The Next Big Thing

Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Rayquaza/Vikavolt, and Celebi & Venusaur-GX (for Standard)

BulbapediaHello 6P! Team Up is drawing ever so close to its official release this weekend, and I’m very excited to stream the new TAG TEAM cards on PTCGO on Thursday! However, I still have one tournament to go to in the SUM–LOT Standard format: the Mexico City Special Event!

It feels like ages since I’ve played “serious” Standard because—other than Cups or Challenges—the last two Regionals I attended were Expanded. With Oceania Internationals and the cut-off for Berlin stipends about to happen, this tournament is a pretty big deal for me in order to secure a stipend. Anything short of a Top 8 finish would be disastrous, so I’m eager to do well.

Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

Bulbapedia

Having said that, I know current Standard (SUM–LOT) is on its last legs, so I won’t bore you with that. Instead, I’ve also been thinking and theorizing a lot about Team Up. I’ve paid special attention to Japanese results and their Team Up format, and there’s one easy conclusion to arrive to: Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is the next big thing. Lightning-type Pokémon have so much support with Thunder Mountain p, Electropower, Volkner, and strong Pokémon like Zeraora-GX, Tapu Koko-GX, and Zapdos TEU. All this synergy, along with some pretty broken attacks, will finally make Pikachu an undisputed force to be reckoned with!

Here’s the first draft of what I’ll be working on with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, based on a lot of theorymon and researching the Japanese metagame:

Pokémon (13)

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

1 Zapdos TEU

1 Tapu Koko p

2 Raikou SLG

2 Tapu Koko-GX

2 Zeraora-GX

1 Marshadow SM85

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (35)

4 Guzma

4 Volkner

3 Lillie

2 Cynthia

1 Acerola

1 Lisia

 

4 Acro Bike

4 Electropower

4 Energy Switch

4 Ultra Ball

1 Pal Pad

2 Choice Band

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

Energy (12)

12 Lightning

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 13

* 2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
* 1 Zapdos TEU 40
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 2 Raikou SLG 32
* 2 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 2 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 1 Marshadow PR-SM SM85
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191
* 3 Lillie SLG 62
* 1 Lisia CES 137
* 4 Volkner UPR 135
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Acerola BUS 112
* 1 Pal Pad UPR 132
* 4 Ultra Ball SLG 68
* 4 Acro Bike CES 123
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Energy Switch CES 129
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121

##Energy - 12

* 12 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72382 ******

Card Choices

Pokémon

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX: The star of the deck for sure! I could see myself going up to 3 of these. Full Blitz packs a really big punch, as 150 for 3 Energy is an amazing deal, and on top of that, you get Energy acceleration from the deck onto itself or any other Pokémon you’d like. 150 is an extremely solid number and can be easily powered up to much higher numbers with Electropower and Choice Band. This sets up Tag Bolt GX very nicely with the [+] bonus, and you can even pull it off on Turn 2 with the help of Lisia and Thunder Mountain p. Tag Bolt GX deals even more damage at 200 for the same 3 Energy, but with 6, you get to deal 170 to a Benched Pokémon, coincidentally enough to OHKO a Tapu Lele-GX. Both attacks are so powerful you could actually end a game in two turns.

1 Zapdos TEU: A really solid non-GX attacker, which for a single Energy can deal up to 80, and Electropower allows for higher numbers.

1 Tapu Koko p: Tapu Koko accelerate Energy onto Benched Pokémon with its Ability, allowing you to power up all of your other attackers. Its attack is nothing to scoff at, if pulled off with Thunder Mountain p, as 2 Energy for 120 damage is very cost-effective. However, this card’s true strength is its Ability.

2 Raikou SLG: Raikou is a solid attacker that offers Energy acceleration. Its second attack is nothing special, but consistently pressuring with Electropower along with recovering Energy makes this a solid inclusion to the deck.

2 Tapu Koko-GX: No Weakness, paired with the Ability to power itself up makes Tapu Koko-GX is a really powerful card. 130 damage is a very solid number, especially vs. non-GX decks, but Electropower and Choice Band allow you to do even more damage. Finally, its GX attack is an amazing way to punish greedy decks that rely on big attacks, and could be a great way to dispose of opposing Pikachu & Zekrom-GXs in the mirror match who are aiming to use Tag Bolt GX.

2 Zeraora-GX: The Ability to have free retreat on anything that has Energy gives you a lot of room to work with in terms of using Guzma effectively. The attack is pretty powerful and 160 for 3 Energy is only slightly more powerful than our main attackers. Of course, the drawback is it can’t attack the next turn, but that’s easily dealt with thanks to its Ability.

1 Marshadow SM85: Let Loose is a great Ability. It can sometimes get you out of a dead draw situation, while offering an option to disrupt them as well. Be it on Turn 1 or the decisive turn of a game, this deck can definitely afford a Bench spot dedicated to it.

