Hello friends! Travis Nunlist here with a piece on our new set fresh off of its first event in the Standard format. Team Up, like Lost Thunder before it, was an absolutely massive set with a load of viable cards poised to shake up the format. Unsurprisingly, we’ve already seen quite the shake-up of the format in the very first major event of Team Up’s legality.
Seeing a deck with Electric-type Pokémon take the OCIC by storm was quite refreshing as it’s not a type we’ve seen have major success in quite some time, and it was fun seeing all the new cards in action! The biggest new cards of the event were Zapdos TEU, Jirachi TEU, and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX with underrated older cards like Ultra Necrozma-GX finding new relevance in the SUM–TEU format. Unsurprisingly, we saw a Zoroark variant figure out how to navigate its way through the new format and ultimately take a second place finish at the event by Stéphane Ivanoff, who now has two IC Finals appearances.
I don’t think the meta development for this event was particularly surprising to most players who were moderately prepared. Zapdos had been showing itself in plenty of Japanese results leading up to our first official event with Team Up, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX was probably the most hyped TAG TEAM out of this set going into the event, and Ultra Necrozma-GX taking over as the preferred Malamar variant was somewhat expected due to the massive HP we’re seeing on all the new TAG TEAM cards. The biggest surprise to me was the inclusion of both Lucario-GX and Lycanroc-GX in Stéphane’s Zoroark deck, but in hindsight it makes a lot of sense to include both given the expected meta.
In the age of information it was interesting to see the expected metagame line up with what a lot of people were initially expecting with nothing crazy coming out of the woodworks. One could argue that even though the meta of this event was somewhat defined going into it, it was still the first event of a new format so most people were apprehensive about getting too crazy with their deck choice. I’m especially excited to see is how the meta shifts in Collinsville, because as of right now it seems like the anticipated meta will include a lot of Alolan Muk SUM and Lightning hate with no additional archetypes being explored out of Team Up.
I have a tendency to get stuck down rabbit holes exploring Tier 2/3 concepts trying to make them Tier 1, but I have a hard time believing that there are zero additional archetypes to be pulled from this massive new set considering how many solid cards are in Team Up. I have been testing a few with varying results, and I’m excited to share with y’all some of the more interesting one’s I’ve been toying with so far.
Pokémon – 19
1 Ditto ♢
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
2 Tyranitar TEU: 170 HP, single Prize, and can do 230 damage with one attack! What’s not to love about the new Tyranitar? Spinning Tail does 30 damage to all of your opponent’s Pokémon, which can allow you to clear your opponent’s board of any low-HP Pokémon hanging around. The real attraction here is Bite Off, which does 130 base damage but adds a whopping 100 damage if your opponent’s Active Pokémon is a GX or EX, which KOs most Pokémon. Tyranitar-GX plays well into the spread strategy, hits for solid damage while having 250 HP, and Lost Out is insanely powerful effect that can win games on its own. A final fun thing about this line is how incredibly hard Larvitar LOT 115 can hit after a single Spinning Tail against Fighting-weak Pokémon.
2 Solgaleo-GX SM104, 1 Solgaleo-GX SUM: The Solgaleo-GX promo has been one of my favorite cards to come out recently. It does so many great things at the same time: removes our pesky Weakness, accelerates Energy very well, and hits for a solid 120 damage. The massive HP and efficient acceleration make Max Potion an incredible option to reset the board. The other Solgaleo-GX gives our hefty crew constant mobility and can pull off some tricks with Super Boost Energy.
4 Hoopa-GX: Hoopa-GX is what helps to pull all these pieces together. Being able to search two cards per turn in a format without N is very good. Even if you’re hit by a Judge or Let Loose you can simply search again as it’s unlikely they will be able to disrupt your hand multiple turns in a row. Max Potion also works very well at making Hoopa last multiple turns in a row without giving up any Prizes. In addition to being a great setup Pokémon, it also has two solid attacks that can be instantly powered up by Solgaleo-GX SM104.
Absol TEU: This brand new card has seen immediate success, and is especially powerful against the new all-Basic Lightning decks which rely on switching often. An added bonus is that it can actually attack in this deck, and the attack is solid enough.
Buff Padding, Choice Band: I’ve tried both Tools here and both have their merits. Buff Padding only works on Tyranitar TEU, but making that thing a 220-HP monster makes it impossible to take down in one shot. If the situation arises, you can also attach Buff Padding to Hoopa-GX if your opponent plays down Absol TEU.
Electrode-GX, Counter Energy, Counter Gain: My first draft of this deck included all of these cards as I had modeled the deck after the original Bombtar deck that saw success way back in 2005, but unfortunately none of our come-from-behind cards are quite as good as Pow! Hand Extension or Scramble Energy. It can also be a little difficult getting enough Energy in the discard to maximize Extra Energy Bomb before you fall too far behind without focusing your entire deck on it.
Pokémon – 13
1 Ditto ♢
Trainers – 37
Energy – 10
I haven’t touched an Unidentified Fossil since blowing up the Pokémon internet last year with Rampardos/Talonflame, but man, did this set have a lot to offer our new Fossil mechanic. I think the way Fossils are currently structured is the most playable they have been in a very long time, and I’m really excited to see them printing such powerful effects on these cards in an effort to make Fossils playable. Fossil Excavation Map also deserves a ton of recognition for being just good enough to help streamline getting, and keeping, Unidentified Fossil into play.
