Hello, readers! With Lost Thunder coming out so soon, I assume many of you are already testing the new decks coming out in this set. I would love to play around with Alolan Ninetales-GX, Blacephalon-GX, Lost March, and all the other new cards too, but this weekend I’ll be competing in the Lille Special Event in France, our last major tournament before Lost Thunder. Since there are so few major events in Europe compared to North America, each of our Regionals and Special Events hold more relative importance. A great run at even one of those could mean a spot in the European Top 16 for the quarter, which means an invitation to an International Championship. For this reason, I’ve been focused on the pre-Lost Thunder format — I want to stay in the Top 4 to get a paid trip to the Oceania International Championship in February!
So should I talk about the format that I’ve been focusing on that’s not as exciting? Or the one that most people want to hear about with which I have less hands-on experience? The answer, obviously, is both. For those of you going to Lille or still looking for a deck for their last League Cups of the quarter, I’ll be talking about the four decks I’m considering playing this weekend. As usual, I’ll give lists, an analysis of some of the most important choices, and some other options. And for those who just don’t care about the current format anymore, I’ll also discuss how each of these decks will evolve after Lost Thunder. Rayquaza-GX fans in particular should rejoice, since I explain how the card will find its way into a new and better deck!
Vikavolt / Rayquaza-GX won Special Events in Australia and Chile — the first and the latest Standard major events of the season. It also made Top 8 at every Regional so far, except Santa Catarina where it placed ninth. It’s clear that VikaRay is a great deck that can hold its own despite the ebb and flow of the metagame. For this reason, it’s a safe choice and I expect a decent percentage of the field in Lille to default to it.
VikaRay has no awful matchup, and it’s even one of the best decks to deal with Sylveon-GX and other stall decks, should they make another appearance after their success in Frankfurt. The deck’s flaws are well known, though: as a Stage 2 deck its consistency is shaky, and you will lose games through no fault of your own — sometimes, you just won’t find Vikavolt and Rare Candy in the same hand.
Although the deck is certainly not as modular as a Zoroark-GX deck for example, we still saw it adapt to the evolution of the metagame. First, players started running Dhelmise and/or Shining Lugia to deal with Shrine of Punishment decks; and, more recently, Bastian Silva won the Chile Special Event with two copies of Lysandre Labs in his deck, a card that can slow down Malamar by shutting off Escape Board; since recent Malamar lists don’t run any Stadiums or Field Blower, they have no recourse against it.
I think Bastian’s list is the reference going forward. Here it is below if you haven’t seen it yet:
Some cards I would consider playing include a second copy of Switch and a fourth Grubbin. Beyond its general utility, Switch is specifically used to get Rayquaza-GX into the Active spot on turn one or two in order to use Tempest-GX, so adding a Switch can improve the overall consistency of the deck. As for the fourth Grubbin, the idea is to increase the odds to hit one or two naturally on turn one so that you can use Steven's Resolve to ensure a turn two Vikavolt.
A more ambitious change would be to add a thin line of Sceptile. Sceptile can protect your attackers from Buzzwole and Buzzwole-GX in Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX and Buzzwole / Shrine decks: these decks need a powerful Sledgehammer turn to compete with you, and Sceptile prevents them from getting it. Against Malamar decks, you can prevent your opponent from using Moon’s Eclipse GX to Knock Out your Rayquaza-GX, which is their main comeback mechanic. However, since VikaRay already has a hard time getting a Vikavolt into play, it is probably too optimistic to also get Sceptile early enough that it can have an effect on the game.
After Lost Thunder
Many have claimed that after Lost Thunder the metagame will be unfavorable for Rayquaza-GX. It’s true that Fairy Pokemon will get more popular — mainly Alolan Ninetales-GX, but Granbull has enjoyed some hype as well. What’s more, unlike the other Stage 2 Pokemon that I outlined last week, Vikavolt can’t make good use of Alolan Ninetales-GX itself: you can’t play any other Energy than basic Grass or Lightning, so you can’t use Ninetales’ attacks; and Grubbin and Rayquaza-GX have Retreat Costs greater than one, so you can’t easily retreat to Alolan Vulpix on your first turn to use Beacon.
However, Rayquaza-GX gets a new powerful ally in Zeraora-GX, which does three things for the deck:
- Its Ability lets you switch easily between your Pokemon, eliminating any need for Switch.
- Plasma Fists is a powerful enough attack. You still want to attack with Dragon Break most of the time, but against Granbull, for example, having an attacker that’s not weak to Fairy should be useful.
- Most importantly, Full Voltage GX is amazing. Unlike Turtonator-GX‘s Nitro Tank GX which was limited to Fire Energy, you can bring back any type of basic Energy with it. It’s very possible, thanks to a combination of Stormy Winds, Shuckle, Ultra Ball, Mysterious Treasure, Acro Bike, and Sightseer, to discard four to five Energy cards on turn one. You can then use Full Voltage GX to power up two Rayquaza-GX. Thanks to Thunder Mountain Prism Star, you can even use its attack for free! This setup is so powerful that it removes the need to run Vikavolt in the deck. After Lost Thunder, Rayquaza-GX lists can be built more like they were at Worlds.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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