The Final Stretch: Meta Expectations and Strategies for Worlds

Whenever I go into a tournament, there are two big questions that I ask:

  • What decks should I expect to run into?
  • How well do my deck options do against those decks?

With regards to the World Championships, the simultaneous changes of a rotation and set release, along with the lack of any previous results to base the future meta upon, can make the first question difficult to answer. We’ve had plenty of time to test over the last few months, and there does seem to be some level of consensus on what to expect. Some decks have hype, and some have simply performed better than others. There is almost certain to be plenty of rogue decks running about, but the expected metagame has consolidated well.

At this point, I would expect that most people are finalizing the decision of what to play, as well as finalizing their decklists. If you’ve been preparing for Worlds or the D.C. Open for the past while, as I have, an article like this one likely won’t convince you to scrap those hours and hours of testing, in favor of a deck that you haven’t tried yet, or aren’t as experienced with. It shouldn’t, either; we only have about a week to go, so stick with what you know! Instead, my goal with this article will be to give you an idea of what you should be expecting, and how to best use the time we have remaining to prepare for these upcoming tournaments. I’m going to go over the projected Worlds metagame, and what decks you can expect to see the most. I’ll also be going over some general strategies against those most popular decks, as well as useful tech cards that you can utilize if there’s a particular matchup that you’re struggling with. By the end, hopefully I’ll have given you a good idea of what expectations to have, as well as the strategic knowledge needed to ensure that you’ll be prepared for anything.

Expectations for D.C.

Even though we don’t have any tournament results to go off of, we can still make a rather educated guess at what the Worlds / Open meta will be. Right now, there appears to be ~6 decks with “Tier 1” potential and hype. Those “top 6 ” decks are Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, Blacephalon-GX, Malamar, Reshiram and Charizard-GX, Weavile-GX Dark Box, and Mewtwo and Mew-GX. Despite the fact that we don’t have any tournament results to go off of, there seems to be a remarkable amount of consensus about the strength of those six decks, though there is certainly variability about which deck should be considered the best.

Outside of those six, known concepts include, in no particular order, Shedinja, Gardevoir and Sylveon-GX, Whimsicott-GX, baby Blacephalon, Meganium / Nidoqueen / Swampert, Breloom, Aerodactyl, Weezing, Naganadel-GX, Chandelure Spiritomb, Beheeyem, Keldeo-GX, Lost March, Slowpoke and Psyduck-GX, Porygon-Z, Aegislash, and Dragonite-GX, as well as any other rogue concept that might pop up. These decks tend to vary in how good they are, but I wouldn’t consider them to be popular enough to focus your testing or decklist on. Most of the non-top 6 decks tend to have some weaknesses against the top 6, though I would consider any deck that can beat at least four of those top 6 to be a viable option going forward. Of those, I would be most wary of those that can act as a hard counter to decks that aren’t prepared for them. Shedinja, Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX, Whimsicott GX, and Keldeo-GX can all dominate an unprepared metagame, though all are also incredibly weak into a meta that suspects their arrival. While I don’t expect to see any of those in any overwhelming numbers, I would take note of them, since there is a decent likelihood that a player is willing to take the risk of playing them. For those of you playing in the Open, take note of the Worlds Day 1 results – if you see any of these decks seeing heavy play, be sure to include a counter to them.

Of those top 6 decks, you can divide them further, into “new” and “old.” Typically, older decks will be over-represented in the beginnings of a new format, especially when those existing decks didn’t lose much of their core. This is because it is typically easier to get an optimized list for an existing deck than for a brand new concept. When it comes to testing, that also means that testing groups are more likely to see success from the older concepts than newer, more experimental ones. Likewise, I would expect to see more of the “old” decks than the newer ones. PikaRom, Blacephalon-GX, Malamar, and ReshiZard would be the decks I would most expect to see; Dark Box and Mew Box I expect to see less representation. That isn’t to say that they aren’t as good, only that you likely won’t encounter them as much. When deciding what deck to play, take that potential disparity into consideration; you’d be better off running a deck that has a bad matchup against Dark Box, as opposed to running a deck with a bad matchup against PikaRom, if everything else is equal.

Rogue stuff SHOULD be expected – after all, not only is this a brand new format, but there has also been a considerable amount of time to test concepts for Worlds. The thing is, even if we know to expect the unexpected, the fact that it is unexpected makes it difficult to prepare for. Strategic generalizations are useful here. Malamar, for example, is a deck that we can expect to do well against most non-GX decks, even if we don’t know what those non-GX decks are. To get an idea of how good your deck is against the “unexpected”, consider how your deck performs against the various following archetypes:

  • Non-GX decks
  • ”Turbo” decks
  • Tanky decks
  • Spread decks
  • ”Stall” decks

For non-GX decks, Malamar / Giratina is the gold standard; if your deck can consistently beat it, then you should have a decent time against most other non-GX decks. Aerodactyl is another good one to test against in this regard. PikaRom and Blacephalon-GX are both great examples of turbo decks; I wouldn’t expect a rogue concept to pop up that is better than those two in that regard. ReshiZard is a great example of a tanky deck, as is Super Scoop Up Dark Box; use the results of that to estimate how you might do against something like Gardevoir & Sylveon GX or Rowlet and Alolan Exeggutor-GX.

