Hello everyone! I’m Gabriel Pino Semedo from São Paulo, Brazil. I’m delighted to bring to you guys my very first article for SixPrizes! I started playing around 2012 and since then I was fortunate enough to accomplish a lot of things in the game. Between 2012 and 2016 I won nine Regionals in Brazil, I was the top-ranked Brazilian player in 2014 and 2015, I got Top 32 at EUIC 2017, Top 16 at LAIC 2018, and I won São Paulo Regionals 2018 with an innovative Gardevoir-GX/Miltank deck.
Even though I have accomplished many things as a player, I still feel like my best virtues in Pokémon TCG are creativity, deck building, and metagame reading. So basically I’m pretty sure I am better at writing articles than playing the game! (lol.) One of my main creations was the Waterbox deck that I created in 2016 that changed the worldwide metagame, won many National Championships, and got top finishes around the globe. It was one of the most popular decks at Worlds that year and was piloted by great players like Tord Reklev, Jimmy Pendarvis, Marc Lutz, Frank Diaz, and Igor Costa.
Right now I am able to accomplish something really big in my career as a Pokémon TCG player and writer, which is being the first Brazilian getting into SixPrizes Underground’s writers. When I first started playing, SixPrizes played a big role in my development as a player and nowadays it still helps me to become a better and more complete player. Now I have the opportunity to give back to other players and be a part of the great help SixPrizes has given me during the years. Be sure I will do my best to bring high-quality articles. Thank you so much Adam for the opportunity!
Now after all this emotional introduction, let’s get into what matters!
The Arrival of Unbroken Bonds: What It Means for Standard
The new set Unbroken Bonds has just arrived, and with that the metagame has already changed a lot. The main reason for so much change is the arrival of Welder, Fire Crystal, and the great sensation of the moment, Reshiram & Charizard-GX. With São Paulo Regionals coming in a few days, I decided not to waste time and I’ve already been testing—for a few weeks now—the new cards from Unbroken Bonds, in order to try to understand how the current metagame will be and what decks may appear in the tournament.
- The SUM–UNB format further embodies the end of the Zoroark-GX era that began in late 2017 to make way for the era of TAG TEAM GXs, with Reshiram & Charizard-GX being the current symbol of the strength that a TAG TEAM can have.
- For the first time in a long time, we have Water Weakness as perhaps the main Weakness to be exploited, rather than the old known (but still relevant) Weakness to Fighting types, like Zoroark-GX and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX have.
- In addition to ReshiZard, Blacephalon-GX also got better and we also have the new Baby Blacephalon deck.
- Our already well-known Turbo PikaRom deck has also acquired new cards and will need adaptations to the current format.
- Finally, we have the QuagNag deck, which has gone from rogue, Tier 2 status to being one of the main powers of the current format.
Below is a more detailed analysis of these five interesting decks:
ReshiZard & Friends
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
2 Pokégear 3.0
Energy – 12
This deck has features to deal with the most diverse situations and decks of the format. The list itself does not deviate much from what most players have been using lately. It is based off the list of Ryoya Kanagawa, who won Champions League Kyoto.
Among the cards I changed from the initial list, it is worth mentioning the inclusion of some specific cards:
For me, it is the best non-GX attacker for ReshiZard, as it can deal with non-Pokémon-GX that Reshiram & Charizard-GX and Volcanion UNB cannot, such as Hoopa SLG, Giratina LOT, Dewgong UNB, and Slowking LOT.
This Supporter is only broken when going first and on Turn 1. Obviously it can be useful at other times, but most of the time it will be for Turn 1. In addition, the Energy acceleration through Welder and Volcanion UNB are good enough, which makes Kiawe not necessarily essential to the deck. And let’s face it: Even if you use 4 copies of Kiawe, that does not mean that you will be able to do Kiawe in Turn 1 on your ReshiZard; there is still a considerable chance of this strategy failing.
