The Spiral of Spread

Examining Tapu Koko/Buzzwole Spread for Memphis Standard

Hello again 6P, it’s Alex with you today, and I’m bringing you a rather interesting deck that I believe has incredible potential going into Memphis this weekend. This deck happens to be the Buzzwole FLI/Tapu Koko (Referred to as “Spread” from now on) that I won a cup with before Philadelphia. I feel that in this current format it is best to play a more obscure deck that opponents may not have ever seen or tested against. I believe that Spread has a very strong place in the current meta, due to the fact that it seems everything needs to fill their bench to function properly. The meta is perfect for Spread to make a strong run through Memphis this coming weekend.

There’s quite a few reasons as to why we haven’t seen the spread archetype finish well in events until this season. Without a stadium like Parallel City to remove that extra Tapu Lele-GX, along with hundreds of damage counters, Spread can easily stack enough damage counters to knock multiple GXs out in one turn with a magical swap from Tapu Lele UPR. There is also the glaringly obvious fact that until recently, we haven’t had Shrine of Punishment, which could potentially add an extra 60 damage between every turn. Another major change is the loss of strong energy. Buzzwole FLI can no longer Knock Out a Tapu Koko with one attack without using Beast Energy, or a Professor Kukui and a Prism Star.

The Cup List

Pokémon – 13

3 Buzzwole FLI

3 Tapu Koko SM31

2 Tapu Lele UPR

2 Marshadow SLG

1 Diancie p

1 Sudowoodo GRI

1 Shaymin SLG

Trainers – 35

4 Cynthia

4 Copycat

3 Guzma

2 Judge

1 Tate & Liza


3 Ultra Ball

3 Nest Ball

3 Acro Bike

2 Energy Loto

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Switch

1 Counter Catcher

2 Choice Band


4 Shrine of Punishment

Energy – 12

4 Unit FDY

4 Double Colorless

3 Counter

1 Beast p


This was a list that I threw together the night before a cup, logged a few games with, and said, “Why not?” This list actually functions quite smoothly, and I managed to win the cup, beating multiple Zoroark Variants, Malamar Variants, and a few other Buzzwole/Shrine decks. Despite this success, this list was far from optimal, so I set out to build a better list that might stand a chance at a higher level of play. Please note, the above list is only included as a baseline for the refined list, not as something I suggest bringing to a major event.

The Refined List

Pokémon – 15

3 Buzzwole FLI

3 Tapu Koko SM31

2 Tapu Lele UPR

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Diancie

1 Oranguru SUM

2 Slugma

2 Magcargo

Trainers – 33

4 Lillie

3 Cynthia

3 Guzma

1 Copycat

1 Tate & Liza


3 Acro Bike

4 Ultra Ball

3 Nest Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Switch

1 Counter Catcher

2 Choice Band


4 Shrine of Punishment

Energy – 12

4 Unit FDY

4 Double Colorless

3 Counter

1 Beast

In my testing with this list I’ve found it to be incredibly consistent, with the added bonus of having good match ups with almost everything that isn’t Naganadel/Stakataka. I believe this to be the optimal way to play the Buzzwole FLI variant of the Spread archetype. The biggest problem with this variant is that you have to manage your bench very well. Between Magcargo, multiple Tapu Koko, Buzzwole, and Oranguru, there’s really only one flex spot on my bench. Generally, this spot will be devoted to Diancie or Sudowoodo, but if i find myself using Marshadow early in the game, this spot disappears.

The Card Counts

3 Buzzwole FLI

These are your out to taking early prizes for a low cost. Take a knockout on a Zorua turn 1, deal ~80 damage to a Tapu Lele-GX, maybe take a knockout on the Grubbin if you draw well. Do all of this, but once you’ve done it, start using Flying Flip and get that damage on your opponent’s board. Bring a Buzzwole out for Sledgehammer—after that, you probably never want to see a Buzzwole again.

1 Oranguru/1 Marshadow

Oranguru SUM and Magcargo in a deck. Makes sense. But why play a Marshadow? Let Loose is such a powerful ability, and I love the option of being able to Ultra Ball for a way to get a new hand, and maybe disrupt my opponent’s hand while I’m at it.

2-2 Magcargo

My original list didn’t play Magcargo, and it was inconsistent. I also hated every time i played an Acro Bike down, because there were just so many cards that hurt to discard. This fact is still true, but being able to guarantee getting the card I need with Smooth Over offsets this problem. Magcargo just makes the deck more consistent, which felt somewhat necessary if I were to play it in a regionals.

