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Psychic Malamar, On Using Spell Tag, and the Pitfalls of Naganadel-GX Control
Yep—it’s crunch time!

Hey everyone! Worlds is only two weeks away, which is honestly pretty terrifying. When I looked at my calendar, I quickly realized that there’s very little time left to prepare for the largest tournament of the year. Rivaled by that emotion was my excitement! Though stressful, Worlds is my favorite tournament of the year. It has the biggest stakes and the greatest collection of good players from around the world. The culture and ambience of Worlds is unlike any other tournament, too.

In today’s article, I’ll take a look at Psychic Malamar and give an update on my Naganadel-GX control deck I posted in my last article. I think that Psychic Malamar is a strong, consistent choice for Worlds, especially on Day 1. In a completely unexpected field, it’s important to choose a deck that isn’t hard-countered by one deck or a single card. Malamar, boiled down, is a 1-Prize trading deck with tools such as Espurr UNB, Espeon & Deoxys-GX, and Gengar & Mimikyu-GX to finish out games or further swing the Prize trade in your favor. Overall, I expect Malamar to perform well because of its linearity and low variance.

The Malamar List

Pokémon – 18

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

2 Giratina LOT

2 Jirachi TEU

1 Dedenne-GX

1 Gengar & Mimikyu-GX

1 Espurr UNB

1 Mimikyu SM99/GRI

1 Mew UNB

1 Ditto p

 

 

Trainers – 33

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie

1 Erika’s Hospitality

1 Morty

 

4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Pokémon Communication

3 Switch

2 Pokégear 3.0

1 Reset Stamp

4 Spell Tag

2 Escape Board

 

3 Viridian Forest

Energy – 9

9 P

 

Looking at the list, there isn’t much spice outside of a couple of tech cards. As I said earlier, that’s the beauty of the deck. The list’s goal is to max out consistency while devoting a few slots to powerful tech cards.

Card Choices

2 Jirachi TEU

Jirachi is a great starter and pivot point for this deck. The deck runs 2 copies to mitigate prizing one of them, and for the increased probability of starting with one.

1 Dedenne-GX

I think running 1 Dedenne-GX is worthwhile as insurance for a bad starting hand. The deck already has 4 Pokémon Communication and plenty of Pokémon, so adding the 1 copy of Dedenne-GX increases the outs to a new hand, more or less, by 4. Think of Dedenne-GX in the same light as you would playing 1 Tapu Lele-GX (when it was still legal).

1 Gengar & Mimikyu-GX

Gengar & Mimikyu-GX is strong against Green’s ReshiZard and can unexpectedly swing games against other matchups. The biggest asset of this card is the surprise factor. If the opponent is unaware of it in your list, they’re more likely to carelessly leave themselves open to Poltergeist.

1 Espurr UNB + 1 Mimikyu SM99/GRI

These are the other single-Prize attackers the deck includes other than Giratina. Espurr is incredibly powerful, as it provides the deck the capability to snipe the Bench. With Spell Tag and Distortion Door, it’s fairly easy to damage a Pokémon to the point of a KO with Ear Kinesis. This can help you take 2 Prizes against a Dedenne-GX sitting on the Bench, or in cleaning up a KO after a swing with Giratina.

Mimikyu, thankfully legal because of its SM99 reprint, is great against the hard-hitting decks like Dark Box and ReshiZard. With a few pings from Spell Tag or Distortion Door, Copycat can take a 1HKO.

1 Morty

Morty is a dark horse that can potentially swing a game. Like Gengar & Mimikyu-GX, it’s a surprise card. In combination with Reset Stamp, Morty can completely cripple the opponent’s setup, making it harder to respond to your attacker. Even without Reset Stamp, Morty is a strong Supporter card to play once you’ve already set up. Once you have 2–3 Malamar in play, you can get away with playing a non-draw Supporter for a turn.

In some fringe cases, Morty can also be used to preemptively look at the opponent’s hand before using Poltergeist. You’ll still be forced to put 2 cards back into their deck, but provided their hand is big enough, Morty can give you the information if a risky Poltergeist would take a knockout.

2 Pokégear 3.0

I’m a fan of Pokégear 3.0 because it’s like a Supporter with extra flexibility. Instead of playing more copies of Erika’s Hospitality, Pokégear 3.0 gives you access to the better Supporters, Lillie and Cynthia. Perhaps its biggest strength is the capability to find Morty more easily. With 2 Pokégear 3.0 and 1 Morty, I’d imagine the probability of finding it to be approximately the same as the deck running 2 Morty.

