Story Arc

A Quick Recap on Perfection from LAIC and ADP for Daytona Beach
With time and space, the format will unfold.

Hello all, once again! I’m here with another article. Like many others, I’ve been having a blast with Pokémon Sword & Shield. I’ve just now beaten the game and am working on the Pokédex—but never mind that! It’s time to prep for Daytona Beach! LAIC has concluded, champions have been crowned, and now the next tournament is less than a week away.

As everyone knows, the release of a new set draws a great deal of attention. However, another important tournament is the one that immediately follows! There’s still a great deal to discover in this format () and I’m incredibly excited to keep digging for unfound strategies. This format is nowhere near solved. Today I’ll be diving into after a recap of the Mewtwo & Mew-GX list that myself and others played in São Paulo.

LAIC Recap w/ Mew Box

To the surprise of some, AbilityZard reappeared and took down the tournament. I attribute this success to the deck’s unacknowledged strength, and mainly to an inability to properly deal with it. Very few decks can stop AbilityZard when it’s rolling. Even so, the decks that can stop it are on the outskirts of the meta: Doll and Blacephalon/Pidgeotto. The Naganadel & Guzzlord-GX/ deck has a good matchup against it on paper, but “on paper” is where AbilityZard outshines other decks. When you assume that both decks set up reasonably well, Welder outshines all else.

I remember a conversation I had with Justin Bokhari the night before the tournament. He cited BuzzRoc from EUIC 🇩🇪 2017 (Shining Legends release) and Blacephalon-GX/ from LAIC 2018 as disrespected decks that then performed well. Perhaps AbilityZard did well because it was disrespected in the unknown format; people were too busy tinkering with new concepts to revisit old behemoths.

That idea—the old behemoth—is what led Rahul Reddy, Sam Chen, and myself to play an “outdated” list. Other Americans played very similar lists, those without the Tag Call engine, but ours was the most straightforward and old-school. Here’s the list we played:

The List

Pokémon (18)

4 Mewtwo & Mew-GX

3 Dedenne-GX

1 Magcargo-GX

1 Reshiram & Charizard-GX

1 Charizard-GX HIF

1 Solgaleo-GX SM104

1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX

1 Latios-GX UNM

1 Naganadel-GX UNM

2 Marshadow UNB

1 Mewtwo UNB

1 Turtonator DRM

Trainer (30)

4 Welder

 

4 Cherish Ball

3 Acro Bike

3 Great Catcher

3 Mysterious Treasure

3 Pokégear 3.0

3 Switch

2 Reset Stamp

1 Energy Recycle System

 

3 Giant Hearth

1 Viridian Forest

Energy (12)

9 Fire

3 Psychic

The only change from Cosmic Eclipse is the addition of Great Catcher. Honestly, it felt like I was playing a less consistent AbilityZard all day. I drew–pass out of my opening hand about 10 games in 9 rounds. Not playing the new engine with Jirachi and Tag Call was definitely a mistake, but Rahul has the opposite opinion.

Other than that, the list set out what it meant to do. I didn’t find much use in Turtonator because I demolished the ADP I played against without it. Greninja-GX is a different counter to Keldeo-GX I would include if I tossed Turtonator. 2 Marshadow was strong, Great Catcher was amazing, and the deck performed well when it was able to play Welder and a Dedenne-GX or two.

Moving forward, I would play a list more similar to Bryan’s 2nd place list. Tag Call and the extra Supporters reduce variance at the expense of speed, but I imagine it’s worth it.

ADP for Daytona Beach

ADP was the most played deck in Brazil—and for good reason. The deck boasts strong matchups against slower decks and those that don’t have a great response to Keldeo-GX. The bad matchups can be quite bad, though, as fast decks can roll through it without missing a beat.

I tested ADP heavily going into Brazil but ultimately switched off of it because I was scared of its bad matchups. Mewtwo & Mew-GX was about as popular as I expected, so I don’t regret my decision.

The List

Pokémon (12)

2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX

2 Keldeo-GX

4 Jirachi TEU

1 Dedenne-GX

1 Cryogonal UNM

1 Drampa CEC

1 Phione CEC

Trainer (34)

4 Cynthia

3 Mallow & Lana

2 Cynthia & Caitlin

2 N’s Resolve

1 Guzma & Hala

1 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

 

3 Pokémon Communication

3 Switch

3 Tag Call

2 Cherish Ball

2 Great Catcher

2 Reset Stamp

2 Escape Board

1 Choice Helmet

 

3 Chaotic Swell

Energy (14)

7 Water

6 Metal

1 Unit LPM

Here’s where my list is at. The core remains consistent with the rest of the ADP lists, but each one I’ve seen takes a different approach in filling out the final slots. Some inspiration comes from the list played by Pedro Torres and Fabien Pujol, whom I talked to the day before LAIC.

