Tag Bolt, You’re It

EUIC Tournament Recap, Innovations, Our PikaRom List, and Vespiquen Honed for Hartford
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Pikachu’s victory dance.

Hey everyone! Welcome back to another article. It’s been a hot minute since my last one about a month ago. Since then, we’ve had Denver, Daytona Beach, and, most recently, Europe Internationals. I was in Daytona and Berlin, performing mediocrely in Daytona and alright in Berlin with a T64 finish. In today’s article, I’m going to cover the successful list that myself and a few other players piloted to Points or a Day 2 finish in Berlin. Afterward, I’ll cover what I consider to be a fairly strong meta call for Hartford, should you be able to dodge the appropriate counters. Without further ado, let’s go!

EUIC Tournament Recap

The favorite won, but innovations emerged!

EUIC was unique in that a new set wasn’t legal for the weekend of the tournament. This was the case for the first two Internationals of the season in São Paulo and Melbourne, where Lost Thunder and Team Up effectively debuted. I’m not sure which I prefer, but I was glad for the change of pace. A major tournament in a developed format (such as SUM–TEU) isn’t bad to have, as most decklists are established, so discussions center more around optimization rather than new ideas. Though, there were a fair amount of innovative decks and lists in the tournament that did surprisingly well:

For a well-known format, I couldn’t have imagined so many new ideas to arrive, nor to do well at that!

While I can focus on all of these innovations and fresh breaths of life, I can also turn toward the sea of stock decks that made up a majority of the field. These are found at every tournament and are the basis of innovation, either to optimize with new techs or to counter.

Our PikaRom List

Pokémon – 14

2 Jirachi TEU

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Zapdos TEU

1 Eevee SUM

1 Jolteon-GX

1 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Absol TEU

Trainers – 35

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

3 Volkner

1 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Electropower

4 Ultra Ball

3 Nest Ball

2 Energy Switch

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Choice Band

2 Escape Board

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Viridian Forest

Energy – 11

11 Lightning

This is the list Pablo Meza, Sam Chen, Rahul Reddy, and I played in Berlin. The fifth member of our platoon was Jon Eng, who played a Weakness Policy in place of a Choice Band. (It was a last-minute change and he didn’t get the gist, whoops.) Collectively, Rahul finished in T8, Jon and I in T64, and Pablo and Sam in T128. Everyone got Points, so I’d call it successful.

Card Choices

Moving forward, the only piece about the list that I would change easily is the second Choice Band. For me, it was one of the most useless spots. If it was good, I never knew it was good since I could find with Volkner. I also didn’t play against a large amount of GX decks, and the modified damage wasn’t amazing. However, I think that the Choice Band is stronger than Weakness Policy because it’s a proactive card. There wasn’t much Fighting in the tournament, and even then, a quick Field Blower loses you the game. I think it’s safer to play the less risky card so that you never make that level of a mistake and lose an otherwise winning position.

2nd Marshadow SLG vs. Tapu Lele-GX

This is a change I saw in the list played by DDG team members and friends like Jimmy Pendarvis, Azul, and Isaiah Williams. Their list was fairly different, as it omitted Jolteon-GX and instead played 4 Energy Switch. Another fairly subtle but significant change was 2 Marshadow instead of 1 Marshadow and 1 Tapu Lele-GX. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this change, but I’m certain it’s the right one. Marshadow is a stronger card than Tapu Lele-GX, and there aren’t any necessary Supporters to search for at the beginning of the game, other than Lillie. The added space they have for Jirachi should be fine enough to find Lillie on the first turn of the game.

1-1 Jolteon-GX

Despite mixed public opinion as to its importance, Jolteon-GX was one of the best cards this weekend. I found that I didn’t have many matchups where Pikachu & Zekrom-GX was useful, as I played against mostly single-Prize decks. Therefore, Jolteon-GX was insanely strong in my list. It’s great against every single-Prize deck because unlike Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, it’s easy to set up. It also only gives up 2 Prizes rather than 3, which is important in maintaining an even/favorable Prize trade. With Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, you’d need to take 3 Prizes for it to remain even. Decks surely have a counter, most notably in Tapu Koko-GX.

Volkner vs. Cynthia

This is another discussion I find myself relatively decided in. These two cards serve different roles, yet I see them played interchangeably. Volkner is very strong in this deck because it serves as 2 Energy attachments in a way. What I’m saying is that you can snag Lightning + Energy Switch, or Lightning + Nest Ball for Tapu Koko p. It gets you exactly what you need; no more, no less.