Effective Strategies and Techs

When you sit down against your opponent, you should expect that they will be playing all sorts of various tech cards against you. It’s generally safe to start with the assumption that you’re playing against a tech heavy variant of whichever archetype your opponent has chosen to play. If they turn out to be more streamlined (which is almost certain), then you won’t hurt yourself strategically, but if you assume that they aren’t playing a card, that can come back to bite you if you aren’t prepared for it. Custom Catcher and Reset Stamp are the two most likely “techs” that you’ll encounter – always assume that your opponent is playing both. You don’t need to go crazy in this regard, but you should have some reasonable idea of the possible tech Pokemon and Trainers that you might encounter. Lack of variety can be a bit of a pitfall if you’ve been testing against similar lists repeatedly, so try to change things up. Try to test against unexpected stuff; even if you’re confident that a particular tech won’t actually be effective in the event, one of your opponents may disagree, and you don’t want to be unprepared!

Our local league, Yeti Gaming, had a rather successful year, with seven people (including myself) securing their invite to the World Championships. With that many people, along with quite a few tagging along to play in the D.C. Open, we’ve had plenty of playtesting to do between all of us! I’ve personally taken to a role of being the player to play against when you need to test a particular matchup; as a result, I’ve gathered plenty of experience with the variety of decks that we are expecting to see in D.C. Whenever you have a playtesting session, I do recommend trying out some of the other decks that you expect to see, even if you don’t expect to play them yourself; by doing so, you can gain an additional perspective on how that deck works, and thus be better prepared when you end up playing against it in a tournament. Here are some of the strategies and tricks that I’ve picked up over my many hours of testing:


Techs to consider: Reset Stamp, Froslass

ReshiZard is a deck that enters the new format without many weaknesses. The deck hits hard, is tanky, and is remarkably fast. It isn’t quite as ridiculous in those attributes as it was prior to the rotation, but it is still a force to be reckoned with. New lists of ReshiZard aim less for the hard, quick hits of the pre-rotation Kiawe lists, and more for a grindier game in which they don’t lose once set up. In many ways, playing against post-rotation ReshiZard can feel more like playing against the old Celebi and Venusaur-GX decks than playing against the older ReshiZard decks! Between four Great Potion and four Mixed Herbs, a ReshiZard player can heal up to 380 damage over the course of the game – and it isn’t that difficult for them to do so, thanks to Green's Exploration and a naturally high amount of draw and deck thinning coming from Acro Bike and the Fire engine. Alternatively, ReshiZard decks can opt to be Ability-focused, with Jirachi and Ninetales. I tend to think that those lists are a good bit weaker, though they can be a bit more robust against hand disruption.

If you are playing a deck that can reliably OHKO Reshiram & Charizard GX, then this matchup won’t be too difficult. Unfortunately, not many decks can reliably pull that off, especially when Choice Helmet means that the OHKO attack would have to hit for 300 damage or more. Froslass can get a OHKO for only one Energy, but it isn’t an easy inclusion in most decks, being that it is a Stage One.

Even without a OHKO, there are still a few things that you can do to beat ReshiZard. Much of their plan will involve stacking up healing cards in their hand, and waiting for the right moment to use them. With a well timed Reset Stamp, you can completely derail their plans, and force the ReshiZard player into an incredibly difficult situation. Against any deck that can’t get a KO without their GX attack, ReshiZard can get into a nearly unbeatable position if you don’t have a way to disrupt their hand. Luckily, Unified Minds gave us Reset Stamp! Typically, I’ve found that one Reset Stamp is enough to beat ReshiZard for most decks, so long as you use it at the right time. You don’t want to use it immediately; rather, wait until they are down to three or less Prize cards, so that they draw as few as possible. There isn’t a set rule on how many Prizes they should be at when they use it, but the goal should be to use it when it will be the most impactful. You’ll want to use it in conjunction with a high damage attack, basically, one that requires them to find multiple healing cards to survive. If you happen to play two copies of Reset Stamp, then you can use one earlier on, to disrupt their ability to set up a second Reshiram & Charizard GX.

If you don’t play Reset Stamp, your goal should be to apply pressure as fast as possible. If you’re going to win, then you’ll need them to have to choose between grabbing healing Items with Green’s Exploration, or grabbing pieces to set up their second attacker. If you give them time to do both, then you’ll likely lose – though this can happen anyway if they are lucky enough to draw into the right pieces. With enough early pressure, you can occasionally steal a win from them, so don’t worry too much about your own set up, and dive into attacks!

Mew Box

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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