Tag Teams, Dogs, and Beasts

The Collinsville Meta, the Future of Standard, Variance Got Me, and What’s “the Play” Now?

Hello again readers, I’m back with my thoughts on the Collinsville meta, what these results mean for the future of Standard, and what led me to play Ultra Necrozma to a Top 256 finish. I didn’t have much time to test for the event, which likely affected my deck choice quite a bit. I believe that if I had more time, I could have broken or helped break the meta. Now, with the next two major events (Toronto, Greensboro) being Expanded (BLW–TEU), my focus will be shifting there instead.

The Collinsville Meta

We saw a Blacephalon/Naganadel deck take the win this past weekend. Zapdos/Jirachi and Zoroark/Lycanroc made up a major portion of the meta, Stall is back (and causing me a major headache), and the top players brought a variety of decks to the event. What influenced these plays though? Blacephalon was, in retrospect, the obvious choice for the weekend, having a borderline free matchup against Zoroark, 50/50s against PikaRom and Zapdos, and a chance against the Stall decks. The Zapdos and Zoroark players were influenced by the results from OCIC. Zoroark was still a very strong play for the weekend, and I wish I had decided to play it rather than Ultra Necrozma. Finally, Stall boasts favorable matchups against pretty much the entire meta, but is extremely vulnerable to Marshadow’s Let Loose and Judge.

The Future of Standard

What does this mean for the future of the Standard format now though? Well, I believe that with its recent win, Blacephalon is likely back on the map for many players. While it may have won the event, I personally don’t believe it will gain much more traction than the odd League Cup placement. This is due to the fact that there’s no major Standard event for a while (the next is Denver, Apr 6, over a month from now). In theory, this will lead people to care less about the format, which in turn leads them to not test it much. People have likely already sunk a bit of money in their Jirachi playset and don’t want to play another deck quite so fast. I think the reason Blacephalon did well is because it was a surprise. Now that people are aware of it being somewhat decent, people may be more prepared for it.

Zoroark will likely decline in play a bit from fear of Blacephalon, but it is still one of the strongest, and most popular, decks in Standard. It has a favorable Zapdos matchup and a 50/50 or better PikaRom matchup, which means it will always be relevant. I think the 1-1 Lucario-GX/2 Alolan Grimer list that we saw my friend Wes Hollenberg pilot to his heartbreaking 10th place finish is likely the correct way to run the deck. In theory, a second Riolu allows you to Acerola into another Lucario-GX, but in practice, the Riolu ends up being a Guzma target and almost always gets KO’d. By this logic, there’s no point in playing a 2-2 line, because once used, Lucario-GX loses much of its utility. 2 Alolan Grimer almost always allows the player to find the double out to Alolan Muk in the matchups where it matters.

Zapdos was the “deck to beat” going into Collinsville. This definitely showed in the results. There was only one Zapdos in Top 16 of Collinsville, but there were quite a few in Day 2. I think this is a case of enough people playing a deck, and some inevitably doing well. I personally hate Zapdos, but I’ll acknowledge that it’s good enough deck to deserve a place in the meta. However, I don’t believe it will see as much play moving forward as it has seen in the last two weekends.

PikaRom falls under the same category as Zapdos for me. The deck can beat anything, but suffers when it doesn’t start well. PikaRom claimed two of the Top 8 slots. We saw Jolteon-GX become a staple in the deck, which is why I believe it was able to even come close to winning the event. Had I owned any Jolteon-GX, I would have heavily considered playing PikaRom for the main event. However, due to my late arrival, it wasn’t worth the risk of playing a list I’ve never touched before. I think a good PikaRom list is going to be a constant in Standard going forward.

My Play for Collinsville

I made the “safe” play by playing the same 60 of Ultra Necrozma that I posted in my last article. As it turns out, it was hardly a safe play for me. I squeaked into T256 based on my tiebreakers. Plenty of people did well with Ultra Necrozma though. I think Ultra Necrozma was the perfect example of the idea that if enough people play a deck, variance will allow some to do well. Alex Krekeler and Justin Kulas ended up playing the same 60 as me. One resulted in a Day 2 finish and the other a drop. Variance played a major part in how we all finished.

