Back from Bremen — How Standard is Shaping Up

Hey there PokeBeach! The season has truly kicked off over the globe with Regionals in the U.S. and EU. The rotation has taken full effect. Interestingly enough, the majority of decks that had success at Anaheim are still alive and well. I’ll be talking about Standard today. The majority of large tournaments in Europe use the Standard format and after Bremen Regionals, a couple of weeks ago, there’s a good idea of what is strong right now.

First, I’ll take you through my testing process, the list, and my run that got me to a Top 32 finish for that weekend. Then, we’ll have a look at what did the best on the day — specifically the decks that got the most placements and the finalist builds. Online testing was crucial to my tournament preparation, because there were no Standard tournament results for this season prior to Bremen.

Finding the Best Play for Bremen

Although the online meta-game of TCGO differs to that of a Regionals, the plethora of decks online gives you a basis for what is or is not good. As I talked about in my last article, it seemed that  the Gardevoir-GX and Golisopod-GX archetypes would keep their power post-rotation. Playing with and against these two archetypes online proved that point: these decks were by far the strongest to pilot and the hardest to consistently beat. Both decks’ power and presence at the World Championships made it seem obvious that these two would be top picks at Bremen.

With that, I moved onto potential counters that would also see play at Bremen to beat these two popular decks. The main option would likely be Metagross-GX. Its powerful Giga Hammer attack OHKOs Gardevoir-GX and can be easily re-used by retreating and attaching Energy onto a fresh Metagross-GX with Geotech System. Golisopod-GX cannot OHKO a fresh Metagross-GX, this means that it’s crucial to include Max Potion to heal retreated Metagross-GX, resetting the 120 or 150 damage that Golisopod can chain. The deck sounds like the perfect counter, right?

The biggest problems with Metagross-GX are Garbodor, which can shut off Geotech System with Garbotoxin, and Fire-type decks such as Volcanion-EX or Ho-Oh-GX / Salazzle-GX. Most Golisopod-GX decks include Garbodor to slow down powerful Abilities like those on Metagross-GX and Gardevoir-GX. This Ability-lock makes it possible for a Golisopod-GX to survive an Infinite Force from Gardevoir-GX, as extra Energy cannot be attached via Secret Spring. If Golisopod-GX survives, it can be picked up by Acerola and recycled to attack the very next turn, now with full HP. Luckily, Field Blower is a card, so with three or even four copies Metagross-GX can still use Geotech System most of the time.

Fire types are the bane of Metagross-GX. The deck relies on these bulky 250 HP monsters surviving a hit or two, but Fire type Pokemon like Volcanion-EX and Ho-oh-GX instantly take OHKOs due to Weakness. Playing a counter to the counter seems risky though, since the field should have a good amount of Gardevoir-GX, a particularly hard matchup due to the amount of Energy Fire types need to attack. However, the metagame does also include Golisopod-GX, which sports its own Fire-type Weakness. Having a strong matchup versus both of these decks could be worth the risk of taking the harder match-up versus Gardevoir.

It made the most sense that Metagross-GX and some type of Fire-type deck would be played in good amounts on the day as counters. Going back to testing on PTCGO, it was hard to tell which was the best variant of Fire-type deck. Ho-Oh-GX / Salazzle-GX had the speed factor with high counts of Kiawe to power up Ho-Oh-GX or Turtonator-GX on the first turn. This speed is paired with the finisher in Salazzle-GX, to deal 200 damage once four Prizes were taken. The main issue with this build is that if you miss Kiawe early on, you lose the speed factor and your opponent can set-up properly. On the other hand, there’s just a simple Volcanion-EX build, which goes for straight consistency throughout the game. A turn one Kiawe is still possible, but much less likely. However, Volcanion can be used early on to get some quick 2HKO or chip damage, along with powering up whichever Fire-type attacker you need for the matchup. It was noticeable that these Fire-type decks were being played a lot online, which backed up my thoughts to include it in the list of decks that would see play at Bremen.

