Clown Around, or Tag Bolt as Usual

The “Win-or-Lose” and “Get-Some-Points” Plays for Santa Clara Regionals
scyther-no-scything.tumblr.com
“Clown around? Why I’d never…”

Hello again readers. Today, I’m going to be bringing you my opinions on the SUM–UNB format that will debut this weekend in Santa Clara. From what I’ve seen of the set and the decks, the format will either be very different, or it will be almost exactly the same as what we just played in SUM–TEU. Sure, ReshiZard is a very strong deck and I believe it will have a similar impact on the game to that of PikaRom. At this point, I’m predicting an insane amount of players playing their version of ReshiZard, a smaller amount of players playing the older decks, such as PikaRom and Zapdos/Ultra Beasts, and then an even smaller amount of players playing decks that somehow incorporate a mediocre Water-type Pokémon in an attempt to beat ReshiZard.

I’m going to divide this article into two distinct parts:

  1. Those of us who only need a finish in the Top 128 or Top 64 for an invite, and
  2. those of us who are playing to win or go home empty handed.

So where do I personally stand in this format? To be perfectly honest, I am not quite sure what to make of this format when it comes to actually playing in it. Sure, I could go play ReshiZard to a decent finish, but at this point in my season, the only reason I am playing is to win events. Which means I need to play a deck where I can confidently handle ReshiZard and Lightning decks, but not get ruined by my own deck’s consistency.

The “Win-or-Lose” Play: Blacephalon-GX

I haven’t been able to put as many games as I would have liked into the new format because of my little jaunt to Panama City, but from what I’ve been testing, this seems to be the best play for those of us who want to go all the way.

Blacephalon-GX is in a very interesting place right now. It is one of the few decks that can stand up to Pikabox, Zapdos, and now ReshiZard. Unbroken Bonds has brought us a whole bunch of different Fire support and Blacephalon-GX can utilize some of it.

Pokémon (18)

4 Blacephalon-GX

4 Poipole FLI

4 Naganadel LOT

1 Alolan Grimer SUM

1 Alolan Muk SUM

1 Salazzle-GX

1 Ditto p

2 Marshadow SLG

Trainer (26)

4 Cynthia

3 Guzma

2 Lillie

2 Welder

 

4 Beast Ring

4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Ultra Ball

2 Energy Switch

 

1 Heat Factory p

1 Ultra Space

Energy (16)

15 Fire

1 Beast p

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 18

* 4 Blacephalon-GX LOT 219
* 4 Poipole FLI 55
* 4 Naganadel LOT 108
* 1 Alolan Grimer SUM 57
* 1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 1 Salazzle-GX BUS 25
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 2 Marshadow SLG 45

##Trainer Cards - 26

* 1 Heat Factory p LOT 178
* 4 Beast Ring FLI 102
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 3 Ultra Ball DEX 102
* 2 Energy Switch CES 129
* 3 Guzma BUS 115
* 4 Cynthia UPR 148
* 2 Lillie UPR 151
* 1 Ultra Space FLI 115
* 2 Welder UNB 189

##Energy - 16

* 1 Beast Energy p FLI 117
* 15 Fire Energy Energy 2

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=73344 ******

Card Choices

4-4 Naganadel LOT

Even though Welder does allow us to attach extra Energy, I still believe it is necessary for us to get out multiple Naganadel as fast as possible, which means we need to play the full 4-4 line.

1 Salazzle-GX

Vileplume BUS is a very real threat going into this format, and I wanted an attacker that can completely swing the matchup in our favor. On top of that, Salazzle-GX can easily be utilized in the late game after our Beast Ring turn has passed.

2 Welder

Welder is one of the biggest cards to watch for with the release of Unbroken Bonds. This is because it allows the decks that traditionally play a ton of Energy to have a rather solid way of attaching said Energy, and still draw some extra cards for your Supporter. Blacephalon-GX can now reasonably hit for 200+ damage on Turn 2 most games, which is a major step in the right direction in this new speedy format.

Potential Inclusions

Salandit CIN

If I end up finding that the Ditto p is not enough to get Salazzle-GX into play, then I could easily see myself putting in a Salandit. This particular Salandit is a Psychic type, which allows us to use Mysterious Treasure to search it out easily.

Salazzle UNB

I’ve thought long and hard about this, and while I believe Salazzle UNB to be a very strong card, I don’t know if Blacephalon can afford to dedicate any extra Bench spaces to another support Pokémon. I’m definitely still trying to make this fit in the list, but as of right now, it’s not happening.

Mew UNB

PikaRom is one of Blacephalon’s more difficult matchups, and this is because of PikaRom’s ability to skip Beast Ring with Tag Bolt GX. Thanks to Welder, it has now become much riskier for a PikaRom player to load 6 Energy onto a single PikaRom that would presumably be in the Active position. However, if the matchup ends up giving me trouble, I will definitely try to find a slot for Mew.