Variance in Pokémon (Same 60)

Alex Schemanske / Collinsville Regionals / Day 1

R1: Zapdos/Jirachi LL (0-1-0)
R2: Charizard/Ninetales WW (1-1-0)
R3: ZoroTalesVile WW (2-1-0)
R4: Zororoc LWL (2-2-0)
R5: Zapdos/Jirachi WLT (2-2-1)
R6: Grass Box WW (3-2-1)
R7: Zapdos/Buzzwole WW (4-2-1)
R8: Jolteon PikaRom WLL (4-3-1)
R9: Ultra Malamar w/ Koko WW (5-3-1)

Final: 5-3-1, T256

Justin Kulas / Collinsville Regionals / Day 1

R1: Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon W (1-0-0)
R2: Zororoc W (2-0-0)
R3: Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon LWT (2-0-1)
R4: Zapdos/Jirachi LWL (2-1-1)
R5: Zororoc LL (2-2-1)
R6: Zapdos/Jirachi LL (2-3-1)

Final: 2-3-1, Drop

Vs. Zapdos

  • I hit 3 Zapdos-based decks, going 1-1-1 against them. This is a matchup that comes down to how both players draw. In the first match, I prized Acerola twice and subsequently lost. In the third match against it, I hit T1 Horror House-GX both games which allows me to take the first Prize. On top of that, I had access to my single copy of Acerola both times once the Gengar & Mimikyu-GX was in danger. That is the epitome of variance here. In one match I can lose to prizing one card, but in the other, I can infallibly win if I manage to hit a certain card.
  • Justin hit 4 Zapdos decks out of 6 matchups and got demolished in the majority of them.
  • Alex Krekeler hit 2 Zapdos players in Day 1 and went 1-1-0 against them, apparently misplaying out of the win in the one he lost.

And yes, I’m aware that player skill matters when talking about our records against a certain deck, but my point that there is quite a bit of luck involved in Standard still stands. With the resurgence of Single-Prize-Attacker decks, variance has once again become a major factor when deciding the outcome of the game. The greatest problem with this is that the Zapdos decks are almost always going to take the first Prize card, and then never miss a beat because of how insanely consistent the deck is.

My point here is that no matter how “safe” a play is, there’s always a chance it will go south. My choice to play Ultra Necrozma was likely a mistake, but looking back, I still stand by my logic behind the choice. I couldn’t find time to test, and that led me to pick a deck I’m comfortable with rather than what may have been a “better” play. We had a bunch of matchups that are pretty close to 50/50, and variance harmed two of us more than the other. That’s just how the game works.

What’s “the Play” Now?

Going forward in Standard (SUM–TEU), PikaRom, Zoroark, and Blacephalon seem like very strong plays, but I’m quite sure that there is something out there that could take the format by storm. There’s way too many cards for there not to be some insane deck just waiting to be found.


In theory, if Blacephalon rises in popularity, Zoroark + Fighting Stuff will decline in numbers. This makes PikaRom an even better play than it was before.

Pokémon (14)

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Zapdos TEU

1 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Eevee SUM

1 Jolteon-GX

3 Jirachi TEU

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Absol TEU

Trainer (35)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

3 Volkner


4 Electropower

4 Ultra Ball

3 Nest Ball

2 Energy Switch

2 Escape Rope

2 Switch


3 Choice Band

2 Escape Board


1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Viridian Forest

Energy (11)

11 L Energy


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 14

* 2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 184
* 2 Zapdos TEU 40
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 221
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX PR-SM 33
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Eevee SUM 101
* 1 Jolteon-GX PR-SM 173
* 3 Jirachi TEU 99
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 155
* 1 Absol TEU 88

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 2 Escape Board UPR 167
* 4 Lillie UPR 125
* 2 Switch SUM 160
* 2 Energy Switch CES 129
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Escape Rope BUS 163
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 3 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 3 Choice Band GRI 121
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 3 Volkner UPR 135

##Energy - 11

* 11 L Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72589 ******

This is Pablo’s list from Collinsville. I personally think his list is pretty much perfect. It blends the Jirachi/Zapdos engine in with the PikaRom engine almost seamlessly. I don’t know much about the creation of the list, but it’s almost exactly what we saw at OCIC, so I can make some assumptions about it.

