Big Brain Birds

Dissecting and Improving Pidgeotto Control from AC/Cologne for Knoxville
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Hey! I hope you’ve had a good week since the last time I wrote. Since then, I’ve been hard at work preparing for my most recent midterms. Regarding Pokémon, there were three major events last weekend. defeated Control in two of the three finals, while Green’s ReshiZard conquested over AbilityZard in Campinas. Three Welder decks won this weekend, but , , and Pidgeotto Control stood in their way. Today, I’ll be looking at Pidgeotto Control—the dark horse of the format.

Pidgeotto Control

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised to see Pidgeotto Control do well. It can do great things in 50-minute Bo3 with a long Game 1 and dismantle inexperienced players if they make a mistake. That being said, it requires a fair bit of knowledge to play, and mistakes with the deck don’t go unpunished.

Two completely different variants did well: Sander Wojcik’s teched version and Grant Manley’s Jirachi version. Sander wrote a great post in Heyfonte summarizing the subtleties in his and Grant’s list, so I greatly urge you to check it out. Both lists are also available online on Heyfonte and Limitless.

What I’ve done the past couple of days is build their lists online and see if I can make a few improvements over the course of many games. I originally started with Grant’s list, then made small swaps over the course of games when I wanted to experiment with a card. Here’s the list I settled on. Of course, credit to the original lists go to Grant and Sander, respectively. I merely took what they had and merged them together to create something better.

My List

Pokémon (19)

4 Oranguru UPR

3 Pidgey TEU 122

1 Pidgey TEU 121

4 Pidgeotto TEU

3 Jirachi TEU

1 Absol TEU

1 Ditto p

2 Articuno-GX

Trainer (37)

4 Professor Elm’s Lecture

2 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

2 Mars

2 Tate & Liza

1 Hapu

1 Jessie & James

 

4 Acro Bike

4 Crushing Hammer

4 Pokégear 3.0

3 Custom Catcher

2 Chip-Chip Ice Axe

2 Pal Pad

2 Reset Stamp

1 Escape Board

 

3 Power Plant

Energy (4)

3 Water

1 Recycle

My list is a lot more similar to Grant’s because I kept the Jirachi engine. Frankly, I never experimented with Sander’s complete list of toolbox cards because I thought that the Jirachi version would be smoother. Namely, a great utilization for Jirachi is as an early sacrifice. It’s a small difference, but having a sacrifice that can improve your board state is great in helping the deck set up. I suppose with Sander’s version, you can always sacrifice Girafarig/Absol in their unimportant matchups, but it’s difficult to choose what you’re sacrificing when you can’t search for either of them.

In Sander’s write-up, he declares that both of the versions attempt to solve the early/mid-game issues with Jirachi or Mareep/more Supporters. He even notes that Jirachi may be superior because it can aid in setup when Pidgeottos are being targeted.

Once I settled upon using the Jirachi base, I looked at what cards I wanted to include from Sander’s list. Initially, Absol TEU, Weezing HIF, 2nd Recycle, Hapu, and Sky Pillar caught my eye. I wasn’t interested in exploring Mareep, Girafarig, or some of Sander’s Supporter choices because I was already dedicating 2 to 4 spaces to Jirachi.

Tech Trials

  • Absol TEU proved to be good in locking Dedenne-GX and other single-cost Retreat Pokémon during an incomplete lock. This meant that on a turn I missed Chip-Chip Ice Axe, a topdecked Energy/Escape Board wouldn’t free them from the lock. If after further testing Absol stops pulling its weight, I’d add back in the 4th Jirachi.
  • Weezing HIF was interesting because it extended the complete hand-discard reach of this deck from 3 to 4. This made it possible to lock someone upon them reaching 4 Prizes, but also to discard their entire hand from 3 while using another Supporter. Hapu usually filled that slot as it helped dig for Weezing/Jessie & James better than any other Supporter in the deck. Ultimately, Weezing’s downfall was not having enough space to include it in the deck. Without Steven’s Resolve, it’s difficult to pull off a complete hand discard at 4 Prizes, and even then, that just walks into Reset Stamp.
  • 2nd Recycle Energy was tested for a little bit, but then I quickly took it out once I realized how important Cold Crush-GX is. That became another Water Energy only a few games after testing, as it was also easy to search out with Viridian Forest if I ever desperately needed an Energy.
  • Hapu proved to be quite useful in every game that I played it. Hapu let me thin the deck much quicker than Mars, which made getting a complete hand more likely. In addition, Hapu is great for burning through the deck in order to set up a continuous lock once you’ve put the opponent on topdecks. Moreover, Hapu is great for finding Energy and vital survival pieces like Reset Stamp and Custom Catcher. Hapu is amazing, even as a singleton.
  • Lastly, Sky Pillar is something I thought about despite never testing. I’m scared to play a 2-1 Stadium split whenever I prize a Power Plant against Mew Box. If that’s the case, then it’s impossible to put out a Power Plant immediately because I’d need a turn to Resource Management it back into the deck. It’s great to improve the deck’s capability of countering Cross Division-GX, but Power Plant is too important to forego.

