating in Philadelphia Regionals and ready to share some lessons with you! The tournament did not go super well for me, but I had a good time none the less. I did not get a ton of time to test in between Worlds and this tournament, as the new school year has started. The huge shift in the format is really cool and I was excited to see what the direction the game was heading in without cards like Professor Sycamore and Parallel City.
In the time I did get to play, I mostly tested Zoroark decks. They felt like the most well-rounded heading into a still relatively young metagame. I was mostly set on a Zoroark/Weavile list that, though it kept fluctuating, would have looked like this at registration time:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 8
2 Unit FDY
The Magcargo line was a 1-1 Garbodor line for a while, but I was convinced by some people to swap it for Magcargo. I still think a thin line of Garbodor is pretty good in Zoroark, as evidenced by Xander’s run to the semi-finals. I had this deck submitted as of 7:30am Saturday morning, but was convinced to switch, as I’ll discuss below. Before that, I’d like to highlight a few other things in the list:
- Tapu Koko, Oranguru, and Tapu Lele are all pretty good basics to play in a Zoroark deck. I think Oranguru is the most cuttable, but I had a fear of decks bringing four Enhanced Hammer to combat Zoroark, as I think that’s a pretty effective strategy against many Zoroark decks now (more on this later!). In hindsight, Oranguru would have been silly to play in the tournament. Tapu Lele is good against Rayquaza decks and they continued to do well, so I would have been happy with that inclusion. Finally, Koko gives you a chance to soften things up and is just generally an amazing card right now. My only reservation in playing it is that committing a DCE to a Koko in this format can be rough, with only a limited amount of Energy to attack with.
- Three Acerola, three Devoured Field, and Weakness Policy was a nod to the Buzz/Shrine decks. With this combination, I felt comfortable in the matchup, as we could cycle through Zoroarks and not worry about getting 1HKOed. Three Devoured Field gave us the ability to 1HKO Buzzwoles and often have the counter stadium against Shrine. We did see Caleb win with a Field Blower in his list, however, so I am skeptical that Weakness Policy will be as potent going forward. It should be noted that throwing a Weakness Policy on a Sneasel or Weavile is quite effective against these decks as well, as Weavile can often get 1HKOs in these matchups. Finally, Policy can be good against ZoroRoc, protecting your Zoroarks from getting mowed through.
- I opted to play a couple extra draw supporters, no Apricorn Maker or Fan Club, and one less Ball then a lot of lists. This was a nod to Garbodor, as I found it pretty easy to find yourself in a spot where Trashalanche was taking 1HKOs in the late game. Lillie on turn one is often just as good or better than Fan Club or Apricorn on turn one as well.
- The Energy line is a bit odd. I played a single Darkness in fear of Mismagius’s Chaos Wheel and a single Rainbow to have access to Tapu Cure-GX. Both of these are probably too niche-case, but that was my thought process.
So while I didn’t end up playing this, I still think the deck is pretty solid. It has a pretty close matchup against ZoroRoc, but against a top player it is probably unfavored. It does boast the strongest Rayquaza matchup of any Zoroark deck in my opinion, while also having one of the strongest Buzz/Shrine matchups; though that may change if Field Blowers become staple in these decks. Finally, Malamar is generally a good matchup as you can punish them for setting up a bunch of Malamar, and if they have to play Tapu Lele-GX down at some point. Marshadow also fuels your Evil Admonition. I think this list would have a very good matchup against Rukan’s second place list.
Now, what did I play? Well, after helping my friend Peter Kica with some math on PokéNav during the week, he sent me a deck he had been hyping up at 11pm the night before the tournament. I was pretty set on Zoroark, but was not super stoked to play it. I slept on the idea of switching and woke up with a feeling of “why not?” Here is the list I submitted for Philadelphia Regionals:
Pokémon – 10
1 Deoxys CES
Trainers – 41
Energy – 9
The list sent to me had a 4th Shrine over the 4th Band, but I said I was going to make that switch and then most people did. Choice Band allows us to 1HKO Zoroark through Weakness Policy, which I thought would be a big deal in the matchup.
Here were my matches:
R1 vs Malamar/Ultra Necrozma LL
R2 vs Weavile/Garbodor/Hoopa/Shrine WW
R3 vs Buzzwole/Weavile/Shrine WW
R4 vs Zoroark/Golisopod WW
R5 vs Gardevoir/Sylveon WLT
R6 vs Zoroark/Lycanroc WLW (Geoff Sauk)
R7 vs Vikavolt/Rayquaza/3 Shining Lugia LWL (Andrew Mahone)
R8 vs Vikavolt/Rayquaza/2 Shining Lugia WLT
R9 vs Buzzwole/Lycanroc LL
Round one had me playing one or two draw supporters in both games combined – a great way to start when I had played exactly zero games with the deck. The next three rounds went pretty smoothly, as I learned how to play, drew decently well, and got pretty good matchups.
