Hey everyone! I’m back with another article about how ADPZ is the best deck in the format and there is no reason to play anything else for your tournaments for the foreseeable future. Just kidding… kind of. I am strongly considering running it back with ADPZ for the next phase of the Players Cup II, and I will spend a few paragraphs at the beginning of this article talking about my current thoughts on that deck. But, for the bulk of the article, I’ll move on to a much more innovative and interesting sleeper pick I’ve been working on: Welder Toolbox with Aurora Energy. I provide my list, notes on the deckbuilding and testing process, some matchup advice, and possible card changes for your own testing, so if you’re interested in picking up an under-the-radar rogue for the Players Cup II or your other online events, keep reading.
Qualifiers Recap, Notes on ADPZ Moving Forward
Last time I wrote, I mentioned I was on pace for a 116-Tournament Rep finish in the Players Cup II qualifiers; I ended up just short of that, with my 111 Rep placing me 49th in North America. Below is a graphic by my teammate Dustin Zimmerman breaking down my run in more detail. You’ll notice that my average Rep earned per event jumped up considerably after I switched from Eternatus VMAX to ADPZ about a quarter of the way into my keys, and this is consistent with my statement in my previous article that ADPZ was simply the best deck for these events. It is consistent and has very few, if any, truly awful matchups.
I also continue to believe that the Crushing Hammer build I profiled in that article is the best way to play ADPZ. I very rarely felt like the Hammers were dead cards during the qualifiers, and they won me so many games that I do not think I could have won with a Pokémon Catcher build or Turbo Patch build, especially against Eternatus VMAX and the mirror.
For my last few qualifier events, I replaced the Duraludon RCL in my list with a Vitality Band. This was because Decidueye DAA/Galarian Obstagoon SSH and Altaria CPA were not nearly as prevalent as I’d thought they would be, but Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks and Green’s Exploration-focused TAG TEAM decks were seeing an increase in play, so it was useful to be able to 1-shot a 270-HP Pokémon with Zacian V. However, for Phase 2, I would likely return to playing Duraludon rather than Vitality Band. Over the past few weeks, we have seen Altaria decks slowly creeping into the metagame and often advancing into top cut in online events. (Check out Em Taylor’s Altaria/Swanna list for my personal favorite example.) It seems like a lot of players, recognizing the strength of previous cards like Hoopa SLG, are attempting to create a “broken” Altaria list, and I would not feel comfortable entering Phase 2 with a deck that does not have some kind of answer for Altaria (and, transitively, DeciGoon). The Mew3 and Green’s decks are certainly not auto-losses without Vitality Band; in fact, you can actually use Duraludon as a chip attacker to set up 2HKOs.
At this point, I am something like 70% sure I’ll be playing ADPZ/Hammers again for Phase 2. In my view, if Pokémon provides us with an imbalanced card, it’s usually a smart call to leverage that imbalanced card in your deck. However, since ADPZ is the deck with the biggest target on its back for Phase 2 (and really, for any tournament it’s legal for), there is always the chance a large number of players will choose to bring decks with favorable ADPZ matchups, and the metagame will be polarized against it. While ADPZ has the power to win even unfavorable matchups with relative ease, I still thought it would be wise to test a deck that could counter ADPZ’s counters, just to have a backup plan in case ADPZ starts showing severe red flags during the next several days. Thus: WelderBox.
This archetype has existed at the fringe of the metagame for a couple of months now, basically since the release of Rhyperior V and Milotic V allowed Welder decks to easily integrate attackers that could hit various meta-relevant Weaknesses. I first became aware of its potential strength in a Hegster tournament, in which I played ADPZ and lost an early round to a WelderBox player who I thought ran extremely hot. After thinking about it further, I realized that the deck could actually be much stronger and more consistent than I thought—maybe it could actually “run hot” in almost every game. Also, the inclusion of Rhyperior V and Milotic V gives the deck type advantage over three of the biggest non-ADPZ decks in the current metagame: Eternatus VMAX, Centiskorch VMAX, and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. In a meta where many matchups are fast, luck-based, and often depend on type advantage, the ability to control for at least one of those variables appealed to me.
