The Endgame Manual

Checkmating in UPR-on with Naganadel-GX Control, Worlds/DC Open Meta Overview, and a Peek at Meganium/Nidoqueen
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Checkmate: Flipping over to UPR-on.

Hey everyone! It’s a pleasure to be writing another article. Since I’m writing less often, it’s quite refreshing to write after a while. My summer has been filled with lots of traveling (both Pokémon and family related). Now, I’m ready to begin testing the Worlds format.

Personally, I’m a fan of the pre-Worlds rotation after putting more thought into it. The originally stale meta without Guzma, Ultra Ball, Nest Ball, etc. appeared bleak at first, but has given rise to different engines and lesser played cards. Decks with better engines are inherently strong, but that doesn’t prevent other decks from succeeding. Today I’ll be looking at one of the decks I’ve invested time into: -GX Control.

In many ways, this deck is a Zoroark-GX/Naganadel-GX adapted for rotation. Since Zoroark-GX has left the format, the deck now includes the new Naganadel-GX as its engine. Its Ultra Conversion Ability is similar to Zoroark-GX’s Trade; instead of discard any card and draw 2 cards, it’s discard an Ultra Beast and draw 3 cards. Naganadel-GX UNM requires the deck to be built differently than Zoroark-GX because it requires Ultra Beasts as fuel.

Naganadel-GX Control

The List

Pokémon – 23

4 Poipole LOT

3 Naganadel-GX UNM

1 Naganadel-GX FLI

1 Meowth TEU

1 Persian-GX

1 Ditto p

2 Dedenne-GX

2 Buzzwole FLI

2 Nihilego LOT

1 Kartana UNB

1 Xurkitree UNM

1 Mew UNB

1 Mr. Mime DET

1 Jirachi p

1 Oranguru UPR

Trainers – 29

4 Mars

2 Hapu

2 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

1 Brock’s Grit
1 Lusamine p

1 Tate & Liza

 

4 Mysterious Treasure
4 Pokémon Communication

3 Custom Catcher

2 Reset Stamp

1 Pal Pad

 

4 Ultra Space

Energy – 8

4 Triple Acceleration

3 Rainbow

1 Beast p

As I said before, this deck is a modernized checkmate. Also like Zoroark-GX of the past, the deck does not solely rely on Stinger GX to win the game. Because it’s forced to play an array of Ultra Beasts, Rainbow Energies are strong in allowing multicolored attackers. Buzzwole FLI, Nihilego LOT, Kartana UNB, and Xurkitree UNM are all strong, adaptable attackers. Worst case, they’re fuel for Ultra Conversion.

Highlighted Aspects

The Engine

One thing that this deck has going for it is its strong engine. With 4 Mysterious Treasure, 4 Ultra Space, 4 Pokémon Communication, and 2 Dedenne-GX, this deck will rarely open with a dead hand. (The Supporters are there too.) Moreover, with maxed-out counts it’s easy to set up 2 Naganadel-GX. 4 Pokémon Communication is all but necessary for the Jirachi p + Mr. Mime DET combo as well.

1 Jirachi p + 1 Mr. Mime DET

This combo is the main way for the deck to win the game against non-TAG TEAM decks. With this, it’s possible to take a KO on any GX Pokémon while activating Wish Upon a Star to win the game after Stinger GX. To put Jirachi p in the Prizes without Mallow, you’ll need to deck yourself. During your turn, empty your deck, use Pokémon Communication to leave Jirachi p as the only card in the deck, then swap it using Mr. Mime’s Ability. Then, you can either KO a GX using Vengeance or Venom Shot.

1-1 Persian-GX

Persian-GX offers a much needed out to Reset Stamp after a Stinger GX. Aside from this benefit, Persian-GX also gives the deck another finishing attack other than Venom Shot. Vengeance requires one Energy attachment so it can come out of nowhere.

4 Mars

Mars is the butter on top of this Naganadel-GX bread. When creating the deck, I asked myself what Supporter would complement a deck that wants to churn through its deck. Lillie and Cynthia are immediately out because the former is null with a 6 card hand, and the latter is terrible in cycling through the deck. Even though Mars only draws 2 cards, combined with Naganadel-GX it’s 8–11 cards per turn. Mars also has the added benefit of acting as extra disruption after a Reset Stamp. Reset Stamp + Mars or Lt. Surge’s Strategy + 2 Mars are amazing combos that can halt the opponent from ending the game. Then, you’ll be able to turn the game around and win after Stinger GX.

2 Hapu

Hapu is another strong Supporter. In my eyes, it effectively draws through 6 cards of my deck. Even though I may end up discarding a semi-important resource, it’s equally important to churn through the deck. Hapu also gives the deck great consistency without Lillie.