The main reason I haven’t gone for the teched-out route that Sander employs is because I’m scared for the variance in prizing important cards. Lt. Surge’s Strategy, Chip-Chip Ice Axe, and Pal Pad are the three cards that immediately come to mind. If the singleton copy is prized, that game becomes much more difficult to win. Lt. Surge’s Strategy allows the deck to have a stronger mid-game once the opponent takes a Prize. Chip-Chip Ice Axe is vital for blocking opponents’ topdecks, either to provide time during a temporary lock or permanently during a hard lock. Pal Pad is great for maximizing efficient uses of Mars/Jessie & James so that you can grab other cards. Targeting Pal Pad with Resource Management essentially lets you shuffle in 4 cards with a slight delay on the Supporters. This is important for reusing Custom Catcher, Chip-Chip Ice Axe, and Crushing Hammer.

If I was going to cut some cards, I’d look toward cutting Absol, 2nd Lt. Surge’s Strategy, and Hapu. I think everything else is 100% necessary, though maybe I’m missing win conditions because I focus too hard on the hand lock. Sander did well with his list, so it must be viable too. He’s an incredibly smart player when it comes to concepts, so I trust his ability to create a good list too.

Intricacies of Play

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Like in any deck with lots of options, proper sequencing and decision-making are essential for winning. In the early turns, it’s important to do all that you can to burn through your deck, buy time, and put Pidgey into play. Depending on your hand, you may want to grab 3 Pidgey or 2 Pidgey and 1 Pidgeotto with Professor Elm’s Lecture. If you have another Supporter, I would go for full Pidgey, but with nothing else I would grab the Pidgeotto. In a scenario in which you have Acro Bike/Pokégear 3.0/Stellar Wish available, use that before Professor Elm’s Lecture so that you can optimally choose your targets.

I typically like to exhaust all Air Mail Abilities before using Acro Bike. The one exception to this is when I know the order of my deck, such as when I’m hitting the cards I brought back with Resource Management. If those cards are better than the general cards in your deck, play Acro Bike before hitting them so that you discard bad cards rather than good ones.

Likewise, I hold Stellar Wish for near the end of the turn. The same reasoning applies here as it did to Malamar. However, remember it can be used as a shuffle! This can let you access cards previously on the bottom of your deck more quickly, potentially giving you a win condition.

Remember that you cannot activate Articuno-GX’s Legendary Ascent with Power Plant in play. It’s sometimes safe to attach a Water Energy on a Pidgeotto/Absol prematurely, but in most cases it will end up stuck there because of Power Plant. Mew Box is one matchup where it’s safe because they’ll need to replace Power Plant in order to attack.

At the beginning of the game, while you’re still trying to burn through the deck, it’s alright to put Pokégear 3.0 and Acro Bike back into the deck with Resource Management. This is sometimes better than putting back lock tools like Pal Pad, Chip-Chip Ice Axe, and Crushing Hammer. Putting back dig cards is important in matchups where Articuno-GX is essential, like PikaRom and AbilityZard.

Matchups

This deck’s win percentage is incredibly dictated by how well it draws and how well the opponent draws during the first two turns. Pidgeotto Control is somewhat like Greninja, but I’d even relate it more similarly to Naganadel-GX Checkmate than that. Both decks rely on the early use of a single Supporter (Steven’s Resolve and Professor Elm’s Lecture) while having limited ways to access it. This early Supporter is so vital to the deck’s win percentage that I’d go so far as to say that the deck wins 10–15% fewer games when it isn’t used within the first two turns of the game.

That being said, there is still a great deal in matchup percentages based on the amount of counter-play and inherent weakness in Pidgeotto Control’s strategy. For one, is an inherent auto-loss if the opponent plays correctly. There is absolutely no way to beat continuous manipulation of Water Energy without Girafarig—even then I don’t think it’s possible.

Mew Box

Every game of this matchup will be one-sided. Grant says it’s a very good matchup, but I wouldn’t call it that easy. Cross Division-GX is the main hurdle to overcome, though Mew Box can access it at a much earlier turn than Malamar. Mew Box can either force Cross Division-GX ASAP or hold it for the game-winning attack. Both are viable, but realistically it just gives them so much more control over the pace of the game.

As the Pidgeotto Control player, you’re going to try and spam Power Plant and Crushing Hammer, attempt to lock something Active with Custom Catcher, and use a timely Articuno-GX when you’re in danger of being hit with a deadly Cross Division-GX. This sounds easy, but is difficult when you’re sitting at the actual table. In other words, it’s easy to theorize your perfect strategy, but can be unlikely to draw those exact cards in a game.

