Readers, hello! I’m back from Frankfurt Regionals, and what an event it was! Although Zoroark-GX comprised a quarter of the field according to the official coverage, Europe’s largest Regional to date ended with longtime player Hampus Eriksson winning with a deck so unlikely that most people were surprised to even see it in day two: Sylveon-GX. The surprises didn’t stop there, though: Sander Wojcik, the mad genius of stall decks, reached Top 8 with another of his unwieldy creations, this time featuring Wailord, Steelix, and even Looker.
Stall decks certainly deserve attention as we look to Memphis Regionals this weekend, but I believe a different archetype that saw a resurgence in Frankfurt will be more relevant: Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX. One of best players in the game right now, Pedro Eugenio Torres, piloted the deck to a Top 8 finish. I’m familiar with his list, as I almost played it myself. I strongly believe that Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX is going to make a comeback in the Standard format and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen very soon. That’s why, in this article, I’ll try to give a thorough explanation of the deck, including card choices and its gameplans against other decks. I’ll also talk a little about my own Frankfurt run with Ho-Oh-GX / Salazzle-GX. Make sure to stick around until the end, where I will give some last-minute predictions for the Memphis Regionals metagame.
Before I go any further, I’d like to announce that I will now be writing articles here on a weekly basis. (Should I say I’m writing a column? It sounds cooler that way.) Thanks to PokeBeach for this opportunity! Hopefully you’re all as excited as I am.
Great decks rarely disappear after a rotation unless all the core cards of the deck are completely gone. That’s something I’ve observed during my eight years of playing this game. I became particularly aware of it in 2015 when the rotation of Dark Patch didn’t stop Yveltal-EX from dominating Standard, contrary to many players’ expectations. Sure, some decks will die because their most fundamental cards rotate: think Greninja BREAK this past season. Let’s consider a little more, though. Outside of a small resurgence in day two of the 2018 World Championships, Greninja was no longer a meta deck at the end of the format. Its hour of glory was in 2016, when it made the finals at Worlds. After that season’s rotation, with the loss of Dive Ball and any good counters to Giratina, the deck was declared dead. And yet, because its core concept was so strong, Greninja remained a threat during the early 2017-2018 season. What stopped it wasn’t rotation — it was other decks getting progressively better. That’s what happens to great decks: they disappear slowly, eroded but not broken by rotation, instead getting power-creeped or countered out of the meta. But still, as much as they can, they adapt.
As it was for Greninja, so it is for the great decks of last season. Zoroark-GX variants suffer from the loss of Puzzle of Time and Brigette, but they have adapted, now playing higher counts of Lillie, Cynthia, or Judge as well as four Nest Ball in order to set up consistently. Malamar lost Float Stone, but a new variant with Escape Board has emerged. Rayquaza-GX can no longer play Max Elixir to set up at lightning speed, but it adapted to the new format by partnering with Vikavolt.
There’s no doubt that Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX was another of the great decks of 2017-2018. It won an International Championship and multiple Regionals; and Jimmy Pendarvis even called it the best deck of all time. It’s only logical, then, that it would retain a spot in the metagame this season. With that in mind, here’s a newly-designed list:
This is the list Pedro Eugenio Torres used to Top 8 Frankfurt. Pedro actually played one Rockruff from Guardians Rising, but he stated afterward that it’s probably better just to run two of the Forbidden Light print.
This list was created by Heddi Brahmi. If you’re not familiar with Heddi, he’s probably the best player to have never made Top 8 at a modern-era Regional or International Championship, although he came very close when he got 9th at Latin America Internationals this past April. He tests with many of the top minds of the game. To give only one example, he was one of the strongest advocates for the Schulz brothers and their team to play Zoroark-GX / Garbodor last season. Although Heddi is semi-retired this season, he continues to influence top players and works particularly closely with Pedro.
A few weeks ago, Heddi sent me a draft of Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX that differed from the list above by only four cards. After some testing, including at a League Challenge where I lost in the finals to Sylveon-GX (how’s that for foreshadowing!), I believed the deck was worthy of Heddi’s hype. As I mentioned, I considered playing it in Frankfurt — and perhaps I should have — but I didn’t have time to prepare for the Buzzwole / CARD NOT FOUND matchup and didn’t want to play sub-optimally against one of the most popular decks in the room.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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