Zoroark Wins in Europe — A Harrogate Recap

For the first time of the season, the past weekend, major events were held simultaneously in Europe and North America. What’s more, they featured different formats, so anyone interested in the state of competitive play could see where the metagame is at. Unfortunately, there was no stream for either of the two Regionals, so spectators were left with nothing to watch.

This is a shame, especially as the Pokemon TCG is growing as a competitive game. It also makes it harder for people who didn’t attend these two events to really understand what went down, how the crazy decks actually work, and so on. The good news, then, is that I attended Harrogate Regionals and I can do my best to recap the tournament. I want to explain how and why the metagame shifted, and help you prepare for your next Standard event. As for Expanded, I’ll leave it to the writers who attended Anaheim!

First, a quick note on my own performance. I played Buzzwole-GX  Lycanroc-GX  Alolan Ninetales-GX, a deck I was pretty confident in, and I was able to secure a Top 32 finish. I wish I could have done better, but I hit some unfortunate matchups along the way. Here’s my list.

Pokemon (19)

4x Buzzwole-GX (CRI #57)2x Alolan Ninetales-GX (LOT #132)2x Alolan Vulpix (GUR #21)2x Lycanroc-GX (GUR #74)2x Rockruff (FOL #75)1x Electrode-GX (CES #48)1x Ditto Prism Star (LOT #154)2x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Buzzwole (FOL #77)1x Diancie Prism Star (FOL #74)1x Marshadow (SHL #45)

Trainers (29)

4x Cynthia (ULP #119)3x Guzma (BUS #115)3x Professor Kukui (SM #128)2x Lillie (ULP #125)1x Lisia (CES #137)4x Ultra Ball (SHL #68)3x Beast Ring (FOL #102)3x Switch (HS #102)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Multi Switch (GUR #129)3x Brooklet Hill (GUR #120)

Energy (12)

7x Fighting Energy (RS #105)4x Unit Energy FDY (FOL #118)1x Beast Energy Prism Star (FOL #117)

As you can see, it’s a barely modified version of the deck I wrote about last week. The inclusion of Electrode-GX meant that I could handle stall decks. This left the deck with no obvious autoloss — Malamar was an issue, but a manageable one if you can target the Inkay and Malamar with Jet Punch and Snowy Wind. Of my four losses over the tournament, one was to Sceptile and two to the same Passimian  Tapu Koko player — both unexpected decks and unfavorable matchups (even though the Passimian matchup is not an autoloss, it is a difficult one). The last loss was to Adam Hawkins’ Malamar / Ultra Necrozma-GX deck. I thought that Ninetales might be enough to handle Ultra Necrozma, but his list ran a number of ways to get his Pokemon out of the Active spot such as Switch and Altar of the Moone, so I couldn’t Guzma Malamar and snipe around it. Plus, his inclusion of Lunala Prism Star meant that even without Malamar, he could fill his board with Energy. I made a mistake in not targeting his Lunala immediately with Dangerous Rogue GX in game one, but I think I would have lost anyway.

If I had to play the event again, I wouldn’t change much. The deck did what it was supposed to do: beat Zoroark-GX and Blacephalon-GX decks. However, I would prepare by playing more Passimian in order to better get a feel for the deck, in order to approach the matchup in a more optimal way. The only card I might change is add a Field Blower, because most people are dropping it, and smart metacallers are abusing the absence of Field Blower to run reactive Tools. I’ll explain this in more detail in this article. First, though, I want to talk about the results of Harrogate regionals, especially Gardevoir-GX‘s absence from day two and Zoroark’s big win.

1. Missing in Action: Stage 2 Decks

Here are the decks that made day two in Harrogate regionals :

Do you notice something? There’s not a single Stage 2 deck here. Sure, there are two Zoroark-GX decks running Decidueye-GX, two Shuckle-GX decks featuring Sceptile to counter Blacephalon-GX, and Greninja-GX making an appearance in a Glaceon-GX deck, but there’s no deck that actually focuses on Stage 2 Pokemon: no Gardevoir-GX, no Solgaleo-GX, not even a single Swampert!

Having talked to several players who ran Stage 2 decks this weekend, the reason for their lack of success was the popularity of Marshadow and, to a lesser extent, Judge. Many decks, including Zoroark-GX variants, Malamar decks, and Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel, ran one of these cards (the latter even including up to three copies of Marshadow!). This kind of disruption is a huge issue for set-up decks, since they need a big hand to set up. The general game plan of a deck like Gardevoir-GX is to use Professor Elm's Lecture on the first turn, Beacon for some Evolution Pokemon like Swampert and Alolan Ninetales-GX, then use these Pokemon’s Abilities to evolve the other Stage 2s. However, Marshadow puts a big dent in this plan, as it can shuffle the cards found by Beacon. Worse, a turn one Let Loose can give a Stage 2 deck an unplayable hand before they can even take their first turn.

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