I want to start off with an introduction as it has been several years since my last article. My name is Jay Hornung and I played this game competitively from 2004–2013 before I retired from professional Pokémon and started my career in the real world. My accomplishments in the game include earning 10 consecutive Worlds invites (every year I played), 2nd at US Nats (2007), 3rd at US Nats (2012), and a pair of 3rd place finishes at the World Championships (2009, 2012). This was along with various other wins and achievements at the Regional, State, and City levels.
Although I have no regrets about leaving the game, I most certainly do miss the people. Through social media I’ve remained close to a large number of them and I still follow the game with interest. Toward the end of my career I started to build decks from previous formats to play around with friends and family. I found many of the old formats to be very strategic and nostalgic. It’s absolutely great to be an adult in the real world, but there is also something I will always miss about being 16 and slinging cards with my younger brother at the family’s kitchen table.
One of the things that has excited me the most in recent times is this huge level of excitement about old formats from the player base. Some people are like me, older and looking to relive fond memories of their youth; others are new players with an interest in the history of the game. This excitement has turned into large tournaments held at Nationals and Worlds. At the 2019 NAIC, a 2010 tournament was held that was attended by 50 players! Seeing players from all over the world come together and play old formats competitively is amazing.
I have previously written an article for 6P about the 2010 format in general. This gave a great coverage of the format overall. My goal for this article is to cover the recent 2010 tournament, discuss its results, and then do a complete deck breakdown for what I consider the best deck in the format by far: Gardevoir. To back up my strong claim with some additional facts, Gardevoir was the deck that nearly won Worlds in 2010 (I still don’t think Michael Pramawat’s head has fully recovered from that knock back) and also won the 2010 tournament at NAIC 2019 that I previously referenced. I want to talk about why I think Gardevoir is the best deck in the format, cover variations of lists for it, and go in depth on how to approach its matchups.
The 2010 Tournament
I want to start out by thanking Jonathan Paranada who does an excellent job of helping to set up these events and collecting the results and lists. Jonathan has all of these results posted on the Facebook Group Snowpoint Temple which is an outstanding resource for anybody who has an interest in older formats. There is a lot of discussion about decks of different eras, upcoming tournaments, and tournament results. As these are all decks of the past, players are very open with information and helpful to anybody with questions.
The tournament had 50 players attend and, with such a competitive meta, we saw a lot of diversity in the decks that players decided to bring. Let’s start off by taking a look at the Top 8.
Top 8 Final Standings
- Kyle Malecek (Gardevoir)
- Grant Manley (Steelix aka Healix)
- Nicholas Baker (CurseGar)
- Joe Montalbano (Gyarados)
- Zane Nelson (Gardevoir)
- Lucas Xing (CurseGar)
- Eddie Caumiant (Gardevoir)
- Amy Featherstone (Gyarados)
I didn’t find it surprising that we saw Gardevoir win the event or that it pulled 3 of the top 8 spots. Gyarados taking 2 more spots also made sense because it’s a powerhouse that goes pretty close to 50-50 with a lot of the decks in the format. Following it up was Gengar (CurseGar) taking 2 spots as well. Frank Diaz’s list was pretty much perfect and went 50-50 against the meta. Then we have Grant Manley playing the lone Steelix deck. With Fire Pokémon being nonexistent, Steelix is a tank. I was a little surprised to see Grant play Steelix; I figured a player with his tournament results and a locked up Day 1 invite this year would favor a deck with more options and more ability to outplay his opponents. Perhaps he was making a great meta call or perhaps after playing through Day 1 and Day 2 of NAIC he figured he would give his brain a rest and have some fun flipping coins. Either way it was a great call on his part that got him a strong finish.
I want to note that Grant Manley played a straight copy of Erik Nance’s Steelix deck. Over the last nine years, 2010 decks have become far more polished than they were at the time with the benefit of hindsight. However, nobody has been able to improve upon Erik’s deck. I really do think that if Erik hadn’t hit the 1 SP deck in the entire Top 32 that played Infernape 4 LV.X, he would have won Worlds that year.
I also really liked Amy Featherstone’s inclusions of 4 Special Darkness Energy and 4 PlusPower in Gyarados. However, this came at the high price of not playing any Warp Energy or Cyclone Energy. She also omitted Azelf MT and Combee SF. Looking over her list, I see she basically punted the SP matchup and largely the CurseGar matchup in favor of having a much stronger matchup against all other Tier 1 decks. I would have a hard time walking into a wide open meta with her exact list, but on the same note this is not the version of Gyarados I would want to be sitting across from if I were playing Gardevoir, Gyarados, or Steelix.
Complete Lack of SP Decks
As the 2010 format continues to be fleshed out, I expected SP decks to be on decline in favor of strong consistent Stage 1 and Stage 2 decks. What surprised me was how SP was almost nonexistent in the tournament. There were a couple of Dialga and a couple of LuxChomp, but no other SP variants. Was this an anomaly? Were players just not feeling like playing SP that day? It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on future 2010 tournaments.
So Why is Gardevoir the Best Deck?
