Hi everyone, Kenny Wisdom here again bringing you another Underground article just head of this weekend’s International Championship in Australia. Firstly, I’d like to apologize for this article being late. Washington state has been hit with a brutal snow storm that has left me snowed in and without reliable electricity for quite some time. Thankfully, things seem to be stable and we can now return to our scheduled programming. It remains to be seen if I’ll be able to move my car out of our suburban housing development that hasn’t seen a single snowplow, but at least I’ve got SixPrizes and PTCGO to keep me busy.
As much as I would like to escape the blizzard at home for a week down under, I won’t be attending the Oceania International this year, and will be watching the action from home like everybody else. Even still, I’ve done a fair share of testing in this format and am excited to share my findings and touch on a little bit of what’s been happening in the community lately.
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX (SUM–TEU, Pre-Oceania IC)Electric.dec /
First of all, I want the record to show that I don’t think TAG TEAM GX cards are particularly good for the game. I expect that most of these cards will either be too powerful—bordering on oppressive—or they won’t be good enough to see competitive play. Either result is not great and I don’t believe the card type is going to lead to fun, engaging gameplay. I would love to be wrong about this, but I haven’t had too much fun playing with the cards yet and I don’t think there’s enough design space to make these cards interesting. They seem to be the future though, so all we can do is sit back and watch.
Secondly, I think this Pikachu & Zekrom-GX-focused Electric deck is the best deck in the format. Admittedly, I likely don’t have as many reps in as a lot of my fellow writers who have been preparing for one of the major tournaments of the season, but I feel confident that this deck is a great choice for any upcoming Standard tournaments. I don’t believe the deck is unbeatable or anything, but I could imagine a world in which a well-tuned version of Electric.dec is the best thing anyone can be doing. What I would like you to take away from this is that you should not submit a list that can’t go 50/50 or better against the Electric deck, and you should expect to face the matchup multiple times this weekend.
Pokémon – 12
3 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
2 Tapu Lele-GX
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
There’s been a lot written about this deck over the past few weeks so I won’t go as in depth with regard to the individual card choices as I usually might, but I do want to touch on a few of the more important things about this specific list.
I debated for a long time whether or not the deck should be playing two or three copies of the namesake GX, but I eventually settled on three. The reason for ultimately settling on three is that a play pattern came up in which I would use Full Blitz and attach the Energy I found to a Benched copy of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, as to give myself the most possible options. When you want the game to play out in such a way that requires having two copies of the same card in play as early as the first turn, it would be silly to just run two. I haven’t tested with 4, but due to the nature of the card I would imagine that to be overkill.
Zeraora is in the deck mainly to give free retreat with its Thunderclap Zone Ability, which anyone who has played with Darkrai-EX DEX can attest is incredibly powerful. It’s also a fine attacker in itself, as its stats and damage output are nothing to scoff at, but its main role in the deck is to allow your Pokémon to move in and out of the Active Spot more efficiently.
We just talked a little bit about how Zeraora-GX is in the deck because it provides a very strong utility and is a fine card outside of that. While what Tapu Koko provides us isn’t quite as powerful as what Zeraora has going on, we can think about the cards in a similar fashion. Here, Tapu Koko is used to punish big Energy decks. Specifically, I’ve had several games play out as such that you can use Tapu Thunder-GX in the mirror match to Knock Out an opposing Pikachu & Zekrom-GX that was hoping to score a big GX attack of their own. Much like Zeraora, the card is completely fine outside of that, which is one of the things that makes all of these cards individually, and this deck as a whole, so powerful.
It’s definitely possible to get away with only running a single copy of Raikou, but I like the effect that it provides, and I’ve found that being a single-Prize attacker is very valuable as well. It’s not an overwhelmingly powerful card, but it is efficient and fits in with what you want to be doing. If there comes a time in the format where the Prize trade becomes less important it may be right to shave or cut Raikou completely, but for now I wouldn’t be leaving home without at least one.
