The Insouciance of Spice

My Dallas Experience w/ Zoro/Garb, Final Notes on Expanded, and Team Up and Standard

huntrealty.comHey everyone! I hope you had a good weekend, whether it be at Dallas Regionals, League Cups, or normal life events. Personally, I had a great time in Dallas despite my subpar performance. The tournament ran smoothly, the venue was as convenient as always, and the general experience was amazing. It’s a sentimental Regionals for me because it memorializes my first breakout performance in Masters two years ago. That win motivated me to play more, write, and realize that I was capable of winning in Masters. It’s been a long journey since then, but anyway, let’s get into the article.

Dallas Results: Zoroark-GX Town

@rk9labs
Graphic courtesy of RK9 Labs.

To nobody’s surprise, Zoroark-GX decks made up a majority of the meta in Dallas. Zoroark-GX/Garbodor was the most popular deck, but Archie’s Blastoise was only behind by two people. Aside from the 88 and 86 playing these respective decks, there was a slew of other Zoroark-GX decks, a surge of Vespiquen, Rayquaza-GX, and other meta decks somewhat seen in the field. Fighting decks, Trevenant, and Drampa-GX/Garbodor were all relatively unpopular, only having about 20 players each. I was surprised to see that there weren’t more Fighting decks because of Zoroark’s last win. My theory is that most people were more scared of Archie’s Blastoise because it wipes the floor with Fighting decks.

Now looking at the Top Cut, Zoroark-GX decks made up a majority there, too. 3/4 Top 4 decks were Zoroark-GX, with the last being Blaine Hill’s Drampa-GX/Garbodor—an anti-Zoroark-GX/Sky Field. However, he was unfortunately paired up against Caleb, playing Zoroark-GX/Control, and lost. Drampa-GX/Garbodor cannot handle the attrition of Oranguru, Faba, and Quaking Punch.

Another trend to notice is that despite the popularity of Archie’s Blastoise, it only had one spot in Top 8. Of the six Zoroark-GX variants, two were Golisopod-GX, three were Garbodor, and one was Control. It seems that Archie’s was a great Day 1 play, but couldn’t take more spots in Day 2 despite its popularity. Likewise with Vespiquen, which was played by a fair amount of top players.

What I Played: Zoroark-GX/Garbodor

@FabienPujol_TCG
Fabien Pujol’s Top 8 list, two cards from mine.

I played Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, a list similar to Fabien Pujol’s and Stéphane Ivanoff’s. We worked on it Friday night and ultimately settled to approximately the same list. As you’ll see, the only differences from my list are -1 Battle Compressor, -1 Colress for +1 Pokémon Communication, +1 Professor Juniper. These were last-minute changes we were discussing, and we didn’t have enough time to reach a conclusion before decklists were due. Had he had time, Fabien would’ve switched to my list, but I’m glad he didn’t because his worked out!

Pokémon – 24

1 Vespiquen AOR 10

4 Zorua DEX 70

4 Zoroark-GX

1 Trubbish GRI

1 Trubbish NVI

2 Garbodor BKP

1 Garbodor GRI

2 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Ditto p

1 Klefki STS

1 Sudowoodo GRI

2 Exeggcute PLF

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 30

3 Colress

1 Brigette

1 Delinquent

1 Guzma

1 N

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Battle Compressor

1 Field Blower

1 Red Card

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Special Charge

1 Super Rod

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

1 Dowsing Machine

 

3 Sky Field

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless

2 Psychic

The hidden spice—only once did it hit the field!

As you can see, the list is fairly similar to what I posted in my last article. The few changes that we made were to better equip our deck against the expected meta while not worsening too many matchups. The spiciest inclusion is Vespiquen AOR 10, aka Bee Revenge, which was included in order to deal with the slew of Grass-weak Pokémon. Primal Groudon, Magikarp & Wailord-GX, and Seismitoad-EX quake in fear when facing against the mighty bee. Bee Revenge is great because it provides a single-Prize attacker that can extend past Zoroark-GX’s numbers. Otherwise, these matchups would be even more difficult. However, to our dismay, none of us three played against an ArchieStoise! In 34 rounds of Pokémon, we three dodged the second most popular deck in the room. This was pretty depressing because we went through most of the day with a dead card in our deck, as its only use is for that. Unlike Zoroark BKT, it has little application outside of swinging for Weakness.

The other card we included was Mr. Mime. I, unprepared as I always am, didn’t have a Fairy-type Mr. Mime, so I was left using the Psychic one. The Fairy one is better, even in this deck, because it’s more important for it to survive a Psychic attack than attack itself with Psy Bolt.

Lastly, we cut Oranguru UPR for Special Charge because we wanted the rapidity of Special Charge. Oranguru UPR allows for loops and improves some matchups because of it, but we wanted to have a more aggressive approach against the aggressive format. We expected more Fighting decks than were present; Oranguru would be too slow in recycling Double Colorless against non-stall decks.

