Hello 6P! July has come and the 2019–2020 season is now in full swing. We have League Cups and Challenges already happening all over the world, and I myself played in a Cup this past weekend.
I didn’t do too hot, as I whiffed Top 8 playing Green’s ReshiZard. I chose to play this deck over my trusted Jirachi version, mostly because I knew Zoroark and ZapBeasts would have a big presence. I teched 2 Power Plants into my list along with healing cards such as Mixed Herbs to dominate both of these matchups. I didn’t mind a weaker mirror match as no one plays ReshiZard in Mexico other than myself usually. For a big tournament, my preferred version would still be Jirachi-based ReshiZard, but League Cups have more concentrated metagames, so making such changes is reasonable. I ended up losing to ZapBeasts, ironically, which left me out of Top Cut, but to be fair, my opponent drew Beast Energy + Choice Band off of a Lillie for 2… I still think it was the right call, and I’ll probably be playing the same deck next week at a Challenge.
On the Unified Minds Set List
But enough about the current Standard (SUM–UNB) which is about to end as we head into UPR-on. Last time around I had only theorized different decks, based on transitioning older decks into this newer format by “replacing cards” one for one. Thankfully, the Unified Minds set list has already been confirmed, and thus we know exactly what we can (or can’t use) for Worlds. I’m sure many people were disappointed that Unified Minds included no reprints whatsoever, but I think it’s a matter of properly adapting and embracing change. The same thing happened when we lost Professor Sycamore and N, and yet we all adapted and pushed through and the game continued. The same will happen now that we lose cards we are used to such as Ultra Ball, Double Colorless Energy, and Nest Ball.
Some Cards Better, Some Worse
Having said that, in this change we have to realize that some cards gain strength, while others lose power. More specifically, I’ve found non-Pokémon-GX overall to be underwhelming, because the options to search for them come down to Pokémon Communication, Professor Elm’s Lecture, and Pokémon Fan Club. Using up your Supporter to just search for Pokémon is way too slow in my opinion, while Pokémon Communication has a very specific requirement that is not always easy to fulfill. However, there are two types of decks that can still benefit from better searching cards, which are Psychic & Dragon and Grass.
Psychic and Dragon types have access to Mysterious Treasure, which itself is almost the reason that Malamar is still relevant (and arguably one of the best decks from my testing), since you can specifically search for the Malamar pieces. Grass types have access to Net Ball which is amazing due to its versatility, but unfortunately the power of Grass types isn’t quite there at the moment.
Malamar/Giratina (UPR–Unified Minds)
A lot of my post-rotation testing has been focused on Malamar because it has access to Giratina with Distortion Door, which acts as a recovery card that we are sorely missing at the moment. Giratina can 2HKO pretty much all TAG TEAMs thanks to Distortion Door or with the aid of Spell Tag, so on paper, the 2-for-3 trade will always be favorable for you. The issue is that Malamar requires a minimum amount of setup versus the TAG TEAMs which can usually be attacking on turn 2 or even turn 1 consistently enough. That has lead me to try making the Malamar deck as consistent as possible, which brings me to my current list:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
As you can see, the list isn’t quite finalized due to the fact that I am still indecisive between which TAG TEAM is best for the deck, and which GX attacker too. Let me run down the decklist here and I’ll delve into that.
We have our trusty 5-4 Malamar line (I’m counting Ditto p as an Inkay), along with 4 Jirachi. These are the backbone of the deck, and allow everything else to become threats. Jirachi adds consistency to the deck, while Malamar is the one Pokémon that we need multiples of at every point in the game.
2 Giratina is more than enough, as you essentially have infinite Giratinas after you get the first one into play thanks to Distortion Door. There will be many games where your sole focus will be swarming with Giratinas, over and over again with Spell Tags, to pile on the pressure thanks to the distribution of damage counters everywhere.
Next up we have Mew, with its main purpose being protecting your Bench from a double-Prize Tag Bolt-GX, but its attack Psypower can also come in handy in some situations, especially combined with all the damage counter placement options provided by Distortion Door and Spell Tag.
