Bags of Tricks

UPR–CEC Standard Meta Review, the Rise of Malamar, and Expanded Mewtwo Box
A 1-Energy Despair Ray with Perfection is nearing perfection.

What’s up guys, Jon here again with another article. Since my last article, we got to see UPR–CEC Standard conclude, as far as major events go in North America, with Daytona Beach 🇺🇸 and San Diego Regionals 🇺🇸. I attended both events and got Top 16 and 32 at them respectively, with a Mewtwo list very similar to the one I posted in my last article. For those of you who are unaware, we are in a bit of a down time right now as the next major NA event, Dallas, is in late January. This means that we have ample time to get League Cups and Challenges in and test for BLW–CEC Expanded.

In this article I will be going over (1) my thoughts on the UPR–CEC Standard metagame to help prepare you for Cups and Challenges and (2) what’s been on my mind deck-wise for Expanded in preparation for Dallas 🇺🇸. With that being said, let’s go!

UPR–CEC Standard Meta Review


The first event of UPR–CEC Standard was the LAIC. There we saw some new ideas flourish, but the big trend I noticed among top players was that most of them stuck to what they knew was good, confident that they’d get at least a decent finish. This was shown by Robin Schulz winning with Ability Zard. Another example is both myself and our own Rahul Reddy playing similar Mewtwo decks comparable to the old version that had proven to be good.

This event highlighted:

  • what Mewtwo could do with the new tools,
  • how Ability Zard was still strong despite falling off prior,
  • how ADP held up against the meta, and
  • how underwhelming Malamar was.

Daytona Beach

Two weeks later, we were in Daytona Beach where we had a bit more of a defined meta. This made it so players were able to make more confident calls on what to play going in. Here we saw ADP show its true colors thanks to Xander. He optimized the deck and brought it to Tier 1. We also saw GardEon not just win but take up two spots in the Top 8, which is still a mystery to me as the deck was known to struggle with Ability Zard and Baby Blowns, two of the biggest decks at the event. Speaking of Ability Zard, the deck totally bombed. It had a few Day 2 spots, but it underperformed considering its placement two weeks prior in Brazil.

Lastly, Malamar picked up a little as people began to respect it more, so much so that it broke into Top 8 this time.

San Diego

In San Diego, we saw TinaChomp/Mismagius win, which was a surprise to some. The deck had placed prior (at LAIC), but never really made it onto anyone’s radar. The rest of the Top 8 was diverse, but the main take-home points were that (1) Malamar proved to be stronger and (2) Mewtwo had no spots in the Top 8. We saw some cool Checkmate ideas pop up as well.

Now that we are all caught up and organized with the Standard meta up to this point, I can start to make educated decisions on what I think are good plays moving forward. The trend I want to highlight is how Malamar crept its way up in the meta from being disrespected by most to becoming one of the most respected decks in the format.

The Rise of Malamar

For those of you who know me, I hate Malamar. I’ve never thought the deck was good and have never played it to an event. I even decided to completely disregard the deck for all three Standard majors of UPR–CEC by playing no counters to it. This proved bad for me in San Diego as shown by my Top 32 finish where Malamar was one of the most popular and highest performing decks. Despite all of this, I believe that it is the best play going forward at Cups and Challenges at the moment. The deck has answers to nearly everything in the format, and if played perfectly is probably the BDIF.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to play it at a Cup for the first time. I unfortunately went 4-2 and didn’t make cut. My losses were to a strange Spiritomb deck (that also contained ADP) and Blacephalon/Naganadel. Spiritomb/ADP is a worst-case scenario deck for Malamar, so no complaints there, but Blowns is one of Malamar’s best matchups. My draws were lackluster in the opening turns which led to my loss. Although my losses were out of my control, I was challenged by some of the decisions required to play the deck well. I encourage you to test the deck a lot before playing it to an event.

The List

Here’s the Malamar list I would be playing if I had an event today:

Pokémon (19)

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

4 Jirachi TEU

2 Giratina LOT

1 Garchomp & Giratina-GX

1 Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX

1 Blacephalon CEC

1 Mew UNB

1 Mimikyu CEC 97

Trainer (33)

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie

1 Cynthia & Caitlin

1 Faba


4 Mysterious Treasure

3 Acro Bike

3 Pokémon Communication

3 Switch

2 Great Catcher

1 Lana’s Fishing Rod


3 Spell Tag

2 Escape Board


2 Viridian Forest

Energy (8)

