What up everybody? Welcome welcome. The North American International Championships are only a week away and the dust is finally starting to settle on this new format. I wrote an article a couple weeks ago on my Top 5 Standard decks, here. With the exception of Sylveon-GX, which proved a fantastic dud, four of my selections, Decidueye-GX, Volcanion-EX, Greninja and Garbodor have all proven their versatility by adapting to the challenges presented by the new format.
By now, everyone knows that Garbodor variants are the decks to beat. After Garbodor swept the Wisconsin Regional Championship, players fundamentally changed the way they built their decks in order to combat Garbodor’s oppressive Trashalanche. In essence, the format came to a grinding halt. Decks cut cards like Shaymin-EX and Trainers' Mail and supplemented the loss by adding Tapu Lele-GX and an increased Supporter count.
Because Garbodor puts turbo engine decks into check, slower Stage 2 decks like Vikavolt and Metagross-GX have been placing well in recent weeks. Additionally, other Stage 1 decks like Vespiquen, Raichu / Lycanroc-GX and Zoroark / Drampa-GX have shown that they have advantages over Garbodor, and have earned themselves a spot in the metagame limelight as well. Though I haven’t attended an event since earning my invite, I have invested countless hours into grinding matchups and working lists here in my apartment. In this article, I will share my testing experience and offer specific details about how to navigate key matchups in the Standard format. My hope is that with this article, you all will feel confident about which direction you would like to head at the upcoming North American International Championships! Enjoy!
Vikavolt / Tapu Bulu
First on my list of new and impressive decks is Vikavolt. I love Energy acceleration decks! Cards with “Rain Dance” Abilities like Blastoise and Emboar treated me well as I learned to play the game, and I have desperately missed piloting them. A combination of Seismitoad-EX‘s Item-lock and the ever increasing pace of the format had rendered many Evolution decks completely obsolete during the past couple seasons. Last year during Cities, I tried desperately to get Magnezone to work. I came up with a solid list and even earned some points with it, but ultimately, Night March proved too hostile for a naturally slower deck like Magnezone.
It’s been a few years, but finally, the format seems to have slowed to a point where people are dusting off their Rare Candy again. Vikavolt is a welcome addition to the format for anyone who enjoyed Rayboar or Blastoise a few years ago. The only difference being that this deck doesn’t need Electrode or Delphox to draw into Energy to accelerate. Vikavolt’s Strong Charge accelerates Energy straight from the deck! Vikavolt / Tapu Bulu is a deck that can overwhelm the opponent if they are not prepared to deal with the onslaught of damage pumped out by your attackers. While the deck does suffer a couple of unfavorable matchups, it fares well enough versus Garbodor that it is worth consideration for the climax of the season. Anyone familiar with traditional Rayboar or Blastoise will feel right at home here. The similarities between Vikavolt and those old Rain Dance decks are uncanny, right down to the parallel between Jirachi-EX and Tapu Lele-GX. Let’s take a look at the list that I have been testing with!
Once this deck is set up, it is very self sustainable. Because Vikavolt accelerates Energy from the deck, it is easy to play non draw Supporter cards like Skyla, Brock's Grit, and Lysandre. Skyla is totally awesome here. With access to Skyla via Tapu Lele-GX, cards like Ultra Ball, Energy Recycler, Rare Candy, Choice Band and Field Blower are always within an arm’s reach. Skyla also makes it so that you can grab Rare Candy or Ultra Ball to easily set up Vikavolt without burning cards. The selectivity of Skyla, along with a full suite of N, goes a long way towards preserving your Garbodor matchup.
I have seen some discussion on whether or not Vikavolt-GX is necessary in this deck. After testing with and without it, I can say with confidence that the deck works completely fine without it. I do appreciate the option to set up a big Pokemon-GX that can’t be OHKOd by common threats like Drampa-GX, Garbodor or Zoroark BREAK, but in nearly all situations, you are better off solidifying your board position by setting up a second Strong Charge Vikavolt instead. Additionally, Tapu Bulu’s Tapu Wilderness GX attack is almost always the superior GX attack to use.
In order to deal with Garbotoxin Garbodor effectively, we play three copies of Field Blower. At most points in the game, you should have the option to remove Garbodor’s Tools, or be able to Lysandre it for a KO. Once Garbodor is dealt with, this deck can tank effectively with Tapu Bulu and Vikavolt. I have found that this deck fares well versus both the Drampa-GX and the Espeon-GX versions of Garbodor. Versus Espeon, you can either OHKO it with a Banded Bulu or snipe with the Promo Tapu Koko before finishing it off with Bulu or Vikavolt. Since most of your attackers have the option to discard Energy when they attack, you can keep yourself safe from Espeon’s Psychic attack with relative ease. If your opponent doesn’t have an Espeon built up, Tapu Wilderness is a great option for glancing off hits from Garbodor and Drampa.