Giovanni’s Exile

One of this deck’s greatest problems is that the Bench becomes clogged up with Marshadow. One way to handle this would be to play Giovanni’s Exile to remove multiple dead-weight Pokémon from play. I would probably only play this if I decided to play multiple Salandit and Salazzle because it would be more helpful as well as more accessible.

Power Plant

This is a card that I believe is only very relevant in a single matchup: Zoroark. If I end up deciding Zoroark is a problem, then I’ll find space for a copy or two of Power Plant.

The Matchup Spread

Let’s be real here. Blacephalon is an extremely linear deck and relatively easy to play. In most matchups the strategy is the same: Attach Energies and take KOs whenever you can. Maybe you’ll disrupt a little with Let Loose and Alolan Muk, but aside from that, you’re basically playing solitaire and seeing how many Energy you can get in play. But, I’ll still go through the prevalent matchups and give my thoughts.

PikaRom: Favored

This matchup used to be favored for PikaRom. What exactly happened here to make that fact change? Well the biggest reason PikaRom was able to beat Blacephalon-GX before was because of its ability to safely Full Blitz onto the Active PikaRom and then skip Beast Ring. Welder presents a major flaw in that plan now. With Welder’s help, we can realistically set up a KO of a PikaRom on our second turn. At this point, the matchup comes down to whether or not we actually use Welder in the early game, and if the PikaRom player hits a Turn 1 Full Blitz. Aside from that little interaction, this matchup is almost exactly the same as it was in the past. One very interesting thing we can do is allow our opponent to feel safe Full Blitzing the Energy on their Active, then drop Salazzle-GX and use Queen’s Haze GX to remove what is presumably all their Energy from play. This is not the greatest plan ever though because of how easily PikaRom can transition into a Zapdos deck.

ReshiZard: Favored

Admittedly, I have not tested this matchup as much as I should. However, I think the testing that I have done provides a relatively accurate representation of this matchup. To put it simply, almost every ReshiZard list I have looked at recently doesn’t seem to be as focused on consistency as I would like them to be. The lists that are seeing play are glass cannons and similar to what we saw back in the days of Ho-Oh/Kiawe. This matchup is basically the same thing as PikaRom for us, except there’s no Zapdos, and there is no Tag Bolt GX. Yes, there are other non-GX attackers, but they’re not nearly as efficient as Zapdos is. The biggest difference between this and the PikaRom matchup is that you should never lose access to Beast Ring, and ReshiZard seems to be somewhat vulnerable to Alolan Muk and/or Let Loose.

Zoroark-GX/Water Stage 1s/Persian-GX: Even

People have been trying all sorts of random Water-type attackers in their Zoroark decks. I personally believe that only two have much viability, and they are Dewgong UNB and Slowking LOT. They both attack for the cost of 3 Colorless Energies, and both require a Choice Band to OHKO a Blacephalon-GX. However, since these attacks require 3 Colorless Energy, and Triple Acceleration Energy discards itself at the end of the turn it’s attached, I can see us easily winning this matchup by using Let Loose and Guzma on a Zoroark-GX to remove some of their draw power. They now have to find another Triple Acceleration Energy to even stay in the game. Power Plant obviously makes this matchup better, as would Lysandre Labs, but I am currently not worried about it all that much.

Stall: Favored

I haven’t actually played this matchup since the new set dropped, but I am going to make the assumption that nothing has changed all that much and that it is still a fine matchup despite Lt. Surge’s Strategy being a thing. Vileplume stall is also extremely favored because of Salazzle-GX.

Weezing Spread: Even–Favored

Ironically, the new version of Spread is a better matchup because of how well staggering Naganadel can win the matchup. Weezing is weak to Psychic, so we can now easily OHKO their attackers without Lost Zoning three Energy. We also do not have to put any Blacephalon-GX down to take KOs, which is a major improvement over how the old Spread matchup played out.

Naganadel/Quagsire, Granbull, Baby Blacephalon, and Shedinja/Oranguru: Unfavored

These are matchups that we really struggle with, so I’m not even going to go in depth for these ones. The strategy basically consists of “Let Loose and pray.”

The “Get-Some-Points” Play: Pikabox

This is the deck that I would 100% be playing if I wanted to secure a Regional finish. It has enough good matchups to where I could see myself coasting into a 6-3 finish and if I was lucky, I could make Day 2. I could still see myself playing this depending on if I cannot find something absolutely insane and Blacephalon-GX falls through. PikaRom has become somewhat of a comfort pick for me now, and I suspect that is true for a lot of people.

