Aggro, Mid-Range, Control… Wait, this isn’t Magic!

Luke Morsa
August 09, 2018
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With Celestial Storm live on PTCGO and World Championships 2018 less than 3 weeks away, players are testing and creating a general idea of what the meta will look like. In addition to Worlds, I am also testing for the ARG Invitational which is in Oaks, PA August 11 and 12. The ARG Invitational is a third-party invite only event which will be played in World’s format, so it will be a good warm up for Worlds and a chance to win some money. I believe that there is a triangle at the top of the BKT-CST meta, but I am very happy to say that my theoried 3 decks at the top do not beat one another based on type advantage like we saw with Buzzroc, Zororoc, and Psychic Malamar going into NAIC. Something that I rarely see Pokemon TCG players and content creators talk about are deck types, like Aggro, Mid Range, Control, and Tempo. In this Triangle we have 1 Aggro, 1 Mid Range, and 1 Control deck. I think it’s really cool that we have a very viable deck from each of these strategies so that players of all playstyles can feel somewhat comfortable with a top tier deck.

Rock Paper Scissors Again?

Just in case you need a refresher, a rock paper scissors meta means that there are 3 decks at the top of the meta that each respectively act as a check to another. So Deck A is favored vs Deck B, Deck B favored vs Deck C, and Deck C favored vs Deck A. I believe that these three decks are Zoroark-GX Control, Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, and Rayquaza-GX variants. I believe the 4th deck at the top of the meta is Buzzroc; this is my wild card that sits outside of the triangle and I will go into the matchups for this deck later on.

Zoroark Control

I believe that the Zoroark Control matchup should be the current baseline of all testing. I think it is clearly the deck to beat going into the ARG invitational and Worlds at this time. At least 50% of my testing for worlds has been with or against Zoro Control.

Why should I play Zoroark Control?

  • It is a deck that can adapt to beat almost anything. It has a large amount of control and disruption options, allowing it to control the board of most decks. This is quite obviously known as a control deck.
  • I feel that this deck largely rewards practice, knowledge, and skill. If you enjoy control decks, have an understanding of how most decks in the meta are built, and have time to practice with this deck, I think it is a really great choice.
  • It has a favorable matchup against Zoroark/Garbodor, which is the deck NAIC Champion Stephanne Ivanoff won with. I imagine the deck will rise in popularity because of this.

Okay, this deck sounds busted! Are there any reasons to not play it?

  • It has a fairly high skill floor, meaning that this deck can easily feel like a pile of cards to someone who lacks the practice, game knowledge, or just overall skill to play it. It also has a high skill ceiling which means there is a lot of room for reward for having a higher skill level with the deck.
  • It is very hard to make this deck have an even to favorable matchup to Rayquaza-GX variants. Rayquaza-GX is the most hyped card coming out of Celestial Storm and I expect to see it around.
  • The mirror match is possibly the most grueling mirror match I have ever played in my Pokemon TCG career. If either player prizes Oranguru, Rescue Stretcher, or Team Rocket’s Handiwork the other player is immediately at an advantage.
Zoro ControlLuke Morsa Zorua (52) Zoroark-GX Tapu Lele-GX Oranguru (114) Mew-EX Slugma (23) Magcargo (24) Brigette N (105) Guzma Cynthia Professor Sycamore Mallow Plumeria Delinquent Acerola Ultra Ball Puzzle of Time Evosoda Enhanced Hammer Field Blower Counter Catcher Max Potion Team Rocket's Handiwork Weakness Policy Float Stone Parallel City Reverse Valley Rescue Stretcher Crushing Hammer Double Colorless Energy

Zoroark/Garbodor

Zoroark Garbodor is a very versatile deck that can adapt mid game to beat a variety of decks. Having Trashalanche Garbodor and Garbotoxin Garbodor sharing the same basic Pokemon to evolve from allows you to decide in the moment whether threatening a potentially heavy hitting 1 energy 1 prize attacker or locking abilities is better for the current situation. This combined with the draw power of Zoroark-GX and resource recovery of Puzzle of Time and Oranguru allows you to control the board to a certain extent with cards like Enhanced Hammer, Parallel City, and Acerola.

Why should I play Zoroark Garbodor?

  • It has a great matchup vs Rayquaza-GX variants because of all of the items they use.
  • It is a versatile deck that can either go aggressive or stay defensive and control the board (known as a mid-range deck in other card games).
  • Although it is unfavored Vs. Zoro Control, there is a very real chance to beat Zoro Control by getting a Garbotoxin to stick and locking them out of finding specific disruption cards.