As a card and as a deck, Gardevoir does literally everything right. It has built-in consistency with its Poké-Power Telepass (still arguably the best Poké-Power ever printed), an oppressive attack that shuts off all of your opponent’s Poké-Powers, and access to strong disruption cards. All of the support Pokémon fit neatly in the deck as well. Everything from Ralts and Kirlia having good attacks, to Gallade’s ability to 1HKO, to Nidoqueen/Dusknoir/Azelf LV.X all being Psychic types, etc. I could go on about this for a while, but I’ll save it for the deck breakdown. Essentially, Gardevoir is a very strong main attacker and all of the support cards fit together perfectly. In the end, this gives you a strong and consistent deck with numerous options to adjust your strategy as needed. If there are three attributes you look for in a deck, they are strength, consistency, and disruption; finding a deck with all of them is rare.
The Perfect Gardevoir List
Pokémon – 25
4 Ralts PL
1 Gallade SW/P7
1 Azelf LA
1 Uxie LA
Trainers – 22
Energy – 13
One thing you’re going to notice is that in today’s format, the Pokémon lineups seem to come together pretty quickly. It’s normally in the Trainers that you see players showing off their ability to tech. In 2010, you’ll find the opposite to be true; a lot of thought was put into the Pokémon lineups, analyzing techs and the best versions of cards to play, while the Trainer lineups filled in quite quickly. A deck’s strength now comes from its Trainers while in 2010 a deck’s strength came from its Pokémon.
Ralts is a favorable starter, taking a back seat only to Spiritomb and Call Energy. When one of the latter two options didn’t present themselves to you, Future Sight was a solid attack to set you up for (hopefully) a stronger turn 2. On the same note, if you found yourself with nothing in the mid game, sacrificing a Ralts to try and set up better plays was an option you had. Though if you’re using Future Sight mid game, you’re in a pretty bad spot.
With so much consistency in the format it was rare for a player to completely dead-draw. However, if it was one of those rare cases where you believed your opponent had nothing, you could Future Sight them out of the game.
For most of the year I played Kirlia SW for the added consistency and ability to hit the Bench if needed. In the later part of the season I moved away from this version of Kirlia for many of the same reasons I discussed with Ralts. If you’re taking a turn to use Psychic Research, things are not going as planned, and while being able to hit the Bench for 40 damage was a great option to have, the 80 HP of Kirlia SW was too easy of a number to hit. So unless you were getting a crucial knockout, you were trading a Kirlia, a Psychic Energy, and a DCE for 40 damage to a Benched Pokémon.
Ultimately I switched to Kirlia PL for several reasons. First, if I did need to attack with Kirlia, hitting for 30 or 50 damage with a Belt and then switching behind a Tomb greatly increased my odds of the Kirlia surviving. While 30 or 50 damage is not great, it situationally could help set up a KO. It’s also worth noting that the attack only takes PC, so it could be filled without DCE.
Being able to switch was also nice. Rare situations like T1 Call Energy, T2 evolve to Kirlia, and Teleportation Burst back to the Bench puts you in a great spot for T3 Gardevoir/Psychic Lock.
The second attack, Super Psy Bolt, hitting for 60, could 1HKO Uxie LV.X or a Gardevoir with a Belt.
In the end, these are all rare situations and you have to decide which of these rare situations are more likely to come up. In my opinion, the situations I discussed with Kirlia PL are far more common than the situations with Kirlia SW. I also take into account what my odds of winning are if I’m in these situations. Many of the situations with Kirlia PL I could find myself in when the game state is even or favorable, but in the situations I discussed with Kirlia SW, I’m in very bad spots. Would making those plays with Kirlia SW be enough to save me? What percentage of the time? These are all questions you need to ask yourself when evaluating card choices, especially Basics/Stage 1s.
I think you could make an argument to split the Kirlias and go 1-1, and I favored splits in many decks I played. I felt it gave me added options and I valued that more than the rare times I would get punished for it. However, in this case I feel that Kirlia PL is that much better.
pokemon-paradijs.comI don’t even know where to begin with Gardevoir—the built-in consistency with Telepass, the PCC attack that can easily be filled with various combinations of Psychic Energy, Call Energy, and DCE (having Call Energy be a relevant attachment beyond setting up is a big deal!). A majority of the game you’ll just be saying “Psychic Lock” and watching the frustration on your opponent’s face.
Keep a close watch over what Supporters your opponent has played and ways they can benefit you. Telepassing a Roseanne’s Research to thin your deck or using a Bebe’s Search to shuffle a card back in for an extra draw off Claydol are are both ways you can gain a minor edge instead of not using Telepass all. Even Telepassing a “search” Supporter just to double-check the contents of your decks can be important.
The card did a little bit of everything right. The extra 20 Hit Points helped in keeping it alive or bringing a damaged Gardevoir out of KO range. The free “Switch” Poké-Power made leveling it up easy and added to the Gardevoir switch strategy.
Don’t mindlessly slap the card down because you can. Look for situations where the extra 20 HP or switching effect matters. If you have multiple Gardevoir in play with damage, think about how that extra 20 HP will affect KOs.
