Looking at NAIC — Malamar and Buzzwole

What’s up PokeBeach readers? I’m chillin’ out here in another hotel, in another city, in another part of the world — basically living the Pokemon dream, right? In this article, I’ll be going over my top picks for the 2018 North American International Championships: Malamar and Buzzwole-GX. These two archetypes have proven themselves on the worldwide stage since they were introduced, and have both been quite successful thus far. My goal is to sell you on these two as the best decks in our Standard format; to explain their strategies; and to help prepare you for the upcoming NAIC.

Making a Deck Decision

Now that there has been a handful of tournaments worldwide in our latest format (BREAKthroughForbidden Light), we can analyze the results of those events to predict the future metagame. I find that looking at the top results from worldwide tournaments can help shape my decision for my deck choice and tech inclusions going forward. Let’s look at some results from the tournaments that have concluded since the release of Forbidden Light:

(For all of these events, I will be considering the Top 8 of Masters only, regardless of event attendance.)

May 19 — Special Event — Tours, France


May 19-20 was the first weekend of major events since the inception of Forbidden Light in Standard, and quite a few players were confused in terms of making a deck choice. There were a few surprising results in this Top 8, namely Greninja-GX / Latios and Naganadel-GX, but those have taken a backseat as the format has evolved through late May and early June.

May 19 — Special Event — Mexico City, Mexico

  • 1. Sam Chen — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 2. Rahul Reddy — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 3. Fernando Castaneda Perez — Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 4. Juan Espinola Ortega — Zoroark-GX / Garbodor
  • 5. Daniel Altavilla — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 6. Angel Garcia — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Eder Jarillo Soto — Gardevoir-GX
  • 8. Jose Juarez Gonzalez — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX


I would argue that this is the first event that really shaped the BREAKthroughForbidden Light format. As seen in the standings, Malamar decks took a stranglehold on the event and mostly dominated Buzzwole-GX decks. It was from this tournament that most people took those lists and used them to model our current Malamar lists.

May 26 — Special Event — Cancun, Mexico

  • 1. Eder Jarillo Soto — Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
  • 2. Miguel Angel Lopez Bernal — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 3. Victor de Velasco — Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 4. Sam Chen — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 5. Jorge Lopez — Zoroark-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor
  • 6. Juan Espinola Ortega — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Manual Valdez Garcia — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar / Zoroark-GX
  • 8. Luis Nolasco — Metagross-GX / Solgaleo-GX


With Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX and its Darkness-type Weakness putting up such a strong showing during the previous weekend’s events, and the threat of Malamar keeping Buzzwole-GX’s numbers in check, it’s easy to see how two Zoroark-GX decks made the finals in Cancun. The Metagross-GX / Solgaleo-GX deck that made Top 8 goes to show that some zany ideas can always sneak through the masses!

May 26 — Regional Championships — Melbourne, Australia

  • 1. Joey Ho — Greninja BREAK
  • 2. Jordan Palmer — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 3. Ryan Bentley — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 4. Corey Matthews — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 5. Alfred Yang — Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 6. Shane Chee — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Jack Millar — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 8. Matthew Taverna — Xerneas BREAK


This is the tournament that started to bring the Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX deck back from the ashes, which was surprising to me because at that time I considered Malamar the superior archetype. Although Joey Ho did win the event with Greninja BREAK, Jordan Palmer proved to the world that his Buzzwole deck could beat Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar in Top 4. We saw again that more unique decks can still sneak through — in this case the Xerneas BREAK deck in Top 8.

June 2 — Regional Championships — Subang Jaya, Malaysia

  • 1. Adrian Velasco — Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 2. Klive Aw — Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 3. Keng Fai Lee — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 4. Hariz Hamdan — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 5. Attar Ricco — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 6. Yee Wei Chun — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Keith Yong — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 8. Rishwyn Singh — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX


Players at this tournament took the success of Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX from Melbourne and ran with it, although once again the deck did not win the event. While it is apparent that Malamar variants have an edge on Buzzwole-GX variants, we can only assume that there were Malamar casualties throughout the day from Buzzwole-GX. The other noteworthy occurrence at this tournament was Klive Aw piloting a relatively unknown concept of Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX to the finals. Aw might have some foresight with this concept, because the deck doesn’t directly suffer from a Psychic-type Weakness, nor should it have an awful Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX matchup.

