Hello, everyone! This is Dalen, bringing you guys another article. With Georgia Regionals coming up soon after the holidays, many players are scrambling to choose their decks and tweak their lists for the big Championship event. Today, I’m going to talk about my top three choices for this tournament based on how the Standard format has played out so far this season. Before we dive right into the meat of the article, I want to take a brief moment to detail how Standard has evolved to the form it’s in now and how I predict it effects Georgia Regionals. We will look at all of the popular decks in Standard, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, I will give you a mini recap of my recent Top 4 finish at Dallas Regionals.
Just a few weekends ago, the first International Championship was hosted in London, drawing players from all across the globe. Many North American players crossed the ocean to participate in this monumental event, and one of these players made a deep run into the event with an unexpected deck that shocked the entire Pokemon community. Alex Hill finished ninth overall with his Vespiquen / Zebstrika / Garbodor deck. Before London, the most hyped deck was, by far, Yveltal-EX / Garbodor, a deck that dominated Fort Wayne Regionals only a couple of weekends prior. Many decks were built with the purpose of beating Yveltal, such as Raikou / Electrode and M Gardevoir-EX, but none of these decks panned out to be what the players had expected them to be, leaving Yveltal still the undisputed “best deck in format.”
The other big deck going into London was Greninja BREAK, featuring an extremely powerful, bulky Pokemon that isn’t even a Pokemon-EX. When Greninja decks would overcome their slow and often terrible starts to achieve a respectable board, almost nothing could stop the frogs from winning the game. Alex’s deck was specifically designed to beat these two decks, as well as a few other less popular decks like M Rayquaza-EX. After finishing ninth, Alex’s deck’s true potential was shown to the world, putting yet another deck into the already diverse metagame.
The other major impact London had on the Standard metagame was that it further established the absolute dominance of Yveltal, as it had five of the Top 8 slots and all of the Top 4. If Yveltal’s strength wasn’t obvious enough before London, it is clear now. Ryan Moorehouse recently wrote an article all about London Internationals, so be sure to check it out here.
The Standard Metagame
We just went over that Yveltal-EX is currently the deck to beat right now, with Greninja as the runner-up; Vespiquen / Zebstrika also showed its potential, but that doesn’t mean that those are the only good decks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – Standard has a multitude of decks that are all in the same competitive scene. Let’s have a look at the most popular decks in the Standard format.
Yveltal / Garbodor
There are no decks that can autowin the Yveltal matchup, mainly since the deck is loaded with such great cards, allowing it to wiggle out of many situations. Without any type of Tool removal in Standard other than the attacks of Beedrill-EX and Minccino, Garbodor‘s Garbotoxin Ability will almost always be active, shutting down both players’ Abilities. It affects this deck minimally since the only meaningful Ability Yveltal decks use (other than Garbotoxin itself, of course) is Yveltal’s Fright Night and Shaymin-EX‘s Set Up. However, by the time Garbodor hits the field, Shaymin-EX is rarely ever needed anymore, and giving up Fright Night to shut off all of your opponent’s Abilities is an excellent trade-off.
One aspect of Yveltal that attracts many players is the required skill level needed to run it effectively; while Yveltal may seem like a straightforward deck to pilot, it actually requires a ton of skill. Knowing when and where to place Energy is monumental in this deck since Energy is the key to Knock Outs. Also, knowing where to place damage with Fright Night Yveltal is pivotal. Yveltal players must also know when to use Fright Night and when to use Yveltal-EX. This is the deck to play for competitors that feel they can win matches based on skill alone.
The setup-based deck of the format, Greninja BREAK, typically has a slow early game and a powerful late game. Greninja BREAK and its prior Evolution, Greninja, both pack major wallops of attacks and Abilities. Unfortunately, getting these Evolutions out consistently is often troublesome for the deck. Frogadier has an amazing attack, Water Duplicates, that allows you to search out all of your Frogadier in the deck and place them immediately onto your Bench, skipping Froakie altogether. Then, you can Evolve the Frogadier into Greninja, and Greninja into Greninja BREAK. One issue with Greninja, though, is that multiple Evolutions like this take many turns to finish, and time is a pressing factor in most matchups. Taking too long to set up can put Greninja in an inescapable hole throughout the game. Additionally, Greninja is prone to drawing dead hands with barely any playable cards at all which, combined with the naturally low HP of Froakie and Frogadier, can lead to the conclusion of the game in two (or even one) turn(s).
With that said, Greninja decks win almost every game if they set up well and quickly. Many decks rely solely on Greninja’s inherent inconsistency as a win factor in the matchup, and other decks win by taking early Prizes and then significantly hindering Greninja late game with multiple Hex Maniac.
M Gardevoir-EX, reminiscent of M Rayquaza-EX, is one of the most, if not the most, consistent deck in the format; it’s also one of my favorite decks in the format. It uses an extremely thick count of both Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX. After being discarded off of your Bench, these cards can be used over and over through the use of Super Rod and Dragonite-EX, giving you much more mileage than usual out of the powerful Pokemon-EX. To make the recycling even better, Mega Gardevoir has a built-in discard engine in its attack, Despair Ray. In fact, that’s the whole point of the deck! Ideally, you can take a quick first turn or two to set up your Mega Gardevoir and Knock Out one of your opponent’s Pokemon by discarding some of your Bench sitters. To replenish your damage output back up to OHKO range, you need to replenish your Bench, which is where Dragonite and Super Rod come into play. More than just adding damage and reusing the effects of benched Pokemon, discarding your excess Pokemon has a major benefit – you no longer have big Lysandre targets for your opponent to use as a stall mechanic.