1 Counter Catcher/3 Counter Energy

The Trainers in this list all make sense and are pretty common in decks with Magcargo, but Counter Catcher seems to have dropped off the map completely when it comes to deck building. However, since we usually don’t have the lead on prizes, Counter Catcher and Counter Energy are both optimal cards to play in this deck.

No Kukui in a Magcargo Deck?

I realize this seems rather odd, especially coming off of Philadelphia, where we saw a multitude of decks playing Professor Kukui and Magcargo. Yes, Professor Kukui is convenient for drawing the card Magcargo puts on top of our deck, but unlike other decks, we gain virtually nothing from the extra 20 damage. I would much rather play Lillie, or even a Guzma with Oranguru to draw those cards. At this point, I feel the need to emphasize that our main goal is to spread damage with Tapu Koko, not take the knockout with Buzzwole. If we focus on Buzzwole too much, we are simply playing an inferior Buzzwole/Garbodor (Which we happen to beat).

Potential Inclusions

4th Tapu Koko

I cannot stress how important it is to play the spread game with this deck, and the 4th Tapu Koko is another out to spreading on turn 1.

Shaymin SLG

I had originally played this in my first list as a counter to Lycanroc-GX, but without Magcargo it felt clunky and unusable. However, since we now play Magcargo, there is perhaps a spot for Shaymin, or really any of the counter attackers, in the deck.

1-1 Weavile UPR

I suggest this as a potential way to combat any Zoroark/Banette that you could play against. I have not actually tested this so I am unsure of whether this would actually help all that much, but in theory it would.

2nd Counter Catcher

Counter Catcher is such a strong card in this deck, but I worry that playing more than one will cause more inconsistency in the early game, which is something I’d rather avoid. It’s possible though, that in a best of 3 format, you can afford the extra inconsistency.

4th Counter Energy

I would likely only consider adding this if you chose to add the counter attackers or the Weavile line, but Counter Energy also allows us to use Buzzwole’s Swing Around for only 2 energy attachments. As it turns out, Tapu Koko also has a second attack that can take knockouts on any lightning weak Pokémon, such as Ho-oh-GX and Shining Lugia.

The Intricacies of Playing a Spread Deck

The deck in of itself isn’t incredibly difficult to play, but there’s definitely many ways to mess up your game with a single decision. Perhaps the most common mistake a player could make is deciding to use Tapu Lele’s Magical Swap too early in the game. Generally, you want the turn you use Magical Swap to be the turn you win, unless you’re absolutely crippling your opponent’s board state. Another common mistake is focusing on Buzzwole FLI too much. Generally, Buzzwole is in the deck to deal with other Buzzwole and Zoroark decks. I’m not saying don’t use Buzzwole, but if you haven’t used Flying Flip by the time your Sledgehammer turn rolls around, you’re going to lose if they get off that crucial 4 Prize count. Moral of the story: it’s not hard to play somewhat well, but unless you practice a lot, you will make game-losing mistakes.

The Matchups

This will be a quick overview—I’m not going to talk about everything thats being played right now, due to the fact that there’s upwards of 20 playable decks in my view. However, I will attempt to cover what I feel are the most relevant decks. Most everything I don’t cover will follow the game plan of: Flying Flip until Sledgehammer turn, then use Flying Flip some more, and finally use Magical Swap to win the game if you haven’t already.

Zoroark/Lycanroc: Favorable

Like most Zoroark decks, it is difficult for them to not have a near full bench, which makes Flying Flip and Shrine of Punishment your optimal damage output. The greatest threat you’ll face is their Lycanroc-GX, which can be dealt with by using Buzzwole to 2-shot it. There is also the potential to take a 1-shot on Lycanroc using Sledgehammer on their 4-Prize turn, along with the combination of Beast+Choice or Choice Band or Beast+Diancie and Shrine. If for whatever reason you have been unable to spread enough damage with Tapu Koko, then your best option will be to take a 1-shot on a Zoroark-GX, using the combination of Beast, Choice Band, Diancie and Prism Star. Optimally, you have your Sudowoodo on your bench in an attempt to prevent the Buzzwole you just took that knockout with alive.

Zoroark/Banette: Even-Slightly Unfavorable

This matchup is similar to the Zoroark/Lycanroc match up in that spreading damage is the best way to win the matchup. However unlike Zoroark/Lycanroc, spread is the only way to feasibly win the match up. This is because Banette-GX is inherently faster that Lycanroc-GX, and also hits Buzzwole for a knockout while having a fighting resistance. This variant also plays more Acerola along with a Pal Pad, which if used correctly, will make your game much more difficult. However this match up does not necessarily worry me very much because I believe it will not see a great deal of play.