Potential Inclusions

1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX

Espeon & Deoxys-GX is the low variance version of Gengar & Mimikyu-GX. It doesn’t rely on the opponent for its damage, so you’re fully in control. This card would probably be better for Day 2-of Worlds when you play against stronger players. Cross Division-GX is also very powerful when combined with poke damage from Spell Tag and Distortion Door. The bonus effect of 20 damage counters is hard to do without already winning, but the base effect of 10 damage counters is strong enough. Of course, this card is reminiscent of Espeon-GX, and therefore will have a place in my heart.

1 Ultra Necrozma-GX, 1 Metal Energy

This is a concept that made its way into some Malamar lists last year. Ultra Necrozma-GX is a better attacker than Gengar & Mimikyu-GX in matchups where the opponent has a relatively low hand size and against Dark Box. Against Dark Box, Ultra Necrozma-GX can take 1HKOs against their TAG TEAM Pokémon with a little help from Spell Tag. I would cut the Gengar & Mimikyu-GX + Morty/Mimikyu for this package.

1 Mr. Mime TEU

Mr. Mime is a neat tech that beats decks that try to even up the Prize trade with Super Scoop Up. Specifically, these are matchups like Dark Box and some PikaRom lists.

Matchups

Green’s ReshiZard: Favorable

In this matchup, set up and start swinging with Giratina as soon as possible. They will try to repeatedly heal their ReshiZard with Mixed Herbs and Great Potion, so continue to put pressure. If they ever attack into a Spell Tag with Flare Strike, punish them with Mimikyu. It may be difficult to KO the 2nd ReshiZard, but they will also have a hard time Knocking Out 6 Pokémon. Avoid benching Dedenne-GX and Gengar & Mimikyu-GX unless it’s guaranteed that Poltergeist can take a knockout. Reset Stamp and Morty work wonders in crippling their hand, preventing them from healing their ReshiZard.

Dark Box: Even–Favorable

Dark Box is a close matchup because of Super Scoop Up. The opponent can swing with one of their TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, then clear off all the damage you did. They also have a plethora of attackers that can trade 2 for 2 with Giratina like Weavile-GX. Because Weavile-GX 1HKOs a Giratina and Giratina 2HKOs in return, they go even in the Prize trade. Naganadel can swing for 160 with Turning Point once as well.

The trick to this matchup is get a faster start than them and continuously apply pressure. The way to finish out the game is with Espurr on a Dedenne-GX if they don’t bench Mew. Otherwise, you’ll have to throw Giratina at them and hope it works out. Morty and Reset Stamp are two disruption options that hopefully cause them to miss a turn of attacking or Super Scoop Up.

PikaRom: Even–Favorable

PikaRom should be a relatively favorable matchup, but it can be scary if the opponent plays well. The main concern is avoiding a powerful Tag Bolt-GX. The list runs a copy of Mew, but it’s easy for the PikaRom player to Custom Catcher and KO it with Zapdos. To avoid this, don’t bench Mew until the opponent has enough Energy to threaten a Tag Bolt-GX.

By now, you may realize that most of the matchups come down to the same thing. Set up, attack with Giratina, and then interject with Espurr, Gengar & Mimikyu-GX, or Mimikyu when those attackers become relevant. There isn’t much more to it.

On Using Spell Tag

While there isn’t much in overall matchup strategy, there is plenty of hard thinking to be done when using Spell Tag. Placing damage counters with Distortion Door and Spell Tag is easily the hardest part of this deck. Many components of this deck rely on turning 2HKOs into 1HKOs. You must optimally place the damage counters so that you can maintain a favorable Prize trade.

There are different strategies for using Spell Tag. You can spread out your damage to cover your bases against multiple attackers, or you could load damage onto a single Pokémon in hopes of KOing it with Espurr later, or with Giratina if it ever attacks. The optimal strategy will be dependent on what the opponent has in play, but there are some good guidelines to follow.

Three Guidelines

  1. Don’t rely on Spell Tag to KO an Active Pokémon.
  2. Only put damage counters on Dedenne-GX if you’ve already sniped it for 10 with Distortion Door.
  3. Against Super Scoop Up decks, stack Spell Tag damage on a single Pokémon so that the opponent is forced to use SSU on it.

