Hello again readers, I’m back with you after NAIC and the conclusion of the 2018–2019 competitive season. It has been an incredible year for me and I know that I have grown much as a player and person because of the experiences I’ve had this season. Today, I’m going to give a report on my rather off-meta pick of Gardevoir-GX/Swampert for the biggest event of the year, and then give my thoughts on the season as a whole. I’m going to hold off on talking about Unified Minds because I don’t have enough knowledge of the set to give good opinions yet.
I was one of the lucky players who got to spend almost two weeks in the city of Columbus this June. Because of this, my friends and I had quite a bit of time to test and figure out our play for NAIC. We knew that we were going to try to avoid playing a meta deck, but I still had some reservations about this idea, as shown in my last article.
Before I go into the week, let me describe our testing process:
- First, we would build whatever deck we were on at the time on PTCGO and try to optimize the list for certain matchups.
- Then, we would sit down and test against ReshiZard, because we knew that if we were not beating that, we should table the deck instantly.
- If the deck could actually beat ReshiZard, we continued on to PikaRom and Zapdos. Almost no deck could beat all three so we would have to choose a matchup to lose to (i.e., Zapdos).
Throughout the week we tried many deck ideas. Most of them were downright terrible, but a few of them showed some promise. On Sunday, we tried to make Rhyperior BUS/Meganium LOT/Swampert CES Mill work. We were able to take a 50-50 against most decks; however, we were struggling to deal with Marshadow SLG in the early game. Unfortunately, too many decks could abuse Marshadow, so we tabled the idea.
We then tried to make Zoroark beat both PikaRom and ReshiZard. This resulted in some convoluted deck that included Gyarados and Lucario-GX. The deck was actually very good, but once again struggled with the consistency issues of the format. After I beat the deck with PikaRom six times, we tabled the deck.
After playing more bad decks, we ended up going to dinner one night. At this point, we were pretty much out of ideas that didn’t seem terrible. (In hindsight, Spiritomb/Stunfisk was good. Oops.) On a whim, Alex Krekeler texted Hunter Butler about the Gardevoir-GX list he used in Madison. A couple of hours later, we had an incomplete list and started to test it. After a single match at 1:00am, my friends had tabled the deck. The next day, we made a few changes to the list and played some matches while waiting for our hotel room to be ready. In those matches, I managed to beat ReshiZard, PikaRom, and Zapdos. This was the first deck that we found capable of such a feat, so we decided to put more time into the deck and that time resulted in us playing the deck for NAIC.
1 Mew UNB
1 Judge UL 78
4 Pokégear 3.0
4 Rare Candy UL 82
2 Pokémon Communication HS 98
5 Y Energy
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 20
##Trainer Cards - 31
* 4 Professor Elm’s Lecture LOT 188
* 3 Cynthia UPR 148
* 1 Judge UL 78
* 4 Pokégear 3.0 UNB 233
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 2 Guzma BUS 143
* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 4 Rare Candy UL 82
* 1 Choice Band BUS 162
* 2 Pokémon Communication HS 98
* 1 Timer Ball SUM 134
* 1 Wondrous Labyrinth p TEU 158
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 2 Max Potion GRI 128
##Energy - 9
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=73804 ******
We spent well over a day grinding games with the deck, and this is the list that we ended up on. In retrospect, the list seems incredibly greedy, and I’m not quite sure how it actually works, but it does.
Not playing 1 Kirlia may seem odd, but the format is too fast for Stage 1s to be a functional alternative to Rare Candy. This lead us to play the 3-0-3 line of Gardevoir-GX rather than anything heavier. Our reasoning was that we realistically could not set up more than Gardevoir-GX a game, so why play more dead Pokémon? I was only punished for our low Ralts count once, but in that instance, a 4th probably would have made no difference, as I managed to prize all 3 copies.
I just said that Stage 1s are too slow for this format, did I not? Well, unlike Gardevoir-GX, you can afford to be slower with Swampert because it is less likely that your opponent decides to target down a Marshtomp than a Kirlia or Ralts. Honestly, if anyone wants to target my Marshtomp, then good for them. They just let me keep a Gardevoir-GX or Ralts.
I cannot stress how important Alolan Vulpix is to the deck. There were times that I would use Professor Elm’s Lecture to search for an extra Alolan Vulpix instead of the 2nd Mudkip. In Game 1, most of my opponents would fail to realize how easy the game would be for me if my Alolan Vulpix survived into my turn. In Game 2, they wouldn’t make that mistake again, thus I would have to get another Vulpix out.