Buzzwole/Garbodor/Weavile: Slightly Favorable

On paper this match up should be horrendous, and I assumed it was until I tested more against it. They generally have to have a full/almost full bench, which is what you want to capitalize on. Tapu Koko is surprisingly strong in this match up, due to the fact that it takes a combination of 2 cards to Knock us Out. A very strong play can be using Guzma or Counter Catcher on a Magcargo and using Flying Flip. This play requires them to use their Smooth Over on either a Switch if it’s unused, or a Guzma, which when played requires them to choose something on our bench to make us switch with. This has the bonus of protecting the Tapu Koko and the energy that we just attacked with. Eventually, you’ll get to the point of the Sledgehammer turns.

This interaction can feel somewhat counterintuitive because there are many times you don’t actually want to use Sledgehammer. One of these situations is when you yourself will go down to 4 Prizes. You have to look ahead when this happens, so if you take that knockout, will you ever be able to take another prize to get off of your 4 Prizes? *Spoiler* No, you more than likely won’t. It’s at this point where there’s the potential for an early Magical Swap to just win you the game. If you could potentially take enough knockouts to go down to 3 Prizes, you can swing the game irreversibly in your favor. If you can’t, using Flying Flip again is probably your best answer. You also need to be able to recognize the threats. If you haven’t been able to manage your items, then removing any Garbodor from play is vitally important. Moral of the story here: Plan your prizes, avoid going to 4 even at the cost of your own Sledgehammer, and spread a lot.

Anything with Stakataka-GX: “Yeah, go eat lunch.”

I wish I was exaggerating how badly we lose to the word Stakataka-GX. Sadly I’m not. The only time this is not true is in Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX/Magnezone. You should still be able to get a fair amount of damage down, and they need to discard their energies to attack. Including the Weavile line I mention above is probably the best hope here.

Vikavolt/Rayquaza-GX: Favorable

Spread is king here. Between Shrine damage and Flying Flip you should be able to stack enough damage to either cripple their board state or just win. Obviously, use Sledgehammer when its hitting for extra damage, but beyond that stick to Tapu Koko, and finish the game with a Magical Swap.

Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX: Even-Slightly Favorable

This match up is similar to the Rayquaza variant, but is less favored because Tapu Bulu-GX can heal itself with Tapu Wilderness-GX and set you back multiple turns. This is also one of the few decks that can manage its bench space fairly well. However, this all has one major drawback: No Rayquaza-GX means no Tempest-GX for when you have those dead hands that come with stage 2 decks.

Malamar Variants: Favorable

This matchup can get a little weird if you miss your Flying Flips in the early game, but Malamar decks have to fill their bench to even function. This allows us to amass at least 100 damage on their field every turn. 5 turns of Flying Flip later and they have no more Malamar. Maybe they start a GX, or have to bench the Tapu Lele-GX to find a supporter. We see this as 2 free Prize cards. The biggest problem that will arise comes from yourself. Don’t use Magical Swap too early. If you remove all of their Malamar from the board, but leave an attacker that will likely be undamaged, you have no good way to Knock it Out. Perhaps the best way to use Magical Swap is rearranging the damage so that nearly everything has 20 HP left, which means a Flying Flip can take knockouts on everything at once.

Some Final Thoughts

Spread has always been on some player’s radar, but until now it has never really been a major threat. I feel that this iteration of the archetype has the potential to go all the way in Memphis this weekend. Now I watched a few games this past weekend and was very intrigued by the Reshiram-GX/Ho-oh-GX deck that was floating around. I decided that i would come up with at least some form of a list and put it in here as a thought provoker. I’ve not actually tested this at all, but I see. potential here.

Pokémon – 10

3 Reshiram-GX

2 Ho-Oh-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Victini p

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 38

4 Kiawe

4 Cynthia

4 Guzma

1 Tate & Liza

1 Judge


4 Ultra Ball

2 Nest Ball

4 Fiery Flint

4 Acro Bike

4 Pokénav

2 Switch

4 Choice Band

Energy – 12

12 R

I truly do not know if this is at all good, but I think the concept of the deck is strong. I believe there would also be great potential in a variant with Shining Ho-oh and Lurantis SM25, however that is purely conjecture.

Anyway, I’m going to end this here. Shrine is strong like always. Koko is pretty good, and Buzzwole is a decent card. Stick them all in the same deck and you get something good. Shocker right?

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I wish you all the best in Memphis this weekend. I’ll see some of you there so feel free to come up and ask some questions about what I wrote, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Until next time.

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