I missed draw Supporters in ReshiZard, even though in theory the deck does not need any. After energizing my Pokémon with Welder and Kiawe, I feel the need to continue with my setup to look for Switch, Fire Crystal, Guzma, and other cards for future turns. With Volcanion UNB in the deck, I can use Cynthia on Turn 1, do my setup, and still energize my Pokémon with Flare Starter.
I believe this card is essential to the deck. Cards like Reshiram SLG, Mew UNB, and Miltank CIN are important to deal with various game situations, but if they are Knocked Out, the deck loses its answers to these situations. For example:
- If we are playing against a Zapdos/Jirachi deck and Miltank CIN is Knocked Out, Reshiram & Charizard-GX will be exposed to low damage for the rest of the game.
- If Reshiram SLG is Knocked Out, we lose our ideal attacker to deal with several non-Pokémon-GX that Volcanion UNB is unable to handle.
- If we miss Mew UNB early for a PikaRom deck, we will have Bench exposed for Tag Bolt-GX on a Dedenne-GX or Tapu Lele-GX.
It is not an essential card, but I like to remove Wishful Baton from decks like Quagsire/Naganadel and Baby Blacephalon. Without Field Blower, those matchups are even more unfavorable than they already are. Other than that, I need not say that Field Blower is always a useful card.
Shrine of Punishment is the best card in my opinion to deal with the mirror match. Thanks to SoP, it is possible to Knock Out the opponent’s Reshiram & Charizard-GX without having to use Mew UNB’s attack or a Supporter like Professor Kukui.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
2 Pokégear 3.0
Energy – 12
Currently, the Turbo PikaRom decks almost inevitably use cards like Lysandre Labs and Field Blower to deal with the new Fairy Charm L in the Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX deck. In my opinion this Gardevoir deck is not very good, and I believe it will not see much play, so I decided to take a risk and not put any of those cards in my list to give priority to the offensive power that Turbo PikaRom can explore.
Two Problems to Solve
Speaking of issues, we have two major problems for the deck that need to be fixed urgently if it wants to remain Tier 1. First, Knocking Out 2 Reshiram & Charizard-GX is a tricky task for the deck. Even with Tag Bolt-GX, we will need three damage modifiers, such as 2 Electropower and 1 Choice Band, or to use Tapu Koko-GX’s Tapu Thunder-GX. The biggest problem comes after using the GX attack, because the deck will not be able to hit 270 damage again. As if that was not enough, Reshiram & Charizard-GX can Knock Out Pikachu & Zekrom-GX in an attack with the help of the Choice Band.
The other big problem is Mew UNB, which will prevent Tag Bolt-GX from having its additional effect of hitting 170 on the Bench. This is very shocking and PikaRom loses one of its key features.
Thinking about these two major issues, I came to the conclusion that Turbo PikaRom would have to undergo some adaptations to succeed in the current format. Following are the main changes:
This Zeraora has the power to knock anything out of the game thanks to its Discharge attack with unlimited damage potential. Upon learning that an opposing ReshiZard plays a copy of Mew UNB, we cannot be certain that the additional effect of the Tag Bolt-GX will work, so there is only the possibility of Knocking Out Active Pokémon. Zeraora has been added to the deck because it can Knock Out a TAG TEAM in a single attack. In practice, 5 Energies + Electropower or Choice Band will be the resources needed to reach 280 damage. With the help of Full Blitz, in addition to the 4 copies of Energy Switch + 2 Multi Switch and the Ability of the Tapu Koko p, it is possible to power Zeraora quickly.
For the same reasons of using Pal Pad, Electrocharger is interesting in the list, because we will discard some Electropower in our way to get the T1 Full Blitz. In addition, Electrocharger meets the need of deck to hit the high damage of 270, because, if lucky, the deck has the possibility of using up to 8 Electropower in the same game.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 30
4 Pokégear 3.0
Energy – 17
Blacephalon-GX becomes less dependent on Naganadel and no longer needs to use Energy Switch, thanks to Welder, which ensures extra power and makes the deck a little better than it already was. In addition, I believe that the possible shift to a format stuffed with GX-based decks may play into the strength of Blacephalon-GX, which is to achieve high damage to Knock Out Pokémon-GX without major difficulties.
