Spread’s Not Dead — An Analysis of Weezing

Greetings! Now that the first wave of events in the new SUMUNB format is over, we have a better picture of the format, although interestingly, the metagames of each event had some differences. In Sydney and Sao Paulo, Zoroark-GX decks were highly successful, reaching the finals of both Regionals, with multiple other spots in Top 8. In Santa Clara, though, Zoroark-GX was almost absent from Day 2, whereas stall decks were both popular and successful. I expect these differences between regions to gradually fade away as players get inspiration from other continents’ decklists — when you pit all of the decks from this weekend together, some will emerge as better than others. In any case, and without going too much into details, here are my main takeaways:

Reshiram and Charizard-GX has lived up to the hype, winning both Santa Clara and Sao Paulo Regionals, although with some very different lists. In California, Kian Amini showcased the power of Green's Exploration, whereas in Brazil, Pablo Meza played a bunch of Ability Pokemon, including Jirachi, Dedenne-GX and Miltank. The debate on which version is better is therefore far from settled, and I think it might not have a clear answer. My personal preference goes to the Green’s Exploration version, but I suspect that both have pros and cons and will see play until the end of the format. At least we now have some established lists to use as a base for both versions of the deck, so be prepared for both!

Zapdos was also successful at all events this weekend, and ended up with a win in Sydney. Although there was some exploration of a Zapdos / Buzzwole list with Marshadow and Machamp-GX in Santa Clara, the traditional Zapdos / Ultra Beasts variant was the most successful overall. Aaron Van Der Kolk, the Sydney winner, included Kartana and Pheromosa and Buzzwole-GX in what is otherwise a classic decklist, with 1-1 Zebstrika. Clearly, Zapdos is still a force to be reckoned with, and since it does fairly well against Reshiram & Charizard-GX, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. That said, Zapdos’s popularity this weekend may also come from its comfort pick status. The deck didn’t change much from its incarnation in the previous format, so it’s possible that players who didn’t have enough time to test the new or updated decks, or who couldn’t settle on a list, opted for the tried and true Zapdos. That’s why despite Zapdos’s success, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of its players moved away from it to play some newer decks.

Zoroark-GX is still strong, although there’s a lot of variation in the lists played. Most Zoroark-GX players included Persian-GX as a partner, except for Gustavo Wada who made top 8 in Sao Paulo with Silvally-GX. As for other attackers, we saw Lycanroc-GX, Slowking as either a 1-1 or 2-2 line, and Dewgong. Despite its relative lack of success this weekend, I remain convinced that Dewgong is the better card compared to Slowking, except perhaps in a metagame heavily dominated by ReshiZard. That’s not objective analysis though, it’s my personal feeling after playing a lot with the card.

Finally, perhaps surprisingly, the fourth most successful deck was Weezing. It made up almost a quarter of the Top 32 in Sao Paulo, including one Top 8 appearance, and got some spots in Day 2 of Santa Clara. It also won the smaller SPE happening that weekend in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is an interesting deck to me, and that’s why I want to delve deeper into the deck: what makes it good, both in a vacuum and in the context of the metagame, what is the best way to play it, and what are its future prospects.

The Concept of Weezing

First, let’s discuss how Weezing came to be. I’m pretty sure it started with, of all things, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX. See, the electric duo was made powerful on purpose, in order to showcase the power of Tag Team Pokemon and gather up hype for this new mechanic. Both in Japan and in the West, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX immediately became one of the most powerful decks in the game. The Pokemon game designers, though, have a tendency to react to a card being strong by printing direct counters. Since Tag Bolt GX’s potential to take four Prize cards in one turn was what made Pikachu & Zekrom-GX so dangerous, it made sense to print a new Pokemon with Bench Barrier, a universal tech that would heavily reduce PikaRom’s power level. That way, the new cards (particularly Reshiram & Charizard-GX) would have a chance to shine without being outshined by older ones. And so Mew was printed.