It seems like Zoroark Garbodor can beat any deck! What’s the downside?

  • In my opinion, Zoroark/Garbodor is one of the clunkiest Zoroark-GX variants and it can lose to bad starts or missing exactly what it needs vs. a certain matchup.
  • Its Buzzroc matchup is not very good. Lycanroc-GX can potentially run through Zoro/Garb’s board.
  • Since Zoroark Garbodor won NAIC, I expect to see many decks increase their Field Blower counts.
  • Like Zoro Control, Zoro Garb also has a high skill floor.
Zoro GarbLuke Morsa Zorua (52) Zoroark-GX (53) Trubbish (56) Garbodor (51) Garbodor (57) Tapu Lele-GX (60) Kartana-GX Oranguru (114) N (105) Guzma Brigette Cynthia Professor Sycamore Acerola Ultra Ball Puzzle of Time Field Blower Mysterious Treasure Rescue Stretcher Enhanced Hammer Float Stone Choice Band Parallel City Double Colorless Energy Unit Energy Psychic Metal Lightning

Rayquaza-GX/Garbodor

I think that Rayquaza-GX/Garbodor is better than straight Rayquaza-GX, so I’ll be focusing on this variant. This deck has a unique strategy, as it floods the board with energy to do as much energy with Dragon Break as possible and then locks abilities with Garbotoxin. It has a very aggressive approach and then attempts to keep the ability lock to stop the opponent from responding to the onslaught of Rayquaza-GXs.

Why Should I play Rayquaza-GX/Garbodor?

  • Its early game aggression can overrun many decks that don’t have techs to keep Rayquaza-GX in check.
  • As Rayquaza-GX decks run only basic energy, Zoro Control has a hard time controlling the board.

So it’s good against the number 1 deck? What’s wrong with it?

  • Rayquaza-GX decks are very linear, which makes them easier to counter.
  • Rayquaza-GX variants dump items into the discard at a fast rate, making Trashalance Garbodor a huge threat.
  • If you have a poor start with Rayquaza-GX, I consider the deck to have poor comeback potential.

At the moment I do not have a perfected list for this variant so I would not feel right sharing a potentially poor list with all of you. There are many floating around the internet currently, but the only one I have seen that I consider close to optimal is behind a paywall article written by a friend of mine, Rukan Shao.

Buzzroc

Buzzroc is still a fan favorite and a very strong archetype. I expect its brute force and minimal set up to keep it in Tier 1. The deck is slightly unfavored Vs. a Zoro Control with 1 Weakness Policy that plays correctly, but can likely farm average to below average Zoro Control players with suboptimal lists. I think it is necessary that the Buzzwole count changes to 2 Buzzwole-GX and 3 Baby Buzzwole due to Buzzwole-GX’s value in the mid game-late game one shot war Vs. Rayquaza-GX variants. I have tested 2 Field Blower in Buzzroc and I find it helps sometimes Vs. Weakness Policy (Zororoc and Zoro Control) and Wishful Baton (Rayquaza-GX variants), but it is hard to reliably see it when you need it because of the lack of draw power that Buzzroc has.


This is my appropriate tier list for the ARG Invitational which will likely influence my World’s meta predictions.


Tier 1

  • Zoroark Control
  • Zoro Garb
  • Buzzroc

Tier 2

  • Rayquaza Garb
  • ZoroRoc
  • ZoroPod
  • Buzz Garb
  • Zoro Gardy

I am unsure of where to rank the following archetypes

  • Greninja
  • Straight Rayquaza-GX
  • Gardevoir/Gallade

I think the following rogue archetypes have potential

  • Zoroark-GX/Weavile (Evil Admonition)
  • Xerneas BREAK/Electrode-GX
  • Naganadel-GX/Stakataka-GX
  • Yveltal BREAK/Shrine
  • Tapu Koko Spread/Garbodor/Shrine

In my testing, Zoroark Control has seemed to be able to pull out a comeback against any matchup. It does have its bad matchups like Rayquaza-GX variants and Xerneas BREAK/Electrode-GX, but its consistency and array of control options allows for a chance in almost any matchup.

Zoro Garb is the next most oppressive deck in the format, in that it has consistency, ability lock, and can punish the new Rayquaza-GX variants efficiently with Trashalanche.