Pokémon (14)

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Zapdos TEU

1 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

3 Jirachi TEU

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Dedenne-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Wobbuffet LOT

Trainer (35)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

2 Cynthia

1 Volkner

 

4 Electropower

4 Ultra Ball

3 Energy Switch

2 Electromagnetic Radar

2 Nest Ball

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Choice Band

1 Escape Board

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Viridian Forest

Energy (11)

11 Lightning

 

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 GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 3 Jirachi TEU 99
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45
* 1 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Wobbuffet LOT 93

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 2 Electromagnetic Radar UNB 169
* 4 Lillie UPR 151
* 4 Guzma BUS 143
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 Volkner UPR 135
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 2 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 3 Energy Switch SUM 117
* 2 Switch SUM 160
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 2 Choice Band BUS 162
* 1 Escape Board UPR 167
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191

##Energy - 11

* 11 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=73344 ******

I’m going to be brutally honest here: Pikabox requires quite a bit of skill to pilot at all well, and I could not see myself picking up the deck and doing insanely well without having practiced with it quite a bit. However, even if you’re not playing the deck optimally, it is still very strong and you will win games anyway. I was a great example of this in Panama City this past weekend. I decided to just play the deck to the event, played zero games with the list, and proceeded to win despite the numerous misplays I made throughout the tournament. I would definitely not be confident playing this into a Regional without at least making an effort to learn the deck and how to play its matchups, so if you do decide to play this, make sure you somewhat know what you are doing with the deck.

So, not much has changed about this deck. I took Gustavo’s EUIC-winning list and basically found slots for Electromagnetic Radars and a Dedenne-GX. I also decided to play a Rescue Stretcher because we are now discarding more cards from our hands, which means more of our one-of Pokémon are at risk of being lost forever.

Other than that, this Pikabox list, or lists similar to it, have had their card choices explained to near death.

Potential Inclusions

Rayquaza-GX

No, we’re not a Turbo PikaRom deck, but from my experience with the deck in Panama, I want a way to get an extra Energy into play when my Tapu Koko p is unavailable.

1-1 Jolteon-GX

I still see all of you Vileplume players. Don’t think I have forgotten about beating you. If Vileplume receives any more hype than it already has, then I will be forced to put Jolteon-GX back into the deck to counter the deck. As it is, Joleton-GX went from a very strong card to a relatively weak card in a matter of weeks, and I would not include it for any reason other than beating Vileplume.

Giovanni’s Exile

This deck plays a lot of Pokémon that are usually useless once they are used once. It would certainly be nice to have a way to discard that Dedenne-GX and that Tapu Lele-GX from play. There is also the added function of discarding your own Wobbuffet if your opponent manages to play around it and you still have not used your own Tapu Koko p for whatever reason.

Acerola

I cut the Acerola because I only used it once in 15 games in Panama City, and I am still not convinced that it was even correct in that situation. In theory the card is great, but in practice, I found myself discarding it or not finding it more often than not.

The Matchup Spread

ReshiZard: Even

This has been a matchup of great debate amongst the community recently. I have heard so many opinions of this matchup ranging from it being free for PikaRom to it being impossible to win. I’m going to attribute the more extreme opinions on the matchup to a lack of quality testing and a lack of consistent lists. From what I have seen, this matchup is determined within the first few turns. If PikaRom manages to get a Full Blitz of its first turn, then the matchup becomes favored. If not, the matchup is pretty difficult. The generally accepted strategy here seems to be using Zapdos to set up a KO on a ReshiZard, then using PikaRom to actually take the KO. Then Tapu Thunder GX can take the final three Prize cards easily enough.

Blacephalon-GX: Unfavored

See above for the description of this matchup. I think PikaRom players will need to start being more careful and avoid putting all of their proverbial eggs in the Tag Bolt GX basket.

Zoroark-GX/Water Stage 1s/Persian-GX: Favored

Zoroark decks have seemingly cut down on their Fighting-type attacker count in an attempt to handle ReshiZard. This makes them especially vulnerable to PikaRom. Nothing has changed in how we handle this matchup though. Alolan Muk is still the biggest threat and any Alolan Grimer that hit the field need to be handled right away.

Stall: Even

The traditional Stall decks have difficulty handling PikaRom because of its strong Energy acceleration. However, if Vileplume Stall returns, then this current list obviously cannot do anything aside from say Let Loose and hope they dead-draw.

Spread: Even

This matchup comes down to how fast you can handle the various threats Spread provides. Keep your Bench small, save your Stadiums for when you need to bounce whatever harmful Stadium your opponent plays down, and be careful of Larvitar.

Final Thoughts

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
ReshiZard will be looking to defend its anointed Tier 1 turf.

This weekend is going to define what the format looks like for the rest of the 2018–19 season and the idea of a well-built ReshiZard becoming the BDIF seems unappealing to me, so I hope that we are able to deal with the deck once people are able to see what does well this weekend.

I think Blacephalon-GX can be a very good call depending on what the meta ends up looking like. PikaRom is my comfort pick and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.

Most importantly, be prepared for the Vileplume players to be out in force this weekend. Hopefully they’ll all get scared off the deck, but that seems unlikely.

Anyway, that’s all I have for you today. Good luck and have fun in Santa Clara or playing in whatever local-level event you might be attending. I will be seeing some of you this weekend, so feel free to approach me with any questions, and look out for my next articles in the coming weeks!

As always, feel free to message me with any questions that you might have about anything related to Pokémon. I also now offer coaching! Either email me (alex.schemanske@gmail.com) or PM me if interested.

Until the next one.


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