Card Choices

3 Jirachi TEU
The cuts for Jolteon-GX had to come from somewhere, and the 4th Jirachi was a casualty of this. Jirachi provides excellent consistency, a perfect pivot/starting Pokémon, and a way to get those crazy 1HKO turns.

1-1 Jolteon-GX
In a meta that is at risk of seeing Stall decks, specifically Vileplume BUS, Jolteon-GX provides an out to winning the game. Eevee, with Energy Evolution, is another great opener in this deck.

Everything else here is the same as the last PikaRom, and I believe that’s already been covered somewhat extensively by the creators of the deck.


Zoroark has enjoyed its time in the limelight longer than almost any other deck. It’s still here, fighting its way through the new TAG TEAM cards to remain at the top. I’d say it has already succeeded in proving that it’s still relevant.

Pokémon (21)

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

1 Rockruff GRI

1 Rockruff SM06

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

1 Riolu UPR

1 Lucario-GX

2 Alolan Grimer BUS

1 Alolan Muk SUM

1 Ditto p

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru UPR

Trainer (31)

4 Lillie

2 Acerola

2 Guzma

1 Cynthia

1 Judge

1 Mallow

1 Professor Elm’s Lecture

1 Professor Kukui


4 Nest Ball

4 Ultra Ball

3 Pokémon Communication

1 Field Blower

1 Multi Switch

1 Rescue Stretcher


2 Choice Band


2 Viridian Forest

Energy (8)

4 Double Colorless Energy

4 F Energy


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 21

* 4 Zorua SLG 52
* 4 Zoroark-GX SLG 77
* 1 Rockruff GRI 73
* 1 Rockruff PR-SM 06
* 2 Lycanroc-GX GRI 156
* 1 Riolu UPR 66
* 1 Lucario-GX FLI 135
* 2 Alolan Grimer BUS 83
* 1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Oranguru UPR 114

##Trainer Cards - 31

* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 2 Acerola BUS 142
* 2 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Cynthia UPR 148
* 3 Pokémon Communication TEU 152
* 4 Lillie UPR 125
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 2 Guzma BUS 115
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 1 Judge BKT 143
* 1 Multi Switch GRI 129
* 1 Mallow GRI 145
* 1 Professor Kukui SUM 148
* 1 Field Blower GRI 163
* 1 Professor Elm’s Lecture LOT 213

##Energy - 8

* 4 Double Colorless Energy GRI 166
* 4 F Energy Energy 6

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72589 ******

I think Wes nailed what Zoroark should look like with this list. Obviously some of the cards are a meta call (double Alolan Grimer), but aside from that I would pick up this list in an instant if I had to play a Standard event tomorrow.

Card Choices

1 Rockruff GRI + 1 Rockruff SM06
The 70-HP Rockruff is the one that has seen all of the play until now. Wes brought these two back into relevance by including a Professor Elm’s Lecture. Their attacks also hold some relevance in the Fairy Ninetales Stall matchup.

1 Oranguru UPR
Stall is coming back onto the scene, so lists are going to have to adapt for it rather than hope to not play against it. Oranguru allows us to infinitely loop Energy cards, Guzma (for the switch effect), Judge, and whatever else we may need.

2 Alolan Grimer BUS
Alolan Muk is the key to beating Zapdos in this format. Wes took it a step further by including 2 copies of Alolan Grimer. The theory behind this is that you can use Multiply to search out a second Alolan Grimer for the times that you fail to find a Ditto p.

1 Professor Elm’s Lecture
Elm hasn’t seen play in Zoroark since the release of Team Up and the resurgence of Lucario-GX. Despite this, Wes played a copy because there are times that you want to have the option of using Wonder Tag for 3 Basics rather than a mediocre Lillie or a Cynthia that would shuffle away your Stage 1s.

2 Viridian Forest
The argument for Viridian Forest or Devoured Field has happened quite a few times already, and I’m a Supporter of Viridian Forest. Having two extra outs to the basic Energy on Turn 1 is huge and often game-defining. Yes, Devoured Field allows you to reach for that big 1HKO, but having the Lycanroc-GX threat after your first turn is much too important to forego.

