Beak of the Finch

UPR–CEC Meta Developments, Updating Pidgeotto Control, and Asides on Checkmate and Oranguru UPR
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Or: “Peck of the Pidgeotto”

Hey everyone! It’s a glorious day and approximately one week before LAIC. It’s crunch time for all players looking to capitalize on the unknown Cosmic Eclipse meta. Like many others, I’ve spent hours thinking about new concepts from the new set, and as always, they all end up as unplayable. One such idea was a deck that capitalizes on Magneton CEC to search for Lusamine p on the 3-Prize turn. Another was using Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX to evolve Beedrill TEU in order to trade favorably against TAG TEAM decks. Both of these (and all other ideas) crashed and burned to the point where I’ve returned to the meta.

One strong deck that everyone will prepare for is Pidgeotto Control. It has slowly gained the respect it deserves since its debut at Worlds. It has also finished highly at almost every tournament afterward. That’s enough about the deck; we all know it’s strong. The biggest question on everyone’s mind is this: how can it improve from Cosmic Eclipse?

The same question applies to every other deck. , , , , etc. Cosmic Eclipse contains many influential cards, so much so that I’d call it the most meta-defining set since Guardians Rising. (I’ll interject that Unbroken Bonds had a large impact with Dedenne-GX, but that was a single card as opposed to the slew of them in Cosmic Eclipse.)

As a small side-note, it’s absurd how many good cards are in this set. I love the structure of new sets debuting at International Championships, and I’m excited to see how things play out in Brazil.

Expected Meta Developments

At the beginning, I posed lots of questions. Now, my job is to answer them. I’ll specifically get into Pidgeotto Control later on in the article, as that’s the main topic I’ll be discussing. For now, I’ll do a brief overview of the decks I expect to gain (or change) a lot from the new set release.

PikaRom

PikaRom will flop due to the absolute lack of card support it received in Cosmic Eclipse. The problem isn’t even Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX; the strong decks are too difficult. To start, should be able to wipe the floor with PikaRom because of the mass amounts of healing cards and Keldeo-GX. Current versions of PikaRom have to deal with both threats—GardEon and Keldeo-GX—so the correct Stadium count is incredibly divided. There’s no easy way to reconcile this other than playing 2 Lysandre Labs, 2 Power Plant, and 1 Thunder Mountain p, which feels awful.

Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel

Blacephalon-GX/ will be one of the strongest decks in the room for a few reasons:

  1. It has an alright matchup against Pidgeotto Control.
  2. It can capitalize off of the even heavier TAG TEAM GX meta.
  3. It now has access to additional card slots by adding Great Catcher over Custom Catcher.

These three factors contribute to the deck’s likely success. I would take Hunter Butler/Phinnegan Lynch’s list from Knoxville and take out 4 Custom Catcher for 2 Great Catcher and 2 Island Challenge Amulet. More testing will tell if the Amulet is worth playing, but I believe it is. Another card that may turn out to be insanely strong is Beastite, as it can add up to 50 damage, with a reasonable amount being 30. This is absolutely insane and helps out numbers.

Mew Box

Mew Box will be entirely unfazed by introduction of Mimikyu CEC 97 with Shadow Box. The only decks that will end up using it are Malamar and weird Shrine decks. Those matchups were already difficult on their own and won’t be much different with Mimikyu at play.

Malamar

Malamar will be a strong deck, but likely continue to struggle against Pidgeotto Control. If the deck removes Espeon & Deoxys-GX, the matchup becomes incredibly poor. Another issue is the healing from ADP, so an effective solution must be found for that too.

GardEon

Lastly, GardEon is incredibly powerful and should not be dismissed. Mallow & Lana gives the deck a searchable, potent healing option that can improve its matchups further. The deck also maintains all of its strength and doesn’t have much to worry about other than Lucario & Melmetal-GX in ADP and Pidgeotto Control. These are two losses that might be too difficult to take, but the meta is always cyclical enough to make GardEon a justified play. The former matchup isn’t even unwinnable because of Weakness Guard Energy.


Bringing the conversation back to Pidgeotto Control, I think it’s the deck to beat for LAIC. There’s no question that it’s an incredibly powerful deck, which is precisely why it’s so strong. It also gets better with Cosmic Eclipse which gives rise to new ways to play the deck.