7 Psychic Energy

1 Fighting Energy


Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 19

* 4 Inkay FLI 50
* 4 Malamar FLI 51
* 4 Jirachi TEU 99
* 2 Giratina LOT 97
* 1 Garchomp & Giratina-GX UNM 146
* 1 Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX PR-SM 217
* 1 Blacephalon CEC 104
* 1 Mew UNB 76
* 1 Mimikyu CEC 97

##Trainer Cards - 33

* 1 Cynthia & Caitlin CEC 189
* 4 Lillie UPR 125
* 4 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 Faba LOT 173
* 3 Acro Bike CES 123
* 3 Switch PRC 163
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 3 Pokémon Communication TEU 152
* 2 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 1 Lana’s Fishing Rod CEC 195
* 3 Spell Tag LOT 190
* 2 Escape Board UPR 167
* 2 Viridian Forest TEU 156

##Energy - 8

* 7 Psychic Energy Energy 5
* 1 Fighting Energy Energy 6

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: ******

This list is heavily based off of the one that DDG played to San Diego to some success. I dropped 1 Acro Bike and Ditto p for Cynthia & Caitlin and 3rd Switch. Here are some more of the key cards:

Key Cards

4 Jirachi TEU

I’ve seen lists play only 3, which is why I feel it is important to include these guys in the key cards. I cannot stress how much easier games are when you start Jirachi. Everything moves much more smoothly and it helps your setup immensely. I wouldn’t go with any number lower than 4 in this deck.

1 Garchomp & Giratina-GX, 1 Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX

These are your GX attackers. Both serve as great answers to other TAG TEAM decks that try to take advantage of your sometimes slow early game. Most notably, ADP will do this by using their GX attack ASAP and getting the ball rolling from there. To combat this, you can do one of two things:

  1. Use TrevNoir’s GX attack with 3 Energies attached to discard the 2 Energies they used to use Altered Creation-GX. They only can attach once per turn due to no Energy acceleration, so you will be able to get ahead on the trade this way. In addition, if they miraculously have no switching outs, their ADP you just attacked will be Knocked Out at the end of their turn.
  2. Snipe 40 with TinaChomp’s Linear Attack to put ADP at 240 HP remaining. Then, when they use Altered Creation-GX, have Calamitous Slash ready to Knock them Out, taking 3 Prizes before they take a single one, and virtually winning the game.

4 Cynthia, 4 Lillie, 1 Cynthia & Caitlin

Most lists just play 4 Cynthia and 4 Lillie, but I wanted a little consistency boost, so I added 1 C&C. This is a personal preference, so if you want to find room for a card in this deck, you can cut the C&C.

1 Faba

I enjoy the 1 Faba as a neat tech for pesky cards like Stealthy Hood, Weakness Gard Energy, and Sky Pillar, which all cause issues for Mally in their own respective ways.

1 Lana’s Fishing Rod, 3 Spell Tag

Before Cosmic Eclipse, the deck would undoubtedly play 4 Spell Tag, but with the release of Lana’s Fishing Rod, we can cut one for a way to recover the 4th we just cut and a Pokémon.

1 Fighting Energy, 7 Psychic Energy

I still don’t know how I feel about this count as it does seem a little on the lower side. I don’t have as big of an issue with the 7 Psychic Energy for obvious reasons because you can recycle them, but the 1 Fighting could cause issues, especially when attacking with TinaChomp, which is extremely key in the ADP matchup.


Now that I’ve run through the deck, here are some of its matchups:

Mewtwo Box: 65/35 (60/40 if Tag Call Version)

This is going to be one of your easier matchups due to type advantage and Mimikyu CEC shutting off their main way of attacking.

  • Against the more aggressive version of Mewtwo, you want to attack until you win. You deal 160 to a Mewtwo with Giratina, and a single tick with Spell Tag finishes them off netting you 3 Prizes. Something they’ll try to do is attack with ReshiZard-GX as you don’t hit it for Weakness and it doesn’t have an Ability that can be stopped by Mimikyu. Since you have Great Catcher and TinaChomp as ways to deal with 270 HP, it shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
  • As for the Tag Call version, the same strategy applies, but now they can heal their attackers with Mallow & Lana and have cards like Stealthy Hood and Weakness Guard Energy to help. Faba comes in handy like I said earlier to deal with these.

It’s also worth noting that if they go first and get off the huge board wipe with Espeon & Deoxys-GX on turn 2, it will be hard to win. You can combat this by benching only 2 Inkay on your first turn going second if you are afraid of them hitting the wipe. This way, you’ll have 2 Inkay left over to help you through the game.