It should be noted that you can run into tough spots if your opponent is able to effortlessly stream Hex Maniac while dishing out damage, but without Shaymin-EX and Trainers' Mail in most lists, this simply doesn’t happen like it used to. One of the great things about this format is that many matchups are close and the scales can easily be tipped. We run three Field Blower in an attempt to tip this matchup in Vikavolt’s favor, however, a strong start and consistent access to Hex can spell disaster for this Ability-reliant deck.
I’ve heard mixed things about this matchup and experienced varied results as well. If your opponent is able to get multiple Zoroark BREAK into play early things will be bad. Zoroark BREAK can copy all of your attacks for a single Darkness Energy with Foul Play. Zoroark has access to Nature’s Judgement, Tapu Wilderness GX, and Electro Cannon, all of which KO their respective targets. That’s bad. However, Zoroark himself is not all that good versus your deck if you are able to limit your Bench, which you should definitely be doing.
Two options at Vikavolt’s disposal are to go in with Tapu Lele-GX or Tapu Koko Promo to KO things early. If you are able to KO a Zorark with a three Energy Lele, your opponent will have a difficult time returning the KO with Zoroark, so long as your have limited your Bench. Of course, they always have Drampa-GX as a backup attacker, but more than likely, your opponent will be trying to focus on getting Zoroark into play and may not have a Drampa at the ready. Tapu Koko Promo really shows his worth here by trading effectively with Zoroark while only offering one Prize and keeping your Vikavolt out of harm’s way. When it comes down to it, Vikavolt can afford to trade with one Zoroark BREAK, but trouble arises when Zoroark / Drampa is able to get two or more into play. The good news is that Zoroark BREAK can’t hit the field before turn three, which means that you have time to establish your board and KO as many Zorua and Zoroark as you can before the BREAK come out. Once BREAKs do hit the field, you just have to try and keep pace. Set up as many Vikavolt as you can so that you don’t fall into a situation where your opponent Lysandre KOs your Vikavolt and leaves you stuck without a way to accelerate. Your out to win is to keep your opponent limited to as few Zoroark BREAK as possible while keeping your own Bench in check.
This is a rough matchup, straight up. Even if you start out strong with a turn two KO, Vespiquen will eventually get the ball rolling and OHKO everything on your field. If you are worried about this matchup, I would not hesitate to throw an Oricorio in here. Oricorio can be subbed for the Koko Promo, the third Field Blower or the Hex Maniac. None of these are ideal cuts, but losing to a popular archetype isn’t ideal either! At the end of the day, your choice on whether or not to play Oricorio should be a meta call based how popular you think Vespiquen will be at the North American International Championships.
Unlike the Vespiquen matchup, the Greninja BREAK matchup isn’t really salvageable. Your best hope is to try and go in with a turn one Tapu Bulu Horn attack (to KO Froakie) and hope that they stumble to set up. If Greninja is able to survive the opening turns, they will eventually start using Giant Water Shuriken in combination with Shadow Stiching to wear your attackers down and deplete you of Energy on board. Your ideal board would be a Vikavolt with a Float Stone, two fully loaded Tapu Bulu and maybe a fully loaded Tapu Koko Promo if you can manage it. Tapu Koko Promo is another valid option early for KOing Froakie, Frogadier and Talonflame effectively while preserving your Bulu for later in the game.
There’s nothing good about a deck that relies on Rare Candy getting locked out of Item usage. If Decidueye-GX is able to go first and get set up before you can get Vikavolt into play, you’re going to have a bad time. That being said, if you can go first and set up while your opponent struggles to find Vileplume, this matchup can quickly slide into your favor. Once you have a couple of Tapu Bulu and a Vikvolt (hopefully with a Float Stone) built up, Item-lock doesn’t do much to bother you. Tapu Wilderness GX is an absolute pain for Decidueye to deal with, and gives your Bulu some much needed longevity in this matchup. Tapu Lele-GX also serves as an effective attacker in this matchup, dealing efficient damage to a loaded Decidueye when need be. Only thing to be wary of is your Energy count. If you are able to get Vikavolt out before they get Vileplume into play, you are likely going to need to find a way to achieve a Brock's Grit play at some point to refuel your Energy back into the deck. This can be tough under Item-lock, but usually fine if you plan ahead. Skyla and Lele can both be utilized to search out Brock’s Grit under Item-lock.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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