Dallas Regionals 2019 // Day 1 // 802 Masters

R1: Buzzwole/Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor GRI (1-2)
R2: Zoroark-GX/Exodia (2-0)
R3: Zoroark-GX/Garbodor (2-0)
R4: Zoroark-GX/Garbodor (2-0)
R5: Ho-Oh-GX/Kiawe (0-2)
R6: Buzzwole (0-2)
R7: Gardevoir-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX (2-0)
R8: Sceptile-GX/Leafeon-GX (2-1)
R9: Primal Groudon (ID)

5-3-1, T256

My day did not go as well as I thought it would. My Round 1 loss was crushing because the two games I lost were entirely out of my control. Game 1 was a draw–pass scenario, and Game 3 I went draw–pass and he used Wide Lens to Jet Punch both of my Zorua. I still had a Trubbish down, but it took too many turns for me to get rolling and he won by drawing a Fighting off the N to 1. He seemed relatively inexperienced but he was a very nice guy; unfortunately, the rest of the tournament didn’t go too well for him.

My next three wins were what I was expecting with Zoroark-GX/Garbodor: I’d play the game, eventually Colress for a high amount, set up Garbotoxin, and Riotous Beating for 210. Each of these were relatively clean victories. Round 7 went about the same way just because of the matchup. I continue to Red Card, N, and Riotous Beating his slow deck. Even with Alolan Ninetales-GX, I don’t think Gardevoir-GX has a place in Expanded because Zoroark-GX decks are too powerful in threads of consistency and damage.

Round 5 was another sad moment as I drew–pass two games in a row. Game 1 finished on Turn 2, and Game 2 was only a little bit longer because I had multiple Basics in my opening hand. These types of rounds make me regret playing Zoroark-GX/Garbodor. It’s clunky. But it also goes off sometimes, drawing very well with Brigette into Colress. Such is the deck.

Round 6 was a pure loss. My opponent set up, I set up, and I lost. I didn’t land a T2 attack which set me behind for the rest of the game, waiting to draw Garbodor GRI so that I could attack without immediately giving up two Prizes. Alas, it didn’t happen. I’m not at all mad about this because there were one or two places I could’ve done something differently.

Round 8 was shaky because of another slow start, but the two other games went smoothly. My opponent’s list didn’t play Cradily, Vileplume, or Magnezone, so it was relatively easy to spam Guzma KOs on Tapu Lele-GX or Leafeon-GX. With those making up four of my Prizes, it was easy to find the last two on a Sceptile-GX or two weak Pokémon. Round 9 was a clean ID into Top 256 points. I was a little sad I didn’t get to try out Vespiquen, but I also wasn’t about to risk all of the points with a loss.

Deck Reflections

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
I’d switch up my deck selection, if given a do-over.

Looking back on the tournament, I’m somewhat disappointed that I played Zoroark-GX/Garbodor. I think the deck is strong, but I might’ve had a better chance of winning the tournament or making Day 2 by picking an off-meta deck. For example, I could’ve built Primal Groudon the night before, which Alex Schemanske and Wes Hollenberg played, as well as Connor Finton who played a list made by Nathan Brower. Groudon would’ve been a strong anti-meta deck had it hit the right matchups. Alex will likely dive into it tomorrow, but know that I think the deck would’ve been fun and a nice change of pace!

The other piece of Zoroark-GX/Garbodor that I disliked is its boredom. To sum up the deck, it’s a combination of two strong cards and glue. The entire list is dedicated toward pulling off strong combos with Red Card, Delinquent, or Garbotoxin. (It also must account for certain matchups by requiring tech cards, but that’s besides the point.) Unlike other linear decks, it felt like my deck was in control of my win rate. It takes skill to play the deck, as does any, but the cards I drew dictated whether I won or lost. Contrast this to Buzzwole, which is also fairly linear, but has little variance in draws from game to game. Zoroark-GX/Garbodor can either destroy or be destroyed, while Buzzwole or Groudon is less variable. This is to say: The draws affect Zoroark-GX/Garbodor more than other decks. Another analogous comparison is to Greninja BREAK of last year: strong with good draws, terrible without.

Expanded Moving Forward

Ray calls dibs on the Prism Stars.

Zoroark-GX looks to be the defining archetype of Expanded. Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX emerged as the anti-meta Zoroark-GX deck, usually sporting Control counters in AZ, Oranguru UPR, and Acerola. Dean’s list also had 2 Zoroark BKT in order to crush Zoroark-GX mirrors. This was definitely the “rogue” or breakout deck of the tournament. It was definitely not on my radar, and I’m glad that in this last glimpse of BLW–LOT Expanded there was a glimmer of innovation.

Looking at the Regionals schedule, the next North American Expanded Regionals is Toronto in early March. I’m glad that we’re heading back to Standard, which has its own problems. Team Up will surely introduce more into both formats, as it introduces a slew of new TAG TEAM GXs, archetypes, and supporting cards that fit into already-established decks.