While there are a few other tech options and I’m certain the numbers in the list can and will be messed with, I would expect the majority of this weekend’s Electric decks to look pretty similar to this. This is a deck with a ton of Lightning-type support, an unbelievably powerful attacker as the star of the show, and a supporting cast that is better than the best thing that a lot of decks are trying to do. If I were going to the Oceania International, or any other important Standard tournament between this weekend, I would absolutely be registering this deck.
When the Best is Good Enough
I’d like to touch on a bit of theory, as I think it’s an important concept to internalize and applies here. A lot of the best players in the world will tell you that their preparation consists of (1) identifying the best deck and then (2) feverishly trying to figure out how to beat it. This logic is sound, because if you’re certain you’ve found the best deck, you can simply revert to playing that if all else fails, whereas finding something unexpected that could beat what everyone else is doing, especially if you believe you are better than most of your opponents, can lead to a lot of prize money and Championship Points.
With that being said, it’s very easy to take that mindset a bit too far. There are times where the best deck is good enough that you can effectively shift the responsibility of beating it onto the other players in the field by playing it yourself. Instead of trying to break the format, you can tune the best deck to your liking, and let everyone else struggle with figuring out how to interact. While creativity and exploring the metagame is extremely important in becoming truly great, I think most players would do themselves a favor to step back and think about how they’re approaching the game and where they are sinking their time. We all know such and such great player that is constantly playing rogue decks to their detriment, and we’ve all seen the stories from top players who try too hard to do something different and ignore what’s in front of their face.
Perfecting this sort of balance in deck selection is a never-ending task that very few people are truly good at, but it’s crucial to constantly be reevaluating your game, both on and off the table.
Lost March (SUM–TEU, Pre-Oceania IC)
One of the ways that I’ve found to consistently defeat the Electric menace is to focus heavily on hitting hard and fast with single-Prize attackers. With everyone (myself included) talking up the power of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, it’s very easy to forget that the new TAG TEAM Pokémon have a very real drawback in the form of the TAG TEAM rule. The Prize exchange has been very important since EX and Pokémon-GX were introduced, and it matters even more when your opponent scoring a single knockout allows them to take half of their total Prize cards. A deck that can consistently Knock Out huge-HP Pokémon while staying advantaged in the Prize trade could be the answer we need.
Pokémon – 26
4 Hoppip LOT
Trainers – 26
4 Lost Blender
1 Nest Ball
Energy – 8
4 Double Colorless
Similar to the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck, there has been a lot written on this deck. In particular, I really like Kirk Dube and Noel Totomoch’s take on the deck, and although our lists differ quite a bit at times, I would strongly recommending listening to what they have to say if you’re planning on playing this deck for any upcoming tournaments. If you know me, though, you know I’ve always got some thoughts of my own to share.
I make it a point to always be as honest as I possibly can with the readers of SixPrizes and because of that I won’t sugarcoat it for you. Upon first looking at the spoiler, I thought this card was gimmicky trash and anyone playing it in their decks had a screw loose. However, upon further review I have to admit this card is actually absurdly good in this archetype.
The real power of this card comes from the synergy with Pokémon Communication. In a deck where you have a lot of moving pieces, being able to trade completely expandable cards away for your most important Pokémon is absolutely critical. Combine that inherent consistency boost with the interaction with Lost Blender and the fact that Emolga itself has a Retreat Cost of zero and you have a no-brainer 4-of inclusion.
This also relates to an important piece of theory that I’m sure I’ve written about before, but bears repeating: When evaluating new cards, it’s always to your benefit to focus on the upsides of the card and be as positive as you can. It’s very easy to write off cards that don’t seem immediately powerful, but in the long run you’re going to hurt your chances of winning by focusing on the negatives.
The only thing you stand to lose by testing cards that seem “bad” is your time, and if you’re disciplined about proper preparation, you’ll have plenty of testing time for any major tournament. On the other hand, if you look for the best in cards and spend an adequate amount of time testing with them, you’ll be sure that you’re making informed decisions and over time the hours spent playing with these cards will pay off.