ADP: 60/40

I already delved into the ADP matchup quite a bit when explaining TinaChomp and TrevNoir, but that is pretty much what you have to do. If you can eliminate the ADP as a threat before they can get an Ultimate Ray for 2 Prizes off, then you’re golden.

Mirror: 50/50

This matchup is actually quite elaborate and requires quite a lot of skill to play. This list isn’t very teched out for mirror, but cards you’ll want to include to help it are another Blacephalon CEC or Lana’s Fishing Rod. The reason these cards are so important is because they allow you to avoid being at 3 Prizes, which would allow your opponent’s Blacephalon CEC to do 120 split amongst your board wherever they’d like. They also allow you to avoid popping Spell Tags which is huge. Malamar is a very simple deck at the face, but has a lot of cool game plans when you get into it.

Blacephalon/Pidgeotto: 80/20

This matchup is so unbelievably easy. Just attack until you can use Blacephalon CEC to Knock Out multiple Pidgeottos in the same turn to get ahead on the Prize trade. If you for whatever reason don’t have access to Blacephalon, then find the extra knockout with Spell Tags as they have no way to get around them. You shouldn’t lose to this matchup.

Ability Zard: 60/40

This matchup used to be quite rough as Ninetales TEU allows our opponent to hit our Malamars which are how we fuel attackers. Now, however, we have Blacephalon CEC to deal damage to the Bench. This in combination with Spell Tag ticks and Distortion Doors should be enough to Knock Out the Ninetales and begin winning trades once again.

That’s it for Malamar. As said before, it seems like a very simple deck at the face, but has so many complex strategies and methods it uses in certain matchups to win. All of its matchups should be winnable if played perfectly, so I encourage you to practice the deck a lot. Remember, one wrong Spell Tag tick or Distortion Door placement could lose you the game, so make sure you know what you’re doing with the deck.

Now, I will go into Expanded for those of you who already have their eyes set on getting the gold in Dallas in a month.

The Expanded Format, BLW–CEC
“Hi, yes, we are checking on a patient, the Expanded format.”

Fresh off of some pretty important bans, Expanded is looking like a healthy format from what I’ve tested. There are so many viable decks that you could find success with almost anything. Now, Expanded this season has not exactly been my strong suit, as for Richmond, I did quite literally no testing, walked in with Night March, didn’t know what I was doing, and got my first non-Day 2 placement in a long while. I also decided to skip Portland due to disliking Expanded and not wanting to go right before I left for Brazil. This break between majors is proving to be beneficial to me as I have more time to test Expanded, a format I’m not very familiar with.

Here are some ideas I have been messing with in order of how much I like them:

  1. Mewtwo Box
  2. ZoroGarb
  3. EggRow

I like Mewtwo Box because in a wide open format like Expanded, you have so many great tools to combat the expected meta. ZoroGarb has always been a favorite of mine. It’s consistent, strong, and has a lot of comeback potential. EggRow is more of an outlandish pick of mine. It needs the correct meta to succeed, so it would be a risky call.

To end off the article, I want to go into what I’ve been having the most success with in testing, Mewtwo Box.

Expanded Mewtwo Box

Pokémon (20)

3 Mewtwo & Mew-GX

3 Giratina LOT

2 M Gardevoir-EX STS

1 Mewtwo-EX BKT 158

1 Noivern-GX

1 Venusaur & Snivy-GX

1 Garchomp & Giratina-GX

1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX

1 Jirachi-GX

1 Absol ROS

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Dedenne-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (33)

3 Professor Juniper BLW 101

1 Giovanni’s Exile

1 Gladion

1 Guzma

1 Guzma & Hala

1 N

1 Pokémon Ranger


4 Battle Compressor

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Field Blower

1 Pokémon Communication

1 Rescue Stretcher


2 Float Stone

1 Stealthy Hood


1 Dowsing Machine


4 Dimension Valley

Energy (7)

4 Prism Energy

2 Double Colorless Energy

1 Rainbow Energy


Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 20

* 3 Mewtwo & Mew-GX UNM 71
* 3 Giratina LOT 97
* 2 M Gardevoir-EX STS 79
* 1 Mewtwo-EX BKT 158
* 1 Noivern-GX BUS 99
* 1 Venusaur & Snivy-GX CEC 1
* 1 Garchomp & Giratina-GX UNM 146
* 1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX CEC 165
* 1 Jirachi-GX UNM 79
* 1 Absol ROS 40
* 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 106
* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