Other cards from Unbroken Bonds like Dedenne-GX make a lot of sense in here, as Dedenne-GX allows you to dig deep for Beast Ring, while Pokégear 3.0 will filter the deck a little further and get the required Supporters, opening up possibility to even use Lusamine p effectively and consistently.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
QuagNag has moved from rogue, Tier 2 status to Tier 1 due to its natural ability to deal with ReshiZard, Blacephalon-GX, and Baby Blacephalon, and play well against Zapdos, PikaRom, and Zoroark-GX. The deck can even play respectably against boring Control decks like Lucario & Melmetal-GX and Vileplume BUS.
So why is QuagNag not the best deck of the format? The answer is because the biggest enemy of QuagNag is QuagNag itself. The deck has consistency problems because it needs to evolve multiple Stage 1s, put a lot of Energy on the field, and withstand the initial pressure of decks like Zapdos/Beasts, Turbo PikaRom, and Zoroark-GX—all this depending on the draw power of Supporters like Cynthia and Lillie.
With that in mind, I decided to give up on important techs such as Escape Board and Judge for access to consistency cards like Pokégear 3.0 and Nest Ball. I believe that if the deck does what it’s supposed to do, we will have a Tier 1-level competitive deck for the current format.
3 Pokégear 3.0
Pokégear 3.0 will increase the chances of getting Lillie on Turn 1 to ensure a good setup, as well as increase consistency during the game. It also allows me to feel comfortable using a single copy of Guzma.
It is common in this deck to find yourself in situations where your hand has no Supporter, and when you find a Cynthia or Lillie to get you out of the situation, you unfortunately draw into all of the Supporters that were in the deck, causing your new hand to be unproductive.
The deck does not need more Supporters to become consistent. You only need access to the Supporters already in the deck, so I consider Pokégear 3.0 a perfect inclusion.
It is natural to consider Quagsire UNB as an obvious inclusion in QuagNag. After all, we are talking about a Pokémon that fits perfectly in the deck and catches the Weakness of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Zoroark-GX, but in practice it will not work as well as Onix LOT in most cases, and I believe that Onix already fulfills the function of dealing against Pokémon with Fighting Weakness. It is possible to discuss the inclusion of a copy of Quagsire UNB next to Onix, since Quagsire brings some benefits that Onix does not bring, but I do not think it is possible to replace Onix with Quagsire UNB, in case you have to opt for one of the two.
In order for Quagsire UNB to work consistently, it requires you to have a Quagsire DRM to energize the Quagsire UNB, plus you will need to have a 3rd Wooper on the field and a Rescue Stretcher to make another Quagsire UNB if the first one is Knocked Out. That is, we would need to play with 4 Wooper in the deck and 3 Wooper and 2 Quagsire on the field. Onix is easily found with Nest Ball and Ultra Ball, and it will only need a Quagsire DRM on the field to move the Energies, plus it can be easily retrieved by Rescue Stretcher and used again on the same turn. In practice, Onix is much easier to work with.
The advantages of Quagsire UNB would be its attack cost of only 3 Water Energies instead of 4 Colorless ones for Onix, which would be interesting for a quick response if the opponent comes with Full Blitz Turn 1. Using Aqua Patch on Wooper would bring the possibility of attacking with Quagsire UNB without having Quagsire DRM on the field, which results in a much faster response in the first turns. Finally, Quagsire UNB has the “advantage” of being a Stage 1, whereas Onix is a Basic and slightly bad starter.
In general, QuagNag already has a good number of Basics, so the chance of starting the game with Onix is very low, but it’s still not a bad Basic to begin with, because QuagNag needs to get a really good setup and it may be good to have an Onix as a starter to save time. In addition, the deck features Naganadel, 4 Aqua Patch, and Wishful Baton, so the difference between 3 and 4 Energies is not so great for this deck.
