Breaking the Triangle

The Oceania Meta, Post-Oceania Zoroark, Ultra Necrozma / Malamar (Updated), and What We Have Left

Hello 6P! What a weekend we just had with the second Internationals of the season taking place in Melbourne, Australia. To say Team Up shook the meta this weekend would be an understatement, and we saw a metagame dominated by Lightning decks, where Zapdos was crowned the champion in the end.

As has been the case for the last couple of years, the Oceania International Championships had the lowest attendance of the Internationals, but that does not mean it was any easier. The competition is incredibly tough and very concentrated, as you have the best players from each region there (incentivized through Travel Awards and Stipends), along with the top local players.

The Oceania Meta

Based on what I heard, the Day 1 metagame was very similar to what we saw Day 2: a lot of Lightning decks—mixed between Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Zapdos based—along with a heavy presence of Ultra Necrozma-GX/ decks and Zoroark-GX as well. Decks like Blacephalon-GX and Psychic Malamar also showed up in lower numbers, but ultimately didn’t do as well as the others previously mentioned.

The Top 8 was comprised of 3 Zapdos, 3 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, and 2 Zoroark-GX decks. Malamar had three Top 16 showings, including a 9th place bubble. One of the three Zapdos decks included Buzzwole FLI and Nihilego LOT, which, you might recall from my previous article, was one of my top choices to do well. I was very happy to see it go all the way into the Top 8, and Bert Wolters + Bryan de Vries went a step further by adding Zebstrika LOT in order to counteract Alolan Muk SUM and improve the matchup. Both Buzzwole and Nihilego help against Zoroark’s high HP by giving you options to 1HKO it back and throw big attacks at it without having to find a bunch of Electropowers. Heading into the next tournaments, I would definitely favor this version of Zapdos over the pure Lightning one, as it offers a wider variety of options that, therefore, make the deck less predictable and easy to prepare for.

With Lightning decks becoming so dominant, as well as Jirachi being heavily present in the metagame, it seems like the natural response is a heavy Fighting-based deck that can 1HKO Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, along with the inclusion of Alolan Muk in decks. If you watched the final of Oceania, I think it’s clear that 1 Ditto p won’t be enough from now on as it kept getting sniped by Zapdos and thus Isaiah’s Jirachis were always functional. At least 1 Alolan Grimer needs to be included in decks, along with 1 or maybe even 2 copies of Alolan Muk in order to have a guaranteed way to stop Jirachi and thus the whole Zapdos engine.

Of course, a pure Fighting deck would be easily run over by Malamar decks, which is where Zoroark-GX would come back into the equation. Lycanroc-GX is still necessary for the deck to keep up with Ultra Necrozma-GX, as otherwise you won’t be able to ever have a 1HKO against it and thus could fall behind way too quickly.

Overall I do think Zoroark-GX has the potential to simply counter all the current top decks, and Lucario-GX is the key missing piece of the puzzle which allows us to really take down Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. This is what my current list looks like after Oceania results:

Post-Oceania Zoroark

Pokémon (22)

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

2 Rockruff FLI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

2 Riolu UPR

2 Lucario-GX

1 Alolan Grimer TEU

1 Alolan Muk SUM

1 Ditto p

1 Diancie p

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (30)

4 Lillie

2 Acerola

2 Guzma

1 Cynthia

1 Judge

1 Mallow

1 Professor Kukui

 

4 Nest Ball

4 Ultra Ball

3 Pokémon Communication

1 Field Blower

1 Pal Pad

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Choice Band

 

2 Devoured Field

Energy (8)

4 Double Colorless

4 Fighting

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 22

* 4 Zorua SLG 52
* 4 Zoroark-GX PR-SM SM84
* 2 Rockruff FLI 75
* 2 Lycanroc-GX GRI 138
* 2 Riolu UPR 66
* 2 Lucario-GX FLI 122
* 1 Alolan Grimer TEU 83
* 1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 1 Diancie p FLI 74
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 137

##Trainer Cards - 30

* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 2 Acerola BUS 142
* 1 Pal Pad UPR 132
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 2 Devoured Field CIN 93
* 1 Cynthia UPR 148
* 4 Lillie UPR 151
* 2 Guzma BUS 143
* 2 Choice Band BUS 162
* 1 Field Blower GRI 163
* 3 Pokémon Communication TEU 196
* 1 Mallow GRI 145
* 1 Professor Kukui SUM 148
* 1 Judge LOT 209

##Energy - 8

* 4 Double Colorless Energy GRI 166
* 4 Fighting Energy GRI 169

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72525 ******

Pokémon

1 Alolan Grimer TEU: As you can see, Alolan Grimer is definitely a priority for me, and I still wouldn’t be opposed to running a second Alolan Muk, though that might be too much.

