Hey all! It’s been a hot minute since my last article dropped, just as Team Up hype was emerging. Now, we’re in the short period where all ideas are possible. Frankly, it’s the honeymoon stage of the new set. “Look at all these new, cool cards to mess with!” we all say. And that’s a good thing! Experimentation results in success. Recall the rogue decks and techs that have broken decks in past tournaments (e.g., Solgaleo-GX in Gardevoir-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX, Sableye GRI in Control Zoroark-GX, Magikarp & Wailord-GX in ArchieStoise, etc.). While not all come from new sets, a vast majority of these discoveries come about from the introduction of a new set. New cards lead to ideas, which lead to experimentation, and then ultimately success—or failure!
The timing of Team Up’s release is perfectly situated at the end of the previous format’s reasonable lifetime. What I mean is that it was beginning to get stale (some say it already was). I like what’s happening here: the new set becomes legal immediately upon the weekend of Internationals. I’m unsure if this is wholly intentional, but it does seem somewhat planned. I’m a fan of this because Internationals are the grandest stage for experimentation. These tournaments will have tons of hype not only because of the caliber of players but of decks, too.
The Hyped: Pikachu & Zekrom (Electric.dec)
In my opinion, Electric.dec is the most hyped newcomer in the meta. There have been plenty of lists published, both from USA and Japan, and I can safely say I’m a fan of Pablo’s which he posted last week. Electropower is a worthwhile card in hitting numbers, and other support cards like Raikou SLG and Zapdos TEU are there as sidekicks, not the main show.
The part of this deck as a whole that I’m unsure about is its capability to get rolling initially. The first Full Blitz leads into the next, but the path to the first looks somewhat dicey. Using Raikou allows this to come relatively quickly with some chip damage, but that sacrifices damage output aside from Electropower. Zapdos would allow for an easy Prize, but would slow down the development of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX.
What reassures me of my hesitance is the vast amount of tools the deck actually has in powering up the bulky sweeper. Tapu Koko p and Thunder Mountain p are the best examples—both of which are searchable by Lisia. Effectively, a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX can be powered up in one turn with an attachment from hand, Dance of the Ancients, and the final reduction by Thunder Mountain p.
Place in the Meta
Because it’s the most hyped deck, Electric.dec will assume the “to be beaten” slot. If your deck can’t go 50-50 with it, don’t bother playing it. At the first few tournaments, expect to play against 2–3 of these within a 9-round day.
Some of the decks I think are strong against Electric.dec are Lost March and Malamar. Both of these decks can maintain an easy Prize trade and keep up with Electric’s speed once it begins swinging.
Beating the Behemoth
I don’t have experience playing Pikachu & Zekrom-GX myself, but I have experience with the decks I believe will beat it. Likewise, it’s easier to form an argument on the basis of dismantlement rather than construction. I could ramble on and on about why Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is the BDIF, how it crushes every deck with a T2 Full Blitz, but that would be pointless. The difficult situations you’ll face when playing the deck arise out of your bad matchups.
Malamar seems to be a difficult matchup because it can maintain the Prize trade relatively easily. Spamming Giratina should be a piece of cake against the weaker attackers, and Marshadow-GX can take down a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX for only 3 Energy. I’m afraid that Electric.dec doesn’t have much to retaliate with other than, say, a Tapu Koko-GX. But even then, a quick Moon’s Eclipse-GX or Prismatic Burst is enough to continue trading evenly or favorably.
The one piece that Electric.dec has going for it in this matchup is its speed. Raikou + Electropower 1HKOs an Inkay T1, so that’s the first Prize you’ll take. Then against the Giratina, you’ll need to head into Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and pray. However, if Malamar has a slow start and misses the T2 attack, you may be able to win by pulling off Tag Bolt-GX with the added bonus. Not only could this cripple Malamar’s setup by removing squids, but it may be able to snag up to 4 Prizes with a single attack.
For a similar reason, Lost March would be difficult to deal with. It’s an incredibly fast deck and would be able to take 1HKOs as early as Turn 2. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is not a strong card to use in this matchup. However, we don’t have to. Both Jumpluff and Natu are Weak to Lightning, so we only need a 40 damage and 20 damage attack, respectively, to KO them. This can easily be accomplished with Electropower and Raikou.