1 Tate & Liza

Tate & Liza acts as another draw Supporter, but also as a switching card for Oranguru or other means. Without any form of switching, it’s impossible to Sledgehammer without Kartana or a pivot Energy on board. The single copy is stronger than 3rd Hapu because of added versatility in preventing deckout, switching, and as a shuffle–draw Supporter.

3 Custom Catcher

3 Custom Catcher is enough because it’s only required on the finishing turn of the game. There isn’t room in the deck for 4, and 2 is too few because of an early discard or reshuffled Prize card.

The Energy

I started off with the old Zoroark-GX Energy count of 4-4 split between Double Colorless and Triple Acceleration, replacing the Double Colorless with the 3-1 Rainbow–Beast split. Since then, I’ve had zero reason to change it. Triple Acceleration Energy is very important in attacking with our Stage 1 Pokémon, but Rainbow/Beast is also important for Oranguru/Ultra Beasts. Rainbow Energy and Beast Energy p are more vital on the early turns of the game while Triple Acceleration is for late-game attacks.

If you were scared of Honchkrow-GX (which I may be if the deck proves strong) I would add a Lightning Energy. Xurkitree-GX can attack with that, OHKOing the Honchkrow-GX if the opponent is at 3 Prizes.

Other Card Ideas

Stakataka-GX

Stakataka-GX may be worthwhile because it forces to supply an extra modifier to KO Naganadel-GX with Full Blitz. My concern with this card is that there isn’t a lot of Bench space with the deck. Even in that matchup, I’d rather have Kartana on the Bench as a pivot position. Also, Mew is necessary, so Bench space is already occupied for the most part.

Beast Ball

Beast Ball is a card I found about out a day ago and haven’t had any testing with. The most similar card in the list is Ultra Space or Mysterious Treasure. Ultra Space and Beast Ball only search for Ultra Beast Pokémon, but Ultra Space is important for maintaining Stadium control. Mysterious Treasure could be cut, but then Beast Ball is useless in the initial turns unless a or Naganadel-GX UNM is prized.

Beast Ball has great utility and will likely make its way into the list at some point. I think the deck can sacrifice some consistency, likely in the form of Mysterious Treasure. The 2nd Dedenne-GX is flexible as well, since the only reason for 2 is to prevent prizing the singleton.

Giovanni’s Exile

Giovanni’s Exile has great utility with the Jirachi p + Mr. Mime combo and in removing Dedenne-GX either before or during the Lusamine p turn. In testing, I can reliably pull off the extra Prize combo without Giovanni’s Exile, and I find the Lusamine p combo to be difficult. Also, in this format with few Gust effects, I don’t mind if the opponent goes down to 1 Prize anyway, as I’ve likely prepared a Poipole for Stinger GX on the following turn anyway.

Escape Board

Though the deck plays Tate & Liza, the deck could certainly use another switching card.

Chip-Chip Ice Axe

Chip-Chip Ice Axe goes along with the Reset Stamp + Mars combo. Locking the top card of the opponent’s deck all but guarantees a turn without counterplay from the opponent. Because the deck tries to checkmate the turn before, if the opponent cannot use Reset Stamp or double Custom Catcher then the game is over.

Initial Thoughts About Its Chances in the Meta

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Theoretically, this deck can handle anything that’s thrown at it. Like the winning NAIC deck, a checkmate strategy is relatively perfect. Losses come at the hands of slow starts and exceptions to the checkmate. In this deck’s case, slow starts are avoided because of great consistency and a strong engine. However, there are some single card counters that this deck simply cannot deal with:

  1. Honchkrow-GX and Xurkitree-GX are the first two cards that come to mind; both of them lock Special Energy. Without any Energy to attack with, the only win condition is to somehow lock or stall them out of the game. With multiple Pokémon in play it may be possible to win, but with a lone wall the game seems impossible.
  2. Another seemingly difficult matchup would be Green’s ReshiZard because of healing cards like Great Potion and Mixed Herbs. In this case, the path to victory would require a Reset Stamp + Mars lock in order to win over two turns. Even then it may be difficult simply because a ReshiZard is incredibly large.

On the flip side of things, PikaRom, Blowns, and seem like okay matchups. Against decks with little to no counterplay, Naganadel-GX Control can patiently play the game and win easily.

Typical Strategy

Naganadel-GX Control is a patient deck. You should determine your avenue of victory ASAP, whether it be a Stinger GX checkmate or by winning naturally. Most games will come down to Stinger GX, not always as a checkmating tool, but as a means of “taking” 3 Prizes. The deck doesn’t have ample resources or ways to take that many Prizes, so most of the time Stinger GX is the first step toward winning the game (after you’ve set up). Even if you don’t set up checkmate, a viable way of winning is to Reset Stamp + Mars them, send up either Persian-GX or Naganadel-GX, and win over two turns.