I copied down the list from the Hegster event (unfortunately the player’s username eludes me), but was unsatisfied with many of its card choices and counts, which I found clunky. Ultimately, after some discussion with my teammate Frank Percic, I changed probably around 15 cards from that original list. Here is where it currently stands:
2 Crobat V
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 14
* 2 Crobat V DAA 182
* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 2 Rhyperior V DAA 181
* 2 Volcanion UNB 25
* 1 Dubwool V RCL 188
* 1 Eldegoss V RCL 19
* 1 Giratina UNM 86
* 1 Heatran-GX UNM 25
* 1 Marshadow UNB 81
* 1 Milotic V RCL 43
##Trainer Cards - 32
* 2 Cape of Toughness DAA 160
* 4 Pokégear 3.0 SSH 174
* 4 Giant Hearth UNM 197
* 3 Boss’s Orders RCL 154
* 4 Welder UNB 189
* 2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 1 Fire Crystal UNB 173
* 2 Professor’s Research SSH 178
* 4 Switch SSH 183
##Energy - 14
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=82804 ******
As any veteran of this game can tell you, deckbuilding is an exercise in trade-offs. An increase in flexibility is generally correlated with a decrease in consistency. In any “toolbox” deck, your consistency is decreased almost by definition, because you’ve included several cards in your list that will have very limited uses outside of the matchups they are intended for. For example, in WelderBox, Milotic V is a fairly dead card against Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, while Rhyperior V is a fairly dead card against Centiskorch VMAX. And my inclusion of Marshadow UNB is a trade-off between having an out to Chaotic Swell and Power Plant and having another relatively poor starter that is often a dead card against decks that don’t run Swell or Plant.
Even one of the cards most fundamental to this archetype’s strategy, Aurora Energy, represents a trade-off of a sort. Although it gives you access to non-Fire-type attackers in what is otherwise a “Fire deck,” Aurora Energy comes at the cost of consistency. You are lowering your count of R Energy, which means you have fewer possible hands containing a Welder and two R Energy. And there are no efficient Special Energy recovery cards in Standard right now: once an Aurora Energy hits the discard pile, it is gone for good. Thus, resource management is a very important part of this deck, more so than in other Welder decks. The possibility of adding a second Fire Crystal has frequently popped up in my testing notes, since the margin of error with your Energy usage is often so thin.
Despite the possible losses in consistency over something like ADPZ, this list has held up extremely well in testing. I went 8-1 in ladder games in my first testing session and rushed to the UNDNTD group chat to report that I had broken the format wiiiiide open. I was brought back down to earth by some clunky draws in my next round of games, but overall, the deck has been successful at winning the matchups it should, providing some degree of counterplay in ones it shouldn’t, and generally delivering me the cards I need at the times I need them.
A couple of other notes on the list:
- As you know if you read my last article, I love my switching cards. (My ADPZ list there also played 4 Switch and 2 Air Balloon.) The freedom of always having a pivot when you need it, or being able to comfortably discard a Switch early on, cannot be overstated. I would not change these counts.
- Giratina UNM is one of my favorite cards in the list. It catches opponents by surprise and is a great way to punish sloppy play, even in open-decklist events. Speed L Energy, Hiding D Energy, Capture Energy, Weakness Guard Energy, Horror P Energy, and Aurora Energy all see play in meta decks, and discarding just one of them during a game can often prove quite disruptive. Giratina has obvious synergy with Rhyperior V’s Drill Run attack; this combo can wipe two Energy off the board in one turn.
- Marshadow UNB was a late add to this list but it has pulled its weight admirably. Chaotic Swell has long been a problematic card for decks that rely on Giant Hearth; Marshadow is a Quick Ball-searchable solution. It also gives you counterplay to the recent rise in Power Plant in the meta, mostly in Green’s Exploration decks and some Eternatus VMAX lists. Other uses for Marshadow include getting rid of occasional Prism Star Stadiums and bumping Giant Hearth (your own or your opponent’s) against other Welder decks to hurt their consistency, especially before a Reset Stamp.
- Speaking of Reset Stamp, the 2 copies are very good in this deck. I usually feel that if I am playing Stamp in a deck, I need to play 2 copies to ensure I get value over the course of a tournament, as if you play just one you will often be unable to find it when you need it, or will have to discard your only copy early on. Because this deck is not just a 1HKO deck, and does have some disruptive potential with Giratina and Drill Run (or even Milotic V’s Hypno Splash if you are desperate), Reset Stamp works well to make that disruption harder to recover from in the late game.
