Hey PokeBeach! It’s been a while since I wrote, but I’m back from North America Internationals with loads of thoughts and decks to share with you. I ended up toning down on tournaments last season due to University commitments, which meant by the time N.A. Internationals rolled around my overall Championship Point total was only 300 CP. The threshold for an invite in Europe is 350 points, putting me in a pretty precarious place of needing to place well to obtain enough points to gain the Worlds invitation.
Testing Within the Primal Clash – Guardians Rising Format
Jumping back into the PCL-GRI format, the meta game had shifted greatly since Sun and Moon had been released. The inclusion of Tapu Lele-GX along with Trainer cards like Field Blower had altered deck structures where Supporters could now be easily searched and strong Tools like Fighting Fury Belt could now be removed. Choice Band provided a massive damage boost we hadn’t seen since Muscle Band. The biggest influence on changing the metagame was Garbodor. This one Pokemon put a holt to the fast-paced format chock-full of Item cards we’ve had for a while, slowing the game down significantly. A deck that ignored Garbodor’s presence would instantly take a loss to almost a third of the meta game, due to the high count of Items they opt to play.
After testing multiple decks, I started to notice how diverse the format was. Garbodor became its own archetype, usually coming in with either Drampa-GX or Espeon-GX. Drampa-GX gave a disruption option using Righteous Edge to discard Special Energy, but also came packing with a powerful three-Energy attack in Berserk. As long as you have any damage on the Bench, Berserk outputs 150 damage which can be boosted to 180 with Choice Band. The best way to place damage was to either attach a Rainbow Energy onto one of your Benched Pokemon, or use Team Magma's Secret Base to place two damage counters onto any Pokemon played to the Bench. Although 180 damage was extremely strong and dealt with many Pokemon in the format, this build had fallen out of favour for Internationals compared to the Espeon-GX build.
Special Conditions are rarely seen these days in the TCG, however Confusion was brought to the format’s forefront due to Espeon-GX’s Psybeam. Many players (including myself) would rather not take the risk of flipping for Confusion, since half of the time you may lose the game because of it. Espeon-GX also comes with a Psychic, which can provide either a 2HKO attack combined with Psybeam if your opponent has only one or two Energy attached. However, if the opponent has three or more Energy on that Pokemon then combined with Choice Band Espeon-GX is able to OHKO 180HP Pokemon and above. Finally, Divide GX provides a great utility to either set up Pokemon for a KO with Psychic, finish off any Pokemon on the Bench that are close to being KOd, or remove a low-HP evolution like Rowlet or Combee. Since Divide GX only needed a Psychic and Double Colorless, it’s possible to use on the second turn, before opposing Pokemon can evolve.
Moving away from Garbodor variants, multiple new deck archetypes appeared using cards from Guardians Rising. Zoroark was paired with Drampa-GX and Team Magma's Secret Base to give a strong, reliable source of damage when the opponent limits their Bench. Gyarados saw some success after Alex Dao was able to take down two European Regionals in a row using the deck. Full Retaliation could now be boosted to prime numbers using Choice Band; even with only two Magikarp on bench, that 150 becomes 180 or even 210 if you attach a second Choice Band to Gyarados.
Vikavolt finally found a fantastic partner for Strong Charge in Tapu Bulu-GX. Nature’s Judgement provides a solid 120, or if you need to take the KO, all Energy can be discarded to deal 180. The Energy requirement is simple. Vikavolt’s Strong Charge provides the Colourless and a single Grass, while your attachment provides the second Grass to use the attack. Tapu Bulu-GX also has its own GX attack to make use of, Tapu Wilderness GX. Dealing 150 — or 180 with Choice Band — while also wiping the slate clean of damage. This can be huge against decks that can only output 2HKOs or need to invest lots of resources to take a OHKO. Since the deck has to use Lightning Energy for Strong Charge, Tapu Koko-GX can be included to go for a surprise KO with it’s GX attack, as long as your opponent has played enough Energy down.
In the theme of Stage 2’s being playable again, Metagross-GX had some limelight after placing second at Madison Regionals. With the format becoming slower, Alolan Vulpix can be used as a perfect sacrificial opening Pokemon to search out pieces of the Evolution chain early on for no Energy cost. By turn three or four, its possible to have three or even four Metagross-GX on board. This is perfect as Geotech System can be used three times to power up Giga Hammer, and then the next turn Metagross-GX can retreat and use Geotech System all over again. With a bulky 250 HP, Metagross-GX survives most hits as well; this means that Max Potion can be used to clear all damage off the one you retreated.
Finally, Decidueye-GX gained a new partner in Alolan Ninetales-GX. With the perfect pre-evolution in Alolan Vulpix to grab Dartrix and Decidueye-GX early on, Alolan Ninetales-GX provides a much more potent and reliable version of Meowth‘s Second Strike that was used at times in Deciudeye-GX variants. Ice Path GX is also fantastic as a secondary GX attack, forcing your opponent to make tough decisions on whether to hit for high amounts of damage or try to chip away at Alolan Ninetales so that it can’t Ice Path all that damage straight back onto you.
