Underloved — A Tale of Three Pokemon-GX

Hey PokeBeach readers! I am so excited to be back writing again. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write because school has been crazy for me. Heaps of music projects have come in and I’ve been playing with a number of area orchestras. Add that to the fact that I’ve been preparing for more auditions to get into more orchestras. I’m delighted to say that things are going well professionally, but that I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from music this summer and instead focusing on Pokemon! This summer will provide a much needed (and earned) break from my hectic school schedule. I wasn’t able to attend the National tournament last year because I spent my summer in Colorado studying and playing music. This year, I’ve decided to forgo attending a music festival in favor of traveling, visiting family, hanging with friends, and of course, Pokemon.

I have had the opportunity to play in a number of League Cups this season. I took a win in one of them with Vespiquen and have been unusually experimental at the others I’ve attended. I don’t think I played the same deck for any two League Cups this year. On the one hand, this has been good to keep me mentally on top of the many different decks in our format while building a good understanding of how different decks work against each other. On the other hand, I don’t feel as polished as I normally do with a deck — the exception being Vespiquen which I won with. Though I’ve been on the wrong side of variance in my League Cups, I’ve been able to keep my finger on the pulse of the metagame and, like many others, have closely followed the trends. The sheer amount of viable options in this format is a thing of beauty and I want to take this article to explore some lesser played Pokemon-GX cards that have a niche in our format. We could discuss yet another version of M Rayquaza-EX or how my version of Yveltal / Garbodor is better because I included one Mewtwo, but I spend a lot of time tinkering with decks on PTCGO and would like to show you the best rogue lists I have come up with that utilize some under appreciated GX cards. Whether you’re a new player with limited access to cards, a veteran player looking for something different, or somebody who just wants some lols at a League Challenge, I think this article will have something for you. But first, let’s take a deeper look at the Expanded format.

The Expanded Metagame — What Happened?

I find it both useful and intriguing to look back on the evolution of a metagame over multiple tournaments, especially the Expanded metagame which doesn’t see regular play in most areas. I’ve had one League Cup this year that was Expanded so it is extremely important for me to follow the trends that are established at Expanded Regionals in order to be prepared for the next tournament in that format.

One of the most interesting trends that emerged from St. Louis to Portland Regionals was the shift of the metagame from extreme diversity to distinct similarity. St. Louis’ Top 8 consisted of eight entirely different decks. Everyone analyzed this information as proof of a healthy format. Looking at Portland’s results, can we say the same? With six Dark variants in the Top 8, the metagame certainly narrowed in scope. While Sableye / Garbodor is the outlier amongst the Top 8 decks that revolved around Darkness Pokemon, Maxie’s Yveltal and Turbo Darkrai variants that made the Top 8 are two sides of the same coin — heavy hitting decks that rely on Energy acceleration via Items to punish opponents. So, more than half of the Top 8 consisted of the similar Dark decks with Primal Groudon-EX and Night March splashed in.

It is important to point out the continued viability of Yveltal-EX / Archeops. The deck won’t die. It had a solid showing in St. Louis and then dominated Portland by taking three of the top four slots. Even when new sets are released and new archetypes are created, Yveltal / Archeops stands out with its unique blend of power and control. The deck has options. Israel Sosa opted in favor of heavy disruption and his list included cards like Silent Lab and Delinquent. Silent Lab can can put heavy pressure on an opponent through Ability-lock at the beginning of the game while Delinquent really shines at the end of a game when the opponent has few remaining resources. Combined with a variety of attackers for every situation, it makes so much sense why the deck performs well in tournament after tournament. As my good friend Andrew Wamboldt put it, “I never play Yveltal and sit across from my opponent thinking that I can’t win the game.” The deck is just good. It was good, it is good, and there is no reason why it won’t remain good.

Looking at just the Top 8, while important, does not tell the whole story of what was played at a tournament. Of course, Top 32 doesn’t provide the full story either, but it does give us quadruple the amount of information. By expanding our scope, we can get a clearer picture of what people were playing throughout the swiss rounds and what decks needed to have good matchups against to make it to Top 8. In Portland, an absurd amount of people played Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX. While a perfectly fine choice for this event, I was struck at how many did well. Exactly one quarter of the Top 32 field was Darkrai / Giratina. This means that if you had made it into Top 32 and weren’t playing Darkrai / Giratina, you could expect to play against it once about 40% of the time. That is a high matchup percentage and the decks that did well were either able to dodge Darkrai-EX / Giratina (likely Night March) or have a good matchup against it (Primal Groudon and Turbo Darkrai-EX). What made Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX a good choice for the event? It is hard to say for sure, but being able to handle Night March, Vespiquen, and M Rayquaza-EX while having a decent matchup against Maxie’s Yveltal would certainly be reasons for people to consider it.