We were well aware that Zoroark/Dewgong was going to be a thing, and after testing the matchup, it was determined that if we went second, we would have around a 20% win rate because we couldn’t keep our Basics alive. We decided to tech a Mew for that matchup, which increased that win rate a bit.
Professor Elm’s Lecture & 4 Pokégear 3.04
Hitting Elm’s on our first turn was the most important thing to us, so we had to maximize our outs to it. After this weekend, I can confidently say that I despise Pokégear as a card. The amount of times that I missed any Supporter was probably equal to the amount that I hit one.
We initially played with 4 Cynthia and no Judge. After testing against both Blacephalon decks, we decided that we would need to play some form of hand disruption. Judge worked better than Marshadow here because of how tight our Bench space usually is.
This was perhaps the most greedy count in our list. Choice Band is important in so many different matchups, yet we only played one. I did end up getting punished for this a bit, but I don’t think it would have changed my results in any way.
Another greedy choice was our Energy count. The theory is that you’ll have won by the time you’ve used all of your Energy, and if the game is still going, you can use Twilight-GX to recycle them.
We tried quite a few different techs that were all good, but fell short of what we needed them to be. That doesn’t mean that they’re not good in the deck, and I would certainly give them a try if you’re playing this deck in Cups.
Initially, we thought this card was really good. It is, but the amount of times where we could actually use it was smaller than we could have hoped for. The issue is that your opponent usually targets down your Basic Pokémon or Swampert when possible and only KOs 1 or 2 Gardevoir-GX per game. In theory Diantha makes the greedy Energy and Choice Band counts a lot less greedy, but in practice it was too niche for NAIC.
This was easily our 61st card, and if I had the chance, I would go back and make myself play it. Choice Band is important to so much math in the deck, and makes you require 1 less Energy for a TAG TEAM KO.
The Matchup Spread
The spread here is going to look deceptively good because if the deck sets up, it will not lose games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t set up every game because of Let Loose, so take that into account when looking at this deck.
Our projected biggest obstacle in the event, and I think between the four of us, we hit 2 in 32 rounds. This matchup is fairly straightforward. Get multiple Ralts down as soon as possible and use Beacon to set them up. Swampert does provide a great alternate attacker if your opponent uses Arcanine, Volcanion, or ReshiZard, but is terrible against EeveeLax. It is best to set up multiple Gardevoir-GX and allow your opponent to be the first person to attack, unless you manage to find a Guzma + a lot of Energy in the early game. It is not the end of the world if we have to 2-shot one of their TAG TEAMs, but it is best avoided if Miltank is a possibility. Your opponent can only 1HKO a Gardevoir-GX with a TAG TEAM, so hold onto you Max Potions in case they decide to use their non-GX attackers.
This matchup can get awkward if you’re not careful with your Rare Candies, but is easy enough to navigate. The biggest issue you’re going to face is a Turn 1 Let Loose, and even then you can draw out of it. If you go first, then the matchup is extremely favored because you are able to use Elm’s easily and will not fold to a Marshadow nearly as often. Your opponent will likely lead with Zapdos and try to avoid benching a PikaRom until the end game. We can easily combat this by using Alolan Ninetales-GX to deal spread damage and 2-shot their Zapdos while using Max Potion to heal. Once you draw out a PikaRom, go ham with Gardevoir-GX and take those Prize cards. Your opponent will almost never be able to Tag Bolt-GX, but you still need to be careful of it. Benching Mew might become necessary if you are unable to remove a PikaRom from play. Wondrous Labyrinth p can also completely cripple some PikaRom lists that have opted to cut Marshadow UNB. Forcing your opponent to attach an extra Energy to use any attack is absolutely insane, and helps the Gardevoir-GX math even more.
This is a matchup that becomes a lot better if your opponent does not know how to play the matchup. In our initial testing, we were smacking Zapdos left and right, and then we learned the matchup from Zapdos’s side and it became a 50-50. The way to go about this matchup from the Gardevoir side is to use Alolan Ninetales-GX to take Prizes in the early game while healing off damage with Max Potion. You can easily skip the Sledgehammer turn, which helps the matchup immensely. Eventually, you’ll have to transition into Gardevoir-GX. At this point, it is best to use Twilight-GX + Wondrous Labyrinth p + Judge to disrupt your opponent and recycle key cards like Max Potion. If you pull this off, I would say you’ve won the game unless your opponent manages to bump the Stadium and take a KO. In this matchup, you need to be very careful about using Super Boost Energy because of how easily Tapu Koko-GX can use Tapu Thunder-GX to steal 2 easy Prizes.
