New Mask, New Meta — How Twilight Masquerade Changes the Format

Hello everyone! We’re getting toward the end of the season, with only a week left to go until the NAIC. It’s getting to be crunch time; for those aiming for a Worlds invite, the NAIC is the last chance to get those much-needed points, whereas for those who aren’t, the NAIC nonetheless represents the largest tournament of the year. The NAIC also is unique in that it will be our only major event in the Twilight Masquerade format, as there are no Regional Championships during the upcoming period, and the World Championships won’t occur until the release of Shrouded Fable. It isn’t just the first event of the new format — it’s the only one! Yes, there will be some League Challenges and whatnot with it afterward, but those will be for the 2025 season; for this season, it’s all or nothing at the NAIC.

As with other modern ICs, the lack of events beforehand means that the format will still be relatively new and unrefined by time the NAIC rolls around, which will give a big advantage to those who can properly predict what the new meta will look like at that time. We’ve seen this plenty of times before, with decks like Inteleon VMAX or Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX winning ICs on the back of strong matchups into the field. Even if you aren’t planning to go with an anti-meta deck, knowing what you’re likely to play against will help you avoid the pitfalls of playing a deck that doesn’t match up well against the rest of the format. The EUIC was an excellent illustration of that, as a lot of new decks came out with Temporal Forces that players needed to be aware of. For an extreme example, imagine if you had gone into that event not knowing that Charizard ex was going to be popular! If there’s a new deck that’s likely to make up a large portion of the field, and you’re playing a certain kind of deck that is poor against it, having that knowledge early will give you time to adjust. Additionally, having some idea of what the meta will look like will help you fine-tune your testing so that you don’t waste time testing matchups you aren’t likely to run into.

While the rest of the world hasn’t had any large events with Twilight Masquerade, Japan has, and can thus serve as a starting point for our meta map. In addition to Champions League Sapporo, there’s a whole quarter of City League events that we have data on, which gives us a good amount of information we can use to evaluate this new format. Japan is rarely a perfect one-to-one mapping to the non-Japanese metagame, due to both the slight differences in tournament structure and the simple fact that the non-Japanese metagame starts from a more refined point, since non-US players can build upon the early Japanese lists and results. But again, it is a good starting point — after all, it’s only that knowledge of the Japanese metagame that allows it to be built upon. For the first tournament of a format especially, that information is incredibly important, as I’ve illustrated above. So, in this article, I’m going to go over what the major new decks are that came out with Twilight Masquerade, with a specific focus on the ones that you should be prepared to see at the NAIC. I’m also going to take a look at the existing decks in the meta, and which ones gained new tricks that you’ll need to watch out for. Finally, we’ll tie it all together, and take a look at the overall Japanese metagame and how that’s likely to change for the NAIC.

The New Decks

There are several new decks that will come out with Twilight Masquerade, with the most played thus far being Dragapult ex, Greninja ex, and Blissey ex. All three have been in the top ten in terms of meta share here in Japan, and while a few others have seen some play (such as Festival Lead decks and Teal Mask Ogerpon ex / Sinistcha ex), none of them have had any level of success. Blissey ex likewise has a bit of a low win rate thus far, and clearly needs some development for it to become a truly threatening deck. I wouldn’t count it out entirely, as it can be strong into the right meta, but it also isn’t a deck that I would expect to be widespread by time the NAIC comes around.

The first two decks, on the other hand, Dragapult ex and Greninja ex, have seen success right off the bat. Both are in the top five in terms of win rate in the Japanese Twilight Masquerade format. Dragapult ex in particular has been a format-warping card, and it represents the biggest shift to the metagame from the previous set to this one. It’s gotten to the point that Charizard ex is no longer the deck to beat; instead, Dragapult ex has taken its place. This has had a substantial effect on the rest of the metagame, as the decks that are more well equipped to deal with Dragapult have seen a rise in play, while those that haven’t have gone in the opposite direction. Evolving decks are trending down, whereas decks that can get big OHKOs are trending up, especially if those decks utilize large Basic Pokemon V or Pokemon ex instead of having to set up low-HP evolving Basic Pokemon.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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