If you go second, you can play this matchup similarly to how Turbo Reshiram & Charizard-GX decks would play against ADP decks in previous formats. You’ll likely recall that the old game plan for this matchup was to play Welder on the first two turns of the game in order to 1HKO ADP with Double Blaze-GX or Hot Burn-GX, before the ADP player was able to use Ultimate Ray. With WelderBox, you have the ability to use Volcanion to accelerate 3 Energy into play on your first turn going second; you can then follow up with a Welder to have as many as 7 Energy in play on turn two. This is enough to 1HKO ADP even if they have attached a Big Charm, and from that point, it is usually fairly easy to collect your last 3 Prizes, especially since you can 1HKO Zacian V and Mawile-GX with Volcanion.
The matchup is more difficult if you go first, because you cannot use Volcanion or Welder to set up and ADPZ will have the opportunity to go for the turn one Altered Creation-GX. In these games, you can take a slower approach by using Drill Run to discard the W Energy from the opposing ADP, hopefully preventing your opponent from finding a KO on their next turn and allowing you to finish off the ADP with Heavy Rock Artillery. Then, it’s again fairly easy to find your last 3 Prizes.
The secret to beating Eternatus has always been getting rid of their Energy, and WelderBox is well-equipped to do that. The combination of Rhyperior V hitting for Weakness and Giratina discarding Capture Energy or Hiding D Energy makes this matchup very favorable.
This matchup is generally pretty simple, as you can typically take multiple KOs with Milotic V (especially if you attach a Cape of Toughness to it for added survivability). Watch out, though, for opponents’ use of Radiating Heat to discard your Aurora Energy. Some Centiskorch lists even run their own Giratina, and can use it to discard your Aurora Energy and then knock off a basic R Energy with Radiating Heat, setting you back even further. If you manage your resources appropriately, however, the matchup is not difficult. In an open-decklists tournament, note whether your opponent runs Wondrous Labyrinth p, so you know whether you might need to save Marshadow.
Another very favorable matchup, again because of Weakness. You can frequently win by simply taking back-to-back KOs on TAG TEAMs; just make sure you conserve your switching cards to reset Heavy Rock Artillery’s effect and evade Tandem Shock.
One of your worst matchups. My strategy has been to set up Dubwool V with a Cape of Toughness (effectively giving it 290 HP) and stream KOs with it as early as possible, using both of my Reset Stamps early to try to prevent the opponent from quickly responding with a KO on the Dubwool V. However, the Blacephalon player has plenty of time to get even with you on Prizes and you have no attackers that can trade comfortably with them (your single-Prize attacker, Volcanion, cannot 1HKO a Blacephalon). It is also difficult to take the approach of gusting Benched support Pokémon because this prevents a turn of Welder usage to set up more attackers. A copy of Tapu Fini UNM would likely be needed to make this matchup favorable or even 50-50.
The problem with this matchup is that you don’t have anything to hit Psychic Weakness, so your only 1HKO threat on a Mew3 is Hot Burn-GX. If Heatran-GX dies immediately after that, it can be hard to find your last 3 Prizes. Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX is one tech I’ve considered to help shore up this matchup (see the “Card Considerations” section below). However, discarding Horror P Energy with Giratina can sometimes be useful. You can even follow that with a Drill Run to knock off a basic Energy, and by using Marshadow to bump any Giant Hearth in play, you can make it less likely that the opponent will follow up with a Welder combo on the ensuing turn.
Assuming LucMetal decks are still running Weakness Guard Energy (some are cutting them), you can use Giratina to remove one at a crucial point and then easily take a KO with Heatran-GX and Volcanion. You can usually take your remaining Prizes even if more Weakness Guard Energy come into play. Be careful using Rhyperior V because it can easily be stalled Active after a Full Metal Wall-GX due to its 4 Retreat Cost.
Altaria and DeciGoon
Altaria does not trade well with Volcanion. Many Altaria lists are playing Swanna DAA, which can 1HKO Volcanion, but you should be able to deal with the Swanna easily in response and you will often be able to pick Ducklett DAA off the Bench before they can even evolve. Against DeciGoon, Energy denial is your friend. Giratina can remove Weakness Guard Energy from a Decidueye so you can 1HKO it with Volcanion, and Rhyperior V can remove Energy from Galarian Obstagoon, possibly preventing a turn of Obstruct usage (Big Parasol could be used to negate this, though, so the strategy is not airtight). Reshiram & Charizard-GX and Cramorant V are two techs that could make both of these matchups more favorable (see “Card Considerations” below).