Using Bring Down is normally how you take your last Prize. Basically you have to take 5 Prizes fairly, and then you can cheat out your last 1. Sometimes you can make a judgment call based on board state and try to rush your last 2 or 3 Prizes with Bring Down, but this is rare.
In other rare situations you might be able to get a key Bring Down off in the early or mid game where your opponent has a single major target like a lone Ralts or Baltoy. However, giving your opponent Poké-Powers again, even for a single turn, is highly risky.
A big mistake that people make is they think Gallade is the go-to attacker. While it is flashy and it can easily score 1 or even 2 1HKOs, it is a situational attacker. In most matchups you’ll want to go right into Psychic Lock as quickly as possible; however, there are some matchups where leading Gallade is the correct option. I’ll cover this more in depth in the matchups section.
Sometimes the threat of Gallade is as dangerous as Gallade himself. Knowing you have the 1HKO available can be impactful. A Ralts/Psychic Energy can be seen as a threatening Gallade from your opponent. That being said, very rarely is it ever a good idea to hold off evolving Ralts/Kirlia to try and wage this sort of psychological warfare. Just be aware of how this thought process affects your opponent, even when the play is made unintentionally by you.
What Gallade brings to the table is something Gardevoir doesn’t have: burst damage. Gardevoir prefers to play a slow, grindy control game. This could cause it to struggle against tanks/high-Hit Point cards, Psychic Resistance (like Tyranitar Prime), or quick decks like Gyarados.
The Reaper Cloth Duskull was a Michael Pramawat tech and one of the most ingenious tech ideas I’ve ever seen. In a matchup where both players played Spiritomb, players were content to (A) sit back behind Spiritomb and allow their opponent to make the first move or (B) wait to go aggressive until they felt they could win the war of attrition. At the time, Dusknoir was a semi-popular tech card, but it was always played as a 1-0-1 tech. This meant that even if you knew your opponent was playing Dusknoir, you could still fill your Bench knowing Dusknoir was no threat to you until your Spiritomb was out of the Active spot. By adding Reaper Cloth Duskull and a Dusclops to the deck, you could play Duskull down, instantly evolve into Dusclops, and then Darkness Grace right into Dusknoir. This was a huge shock factor and put your opponent on a 1-turn clock they probably couldn’t answer. This was an absolutely game-breaking tech for Worlds that year and played a huge part in Pram’s success.
I went with this Dusclops because of the 1 Retreat Cost. None of the Dusclops at the time have an attack you’d even think about using or value higher than the lower retreat.
A Poké-Power that lets you shuffle one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon back into their deck is simply broken. There is usually not a lot of strategy or thought process that needs to go into this. Just choose their strongest attacker or support Pokémon (i.e., Claydol) and shuffle it back into their deck. Avoid shuffling back pointless Pokémon that could help your opponent, like Azelf LA or Uxie LA, without good reason. Leaving them on the Bench limits the amount of more worthwhile Pokémon your opponent can play down since they need to stay at 3 or less Benched Pokémon.
Remember, Dusknoir is a support card and not something you need to feel obligated to set up every game. Look for situations where it can punish your opponent for overextending.
The threat of Dusknoir is huge and will dramatically affect how your opponent has to play the game. The best advice I can give is if you don’t know if your opponent plays Dusknoir, you have to assume they do. Walking into even one unexpected Dark Palm is usually enough to cost you the game.
It’s also a really good attacker against Garchomp SV.
You couldn’t make an argument that Nidoqueen was the best card in the 2009 and 2010 format, but it was easily in the top 5. The ability to heal 10 damage from each of your Pokémon between turns was incredibly strong. In a format with few ways to hit the Bench, you could easily leave a Pokémon out of the Active spot for a few turns and get it fully healed.
The reason we skipped playing Nidorina is because we don’t need to set up Nidoqueen immediately or under Spiritomb. Typically you want to set up a couple of Gardevoir, a Claydol, and then start looking for your Nidoqueen.
pokemon-paradijs.comI prefer to play the Baltoy SV for the synergy with Moonlight Stadium over the Baltoy GE which can add a small bit of consistency. My reasoning is similar to my thoughts on Kirlia SW. If I’m in a position where I’m going to want to Psychic Balance then I’m already in a bad spot. There is some room here for personal preference and I can’t say either Baltoy is wrong.
I opted to play a thin 1-1 line of Claydol mainly for space. With Azelf LA I’m relatively safe from it ending up in the Prizes. Outside of the SP matchup, most decks don’t have a way to target it down on the Bench, so a thicker line is dead weight. Against SP, I would absolutely love to play a thicker 2-2 line, but we’re once again back to the space issue. I don’t think I could cut anything to find room to play a full 2-2 line or even a 2-1 line.
1 Azelf LA
The deck plays so many 1-ofs that playing a copy of Azelf is essential. Lock Up is also an incredibly good attack. Once you have a solid understanding of what switching cards each deck in the format plays, you can look for ways to abuse Lock Up. Most smart opponents will play around straight-up losing to a Lock Up, but you can find a lot of ways to buy yourself a turn. Against decks that don’t play switching cards, locking up a Spiritomb or an Azelf can give you that extra turn you need to set up.
