Hey everyone! Before I dive into Chien-Pao, I thought I would introduce myself, since this is my first article on PokeBeach! I’m Ciaran, a player based out of Toronto, Canada. I have played the TCG since 2011, and have played at the World Championships seven times. Some of the accomplishments I am most proud of are as follows: #1 Championship Points North America 2016, #1 Championship Points Canada 2023, Top 4 LAIC 2023, Top 8 LAIC 2022, and Top 32 at the World Championships three times (2015, ’16, ’23). I also have a YouTube channel and podcast where I make competitive content. I love Pokemon and making content, so I’m excited to start writing for PokeBeach!
For my first article, I want to do a deep dive on my favourite deck in the format, Chien-Pao ex. Chien-Pao got off to a bit of a slow start after releasing in Paldea Evolved, but found its footing when the aptly named “Canadian Pao” build gained popularity following Lucas Xing’s Top 8 performance at Pittsburgh Regionals. His version of the deck focused on Bibarel and played no Pokemon VSTAR. From there, Grant Shen took the build to a Top 8–Top 16–Top 8 streak at the following three Regionals, proving Chien-Pao was a deck to be reckoned with!
Heading into the Paradox Rift format, Chien-Pao was expected to be a mainstay of Tier 1 with the release of Iron Hands ex, but the deck has seen a massive fall-off in play following LAIC. There were a multitude of factors that led to this, which I will cover, but I think with the maturation of the Paradox Rift metagame, the deck is primed for success!
Why Has the Deck Struggled?
On paper, Chien-Pao has fantastic matchups against a majority of the meta, and it still does, but initial builds of decks during the LAIC meta were put together with Chien-Pao in mind. For example, most Gardevoir ex decks were playing two, sometimes three copies of Avery, which allowed the deck to completely eliminate your Bibarel when combined with a Roaring Scream from Scream Tail. We also saw an uptick in Miraidon ex decks, one of Chien-Pao’s weaker matchups. Other bad matchups, such as Snorlax Stall, picked up in play, and Manaphy was still included in a majority of decks.
The other issue is Chien-Pao’s consistency. The deck needs a Stage 2 Pokemon and a Stage 1 Pokemon (Bibarel) to fully get online. If you have tried the deck before, you probably know the painful feeling of using PokéStop and discarding Irida and Baxcalibur. The inconsistency of the deck is what helps keep it in check, as any game in which it achieves the desired setup normally results in its victory.
Why is Chien-Pao Primed for Success Currently?
There are a few reasons why Chien-Pao ex is in a good spot currently. Firstly, since Chien-Pao has seen a massive decrease in play, most people have adjusted their deck lists accordingly. We have seen Gardevoir ex decks remove their second copies of Avery, and Giratina VSTAR is seeing play without Manaphy. Without those cards, both of those matchups become much more favourable for Chien-Pao.
Second, we have seen a massive uptick in Charizard ex. I would argue this is Chien-Pao’s best matchup, and it attained a meta share of 17% at our most recent Regionals (Portland). Over nine rounds, it will not be uncommon to face two or three Charizard decks, and if you make it to the second day of the competition there will probably be some more waiting for you at the top tables.
Finally, we have seen Miraidon ex drop to around 10% of the Day 1 metagame, with a further decrease in play on Day 2. While Miraidon isn’t an unwinnable matchup, it definitely isn’t something you want to sit across frequently at your tournaments.
All these factors combined, the metagame is shaping up nicely for Chien-Pao to see success!
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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