Hi-Yo, Keldeo

Zigging Through the GX-Dominated Metagame with QuagNag/Keldeo-GX and Malamar/Spell Tags
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Keldeo: Resolute in GX defense.

Hello everyone! I’m back with news on the world of competitive Pokémon TCG.

Here in São Paulo, Brazil, many League Cups and Challenges are happening, and they have been attended by many players, with an average of 40 players in League Cups and 25 players in League Challenges. The metagame around here hasn’t changed much since Worlds 2019, so we have plenty of Ability ReshiZard, PikaRom, Malamar variants, GardEon, and Blacephalon-GX. Although Mew Box won the World Championships in the Masters Division, I’ve seen very little of it in tournaments.

But in addition to these decks that were showcased at Worlds, there are two decks that have caught my attention recently: QuagNag and Malamar/Spell Tags. QuagNag has returned because of Keldeo-GX and its insane Pure Heart Ability, which prevents all effects of attacks, including damage, from Pokémon-GX (and Pokémon-EX).

Malamar/Spell Tags has been around for a while, but I believe that after Worlds, players realized that the deck needs a lot of consistency cards to work better, and updated versions play more of those cards to fix it. Malamar/Spell Tags may be the worst version of Malamar on paper, but in practice it is probably the most consistent and viable version to use in competition. The deck is a non-GX-based deck that hurts Pokémon-GX with cards like Mimikyu SM99 (to counter ReshiZard) and Power Plant (to counter Mew Box). We’ll talk more about this in the article, so let’s get started.

QuagNag/Keldeo-GX

As said before, the duo of Quagsire and Naganadel has returned to the metagame to accelerate Keldeo-GX, which is a strong Pokémon in a GX-stuffed metagame. Keldeo-GX’s Pure Heart Ability is so strong that there is a Quad Keldeo deck whose main strategy is to keep Keldeo-GX in the Active position while using Supporters like Steven’s Resolve and Lusamine to get all of the cards you need to prevent your opponent from damaging you and eventually force them to lose by deck-out.

Quad Keldeo was used at Worlds 2019 by Dylan Gunn who finished in 26th place, but I believe overall the deck is not strong enough. In the end, you will have to depend on good matchups to succeed. The main problem with the deck is that it is slow and can struggle from consistency issues. Except for Mew Box, which has almost nothing to deal with Pure Heart, most decks have options to deal with Keldeo-GX.

If the Stall version of Keldeo-GX is not great because it is slow, then perhaps the best idea is to accelerate Energies onto Keldeo-GX to be able to attack with it from turn 2 to get Prizes and put pressure on the opponent. This is what the current QuagNag deck is about.

Ideally, QuagNag would have Keldeo-GX as its only Pokémon-GX, but unfortunately that’s not possible. I had to include Dedenne-GX and Naganadel-GX UNM to draw new cards to get out of bad hands. The deck gains consistency with these cards, but they give your opponent a chance to Knock Out a Pokémon-GX and draw 2 Prizes.

The List

Pokémon – 23

4 Wooper DRM
3 Quagsire DRM
4 Poipole LOT
4 Naganadel LOT
1 Naganadel-GX UNM
1 Ditto p

3 Keldeo-GX
1 Magikarp & Wailord-GX
1 Volcanion p
1 Dedenne-GX

Trainers – 27

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie
1 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Custom Catcher

4 Pokémon Communication
3 Mysterious Treasure
2 Cherish Ball

2 Pokégear 3.0

 

3 Viridian Forest

Energy – 10

8 W
2 Rainbow

Card Choices

4-3 Quagsire DRM, No Quagsire UNB

Quagsire is still a good attacker and the most consistent way to accelerate Water Energies along with Naganadel. In this version of QuagNag, Quagsire doesn’t attack much (as our main attacker is Keldeo-GX), but its Ability remains essential for the deck to work. You may only need 1 Quagsire for the entire game depending on the match, but it is still worthwhile to use a 4-3 Quagsire line to increase the chances of bringing it to the board on turn 2.