1 Diancie p: The Diancie p is the most suspect card in the list for me at the moment, as your own Alolan Muk shuts it off, but I could see some scenarios where it’s useful for Lucario-GX to stretch to big numbers. Choice Band + Professor Kukui + Diancie allows Lucario to hit for 190 damage, enough to 1HKO Ultra Necrozma-GX or Blacephalon-GX. Magcargo would definitely be a card I would consider adding to the deck in place of Diancie though, as there will be games where you don’t need Alolan Muk and thus have the option to use it instead—or where Grimer gets to Muk and Ditto becomes Magcargo—which would be ideal.

Trainers

2 Devoured Field: First off, I dislike both Viridian Forest and Wondrous Labyrinth p as options for this deck, as with all the draw power from Trade and also Mallow, you shouldn’t struggle too much to find the necessary Energy to win a game. Also, it seems like not being able to counter Viridian Forest against Malamar would be awful, as they really benefit from it while also being unable to counter it. Devoured Field helps in case we see a rise of Buzzwole, particularly in Zapdos decks, and allows Zoroark-GX to stretch to 180 which is relevant, along with 150 which could be important vs. Granbull.

1 Professor Kukui: This brings me to the other important inclusion, Professor Kukui. I think this card is key to hit important numbers, especially when opponents think they might have played around Dangerous Rogue GX successfully. Other than that, Pokémon Communication is a very welcome addition to Zoroark-GX as we can now stop playing the unreliable Timer Balls and underwhelming Great Balls. Over a third of our deck are Pokémon so it shouldn’t be a problem to have one to exchange for the cost, and being able to guarantee a Pokémon for that cost is simply superior to flipping for it or hoping it’s in the top 7 cards of your deck.

No Counter Gain: Counter Gain is the last option I would consider, as then we have access to our most powerful attack with a single Energy attachment. This could be important since we dropped the Viridian Forests from our list, and it’s also just good in general as it could also let us use Lucario-GX’s second attack for FF.

Energy

4 Double Colorless, 4 Fighting: Energy of course remain the same. Trickster GX is not worth choosing to use Unit Energy FDY, as that could make for awkward matchups against potential mill decks or random Enhanced Hammers. Another plus to having basic Energy is that we can access them with opponents using Viridian Forest themselves.

Personally, Zoroark-GX seems like a great option for Collinsville because of the added consistency that Trade provides. Over the course of nine rounds of Day 1, you want your deck performing the same over and over, and no other deck does it better than this one.

Ultra Necrozma / Malamar (Updated)

I definitely am scared of the Malamar matchup, however, and that is why I always like to keep my options open and I would also consider this other deck for Collinsville as a backup because it seems like it has the potential to handle everything:

Pokémon (17)

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

2 Giratina LOT

2 Ultra Necrozma-GX

1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

2 Jirachi TEU

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (32)

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie

3 Guzma

 

4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Ultra Ball

3 Switch

2 Nest Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Choice Band

2 Escape Board

 

2 Viridian Forest

Energy (11)

7 Psychic

3 Metal

1 Beast p

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 17

* 4 Inkay FLI 50
* 4 Malamar FLI 51
* 2 Giratina LOT 97
* 2 Ultra Necrozma-GX FLI 127
* 1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX UPR 143
* 2 Jirachi TEU 99
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 137

##Trainer Cards - 32

* 2 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 2 Escape Board UPR 167
* 3 Switch SUM 160
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 2 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 4 Cynthia UPR 148
* 4 Lillie UPR 151
* 3 Guzma BUS 143
* 2 Choice Band BUS 162
* 2 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 145

##Energy - 11

* 1 Beast Energy p FLI 117
* 3 Metal Energy SUM 163
* 7 Psychic Energy SUM 162

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72525 ******

Ultra Necrozma-GX was the best performing Malamar deck in Australia and for good reason. Both of its attacks are extremely powerful, and they each help in a different way vs GX and non-GX matchups. Photon Geyser can reach incredibly high numbers, while Sky-Scorching Light is the perfect way to pull off game-winning plays against non-GX matchups by winning the race with a 2–3-Prize turn.

Pokémon

2 Giratina LOT: Giratina is another key attacker in the match, especially against Zapdos, as it’s not easy for them to pull off continuous KOs on it. They have to play around it with Guzma or Escape Rope, so it is key to not place the damage from Shadow Impact on itself like is usually done. It’s a very grindy battle, but if you do force them to go through Giratinas, then Ultra Necrozma’s attack actually becomes a viable way to beat them if you were able to use Distortion Door enough times.

2 Jirachi TEU: Jirachi is a neat play here, but it will be deterred heavily by the Zapdos hate I expect at Collinsville, which might be reason enough to drop to just one. The deck works fine without it, but definitely excels with it, so I would keep at least one in as that 5-card digging can be extremely helpful in many situations.