My teammate Brit Pybas was testing this card in the list and found it to be quite good. The ability to deal 200 damage on the first turn of the game is strong, and can immediately punish an opponent for something like a Dedenne-GX or Crobat V start. Double Blaze-GX also improves your matchups against DeciGoon and Altaria. Lastly, Flare Strike is a solid all-around attack that can 1HKO a Zacian V (and ReshiZard’s 270 HP means a Zacian cannot 1HKO it in response).
Brit also experimented with this, claiming it was very strong in the PikaRom and Mew3 matchups. I think it is somewhat redundant for the PikaRom matchup because of Rhyperior V, but an increase of Mew3 in the meta would give you a better reason to play this card. (See my discussion of the Mew3 matchup above.)
One other change Brit tested was replacing my 2 Cape of Toughness with 2 Cherish Ball. While the Capes definitely do pull their weight in certain scenarios, they can be gimmicky, and the Cherish Balls add consistency to the deck, giving you additional outs to Dedenne-GX for draw at all stages of the game, and to Heatran-GX when you need an early vanilla attacker or a big Hot Burn-GX. If you play the ReshiZard, the argument for Cherish Ball becomes even stronger.
The decision to include or exclude Cherish Ball circles back to my earlier discussion of flexibility versus consistency. How much value are the defensive Tool cards adding (in actual games, not just in theory), and how much value are the Cherish Ball adding? For Brit and myself, our sample size of games tested with Cherish Ball is not yet large enough to tell if the consistency boost is worth losing the potential benefits of Cape of Toughness. This is perhaps the most important decision we have left to make about this list, and if we can’t reconcile it in the next few days, it will likely be the reason we don’t settle on WelderBox for Phase 2. But we will be testing it heavily in the time we have left.
A common flaw of Welder decks is that they often cannot accelerate Energy and gust in the same turn (since they cannot play both Welder and Boss’s Orders in the same turn). Old ReshiZard lists used Ninetales TEU to solve this problem to great effect, but Aurora Energy WelderBox cannot accommodate a 2-2 Ninetales line and still remain consistent. Two other ways to solve the problem would be (1) running a copy of Great Catcher to allow you to simultaneously gust and play a Welder (or Professor’s Research) and (2) running a Cramorant V to avoid gusting altogether and simply snipe a target off the Bench with Spit Shot.
The disadvantages of Great Catcher are that it is impossible to find a single copy easily, and if you are forced to discard it early, you do not have access to it later. (Boss’s Orders, by contrast, can be found with Pokégear 3.0 and can be recovered from the discard pile with Eldegoss V.)
Cramorant V does require an investment of Energy and a Supporter to set up, but it can be searched with Quick Ball, and can be Benched for later use if you need to discard your hand. Great Catcher is a dead card versus Eternatus VMAX, which rarely plays any Pokémon-GX, while Cramorant V can still have some utility in that matchup. Lastly, Cramorant V is actually an effective attacker against Dragapult VMAX, a deck that has been creeping back into the metagame recently and could be secretly quite strong for Phase 2. Crucially, Dragapult VMAX has always lacked a way to 1HKO Cramorant V, meaning that if you can chain Welder for two turns, you can efficiently 2HKO a Dragapult VMAX and win the Prize trade. For all of these reasons, I would be much more likely to add a Cramorant V into my list than a Great Catcher.
I will continue to heavily test WelderBox in the next few days, and have even convinced my buddy Jesper Eriksen into testing it on PTCGO ladder and taking some matchup notes. Last time Jesper and I collaborated on a list, he got Top 16 at a Regional with it, so hopefully our success continues in the Players Cup II. I am excited to compete, and I really hope I can make myself comfortable enough with my rogue deck to choose it over ADPZ/Hammers. ADPZ is just so, so good though… but we’ll see what happens.
If you have questions about anything in this article or want to pick my brain for more advice, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @twhitesell42 (also follow my team, @UNDNTD). On the date this article is published, I’ll probably be playing in a Hegster tournament with WelderBox, so look for me on stream there—and hopefully, this coming weekend, on stream in the Players Cup II.
Good luck with your own testing and tournaments. Although I’m never one to back down from complaining about bad formats, I actually believe the current Standard format (TEU–CPA) is underrated in terms of deck creativity and skill, and I think there is a fair amount of innovation left to be uncovered.
Until next time!
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