It isn’t easy to evolve Quagsire in this format with only Pokémon Communication as an Item card to help search for a Pokémon, and that is why the Fighting-type Quagsire UNB ended up being cut from my list. I found it inconsistent to find Quagsire UNB or Onix LOT at the right moment. In addition, Keldeo-GX, thanks to its Ability, is annoying enough against PikaRom decks.

4-4 Naganadel LOT + 1 Naganadel-GX UNM

Without Wishful Baton and Aqua Patch, it is now necessary to get at least 2 Naganadel LOT on the board to get the same amount of Energies per turn. It is true that Keldeo-GX can buy you time, but in matchups like Malamar/Spell Tags, it is still necessary to evolve multiple Quagsire and Naganadel.

Naganadel-GX UNM is included mainly for its Ultra Conversion Ability which allows you to discard an Ultra Beast Pokémon from your hand and draw 3 cards. When you have a dead hand and don’t have access to Dedenne-GX, you may have the chance to use Mysterious Treasure to search for Naganadel-GX UNM and use Ultra Conversion to draw cards.

In addition, you can use Naganadel-GX’s Venom Shot attack to deal 170 damage to any of your opponent’s Pokémon, which is good to KO Dedenne-GX, a TAG TEAM Pokémon that has taken damage from Keldeo-GX, or a non-Pokémon-GX that can Knock Out your Keldeo-GX, such as Victini p or Turtonator DRM.

3 Keldeo-GX

Keldeo-GX is the main reason we can say that QuagNag is back. The Quagsire and Naganadel duo is no longer consistent enough to stand by themselves without Nest Ball and Ultra Ball. That was basically the deck I used at São Paulo Regionals.

It is no longer possible to build a new Quagsire every turn, but it is still possible to build a single Quagsire to keep safe on the Bench to use Wash Out to move Water Energies for Keldeo-GX, which is difficult to KO thanks to its Ability.

Keldeo-GX can be damaged in three different ways:

  1. The first (and most common) is to attack it with a non-Pokémon-GX such as Zapdos TEU, Turtonator DRM, or Giratina LOT.
  2. The second is with the help of Power Plant, which is played in Green’s ReshiZard and Green’s GardEon. Power Plant shuts off Pure Heart and allows Pokémon-GX to hit for damage.
  3. The third (and most unusual) is to use a Pokémon-GX that has an attack that can go through effects. Greninja-GX DET’s Mist Slash, for example, does this, and this Greninja can be featured in a Mew Box deck that plays Rainbow Energy or Water Energy.

But the great truth is that the strongest and most popular decks right now—like “Perfection” Mew Box, Ability ReshiZard, and PikaRom—are decks totally focused on Pokémon-GX, with no or few cards to deal with Keldeo-GX. This disregard of Keldeo-GX means that QuagNag is a reasonable deck that could gain prominence.

1 Magikarp & Wailord-GX

Magikarp & Wailord-GX was good before Unbroken Bonds, then Mew UNB was released and it got bad, and now, with Rescue Stretcher gone, it is good again. Why?

Prior to the rotation, QuagNag lists had no room or ability to use Guzma often, and every time we Knocked Out Mew UNB, it was easily retrieved with Rescue Stretcher. Now, in UPR-on, if we use Custom Catcher to Knock Out Mew, the opponent is unlikely to play a 2nd copy or Brock’s Grit, which means that Mew won’t return to the field, so Magikarp & Wailord-GX will be able to use Towering Splash-GX to deal 100 damage to all of the opponent’s Benched Pokémon. (This attack is used mainly against Malamar decks.)

2 Rainbow Energy

The main reason for using 2 Rainbow Energy is not to attack with Naganadel-GX UNM, but rather to use Dedenne-GX’s Tingly Return-GX attack and to take it off the board.

We know that QuagNag has always had consistency issues, and in UPR-on this has gotten even worse, especially with the rotation of Nest Ball, Ultra Ball, and Oranguru SUM. To continue to have the option of getting out of a bad hand with an Item Pokémon search card like Pokémon Communication and Cherish Ball, a copy of Dedenne-GX has been included, but it’s bad to leave Dedenne (and 2 potential Prizes) on the board.

