¡Hola PokeBeach! I just took the longest trip of my life to Mexico. I enjoyed myself and learned much about the state of the Standard metagame. As I’m sure you know, no more Expanded events remain this season and the new set, Celestial Storm, becomes legal for the World Championships. And while I look forward to dabbling into the Worlds format in upcoming months I’d advise focusing on the current Standard. I’m still zoned into our Buzzwole-dominated Standard for now and want this article to serve as a guide to the North American Internationals: the pinnacle of competition of the season and a breaking point for many invitations and leaderboard placements.
Buzzwole still dominates. The raw power of Fighting Pokemon demolishes Zoroark-GX decks and gives Buzzwole a good chance of winning any matchup. Many Buzzwole decks returned to running two Lycanroc-GX, resulting in a closer Malamar matchup. Buzzwole’s ability to win in spite of Weakness truly highlights its strength as a deck.
With the conclusion of the last Regional Championship of the 2017-2018 season, let’s look at the complete results. I’ve taken the liberty of listing each player and deck below:
- 1 — Eder Jarillo Soto with Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
- 2 — Christopher Schemanske with Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor
- 3 — Alex Schemanske with Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- 4 — Fernando Castaneda Perez with Malamar / Hoopa
- 5 — Angel Loya with Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor
- 6 — Michael Pramawat with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 7 — Aaron Rozbicki with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 8 — Jimmy Pendarvis with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 9 — Zach Lesage with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 10 — Jonathan Enrique Olguin Suarez with Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor
- 11 — Daniel Altavilla with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 12 — Juan Espinola Ortega with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- 13 — Pablo Meza with Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
- 14 — Angel De Jesus Gonzalez Ruiz with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 15 — Mario Lopez Cantu with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- 16 — Igor Costa with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 17 — Ray Fernandez with Malamar / Ultra Necrozma-GX
- 18 — Hanzell Ivan Caballero Gutierrez with Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
- 19 — Samuel Fontanez with Magnezone / Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX
- 20 — Azul Garcia Griego with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 21 — Hector Emmanuel Meza Garibay with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 22 — Miguel Segura with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 23 — Luis Alonso Corrales Salgado with Zoroark-GX / Lucario-GX
- 24 — Christian Cruz Esquivel with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 25 — Victor de Velasco with Malamar / Ultra Necrozma-GX
- 26 — Marco Antonio Gomez Sanchez with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- 27 — Drew Allen with Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Garbodor
- 28 — Byron Isaiah Williams with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 29 — Jose Juarez Gonzalez with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- 30 — David Rufino Arreguin with Lapras-GX
- 31 — Lance Bradshaw with Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX
- 32 — Dante Moreno with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
Breaking these results down to numbers and percents provides:
- 13 Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX @ 40.625%
- 5 Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX @ 15.625%
- 3 Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX @ 9.375%
- 3 Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor @ 9.375%
- 2 Malamar / Ultra Necrozma-GX @ 6.25%
- 1 Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX @ 3.125%
- 1 Zoroark-GX / Lucario-GX @ 3.125%
- 1 Malamar / Hoopa @ 3.125%
- 1 Magnezone / Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX @ 3.125%
- 1 Lapras-GX @ 3.125%
- 1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX / Garbodor @ 3.125%
Reflecting on Mexico
I played in this event and finished poorly, losing the last two rounds to end 4-4-1, making it one of my worst Regionals finishes of the season. The deck itself performed well and many of my testing partners made day two. The top cut numbers seem to indicate Buzzwole’s strength. In comparison, only three Malamar variants moved onto day two. Malamar is a bad deck by my estimation and the results show that. But even so, players don’t seem to learn and continue to play it. When large populations play a certain deck then it will yield results regardless of the deck. Malamar provides curb appeal to the masses, making it a popular choice for many players.
Where does this take us? Buzzwole-GX / Garbodor is on the rise. If Buzzwole is still the best deck and Malamar isn’t giving it as hard of a time as it “should”, what can we even do to stop this menace? How is Zoroark-GX winning events, still? What’s with these random decks topping tournaments? Let’s get it.
Buzzwole is unstoppable. It bricks sometimes and can lose those games, but tends to overpower the others. Single-Prize Malamar stands the best chance of beating it, so most lists moved back towards playing a 2-2 Lycanroc-GX line. This improves the deck in general and the Malamar matchup in particular since Malamar can whiff a Knock Out on Lycanroc, allowing it to take multiple Knock Outs. The deck beats Zoroark-GX easily with four Buzzwole; Zoroark-GX can barely deal with one or two, let alone four… But Zoroark can stall a Buzzwole player by taking down Octillery and hitting an opponent with N. And while Buzzwole can struggle to draw what it needs, it doesn’t always need much to win games. Often times you can make due with just an Energy and a Guzma.
Buzzwole is hands down the best deck going into the North American International Championship and likely my deck of choice. The “worst” thing about Buzzwole is its oppressive nature. No quick counter package exists for Buzzwole. Improving a Buzzwole matchup usually involves five or more deck slots that can seriously hurt your consistency and might not even win you the matchup consistently. It is the deck to play, plain and simple. I will brush up on some of the most recent changes to the deck in a little bit and talk about how I play the deck right now. Blatant foreshadowing: four baby Buzzwole is incredible.
Zoroark-GX won some recent events. “But how is this possible if Buzzwole is so dominant?” you may ask. I think the best, and only, answer is variance. Lists haven’t changed much all the way since the Latin American International Championship where Buzzwole-GX won the event without the baby Buzzwole. Zoroark-GX provides better consistency in the long run than a Buzzwole deck and for that reason it can come out on top more often than not in the last few rounds of tournaments. Zoroark-GX also takes a positive matchup against the ever popular Malamar archetype. If you can pilot yourself to beat up on those inferior decks and maybe go just 50-50 with Buzzwole decks then you’ve made day two and you’ll be in contention for Top 8. Consistency wins tournaments, and again, while Buzzwole possesses a high power ceiling, it can struggle getting to compete in games where it fails to execute its strategy.
At its core this format can be luck-based, where one player just runs hotter than the other. Obviously, it still takes a lot of skill to get to that point and when both players run well it can very much be an intellectual battle. As you can see just from this Mexico cut, even Magnezone made day two. That should almost never happen, but that player probably ran hot and put himself in a position where he could win games. I wouldn’t buy into that strategy; and pick from one of the best decks, Buzzwole, Malamar, or Zoroark-GX.
Greninja BREAK died in the past weeks because of the rise of Giratina in almost every Malamar deck — it’s become a staple — and because Buzzwole decks can beat it at least half of the time which defeats much of the reason to play the deck in the first place.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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