I opted not to put Quagsire UNB in the deck because I believe the metagame is still too broad to put in another tech that will disrupt the consistency of the deck in all other games where it is not needed.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 36
4 Pokégear 3.0
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 16
Baby Blacephalon is a scary deck that manages to do things that no other deck has ever achieved in the Standard format, such as hitting 450 damage on Turn 1. This actually happened to me when my training partner Gabriel Modesto succeeded in using Welder + Energy for the turn in combination with 2 Fiery Flint + Fire Crystal.
But while the deck is capable of doing amazing things, it can also stumble in ridiculous ways and lose without being able to do anything because of a bad hand. We are basically talking about an “all-or-nothing” deck: The deck can run very well and beat anything, or it crashes and loses to anything. Common cards like Marshadow SLG and Field Blower severely hamper the deck’s strategy by reducing the hand to only 4 cards and removing Escape Board and Wishful Baton from the field, reducing your ability to pull off consecutive attacks until the end of the game.
Since it is a strong but inconsistent deck, I tried as much as possible to increase the deck’s consistency without losing its aggressiveness. The main changes are as follows:
Many lists do not use Jirachi, instead favoring Green’s Exploration. I prefer Jirachi because Baby Blacephalon will be Knocked Out every turn, so every turn you will get the chance to promote Jirachi and use Stellar Wish. Another advantage of Jirachi is that it is a solution when your opponent uses Judge or Marshadow because it will be on the table and give you the chance to get your hand back.
Although Green’s Exploration is suited for the deck, I often saw myself in the situation where I needed to use Welder to attack, and because of that, I could not use Green’s Exploration.
Since Green’s Exploration will not work consistently due to Jirachi, I decided to put in a copy of Bill’s Analysis. As the deck consists of more than half Item cards, this Supporter will work fine. The main goal with Bill’s Analysis will be to get Fiery Flint and Fire Crystal.
The deck has only 4 copies of Welder to bring consistency and Energy acceleration, plus a copy of Bill’s Analysis and a copy of Guzma, which makes using the Pal Pad very important for accessing and using Supporters throughout the game.
Beast Ring and Lusamine p are very good inclusions, but in practice I rarely needed to use Beast Ring because Welder, Energy for the turn, plus Wishful Baton already brought me the necessary boost for Baby Blacephalon. The same goes for Lusamine p. Although it works wonderfully in theory, in practice I did not have access to it, or when I had the opportunity to use it, I had to use Welder to attack. In addition, I use Jirachi and Victini p, which may be targeted when I activate the effect of Lusamine p. Beast Ring and Lusamine p are not bad cards, but I had to take them out to improve the serious inconsistency in the deck.
Final Thoughts (and Tiers!)
The SUM–UNB format has just started and a lot of new decks have already appeared and much has changed in the format. It is undeniable that Welder and Fire Crystal have elevated Fire decks to another level, in addition to making Reshiram & Charizard-GX one of the most feared Pokémon in the format. I think ReshiZard is a strong deck, but I also think there is a lot of hype surrounding it. It sure is Tier 1, but we should not forget about all the other strong decks in the metagame, like Zoroark-GX/Water/Fighting, and Malamar/Ultra Necrozma, too.
- ReshiZard-GX/Volcanion UNB/Reshiram SLG
- Zapdos TEU/PikaRom-GX
- Quagsire DRM/Naganadel LOT
- Turbo PikaRom
- Malamar FLI/Ultra Necrozma-GX/Giratina LOT
- Zoroark-GX/Dewgong UNB/Larvitar LOT 115
- Zoroark-GX/Slowking LOT/Lycanroc-GX
- Baby Blacephalon/Jirachi TEU
- Lucario & Melmetal-GX/Regigigas CIN/Hoopa SLG
- Umbreon LOT/Hoopa SLG
I hope you all liked my first article for SixPrizes. Be sure there will be lots of cool stuff coming up! Thank you for reading and I’ll see you later!
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