This matchup is very weird. Your goal is to be the first person to 4 Prize cards and then not miss a beat after that. The easiest way to do this is to use Sublimation-GX on Turn 2. Failing that, a Turn 2 Hydro Pump for 160 from a Swampert can also be enough to win the Prize trade because of Snowy Wind. This is definitely the most fast-paced matchup, but Blacephalon can also fall victim to its own Let Loose or our Judge. It is best to time the Judge for when you’re either going into the Beast Ring turns, or for when you use Swamppert to KO a Blacephalon-GX.
Blacephalon UNB: 40-60
This matchup is the hardest the deck will end up facing because of how easily our opponent can stream KOs and 1-Prize attackers. Your best strategy here is to use Sublimation-GX, Judge, and Wondrous Labyrinth p in the same turn. Why Sublimation-GX, you may ask? Well, because it does not trigger Wishful Baton. If this turn sticks, then it is easy enough to sweep your opponent using Swampert and Gardevoir-GX. If not, then you’re probably losing.
This matchup comes down to the coin flip a lot of the time, because if you go first, then you can easily set up multiple Pokémon, and Dewgong is less of a threat. Going second, it is vital that you find a Mew and then pray they don’t hit Turn 2 Alolan Muk and then use Dewgong’s Dual Blizzard. I haven’t had the chance to play the matchup against Stéphane’s winning list, so I don’t know whether or not the matchup is better or worse against that list.
Thoughts on the 2018–2019 Season
My season was different from almost every one of yours in that I had the opportunity to travel the globe and play events in many different countries.
I started this season thinking I was going to hate the constant travel that would be required of me to maintain a Top 16 spot. I assumed that I would have a similar season to the 2017–2018 season, in that I would never be 100% confident in my standing in Top 16. Apparently, I was wrong. This season has been the best I’ve ever had as a Master, with me never falling out of Top 16 after the first Regional. Rather than being one of the lower Top 16 players, that just sort of exist, I was actually at the top for once.
Part of my success this season can be attributed to the fact that I started writing for SixPrizes right as the season began. Being able to put my ideas down on paper and have many minds criticize them has been more helpful than I could have imagined, and it also drove me to test more, so I would be able to put out content I believed in.
Points on Points Distribution
pokemon.comThis season has also been party to a few major system changes. For instance, League Challenges are now relevant, and eat up some of my weeknights on occasion if I decide to care enough to attend them. Most of the League Challenges that I have attended this year have helped me to realize that not everything about the game has to be competitive. I would make it a goal to play some form of off-meta deck to them, in an effort to test new ideas in a tournament setting, and so I could enjoy playing decks I would not play at major events.
Another change in the system was the quarterly stipend system. Instead of the Top 16 players being able to ride their early success until the end of the season, players were forced to perform well in specific time periods to earn a stipend to an IC. I don’t know whether this directly affected me, but can say that the feeling of receiving a paid trip to a different continent definitely gave me a sort of confidence boost.
Finally, we come to the one change that I cannot agree with for the life of me: the Best Finish Limit put on Regionals. In theory, it was supposed to allow players to attend less events if they wanted to chase Top 16, as well as allow more players the opportunity to reach the Top 16 goal. It’s a great theory. Too bad it doesn’t work in practice. Instead of players being able to rest on some weekends, they are now forced to attend even more events because there was a need to better your weaker finishes in an effort to stay ahead. I can also confidently say that if there was no BFL, nothing about the Top 16 results would have changed. The BFL was supposed to make traveling to SPEs not worthwhile, but it has increased the value of these small, but high-CP events. The perfect example of this is Rahul in the second quarter who Top 4’d two SPEs. I don’t have the exact numbers, but he earned enough CP at SPEs to get a spot in Top 16 and the Top 4 stipend.
That’s it for my NAIC report and mini rant on the season. Thank you all for being so supportive of me this season and for helping me grow as a person and player. I’ll be back soon to give my first thoughts on Unified Minds and the post-rotation format that we’ll see at Worlds.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or PM me if interested.
Until the next one.
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