Now, that can be seen as the card’s greatest weakness: Volkner’s only good when you already have some momentum, or when you’re just short of pulling off a combo. This is true. My answer is that this happens more often than you might think, and that Volkner is great for amassing a large hand size while searching for exactly what you need. I couldn’t imagine playing the deck with Cynthia—it would be different to say the least. Most turns of the game when I’m not playing a Guzma, I’m happy with playing a Volkner. How I see it, Cynthia is a good Supporter that allows the deck to play more aggressively, especially with double Marshadow and 4 Energy Switch. With that version, your goal is to Full Blitz ASAP to a different Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, yet be able to Energy Switch to the Active Pokémon in order to Tag Bolt GX.

Final List

If I were to take this deck to a League Cup tomorrow, I’d play the above list again with a Marshadow SLG in place of Tapu Lele-GX, and a Jirachi TEU in place of a Choice Band. I think it’s vital to start with Jirachi, or to at least improve the odds of it drastically. I won’t cut the Jolteon-GX for it though, as I think it’s necessary in order to stand a fighting chance against most Zapdos decks.

Matchups

has some surprisingly delicate matchups, as a tactical mistake in choosing to use PikaRom or to avoid it can lose a game immediately. Most decks play a counter that wins the Prize trade, which then allows the opponent to win first. This deck is all about balancing that, identifying when it’s possible to attack with PikaRom, and working accordingly. It can function as a Zapdos/Jolteon-GX build, or it can act as a Full Blitz-ing machine.

Zapdos/Beasts and Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX

These two Zapdos matchups look the same because both of these decks run multiple ways to 1HKO Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. For the traditional Zapdos deck, or Zapdos/Jolteon-GX, there’s only one way: Tapu Koko-GX. The presence of multiple ways disallows us from attacking with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, as we can never let one sweep. Let me give an example:

I Full Blitz to take a Prize, loading up a PikaRom on the Bench. My opponent uses Tapu Thunder GX to KO my PikaRom and go down to 2 Prizes. I then Full Blitz their Tapu Koko-GX to go down to 3 Prizes. My opponent must have the win or I’ll win with Tag Bolt GX on the following turn.

This is one possible sequence that can happen that leaves PikaRom in the upper hand. If this happens, you’re in the clear. The difficulty arises when other factors like Nihilego LOT, Buzzwole FLI, and Lycanroc-GX enter the equation. This gives the opponent an easy way to KO the second Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, immediately nullifying this strategy. Doing so would be an immediate loss. It’s also possible to poke a hole in the plan by attacking into the first Pikachu & Zekrom-GX with Zapdos, then KOing whichever Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has the most Energy. Then, finish with Tapu Koko-GX. You get the gist: Don’t use Pikachu & Zekrom-GX in any Zapdos matchup, barring a beautiful head start against Zapdos/Jolteon-GX.

In this matchup, it’s all about attacking with Zapdos and never running out of attackers. I’ll always save my Rescue Stretcher to shuffle in Jolteon-GX pieces or Zapdos. We need to have 4 of these on average to last the entire game, as the opponent will sometimes go for Jirachi.

Against Zapdos/Beasts, don’t use Jolteon-GX until you’re past the Sledgehammer turn. It’s very easy for them to Escape Rope + Guzma and win the game automatically, as they’re ahead in the Prize race. It’s nearly impossible to return from a Prize deficit in Zapdos mirror, as both decks are hyper-consistent in their ability to deal 80/110 every turn.

Mirror

The mirror matchup is relatively complicated, but here’s the best way I can sum it up: Jolteon-GX is amazing. It gives the deck a way to put an Energy attachment on the board T1 without fear of it dying to Zapdos immediately, it allows for chip damage, and it serves as a song attacker if needed. It can also 1HKO Zapdos with an Electropower; it’s not short of taking early Prizes.

The goal is then to Full Blitz to a second PikaRom, letting the opponent KO the first one with Tapu Koko-GX. Even though they’re up the Prize trade, the game is already over, basically. The deck isn’t made to deal with two opposing Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, so that’s the way to victory. Attacking with Zapdos is the only counterplay, perhaps in poking a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX so that Full Blitz can 1HKO it with only one modifier instead of three.

ZoroRoc w/ Lucario

This is the last matchup worth discussing. In testing, I found that targeting their Basic Pokémon was the most effective way to win the game. This allowed me to use Zapdos to take Prizes, which set up for a clean PikaRom to win the game. The main threat in this matchup is Lucario-GX, as it 1HKOs our PikaRom from scratch. If that hurdle is taken care of, then it becomes an easy game.