- You can write down your Prizes and their order on a piece of paper. This makes it easy to make sure you’re taking the Prize you want after a knockout.
- There are some interactions with Gallade here you want to think about. Be aware of the order of your Prizes and what information you’re showing to your opponent when flipping them face up. For example, if I have 2 DCE prized and I can only take 1, I probably don’t want to show my opponent the 2nd one is prized. I’d much rather have them be aware I prized a Spiritomb.
- If your opponent doesn’t play switching cards or is out of them and they have a Nidoqueen in play, you can trap their Active Pokémon in the Active spot indefinitely. This is why Frank Diaz was played 2 Warp Energy in his CurseGar list.
You’ll almost never use its attack, but it’s an option to keep in mind. Sometimes the opportunity presents itself where that small amount of damage to the Bench will get the knockout. The most common matchup where I’ve found myself using the attack is actually the Gardevoir mirror.
The most common ways to get Azelf LV.X into play are to:
- bring Azelf LA up after your opponent takes a KO,
- Level Up your Active Gardevoir/Teleportation/Level Up your Azelf,
- or retreat your Active in favor of Azelf/Level Up/Lock Up/retreat on the following turn.
This is also an easy Top 5/Top 10 card in the 2010 format. Stopping both players from playing Items will bring the game to a screeching halt, while you sit there and slowly evolve your Pokémon using Darkness Grace. I usually try not to sacrifice more than 1 Spiritomb (1 Prize) while setting up, but sometimes 2 (2 Prizes) is necessary. In all matchups, this will be your go-to way of setting up unless you get one of those rare hands where you can set up/attack without it (e.g., a Ralts/Candy/Gardy/Baltoy/Claydol/Psychic/DCE sort hand).
For all of Spiritomb’s strengths, it has a couple of HUGE weaknesses. Namely, it can get locked Active and you instantly lose the game. Your opponent will continue to lock you until time is called and then KO your Tomb to win the game.
The most common ways this happens are:
- Chatot MD: While usually having Resistance is good, in this case it’s a weakness. Your opponent can Chatter for 0 with your Resistance and you are stuck Active. The only ways out are to Unown g your Tomb, Darkness Grace successfully 6 times and knock yourself out, or tech a Rainbow Energy so you can hit them for 10 every turn (which doesn’t work if they have Queen in play).
- Azelf LA: This is less likely since it involves you having Queen in play, but same principle.
Lastly, any matchup playing Luxray l LV.X and Chatot MD with you having a Tomb in play can create this situation. You have to play your Unown g and manage your Bench conservatively or make sure you are up in Prizes.
pokemon-paradijs.comA searchable Basic that lets you draw until you have 7 cards in your hands is an easy inclusion. While the Power alone makes Uxie an easy Top 10 card in the format, its attack has a lot of uses as well:
- Against Gengar, a Belted Psychic Lock does 80 damage and then a Belted Psychic Restore does 40 damage, knocking out a Fainting Spell Gengar without risking the flip.
- You can also Psychic Restore for a knockout then proceed to promote Spiritomb to deny your opponent Items on their turn. Usually this is a subpar play to a Psychic Lock, but it’s another option.
- Lastly, sometimes you need to Psychic Restore to free up a Bench space or to be able to retrieve Uxie to draw more cards on your next turn.
The main two reasons we play Unown g are to (1) keep your Claydol alive in the Gengar matchup and (2) make sure your Spiritomb can’t get locked Active. Against several matchups you could make an argument to play 2 copies, but against an open meta, the space is better used elsewhere.
Just be aware of your Bench space. I’ve seen numerous players lose games because they filled their Bench and ran into a situation where they needed to play down Unown g.
pokemon-paradijs.comYou play a diverse Pokémon lineup, so your Trainer lineup needs to be focused on consistency. Once you hit that first Gardevoir or that first Claydol, you’re usually set, but you need to make sure that you are consistently getting them out every game.
It’s also important to note that since the deck has a focus on using Spiritomb to set up, most of the consistency in the Trainer lineup comes from Supporters.
Playing 4 Bebe, 4 Roseanne, and 4 Call Energy gives you 12 outs to having a setup card in the opening hand.
Playing a full 4 Rare Candy is essential because you play four different Stage 2 Pokémon in the deck.
The difference between 5 cards (4 + 1 draw for turn) and 6 cards (5 + 1 draw for turn) was surprisingly huge. At the time, most Supporter engines were search-based and not draw-based. So combining Judge with Psychic Lock meant my opponents had few options for drawing cards. Sometimes denying that 1 extra card meant denying them one entire turn.
I also commonly found myself in situations where I had played everything useful out of my hand, so I wanted a new hand for myself, but at the same time I wanted to disrupt my opponent’s hand. In these situations Judge allowed me to do both while Looker’s forced me to choose. Getting the 1 less card for myself meant much less to me because I had both Claydol and Gardevoir to fill my hand back up.
pokemon-paradijs.comIf there was one thing I think most Gardevoir decks at the time got wrong it was only playing 2 Expert Belt. In this format, 110 Hit Points on your main attacker really isn’t good. You get 1HKOed by Gyarados and Jumpluff. Without Azelf LV.X in play, Uxie LV.X and Gardevoir can also pretty easily find their way to 110 damage.