I have tried many spread variants with Shrine of Punishment and Tapu Koko Promo: Banette GX, Weavile, Yveltal Break, Hoopa (to act as a wall while Shrine spreads), and Garbodor Spread. I theorized that spread would be good against Zoro Control, but the only spread variant that consistently beats Zoroark Control in my testing is the Garbodor/Tapu Koko archetype. Fellow writer Jeremiah Schmutz (Seagrove) included a list for this in his recent article. Definitely check that out!

I created this image to try to convey what this all looks like in my head. If I included every deck there would be lines going everywhere and indiscernible arrows going towards boxes, but this is how I see the top of the format at the moment. Like I said, I see a triangle between Zoroark Control, Zoroark Garb, and Ray Garb, and then Buzzroc has slightly lesser defined matchups but should still be considered a top deck.

Since I have put so much time into Zoroark Control, I have had a lot of scenarios occur and would like to give an example of how to win the mirror match.

Zoro Control Vs. Zoro Control

If both players are playing 1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork, 1 or 2 Oranguru, and 1 Rescue Stretcher it is very hard to achieve a match outcome outside of a tie if both players play optimally and do not prize one of the three key cards I mentioned. Outside of one of the key mirror match cards being prized or misplays, this is the win condition I have mapped out:

Both players have played down to a 0 card or close to 0 card deck. Each turn they play Rescues Stretcher 3 Pokemon into the deck and then Resource Managements 3 cards to the bottom of the deck which will likely be 3 Puzzle of Time. The top 3 cards are pokemon, bottom 3 are puzzles. If Player A gets double heads on Handiwork Player B is down to a 2 card deck which is 2 Puzzle of Time. Player A then Enhanced Hammers your Oranguru’s energy and Counter Catchers something without a Float Stone. Player A ends their turn by playing Rescue Stretcher, shuffle 3, then Resource management. Now Player B draws one card which is puzzle and there is 1 card left in deck that is puzzle. Player B needs to 1) get Oranguru into the active 2) play Stretcher 3) attach an energy 4) play a Handiwork or Delinquent of their own. If they do not then Player A is potentially free to start going for knockouts as opposed to proofing themselves of loss by deck out.

There are a lot of ifs and different card combos within this scenario, but I wanted to give an example of how close and meticulous this mirror match can be. Obviously, the match can also be won by one player drawing very poorly and not getting set up properly, or someone misplaying several times. The match often finds itself in a stalemate where both players will Rescue Stretcher, play a disruption supporter, then Resource Management. Creating an opportunity where you can KO the opposing Oranguru with Riotous Beating without losing to double heads on a Team Rocket’s Handiwork from your opponent is absolutely key. The stalemate makes winning by deck out tough, so bringing back the win condition of taking 6 prizes is important to keep in mind if you can make an advantageous board state for this to happen.

Closing Thoughts

Something I have been telling all of my testing partners is that if I could go into the ARG invitational knowing I would draw well enough to set up every game before choosing my deck, I would choose Zoroark/Gardevoir. I know this is an archetype I barely mentioned, but I think it is amazing in this current meta. The problem is that it requires Rare Candy so it can be clunky and inconsistent, and it does poorly against Buzzroc and off meta decks like Naganadel/Ultra Beasts and spread variants. I have been working on a teched out Zororoc list with 4 Fighting energy to prepare for the enhanced hammers that are popping up everywhere as well as 1 Sylveon-EX to have a reliable OHKO against Rayquaza-GX outside of Dangerous Rogue-GX. I am not a fan of Sylveon-EX in most Zoroark variants, but since Zororoc can already take a oneshot or two against Rayquaza-GX, Sylveon-EX can be in charge of that last one shot you need to win.

My choices for the ARG invitational are in order #1 Zoroark Control #2 Zoroark Lycanroc #3 Buzzroc. I have never entered a tournament with Buzzroc and I really do not enjoy the deck, but it does not need much to stay in the game and win and it has a good Zoroark Garbodor matchup which has a lot of hype. The tempo that Zororoc offers has been my bread and butter this season, and I would love to keep going with it if I can get my list to where I feel it needs to be. For now, Zoroark Control is my default choice as I believe I

A) have a strong understanding of the deck and what I need to do to disrupt most meta decks

B) have practiced the deck enough to make correct and timely decisions and

C) have decided that it likely has the best matchup spread aside from Zoroark Gardevoir.

 

I’ll be back next week with more thoughts on World’s, a recap of the ARG invitational, and maybe even some new lists. Thanks for reading!

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