Tech Cards & Packages

The Tag Call engine allows the deck to include a variety of tech cards and combinations of cards I’ll denote as packages. One such package is Guzma & Hala, Choice Helmet, and Unit Energy LPM. If I was to cut one of these, I would cut them all. Guzma & Hala doesn’t generate enough value without Choice Helmet or a Special Energy, and removing Guzma & Hala makes finding the other cards too difficult.

There are also the single tech cards, such as Lt. Surge’s Strategy, Cryogonal UNM, Phione CEC, etc., that are singleton copies that serve a specific purpose. These are much easier to interchange without changing a substructure of the list.

Expendable Tech Cards & Packages

Here’s a list of the expendable cards and packages. Multiple cards per bullet point indicates a package, whereas one indicates a single card. After the list, I’ll explain the purpose of each and some additional tech options.

Guzma & Hala Package

I briefly overviewed the Guzma & Hala package, but the point of it is to have an out to an Energy and Choice Helmet from Tag Call. Its sole use is on T1 or T2 to prepare and protect the first ADP. Past then, it doesn’t get much value and other Supporters are more efficient. I saw that the European list played a Lillie engine rather than a Cynthia one, but I think Cynthia has a stronger use overall. Lillie is stronger on T1, but I find that I need to find a specific card in the mid-game when I already have a big hand. Lillie does absolutely nothing since this deck can’t decrease hand size easily.

1 Drampa CEC

Drampa is there for the mirror match and nothing else. After Altered Creation-GX, it can 1HKO a Keldeo-GX with its second attack. In my opinion, it’s always worth playing this because the mirror match becomes incredibly difficult without it.

1 Phione CEC

Phione acts as a soft gust card and is strong against Lillie’s Poké Doll. Using it improves matchups like Blacephalon/Pidgeotto and Doll Stall because it allows you to take Prizes without using Custom Catcher (if in the list). Otherwise, it’s good for playing around a single big Pokémon in the Active, or for simply cleaning up easily against decks with small Benches.

1 Mallow & Lana

1 (of the 3) Mallow & Lana is cuttable. You realistically only need 2 in the mirror match—3 is nice, though—so the 3rd copy is mainly for quality of life. The only matchup where you’ll need excessive copies are the mirror match. You’ll be able to win every other slow matchup with only 1 or 2 and Cynthia & Caitlin.

1 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

Lt. Surge’s Strategy is a pet card that I’ve been toying with in the deck. When I’ve drawn it, I’ve always had a use for it, whether it be to use Cynthia & Caitlin and Mallow & Lana in the same turn, or to play Cynthia in hopes of drawing an N’s Resolve. It’s a great tempo card, and the deck falls behind often. There may be higher impact cards to fill the slot, but as of now I like the additional option. It may save you a game. Many combinations are possible.

2 N’s Resolve, 2 Great Catcher

N’s Resolve and Great Catcher are two cards that give this deck some speed.

  • The 2-count of N’s Resolve makes it a viable option, but enforces that the deck isn’t reliant on it. More copies don’t make sense unless you rewire the deck to be focused on a T1 attack, like including Pokégear 3.0 and a higher Dedenne-GX count. At that point, the deck becomes a weaker Welder deck. Or maybe the right list hasn’t been found yet.
  • Great Catcher is a space-efficient way to finish off Pokémon. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

The specific cut for N’s Resolve and Great Catcher would be Custom Catcher. This would worsen the matchup vs. fast decks while improving it even further against slow decks. I want to find space for N’s Resolve and Custom Catcher, but I doubt it will work out unless I make harder cuts elsewhere.

Additional Tech Options

Misty & Lorelei

Pedro and Fabien played this in order to use Keldeo-GX’s GX attack after Altered Creation-GX. It’s quite strong, as it does 50× the amount of Benched Pokémon the opponent has. You can also attack with Resolute Blade-GX back to back!

Adding Misty & Lorelei helps matchups where you need Keldeo-GX to stick in order to win, like Mewtwo & Mew-GX and AbilityZard. These two matchups are going to be unfavorable regardless, but Misty & Lorelei helps these more than you might expect if you can pull it off.

Lucario & Melmetal-GX

Lucario & Melmetal-GX has one purpose: crush . It doesn’t have any uses other than this, but Full Metal Wall-GX can get some value if you’re incredibly behind. Don’t count on it though, as you’re usually going to lose anyway.

Zebstrika LOT

Zebstrika is good for improving general consistency and is great against Pidgeotto . The idea behind Zebstrika is in chaining Mallow & Lana while still being able to find other cards. Normally, you’d be stuck with Stellar Wish—which doesn’t find Energy cards. Zebstrika breaks this by making sure you never get stuck missing an Energy attachment.

It can be quite difficult to set up because the deck has no way to search for Blitzle and Zebstrika other than Pokémon Communication, though. Ultimately, you’ll have enough time against Pidgeotto and other slow decks—but you should be doing well against those without the help of Sprint.