Round five ended a bit unfortunate: in both games I prized two Passimian, and yet I won a close game one and was on track to win a close game two. At the end of game two I KO a Sylveon to go down to 2 Prizes and if I hit my second Passimian I immediately win the game. Unfortunately it is in my last 2 Prizes. Even so, I still win the game if my opponent does not hit his last DCE off a Cynthia with about 20 cards left in deck. Alas, he does, and we do not even have time to set up for game three.
Round six saw another good matchup. Round seven against Andrew Mahone was a nail biter. He won a pretty decisive game one where I conceded fairly early. I got a much better start in game three and was able to take some prizes before he got set up. At 3-6, Andrew scooped, though it was uncertain if I would have won. After the match Andrew said he felt comfortable with the matchup and did not want to end up losing a close game just for us to end up tying the series. Game three ended up coming down to the wire, where I was able to respond to multiple Lugia via Mimikyu+Counter Energy and then transitioned to using Flying Flip enough times to accumulate a significant amount of damage on the board. With 2 Prizes left he Guzma’d out my Fairy Tapu Lele and took a KO on it, as I would have been able to move enough damage around to KO both Lugia that had the rest of his Energy. On my last turn, I had to hit my 4th Rescue Stretcher and a Counter Energy to get the Magical Swap off, but missed it off my Cynthia. Though I wouldn’t have won immediately, I think this would have won me the game in a few turns.
Round seven ended up playing out quite similarly to my series with Andrew, with both of the first two games coming down to the wire. We didn’t have time to set up for game three. Although this knocked us out of Day 2 contention, we knew we could still get points. Unfortunately for me, some more poor draws in already iffy matchup knocked me right out of Championship Point contention.
Though the deck was fun, I think its lack of an ability-based draw Pokémon significantly hurts it. Though I mentioned Magcargo before the event, Peter told me we didn’t have the bench space. After playing the deck for nine rounds, I agree with that, but still missed the effect of Smooth Over. Oranguru would not be as useful in this, as it is quite difficult to thin your hand – you need to hold so many cards over the course of a game. On a similar note – and a positive for the deck – is the lack of Parallel City in the format. Passimian really needs at least four bench spots to work properly and my bench was frequently full throughout the tournament.
I do not think this particular deck has much of a place in the meta going forward. If you are curious on specific cards played in the deck – there are lots of interesting ones – please feel free to reach out and I can tell you how they are useful. Ultimately, though, while cards like PokéNav and Underground Expedition are cute and actually good in a deck like this, they are overall weaker cards than what is in my most decks and should probably not find their way into many other decks.
Molding Something New
Many players that used this deck commented on how often we felt like a Tapu Koko deck with Passimian splashed in. Utilizing Tapu Koko to spread a lot of damage, activating Counter Energy, and then pressuring down things with Passimians later on was the main line the deck took. After the event, Russell and I were talking about how we just wanted to play a more dedicated Tapu Koko deck. I’m a bit wary of losing the pressure of Passimian, but I think the idea has a lot of merit. The main matchup where Passimian attacking is strong is Zoroark, so I’ve included four Enhanced Hammer to pressure their Energy. Without Special Charge or Puzzle in the format, if they do not play Oranguru, those four DCE are all they have. Let’s take a look at a draft list:
Pokémon – 17
1 Deoxys CES
Trainers – 33
Energy – 10
Something like this feels like it could have a place in the format. The list is definitely a first draft, but the idea is sound. Flying Flip puts a lot of pressure on a lot of decks and can force them to play things they might not want to. I took some ideas from Caleb’s winning list and combined them with things from the Passimian list. Deoxys and Mimikyu both felt like solid attackers in random situations, but they certainly are cuttable. Switching cards could be good, but I am less worried about it than in Buzzwole-centric Shrine decks.
- Zoroark decks need to bench a bunch of Pokémon to 1HKO Tapu Koko, so Flying Flip is dealing 100+ damage almost every time. With four Enhanced Hammer, we force them to constantly dig for their Energy. Lycanroc can be a pain to deal with as they do not have to bench as many Pokémon, but if they do not have multiple Zoroark out, they are likely to miss attacks with our Enhanced Hammer pressure. If the matchup still ends up being shaky, we can add a Shaymin SHL in order to 1HKO Lycanrocs. As the game goes on and they are forced to dig for DCE, we have Garbodor to punish the items they will inevitably have to discard. Sudowoodo might be nice for this matchup as well, though it’s a bit counterintuitive in a spread deck.
- Buzz/Shrine decks also need to bench a lot of Pokémon – the same set up Pokémon we do. This lets Flying Flip be a real threat. We can also Guzma up Diancie or Magcargo and force them to find ways to get these Pokémon out of the active. Without Beast Energy or Professor Kukui Buzzwole is not 1HKOing Tapu Koko, so a single Enhanced Hammer forces them to find Kukui to find 1HKOs as well. At some point Garbodor can 1HKO any significant threat as well. Four Enhanced Hammer in this matchup is very strong as well.
