Refining Refinement — Where Does Gardevoir ex Stand?

At the Latin American International Championships, Gardevoir ex was 25% of the Day 2 metagame, and fellow PokeBeach writer Ciaran Farah made Top 4 with it. However, since then, Gardevoir ex has been significantly declining, with only one Top 4 placement at Charlotte, Portland, and San Antonio. Gardevoir ex is still one of my favorite decks in the format — and it still has the potential to defeat anything — but even I can recognize that it does have some significant issues that prevent it from rising to the level that decks like Charizard ex, Giratina VSTAR, and Mew VMAX have reached.

In theory, Gardevoir ex should be one of the best decks in the format. Psychic Embrace is one of the strongest Abilities we have ever seen on a Pokemon card: infinite Energy acceleration from the discard pile hasn’t been seen before in the Pokemon TCG, and I’m not sure it will return anytime soon. Gardevoir ex has an amazing late-game Prize trade, as Gardevoir CRE can deal up to 330 damage as a single-Prize Pokemon! It also doesn’t have to discard its Energy, preventing your opponent from solving the problem by chasing your Gardevoir ex. The deck has one of the best draw engines we have ever seen between Kirlia‘s Refinement Ability and Gardevoir CRE’s Shining Arcana, each letting you effectively draw two cards. You also have access to the other Kirlia‘s Mirage Step attack, which allows you to put all of your remaining Kirlia into play from your deck and save a poor opening hand.

While the deck does fall behind on Prize cards early, this lets it abuse the strongest comeback cards in the format: Iono, Counter Catcher, and Reversal Energy. Gardevoir ex can also trap opposing Pokemon in the Active Spot, and it has Scream Tail and Cresselia to deal damage to Benched Pokemon in different ways, forcing your opponent to bench both Jirachi and Manaphy to fully protect their support Pokemon. (This is why Gardevoir ex decks started including Avery, as it would usually force your opponent to discard either Jirachi or Manaphy to keep important Benched Pokemon like Bibarel. If the opponent kept both Jirachi and Manaphy, the Gardevoir deck could just KO the Active Pokemon, and the opponent would be left with an anemic board.) With all these upsides, why has Gardevoir ex been struggling?

Time is Gardevoir ex’s biggest weakness. Decks that rely on falling behind early and making a comeback later tend to take longer, but Gardevoir ex specifically has issues because of the number of actions you need to take every turn. Refinement is a difficult Ability to use; you have to assess your hand, your board, and your opponent’s board, and then decide what card to discard. After you do this, you are presented with two new cards, which force you to re-assess and decide how to use your second Refinement. Iono is also a big culprit in this, as you often have knowledge of the bottom few cards of your deck — another variable to consider at all times. It was often the case that players would need to shuffle their deck multiple times in a turn, contributing further to the length of a game.

While you could push yourself to play quickly, this is hardly an effective strategy because of how difficult Gardevoir ex is to play. Trying to play three games with it is a losing battle, and it is often better to just resign yourself to having to win in two good games rather than three sloppy ones. You also cannot justify conceding the first game — even if you win Game 2, you would just tie in the middle of Game 3, so you’re forced to play out games that look terrible in the hope that you could win. While Gardevoir isn’t less consistent than other decks in the format, it’s very challenging to win with an unplayable opening hand. When you are forced to win each round 2–0, the advantages of the Gardevoir ex deck essentially get nullified, as you need to win much more often than you would if you played a deck like Charizard ex or Mew VMAX.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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