2 Tapu Lele-GX: The best way to support any deck. Two copies make the deck very consistent and gives you outs to things you’re looking for at any point in a game.

Trainers

1 Thunder Mountain p: All of the Lightning Pokémon in the deck are very cost-effective in their attacks, but Thunder Mountain p makes them even better by reducing their attack cost by L. Being able to search for the card with Lisia is great to be able to count on having it at the right time.

3 Lillie: Usually the best Supporter to use on Turn 1, and overall great draw card as emptying your hand with this deck is not hard at all.

1 Lisia: Tapu Koko p and Thunder Mountain p are two great cards to use in every game, and Lisia being able to search for them at the right time is the reason it’s included.

4 Volkner: The best Lightning support card, having a consistent flow of Energy along with necessary Items such as Electropower, Choice Band, or Energy Switch. Searching for specific cards at the right time is incredible rather than relying on random draw such as Lillie or Cynthia.

2 Cynthia: Nevertheless, Cynthia is still a very reliable card and one of the best shuffle–draw we have available at the moment in Standard.

4 Guzma: Targeting the right Pokémon, especially to pull off the best Tag Bolt GX possible is always important to secure games, hence 4 Guzma allows you to take down specific threats.

1 Acerola: Having an option to heal within the deck is great, but Acerola also allows you to pick up a damaged Pikachu & Zekrom-GX or any other GX to prevent your opponent from getting too far ahead.

1 Pal Pad: Reusing Supporters is obviously great, and sometimes giving you better odds to hit Guzma is what will end up winning you the game.

4 Ultra Ball: Help us get Lightning Energy in the discard pile, and searches for the specific Pokémon we need at any given time.

4 Acro Bike: Draw power and another potential way to put Energy into the discard pile.

4 Electropower: A big part of why Lightning is about to become Tier 1 is this card. Damage modifiers are always important, and being able to increase damage vs non-GXs as well is huge, as Choice Band doesn’t help with that.

4 Energy Switch: Between Tapu Koko p’s Ability and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX’s attack, both power up Pokémon, and Energy Switch allows you to move Energy around and have the right attackers powered up. It also has a lot of synergy with Zeraora-GX’s Ability as you can attach an Energy to retreat while saving the Energy drop for the right Pokémon at the same time.

2 Choice Band: More damage modifiers, but permanent, unlike Electropower.

Energy

12 Lightning Energy: No explanation necessary, other than 12 being a good number statistics-wise, so that you can count on having one on Turn 1.

Other Options

  • Absol TEU or Wobbuffet LOT techs, to stop Jirachi TEU or Ditto p, respectively.
  • Xurkitree-GX is another potential attacker to include, especially if the pure Special Energy ZoroRoc decks keep picking up in popularity. They run Alolan Muk of course, but if you can take it down, they might not have a way to deal with Xurkitree-GX at all.
  • Finally, Aether Paradise Conservation Area is another potential consideration, especially with all the good Prism Star Stadiums coming out this set.

Matchups

I don’t want to go too deep into potential matchups because the list is untested and heavily based on Japanese results. However, the attacks on Pikachu & Zekrom-GX are enough to easily realize why this deck will immediately become Tier 1 in Standard. Expanded is another story of course, but Max Elixir powering it up could make it just as strong or even stronger in that format.

Rayquaza-GX/Vikavolt

Another deck I expect to increase in play and popularity is Rayquaza-GX. It started dominating Standard earlier on in the season as the format had just rotated, and was a force to be reckoned with. Team Up brings two new cards that will likely allow it to become a powerful deck once again:

  1. Shaymin p, arguably one of the best cards in the set. Shaymin p has an attack that is basically the same as Rayquaza-GX’s, but for a GG cost. Having a non-GX Rayquaza attacker is something that the deck sorely lacked, and Grass typing is great to have against big threats like Magikarp & Wailord-GX, along with Lycanroc-GX TEU. The low HP is not a big issue, as even though it’ll likely easily be KO’d after you’ve used it, you also only lose two Energy from play.
  2. Tapu Koko p. Recovering Energy AND powering up Benched Rayquaza-GXs is a great way to keep momentum going with the deck, and help support the deck in the middle to late game. Sometimes all you need is that one or two extra Energy to get OHKOs, and Tapu Koko p will help achieve that.