- Perhaps ironically, I am most worried about the Vikavolt matchup for this deck. It feels like Shrine decks were built to combat VikaRay, but they have adapted now and pose a real threat to a deck like this. With Dhelmise or Shining Lugia they do not need to bench that many Pokémon, so Flying Flip isn’t doing enough damage to pose a significant threat. Instead, we have to rely on Mimikyu to Copycat their Lugia/Dhelmise and take reactive 1HKOs. With Magcargo it shouldn’t be too hard to find the Counter Energies when we need them, but the problem becomes how to close out the game. Hopefully they have to play enough items where Garbodor can end up taking out a Vikavolt or something to win the game. Another route could be to use the damage from Flying Flips from the early game or random ones throughout the game to Magical Swap to finish the game or at least KO important Pokémon so that Garbodor can then finish out the game.
- Malamar decks do not have a great response to Tapu Koko. They can set up a Dawn Wings Necrozma to 1HKO, but they usually have to bench a few Pokémon along the way. If they really just go for a straight Dawn Wings, Mimikyu can copy Dark Flash for 150 as long as it has a Choice Band, which means just a residual 30 damage from a Flying Flip and/or Shrine damage is enough to finish it off. And if they don’t have Malamars online to help them recover, you will have alleviated the pressure for a bit, allowing you to pressure in other ways.
- Other matchups, such as Metagross, Magnezone, or Gardevoir, will require early Koko pressure and Shrine damage to accumulate. This will help set up Garbodor KOs or allow you to Magical Swap at some point during the game. Some of these matchups can be rough if they set up well without too many resources being burned or Pokémon being benched, but these decks tend to beat any deck when they set up in such a way.
Some final thoughts on the current format:
- The lack of N is really noticeable. Unless you are playing a single prize attacker deck, you really don’t have much of a shot if you go down in prizes. Zoroark and Rayquaza mirrors are often determined by whoever gets the first knockout. Buzzwole/Shrine mirrors are not too different in this regard as well. I hope that as new cards come out there are more options to play from behind, as right now it feels pretty hard to mount comebacks.
- Parallel City’s rotation has had a huge impact on how decks are built. Shrine decks for example are able to fit as many as three or four supporting Pokémon on their bench while still keeping one or two attackers at the ready. Especially in a format with less-than-stellar Supporter draw, this is supremely helpful in aiding consistency. Sudowoodo should probably be played more often as it can take advantage of this space.
- I want to only play decks with Ability-based draw/search support. After playing Passimian I feel like the best decks will all run Zoroark-GX or Magcargo, with a few exceptions. VikaRay having access to Tempest and thinning its deck every turn makes it viable even without these Pokémon. Some other Stage 2 decks can get away without running Magcargo, like Metagross, but even something like Magnezone should heavily consider running it. Until we get better draw supporters I will not play a deck without Zoroark-GX or Magcargo.
- Buzzwole/Lycanroc feels potentially underplayed right now. I haven’t given the deck much testing, but I was pretty impressed by the results of Zach Bokhari and just in the one set I played against it in the tournament. It should dismantle Zoroark/Lycanroc, take a solid matchup against Vikavolt decks – especially if they are skimping on the Rayquaza counts in favor of Dhelmise or Lugia – and has a decent Buzz/Shrine matchup. Malamar is the only topdeck that should definitely be favored against it.
- Overall, I think the format is still pretty open for people to innovate. I am not in love with the format – I never am at the beginning of the season with a smaller card pool – but it certainly has potential with so many holes poked into from the rotation of powerful cards.
I am not sure how much I will play this year. Philly Regionals was the closest one to me and the next closest is Virginia during Thanksgiving weekend, which I will probably miss due to wanting to spend time with family. Dallas, North Carolina, and Collinsville have potential, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel as they get closer. Connecticut is the only other Regional I’ll definitely attend.
One of my best friend’s wedding is on one of the potential Saturdays that Worlds could land on. The mystery of the Worlds date, coupled with the unknown CP-requirement, has left me feeling unmotivated to start the push for a Worlds invite. In any case, I will be at Worlds for at least the days leading up to the event, as Washington DC is just a short 45 minute drive away.
Perhaps it is my age, or my “old-school”-ness, or just my own personal preferences, but I actually like playing League Cups much more than Regionals. Living in the Northeast means I never have to travel that far to attend a tournament and I can be back to have a late dinner with my girlfriend or go out at night with friends. The tournaments themselves remind me of what it was like to play in the 2004 – 2008 era – similar size and competition to City and State Championships. I much prefer best of one and would probably enjoy Regionals more if there were 12-14 rounds on Day 1 that were best of one. Because of this, I’ll still attend League Cups when it is convenient for me.
I’ll continue to host the podcast, but more than ever I’ll be looking for guests to cue me in on the happenings of the meta. I look forward to seeing how the game develops this year in a new format, even if it is more from the sidelines than I have gotten accustomed to. Till next time.
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