Pidgeotto Control

Pokémon (18)

3 Pidgey TEU 122

1 Pidgey TEU 121

4 Pidgeotto TEU

4 Oranguru UPR

1 Ditto p

1 Magnemite UPR 81

1 Magneton CEC

1 Girafarig LOT

2 Articuno-GX

Trainer (37)

4 Professor Elm’s Lecture

2 Hapu

2 Jessie & James

2 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

2 Tate & Liza

1 Bellelba & Brycen-Man

1 Faba

1 Mars

 

4 Acro Bike

4 Pokégear 3.0

3 Crushing Hammer

3 Reset Stamp

2 Chip-Chip Ice Axe

2 Pal Pad

1 Great Catcher

 

3 Power Plant

Energy (5)

4 Water

1 Recycle

This list is built for having a strong mirror match as well as good capabilities for the entire meta. I originally played 0 Crushing Hammer—an idea I got from Azul Garcia Griego’s stream—but realized that it’s necessary in order to Get Lost Energy in the mirror match.

Specific Cards

1-1 Magneton CEC

Magneton is one of the best cards to come out of Cosmic Eclipse for this deck. It allows the search of 3 Supporter cards at expense of a Prize card, which is completely worth it. If you think about it, the extra time spent drawing into those cards happens over one or more turns, so Magneton is efficient in that regard. Another bonus is that it reduces variance in searching for those cards. It’s possible to win the game without getting a hand lock, but it must be achieved eventually, and having an extra way to do so is great.

Magneton also has the use of turning on Lt. Surge’s Strategy in the mirror match. This may not become much of a factor because both lists will be playing Magneton, but it gives an edge for at least a short while.

1 Girafarig LOT, 1 Faba

Because of the prevalence of the mirror match, both of these cards are required. This is the only way to turn the mirror match from a tie into a win. It’s 100% necessary to play these now.

2 Hapu

The current version of the deck is built to rip through the deck in order to set up. Hapu is the best Supporter for doing this because it allows you to see the most cards of any Supporter. I increased the count to 2 because finding Articuno-GX + Water Energy is much more important without Crushing Hammer.

2 Jessie & James, 1 Mars

I’m under the impression that this is the correct split because it’s much more vital to get the hand lock off. It’s easy to end the game with Bellelba & Brycen-Man, so any slowdown by discarding own cards with Jessie & James is less of an impact now that Pidgeotto can win quickly once the lock is established.

3 Crushing Hammer

I’ve cut one Crushing Hammer because I believe it to be a less important card than it used to be. The reason it’s still in the deck in the first place is for mirror. Without it at all, then it’s not possible to begin Lost Zoning the opponent’s Water Energy without having discarded them randomly with Bellelba & Brycen-Man or Mars. If your opponent plays Crushing Hammer and you don’t, you’ll surely run out of Energy first.

3 Reset Stamp

I’ve upped this count because it’s super important for establishing the hand lock. Because the important Supporter cards (Lt. Surge’s Strategy, Jessie & James) can be found with Magneton’s Ability, the limiting factor now comes down to Reset Stamp and Chip-Chip Ice Axe. Reset Stamp is more important, so that card gained the additional copy first.

1 Great Catcher

I needed to make cuts somewhere in order to add the new cards from Cosmic Eclipse. My testing has shown that this is viable since this new version relies on Articuno-GX, but I’m unsure if I can actually get away with omitting Custom Catcher.

If I was to re-include Custom Catcher, I would make these changes:

0 Misty & Lorelei

This card is theoretically insane, but is likely a win-more card. One Cold Crush-GX is all that’s needed to sweep the relevant attacker of Energy, but having additional usage would be good if an imperfect hand lock is established. If the opponent has the opportunity to start attacking again, the capability of another Cold Crush-GX may save the game.

New Matchups

The old matchups don’t change with the release of Cosmic Eclipse. Instead, I’ll only be covering the new decks. The only notable new decks are ADP, , and Doll decks.

ADP

This matchup can be tough because of Altered Creation-GX—especially with a T1 or T2 attack. The extra Prize mechanic means that three attacks end the game as opposed to six, so the game ends much quicker. In this matchup, it’s important to prepare the complete lock with Cold Crush-GX and all of the hand disruption components. Magneton pulls its weight in this matchup because the opponent will always be on even Prizes. The extra Prize means absolutely nothing unless they KO the Articuno-GX, but if that happens you’ve already lost anyway.

ReshiRom

This seems like an easy matchup but can become difficult because of Naganadel LOT. If the opponent only attacks with Naganadel and doesn’t leave any gust-able Pokémon-GX, then you must win by taking knockouts with Articuno-GX. Once they bench something that can be trapped, then the game becomes much easier because there isn’t a continuous stream of pressure being applied.