+20 HP might not sound like a lot, but it will commonly turn a 1HKO into a 2HKO or a 2HKO into a 3HKO with the help of Nidoqueen.
On the other side, hitting for 60 damage a turn really isn’t that great. The extra 20 damage from Expert Belt can turn a 3HKO into a 2HKO.
You want to see Expert Belt early and you want to see it often, both for your survivability and your damage output.
I will be upfront and say that I completely overlooked how broken Moonlight Stadium was at the time. Very few Gardevoir lists played it and most of the credit goes to Michael Pramawat for popularizing it. Giving free retreat to Spiritomb and all of your Psychic Pokémon made managing Energy drops in the early game easier and the Gardevoir switching strategy possible in the mid and late game. Against SP decks, mirror, and CurseGar, you never had to worry about Moonlight Stadium getting countered.
You could not hope to win a Stadium war against Gyarados or Jumpluff since they played higher counts of Broken Time-Space than you did of Moonlight Stadium. However, sometimes you could buy yourself a turn if you timed the Stadium drop with a Judge and Psychic Lock.
I’d love to play a 3rd “switching effect” in the deck if space wasn’t so tight. A 3rd Moonlight Stadium would make hitting it early much easier and would offer more disruption against Broken Time-Space decks. The other option would be like Michael Pramawat opted for and play 2 Moonlight and 1 Warp Point.
It seems about half the players play 1 Communication while the other half prefer to play 1 Luxury Ball. Since the deck plays 25 Pokémon, I’ve never had an issue filling the requirements; in some cases it’s even better since it lowers your hand size for Claydol or Uxie. Communication also lets you search out Gardevoir LV.X and Azelf LV.X while Luxury Ball doesn’t.
5 Psychic Energy
Playing 4 Psychic Energy was too low and playing 6 was unneeded with Roseanne’s Research to search them out. Ideally your turn 1 Energy drop is a Call Energy, so you’re not even looking for a DCE or Psychic Energy until turn 2.
Easily one of the best opening cards in the deck. The dream is a turn 1 Spiritomb with a Call Energy attachment. Decks that were able to play Call Energy were considerably more consistent than decks that couldn’t.
Playing a playset was staple as it allowed both Gardevoir and Gallade to attack for 2 Energy.
A common theme you’ll notice in the deck breakdown is when I was discussing cards, the phrase “you’ll rarely use this attack/Ability, but it can be situationally good” came up a lot. When you have a deck that has this many situationally good attacks beyond its core strategy, those situational options start popping up frequently. You might only attack with Ralts 1 in 10 games, but you combine that with the 1 in 10 games you attack with Azelf LA, Azelf LV.X, etc., and those 1 in 10 game situations start making appearances. My core strategy with the deck is always going to be repeated Psychic Locks, but I’m always looking for those opportunities to get a key Azelf LV.X attack off or win the game off my opponent’s poor hand with Future Sight.
The Gardevoir Strategy
In the deck’s most basic form, the strategy is to control the opponent and grind them down by consistently Psychic Locking them aided by other disruption cards like Judge and Dusknoir. Gardevoir’s overwhelming amount of consistency and control meant over the course of the game you would continue to develop becoming stronger where your opponent would eventually start missing Energy attachments, drawing dead, etc. making their position weaker.
In this format (as in many early formats) Bench space is tight and you want to plan out what you want your board to look like. You never want to get in the mentality of “I think I’ll bench it because it’s in my hand.” Benching an extra Tomb or even a Uxie taking away a Bench spot from a potential threat you could develop could be disastrous.
With SP decks in particular having so many ways to hit Benched Pokémon, you want to be careful not to give your opponent easy Prizes either.
To keep a consistent Psychic Lock, you’ll want to be actively switching between your Gardevoirs while healing off damage with Nidoqueen. So instead of just leaving a Gardevoir Active till it dies, you’ll want to be switching it out with a fresh Gardevoir on the Bench. You typically want your board to be 3 Gardevoir/LV.X, 1 Claydol, 1 Nidoqueen, and then usually you’re left with 1 support Pokémon like Spiritomb.
Pokémon Are the Main Players
In the game today, the strongest cards in the deck are in the Item lineup. In 2010, however, your Trainer lineup was built around search and consistency, and the strength came from your Pokémon lineup. Adding damage (Crobat g), or “Gust of Wind” effects (Luxray l LV.X) were in the form of Poké-Powers, all of which got shut off by Gardevoir LV.X. This took a lot of the guesswork out of calculating damage. For example, if my opponent hit for 60 damage, I would also have to take into account all sorts of damage modifiers such as Expert Belt, Crobat g counts, and remaining Poké Turns. After a Psychic Lock, I knew the only damage modifier the deck had access to was 20 damage from Expert Belt.
