Putting Out The Fire: Defeating Reshiram & Charizard-GX

Hello everyone! Now that the Madison Regional Championships have concluded, we’re officially done with Regionals here in the U.S.! We’ve entered the finishing stretch of the season — but we aren’t done yet! A smattering of Special Events still remain — in Columbus, in South Africa, and in Brazil — as does the Jönköping Regional Championship in Sweden. Then, we finish it all off with the NAIC, the tournament that will almost certainly be the largest of the year once again.

Whichever one of these events you find yourself at, one thing will be true: Reshiram and Charizard-GX will be the deck to beat. Even though it didn’t finish first at Madison, I don’t think there can be any doubt that Reshiram & Charizard-GX has become the BDIF of Unbroken Bonds Standard. For the first time since Unbroken Bonds was released, we had a look at the full meta data from a major event, data which confirmed Reshiram & Charizard-GX’s dominance. Reshiram & Charizard-GX was by far the most played deck at Madison, making up 21.5% of the field (127/590 decks), a solid five percent more than the next most played deck (all Zoroark-GX variants combined). Even with such a high rate of play, and with a target on its back, Reshiram & Charizard-GX actually managed to outperform its meta share. Out of the 66 decks to make Day Two in Madison, 24 were Reshiram & Charizard-GX, including finishes in 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th place. The only thing the deck was missing was another Championship title! This is after the deck dominated in the opening weekend of Unbroken Bonds, and won in both the Santa Clara Regionals and São Paulo Regionals, a performance which had already put Reshiram & Charizard-GX firmly in the “top tier” category. That last bit is perhaps the most terrifying thing about Reshiram & Charizard-GX right now: that even in a format chock full of decks designed to beat it, Reshiram & Charizard-GX still found a way to succeed. Madison’s Day Two was full of Reshiram & Charizard-GX, for sure, but there were also plenty of Day Two competitors who had made beating Reshiram & Charizard-GX their main goal.

There were a solid amount of players playing decks designed as Reshiram & Charizard-GX counters, or which naturally had a strong matchup into Reshiram & Charizard-GX — decks such as Quagsire / Naganadel, Granbull, and Vikavolt, not to mention Blacephalon and Blacephalon-GX decks. On top of that, all of the Zoroark players were playing some sort of Water-type attacker in their deck, be it Slowking, Dewgong, Gyarados, or Silvally-GX with Water Memory. In the case of one player, Zoroark-GX was paired with three Water type attackers (Slowking, Dewgong, and Glaceon-GX)! Even so, there weren’t quite enough auto-losses in the room, and once a Reshiram & Charizard-GX player got past them, the Water + Zoroark decks ended up being not quite strong enough to compete with the refined Fire lists.

Despite all that, there is still hope to be had for those looking to defeat the fire-breathing dragons. Reshiram & Charizard-GX may have outperformed its meta share, but the opposition did end up coming out on top, thanks to Ian Robb’s Blacephalon-GX deck. Between innovative tech cards and refined strategies, there are still plenty of ways to counter Reshiram & Charizard-GX, even without a switch to a hard counter deck. For those truly determined not to lose to Reshiram & Charizard-GX, those counter decks provide a strong option — so long as they can still match up with the rest of the format!

For the rest of this article, I’ll be going over how to beat Reshiram and Charizard-GX, with a look at the deck itself, its exploitable weaknesses, and the attributes you’ll need in a deck to beat it. I’ll also be taking a look at some of the other Tier 1 decks in Unbroken Bonds Standard, and the strategies that they can use to have success against Reshiram & Charizard-GX.

