Molten Reflection — Looking Back on Knoxville and Updating Charizard ex

Hey everyone! Isaiah here, and I am happy to be writing another article for you all. Last time, I discussed Roaring Moon ex and its recent dramatic transformation thanks to innovations lead by two-time World Championship Finalist Ross Cawthon. With a new shift to a Galarian Moltres V focused build, the deck has seen a remarkable surge in popularity, often making it to the top of the charts for most played decks at Regional Championships. The deck had a remarkable conversion rate at the Knoxville Regional Championship, making up around 20% of Day 2 and with two in Top 8 and another at tenth.

The new shift in perception around Roaring Moon ex decks has been remarkable to witness, with the deck shifting from being around low Tier 2 to being arguably Tier 1 in the current format. Speaking of decks with unusual conversion rates, Charizard ex seems like it has fallen off on the consistency of its success. The deck went from one of the most consistently successful archetypes to only appearing in the Top 8 of Knoxville, Melbourne, and Dortmund one time total (in Melbourne where it got second, played by Haru Nishikawa). Not only that, but one Charizard ex deck was even in the Top 32 of Knoxville, and it was piloted by myself.

Seeing the unusual drop-off in success makes genuinely no sense to me, as the deck certainly did not get worse! The deck does have a somewhat fringe Gardevoir ex matchup, which is a deck that has picked up a bit in popularity after Ryan Antonucci’s win in Knoxville; however, this should not have influenced Charizard ex’s results at Knoxville, as the deck did not have that major surge in popularity that it had in Dortmund. My next attempt at an explanation would be Roaring Moon ex tanking the deck’s win rate, but I would say that matchup is favored for Charizard ex, so I am not sure how that would have happened… I still maintain that the deck is genuinely one of the best decks in the current format, even with the recent shifts in the meta, but as I make that case, I also wanted to highlight some of my experiences and what I learned at Knoxville now that I have some hands-on experience with the deck at a Regional Championship.

What I Learned in Knoxville

Before Knoxville, I had played a reasonable amount of Charizard ex on the ladder, but I did not get to practice as much as I would have liked before the event, partially because I was also trying to learn Giratina VSTAR as well as I could in case I decided to play it. As a result, most of my understanding was based on my limited experience and some theory.

My first major test came in round one when I hit Gardevoir ex, one of the deck’s hardest matchups. This game alone ended up being super eye-opening on how to consider the matchup, and it was also the only round of the entire weekend that I regretted removing Manaphy from my deck (more on that later). In my experience, the most important thing to do in this matchup is to just keep removing Kirlia from the board. If you can go first (especially relevant in Game 2 and Game 3), then you are often able to get two Prize cards before they can take one, which is a big lead to take. If you can Boss's Orders a Kirlia after they Mirage Step, there is a fair chance that you can cause them to miss a Knock Out on a Charizard ex or Pidgeot ex, forcing them to take a Knock Out on Rotom V or something if they need to take two Prize cards that turn. On this turn, it is very appealing to then Knock Out their Gardevoir ex, but it is imperative that you don’t, and instead Knock Out a Kirlia again (or maybe the Gardevoir that they attacked with if necessary). Then the opponent will be obligated to take a Knock Out on your Charizard ex or maybe a Pidgeot ex this turn.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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