Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist back with yet another Standard piece, this time in preparation for Denver. I last left y’all right before the Collinsville where the meta was heavily influenced by the International Championship that took place the previous weekend in Melbourne. We saw Zach Lesage pilot the severely underrated Blacephalon/Naganadel all the way to first place with our own Pablo Meza making it all the way to T4 of the biggest event of the season! We also saw a couple of other unique decks take spots in T4/T8 of the event in Riley Hulbert’s ridiculous Vileplume Stall and Peter Kica’s Buzzwole/Lucario.
Seeing the meta warp so quickly against the Zapdos deck that dominated Australia was quite interesting, and I’m pretty happy with how Standard looks at the moment. There are a ton of viable decks right now and it doesn’t seem like any one deck is a dominant force over the meta. The Zoroark/Lucario/Lycanroc deck took 2nd place at both Collinsville and Melbourne, but I think this is a representation of a very good deck not being meta-gamed against instead of one that is overly dominant.
- Blacephalon will likely have a giant target on its head due to the success it found in Collinsville, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people tried to find ways to tech against Zoroark a little bit more.
- Zapdos, and by extension any deck utilizing the Jirachi engine, will likely receive a bit less hate in the metagame, but Alolan Muk is so good I’m sure any deck that can reasonably justify it will still be looking to keep it around.
I’m not entirely certain if this means we’ll see any new archetypes come roaring out of the woodwork, but y’all know I’m sure going to try and make something stick. The trio I’ve prepped for you today is a little less outta left field like my last set, but you better believe the sauce is still around.
Pokémon – 22
1 Ditto ♢
Trainers – 30
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 8
I first got inspiration for looking at the Zoroark/Garbodor/Alolan Muk combo when Pablo wrote about Alex Cole’s T32 list from Collinsville which I liked. The combo of the new Alolan Muk with Trashalanche is obvious and seems insane to me for a lot of different reasons. I was also inspired after watching Alex Garcia crush Day 1 with a more Dark-focused version of Zoroark utilizing Weavile, Nanu, and Black Market ♢ alongside Zoroark-GX, which lead to the monstrosity you see above.
The idea here is to utilize Zoroark-GX for early game pressure through Riotous Beating while setting up your smaller attackers via Trade. Garbodor GRI and Weavile UPR are both incredible attackers with a monstrous damage cap, but neither are particularly good in the early game. However, should the early game roll along just fine you’ll find yourself being able to get some favorable trades using both of these single-Prize attackers who can swing for the fences.
Nanu is a card I initially discounted as not having enough utility in the current meta, but after seeing Alex Garcia pull off some busted Nanu plays both on stream and at the top tables my mindset shifted. Nanu gives you play options that no other card can, and having that kind of flexibility is something I’m very into. One specific instance I remember seeing (in addition to the insane play above) is Alex using Nanu on his Alolan Muk to turn his opponent’s Basic Abilities back on while swapping it for a Sneasel that evolved into a Weavile and took a big knockout.
My fear for this variant is that it might be too dedicated to the late game. The primary concern is that a quick Pikachu & Zekrom-GX could spell a quick end to any game without an immediate answer, but outside of that I’m fairly optimistic about the potential of this variant.
1 Buzzwole FLI, 1 Nihilego LOT
Alex Cole played both Ultra Beasts in his T32 list and it’s easy to see why. Players are used to playing around Sledgehammer by avoiding putting their opponent at 4 Prizes, but when you throw Nihilego into the mix things get a lot trickier as it’s incredibly difficult to avoid the 4- and 3-Prize turns, with that being impossible for a good chunk of decks. The best cut for these is probably a 1-1 Weavile, but I would definitely try to keep a 1-1 minimum so you can maximize busted Nanu plays via the Sneasel.
1–2 Devoured Field, 2nd Choice Band, 1 Counter Gain
We have a few solid options for Trainers here should any of them prove especially useful or needed. Devoured Field allows both Zoroark and Weavile to reach a little farther for knockouts while acting as an additional out to getting rid of any Prism Stadiums that hit the board. The influx of non-EXs/GXs in the meta make the 2nd Choice Band slightly less valuable than before, but both finalist decks were GX heavy so it could easily find its way back into the deck. The final consideration is Counter Gain, which can have a ton of uses on any of our attackers that require Colorless Energy. It ended up not making the cut due our supporting cast not taking Colorless Energy, but it can still be quite effective on the right Pokémon.
2nd Tapu Lele-GX, 3rd Guzma
These options are consistency crutches should they feel needed. 1 Tapu Lele-GX is a little risky and the second is likely the first of these cards to find its way in should there be an issue, but my initial games have felt fine so far. The 3rd Guzma is a gutsy cut as well without Lycanroc-GX, but the power of our single-Prize attackers to take OHKOs leaves us not caring what’s in the Active spot a good chunk of the time.
Pokémon – 23
1 Ditto ♢
Trainers – 27
4 Net Ball
Energy – 9
Turns out that I can’t let Sceptile-GX go in the Standard format either where we lose our hero Cradily. Sceptile has felt like it has a place in the Standard format for quite a while but it’s always been a bit difficult to figure out. Grovyle is a phenomenal consistency card and both Sceptile are solid in their own right, but the deck has been missing some high-quality support for quite a while now. I’m not sure why it took me so long to try pairing this with Decidueye-GX, but I have been pretty impressed so far by the results. One major issue I always had with Sceptile was how awkward the damage numbers could be at times, especially against some of the bigger GX Pokémon. Decidueye fixes this and more by not only letting us plan this knockouts ahead of time, but now can allow us to reach for OHKOs with some proper Feather Arrow usage ahead of time.
