Viridian Expedition — Updating the Malamar Toolbox

The events of Oceania International Championships put Malamar in a bit of an awkward spot. Let’s talk about that.

Malamar started off the year comfortably under the radar. Many players favored countering Zoroark-GX over countering Malamar. Even at Roanoke the last Standard event before OCIC, over a quarter of Masters brought either Buzzwole or Blacephalon-GX. But at OCIC, we saw Malamar get countered by the Zapdos archetype that ultimately won the event.

In my mind this spells a lot of trouble for Malamar. People built many different decks to counter Zoroark this year, such as Control, Chimecho Malamar, Buzzwole, Blacephalon, etc. The Zapdos deck we saw at OCIC could represent the beginning of a similar trend targeted at Malamar. So if Zoroark’s troubles earlier this year provide any indication, then we should expect yet more Malamar counters in the near future.

To address this concern, I want to first talk briefly about the OCIC metagame. The second half of the article offers some Malamar coaching, tech card discussion, and an updated deck list.

Melbourne in Hindsight

Melbourne really caught me off guard on multiple levels. I knew Ultra Necrozma-GX would see a lot of play, but I heard of players running into around four Ultra Malamar decks in day one of the event. When you look at the archetype counts at past North American Regionals, you would not expect to run into more than two of a single archetype on day one of an event. I also expected a wide variety of archetypes, but we pretty much only saw around four make day two. And most importantly, I did not see Zapdos coming at all.

Prior to Melbourne, I saw bulky decks like Celebi and Venusaur-GX or Stall decks as serious threats. Tord Reklev hyped Venusaur while Stall decks saw significant success at Melbourne after all. But Melbourne seemingly turns that on its head, with Malamar pressuring those archetypes away and opening the field up to something like Zapdos. It really goes to show how much the meta changed in the three months since Roanoke.

So, would I still recommend playing Malamar? I generally advise against mainstream decks because they tend to struggle in day two of events. Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX, for example, saw terrible day two conversion rates the first half of this year. I expect similar conversion rates for Malamar at future events, thus I would only recommend Malamar if you think you can pilot it flawlessly. And since I think a lot of Malamar players only picked up the deck recently and because Ultra Necrozma-GX introduces a significantly higher skill ceiling to Malamar than ever before, I want to dedicate the next section of the article to Malamar coaching.

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