Sleight of Hand — Garchomp & Giratina-GX in Standard

Hello! Let’s talk about the Standard format!

If you’re American, maybe that’s not the most interesting for you. The only major event left in North America before the release of Sword and Shield (I can’t wait to talk about that set, by the way) is in Expanded, so there’s no huge need to test Standard. Plus, let’s be honest, many people believe that the format is getting a bit stale. Mewtwo and Mew-GX, Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX, and, strangely enough, Malamar, are getting the most results in League Cups worldwide, and all these decks can have consistency issues. As much as I hate that Sword and Shield’s new TCG mechanics boil down to nothing more than “Pokémon-EX again, but bigger”, at least with cards like Quick Ball and Evolution Incense, we can expect decks to get more consistent.

That said, there are still several upcoming major events in the current Standard format, including Bochum Regionals, in January, so I can’t really stop playing the format. In addition, the format is not so solved that we see no innovation. Indeed, the last NA regionals were won by an unexpected deck: Garchomp and Giratina-GX / Mismagius, which brings me to today’s article.

By now, this deck is not unknown, but it’s still not being explored as much as other archetypes. I think there are reasons for that: there was no known decklist for the deck for a while, and even when one surfaced, it was weird and not easily approachable. After San Diego, when many top players started talking about the deck, many players decided it wasn’t worth learning the deck if they had only a few local events to play it in. These reasons, as you can see, have nothing to do with the deck’s power level. Indeed, Garchomp and Giratina-GX / Mismagius is a strong deck and should be considered if you’re attending the Regionals in, say, Bochum or Sao Paulo. If that’s your case (or even if you’re just searching for a new deck to play at a League Challenge!), I hope that this article makes a good introduction to the deck. I’ll also briefly touch on updates to Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX at the end of the article.

A Little Bit of History

The idea of Garchomp and Giratina-GX being combined with Mismagius is not new. Marc Lutz was, to my knowledge, the first player to use this combination, back at Cologne regionals, where he made Day 2. The idea is simple: sacrifice a Mismagius (which gives your opponent a Prize and improves your consistency), then attach a Counter Gain or Karate Belt to Garchomp and Giratina-GX so you can use Calamitous Slash on turn 2.

Why Garchomp and Giratina-GX specifically? Other Pokémon could be used in its place, or in addition to it, but Garchomp and Giratina-GX is the most dangerous of them. Linear Attack followed by Calamitous Slash is 280 damage, enough to KO any Tag Team Pokémon-GX by turn 2.

This same combination wrecked havoc in Expanded in Japan. The release of Island Challenge Amulet allowed the deck to push this strategy to completely degenerate extremes, where you could sacrifice five Prizes on your first turn by putting Island Challenge Amulet on a Jirachi-EX, use Lt. Surge's Strategy, use N to put your opponent to one card in hand, use Mars to discard that card, then control their topdeck with Chip-Chip Ice Axe. Plus, this being Expanded, you could use either Calamitous Slash or GG End GX with Double Dragon Energy and Karate Belt, as soon as turn 1.

That deck dominated the Expanded Champions League in Tokyo, which led to a huge wave of bans that were also applied to our own Expanded format as soon as Cosmic Eclipse was released: Chip Chip Ice Axe, Lt. Surge’s Strategy, Mismagius, Island Challenge Amulet, etc. It was clear that designers of the game didn’t want such a broken strategy to exist.

Back in Standard, Cosmic Eclipse’s release also saw a new incarnation of this deck emerge. Gustavo Wada played it to a Top 8 finish at LAIC, although as usual, he didn’t publish his list, so we had to wait for a long time to get it. When we finally did, it looked very weird. Some unusual choices were the two copies of Custom Catcher and the very varied Energy line, although I was most surprised by the strange count of three Pokégear 3.0.

Then, three weeks later, many players decided to give the deck a try, and built an updated list, featuring Blacephalon from Cosmic Eclipse but no Omastar. World Champion, Henry Brand, made Top 8 with it at Brisbane Regionals in Australia, then American and Brazilian players used a slightly modified version of the deck in San Diego, ending with Justin Bokhari taking the win. The deck also made Top 8 at the Singapore SPE, although that was unrelated.

I don’t have exhaustive data to compare it to more popular archetypes, but that’s a lot of success in a short time for an archetype which sees very little play overall. That’s a sign that the archetype is strong and not played as much as it should be.

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