Hello everyone! Recently the Portland Regionals took place over on the West Coast, and this tournament was absolutely massive. Having 1500 players is record-breaking for West Coast tournaments in North America, and it is going to be followed by two more US Regionals, with all three staggered across every other weekend. The Paradox Rift meta has developed considerably, yet we are still constantly being surprised and seeing new things. There are many viable decks in this format, and most of them are fun to play. It is interesting seeing meta shifts and playing against a variety of decks. This time last year, I was accustomed to playing against at least eight Lugia VSTAR every tournament, and I think we can all agree that things are considerably more fun with more variety.
For this article I will be discussing the results of Portland specifically, and how that influences the meta and Regionals going forward. Let’s start off by talking about the format’s longtime frontrunner, none other than Charizard ex.
After LAIC, Charizard ex quickly cemented itself as the most popular deck in the format, seeing enormous amounts of representation. Charizard is a fantastic deck that packs a punch and is reasonably consistent. It also has the perks of being strong against Miraidon ex and Mew VMAX, which are two omnipresent pests in the metagame. However, Charizard has a weak on-paper matchup spread. Despite this, its overall extremely high power level allows it to even compete with decks that it is supposed to be unfavored against. This is seen quite often where a top deck has unfavorable matchups, but it is just a better deck. I have played Charizard ex at the past three Regionals to somewhat consistent results. My group has determined that it is the best deck for these tournaments individually, though we finally see the meta become more hostile towards Charizard before our very eyes.
At Portland, Charizard’s results were somewhat lackluster. At least, it did not do as well as you would expect from the number one most played deck. Azul made Top 8 with it, and it also bubbled at 9th place, but only had two other Top 32 placements total. This is not a terrible showing, especially in such a diverse meta, but it shows that Charizard is perhaps not as huge of a threat as we would expect. I started 8-1 with the deck, but sadly, I drew far too many unplayable dead hands in Day 2, barely whiffing on Top 32.
Interestingly, most Charizard lists have started including Technical Machine: Devolution, drawing inspiration from decks in Japan. This is a highly influential tech in the mirror match, but once everyone has it, it is just a wash. If anything, everyone collectively wasting one slot in Charizard for the mirror match is just mutually-assured destruction. If you don’t play it yourself, you will just be crushed by everyone who does. It is intended to give you an edge in the mirror against people who might not have it, but at this point in time, almost everyone plays it to avoid losing to the mirror. I played it in Portland to have an edge against our Justified Gloves list from San Antonio, but going forward, I probably just won’t play Charizard anymore.
Unfortunately for Charizard, Technical Machine: Devolution is played in other decks too. The second place Giratina VSTAR deck had a copy, as did one of the Day 2 Mew VMAX lists. And of course, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and some Lost Box variants commonly play one or two copies. The Devolution phenomenon is but one factor that is slowly driving Charizard into a corner. Charizard is so strong that it will be hard to eliminate it for good, but this certainly makes things harder on it.
Mew VMAX is absolutely the most broken Pokemon TCG deck in recent memory. The Pokemon Company has repeatedly printed cards with the express purpose of destroying Mew, and every time, Mew hits back harder than ever. I’ve written about it so many times, so I’ll spare you the spiel of what makes this deck so good. Mew’s so-called Achilles’ heel has been Charizard ex since the release of Obsidian Flames. With Charizard being the most popular deck, Mew should be kept at bay. However, the varied meta is working in Mew’s favor.
Mew decks have been leaning into Judge, Path to the Peak, and Box of Disaster to give it a fighting chance against Charizard while remaining dominant against the wider field. Mew is a problem, and its Portland results reflect that. Mew had a whopping SEVEN appearances in Top 16, which is nearly half. This is right off Charizard’s dominance at San Antonio, but the Mew players were not deterred. Two Mew decks made Top 8, but both were brought down by Giratina, which is supposed to be one of Mew’s best matchups. However, some variance can indeed happen, and Mew lists are being diluted to deal with bigger threats, which makes it slightly weaker against its fundamentally good matchups.
Interestingly, many decks have also started playing Spiritomb. This is less of a problem for the Fusion Strike Energy version of Mew, but Spiritomb should absolutely destroy the slightly-more-popular Judge with Path to the Peak version. As an adaptation, even the Judge Path version has started including two copies of Fusion Strike Energy and an Elesa's Sparkle. For the likes of Miraidon ex, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, and Sableye / Radiant Charizard, even their Spiritomb can’t save them from this hybrid monster.
Although Mew did not make the finals at Portland Regionals, it was infesting the top tables throughout all of Day 1 and Day 2. If Charizard stock is slowly going down, that only means that Mew players will become more brazen, and we could have an even more dominant takeover on our hands. If widespread Charizard and Spiritomb can’t stop Mew, then what on Earth can?
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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