Finally, we come down to the 2 flex spots which I have yet to decide as to which is better. They all offer pros and cons in regards to each other.
Ultra Necrozma-GX offers “unlimited” damage potential with the possibility to 1HKO pretty much everything in the game given enough Energy. Realistically though, it requires a total of 4 Energy to deal 260 damage, which is the special number to 1HKO anything in the current UPR-on format assuming some previous Spell Tag or Distortion Door damage on a TAG TEAM. Garchomp & Giratina-GX, however, offers a similar 1HKO but for a cheaper PPF cost. Of course you need at least 1 damage counter to get the bonus damage on Calamitous Slash, but thanks to Spell Tag and Distortion Door, it shouldn’t be a problem. The fact that getting a 1HKO can be achieved for 1 less Energy is incredibly important because in both cases your manual attachment for the turn must be the Metal or Fighting Energy respectively. However, Garchomp & Giratina-GX only requires 2 Malamar in play to double Psychic Recharge, while Ultra Necrozma-GX will require 3. This is offset a bit by the fact that Ultra Necrozma-GX gives up 2 Prizes rather than Garchomp & Giratina-GX’s 3, but having a whole extra Malamar line in play is not always easily achieved.
As you can see, both options offer an aggressive and proactive way to deal with an opposing Pokémon, and there is merit to both. Both of them have interesting GX attacks: Sky-Scorching Light-GX can help keep the damage counter spread momentum to close out games, while GG End-GX is useful to immediately get rid of whichever other threat your opponent might be preparing to deal with your Garchomp & Giratina-GX.
So far in my testing, there have been different situations where I wish I had one over the other, or I was glad I had that one specifically. Obviously with the Energy incompatibility, it’s not realistic to run both, so I’m still not sure which one I like best.
The other GX attacking option is dedicated to a pure Psychic Pokémon that is different than Giratina in that I want to be able to not cap at 130 damage maximum if I need an extra oomph of power. Gengar & Mimikyu-GX’s Poltergeist attack is easily powered up by a single Psychic Recharge and an Energy drop, which is what I find the most appealing about the card. Of course Horror House-GX will be useful at random times, but Poltergeist is what I find incredibly appealing because in my testing, a lot of cards are being accumulated in hands—things like single pieces of Custom Catcher or Mixed Herbs, along with unused Reset Stamps or Pokémon Communications that are being saved for later. This directly powers up Poltergeist, and some of those cards can’t even be played for no effect just to play around the attack. Of course it’s situational and in a sense unreliable, which is why I am hesitant on committing to playing it yet.
Sigilyph-GX is another situational GX, since Sonic Wing isn’t anything too useful but serves to apply pressure while Mirror Counter threatens your opponent. If you have a Spell Tag attached, a Reshiram & Charizard-GX using Flare Strike gets 1HKOed back, trading 2 for 3 Prizes, while you don’t even need a Spell Tag for Pikachu & Zekrom-GX to get KOed no matter what attack they decide to use. However, the real reason to use this card is Intercept-GX. A lot of the TAG TEAMs require a lot of Energy for their attacks, and even more so to get the plus bonuses of their GX attacks. This means Sigilyph-GX ends up doing massive damage with Intercept-GX, easily KOing a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX gearing up for a Tag Bolt-GX, a Reshiram & Charizard-GX with a little bit of previous damage from Spell Tag, etc. There are so many big hard-hitting Pokémon that require a lot of Energy and Sigilyph-GX punishes them for it. And on top of that, it remains Active to make your opponent think twice about how they respond. The limited availability of Gusting effects in UPR-on, namely 2 Custom Catchers or Ninetales TEU, means combining Sigilyph-GX with a well-timed Reset Stamp to remove the opponent’s hand and thus their options could create a checkmate situation: if your opponent attacks you, they’re doomed thanks to Mirror Counter, and if they don’t, well show me a deck that can win without attacking.
As you can see it’s quite a conundrum as to which attacker is worth the investment in terms of deck space. Gengar & Mimikyu-GX and Sigilyph-GX are grouped together because, unlike the other 2 hard-hitting attackers, they are situational and rely on your opponent’s hand size or Energy in play to be effective and can be somewhat played around. You could also choose not to run either, but my testing has shown that you do need more options than just the Giratinas, especially if your early-game setup wasn’t too smooth and you don’t start attacking on turn 2.