I’m not totally sold on my exact Pokémon lineup just yet as it feels a little stretched thin, but I’ve been having a blast experimenting with all the options. Having so many different things evolving from the same Basic allows for some very interesting play. Simply attaching a Fighting Energy to an Unidentified Fossil gives you full range, with the right draws, to evolve into and attack with any of the available Fossil Pokémon based on what would be the most beneficial on the following turn.
Having to run some amount of Basic Pokémon because we cannot open with a Fossil has always been a bit awkward when trying to build these decks at times, but I think we have some pretty solid options right now.
The final thing I would like to mention about this deck is: achieving Item and Supporter lock against your opponent at the same time is soul-crushingly good.
Diancie ♢: I started with this in my list but ultimately gave it the axe because in order to keep Omastar live we want to keep as few Pokémon on our Bench as possible, so playing an exclusive Bench-sitter seemed counterproductive.
Lycanroc-GX TEU, Lycanroc-GX GRI: While the entire goal of the deck is to keep as small of a Bench as possible so that Omastar remains live, the options provided by these Lycanrocs was fun to experiment with. It changes the dynamic of how the deck plays because of how good both Lycanroc are, because if the tempo is going your way it can become very viable to simply break lock and start swinging for the fences with a Lycanroc.
4th Fossil Excavation Map, 4th Order Pad, 2nd Rescue Stretcher: These are all consistency cards I’m really looking to squeeze back into the deck. While the deck is entirely functional without them, having the extra consistency padding is always appreciated in an event like a Regional Championships where one must play and win dozens of rounds to win the event.
Mill Concept: This is not something I have built a list for or have given it very much thought yet, but I can imagine a type of mill deck that is focused on keeping Kabutops alive in the Active, Omastar on the Bench, and play zero Energy with a load of mill cards and Lusamine to try and lock the opponent out of the game. I imagine you can hit a point in the game where your opponent actually can’t do anything and you can loop your annoying mill cards until you win.
Pokémon – 20
1 Latios ♢
1 Ditto ♢
Trainers – 28
Energy – 12
Our final feature is something I’ve been spending the most time on recently. The dual typing of the same card that they’ve been doing lately (e.g., Alolan Exeggutor FLI & Alolan Exeggutor TEU 114) is something I’m very into, and I hope they continue to do it. Giving this Alolan Exeggutor a Dragon typing opens up loads of options with Altaria DRM, Latios ♢, and Mysterious Treasure.
Alolan Exeggutor has also gained a couple of new tools since the last time I gave it a try in Shuckle LOT and Viridian Forest. Both of these cards are incredibly powerful for getting the different types into the discard as fast as possible to maximize the damage output from Tropical Shake.
In a perfect world, Alolan Exeggutor can hit for 230 damage with the maximum amount of modifiers applied from the list above (240 if you count Shrine). While you should not be expecting to this these kind of numbers consistently, it is entirely feasible to consistently hit just below that with the gap being made up in Shrine ticks. Alolan Exeggutor’s 160 HP and single-Prize attacker status make it incredibly annoying to actually get through six of them. Latios ♢ is our giant threatening nuke with Buzzwole FLI and Nihilego LOT being cute options to go along with the odd Energy we play.
1-1 Zebstrika LOT: This deck feels like it wants a little more reach at times, and I really like that Zebstrika can burn through the Energy needed to maximize damage where and when possible. With Alolan Muk SUM expected to be on the rise to counter Jirachi TEU, this could be a great sleeper in any deck looking for consistency help.
Net Ball: I originally had a pair of these in the list, but ultimately had to cut them for space. I like the ability to search for a [G] Energy or a Basic [G] Pokémon, but the Net Balls were rarely game-breaking, and the limited search capabilities of the card leave a lot to be desired.
Escape Rope, Switch: Some switching cards would be nice in a deck like this where everything is a bit hefty and we don’t play Double Colorless, which can make retreating even more of a pain. Being able to promote, search baby Buzz, and switch back into it can be the difference-maker in those all important Sledgehammer turns where your window of opportunity is very limited.
I’m more and more intrigued with every new set at the direction the game is going, but I’m overall very excited to see it in action more! The mechanics they’ve been printing in the game require more action on the player’s end (see: Incineroar-GX) which seems like an attempt to make the card game more visually appealing to watch for those who do not know nearly as much about the game.
There are a few other ideas that I’ve been wanting to try out leading up to this event, but time makes fools of us all. Incineroar-GX is going to be the next thing on my list I want to take a crack at, and I would not be a little bit surprised to see old faithful Gardevoir-GX make a splash in Collinsville.
As a change of pace, I will actually be attending this event! However, it will not be as a player despite how much I might want to make a run with Alolan Exeggutor. I will be attending this event as a commentator! Be sure to checkout the event stream on Twitch to see me doing my thing. As always, please feel free to say hello to me if you see me roaming around Collinsville or anywhere else. Y’all are great. Until next time!
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