As we all know, your opponent needs to take 6 Prizes to win the game. It doesn’t matter if they’re 2, 3, 4, or even 5 Prizes ahead of you, as long as they can’t take 6. In the 2010 format there are a lot of aggressive decks and in many matches you’ll find yourself playing from behind almost the entire game. It’s important to stay calm in these situations and stick to the strategy. I’ve played plenty of games where my opponent has taken 5 Prizes before I even took 1. However, I still won these games because I was able to starve my opponent off of resources and leave them unable to take their last Prize.
I’ll head into a game generally knowing what 5 Prizes I’ll allow my opponent to take. Then this plan will get constantly rewritten as the game progresses. In the later stages of the game, Gardevoir excels at denying Prizes and denying the opponent resources.
Don’t Be Afraid to Sacrifice Prizes
This goes hand in hand with the 6-Prize game. Don’t be afraid to switch back to a Spiritomb and let another round of Nidoqueen heals go off if you need to.
You need to be constantly aware of the looming threat of a Dark Palm. Your opponent shuffling back in a Claydol or fully-powered Gardevoir is devastating. If your opponent plays Rare Candy, you basically have to assume they play Dusknoir. It’s too easy to slip in a 1-0-1 line without messing with your overall consistency.
pokemon-paradijs.comI like to start the game off by setting up under Tomb. I go for the normal setup of 3 Gardevoir, 1 Claydol, 1 Nidoqueen, 1 Azelf LV.X. How my Bench develops over the course of the game is dependent on how the game plays out. I try not to bench more than 3 Pokémon until I know I can Psychic Lock on the following turn. This plays around the Reaper Cloth Dusknoir. Whoever can consistently Psychic Lock more will most likely win the game. Sometimes if it’s clear your opponent is way ahead of you in setup and pressure, you’ll have to go for an early Gallade. I’ve found while it’s the best option, if that’s the situation, I’m in a lot of trouble.
- Be careful of playing Moonlight Stadium down if it will give your opponent more of a benefit than it will give you.
- There are situations where you can lock Tomb Active for a turn with Azelf. This can be useful in getting an early Azelf LV.X in play, and in rare situations you might be able to look for a win with Azelf if your opponent is not careful.
Both decks like to set up slowly behind Spiritomb. Usually they’ll go aggressive with a Gengar SF early, trying to pick off or get damage on Claydol and Gardevoirs before they become a threat, and then transition into the Gengar AR “hit and run” strategy. Usually this will force you to Unown g your Claydol. Nidoqueen and Azelf LV.X are going to be your MVPs for this matchup. With no Weakness and healing 10 damage between turns, Gengar has an abysmal damage output. This is a matchup where the 6-Prize strategy shines as well. Early game, Gengar will be trading well with you, and later on you should be able to deny them Prizes. They will most likely try to get 2–4 Fainting Spell flips off per game.
- If you break your Psychic Lock, be aware of both Dusknoir and Gengar LV.X. Dark Palm is obviously devastating and Level-Down can create situations where it’s awkward to get Azelf LV.X back into play.
- Try to avoid using an Expert Belted Gardevoir to Knock Out a Gengar SF.
- Knocking out a Gengar SF with Uxie and then bottoming it gets around Fainting Spell.
- Look for opportunities to get off a good Dark Palm of your own.
Matchup: Slightly Favorable
pokemon-paradijs.comIn 2009, Gyarados was just an outlier built and piloted by a strong French player. In 2010, the deck was a powerhouse to be feared. Generally, Gyarados is going to be faster than you, and they will be looking to start taking Prizes T2 or T3 at the latest. Sometimes you can catch them in situations where you started Tomb and they have a weak Item-filled hand.
In these situations you’ll want to start the “Gardevoir Switching” strategy. Without Poké-Powers, Gyarados will max out at 110 damage. This will be shy of knocking out any Gardevoir in 1HKO.
If they come out of the gate swing hard, you may need to lead with Gallade. I prefer to Expert Belt the Gallade so it doesn’t get 1HKOed. It also allows me to KO a Gyarados by flipping 4 Prizes instead of 5. Then that allows me to flip 2 Prizes against their 2nd Gyarados, hitting it for 100, instead of being able to flip only 1 Prize and hitting 60. This allows me to transition into my Psychic Lock.
An all-out brawl will favor Gyarados, but this is a matchup where Gardevoir’s disruption starts to shine. One of Gyarados’s biggest weaknesses is the number of cards it needs to “reset” a Gyarados. The deck needs 3 Magikarp in the discard pile do any real damage, so when you Knock Out a Gyarados, all 4 Magikarp are gone. To set up another Gyarados they need to be able to get a Magikarp out of the discard pile plus a Broken Time-Space in play. You need to try and set up a turn where they miss 1 of those 2 cards. You want to proceed a Psychic Lock Gyarados KO by a Judge/Stadium play. Sometimes this is easier said than done since neither card is searchable, but over the course of the game opportunities should happen. Also, don’t bother doing this unless you’re taking the knockout with Psychic Lock. Allowing them Powers makes it too easy for them to find the cards they need.
- How they flip on Super Scoop Up can play a huge part in the matchup.