June 2 — Regional Championships — Santiago, Chile

  • 1. Bastian Silva — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 2. Benjamin Ferrel — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 3. Nicolas Galaz — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 4. Marco Cifuentes — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 5. Gustavo Wada — Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
  • 6. Diego Cassiraga — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 7. Sebastian Lozano — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 8. Moises Santibanez — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX


At this point, the format is starting to stabilize. In Santiago, we had Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX winning the event, many other players dominating with the deck, and a few other archetypes sprinkled in for some spice. Post-Santiago, it seems that only Buzzwole-GX, Malamar, Greninja BREAK, and Zoroark-GX variants were worthy of tier one consideration. Most of the other decks that performed decently at these major events; such as Lapras-GX / Volcanion Prism Star, Xerneas BREAK, and Gardevoir-GX; can all be considered tier two decks.

June 2 — Regional Championships — Madison, United States

  • 1. Igor Costa — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 2. Will Mantho — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 3. Jake Ewart — Greninja BREAK
  • 4. Ian Robb — Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor
  • 5. Caleb Gedemer — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 6. Xander Pero — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Zack Taylor — Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 8. Joey Ruettiger — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX


This tournament brought two major advancements to Buzzwole-GX decks: Chris Leandro shared his Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX deck with many top players, who proceeded to take down the event; and Ian Robb re-invented Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor in our new format. The variant of Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX with three baby Buzzwole forces players to Knock Out many one-Prize Pokemon while simultaneously building up its own superior board state. Madison definitely shaped the metagame significantly, and I expect most players to use the results from this tournament to further refine concepts and introduce new ones.

June 9 — Special Event — Singapore, Singapore

  • 1. Shane Chee — Zoroark-GX / Lucario-GX
  • 2. Klive Aw — Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 3. Patrick Ebio — Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
  • 4. Clifton Goh — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 5. Colin Tang — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 6. Christopher Schemanske — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Joey Ho — Greninja BREAK
  • 8. Perry Lim — Greninja BREAK


This was the last major event before Sheffield Regionals and Mexico City Regionals, both of which are taking place as I draft this article. This tournament had a variety of decks including the Melbourne Greninja deck, Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX, and a handful of Zoroark-GX variants. Again, we saw Klive Aw play his infamous Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX deck to another finals appearance.

After this event, I believe that most players will continue to pilot one of four decks: Greninja BREAK, Malamar variants, Buzzwole-GX variants, or Zoroark-GX variants.

June 16 — Regional Championships — Sheffield, United Kingdom (NEW)

  • 1. Seb Symonds — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 2. Magnus Kalland — Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
  • 3. Marc Lutz — Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor
  • 4. Ryan Moorhouse — Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Malamar
  • 5. Juraj Schrojf — Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 6. Luke Williams — Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Tomas Just — Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor
  • 8. Tord Reklev — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX


This tournament was actually fairly unique because it had Zoroark-GX variants absolutely tear up the scene. While it rarely happens in most matchups from top players, Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX variants can lose to Zoroark-GX variants. This is due to the inclusion of cards such as Mewtwo, Mew-EX, and Latios because of their Psychic typing. Additionally, we saw Tord Reklev cut another Buzzwole-GX from his list in order to make room for additional tech cards like Super Rod. Oddly enough, Espeon-GX / Garbodor / Garbodor made a random appearance; perhaps European players struggled to beat this now off-beat deck?

June 23 — Regional Championships — Mexico City, Mexico (NEW)

  • 1. Eder Jarillo Soto — Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
  • 2. Christopher Schemanske — Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor
  • 3. Alex Schemanske — Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 4. Fernando Castanada Perez — Hoopa / Malamar
  • 5. Angel Loya — Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor
  • 6. Aaron Rozbicki — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 7. Michael Pramawat — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
  • 8. Jimmy Pendarvis — Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX


Similar to how we saw many top players dominate the Madison Regional Championships with Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX, we also saw similar success at the Mexico City Regional Championships. This success is further demonstrated by my own unfortunate luck of bubbling the Top 8 by coming in ninth place with Buzzwole / Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX! Zoroark-GX saw similar success with Eder Jarillo Soto winning the whole event and we saw Alex Schemanske take the baton from Klive Aw to giving another placement to Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX.

Tier List

Based on the above results, I’ve put together a tier list. The format going forward has a clear assortment of tiers: decks that have continuously performed at the highest level all over the world, and a few other decks that have done well to a slightly lesser degree.

Tier One

Tier Two

Now, let’s dive into some discussion of those tier one archetypes. We’ll start with Malamar, which many top players have predicted to be the most-played deck at the NAIC.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!