As you may expect, Sky Field engines are common in Mega Gardevoir lists to further increase the damage able to be dealt with Despair Ray. Parallel City is seldomly used too, sometimes in conjunction with Sky Field.
Another pet deck of mine, Volcanion-EX, is the fast and furious deck of the format. A polar opposite of Greninja decks, Volcanion is capable of terrorizing its opponent’s Pokemon before they can muster a defense, but Volcanion only gets stronger as the game goes on. The primary attack Volcanion decks use in the first couple of turns is baby Volcanion’s Power Heater. This slams two more Energy onto your board from the discard. Handily fueling the discard pile with Fire Energy, Volcanion-EX also serves as a power-up support Pokemon, increasing any of your Basic Fire-types’ attacks by 30 per Fire Energy in the discard (although one Volcanion-EX can only discard one Fire Energy per turn). Once Volcanion has taken a handful of early Knock Outs and softening hits, it can pivot into Volcanion-EX to clean up the game with its whopping 130 damage Volcanic Heat attack. To make the Energy acceleration even better, Volcanion decks take advantage of their high Energy count with Max Elixir; baby Volcanion and Max Elixir together can easily lead to six or seven Energy on the field by your second or third turn.
Another great benefit of playing Volcanion is that you can completely out-speed and out-power any deck you come across, and many times, your opponent isn’t able to surmount such an incredible opening. If you’re interested in an in-depth look at Volcanion, its tech choices, and its matchups, check out one of my previous articles here.
Similar to Volcanion, the Xerneas-driven Rainbow Road deck is quick and aggressive, but plays a variety of types of Pokemon to increase Xerneas’s damage. Xerneas is capable of outputting more damage than Volcanion, starting even earlier in the game. However, its fatal flaw is its reliance on Sky Field. Parallel City is found in decent counts in almost every deck in the format, a card that hurts Rainbow Road critically. For Rainbow Road to appropriately recover, it must find both a recovery card like Super Rod and another Sky Field. This can be difficult to do late game. Also, Garbodor‘s Garbotoxin shuts off Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX from being used after they’re recycled, and Enhanced Hammer can remove Double Colorless Energy from other Xerneas. Coupling these annoyances with the ever-so-common late game N, Rainbow Road often has few ways to recover from disruptive scenarios.
Now, I’ve just listed quite a few negatives about Rainbow Road, yet here it is in the brief list of top decks of the format. For it to be there, it must have earned its spot somehow, right? These downfalls it suffers from makes it seem like nothing more than a fun deck to play at League, but this is not the case. While it does experience tough times in many late game positions, it has explosive openings, and like Volcanion, can often out-speed and out-power any foe to achieve a quick victory. After all, if the game is over before the opponent has a chance to fully make use of Parallel City, Garbodor and Enhanced Hammer, the outcome can be managed.
Vespiquen rose to its prominence in Standard after Alex Hill’s London run. On its own, Vespiquen is an incredible card. It can hit for a decent amount during the early course of the game, only gets stronger as the game progresses, and even has a draw attack if things go awry. A few things do hold Vespiquen back from total dominance, though. Vespiquen’s main issue is that it can’t discard enough Pokemon in the first couple of turns to apply any meaningful pressure against the opponent. Losing Battle Compressor to the annual set rotation took away Vespiquen’s main method of doing this, so now it has to rely on less powerful discard avenues like Unown and Klefki.
These hindrances aside, Vespiquen is still a great card in this metagame. Under the right circumstances, no deck can match Vespiquen’s power of being a non-EX. Vespiquen decks also have flexibility in their lists since any Pokemon can fuel Bee Revenge. This means that a good Vespiquen list for one tournament may not be optimal for another, as it all depends on the metagame. The most common partners for Vespiquen now are Garbodor and Zebstrika , although Zoroark is occasionally paired with Vespiquen too.
Top Plays for Standard
Now that we’ve gone over a selection of the top decks in the format, I’ll give you my personal top three picks for upcoming Standard events. In no particular order, here are my selections:
It should be no surprise that Yveltal is on my list of decks to play. Time and time again during this season it has proven just how great of a deck it is, and it has no matchups that can’t be won. Here is the list I have been testing.
There is nothing special about my list. It’s similar to many of the lists that have performed well this season, but I opted for consistency and high counts of critical cards. The only tech inclusions I made for my list were all Supporters, specifically Team Flare Grunt, Olympia and Pokémon Center Lady. Team Flare Grunt is a strong card in any matchup, especially when coupled with Enhanced Hammer to discard two Energy cards in a single turn. Pokémon Center Lady is mainly included for the mirror match, being able to heal damage done by Pitch-Black Spear to throw off Evil Ball math. Although, Pokemon Center Lady can also serve niche purposes in other matchups, such as to heal paralysis caused by Froakie. Olympia can function in the same fashion as Pokemon Center Lady to heal your Pokemon, but her main use is to switch out Yveltal that have Fighting Fury Belt attached or Garbodor that don’t have Float Stone. Yveltal’s Retreat Cost is a moderately hefty two, so being able to switch without discarding two Energy can be game-changing.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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