##Trainer Cards - 33

* 1 Gladion CIN 95
* 1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 4 Dimension Valley PHF 93
* 3 Professor Juniper BLW 101
* 1 N PR-BLW 100
* 4 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
* 2 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Guzma BUS 115
* 4 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 1 Stealthy Hood UNB 186
* 1 Guzma & Hala CEC 193
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 1 Pokémon Ranger STS 104
* 2 Float Stone BKT 137
* 1 Pokémon Communication TEU 152
* 1 Dowsing Machine PLS 128
* 1 Giovanni’s Exile UNB 174

##Energy - 7

* 2 Double Colorless Energy SLG 69
* 4 Prism Energy NXD 93
* 1 Rainbow Energy CES 151

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: ******

Key Cards

1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX

In combination with Double Colorless Energy and Dimension Valley, MewMew-GX can copy Jumping Balloon and Knock Out some of the largest HP attackers in Expanded for a low cost. This card is here to keep your opponent in check in regard to over-benching and to take big swing knockouts.

1 Absol ROS

Absol can create some great combos with Giratina. If you were to use all 3 Distortion Doors in one turn and Absol to move 30 of the damage, you have essentially created a knockout on a 60-HP Pokémon, like Zorua or Trubbish for example. It also allows you to hit good numbers on big attackers to set up knockouts. Lastly, it allows you to move damage to anything you would like to Calamitous Slash.

1 Garchomp & Giratina-GX

You need TinaChomp as a way to deal a lot of damage when your opponent doesn’t have a lot of GXs in play to the point where you’d use LoPuff. You also have access to GG End-GX, but that hardly gets used.

1 Venusaur & Snivy-GX

This card is interchangeable with Alolan Marowak-GX and Necrozma-GX. I currently have SnivySaur because it allows me to board-wipe in the ZoroGarb matchup in combination with Distortion Door from Giratina. Similarly, Marowak does this but only to 2 Pokémon, but for the cost of nothing at all. Necrozma has a similar attack, but it’s more targeted toward low-HP GXs and EXs like Shaymin. I may put Necrozma back in the list as it helps me cover more bases when it comes to decks I can board-wipe.

1 Noivern-GX

I don’t think I have to explain how good Item lock for 50 damage and 1 Energy is, but the most use you’ll be getting out of this guy is from its second attack, Sonic Volume. In the Ultra Necrozma matchup, you just use Sonic Volume and they must use Pokémon Ranger as their Supporter every turn in order to attack since their only Energies are Double Dragon Energies.

3 Giratina LOT, 2 M Gardevoir-EX STS

These cards work in combination as you can use Distortion Door multiple times in a game because you discard them from your field with Despair Ray.

1 Jirachi-GX

This is mainly for Garbodor GRI as it can cause problems for this deck. Stealthy Hood-ing the Jirachi-GX means that Garbotoxin won’t shut off its Ability, thus giving Mewtwo no Weakness through Garbotoxin.

1 Mewtwo-EX BKT 158

This is something I’ve been very fond of in the deck as it essentially cancels one of your opponent’s turns if their Active has no damage on it. You can just move whatever damage they just did to your Mewtwo off of it. This allows for cool plays like using Guzma to move the damage onto a Benched Shaymin or Dedenne to Knock them Out.

1 Gladion

You have a lot of 1-of cards in this deck. It would be foolish not to play this card to retrieve them when prized.

1 Guzma & Hala

This card allows you to essentially search for an attack because it finds you Dimension Valley, an Energy card, and a Float Stone should you need it. I almost want a 2nd copy just to make sure I have it when I need it.

1 Giovanni’s Exile

This is here mainly to use multiple Distortion Doors in one turn should you need to set up or take an important knockout. It can also be used to remove Shaymins and Dedennes from you Bench if you aren’t using Despair Ray on that turn.


That’s it for now guys. I hope I was able to help you with whatever you are next preparing for whether it be Cups and Challenges or Dallas in a little less than a month. As always, if you have any questions let me know, and if you see me at an event make sure to say “hi.” Cya in Dallas!

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Reader Interactions

2 replies

  1. Dylan Lochte Peacock

    Ultra Necrozma and EggRow are overhyped and have been terrible in testing for me. EggRow due to matchups and Ultra Necrozma due to the fact it autoloses to control and is too linear to beat a lot of decks. What do you think?

    • Jon Eng  → Dylan

      I can’t confidently speak for Ultra Necro as I haven’t tested it much, but from an outsider view it does seem pretty mediocre and linear as a deck. It also seems pretty naturally inconsistent. You got Eggrow spot on, it is neither underwhelming or overwhelming, it just beats what it should and loses to what it should.

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