Variations of Gyarados
There is a variation of Gyarados going around that plays 4 copies of Special Darkness Energy. This variation is more challenging because it offers a way for them to deal with Spiritomb faster and more easily that a normal Gyarados variation would be able to. This doesn’t affect your overall strategy or how you approach the matchup, but you do need to be aware they will most likely start taking Prizes more quickly. Depending on my confidence level of setting up, I’ll put a Spiritomb in the Active spot and not use Darkness Grace. This forces the Gyarados player to have a Crobat g (without Items) plus a Special Dark, instead of just a Special Dark.
I shied away from this variation of Gyarados because devoting 4 spots to Special Darkness Energy (a very situational card) in a deck that was already very tight wasn’t worth it to me. I feel this variation is more of a fringe version and unless you’re positive that you’re heading into a meta that favors this variation with very counters (a lot of Gyarados, Gardevor, and Steelix with little to no Dialga or Gengar).
- An interesting fact is that Michael Pramawat won his Top 8 match at Worlds vs. Gyarados because his opponent played a Looker’s Investigation, allowing Michael to Telepass it every turn, making it very hard for her to get Magikarp in the discard pile.
Matchup: Slightly Favorable
Luxray l LV.X/Garchomp c LV.X (LuxChomp)
pokemon-paradijs.comWhen playing the LuxChomp matchup, you need to go into it with a plan. I know my opponent needs to take 6 Prizes to win the game, so my entire game plan is to make sure they doesn’t take more than 5 Prizes. Very early in the game I attempt to identify what the 5 Prizes are going to be. It’s also important to stay relaxed and confident in the strategy. LuxChomp is a matchup where they will commonly go up 2, 3, 4, or even 5 Prizes. None of that matters as long as you stick to the strategy and don’t allow them a 6th Prize.
I understand in the mid to late game my opponent will most likely have their Poké-Powers shut off. However, they’ll still have access to Garchomp c LV.X and anything with 80 HP or less isn’t safe. I know most likely my opponent will take 1 Prize off a Spiritomb and then another Prize off a Claydol. Putting both of these Pokémon into play is normally necessary to set up. The Spiritomb knockout will most likely come in a turn where they don’t have access to a better knockout and are forced to settle for the Prize in front of them. Claydol on the other hand is something they will aggressively go after to deny you the ability to draw cards. While losing Claydol is painful, it’s important to remember that it’s 80 damage that’s not going to Ralts, Kirlia, or Gardevoir.
The entire matchup has to be nonstop Psychic Locks. You cannot give them even one turn of using Poké-Powers. SP has too many broken cards at their disposal to even consider breaking the lock.
You want your board state to be 2–3 Gardevoir, 1 Nidoqueen, 1 Claydol, 1 Spiritomb, and 1 Azelf LV.X. Once the Claydol and Tomb get knocked out it’s almost never worth trying to get them back into play (through Night Maintenance). Sometimes you are in a situation where you need to bench a 2nd Spiritomb to set up. If you’re in that situation, then that’s what you have to do. Just accept that the matchup got a lot tougher for you.
Once you’ve established your Psychic Lock, stick with the Gardevoir switching strategy. LuxChomp is a lot less scary when they can only hit you for 40 and 60 damage (after Nidoqueen).
- Use Expert Belt and Azelf LV.X to control their ability to get knockouts.
- Keep a close eyes on their count of Double Colorless Energy. This is where a majority of their damage and burst potential are going to come from.
- Gardevoir LV.X + Expert Belt can survive a double Dragon Rush. (80 – 20 + 80 = 140 < 150)
pokemon-paradijs.comTheir main attacker is Fighting-weak and they give you Prizes to use their Ability. I lead with an Expert Belt on Gallade and then transition into Gardevoir to get the last couple of Prizes. The deck is reliant on Powers, so Psychic Lock can put them in tough situations, but don’t count on it solely. They play 4 Poké Healer + and 4 Super Scoop Up, so it’s more consistent to run through them with Gallade.
- In any tank matchup, look for opportunities to use Bring Down to close out the game. Regigigas has a hard time 1HKOing a Belted Gardevoir LV.X, so it’s not unreasonable to Bring Down several turns in a row.
- Sometimes they play PlusPower.
- Even with all of your Prizes flipped, an Expert Belt on Gallade still hits for 160.
Matchup: Highly Favorable
This matchup is a little bit more tricky than the Regigigas matchup because of Tyranitar’s massive HP and Psychic Resistance, and the fact they play Nidoqueen means you will not win this game using Psychic Lock. Looking for Bring Down opportunities to close out the game is essential.
- They play 4 Special Darkness Energy and Expert Belt, so beware of the damage modifying.
- Even with all of your Prizes flipped, an Expert Belt on Gallade still hits for 160.
Matchup: Highly Favorable
In this matchup you want to watch your Bench size and always be aware of how much damage they can do. Sometimes I’ll lead with Gallade to try and get ahead in the Prize trade (be aware of Crobat g/Poké Turn giving them a 1HKO), but ultimately the game comes down to Psychic Lock and disruption.
Since they are faster than you, they will most likely go up in Prizes, and they will also most likely take a 1HKO on a Gardevoir at least once in the match due to their Expert Belt. This means you need to create situations where they are missing turns attacking with Jumpluff. Psychic Lock shuts off their draw power, making it harder for them to get additional Jumpluff in play and increasing the odds they’ll whiff an Energy attachment.