Another issue I found with Sceptile variants was how lackluster Jungle Heal GX felt outside of some very niche scenarios. Decidueye’s Hollow Hunt GX is an incredible attack, and even Virizion’s Breeze Away GX has been great in scenarios where you want to remove any easy Prizes left for you opponent and force them to deal with multiple 230/240-HP behemoths. Combine either of those with the heavy Max Potion count and you have quite the tanky deck ready to take a lot of hits and dish em right back.
“But Travis! A FIRE deck JUST won Collinsville! Why would you ever try and roll with a Grass deck after that?!”
Well, fortunately for us, the vast majority of the Blacephalon deck is made up of Ultra Beast Pokémon, and the Power of Nature Ability on Sceptile CES makes everything with a Grass Energy completely immune to all Ultra Beasts, essentially netting us an auto-win as long as we can get set up! What’s not to love?
Vileplume BUS, Leafeon-GX
Figuring out Sceptile has been quite the experience in the Standard format. Vileplume BUS is what I started with due to how prevalent Basic-only decks are in the current format, but having a situational Stage 2 felt awkward in all the other matchups. I’ve always enjoyed Leafeon in the deck, but the 2 Retreat Cost is an issue in a deck that doesn’t want to play DCE and in a format without Float Stone.
Celebi & Venusaur-GX, Lurantis-GX, Double Colorless Energy
Lurantis-GX has felt fine enough because it can help boost the damage done by the non-GX Sceptile. I think there’s a version that could exist with DCE, more focused on the non-GX Sceptile, and plays DCE along with a Celebi & Venusaur-GX. This will definitely be the next thing I explore because the Max Potion variant above has felt effective, so this could be the next stage of the deck.
Right now Max Potion and Life Forest ♢ are the only forms of healing, but if the tanky route proves to be the most effective we could definitely make room for some more options. Acerola allows us to completely reset a Pokémon, but relying on Evolutions makes that a bit tricky. Gardenia is phenomenal because it allows you to keep your attacker and Energy in play, but is limited to 80 damage.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
4 Unit GRW
This is an idea I came up with while casting the Collinsville Regional Championship. R1 I commentated a White Kyurem deck and R9 I commentated a Blastoise/Articuno deck. After watching the strengths and weaknesses of both play out I think I got a feel of what I liked and didn’t like about each variant, and have been playing the above to decent success.
The idea is to lead with Articuno in the early game to poke damage and help keep Energy in play safe. Once you’ve got some Energy stored, you can use Quagsire to set up Volcanion ♢ or snag a Unit Energy and dive in with White Kyurem.
The Unit Energy is cool because it not only acts as a regular Water Energy, but also as the Fire Energy to activate the effect on White Kyurem’s Freezing Flame attack to do 160 damage. I’ve used sites like PKMNcards to check out all of our options for Fire and Grass types that could be cute alongside this Energy, but unfortunately none have caught my eye just yet.
Assuming Zoroark plays damage modifiers that match up can get quite difficult, and even without them most are playing Lycanroc-GX and Alolan Muk so they can get around Articuno without much trouble most of the time. Blacephalon’s recent victory bodes well for our watery friends as they’ll be able to take easy knockouts with favorable exchanges on the majority of their deck.
Magikarp & Wailord-GX, Tapu Fini-GX
These are probably the best two Water GX Pokémon this deck can play, but I’m still not entirely convinced I want GX Pokémon at all. Conflicting with Shrine of Punishment is awkward and they’re bad starters. If I were to include one it would likely be the Tag Team because of how much HP it has and the insane plays that can be pulled off with it.
Crasher Wake, Lana, Switch Raft
The two Water-exclusive Supporters are both quite interesting cards. Crasher Wake caught my eye initially because searching for any two cards is insanely good, but having two Waters in your hand consistently is a much more difficult task. Lana is a solid card that could fit in a deck more focused on Magikarp & Wailord-GX and/or other Pokémon with more HP that can survive long enough to be healed, but our squishy little guys do not. Switch Raft has been much better than I thought it would be, but unfortunately the limitation to Water types makes relying on this as your main switch effect quite terrifying when you have non-Water-type Bench-sitters. If a solid Water draw card pops up like Octillery BKT I would test that in a heartbeat.
Tapu Lele-GX, Brooklet Hill, More Supporters
All three of these options would be quite helpful at increasing consistency. My biggest concerns are around making sure we are able to consistently draw cards and find the pieces we need to chain the smaller attackers. Brooklet Hill is a solid option because it is a consistency card and an additional out to any opposing Stadiums they might try to stick, but its usefulness is limited to finding more Pokémon and with 4 Nest Ball it didn’t feel like the most effective way to distribute resources dedicated to setting up.
Both formats feel like they’re in great spots at the moment. After watching the last two Expanded events play out, it was very refreshing to see some of the more degenerate strategies get curbed which made it feel like Expanded could actually be a more friendly format for everyone. I was incredibly pleased to see the results of Collinsville and am even more excited to see what will happen in Denver.
My next testing session is going to be with the theorized Celebi & Venusaur-GX deck I mentioned earlier, and I will absolutely be giving some other potential spice a try. Incineroar-GX is still on my radar to figure out, and I definitely haven’t given up on the Fossils just yet. I will absolutely be at the Denver Regional Championships, so if you see me please feel free to come up and say hello. Until next time!
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