My beginning thoughts were to start by testing Gardevoir-GX, and as I hadn’t tested much with Burning Shadows in the format, the power level of this Stage 2 was amazing. The deck still worked fine without VS Seeker and the consistency of Octillery meant there was potential for Infinite Force to OHKO every single turn. I was smitten — even to the point of splashing out the $60 or so dollars for a play-set within a day or two of testing. Fast forward two weeks and the list had gone through multiple changes and techs to become the list below.

Pokemon (20)

4x Gardevoir-GX (BUS #93)1x Gallade (BKT #84)3x Kirlia (BUS #92)4x Ralts (BUS #91)2x Octillery (BKT #33)2x Remoraid (BKT #32)3x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Alolan Vulpix (GUR #21)

Trainers (27)

4x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)4x N (FAC #105)3x Guzma (BUS #115)1x Brigette (BKT #161)4x Ultra Ball (SM #135)4x Rare Candy (SM #129)2x Field Blower (GUR #125)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)2x Rescue Stretcher (GUR #130)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)

Energy (13)

9x Fairy Energy (BUS #169)4x Double Colorless (SM #136)

The list isn’t too far off from my previous article, but hones in on the consistency by boosting the Gardevoir-GX and Rare Candy counts to  the max. These counts make it much more likely to see that elusive turn two Gardevoir-GX in your hand each game. The same logic can be applied for the inclusion of the ninth Fairy Energy as well, to ensure Energy is in the hand as soon as possible for Secret Spring.

Now had it not been for a specific counter, I’m certain this was the deck to play for Bremen. However, decks that have high-percentage losses scare me. The decks that I’ve taken to tournaments are nearly always those that have 50 / 50 matchups like Yveltal-EX builds in 2015/2016, or Drampa-GX / Garbodor from Liverpool Regionals. Metagross-GX, in testing, was almost always a straight loss, be it with clever techs or straight consistency. Gardevoir-GX was the deck to beat and taking that risk just didn’t feel correct for me.

The main goal I’m aiming for, at the moment, is to stick in the Top 16 for Championship Points in the EU. With the Top 4 Regionals points from Liverpool, just getting another top cut would have guaranteed me the desired Top 16 ranking until London Internationals rolls around. It’s important to work out how you want to place in a tournament, especially when you’re trying to stay on a leader-board or obtain an invite. Playing something risky that, if you hit good matchups, would propel you straight to Top 8 and higher is great if your main goal is to win the entire tournament. On the other hand, if you want to steadily obtain Championship Points at each tournament, choosing a more rounded deck with closer matchups would suit better. This gives you a better chance of winning against the entire field, so that a mediocre run still gives you a good enough record to hit some points by the end of the day.

After trying multiple decks that I wasn’t happy with either due to consistency (Ho-Oh-GX / Salazzle-GX) or similar matchup-based issues like Gardevoir-GX, it was time to turn to Garbodor again. Drampa-GX / Garbodor had lost some crucial cards in rotation: VS Seeker, Teammates and Hex Maniac. The deck already included four counts of Professor Sycamore, N and Tapu Lele-GX, so consistency would see a drop. Even Trashalanche on Garbodor was less powerful, since discarded VS Seeker boosted the overall damage up by 80! Pokemon HP had increased dramatically since Liverpool, such that Drampa-GX’s Berserk would still be short of a KO on Golisopod-GX’s 210 HP and Gardevoir-GX’s 230 HP.

So then, the deck needs something to make it viable: Po Town.

Back on the Drampa-GX / Garbodor Train

In an Evolution-based format, Po Town is perfect for Drampa-GX to stay relevant. The extra 30 damage each time the opponent evolves knocks down numbers that were much too high to obtaining single hit Knock Outs with Berserk. Golisopod-GX goes down to 180 HP, and Gardevoir-GX down to 170 HP, as long as your opponent manually evolves without Rare Candy. Opponents evolving their Pokemon through Rare Candy is a problem that I’ll get back to later. Po Town provides one more utility in the damage needed for Drampa-GX’s Berserk to deal 150 damage, by placing 30 damage onto a evolving Garbodor.

After a week or so of testing it was easy to see the deck was still powerful, but as I thought, consistency had dropped with the onset of rotation. Alleviating this lack of consistency wasn’t easy. Hala and Lillie were all possible considerations, but in the end didn’t make the cut due to their conditional nature. Here is the list I played at Bremen.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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