These are the guidelines I try to follow when using Spell Tag. Of course, these are guidelines, so situations may call for them to be disobeyed. If you know the opponent’s list and they aren’t playing Lysandre Labs or Super Scoop Up, the first guideline can usually be disobeyed. Basically, the first guideline is saying don’t plan out a KO as 40 + 130 + 40, in that order. You’re vulnerable to Lysandre Labs and Super Scoop Up, as you’ve wasted an attack and a Spell Tag. If the opponent puts down Lysandre Labs, you’ll have wasted 40 damage from the first Spell Tag because you need to attack into it again. If the opponent plays Super Scoop Up, you’ve once again wasted the 40 damage.

In this scenario, if the opponent promoted the Pokémon with 40 damage to take a knockout, I would’ve looked to take a Prize with Espurr + Spell Tag. That way, I can take a Prize or two with Espurr while putting Spell Tag active. Therefore, Super Scoop Up is mitigated, and if they play Lysandre Labs, you can replace it and hope they don’t have a second.

The Dedenne-GX guideline is similar to the first guideline in that you don’t want to waste damage counters with Spell Tag unless you’re going to take the KO relatively soon. With 10 damage already on Dedenne-GX, all you need is one more Distortion Door (on top of Spell Tag damage) in order to KO it with Espurr. If you place the 40 prematurely (before any damage is on Dedenne), then the opponent is less threatened for the next turn, as you’ll need another Spell Tag or two Distortion Door ticks to take the knockout with Espurr.

For another example, we need 90 extra damage to KO a Weavile-GX with Giratina. This can be achieved with 2 Spell Tag and a Distortion Door. To start, tag it with Distortion Door at the beginning of the game. Then, you can put 40 damage on it with Spell Tag #1. This is where the first guideline comes into play. If the opponent pushes the Weavile-GX with 50 damage Active, then you’ll want to KO a Benched Pokémon with Espurr with an attached Spell Tag. Therefore, if the opponent uses a Super Scoop Up (in order to prevent you from placing 40 on Weavile-GX and KOing with Giratina), you won’t have skipped a beat attacking into it. The trick is maneuvering the opponent’s attempts to outmaneuver you.

Against most decks, it may be worthwhile to place damage on Dedenne-GX with the first Spell Tag, as that’s a place where damage will always be relevant. This will also allow you to use Espurr at a moment’s notice.

The Pitfalls of Naganadel-GX Control

Since posting my last article, I’ve done more testing with the Naganadel-GX control deck. To give a short update, I don’t think the deck will be viable for Worlds given the strength of Green’s ReshiZard and Dark Box. Those two decks have tested to be the #1 contenders heading into the Worlds format, and Naganadel-GX control has even or unfavorable matchups against both of those decks.

ReshiZard is a difficult matchup because of the amount of healing that they play; it’s hard to stick an attack before Stinger-GX. The best counter to ReshiZard I can think of is a 1-1 Froslass UNM, as that allows the deck to 1HKO a Reshiram & Charizard-GX for a single Energy. However, this wouldn’t solve the issue of Eevee & Snorlax-GX, should the opponent play one.

Dark Box is an even harder matchup because of their powerful TAG TEAM Pokémon. The opponent can win with either of Mega Sableye & Tyranitar-GX’s attacks. The first attack can take 3 Prizes on the Naganadel-GX after Stinger-GX, and the GX attack is an easy deckout option. Another easy path to victory comes from Umbreon & Darkrai-GX’s GX attack, which KOs the attack and prevents you from playing Trainer Cards for 6 Energy. Simply put, it’s very difficult to cover all of these bases.

I’m going back to the drawing board for these matchups, but it appears that there’s too much required to counter for this deck to work. Unlike Zoroark Checkmate, Naganadel-GX isn’t a reliable attacker, Dewgong UNB is countered by Mew UNB, and the rotation killed Guzma. The deck is a weaker version than the one that preceded it.

Conclusion

Malamar, Dark Box, Green’s ReshiZard, and PikaRom are the four big decks going into Worlds. Of these, I feel the most comfortable playing Malamar or Green’s ReshiZard. I like Malamar because of its low variance and linearity, meaning that it can perform its single strategy consistently. I like Green’s ReshiZard because there isn’t much in format that can counter it, and Green’s also reduces variance.

I’m sad that the Naganadel-GX deck didn’t work out as I had hoped it to, but I won’t give up on it yet. I’m going to try and shore up those difficult matchups with other techs and lock strategies like Crushing Hammer, but I’m uncertain it will work. It’s likely that the deck will go up in flames, but I can hope for otherwise. Until next time, I hope that your League Cups/Challenges are going well, and good luck at Worlds!

Xander


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