State of the Meta — The Power Four and How to Beat Them

In addition to the various local tournaments happening online, we now have the first results of a major event in the Rebel Clash Standard format. A PTCGO tournament series that attracted more than a thousand players happened last weekend to give us a good look at the new metagame. At the same time, Pokemon has announced an official Players Cup online event for the summer! Frequent PTCGO players can now put their tournament tickets to good use throughout the month of June to qualify for the July main event and the international finals in August. It’s not an International Championship and it’s not Worlds, but it will give the community something to follow and a reason to care about the current Standard format.

The Players Cup

I’m not terribly happy with the structure that TPCi chose for this tournament—specifically, with the Players Cup qualification in July being based on Tournament Rep in June on your success in in-game PTCGO tournaments. Not only have these tournaments never been especially competitive but they require tickets to enter, which means that players who have been playing for longer and have accumulated tournament tickets during their months or years of play are at an advantage. Conversely, many players who don’t have a lot of tickets feel like they shouldn’t bother to participate. They can grind tickets on the ladder but so can players who have hundreds of them, so they’ll be left behind. With no best finish limit for in-game tournaments, it’s almost impossible to catch up to the players that have a head start.

That is assuming equal skill level, of course. A talented player will perform better overall in these tournaments and get more Tournament Rep for the same amount of tickets. But not even the best player in the world is safe from a bad starting hand in a best of one, single elimination tournament. Or worse, a terrible matchup in the first round.

The sad part is that this system doesn’t only disadvantage newer players, but those that used their tournament tickets to win Rebel Clash online booster packs when the set came out. These players had no way of knowing that they would need these tickets only one month later and may feel betrayed. They were effectively punished for engaging with some PTCGO features.

Overall, I appreciate that TPCi is making an effort to keep their player base’s attention and this first attempt could be the first move in a series of changes that would give the Pokemon TCG a real online competitive scene. It’s not too late to make changes to ensure all players are on an equal footing at the start of the month. For example, tournaments in the month of June could be accessed using a new type of tournament ticket. A best finish limit would ensure that the quality of players’ tournament runs is what matters most, not their quantity. Hopefully by the time this article is published, a clarification on this topic will have been made.

If you’re planning on trying your luck at the Players Cup or if you’re competing in other online competitions, it’s a good time to review the state of the metagame to understand what are the best Standard format decks and how to counter them.

The Big Four

There are currently four decks which stand clearly above the rest of the metagame. In no specific order, they are Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, Dragapult VMAX, Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V, and Blacephalon. The first three use powerful three-Prize Pokemon and a tendency to start their attacks on turn 2. Pikachu and Zekrom-GX can sometimes use Full Blitz on the first turn and has the option of using Boltund V‘s Electrify if it doesn’t, but its defining Full Blitz attack usually happens on turn 2. Blacephalon as a one-Prize attacker is a bit different. It can require a bit more time to setup and is more dependant on its hand (therefore weaker to hand disruption). But if you let it do its thing, it will win the Prize race against all the other decks.

I won’t cover each deck in detail since neither of the four options are new and other articles have already analyzed them. However, I do want to give some quick updates on how the lists have evolved and how they can be countered.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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