Malamar/Spell Tags

This Malamar variant focused on non-Pokémon-GX is already well-known, but I believe that this updated list is a good answer to the metagame and consistent enough to compete.

The two highlight decks of Worlds 2019 were Ability ReshiZard and Mew Box, which have trouble against Malamar/Spell Tags. PikaRom and Blacephalon-GX decks also continue to have a hard time handling Giratina LOT, which is an exceptional non-GX attacker.

Although the version below includes more consistency cards, like Acro Bike and Jirachi TEU, the deck still has some of its same old consistency problems, so I believe the deck’s worst enemy to be itself. If the deck runs well, we have one of the best decks in the format, but unfortunately it doesn’t have the same great consistency of Pokémon-GX decks.

The List

Pokémon – 19

3 Jirachi TEU
4 Inkay FLI
4 Malamar FLI
1 Ditto p
2 Giratina LOT

2 Mimikyu SM99
1 Espurr UNB
1 Mew UNB
1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX

Trainers – 33

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie
1 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Acro Bike
4 Mysterious Treasure
4 Pokémon Communication
2 Switch
1 Adventure Bag
3 Spell Tag

2 Escape Board

 

3 Viridian Forest
1 Power Plant

Energy – 8

7 P
1 Recycle

Card Choices

3 Jirachi TEU

Jirachi is one of the best starters in the game and it would be completely acceptable to use 4 copies, but I prefer not to play that many. Once we get the first Jirachi down, all of the other Jirachi will be mostly useless and may even disrupt our consistency. We also don’t have the Bench space to keep 2 Jirachi on the field.

2 Mimikyu PR SM99

Mimikyu is an amazing attacker in this meta and needs just 2 Energies to deal damage. Mimikyu is able to copy the most powerful non-GX attacks in the game, like ReshiZard’s Flare Strike for 230 damage, PikaRom’s Full Blitz for 150, and ChompTina’s Calamitous Slash for 240.

In addition, Mimikyu has the Filch attack which allows you to draw 2 cards, meaning it is also a good starter Pokémon and can potentially bail you out of a bad situation where you are without a Supporter.

1 Espurr UNB

Espurr is a good 1-card solution to damage the opponent’s Bench. Unfortunately, the deck has no room to fit Custom Catcher.

1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX

Espeon & Deoxys-GX can fit in the deck without any specific requirements. While Ultra Necrozma-GX needs Metal Energies and Garchomp & Giratina-GX needs Fighting Energies, Espeon & Deoxys-GX needs only 1 Psychic Energy, which makes it possible to use even Recycle Energy to energize it.

Espeon & Deoxys-GX is in the deck for its Cross Division-GX attack, which allows you to place 10 damage counters with 3 Energies attached and 20 counters with 6 Energies. It is hard to attach 6 Energies to activate the plus bonus of Cross Division-GX, but it is simple to fulfill for 10 damage counters, which in many cases is enough to seal the game.

1 Power Plant

Power Plant is included mainly for Mew Box, as Power Plant will shut off Jirachi-GX’s Psychic Zone Ability, allowing Giratina LOT to hit Mewtwo & Mew-GX’s for 260 damage with Weakness.

Power Plant is also good against PikaRom and Ability ReshiZard, but don’t expect it to stick very long, as these decks use a bunch of Stadiums.

Final Thoughts

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Although QuagNag and Malamar/Spell Tags are great anti-meta decks, I believe both still suffer consistency issues. Do not be surprised if you lose a favorable matchup simply because you weren’t able to set up properly. This is the problem with the UPR-on format and why Pokémon-GX-based decks like ReshiZard and PikaRom are currently the best.

The consistency that GX decks have is strong, which is why it’s so hard for us to see a non-GX-focused deck that can achieve consistent success. No matter how strong or fit your idea is for the metagame, the big challenge in today’s format is to make your idea work consistently. This was not such a common problem in the previous format as we had many good Trainer cards to give consistency to any new ideas that came up. But now it is.

I still prefer to bet on Pokémon-GX-focused decks like PikaRom, ReshiZard, and Mew Box simply because I know that I will be able to develop my board in most games I play.

That’s all, folks. I hope you enjoyed and see you next time!


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