Alolan Muk is quite annoying because it destroys our deck’s engine. It also prevents us from using Tapu Koko p, which is the deck’s main modifier in powering up a Full Blitz. In this matchup, and in all matchups where I know the opponent plays Alolan Muk, I activate Dance of the Ancients even for a single Energy. It’s more important to have that one Energy down than to never have it at all.

Vespiquen Honed for Hartford

Ah, Expanded! Here we are again. was the deck I played in Daytona alongside Sam Chen and Rahul Reddy. Sam finished in T64, Rahul bubbled out of T8, and I dropped with no hope for points. A wider finish across the board, but I can safely say that some of the reason for Sam’s and my poorer performance was a lack of experience. The deck was strong, but I wasn’t playing perfectly, which may have contributed to a loss. Matchups were a bit rough too, as I didn’t hit any autowin matchups, but instead played against other single-Prize decks.

Our Daytona List

Pokémon – 25

4 Combee AOR

4 Vespiquen AOR 10

2 Eevee UPR 105

2 Flareon PLF

4 Unown AOR

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Exeggcute PLF

1 Sudowoodo BKP

1 Swampert CES

1 Mr. Mime BKT

1 Oricorio GRI 56

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 29

3 Professor Juniper

1 Archie’s Ace in the Hole

1 Colress

1 Guzma

1 N

1 Teammates

 

4 Battle Compressor

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

1 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Special Charge

2 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

 

1 Parallel City

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless

2 Counter

Here’s the Daytona list. It’s the same list Nicholas Moffitt played in Toronto this year. When we decided on the deck, it was 1:00 in the morning and none of us knew any changes. Now, after the tournament, I know what I’d like to change.

Updates

-1 Swampert CES, -1 Archie’s Ace in the Hole

This combo was cute, but never worked well in practice. I think I only brought it out 3–4 times, solely because doing so cost too many resources. It was easier to Colress, and other times I just wouldn’t have the T1 Swampert. If I missed it on T1, it was very unlikely there would be a time to get it out again.

-1 Computer Search, +1 Dowsing Machine

I believe Computer Search is mainly in the deck to help with the Archie’s Ace in the Hole percentage. With that gone, Dowsing Machine would be better. I found myself just barely running out of resources, wanting an extra Special Charge or Rescue Stretcher against the right decks. The main reason Computer Search is good is to search for an Energy card if it wasn’t drawn earlier in the turn. However, with 6 Energy instead of the usual 4–5 in Double Colorless-heavy decks, it may be enough to manage without.

-1 Choice Band, +1 Muscle Band

I don’t think there’s any harm in having a touch more flexibility here. In multiple games, I ran out of Vespiquen/Flareon attacks and instead needed to close out the game with Oricorio. Against Bob Zhang and his Hitmonchan deck with Oricorio, I could’ve won the game with my own to Revelation Dance a Hitmonchan if I had a Muscle Band. The 10 damage sacrifice seems well worth the added utility, especially with Dowsing Machine.

-1 Oricorio GRI 56

This cut is the main one we tossed around in our minds Saturday morning. However, we settled upon playing Oricorio, not knowing what else we wanted to add. There wasn’t anything incredible that came to mind, and Oricorio had niche value against or mirror. At the very least, it was another Pokémon to discard for Bee Revenge.

+2 Audino BCR, +1 Eevee UPR 105

These are the only changes that come to mind of what’s before. When we take out Pokémon, we must add Pokémon back. Eevee is fairly self-explanatory. It’s important to have outs to Flareon in Fire-weak matchups like Celebi & Venusaur-GX. The 7th Basic Pokémon increases our odds of drawing into one on T1, easing the pressure to dig T1.

Audino would’ve been an insane meta call in Daytona, as it completely messed with Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX. No longer would it be possible to cheese a win with a 25% Hypnotoxic Laser heads–tails. Rahul was telling me that if he had a copy or two, those matchups would’ve been much easier. I’m not sure if it’s worth it to make this change still (it probably is) given that / will be in a worse place than it was in Hartford. I predict people to turn back to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX or Archiestoise, giving the deck hard matchups in the field. The Audino may go to waste.

For more on Vespiquen, see Rahul’s article “Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Bee.”

Conclusion

That’s it for today’s article! I hope you enjoyed and are intrigued by some of my favorite decks at the moment. I was glad to pick up a T64 in Berlin, getting some money and some solid Championship Points to shoot up the rankings. I’m now about 80 Points out of Top 16, but I’m not attending nearly enough tournaments in the final quarter to safely close that gap.

I’m excited to see what happens in Hartford and beyond before the new set—Unbroken Bonds—drops. Soon enough, there will be more to talk about regarding Fire and its dominance, similarly to Electric and its dominance this past quarter.

Xander


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