Lack of Mega Ray and the Rise of Groudon

The lack of M Rayquaza-EX is interesting as well. Just a few weeks prior to Portland, Mega Rayquaza had steamrolled through St. Louis Regionals, breezing its way to a first place finish. However, in Portland, Mega Ray had a number of counters, primary of which was Primal Groudon-EX / Wobbuffet. Wobbuffet nueters Rayquaza by itself before Primal Groudon swings three times for the win. Groudon / Wobbuffet took five finishes in Top 32, a remarkable amount of finishes considering it had zero Top 32 placements in St. Louis. The lack of Lurantis-GX, a popular “rogue” option in St. Louis, but otherwise absent in Portland, certainly helped Groudon thrive as well as the heavy amounts of Darkrai-EX decks.

Once in cut though, Groudon wilted. Travis Nunlist took Groudon to the Top 8, but couldn’t advance. Why? Groudon has about a 50 / 50 matchup against the most popular deck in Portland, Yveltal. However, Groudon is an inherently slow deck and relies on N in the late game to deprive opponents of resources while mowing down their attackers with Primal Groudon. Many decks are able to thin their decks enough to mitigate the threat of N. When an Yveltal player has access to three Battle Compressor, they can greatly improve the odds that they see favorable cards at the end of the match. By getting rid of that Xerosic, Silent Lab, or sub-par attacker early you can ensure you up your chances of seeing a VS Seeker, Energy, or other useful card later. Variance (50 / 50 matchups not going the right way) and soft counters like Delinquent and Archeops likely led to Groudon not advancing further in the tournament, but it was still a great showing from a deck that saw little play the Regionals prior.

What Happened to Decidueye / Vileplume in Portland?

Decidueye-GX / Vileplume likely had the largest target on its back coming into the weekend. John Kettler‘s brain child was generating an amount of hate that I’ve not seen in recent memory in the Pokemon TCG after thoroughly dominating the field at the International tournament in Australia. Players were (and are) crafting counter decks specifically designed to handle Vileplume’s disruptive powers, or slapping Wobbuffet or extra Hex Maniac in existing archetypes with the goal of shutting down the Decidueye’s powerful sniping Ability. Decidueye / Vileplume’s consistent success in Standard and Expanded bred a hate culture against it’s inherent power. Again, Groudon was well up to the task of beating down any Decidueye decks in the field. With a hindered set up under Wobbuffet lock as well as being OHKOd by Primal Groudon, Decidueye / Vileplume struggles mightily against Groudon decks. As the season progresses, I predict the hate against Decidueye decks to die down, thus allowing it to become a major threat again.

The Lesser Pokemon-GX: Umbreon, Solgaleo, and Lunala

I’d like to take the rest of the article to profile some Pokemon-GX cards that don’t see much play. We’ll take a deeper look at the uses for each card and craft decks based around these “lesser” Pokemon. We don’t take the time to fully understand cards. It is often beneficial for us to dismiss cards immediately. It’s a method of survival in the Pokemon world, especially with how many viable decks there are. Mentally judging cards immediately as good or bad means we can move on to testing the better cards sooner. The more we test with the better cards, the more we can refine lists. The best lists with the best cards are what many of us strive for, but sometimes we dismiss cards too quickly based on how we feel they will fare in the metagame. There’s an immediacy to the decision of whether or not a card is good that can cause us to slip up on a stellar combination. While putting more testing time and thought into cards that better pass the “eye test” usually pays off, we only have to look back to last year’s World Championship to remember that underutilized cards such as M Audino-EX can go the distance.

Many of us have our little pet decks. We desire to see them grow into something metagame defining, or at the very least competitive. I wholeheartedly encourage you to breathe life into your pet decks because, as a wise man once said, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” If you never try an idea out how will you know it’s terrible, or good for that matter? The primary way most players discern between high level cards and bulk-worthy cards is the eye test, but that can be deceiving. A second method is prior knowledge, which bases a card’s current value on how similar cards performed in the future. This is why knowing old format’s can be so important. The Pokemon Company tends to recycle ideas — Dark Patch was pretty darn good for the majority of its lifetime and we could probably say the same about Water Patch. Finally, there’s good old fashioned experimentation. Try out a combo, test a new concept and see if it stands up to the format! Some of my biggest successes were bred out of experimenting with cards others dismissed. The obvious downside to this is that experimentation takes precious testing time which could otherwise be dedicated to studying interactions between top tier decks or perfecting lists. I think it definitely helps to balance testing time between old archetypes and new card combinations because it keeps testing fresh.

