The Battle of VIP Pass — Optimizing Gardevoir ex

What’s up everyone! It’s Charlie and I’m happy to be back with another article. This past weekend I played in the Stuttgart Regional Championships and unfortunately finished a pretty poor 4-3-2. After an even worse finish in Gdansk with the Zoroark Box I wrote about in my last article (that deck is still good; I did bad because I played terribly), I felt like I had to go for a safer call and fell back on Gardevoir ex, which has been my pet deck since last April. I made this decision about a week in advance, so I had a good few days to decide on a list that would give me the best chance of success. After playing Gardevoir so much, I thought this would be easy, but it turned out to be a much harder decision than I expected.

Before Paradox Rift, I felt like Gardevoir had essentially been perfected. The decklist originally pioneered by Brent Tonisson was extremely consistent, powerful, and had a strong matchup into almost every single deck. The only change I made from that list was cutting the fourth copy of Fog Crystal for a third Boss's Orders, which I still believe is optimal. Going into Paradox Rift, however, a lot was changing. The impact of Iron Hands ex was immediately felt as it won LAIC, threatening Gardevoir in both Chien-Pao ex decks and Miraidon ex decks. Gardevoir’s matchup spread would no longer be as dominant as before, but on the bright side, Gardevoir gained more new tools than any other deck in Paradox Rift. These include Scream Tail, Counter Catcher, Jirachi, and Professor Turo's Scenario improving matchups against decks like Lost Box and Chien-Pao and enabling new plays like Counter Catcher + Iono combos. Overall, this put Gardevoir into a weird spot – the deck is objectively stronger than before, but Iron Hands provides a new threat that gives you a true bad matchup for the first time in a while.

At LAIC, we also saw some unique new builds of Gardevoir succeed. Three Gardevoir decks appeared in Top 8, one of which was piloted by Matthew Burris and was essentially the Aussie Brain Trust’s updated version of the Brent list from last format. It focused on Avery to disrupt the opponent instead of Worker to counter decks with Path to the Peak, which proves to be very strong in the mirror and against other decks that need multiple support Pokemon. The other two were piloted by Ciaran Farah and Jeremy Gibson, and took a slightly different approach to the engine. The biggest difference from the standard list was the lack of Battle VIP Pass. While your early game is much more fragile, literally any other Item card will always be better than Battle VIP Pass after turn 1, so the list is objectively better if it opens well. Since Gardevoir decks now focus much more on using Mirage Step Kirlia and no longer need (or even want) 3-4 Ralts on the board turn 1, this approach makes a lot of sense and can give you additional consistency options. This can come back to bite you against fast decks like Miraidon and in games where your Mirage Step Kirlia is among your Prizes, but the additional copies of cards like Fog Crystal are almost as good as Battle VIP Pass on turn 1 anyways, so it’s not like you need to Mirage Step in 100% of games. Overall, this new build asked many questions about if we had been building Gardevoir correctly and offered a new way to play the deck without a notoriously annoying and high-variance card in Battle VIP Pass.

Gardevoir With Battle VIP Pass

In Stuttgart, I ended up opting for the Battle VIP Pass variation of Gardevoir out of comfort. I made Day 2 in Toronto with the old list before Paradox Rift and didn’t have enough experience with the new list, so I stuck with Battle VIP Pass. I spent Friday afternoon debating card choices with my roommate James Cox and we eventually settled on an extremely vanilla list, only changing one card from Brent’s LAIC list. Here it is:

Pokemon (18)

2x Gardevoir ex (SVI #86)2x Gardevoir (SWSH6 #61)3x Kirlia (SWSH12 #68)1x Kirlia (SWSH6 #60)4x Ralts (SWSH10 #60)1x Zacian V (CEL #16)1x Mew (CEL #11)1x Scream Tail (PAR #86)1x Cresselia (SWSH11 #74)1x Radiant Greninja (SWSH10 #46)1x Manaphy (SWSH9 #41)

Trainers (30)

4x Iono (PEV #185)2x Avery (SWSH6 #130)1x Boss's Orders (Ghetsis) (PEV #172)1x Professor Turo's Scenario (PAR #171)4x Battle VIP Pass (SWSH8 #225)4x Level Ball (SWSH5 #129)3x Ultra Ball (SVI #196)2x Fog Crystal (SWSH6 #140)2x Rare Candy (SVI #191)2x Counter Catcher (PAR #160)2x Super Rod (PEV #188)1x Lost Vacuum (SWSH11 #162)1x Artazon (PEV #171)1x Collapsed Stadium (SWSH9 #137)

Energy (12)

10x Psychic Energy (HS #119)2x Reversal Energy (PEV #192)
We knew a consistent and powerful list like this would be a good choice into the meta and let our play dictate a lot of our success. Since this list is relatively standard, I won’t go into every card choice, but I’ll explain some of the contentious ones and why we made those choices:


This concludes the public portion of this article.

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