Mimikyu CEC 97 + Shrine of Punishment

This is an idea I toyed with for LAIC but ultimately cut because I wasn’t convincingly winning the Mewtwo & Mew-GX matchup. The idea of it is to force your opponent to attack with non-Mewtwo & Mew-GX attackers, perhaps slowing them down enough for you to catch up. This idea works in theory, but quickly crumbles if the opponent knows you play Mimikyu. Stealthy Hood is also an immediate problem.

Girafarig LOT

Girafarig can be a worthwhile inclusion in a slower, attrition-based list. Get Lost can remove your opponent’s win condition against Keldeo-GX, such as Ultra Forest Kartenvoy or Greninja-GX. This is slightly gimmicky and can be played around, but it’s worth recognizing nonetheless.

Counter Gain

Counter Gain and Lt. Surge’s Strategy have a similar rationale behind them as a comeback mechanic. Counter Gain is easier to pull off because it’s searchable with Guzma & Hala, but may be low-impact comparatively. Lt. Surge’s Strategy makes a close game closer, whereas Counter Gain gives you an opportunity to start attacking if you’ve fallen behind.

Counter Gain heavily supports the mono-Keldeo-GX strategy. If you’ve sacrificed a Jirachi or two, you can then go in with a Counter Gain Keldeo-GX. The extra Energy from Counter Gain may give you enough tempo to chain your 2 Keldeo-GX, perhaps overpowering the opponent. I’ll admit I haven’t done any testing with it, but I’m eager to try it against Mewtwo & Mew-GX and AbilityZard. I think it will have good use there if the deck swaps in Custom Catcher as it can target the Keldeo-GX counter on the Bench; Turtonator, Victini p, and Drampa die to a single Sonic Edge.

Matchups

ADP acts as the counter to the counters in the current meta. I’d say that Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Pidgeotto Control are still the two decks to beat, with AbilityZard in close third. ADP has unfavorable matchups against the first and the third; Pidgeotto Control is a toss-up. Whereas these decks have unfavorable matchups against , Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel, and Blacephalon/Pidgeotto, ADP dominates these. Here’s a comedically short run-down on matchups you should expect for Daytona Beach and beyond.

Overcoming Difficulty: AbilityZard + Mew Box

These matchups are hard. Their deck is faster than yours and there isn’t much you can do about it. There are questions to be asked at the decklist stage: are these matchups worth trying to beat?—the answer is no. Small cards here and there are worth playing, like Choice Helmet/Counter Gain, and even Lt. Surge’s Strategy, but beyond that the space becomes wasted. As taught in economics, there’s a point of diminishing marginal returns.

The strategy against this deck is to begin using Ultimate Ray as soon as possible. Choice Helmet can protect your first ADP from Flare Blitz-GX, but doesn’t stop an empowered Double Blaze-GX. If you have the time, you can use Altered Creation-GX. N’s Resolve shines in this matchup because you can swing repeatedly if you’re lucky enough, such as going ADP into Keldeo-GX into another ADP.

Ultimately, you need to take your Prizes faster than your opponent somehow. This either involves stalling with Keldeo-GX, getting a little lucky, or capitalizing on an opponent’s board state by disarming their biggest threat.

Mirror Match

This match comes down to the decklist. Drampa, Custom Catcher, Reset Stamp, and Mallow & Lana/Cynthia & Caitlin counts are the most important aspects. Custom Catcher improves the mirror match because it allows you to target Drampa before it can 1HKO a Keldeo-GX, providing a strong tempo swing. Reset Stamp allows you to destroy the aggregated hand of 10+ cards by the end of the game, reducing the probability the opponent can respond with a Mallow & Lana or gust effect.

You should always be swinging with Keldeo-GX when possible, and when not immediately pushing it into Drampa. Play patiently, set up both Keldeo-GX, and use Altered Creation-GX.

…Basically Everything Else

Attach… pass… attach… Altered Creation-GX Mallow & Lana… attach… Ultimate Ray. With just those simple steps, you’re already on your way to beating every other deck in the format!

It doesn’t get much harder than that. GardEon is the only other deck that can give some trouble, but that’s still even or favorable. If you’re worried, just add Lucario & Melmetal-GX and call it a day. Without it, you’ll be going mono Keldeo-GX (or a single Ultimate Ray, if allowed). Replace their Power Plant with Chaotic Swell and march to victory!

Conclusion

Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Pidgeotto Control, and AbilityZard should not be underestimated going into Daytona. They’re the strongest decks for a reason. The meta may shape up to counter them, like Blacephalon/Pidgeotto and Malamar, which may give rise to ADP. ADP already performed exceptionally well in Brazil. Keep it on your radar as you prepare!

I’m looking toward ADP and AbilityZard as my two picks for Daytona. I’m going to mess around with Blacephalon/Pidgeotto and Doll Stall too, starting from Manuel Jorach’s and Ondrej Skubal’s lists. I think both of these are strong anti-meta picks with great and poor matchups across the table.

Good luck to all in Daytona!

Xander


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