Forward to Frankfurt — Stéphane’s Top Four Choices

After the Melbourne SPE and the Regional Championships in Santa Catarina and Philadelphia, we now have a clearer view of the Sun and Moon-Celestial Storm metagame. This coming September 29th and 30th, it will be Europe’s turn to have its first major post-rotation event: a Regionals in Frankfurt, Germany. In this article, I’ll try to summarize the current metagame and discuss some decks I’m considering playing at Frankfurt. Of course, if you’re not from Europe, you can still use this information for your own League Cups, and possibly even Memphis Regionals in October.

Dragon Majesty is tournament-legal starting last weekend. That said, I don’t expect it to change the metagame too much. I do expect a few of the new cards to see play: Lance Prism Star and Zinnia might breath new life into Garchomp, Reshiram-GX could be a new partner for Ho-Oh-GX, and cards like Altaria-GX or Blaziken could see some play. For the most part, though, I think if you ignore Dragon Majesty, you can still have a good understanding of what the metagame will be in Frankfurt. Don’t be surprised, then, if the decks I discuss in this article aren’t particularly new concepts.

So far this season, we only have a few European League Cup results to analyze to figure out the metagame, but if there’s one card that’s been associated with Europe during the past year, it’s Zoroark-GX. With European players winning the 2018 World Championships, three International Championships, and six of the seven European Regionals and SPEs that occurred after the card’s release, all with Zoroark-GX archetypes, it’s fair to say that they have been dominant here. I expect that many players in Frankfurt — including the great Tord Reklev — will stay faithful to Zoroark-GX. Thus, I think it’s unwise to play a deck with a bad Zoroark-GX matchup at the event.

I myself played Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX in the only event I’ve attended after Worlds so far, a League Cup where I lost to a Malamar deck in Top 8. I was disappointed with this result; it’s partly my fault, as I could have played game one smarter by making better use of Tapu Koko, but I also think the Golisopod-GX variant of the deck is not very good anymore. Zoroark-GX’s best partner in the new format is Lycanroc-GX. I’ll discuss why I think this below, and then I’ll talk about some other decks I’m more enthusiastic about.

The Zoroark-GX Conundrum

(Conundrum is one of those English words that sounds super cool to me, so as long as I’m writing in English, I have to take the opportunity to use it!)

Zoroark-GX needs no introduction. Possibly one of the best cards ever printed, it has left its mark on both formats — Zoroark-GX decks were so powerful in Expanded this past season that three cards had to be banned to make them “fair.” This season, Zoroark-GX has won a fair share of League Cups, but it hasn’t won any of the three major events so far. Only 23% of day two decks at Philadelphia Regionals were Zoroark-GX variants. That’s decent, but lower than the deck’s representation in Top 32 of 2018 Worlds (31%) or Day 2 of the 2018 NAIC (32%).

It’s not that people are just now trying to counter Zoroark-GX. Sure, many Shrine of Punishment decks use Buzzwole, a card that’s famously hard for Zoroark to deal with; but Zoroark-GX saw several counter decks during the 2017-2018 season, and still always found a way to adapt to its opponents. Zoroark-GX’s current issues, in my opinion, stem from the loss of consistency suffered due to Brigette‘s rotation. The deck now bricks more often and, on average, needs to spend more turns setting up. This means that you can’t play tech cards as easily in the early turns of the game: you can’t afford to Mallow for a Max Potion and an Enhanced Hammer if you’re still trying to evolve your second Zorua; and that’s assuming you can even find room for those tech cards, which is becoming harder. There are many other powerful decks in the format and each requires its own counter: Devoured Field for Shrine of Punishment decks, Dedenne + Tapu Koko for Rayquaza-GX, Judge or Marshadow for decks that use Steven's Resolve, Acerola for the mirror…

What’s more, in the past, Zoroark-GX was one of the best decks at dealing with a late-game N. Its inherent draw power meant that you could replenish your hand to several cards after getting N’d to one without even using a Supporter of your own. With N rotating, this is one advantage Zoroark-GX loses over its competition. It’s also no longer able to use N itself, which was a huge asset when trying to come back from an unfavorable position. Sure, Judge exists, but it doesn’t have the same disruptive ability.

That’s why Zoroark-GX doesn’t feel as powerful as it did last format. You don’t set up as well and you spend the whole game lagging behind your opponent because your options aren’t as strong or as varied as before.

Of course, players are trying to fix that, and the most recent innovation is Great Ball. It has a chance to fail, but it can act like an additional Nest Ball by finding a Basic Pokemon, or like an Evosoda by finding an Evolution Pokemon. If you have a Great Ball and a Nest Ball in hand and you’re looking for a Zorua and a Rockruff, playing the Great Ball gives you a 66% chance of finding one of these two cards (assuming you play four Zorua and three Rockruff, none of which are in your hand) and you can then find the other one with Nest Ball. Jimmy Pendarvis, who got ninth place at Philadelphia Regionals, played four Rockruff, and with this eighth out, Great Ball’s odds of success rise to 72%. If this still seems low, remember that Timer Ball‘s success rate is 75%, and no one bats an eye at playing it! Great Ball’s versatility more than makes up for its randomness.

Here’s the Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX list I’m currently testing:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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