Early Theory and Metagaming for NAIC
Welcome back flipsiders! We’ve now got Santa Clara regionals, Madison regionals, and a handful of foreign event results to analyze and digest when preparing for NAIC (North American International Championships) which is in a few weeks. There are plenty of reputable decklists available on Limitlesstcg.com to test with and against, so instead of constructing my own decklists this week I will be working with what we already have to decide if there are any strategies that multiple top decks are susceptible to. This will be more of a theorizng article with the ideas I have going through my head for the NAIC meta.
What are the top decks?
Looking at the results of Madison regionals, I think it’s safe to say that Reshizard variants, Blacephalon-GX, Zoroark-GX variants, and PikaRom variants are among the best performing and highly respected decks of our current meta. A good place to start in my opinion would be to look for overlapping weaknesses between these 4 decks and perhaps start testing techs, decks, or rogue ideas from there.
These 4 decks listed above are all GX heavy variants. On paper, a non-GX attacking deck like Zapdos or Baby Blacephalon should be the obvious answer to an all GX tier 1. It’s not that easy in this case since all 4 of the above decks will usually have answers to single prize matchups to at least even it out.
Reshizard variants have some combination of Max Potion, Acerola, single prize attackers, and/or Miltank BUS. While these inclusions do not swing the matchup into Reshizard’s favor vs a myriad of single prize decks, it at least evens out the playing field most of the time.
Blacephalon-GX is built with Naganadel as a natural partner that is fairly efficient versus single prize attackers most of the time. Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel will usually struggle with single prize based decks since Blacephalon is built to take big knockouts for multiple prize cards, but Naganadel is oftentimes enough to make it a winnable match versus Zapdos variants.
Pikarom is mostly relevant in the form of Pikabox, which runs multiple Pikarom and multiple Zapdos to have an adaptable game plan depending on the matchup. You should start getting the idea by now that Pikarom and the two aforementioned GX-centric decks are not completely made up of GX Pokemon; the competitive meta has mostly evolved past a point of building a deck solely of GX Pokemon since that will usually leave the deck susceptible to non-GX counter strategies. The versatility of the top decks is why they are on top.
Zoroark-GX variants are slightly different in their nature of dealing with single prize attackers. Zoroark-GX variants will usually attack with Zoroark-GX versus single prize attackers and try to heal Zoroark-GX multiple times in succession with Acerola to deny the opponent of prize cards. Reshizard can also use the healing tactic as I previously mentioned.
Because of the versatility of most GX-centric decks, we should not hope to rely on outtrading versus them with single prizers that do not have one-shot potential. A one-prize build that has high potential damage sounds perfect, so working on a deck like this that runs well sounds pretty ideal.
Single Prize Attackers / Deck Ideas
This is hardly original, but I wanted to start out with the obvious and established single prize attackers. At only 120 HP, Blacephalon can output massive amounts of damage with Fireball Circus. A baby Blacephalon can be powered up with Welder much like Reshizard and Blacephalon-GX and also match their damage output while only giving up a single prize card when knocked out… pretty nuts right? Blacephalon UNB needs energy to be discarded from hand to deal damage, which means there are multiple cards the player might need to draw into each turn. The successful lists have uses a Green’s Exploration engine which is highly susceptible to Marshadow SHL’s Let Loose and Judge since Green’s Exploration decks do not have ability based draw to help recover from an early let loose. There were 2 Blacephalon UNB in top 32 and 2 Blacephalon UNB in top 64 at Madison, so the deck has had some success and has a place in the meta. Personally I think the deck is very volatile and not great for a large event, but it is undeniable that it can blow up any Pokemon and only gives up a single prize card. Although I do not like the deck myself, I think that the Madison meta was very favorable for it and if the deck was ever going to make it into top 8, it probably would have happened there.
Arcanine has been featured in Reshizard decks as a single prize attacker, but I like the idea of multiple Arcanine in a fire box type deck. Luckily, Tristan Lackey brought something like this to Madison and finished in top 64 so I have a list to start with that has already seen some success. I will be trying Arcanine as well as Turtonator DRM in firebox lists to see if this duo of strong single prize fire Pokemon can put out similar pressure as the GX stars of current fire decks. Turtonator is another single prize attacker that has very high damage potential similar to baby Blacephalon.
For only having 2 attacks and no ability, Dewgong is a fairly expansive card in this meta. Its value mostly in its second attack which does 60 damage to two Pokémon. Being water type, this can do 120 to an active fire Pokémon and 60 to a benched Pokémon spreading 180 damage in just one attack from a single prize Pokémon. It is also great to set up a double knock out turn against a deck like Granbull, which has multiple weak support Pokémon benched at all times. Unfortunately I do not think Dewgong would work in an all single prize variant as it needs draw power like Zoroark-GX to draw into Triple Accel Energy or energy acceleration like Malamar to get its attack powered up in one turn. Perhaps it is possible to include Dewgong in a single prize focused Arcanine variant?
Although Nag n’ Quag is a single prize focused water and fighting type deck, it still is not strong enough to consistently beat Reshizard variants. In the Day 2 Madison field of fire decks everywhere, Nag Quag did not manage to place any higher than Top 32 and took several losses to Reshizard players. The deck’s flaws include two different stage 1 lines to set up and a severe lack of draw power.
Weezing is one of the strongest damage spread decks we have had in a while and I have personally been finding success with the archetype. The main issue for Weezing is that DDG’s Reshizard list had Miltank BUS which heals and other lists have included Acerola and Max Potion. Testing and playing in tournaments versus Reshizard variants, I can safely say that a single Acerola or Max Potion can make Weezing lose the game. While I really enjoy the deck and it was very powerful for the first few weeks of Unbroken Bonds standard, I think the deck building in our meta is currently making an unfavored field of decks with healing options. Alolan Muk SUM can be a Miltank counter and Mr Mime TEU can prevent Acerolas, but covering the bases with both of them may be too much deck space taken up to still not secure the matchups and cover all of the bases.
A Malamar build that is focused on chaining Giratina as the main attacker should have a favorable matchup against tag team decks if the deck can run consistently enough. Zoroark variants can be an issue for Malamar historically, but Zoroark decks have a fair amount of space taken up with Reshizard techs nowadays and are no longer running Lycanroc-GX GRI which was a huge problem for Malamar variants. Malamar Tina with Spell Tags is also a consideration.
Common Weaknesses Among Top Decks
In the event that a single prize strategy is not enough to combat the entire upper echelon of decks, there are other susceptible attributes to look for. Pikarom, Zoroark GX, and Eevee & Snorlax GX are all weak to fighting type Pokémon and Reshizard and Blacephalon GX are both weak to water type Pokémon. Capitalizing on all of this at once has been attempted with Nag n’ Quag in a single prizer fashion and also with Zoroark Silvally-GX variants with mostly GX Pokémon dealing the damage.
One of the strategies I am most interested in is a fire toolbox that is heavy on single prize attackers similar to Tristan Lackey’s day 2 list that I spoke on. I think that using the strong fire support available to us with strong single prize Pokémon leading the way can gain the upper hand versus GX decks without utilizing weakness, while also having fairly leveled playing fields versus opposing single prize based decks.
I don’t have the answers yet and I’m not sure how close I am. I need to earn points at NAIC in order to receive a World Championship invite for this season, so I will be working very hard at understanding the meta and finding the deck that has the best chance at leading me to a 6-2-1 or better record and earning my invite.
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