Once again, Absol is strong here considering that Mew Box plays 2–3 Switch. An extra Energy spent retreating is one not on the Mewtwo & Mew-GX, which can stop them from having the optimal attack for that turn.

AbilityZard

This matchup can be difficult because they can chase down Pidgeotto and dismantle your setup, making it difficult to lock them. Since it’s unlikely that you get a full hand lock, the next best thing is an Articuno-GX + Reset Stamp + Power Plant play. This’ll likely happen when the opponent has 3 Prizes remaining. If they have 1 Prize remaining, it’s possible to lock them with Reset Stamp + Mars, but it’s difficult to maintain that if you have few Pidgeotto in play and a thick deck.

This is one matchup where Absol pulls its weight. If you’re lucky enough to draw it early, then you can slow their pivoting with Jirachi. Late game, Absol helps in locking a Dedenne-GX Active. This puts them on an Escape Board + Energy or Switch, which you can try to force out early. Essentially, this gives you another win condition if the Articuno-GX route fails.

Green’s ReshiZard

This matchup can be annoying because there isn’t an easy way to trap a Pokémon for a win. You’ll need to rely on Cold Crush-GX to clean a ReshiZard in conjunction with a hand lock. From there, you can pivot back into and recycle your resources while maintaining a hand lock. Once you strip their board of Energy, they can’t do anything regardless of their topdeck. Even if they get a Green’s Exploration, those cards immediately impact their bare board. If they get a Welder, they have no Energy in hand to accelerate.

GardEon

is a deck with a limited amount of Energy. You should have a safe win so long as you don’t let them get off the GX attack. If you can Cold Crush-GX away 3 Energy, you should be safe enough to remove the rest with Crushing Hammer.

Malamar

Malamar is an annoying matchup because of their plentiful switching cards. Espeon & Deoxys-GX is also annoying because it can take 3–4 Prizes at once. Mew can place damage with Psypower, setting up easier Prize turns while staying at 6 Prizes. Finally, Mimikyu can copy Resource Management, recycling Switch and other useful cards.

The way you’ll win this matchup is by locking Malamar or Espeon & Deoxys-GX Active. If you lock a Malamar Active, you prevent them from attacking temporarily. However, it’s easy for them to load up another attacker in preparation for Switch. At some point, they’ll bench Espeon & Deoxys-GX and load it up with Malamar. It’s difficult to hard lock them with Chip-Chip Ice Axe because they’ll be at 3+ Prizes. If you can pull off the lock, then you should be alright if they never get out of it. You can slowly mill them with Mars, then randomly discarding 3 cards by refreshing their hand with Reset Stamp, then playing Mars + Jessie & James to get rid of 3 cards.

Girafarig can make this matchup easier, but I’m unsure how much it would actually matter. It’s difficult to actually land Psychic Energy because the opponent can continuously use Psychic Recharge, so you’d need to use multiple Crushing Hammer in a turn in order to send 2 away with Get Lost. Theoretically, the Girafarig is KO’d next turn, then you’re stuck retrieving it and Crushing Hammers with Resource Management, which is slow.

PikaRom

In this matchup, you want to stymie their first Full Blitz as much as possible. It’s possible to establish a lock by removing Energy with Crushing Hammer or by Custom Catchering a Dedenne-GX with Absol in play. Keep in mind they may also go for Full Voltage-GX, which is especially annoying if you’ve already used Cold Crush-GX.

The Articuno timing is probably correct whenever you can time it with a Reset Stamp + Power Plant. It’s much easier to hand lock the opponent at lower Prize counts, but waiting until then can be risky if you can shut them out of the game earlier/have Articuno-GX survive.

Mirror Match

This is a tie unless (A) you play Faba/Girafarig, (B) one player prizes 4 Oranguru, or (C) one player messes up horrendously in a way I can’t even imagine.

Conclusion

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Thanks for reading! Pidgeotto Control is a very strong deck when piloted correctly. It came out of left field at Worlds but has steadily increased in notoriety since then. Because of its repeat strong finishes, I expect many players to be prepared for it moving forward. If you decide to play it, be warned as people will learn strategies to improve their chances and/or tech their list by adding Zebstrika LOT or Cyrus p. That being said, the deck will still be strong anyway.

I’m curious how the meta will shift for Knoxville. I predict Mew Box, PikaRom, and AbilityZard to be popular. I expect GardEon to have strong showings as well. Basically, every established deck is viable. If your deck choice made Top 8 at an event last weekend, it’s a fine play for the tournament.

As for me, I’m not 100% sure what I’ll play. I want to keep tinkering with Checkmate, but if that fails I’ll probably settle on Mew Box.

Xander


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Reader Interactions

2 replies

  1. Carlos Huenchual

    I can add matchup against Blacephalon. If they start with poipole is a gameloss

    • Xander Pero  → Carlos

      Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel is a tricky matchup, very similar to that of QuagNag. Your win condition is attack with Articuno-GX and using that to destroy their board state because Crushing Hammers don’t have an effect.

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