The Warring Triad: Navigating Tier 1 for Internationals

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine asked me, “If the North American International Championship were tomorrow, what would you play?”

My answer to this was less than stellar — something akin to, “Desperately over tech a Greninja BREAK and go three wins, six losses.”

At any rate, I realized the struggle that hundreds of players will be facing at this year’s North American International Championship. Whereas in previous seasons we had a reasonably clear idea of what decks were good and how best to counter them, the stranglehold our current top three decks have on the format is uniquely strong — but also quite complex.

Today we will be going over my takes on the top three decks, as well as how they all relate to one another. We will analyze the various ways we can adjust our lists to accommodate each matchup, as well as prepare for any surprising rogue decks between now and July. Finally, I will share my take on a few decks that don’t fall neatly into tier one, but at least show promise.


At the moment, Buzzwole decks comfortably stand on top of the 2017 – 2018 Standard format. Even with incredible Psychic opposition in the form of Malamar decks, as well as techs including Mewtwo and Mew-EX, Buzzwole is still putting up tournament placings like a champ. The new Buzzwole, Beast Energy Prism Star, and Beast Ring all come together to make an already winning strategy win more — even when the competition is specifically countering you.

Pokemon (13)

3x Buzzwole (FOL #77)2x Buzzwole-GX (PRSM #SM69)1x Octillery (BKT #33)1x Remoraid (BKT #31)1x Lycanroc-GX (GUR #74)1x Rockruff (FOL #75)1x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Diancie Prism Star (FOL #74)1x Regirock-EX (FAC #43)1x Mew (FAC #29)

Trainers (32)

4x Professor Sycamore (STS #114)4x Guzma (BUS #115)2x N (NVI #101)2x Cynthia (ULP #148)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)4x Max Elixir (BKP #102)3x Beast Ring (FOL #102)3x Choice Band (GUR #121)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)3x Brooklet Hill (GUR #120)

Energy (15)

10x Fighting Energy (RS #105)4x Strong Energy (FAC #115)1x Beast Energy Prism Star (FOL #117)

Perhaps this is a testament to the season Igor Costa has had, but I again see a deck list of his I don’t want to alter. The problem with this, however, is that if all of us head into the North American International Championship with nearly identical lists, hundreds of players will be thrown into a pit of unsatisfying mirror matches determined by dumb luck on Max Elixir, Professor Sycamore discards, and Prizes.

As a result, my one and only significant change to an otherwise wonderful formula is Mew. Although Mew cannot benefit from any of your damage modifiers like Strong Energy or Diancie, you can hit for Weakness against both Buzzwole and Buzzwole-GX. This allows for some great shifts to the flow of your mid and late games, and can even nab you an easy GX Knock Out to close out the match. Aside from its mirror benefits, Mew FCO also functions as a different application of the theory behind three Float Stone in most lists (better odds of free retreat), as well as a surprise Sledgehammer against Malamar variants for 240 damage.

If you don’t like Mew FCO as a Psychic tech attacker, perhaps consider making space for a 1-1 line of Naganadel-GX . You will lose the free retreat and non-GX versatility of Mew on top of an extra space, but you will gain a far bulkier Psychic attacker that does a much better job of sweeping up Buzzwole. You also gain a nifty GX attack that can accelerate a winning game, or slow down a losing one. My only concern here is that you would be running three 1-1 lines of Stage 1 Pokemon.

Expectations for the NAIC

Buzzwole could easily run away with this tournament. Zoroark has to run multiple Psychic tech attackers just to keep up with you, and even with the Weakness advantage, Malamar is a close match. Additionally, most novelty rogue decks trying to beat the format struggle with or outright fold to Buzzwole. However, as a personal preference I will avoid playing this deck at all costs, because I want a distinct advantage against the sea of people who will be copying Igor Costa.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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