I started off by testing out Gyarados, as a possible strong pick to deal with the high HP Garbodor variants. Volcanion-EX decks still had some potential in the format paired with the new Brooklet Hill to reduce the amount of Items used to get set up as well. However, I just couldn’t get the deck to a point where it didn’t miss a huge beat at some point along a best-of-three match. Afterwards, I moved onto Decidueye-GX / Vileplume, which showed great success last format. I added in a 2-1 line of Alolan Ninetales-GX as another way of searching for Pokemon under Item-lock once Vileplume was established.
After testing multiple matchups I wasn’t sure if it was possible to fit all these pieces into the deck without consistency issues. The utility of Alolan Ninetales and Vulpix was great, but with only a 2-1 line it was hard to get all these Pokemon into play and get Vileplume up as soon as possible. Talking with some of my teammates we decided that it could just be beneficial to drop the Vileplume line altogether.
My Choice for Internationals — Decidueye-GX / Alolan Ninetales-GX
Without the stress of needing a quick Vileplume to make sure my opponent couldn’t play Items for more than a turn or two, the deck could include more utility Items and also bulk up lines. The Alolan Ninetales-GX line is increased to 3-2 to try and open with Alolan Vulpix, and the GX can now be found more easily, and multiple can be set up if needed. Here is the list I ended up playing for the North American Internationals, and some of the card choices I went with.
Without any context Mewtwo looks relatively out of place. Tapu Lele-GX is just the same but much, much better, right? Well, the main reason to use Mewtwo is because Psychic applies Weakness. The most hyped deck for the tournament was certainly Espeon-GX / Garbodor. Espeon usually have three Energy attached to use their own Psychic, so we can take advantage of this. With three Energy Mewtwo’s Psychic hits for 80 damage total. Paired with Choice Band thats a 110 total, and that’s where Weakness comes in. Espeon-GX’s Psychic Weakness makes that 110 into 220, enough for a OHKO. Without Mewtwo it’s not possible to take a OHKO on Espeon-GX, which can cause problems throughout a match.
Mewtwo doesn’t really do too much in other matchups, but can hit for 80 against anything with three Energy, like a Drampa-GX or opposing Decidueye-GX. As a one Prize attacker it can come in handy in those situations to setup 2HKOs.
With evolutions being a big part of the format, Espeon-EX made it possible to take easier KOs on their pre-evolutions with lower HP by using Miraculous Shine. For example, against Metagross-GX, the difference in HP from Metang to Metagross is 160! Removing this amount of HP meant the Feather Arrow from Decidueye-GX went a lot further in these matchups, and a single Miraculous Shine could easily wipe the board of evolutions, in a single turn.
Two Tapu Lele-GX, The Supporter Line, Three VS Seeker
With two Tapu Lele-GX and three Alolan Vulpix, I was mostly comfortable with three Professor Sycamore, although there were times where a fourth would be great. Three N and two Lysandre also worked fine. As the deck doesn’t need to slam down a Vileplume early on, it now has time to use Brigette on the first turn to search for two Rowlet and usually an Alolan Vulpix. Tapu Lele-GX helps out massively with getting the specific Supporter needed (especially the now classic turn one Wonder Tag for Brigette), and ties the deck together nicely in terms of consistency.
Two Choice Band, Two Field Blower
To make up for the fact we don’t slow the opponents’ strategy down anymore using Vileplume, adding extra damage to our attacks through Choice Band speeds up KOs and makes for nicer numbers. Decidueye-GX’s Razor Leaf hits for 120, which only requires three Feather Arrow placements to take out a 180 HP Pokemon. Getting three Decidueye out in a single game occurs much more often without Vileplume as well, so that it’s possible to take a OHKO in a single turn.
Field Blower is mainly in this deck to remove any Tool from Garbodor, so that Decidueye-GX’s Feather Arrow can be used. Removing any Choice Band the opponent played down is useful as well, and any pesky Stadiums like Team Magma's Secret Base or Rough Seas. A neat little trick in the mirror is to evolve all your own Pokemon using Forest of Giant Plants, and then use Field Blower to remove the Stadium from play; this forces your opponent to find their own Forest, or else they’ll be on the back foot!
One Rescue Stretcher, One Revitalizer
Compared to the Vileplume version which usually plays two Revitalizer, multiple Pokemon we want to get back are not Grass-types, so a single Rescue Stretcher can get back an Alolan Ninetales-GX, a Tapu Lele-GX if you need a Supporter or just a single piece of the Decidueye line. The shuffle option can come in use as well if you just want an entire line of Decidueye back into the deck. A single Revitalizer is still strong to pick up pieces you may have discarded early or lost from a KO.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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