Full Blitz, Present and Future — Pikachu and Zekrom-GX and the Sword & Shield Format

Hello! I want to talk to you about Pikachu and Zekrom-GX. Let’s start with the obvious disclaimers: I’m hardly the first person to write about this card or this deck and I’m not the most accomplished Pikachu and Zekrom-GX player in the world. I’ve played the deck and did OK with it, but I don’t have any strong bond to it. But that is not the goal of this article.

While this article includes specific Pikachu and Zekrom-GX lists and commentary on them, my focus is to use Pikachu and Zekrom-GX as a starting point to talk about the post-Sword & Shield format.

Post-Sword and Shield

The Sword & Shield set is set to change the metagame as strongly as the yearly rotation. This is due to three factors.

As the first set of the eighth generation, Sword & Shield must set a standard and introduce cards that will define what the whole block is about. Black & White had Zekrom and Reshiram which set the tone for the high HP Basic Pokemon metagame that carries on to this day. XY had a lot of support for the newly introduced Fairy type and the powerful Muscle Band to make the format more aggressive. Since Sun & Moon‘s box legendaries were Stage-2 Pokemon, the titular set included more support for Evolution Pokemon such as Timer Ball and the notable absence of a “discard your hand, draw seven cards” Supporter (now known as Professor’s Research). Some of its new cards, like Nest Ball and Lillie, were played throughout the cards’ Standard legality duration (ongoing, in Lillie’s case). To come back to Sword & Shield, I have no doubt that Quick Ball and Professor’s Research will be some of the most important cards in the format upon their release and until they rotate out, as will Evolution Incense if Evolution Pokemon manage to be a part of the metagame. On the other hand, it’s interesting that Vital Band and Air Balloon are less powerful versions of Muscle Band and Float Stone. This limits the power creep and I would assume that reducing damage boosts at the same time that Pokemon’s HP get higher than ever will lead to a less OHKO-based format. Time will tell if I’m right!

Second, Sword & Shield introduces new mechanics. Calling Pokemon V and VMAX a mechanic is a bit strong in my opinion, since they don’t do anything new (unlike GX attacks which are a very interesting part of the game). However, the mix between Pokemon V and Pokemon-GX has strong implications for the format. For example:

  • Mewtwo and Mew-GX will eventually get weaker because it doesn’t get more support
  • Keldeo-GX gets very weak because there are many new powerful Pokemon V attackers that ignore its Ability
  • Other cards like Power Plant and Cherish Ball become less relevant

These consequences have their own repercussions on the metagame. For example, decks that had issues with Keldeo-GX get better since Keldeo-GX will see less play. It quickly becomes difficult to predict all these repercussions.

Finally, there’s the new rule: The player going first cannot play a Supporter card on their first turn. This unique change is sometimes better (depending on the deck and the matchup) to go second, and going first can actually be very dangerous. This will have immediate effects on Supporter cards and decks will be played. I’ll talk about this rule in detail in a further section.

As you can see, there’s going to be a lot of changes, and one article is far from enough to understand the metagame that will come about. Soon enough, all of our talented writers will be writing about post-Sword & Shield with their own perspective on it. As for me, I’ve chosen to use Pikachu and Zekrom-GX as a way to explore this new metagame.

Why Pikachu and Zekrom-GX? Because it’s a very strong deck that can be built in several ways. Since it was released, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX and its Lightning friends have adapted to every format and found success:

In a way, understanding a format is equivalent to understanding how Pikachu and Zekrom-GX is played. For example, the loss of Guzma after the 2018 World Championships rotation meant that decks had to rely on Custom Catcher as their effect. This meant that Pikachu and Zekrom-GX needed to play heavy counts of Volkner and Jirachi to find them as well as Switch and Escape Board to get the best of Jirachi. This seems normal now but recall that before rotation, Emery Taylor’s 2nd place list from NAIC played no Jirachi and only one Escape Rope with no Switch, but two Zeraora-GX and four Guzma.

Pikachu and Zekrom-GX is about to gain a lot post-Sword & Shield and is a potential BDIF candidate. This can only be done by analyzing what is changing with Sword & Shield‘s release, beyond the obvious.

The Current State of Pikachu and Zekrom-GX

The week before Bochum Regionals, I wrote that Pikachu and Zekrom-GX was on the rise again and that I expected it to do well. I wasn’t wrong, but it exceeded my expectations as it had by far its best showing at any major event since Cosmic Eclipse‘s release. 11 players made Day 2 with the deck, and eight of them finished in the Top 32. The deck’s best placement was Top 4. Paradoxically, this sudden increase in popularity makes it hard to reach a conclusion about the deck because each player had their own idea of how to play the deck. A mix of cards like Tag Call, Zeraora-GX, Zapdos, EelektrossAbsol, PhioneJudge, Rosa, Lillie, Custom Catcher, Electromagnetic Radar, Tag Switch, Choice HelmetLysandre Labs and surprisingly Dangerous Drill were included in at least one Top 32 player’s deck. I expect that we’ll see a similar disparity at the upcoming Sao Paulo Regionals.

I’m not going to talk about each possible list and their strong and weak points. I’ve already given my opinion on the deck and how to play it in a previous article. However, to give another perspective on the deck, I’d like to feature Bert Wolters’ list:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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