A side effect of Mew was that spread decks were pretty much over. Tapu Koko‘s Flying Flip, the backbone of every spread deck, is not much of a threat when it only deals 20 damage to the Active Pokemon! The only way to make spread decks strong again would be to print a better attacker for them, one that would also somehow be able to spread even through Mew’s effect. Enter Weezing, a Pokemon that can deal up to 140 damage for a Double Colorless Energy, without even taking its Ability into account! Such a powerful attack was printed only, in my opinion, because of Mew’s existence to set it back. However, unlike Tapu Koko, Weezing is not made irrelevant by Mew. Here’s why: first, it’s a Psychic type, and Mew has Psychic weakness. That means that despite its low base damage, Weezing can still OHKO Mew if you can Guzma it up. Even if you don’t, Weezing’s Ability spreads damage even through Bench Barrier. Mew will be KO’d in three turns, and other Basic Pokemon will also take damage. Mew is still pretty good against Weezing, sure, but it’s not perfect. Spell Tag also combines well with Weezing. A Spell Tag is enough to KO Mew when you account for two ticks of Detention Gas damage, so a Mew on the Bench can actually end up being a free Prize card!

In addition, Detention Gas is great because it lets Weezing do something even if it’s ahead in Prizes. Spread decks tend to be play from behind, which means they depend on Counter Energy. If you let them go ahead, they might get stuck, but even if they can’t find a Double Colorless Energy, an Active Weezing still puts damage on the opponent’s Pokemon and must be dealt with.

This means that Unbroken Bonds replaced older spread decks with a single, better one. I like this development a lot, as I wasn’t a fan of the various decks built around Flying Flip, which often felt like collections of cards without a clear unifying theme. On a personal note, I also enjoy that less popular Pokemon like Weezing (or Dewgong!) see play. Finally, something that’s also satisfying is that Weezing’s Ability specifically targets Basic Pokemon. I like that because I want to see Evolution Pokemon find a better place in the game, but on a more practical note, it means that Weezing is made to compete with, and even beat, Basic decks, even huge Tag Team Pokemon like ReshiZard and PikaRom (provided it runs the right techs), but tends to struggle against Evolution decks (more on this later). That helps a lot to balance the format!

Building a List

Despite all my current enthusiasm for the deck and what it means for the metagame, I wasn’t impressed by Weezing at first, because of its consistency issues. The deck needs to attack with Weezing every turn, so you need to find Pokemon and Energy every turn. Four copies of Lillie and Cynthia are a given, but they’re not enough, and the cards I tried to improve consistency didn’t solve the problem. I tried playing more Supporters, such as Erika's Hospitality, as well as Pokégear 3.0, but they were not always good (Erika can be weak especially if the opponent tries to limit their Bench, which they’ll often do against Weezing; Pokegear can miss) and I found myself lacking in Energy. Some lists include one or two copies of Triple Acceleration Energy as additional fuel for Weezing, but I wasn’t convinced either. However, the deck finally clicked for me when I tried the list of Vitor Santos Soares, who got Top 8 in Sao Paulo, and his teammates. Their list includes a full four copies of Jirachi, which helps find Supporters and other Trainers. Compared to Pokegear, Jirachi takes a spot on the Bench and requires an Escape Board, but you can use it several times in a game, which works better in the end. I also decided to include Energy Loto, which can be found by Jirachi, and lets the deck access its Energy more easily.

Now, Jirachi works a bit differently in Weezing than in other decks. Usually, Jirachi with Escape Board is the Pokemon you send when you get KO’d, so you can use Stellar Wish on your turn. However, because of Detention Gas, it’s generally much better to send Weezing in order to spread damage between turns. Therefore, apart from the start of the game when you don’t have Weezing yet, or unless you plan to use one of your tech attackers instead, you don’t want to send Jirachi after a KO. Instead, you generally send Jirachi Active during your turn, with either Guzma or Escape Rope, before retreating back to Weezing. This is a bit unusual, but it works well and I’m convinced that running Jirachi is the best way to play the deck.

Here’s the list I settled on:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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