Pokemon did a solid job with their first batch of GX cards. Usually Pokemon tries to make new mechanics underpowered simply to ensure that they fit in with what’s currently being played. The first iteration of Mega Pokemon or the old ex Pokemon come to mind. Pokemon-GX, though, did not disappoint. Solgaleo-GX / Lurantis-GX had a Top 16 finish at an American Regionals, Tauros-GX is seeing a ton of play as a tech in a variety of decks and in a deck to itself, Espeon-GX has seen moderate play as a Mewtwo counter, Lapras-GX  has been gaining ground and doesn’t look to be going anywhere with the release of Water Patch in the next set, and even the lowly Gumshoos-GX found its way into the annoying Houndoom-EX mill.

The three cards I’d like to profile, while seeing moderate success, are seldom played. The goal in writing about these cards is not to trick anyone into thinking these are the greatest cards ever printed or even that they are components of Tier 1 decks (though Solgaleo-GX certainly could make that argument). The point of this article is to present a card in a list I feel it is best suited for. I have tinkered with these on PTCGO and taken the GX cards mentioned as far as I see them going, creating lists that utilize that card in a fresh, new way. By doing this, I hope to inspire some creativity in your deck building and create a springboard for which you can jump from. If we never experiment and rely only on netdecking, we lose a lot about what makes the Pokemon TCG such a fun game as well as miss out on some pretty neat card interactions.

For the duration of this article, we will stick to the Standard metagame, as I think it has a little more room for the bulky Pokemon-GX to thrive. These decks are the kinds of things I perfect in casual matches on PTCGO and I hope that they serve as creative launching points for your own ideas.


Solgaleo-GX was fairly under-the-radar upon release. I certainly didn’t look at the card with any sort of fondness, but its viability grew on me. It saw some success at Athens Regionals when partnered with Lurantis-GX for late game Energy acceleration. Can Solgaleo-GX find a home in another competitive deck?

Pros of Solgaleo-GX

  • 250 HP – 250 is a fantastic amount of HP to have as it puts you out of OHKO range by one of the most explosive and hard hitting decks in the format — M Rayquaza-EX. That said, I will not be able to make use of this advantage in my deck list because the Energy of choice for Solgaleo-GX will be Rainbow Energy.
  • Great GX attack – The GX attack on Solgaleo is great for a couple of reasons. It can quickly set up a board and it can thin your deck. Sol Burst allows you to efficiently power up multiple attackers. It can even accelerate Special Energy and that is a concept I’ll exploit below. Additionally, using Sol Burst is the equivalent of using one and two-thirds of a Battle Compressor. The ability to thin your deck is something that has been absent from the Standard metagame since Battle Compressor’s rotation.
  • Heavy hitter – Solgaleo’s attack OHKOs just about everything in the format except for itself, ironically. The card designers knew what they were doing when they created this attack. It hits for a massive amount of damage, but is a glass cannon by needing to discard the Energy. Powerful attack, but discarding all Energy attached makes it difficult to reuse the next turn. A balanced, but strong attack.
  • Maneuverability – Solgaleo’s Ability ensures that you always have the right attacker in the Active spot when you need it. Assuming there’s no Garbodor or Wobbuffet and assuming a Hex Maniac hasn’t been played, Solgaleo-GX’s Ability brings a level of fluidity to decks that normally rely on the underwhelming Float Stone. With Ultra Road, attackers can have more useful Tools attached instead of Float Stone.

Cons of Solgaleo-GX

  • Stage 2 – Being a Stage 2 is rough. Tauros-GX mows down your Basics, Vileplume can lock you out of a game, and your deck can force you to draw clunky, unplayable hands. The format just doesn’t look kindly on Stage 2s right now because of the speed of the format and the soft disruption such as Item-lock, Team Flare Grunt, and Delinquent.
  • Over-reliance on Ability – Solgaleo is incredibly reliant on its Ability. Switching between attackers is crucial to setting the deck up. Once Solgaleo hits the field, you expect to be able to use its GX attack. If Ultra Road is shut down by Ability-lock, it can make it difficult to get Solgaleo Active. If you do get it powered up and attack with Sunsteel Strike, Solgaleo-GX is forced to discard all Energy after attacking which leaves it in a highly vulnerable position should the opponent Ability-lock you.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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