This is especially true in the case of a card like Emolga. For instance, in my other theory rant in this article I suggested that players should play the best deck more often than they do, and the advice I’m giving now may seem to be going against that. However, I don’t necessarily mean that you should be testing every deck under the sun. The point I want to drive home is that looking for small improvements to existing archetypes that other people may have missed can lead to a lot of success. You probably don’t need to reinvent the wheel because of Emolga, but fine-tuning your Lost March list is well worth the effort.
While four Jumpluff may seem obvious, I know that Kirk Dube, who as I said, is more or less the authority on Lost March in my mind, is a proponent of playing only three copies. In order to justify this you have to be playing something closer to his list, which is a few key cards different than mine. I wouldn’t be advocating for my list if I didn’t think it was where you wanted to be, but I think both versions have their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re interested in trying out something a little less straightforward, I’d recommend giving Kirk a follow at @doobsnax on Twitter to keep up with his latest developments of the deck.
The way this list is constructed means we really want to be playing the full four copies, and overall I think unless you have a lot of experience with the deck and believe you have a great read on the metagame, you’ll likely want to maximize the consistency where you can.
I know some players have chosen to move away from Marshadow, but I am pretty confident that is not the place to be. Let Loose is a strong and flexible enough Ability that it should never be overlooked. I would be okay going to two copies, but there hasn’t been a whole lot I’ve wanted more than the third.
Erika’s is a card I was and still am very excited about. The hand size drawback means that it won’t go into every single deck, but I think now is its time to shine in Lost March. Your hand gets low enough that this card is almost always great, and I’ve been very happy with two copies. There is of course a risk to playing with this type of card, which is why I have more copies of Lillie and wouldn’t consider adding anymore Erika’s Hospitality to the list, but I think the reward is worth it.
4 Pokémon Communication, 3 Great Ball, 2 Net Ball, 1 Nest Ball, & 1 Ultra Ball
Figuring out the correct number of these cards is very difficult and I would be surprised if there was a “right” answer that didn’t change based on the expected metagame and specific configuration of other cards in the list on a week-to-week basis. What I have included in the list above is a mix of consistency and options that I believe is as correct as it can be given the information I have at my disposal.
As a whole, I think Lost March is well positioned going into Oceania. I can’t imagine losing many games to the Electric deck, and outside of various spread variants (which I haven’t tested much against in all honesty) I think our matchups should be even to slightly favorable all around. I do fear taking a potential auto-loss to any decks focusing on spreading damage around, which is why I would still recommend Electric over Lost March, but I absolutely believe you should consider playing this deck, and what might happen when you play against it.
That’s about all the strict strategy information I have for you today. Hopefully what I’ve had to say here serves you well. I’m not nearly as focused on the competitive side of things as some of my contemporaries here at SixPrizes and haven’t been for years, but I do put genuine effort into everything I do and believe strongly in my reasoning and logic. If you have any questions about either of these decks, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond as quickly and as thoroughly as I can.
Commentary on the Recent DQs and Suspensions
I want to end this article by touching on what may be a sensitive subject for some: recent suspensions around prize splitting, bribery, and the like.
Over the past few months we’ve seen several players face DQs and suspensions over some form of prize splitting or bribery. I don’t know the exact specifics of these situations and don’t particularly care to, but I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the rules surrounding these infractions in the community lately, and feel obligated to say my part.
It is of the utmost importance that we as players (especially if you’re in the “public” figure space at all as a writer, streamer, sponsored player, or coach) abide by all of the tournament rules of Pokémon, regardless of whether or not we agree with them. It doesn’t matter if other games allow for the things we’ve seen players get suspended over, or if you believe the rules should change. When you enter a tournament, you’re agreeing not to engage in prize splitting just as you’re agreeing not to draw an extra card or take an extra Prize.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t petition to have rules changed, or let the community and TPCi know how you feel about something. Throughout the history of the game we’ve seen changes enacted because of player feedback, and I encourage you to take that route when you feel something about the game is not right or fair.
But as long as the rules exist as they are, we must follow them to the letter, and doing anything different is doing a disservice to ourselves, the community, and the game as a whole.
Good luck down under, and I’ll see you next month.
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