However, the one fault of this strategy is that there simply aren’t enough single-Prize attackers in the deck to attack with every turn. There are 2 Raikou, 1 Zapdos, and 1 Tapu Koko p (which is already a stretch). If Lost March can KO one attacker per turn, you’ll eventually be forced to attack with a Pokémon-GX and forfeit the Prize trade. A Rescue Stretcher is the best card for fixing this problem because it can reshuffle our Raikou and Zapdos into our deck once again. If we hit 2 of them, then that may be enough to tide us over for the entire game. However, it still seems dicey because of Guzma; Lost March can target the Pokémon-GX we’re forced to Bench and win the Prize trade that way.
I know Chris covered the Ultra Necrozma-GX version of this deck yesterday. I find the traditional, all-Psychic “GasKan” to be better because it runs incredibly smoothly. Everything fits into place and the deck rarely clunks itself out of existence regarding its Energy counts. With the Ultra Necrozma version, I always found myself drawing too many Special Energies that I couldn’t use for Psychic Recharge, or missing the Unit Energy in the first place. Confirmation bias aside, there’s less variance with the mono-Psychic build.
Pokémon – 19
1 Lunala p
Trainers – 30
Energy – 11
The list above is an adaptation of what Rahul Reddy played in Mexico City this past weekend, which was created by Edwin Lopez. From the former list I removed 1 Necrozma-GX and the Nest Ball for 1 Gengar & Mimikyu-GX and a 2nd Marshadow-GX. The addition of Gengar & Mimikyu-GX is a pretty obvious change because it adds another option and gives the deck another 1HKO attack without needing 3–4 Energy. Sometimes, you can rip a 1HKO off of Poltergeist. Moreover, this gives the deck a usable attack with only one Malamar in play. This is largely important for alleviating poor states, as only getting down one to two Inkay on the first turn can lead to a loss in most cases.
The other change, the addition of another Marshadow-GX, is to avoid bad Prizes in countering Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. I don’t think it’s smart to rely on Necrozma-GX in that matchup because it’s easy to pick off Malamar with Zapdos + Electropower. 4 Energies are doable, but I’d rather err on the side of caution. Over time, if Electric decreases in popularity, I’d likely include a Pokémon Communication instead of the 2nd copy of Marshadow-GX. I think that’s a strong replacement for Nest Ball because it can grab Marshadow or Malamar when needed, or function as a burn card even if the Bench is full.
Why It’s Here
Like I said before, Malamar boasts good matchups against the freshest bunch from Team Up. Simply put, it’s a strong deck. Tried and true. There are few cards from the new set that make me believe it will be dethroned, so it should be a relatively safe pick into an unforeseen meta as well.
Another reason that I think this’ll be strong is because of the shift away from Decidueye-GX decks. That used to be one of its bad matchups, but with its loss of presence, Malamar should remain relatively unchanged, at least among the pre-Team Up decks.
Additions/Changes to the List
Tapu Koko/Spell Tag
One idea that may be worth exploring once again is Spell Tag/Spread Malamar. This would be especially strong against Lost March, which is regaining some hype once again. Switching the variant over to a Spread one would greatly improve this matchup from the 45-55 it is to a 60-40 or better.
Spell Tag and Tapu Koko are strong because they unleash pressure and allow for multi-Prize turns. With the current list, the matchup boils down to the trade of Prizes each turn between Giratina and the Lost March attacker. While we, the Malamar player, are autonomous once we set up, we have room to further our lead with Tapu Koko or Spell Tag. These cards can force Lost March to limit their Bench out of fear of falling victim to one of these cards. Natu become free Prizes with a Spell Tag, which frankly wins games on the spot (so long as we don’t have Pokémon-GX on the Bench).
Alex Schemanske, Rukan Shao, and I discussed this card’s place in Malamar briefly on Seagrove’s podcast before Dallas Regionals. Since then, I’ve realized that I do like its niche value in taking 1HKOs, but ultimately feels incredibly similar to Necrozma-GX. Their Weaknesses are different, and one has more HP in exchange for giving up more Prizes, but their roles feel the same. For 4 Energy, both Necrozma-GX and Eevee & Snorlax-GX deal 1HKO damage to the major Stage 2s in the format. However, Necrozma-GX has the capability to 1HKO the big TAG TEAM-Pokémon-GX, whereas Eevee & Snorlax-GX doesn’t.