Gusting up a bad Pokémon and sniping another with Venom Shot is the best combination for winning. This works well if the opponent hasn’t played Mew UNB down, as it requires them to find a switching card and a way to OHKO your Active from a topdeck.

On the first two turns of the game your main priority should be setting up Pokémon and putting Kartana into play. I typically aim for 3 Poipole because that’s enough for 2 Naganadel-GX UNM and an open slot for Naganadel-GX FLI later in the game. Kartana is great because it allows you to pivot into Oranguru or Buzzwole easily without Tate & Liza or discarding an Energy. If you’re sacrificing a Pokémon, retreat into something else—even Dedenne-GX works if it can tank two hits.

It’s alright to sandbag Pokémon as you amass a larger hand and prepare for the end of the game. Lusamine p can usually buy a turn, allowing you to use Venom Shot to damage a TAG TEAM GX. In games where you take 6 Prizes quickly, Lusamine p is insane with Venom Shot as well. Most decks will have a Dedenne-GX down and little reason to worry about using Mew at that point.

During the early turns, you want to attach a Rainbow/Beast Energy p to Poipole in order to set up Venom Shot. The only other place I would prematurely attach an Energy to is Oranguru, as Resource Management is vital in about one in three games. In those games, Hapu will hit necessary cards like Triple Acceleration Energy or Custom Catcher.

You can use Lt. Surge’s Strategy carelessly, as there are 2 copies for a reason (and Pal Pad). It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use it on the perfect turn because the opponent will Reset Stamp you down to 6 cards once you’ve reached a decently-sized hand. If I have 2 draw Supporters in my hand with Lt. Surge’s Strategy, I’ll use it. The same goes for Brock’s Grit. It’s important to recycle Ultra Beasts so that you aren’t left without any fuel after a Reset Stamp.

UPR-on Meta Overview

From what I’ve gathered in discussion groups and general deck-building, here’s what I imagine to be a comprehensive list of the most relevant decks:

On the other hand, I expect these decks to work with the right amount of tinkering:

Even though these decks lost cards like Nest Ball, Ultra Ball, etc., it’s a shared loss. Each of these decks have their own engine that allow them to work even in the new format. Thankfully, it feels like there isn’t a major drop in consistency with the rotation (as it has sometimes been in the past). Decks are still strong, but with fewer capabilities at their disposal.

Nidoqueen/Meganium

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To finish up this article I’ll leave you with another list. Nidoqueen/Meganium lost a fair amount of steam, but I’m confident that it can continue to compete. Jit Min played it to a deep run at NAIC with Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX + Beast Energy p, but that combo is less reliable without Guzma.

Pokémon – 23

4 Jirachi TEU

4 Chikorita LOT 6

4 Meganium LOT

3 Nidoran + TEU

3 Nidoqueen TEU

2 Mudkip CES 33

2 Swampert CES

1 Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX

 

Trainers – 31

4 Lillie

3 Cynthia

3 Bill’s Analysis

1 Brock’s Grit

1 Giovanni’s Exile

 

4 Pokémon Communication

4 Rare Candy

3 Mysterious Treasure

3 Net Ball

1 Pal Pad

2 Escape Board

 

2 Shrine of Punishment

Energy – 6

4 Triple Acceleration

1 Beast p

1 Super Boost p

I’m hesitant to still play the Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX combo, but I also realize that it’s strong anyway. Against decks which Nidoqueen isn’t getting a OHKO like ReshiZard or PikaRom, Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX can clean up with Jet Punch or Beast Game GX. Obviously, the other secondary package is Oranguru UPR + Grass Energy. The meta will dictate which is better or if either is necessary.

Because the deck loses Nest Ball and Great Ball, I went for a 3-3 split of Mysterious Treasure and Net Ball. This covers both bases of Nidoran and Chikorita. I also opted for Bill’s Analysis because it’s very strong in getting the T2 Rare Candy into either Nidoqueen or Meganium. In order for this deck to work, I think it needs to take quick KOs starting from T2.

Conclusion

That’s it for today’s article. Naganadel-GX appears to be a strong control archetype, but may be outpaced by the aggressive decks of the format. At the end of the day, even though there are strong checkmate combos, there are even stronger beatdown decks like Fire and Malamar.

Looking at Nidoqueen, the deck is strong on paper but may fall apart like a typical Stage 2 deck. The deck is certainly poised like any other, but may be too fragile with slightly reduced consistency and reduced options for finishing the game. Overall, I think the popular decks will dictate Meganium’s position in the meta.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you good luck in your Worlds + DC Open preparation. For the first time, it truly feels like everyone is putting their all into tournament preparation. In the past few years, the new set has dropped for Worlds but the meta has remained relatively similar. It will be completely different this year, and frankly I’m excited to be putting in the time.

Xander


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