Outside of that, the deck remains largely the same as before it dropped in popularity big time. Here’s what the deck I’ll be testing will look like once Team Up comes out:

Pokémon (15)

1 Shaymin p

1 Tapu Koko p

3 Rayquaza-GX

1 Dhelmise CES

3 Grubbin SUM

3 Vikavolt SUM

1 Marshadow SLG

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (32)

4 Guzma

3 Cynthia

3 Volkner

2 Lillie

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

3 Nest Ball

2 Energy Recycler

2 Mysterious Treasure

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Switch

 

3 Lysandre Labs

Energy (13)

7 Grass

6 Lightning

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 15

* 1 Shaymin p TEU 10
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 3 Rayquaza-GX CES 109
* 1 Dhelmise CES 22
* 3 Grubbin SUM 13
* 3 Vikavolt SUM 52
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

##Trainer Cards - 32

* 4 Guzma BUS 143
* 3 Cynthia UPR 119
* 3 Volkner UPR 135
* 2 Lillie UPR 125
* 4 Rare Candy CES 142
* 4 Ultra Ball SLG 68
* 3 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 2 Mysterious Treasure FLI 145
* 2 Energy Recycler FLI 143
* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 1 Switch SLG 67
* 3 Lysandre Labs FLI 111

##Energy - 13

* 7 Grass Energy Energy 1
* 6 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72382 ******

“Hello, Magikarp! Hello, Wailord!”

The deck’s main focus of course is still Vikavolt and Rayquaza-GX, but the extra non-GX attacker and late-game support with the two Prism Stars give the deck a much needed oomph. Will this be able to compete against Pikachu & Zekrom-GX? The pressure it applies, along with the potential to OHKO for 3 Prizes seems to me like it might be able to. However, their Tag Bolt GX attack is incredibly threatening as it will eliminate both a Rayquaza-GX and a Vikavolt on the bench most likely.

Your main focus is setting up Turn 2 Vikavolt in order to start getting Energy into play and powering up Rayquazas, but outside of those two early turns, the deck plays a bit linear. Another reason why VikaRay stopped being a thing was the release of Granbull LOT and Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT, along with Gardevoir-GX making a triumphant return. Granbull LOT and Gardevoir-GX have both decreased in popularity though, which paves the way for VikaRay to make a comeback.

There are many other cards from Team Up that will likely be shaking up the meta quite a bit, giving Standard a much needed refresh from the Lost Thunder metagame. Perhaps it was due to Expanded taking the majority of big events for me, but this format has me very excited.

Celebi & Venusaur-GX

Celebi & Venusaur-GX is probably going to be another of the Tag Teams that will be making a big impact, as it’s a very resilient Pokémon with a lot of healing options, making it a very difficult tank to take down.

The following decklist is what I’m thinking of in terms of having a lot of potential and will be part of the line up of decks I play with on release day:

Pokémon (9)

4 Celebi & Venusaur-GX

1 Absol TEU

4 Shaymin LOT

Trainer (39)

4 Lillie

3 Cynthia

2 Acerola

2 Guzma

2 Judge

 

4 Crushing Hammer

4 Nest Ball

4 Net Ball

2 Buff Padding

2 Judge Whistle

1 Counter Catcher

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Escape Rope

1 Field Blower

1 Multi Switch

2 Weakness Policy

 

2 Aether Paradise Conservation Area

1 Life Forest p

Energy (12)

8 Grass

4 Double Colorless

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 9

* 4 Celebi & Venusaur-GX TEU 1
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 4 Shaymin LOT 33

##Trainer Cards - 39

* 4 Lillie SLG 62
* 2 Acerola BUS 112
* 2 Judge FLI 108
* 2 Aether Paradise Conservation Area GRI 116
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 3 Cynthia UPR 119
* 2 Weakness Policy BUS 126
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 2 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
* 1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
* 4 Crushing Hammer SUM 115
* 1 Multi Switch GRI 129
* 2 Judge Whistle TEU 146
* 2 Buff Padding TEU 136
* 4 Net Ball LOT 187
* 1 Life Forest p LOT 180
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 114

##Energy - 12

* 4 Double Colorless Energy SLG 69
* 8 Grass Energy Energy 1

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72382 ******

This deck relies on having an indestructible Celebi & Venusaur-GX, healing with Shaymin’s Ability continually, along with Confusion helping you buy turns. Confusion is truly the big selling point of this Pokémon, as decks don’t have an infinite supply of Guzma to bypass it and KO’ing a Shaymin doesn’t get you that much closer to winning a game as you still need to bypass the huge HP and all the disruption.

The GX attack also makes a lot of sense in the deck, as it allows you to reuse a lot of your disruption throughout the game. Having access to eight potential Crushing Hammers, extra Aether Paradises, or Buff Paddings is great, and should allow Celebi & Venusaur-GX to outlast most decks. Finally, Absol is in here to increase Retreat Costs and counteracts the Jirachi TEU + Escape Board engine very easily, something that could be used to reduce the impact of Confusion.

Final Thoughts

I could go on and on about Team Up, but my fellow writers will be covering more cards and decks themselves. I hope you enjoyed reading the article! Feel free to direct any questions or comments here or on any of my Tablemon social media outlets and don’t miss the special livestream on Thursday where I’ll be playing a loooot of Team Up Standard decks that day. Thanks for reading and until next time!


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