Potential Inclusions

Lycanroc-GX TEU
I love this card. I think it’s incredibly strong in the Zoroark mirror match. However, I think Lucario outclasses it in that regard. I definitely want to mess around with this at some point in time, but my focus is off of Standard for the time being, which leaves no time to test it.

Counter Gain
Dropping a Dangerous Rogue-GX out of nowhere seems pretty good, right? Well, it is. However, Counter Gain has this annoying little stipulation that you have to be behind on Prize cards for it to work. I had to tell multiple people that they were indeed not actually losing the game multiple times in the last two weekends. It’s actually quite entertaining from my perspective. Anyway, it also isn’t searchable without finding your single copy of Mallow. Basically, it’s good, but Multi Switch is better. If you feel like having a second out to dropping Lycanroc-GX out of nowhere, I would add a copy of this.

Alolan Ninetales TEU + 2 Unit Energy FDY
This is another thing I want to play around with, but I don’t have time right now to use testing janky ideas. The theory is that you can wall with an attacking Ninetales against the mirror match and Acerola if it’s been hit with Ram enough times.


Pokémon (17)

4 Blacephalon-GX

3 Poipole FLI

4 Naganadel LOT

1 Naganadel-GX FLI

1 Alolan Muk SUM

1 Ditto p

2 Marshadow SLG

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (27)

4 Cynthia

3 Guzma

2 Erika’s Hospitality

2 Lillie


4 Beast Ring

4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Ultra Ball

2 Energy Switch


2 Ultra Space

1 Heat Factory p

Energy (16)

15 R Energy

1 Beast Energy p


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 17

* 4 Blacephalon-GX LOT 219
* 3 Poipole FLI 55
* 4 Naganadel LOT 108
* 1 Naganadel-GX FLI 134
* 1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 2 Marshadow SLG 45
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 155

##Trainer Cards - 27

* 1 Heat Factory p LOT 178
* 4 Beast Ring FLI 102
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 3 Ultra Ball
* 2 Energy Switch CES 129
* 3 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Erika’s Hospitality TEU 140
* 4 Cynthia UPR 148
* 2 Lillie UPR 151
* 2 Ultra Space FLI 115

##Energy - 16

* 1 Beast Energy p FLI 117
* 15 R Energy Energy 11

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72589 ******

This list is pretty close to what Zach Lesage played to win the event. However, I don’t believe he was prepared for the Stall decks that have come back into the format. Aside from that, Blacephalon lists have become pretty well standardized with the Erika’s Hospitality finally filling the Supporter slots that were previously up for debate.

Card Choices

1 Naganadel-GX
This is a card that is solely for the Stall matchup. Stinger-GX essentially allows us to take 3 Prize cards at once, turn Beast Ring on, and turn on Turning Point. I’m not sure if this is actually going to be necessary in the coming months, but it’s certainly nice to win a matchup with a single card.

0-1 Alolan Muk SUM
I want to find a place for an Alolan Grimer, but space is certainly tight in this list. That leaves us with the classic Ditto p into Alolan Muk.

4 Mysterious Treasure, 3 Ultra Ball
This is a slight change from Lesage’s list, and I’ll admit to being unsure as to why it’s not already like this. Ultra Space searches Blacephalon-GX out easily enough, Ditto p is the only other Pokémon that isn’t searchable with Mysterious Treasure.

2 Erika’s Hospitality
Blacephalon has always been forced to play mediocre Supporter cards such as Sophocles, but that has finally changed! Erika’s Hospitality is the perfect card to fill those slots, providing us with the ability to draw up to 10 new cards from our deck during the turn we play it (Erika’s +6, draw for turn +1, Heat Factory +3).

Potential Inclusion

1 Alolan Grimer SUM
This is the only deck that I think the Psychic-type Alolan Grimer is actually correct, and that is because of the heavy Mysterious Treasure engine. Alolan Grimer is the 61st card in my list right now, and I definitely want to find a slot for it.

Final Thoughts

Anyway, I’ll leave this here. Going forward, I truly believe that PikaRom, Zoroark, and Blacephalon are the future of Standard. You’ll actually hear from me next week for my thoughts on Expanded, so look out for that. As always, good luck in your upcoming events, feel free to message me or come up to me at events with any questions you may have. I’ll see some of you in Toronto. Until the next one.

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