All About Reshiram & Charizard-GX

Variants: Green vs. Kiawe

Right now, there are two main variants of Reshiram & Charizard-GX: the Green's Exploration / Volcanion variant, and the Kiawe / Jirachi variant. The two were played in nearly even numbers at Madison, though the Kiawe version had significantly more success. To start, let’s take a look at the DDG Kiawe Reshiram & Charizard-GX list. This list was by far the most dominant of any that was played, as it finished 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 23rd, and 30th; thanks to those finishes, I would expect to see more copies of this list than any other variant. Here is that list, for reference:

Pokemon (16)

4x Jirachi (TEU #99)2x Reshiram and Charizard-GX (UNB #20)2x Eevee and Snorlax-GX (TEU #120)1x Arcanine (UNB #22)1x Growlithe (UNB #21)1x Volcanion (UNB #25)2x Marshadow (SHL #45)1x Dedenne-GX (UNB #57)1x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Miltank (CRI #78)

Trainers (32)

4x Welder (UNB #214)3x Guzma (BUS #143)2x Kiawe (BUS #144)4x Acro Bike (CES #178)4x Ultra Ball (SM #161)4x Nest Ball (SM #158)4x Switch (SM #160)2x Fire Crystal (UNB #173)2x Fiery Flint (DRM #76)2x Escape Board (ULP #167)1x Heat Factory Prism Star (LOT #178)

Energy (12)

12x Fire Energy (BUS #167)

In contrast to the Green’s Exploration build, the Kiawe variant has many more attackers and strategies that it can potentially utilize. It is also a bit more consistent, thanks to Jirachi, Dedenne-GX, and Tapu Lele-GX; and a bit more disruptive, since it can play multiple Marshadow without any downside. The list also covers its weaknesses rather well. It plays multiple Eevee and Snorlax-GX to hinder players attempting to exploit Reshiram and Charizard-GX’s Weakness to Water, as well as Miltank and four Switch, in an attempt to prevent any multi hit KOs. Arcanine and Volcanion function as decent non-GX attackers; Arcanine also gives the deck a way around Vileplume. The lack of Choice Band is the only questionable decision in this list, but I would expect to see it in future iterations.

The Green’s variant utilizes a heavier line of Volcanion, and doesn’t utilize Jirachi or Miltank. As a result, the deck is a touch stronger against certain non-GX decks, such as Zapdos, but a good bit weaker against other strategies. Green’s Exploration does allow this build to pull off some nifty combos with Item cards, but the lack of Ability Pokemon means that the deck is far more limited than the Jirachi / Kiawe variant. For an example, here is the list that I played in Madison, which is an adaptation of Kian Amini’s winning list from Santa Clara:

Pokemon (7)

4x Volcanion (UNB #25)2x Reshiram and Charizard-GX (UNB #20)1x Eevee and Snorlax-GX (TEU #171)

Trainers (42)

4x Green's Exploration (UNB #209)4x Welder (UNB #214)3x Guzma (BUS #143)2x Bill's Analysis (TEU #133)2x Professor Kukui (SM #148)1x Judge (LOT #209)1x Lt. Surge's Strategy (UNB #178)4x Pokégear 3.0 (UNB #182)4x Nest Ball (SM #158)4x Custom Catcher (LOT #231)2x Fiery Flint (DRM #76)2x Fire Crystal (UNB #173)2x Choice Band (BUS #162)1x Stealthy Hood (UNB #186)1x Field Blower (GUR #163)1x Max Potion (GUR #164)1x Switch (SM #160)1x Escape Rope (BUS #163)1x Heat Factory Prism Star (LOT #178)1x Shrine of Punishment (CES #143)

Energy (11)

11x Fire Energy (BUS #167)

While this deck did perform pretty well for me, I don’t think that it is the ideal build going forward. While I do appreciate the deck’s consistency, I can’t help but feel that it’s comparatively linear nature will doom it, particularly as players focus more and more on beating Reshiram & Charizard-GX. The Green’s variant also has a difficult time dealing with the early burst from a Kiawe’d Reshiram & Charizard-GX; since the Green’s variant doesn’t play Kiawe itself, and can’t use Marshadow as a means of disruption, it can’t take as much advantage going first, and needs to get exceptionally lucky when going second. This version does have advantages in terms of damage output — Choice Band + Shrine of Punishment won me quite a few mirror match games, shout out to Jay Young for that idea — but that advantage is nullified if your opponent can KO your Reshiram and Charizard-GX before they can attack. So, even while this deck is certainly strong, going forward, I would expect more of the former list, and less of the Green’s Exploration list.


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