Other Considerations: Chimecho CIN and Marshadow-GX are also considerations that could be included to improve upon the Zoroark-GX matchup even further, but I don’t think they are necessary at the moment.

Trainers

No Erika’s Hospitality: As far as Trainers go, I had an Erika’s Hospitality in there for a long time, but I was having so many situations where it was my only draw Supporter early on that I ended up switching it out for a Cynthia. Other than that, it’s fairly standard as to what has been consistent in Malamar since the beginning of the season. Lots of searching options to find early Inkays and deck thinning, with the inclusion of Viridian Forest to make sure having the right Energy at any point in the game is even easier.

2 Choice Band: Choice Bands are necessary in my opinion, as numbers get awkward against Zoroark-GX decks otherwise.

Energy

7 Psychic, 3 Metal, 1 Beast p: Energy is difficult to balance sometimes for this deck, and the 3rd Metal Energy could possibly be debatable. However, I don’t think I could find it in me to cut it. Beast Energy is obviously an extra Metal Energy most of the time, but it’s not searchable by Viridian Forest so it’s not something you can rely on on most games. 2 Metal is definitely the bare minimum. 3 Metal is safe and I think it’s the right way to go.

The Three Sides

Last week I said my favorite deck that I wouldn’t play at Oceania would be Zapdos/Buzzwole/Nihilego. The reason was I expected Absol to be everywhere, along with Alolan Muk putting a big dent in your plans too. I believe this reason still holds true for Collinsville and even more so after it has now proven its worth and is considered a big threat since it won in Melbourne this past weekend.

There are other decks that I’m sure will end up seeing play at the upcoming Regional, but the metagame can be easily summarized into the four decks we’ve mentioned throughout the article. This means we will probably go into another triangle format. Previously we had Malamar, Buzzwole, and Zoroark intertwined, trying to one-up each other. Now, we once again have Zoroark-GX decks with Alolan Muk and Lucario-GX focused on beating the Lightning archetypes (Zapdos and Pikachu & Zekrom), while these have pretty good matchups against Malamar decks, and surprisingly, Ultra Necrozma-GX is the tipping point to pushing Malamar to be slightly favored over Zoroark-GX. Granted, none of these matchups are polar and they are all very winnable by either side, but in each one there is a slight advantage that one of them gets over the other which I will explain below:

  • Malamar’s 1HKO prowess is unmatched by the underwhelming Zoroark and Lucario attackers, as Lycanroc-GX is only a threat once in a game. There is some merit to pairing Lucario with Weavile UPR to have stronger KOs though and this might be worth exploring.
  • Zoroark’s high HP plus Alolan Muk denying Jirachi in Zapdos decks proves too detrimental to that deck. Eventually Zoroark will stabilize and Zapdos has only a limited number of damage modifiers. This means that the high HP and heavy Acerola count makes it difficult to close out games. This is less true for the Buzzwole version of the deck though, and is why I would prefer that one over the one that won.
  • Zapdos and Lightning decks prove too fast and consistent for Malamar though, which might get pressured on a KO since Turn 1 thanks to all the switching cards, and by the time you’ve stabilized with a Giratina you might find yourself 2 or 3 Prizes behind.

Breaking the Triangle

So is there anything that can break the triangle? It seems like decks that could potentially do well against these have a very glaring weakness to the another one. For example:

  • Blacephalon-GX has always had really positive matchups vs. Zoroark-GX decks. However, it really struggles to keep up against Malamar and Zapdos, though it can go toe to toe vs. Pikachu.
  • Buzzwole-based decks, with Alolan Ninetales support, Alolan Muk, or even both, might have a good shot at beat Pikachu and Zoroark, though will definitely struggle against Zapdos and Malamar decks.
  • Granbull would perhaps boast a good matchup against Malamar, Zapdos and Pikachu decks in general, yet it will definitely struggle in an environment where Alolan Muk is a priority for Zoroark, an otherwise OK matchup.
  • Alolan Exeggutor, an often overlooked deck, can boast solid matchups against Zapdos, Pikachu, and maybe even Zoroark if you can get enough Exeggutors out to pressure their Acerolas. However, it seems iffy if Zoroark runs 2 Acerola + 1 Pal Pad, and Malamar would be a tough matchup due to Ultra Necrozma’s GX attack in the late game securing KOs against things like Shuckles and Marshadows.

A good tournament run in Collinsville will be defined by matchups for the most part, as there is no end-all deck that has favorable matchups against everything. I expect the big four to show up in high numbers, and my testing has shown very little reason to not stick with one of these.

Conclusion

And so, that will be all for my article today. I’ll be back again next week with an analysis of Collinsville + Cannes, the next two major events taking place this weekend. As always, any questions or comments feel free to direct them to me over here or any of the Tablemon social media outlets! Thanks so much for reading and I hope I’ll see you in Collinsville this weekend!


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