So, just as there is a recession, there is an expansion waiting ahead. The Decidueye-GX cycle may be hitting the turning point once again as a few of its favorable matchups swing themselves back into the spotlight of the meta. Malamar and Lost March are two favorable matchups; I’m unsure how the new Team Up decks will pan out (but none of them seem too crushing). Electric.dec may be difficult, but the list can change to better face its challenges. Larvitar LOT 115 is the counter to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX.
Pokémon – 22
1 Ditto p
Trainers – 30
Energy – 8
The list is incredibly similar to what one from before Team Up would’ve looked like. The new set didn’t offer many cards to add, but simply shifted to meta to better favor the deck. I’m hesitant to take away from the already accepted skeleton that is the 3-0-3 Decidueye-GX line, the 3-3 Zoroark-GX line, and the 3-2-1 Alolan Ninetales-GX line because they’re cemented. Any deviation would weaken the deck. I’ve thought about a 2-2 Zoroark-GX line, but that would be terrible if one piece was in the Prizes. The deck has little room to meddle with its extra deck space.
One weird card you may be scratching your head at is Brooklet Hill. It’s a weird card to include, especially as a 1-of, when the only target is Alolan Vulpix. However, I’m scared of Wondrous Labyrinth p. That card could shut us down almost immediately. Against Gardevoir-GX, we would be unable to Yveltal-GX away one of them. The single copy of Brooklet Hill gives us a counter Stadium against some of the overpowered Prism Stadiums of the set. It also lets us increase our T1 Beacon percentage, and sometimes gives us a 4th Pokémon on our first turn alongside Elm in matchups when we don’t need to save it.
One thing about the list I want to change is its Supporter line. 4 Professor Elm’s Lecture is key, so I would leave that the same, but I wish there were better Supporter cards to bulk out the consistency. Bill’s Analysis is the best of the sad bunch. It fails to fix this deck’s #1 problem which is finding Energy.
Why It’s Here
With Malamar and Lost March going on the upswing with Team Up’s release, I expect Decidueye-GX to reposition itself as a strong contender in the metagame. I think the list is imperfect as of now, but I’m unsure where I’d take it in the future. Zoroark-GX is essentially to the deck’s consistency, but it also introduces plenty of clunkiness.
Even though the deck may struggle against the bulky TAG TEAMs, I think Yveltal-GX can carry. This card was the MVP in dealing with Gardevoir-GX post-Roanoke, so I expect it to be even stronger against the 3-Prize-card-giving behemoths. Larvitar is likely unnecessary because we can take 3 Prizes with Yveltal-GX and snag the other 3 along the way with Zoroark-GX and Feather Arrow. If need be, Larvitar can be added in as an easy counter.
The Meta: I think Electric.dec will be a strong deck heading into the meta, but will ultimately fall into place as an inferior deck compared to some others. Malamar, Lost March, and Decidueye-GX will continue on into Team Up as the strongest decks. Gardevoir-GX should also remain strong because of its capability against some of these decks, and its new tool Wondrous Labyrinth p, so I’m excited to see how that plays out.
On Stadiums: With every new set comes more strong Stadiums. I expect to see more decks running 1–2 Stadiums in order to alleviate their strength. Black Market p is by far the most abusable Stadium. I can already imagine a control deck running this alongside Sableye GRI to try and shut out the opponent, not just with something locked Active, but as a long-lasting lock alongside Omastar TEU.
Control seems to have gotten more tools, including both Black Market p and Wondrous Labyrinth p. If it can find a way to abuse them, I’d readily add them to my list. In countering them, I would bump up my Stadium counts depending on the deck. Malamar may need to run 1 Viridian Forest in order to bump Black Market p because Wondrous Labyrinth p would be manageable. However, Lost March and other decks may struggle against both, and may need to adapt their lists accordingly.
Fighting Words: Unfortunately, Fighting seems to be on the decline post-Team Up. None of its matchups really come together anymore, as Buzzwole-GX is relatively inferior compared to the newer cards. I think of all the Fighting decks, Lucario-GX may be the one that emerges from the ashes. It doesn’t fold to Alolan Ninetales-GX, can 1HKO the main Electric Pokémon from the set, and can continue to set up for 1HKOs after a single Jet Punch to soften. The lack of Strong Energy and Korrina greatly hurts the deck heading from Expanded to Standard, but it should work fine nonetheless.
Coming Up: My next tournament is Greensboro, which is a ways away. If you see me there, feel free to say hi as always!
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.