Dusknoir is an MVP in this matchup since they require a full Bench to do their max damage and they often clog their own Bench with multiple support Pokémon. You should be able to Dark Palm against them most turns, and if they try to keep their Bench size small, they are only lowering their own damage output.
- Don’t be afraid to hide behind Spiritomb while setting up. They have a hard time dealing with it. A lot of Jumpluff lists will even play 1 Tomb themselves for this reason.
- They will play 1–4 Crobat g.
- If you both have full Benches they hit for 120, but can get to 140 with Expert Belt.
- This is one of the few matches where Nidoqueen is iffy. I usually rush Dusknoir and only play Nidoqueen when I find an opening.
pokemon-paradijs.comI’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions on this matchup for Gardevoir. Pramawat ended up playing a 1-0-1 Machamp SF to counter Dialga. Personally, I’ve found the matchup to be pretty favorable due to their low damage output, slowness compared to other SP decks, and lack of ability to take cheap Prizes.
You use Gallade to counter a large Dialga g LV.X and then try and close out the game with Psychic Lock and Bring Down. As long as they can’t tank a large Dialga with multiple Special Metal Energy, you should be fine.
- Dusknoir can be a situationally good attacker in this matchup since it places damage counters instead of doing damage.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe first three turns of the game will basically decide everything. They have to take an easy Prize every single turn as you struggle to set up to have a chance. They don’t have enough damage output to take anything other than cheap Prizes. Don’t panic if they shoot up 4 Prizes on you; that is common in this matchup. Stick to the strategy and stay focused playing the 6-Prize game. Avoid benching cheap Prizes unless you absolutely need to to set up.
Matchup: Highly Favorable
That year at Nationals a group of Colorado built and played a variation of Gardevoir that was designed to get a T2 Psychic Lock as consistently as possible. The deck was incredibly strong when it was able to pull this off and even when it failed, the large volume of search cards in the deck made it very strong.
The deck’s biggest weakness was due to one of its strongest aspects: its speed. To accomplish this speed it played a large number of Item search cards such as 4 Pokémon Communication. This made the deck incredibly vulnerable to Spiritomb. If your opponent opened Tomb, it was easy to have an Item-filled hand leaving you drawing dead as your opponent slowly set up.
You already play Uxie, and Mesprit is a good Pokémon in its own right, so why not just throw a Downer Material Azelf into the mix? This is the variation that I played at Worlds that year. I played 2-1 Uxie, 1 Mesprit, 1-1-1 Azelf (LA, MT, LV.X) along with a 1-1 Claydol. The biggest mistake I made is I played a 1-0-1 Kingdra Prime over Nidoqueen.
The deck had a lot of cute little plays it could make—things like answering their Uxie LV.X with your surprise Uxie LV.X or hitting that magic number with Kingdra they swore you were 10 damage shy of. My personal favorite was Leveling Up Downer Material Azelf and then having my opponent forget I had it in play since it was covered up with the LV.X.
The problem was none of these cute little options were better than playing a strong consistent list.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe Canadians all brought a variation of Gardevoir that played a 1-0-1 Nidoqueen and 4 Poké Healer +. Twice per game they could erase all of the damage you had done the previous turns, and essentially they got to play the game with two more turns than their opponents. Several of these players went deep into the tournament, including Mathew Koo who made Top 16 before finally losing to Michael Pramawat, largely part due to Michael’s Reaper Cloth Duskull.
Spending 4 deck spots on Poké Healer + forces you to give up other (and in my opinion more important) techs, but this is a scary variation of the deck to play against.
The Michael Pramawat 2nd Place Gardevoir
Pram had a lot of innovation in his list and it was well ahead of where other Gardevoir decks were at the time. When I was perfecting my list I borrowed heavily from his. The Moonlight Stadium, 1-1-1 Dusknoir, and two tech Stage 2 Pokémon while only playing a 1-1 Claydol all came from Pram.
My problem with it is while his list was highly innovative, I also feel like he missed the mark on some cards as well. I think not playing Nidoqueen, a 3rd Expert Belt, or a full 4 Call Energy were major missteps on his part.
If you’re looking for a format with a fun, strategic, and diverse meta then look no further than 2010. Gardevoir is one of the strongest and most fun decks I’ve played. Hopefully, after this article you’re walking away with a solid grasp of the deck and how to approach its different matchups.
Please feel free to message me or post any questions you might have either Gardevoir-related or otherwise. I really enjoy playing these old formats and am happy to help other players discover them and improve their game.
In the past I’ve said jokingly that I was going to start doing coaching sessions for old formats. If the large turnout for the 2010 tournament at NAIC is any indication, perhaps in the future I’ll have to stop joking.
Lastly, if you enjoyed this article or found it informative, helpful, etc. and would like to see more of these write-ups, then please let me know and please let the 6P staff know. I really do miss writing along with sharing my knowledge and history of the game. If articles like this generate excitement and help open the door for players thinking about getting started in old formats, then I’m happy to write them.