Showdown in Sheffield — First Regionals Takeaway

The first European Regionals of the season (and biggest European regionals ever!), which also happened to be the first major event with Hidden Fates legal, took place last weekend in Sheffield, UK. This is a good time to reflect on the metagame, especially since players from all over the world are preparing for major events at the end of September: Regional Championships in Atlantic City, NJ, and Cologne, Germany, and a Special Event in Campinas, Brazil, will all take place on the 28th and 29th of September.

So what can we take away from Sheffield Regionals? For good or for bad, the metagame wasn’t particularly shaken up, either by Hidden Fates or by some new discovery. No secret deck was revealed that changes the way we look at the game. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to take note of, though. In this article, I’ll take a close look at the results in order to get a better picture of the metagame.

First, let’s look at some statistics. Unfortunately, we don’t know the repartition of decks in the general event, but we do know which decks made Day 2:

And the Top 8 was:

  1. David Ferreira, Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX
  2. Logan Madden, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
  3. Fabien Pujol, Pidgeotto Control
  4. Martin Guilbert, Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel
  5. Gustavo Wada, Ability Reshiram & Charizard-GX
  6. Robin Schulz, Ability Reshiram & Charizard-GX
  7. Jack Culkin, Green’s Reshiram & Charizard-GX
  8. Bryan de Vries, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

As you can see, there’s nothing in there that’s too out of the ordinary. All the decks in the Top 8 were already known to be good, and there was no outlandish tech. That said, you probably wouldn’t have predicted that Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX would win this event; I certainly didn’t! You might also be surprised by the lack of Mewtwo & Mew-GX or Malamar in the top cut. Let’s dig deeper.

Gardeon Wins

Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX was the surprise deck of Day 1 of Worlds, but it has been on a downward trend since then. It barely missed the Top 8 of Worlds, but it didn’t shine much in League Cups. The reason for it is simple: it has a terrible Reshiram & Charizard-GX matchup (mainly the Ability version, but the Green’s version is also unfavorable). ReshiZard has several ways to OHKO a Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX and none of the defensive cards Gardeon can use (except Choice Helmet and Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star, which are the weakest) are of any help against it. Since Ability ReshiZard was the most expected deck, Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX was a risky play for the event. While we don’t know for sure, my impression as a player was that Ability ReshiZard was indeed the most played deck.

How did David Ferreira beat it? Simple: he did not! He ended the event with a 13-2-2 record, and all his ties and losses were to Ability ReshiZard (one of them an ID). He did manage to beat a Green’s Exploration variant, though. Steven Mao, who made Top 16 with Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX, has a similar story: he dodged Ability ReshiZard throughout Day 1, although he took a couple of losses to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. In Day 2, however, he faced two Ability ReshiZard decks and went 0-1-1 against them, preventing him from reaching Top 8.

So why did these players perform so well with a deck that took a loss to the most popular deck in the format? I’m sure some would call that luck. Of course, luck is always a part of any successful run at a Pokemon tournament, but focusing on that element doesn’t teach us anything, and would give us a flawed understanding of what happened. Let’s look at David Ferreira’s list.

Pokemon (5)

4x Gardevoir and Sylveon-GX (UNB #130)1x Xerneas-GX (FOL #90)

Trainers (46)

4x Green's Exploration (UNB #175)4x Coach Trainer (UNM #192)1x Bill's Analysis (TEU #133)4x Pokégear 3.0 (UNB #182)4x Custom Catcher (LOT #171)4x Switch (HS #102)3x Cherish Ball (UNM #191)3x Great Potion (UNM #198)2x Tag Switch (UNM #209)2x Reset Stamp (UNM #206)2x Energy Spinner (UNB #170)2x Fairy Charm L (UNB #172)2x Fairy Charm UB (TEU #142)2x Fairy Charm P (LOT #175)1x Choice Helmet (LOT #169)1x Adventure Bag (LOT #167)4x Power Plant (UNB #183)1x Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star (TEU #158)

Energy (9)

9x Fairy Energy (XY #140)

What struck me when I saw it was that, although he took a loss to Ability Reshiram & Charizard-GX, he made up for that by improving his matchups elswhere. He decided to include two copies of each of Fairy Charm L, Fairy Charm P and Fairy Charm UB, which meant that Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel, respectively, were all pretty favorable matchups. An Adventure Bag also let him search for both copies of whatever Tool he needed in any matchup. To make space for that, David cut some Supporters and a Cherish Ball.

Due to a decklist error, David had to play rounds 12 and 13, as well as top cut, with his Custom Catcher replaced by Fairy Energy. It’s impressive that this didn’t stop him from winning! I believe that his opponents were not aware of that, though — I know at least that his Top 8 and Top 4 opponents didn’t know about the lack of Custom Catcher going into their matches — so they would still play as if he had them. Gardeon is also a deck that can win by sole virtue of locking the opponent out of the game thanks to Fairy Charms, so the lack of Custom Catcher wasn’t as devastating as it would have been in, say, PikaRom.

Steven Mao’s list was quite similar to the list I wrote about in my Gardeon article. Unlike David, he only played one copy of each Fairy Charm, but he also had Wait and See Hammer, which allowed him to delay Double Blaze GX by one turn if he could get it out on turn 1. This addition can give a Gardeon player more time to outplay their opponent, although it’s still definitely an unfavorable matchup.

If Gardeon can win an event even when its worst matchup is the most played deck, does that make it a tier 1 deck? Yes and no. I think the deck might have been overlooked too much by players, myself included. However, we must also recognize that outside of ReshiZard, Gardeon had a pretty strong matchup spread and, most importantly, benefited from the way the meta was evolving. For example, after Kaiwen Cabbabe’s win at the Melbourne Open with a PikaRom list that included Power Plant, many PikaRom players switched from Lysandre Labs to Power Plant. That change benefited Gardeon hugely, since the Power Plant lists had no way to deal with Fairy Charm L. Similarly, we also saw a rise in Malamar and Quagsire / Naganadel decks, which are both fine matchups for Gardeon. Following Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX’s win in Sheffield, I would assume that people will be getting ready to face it, with PikaRom players in particular keeping Lysandre Labs in their decks. Therefore, Gardeon will be a worse play for the coming weeks and I would not recommend playing it at your next League Cup, unless, for some reason, your local meta is devoid of Reshiram & Charizard-GX.


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