On first glance, Rayquaza-GX will improve greatly in Expanded because of Shaymin p and Tapu Koko p. Shaymin p gives the deck a strong non-GX attacker that hits for 2 Energy rather than 3, lessening the reliance on Mew as a single-Prize attacker. Tapu Koko p is great in proving Energy acceleration, lessening the deck’s reliance on Ho-Oh-EX or Zeraora-GX’s GX attack. It also doesn’t consume a Bench space, making it better vs. Sudowoodo.

It honestly looks like Zoroark-GX decks won’t change much post-Team Up. There aren’t any powerful control cards introduced to go into Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX, and there aren’t any heavy hitters or Bench sitters for Zoroark-GX/Sky Field. The Zoroark-GX archetype already has so many powerful cards that it doesn’t have room to include any new bells and whistles.

I’m curious where Malamar will be positioned after this set because of Gengar & Mimikyu-GX. Not even just Malamar, but Psychic decks in general. I can fully imagine Drampa-GX/Garbodor cutting a Sigilyph-GX for one of these in order to have a stronger GX attack, or at least to provide Poltergeist pressure against decks that can accumulate a strong hand. However, this change wouldn’t improve the deck’s inherent flaws against Control decks, which would continue to be one of its few bad matchups in Expanded.

Team Up and Standard

Bulbapedia
Perhaps the inherently strongest of the Tag Teams.

The new set looks to be pretty interesting! I’m not a huge fan of the 3-Prize Tag Teams, but I’m glad that they have printed them with their Weaknesses. In a way, this may force the return of multiple-typed decks in order to hit at a popular TAG TEAM-GX. I know Grass types became more popular last weekend because of Magikarp & Wailord-GX, and that trend will surely continue for the new types. In my opinion, Gengar & Mimikyu-GX is the strongest TAG TEAM to come out in the set, but that’s balanced by Zoroark-GX. However, it will be frustrating to play against any TAG TEAM without a surefire way to deal with it, as always.

I haven’t done any testing with the new set as the Prereleases have just started, so I’ll use this space to name the cards I’m going to meddle with first. By the time for my next article in early February, there will have been some time to cement some ideas because Oceania is right around the corner!

Great Cards

Bulbapedia
Cover up their main liability (i.e., Weakness).

It’s hard not to call the beefy, big, hard-hitting GX Pokémon great. They all have their weaknesses—literally in typing but also in strategy—that will determine their playability. But some of them are also moldable into other decks. Eevee & Snorlax-GX is the best example. Its most obvious home is in Malamar as a late-game, bulky sweeper to attack with rather than Giratina. It’s weak to Fighting, but against Fighting decks you can simply never Bench it and instead carry yourself to victory by attacking with Giratina or Necrozma-GX. The archetype it fits into greatly offsets its Weakness.

In other situations, some are so strong that their Weaknesses can be overlooked. Gengar & Mimikyu-GX looks like one of those cards. If you catch an opponent at the right time, it’ll be easy to GX attack into Poltergeist, or simply whip out the Gengar & Mimikyu-GX when your opponent is on one or two Prizes left. Tag Teams may become the last line of defense, the bulky frontline, just as benching a GX is when your opponent only has one Prize card remaining.

One of the cards on here that I think will be strong in situational decks is Omastar. There are so many Stage 2 Fossil Pokémon that all evolve from Unidentified Fossil. Surely we will reach a point when a Fossil deck can work simply because there are so many of them, right? Well that’s one thing I want to try. I think Omastar is better than Kabutops because it can function while on the Bench. It also acts as a soft-Sudowoodo, limiting your opponent’s Bench indirectly. In a perfect world, you can Rare Candy into Omastar T2 with fewer Pokémon in play, shutting off your opponent’s Rare Candies until you take one or two Prizes.

Cards to Watch for

gameinformer.comI think all of these cards can be cracked at some point, but it’ll take a lot of work in order to crack them. They’re either limited by inconsistency, gimmicky-ness, or a power level just below a strong card. For example, Charizard will be strong if you can get 2 Charizard into play reasonably quickly with enough Energy Recyclers. However, this is difficult! Ninetales takes up a fair amount of deck slots, Ampharos-GX is a touch too vulnerable to Fighting to be its own archetype, Nidoqueen seems slow and its attack takes 3 Energies, and Kabutops is purely a stalling mechanic since its attack is mediocre. Incineroar-GX is a worse Gardevoir-GX, Doublade is gimmicky, Aerodactyl is slow/gimmicky. Dana is situational, and Wondrous Labyrinth p can find its way into stall, Gardevoir-GX, or random decks that over-provide Energy; it’s a cool card.

Conclusion

Dallas Regionals has come and gone, and now we’re past the mid-season Expanded hump before Team Up’s release. The set looks promising in offering new ways to build decks because of TAG TEAM GXs, but also in the types of cards in the set. I’m excited to work on deckbuilding and modifying existing archetypes to better fit the meta. Hopefully, some of my ideas widen your perspective and give you a great idea to take to the next tournament!

All of the tournaments before Greensboro conflict with something of mine, so I won’t be at another large tournament until mid-March. As always, if you run into me, feel free to say hi! I met a few new people in Dallas and it was great talking to you all, even if only for a few minutes.

Xander


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