The best way to improve this matchup (and that of other Naganadel-based decks) is to reinclude Custom Catcher, as those are vital for trapping something active. There isn’t much more to do other than that. Marshadow UNB may be a cool option because it can 1HKO Naganadel. If you can use that in conjunction with Resource Management, it may be possible to run the opponent out of Naganadel or at least force them to Bench something that can be caught with Great Catcher or Custom Catcher.

Doll Decks

I’m relatively uncertain what a good list for this archetype looks like. My assessment references the list that Joe Bernard posted in a YouTube video on his channel, Omnipoke.

Basically, this matchup should become pretty easy without any form of counter. The opponent can loop back Items with Florges FLI’s Ability, but that does little to progress the game state or allow them to start taking Prizes. You won’t be able to lock them out of the game due to Sawsbuck CEC’s Ability, but Bellelba & Brycen-Man should allow you to discard their entire deck relatively quickly. Worst case you can remove their board of Energy, slowing them down enough to the point where they either run out of Energy or are decked out.

Checkmate / Stalemate

has too many fundamental problems that don’t allow it to succeed in this meta. The main problems are its sketchy matchups against the big two decks: ADP and Pidgeotto Control. ADP can’t easily be checkmated because it can take 3 Prizes when KOing Naganadel-GX after Stinger-GX. The way around this is to set up a single-turn checkmate using Shrine of Punishment, but that isn’t possible because of Mallow & Lana. In all TAG TEAM decks, Mallow & Lana poses a great issue.

On top of Mallow & Lana worsening TAG TEAM matchups, Pidgeotto Control remains a difficult matchup with a slow start. It may become much easier due to Magneton CEC and Blacephalon CEC, but I’m still uncertain about it. I thought my list in Knoxville had a good matchup against it, but after two slow games the match was over.

Finally, the deck lacks a strong, consistent engine. Steven’s Resolve is still the clumsy mess that it is, and Professor Oak’s Setup is poor because it becomes a dead card later in the match. The best engine is likely the pure Lillie + Cynthia engine, but that feels terrible and doesn’t complement Ultra Conversion.

Oranguru UPR: Ban-worthy?

I’ve seen a fair amount of threads come up on Facebook and Twitter, so I want to give my personal insight on the matter. Let me preface by saying that I’m only offering one opinion on a complex topic, and that my opinion represents the direction I would enjoy the game heading toward. Someone else who has a different vision or preference for the game of Pokémon may have a different, totally valid opinion.

The main thing I’d like to comment on is the health aspect. Fundamentally, Control decks are healthy. It’s always a good thing to have deck diversity, and Control decks are one way to bolster that. Likewise, decks and other my-strategy-is-to-block-yours decks are among deck diversity. Single-Prize attackers vs. TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX are another example.

In this sense, I think Oranguru is a healthy card because it allows for Control decks to be viable. Control decks are not oppressive to the point where they take over the meta because regular decks can beat them without teching for them. If it was impossible to beat Pidgeotto without a specific counter, then I can understand how it can be labeled as a problem. Theoretically, the meta would stable out and only decks with favorable matchups would be playable, but anyway I digress. The point is that Pidgeotto, in its current state, is healthy.

I don’t think banning Oranguru, and therefore removing the major Control archetype, would change the meta that heavily. Current decklists respect Pidgeotto in some way or another, and those decks would continue to succeed in a meta without Pidgeotto. Some decks may be able to save a card slot here or there, but the meta would remain the same. Some current decks auto-lose to Pidgeotto but are played anyway. auto-wins Pidgeotto, but struggles elsewhere. It’s a balance.

That’s about as much of a concise opinion I can provide. If you want to discuss it more or have questions, drop a comment and I’ll be happy to talk about it!

Conclusion

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Air Mail over São Paulo.

That’s all for today! Cosmic Eclipse and LAIC has hit me sooner than expected, and frankly I’m not nearly as prepared as I wish I was. It’s hard to believe that I’ll be getting on a flight in less than three days and my cards haven’t even arrived yet. Needless to say, the world can’t wait for everyone to discover the meta.

If I were to pick a deck right now, I’d pick Pidgeotto Control. I feel extremely comfortable playing it and know it’s strong. I might face some people playing counters, but there’s always a way to play smarter and capitalize on an opponent’s mistake.

For those of you going to LAIC, good luck and I’ll see you there!

Xander


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