To nobody’s surprise, 4 Lillie and 4 Cynthia is still the go-to Supporter lineup in terms of reliability during the whole game. No more Ultra Ball means mid–late game Lillies can be weaker, but Viridian Forest and Mysterious Treasure helps with that. The 1 Erika’s Hospitality is a flex spot and could be other personal preference options such as Tate & Liza or Hapu.
Hapu is an option I explored as a 2- or even 3-of in this deck, but the randomness in the card made it unreliable to me as a draw engine. Sometimes you’d get a good Hapu were the cards you kept and the ones you discarded were really beneficial. Other times, discarding even 1 card felt bad, and at others the cards were so underwhelming that you wanted all 6 gone and regretted even playing the Supporter. This unreliability made me stray away from it in big numbers, but a late-game Hapu can be super valuable if you’re searching for something specific, e.g., Hapu + Stellar Wish combined lets you look at the next 11 cards of your deck for whatever that missing piece is.
4 Acro Bike help thin the deck quite quickly, and despite the risk of hitting double Malamar in any of them, the pros heavily outweigh the cons. It could be replaced by the “milder” Judge Whistle, which simply draws you a card, and at that point including a Judge Whistle might actually be a good call in that last spot to have the option to reuse it and continually attack your opponent’s hand early on.
4 Pokémon Communication and 4 Mysterious Treasure are the backbone of your draw engine in order to get the Malamars out ASAP. I wish there was a better option than Pokémon Communication, but unfortunately there isn’t one available at the moment.
The 4 Spell Tag are this deck’s way to have access to damage modifiers now that Choice Band and Professor Kukui are gone, and they are incredibly powerful when combined with Giratina’s Distortion Door. Completing the damage you need for a KO with them or simply sniping a Benched Prize is very powerful and is the reason why this deck can afford to not run Custom Catchers.
3 Viridian Forest help out with deck thinning but also finding Energy and discarding it for Psychic Recharge, since Ultra Ball is gone. It is a great consistency card while also being a counter Stadium for Prism Stadiums and the annoying Lysandre Labs which deactivates our Spell Tags.
2 Switch and 2 Escape Board have been enough switching cards so far for the deck as a whole, but I could see myself going to a 3/1 split if necessary. Though without Field Blower in the format and few Catcher effects, I’ve found my opponents rarely ever have a chance to KO a Jirachi with an Escape Board sitting on my Bench throughout the whole game.
Nothing too complex here, just need to run the 1 Energy of the right type for the attacker of choice, be it Fighting for the bulkier and more cost-effective Garchomp & Giratina-GX, or the Metal for the more versatile Ultra Necrozma-GX.
In terms of matchups, I don’t feel comfortable writing up a section with specific strategies for each deck yet, as I don’t think anyone knows what “each deck” even means at the moment. I’ve seen all sorts of crazy and wacky ideas out there and it seems to me that the format will be hard to predict for Worlds, as the time before a tournament like this with such a big shift in format, means there is no standard way to build decks and my deckbuilding style can be different than someone else’s, thus making my strategy in that matchup pretty useless.
It’s been really cool to try out different decks and ideas for the new format, and even though I am defaulting to the “tried and true” or what seems to be the most powerful, at the end of the day, my number 1 personal goal is to win Worlds, and thus I’m trying to focus my efforts on the less “cheesy” strategies.
Malamar as I mentioned, is the deck I’ve worked on the most so far, and I’m liking the consistency and how it runs. Next up on my list is perfecting Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, along with Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX. I feel like Reshiram & Charizard-GX is significantly weaker than before due to the lack of damage modifiers for it to get 1HKOs on TAG TEAM Pokémon. No more Kiawe also makes it much harder to get to 6 Energy for the plus bonus of Double Blaze-GX.
That will be all from me today, but I’ll see you again by the end of the month where I’m sure to have my feet in much deeper in this UPR-on Worlds format as we head to the final stretch before the World Championships. Thanks for reading!
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