Tier List and Meta Scores for North American International Championships

Luke Morsa
July 05, 2018

Writing this exactly one week before NAIC will be starting, we have all but written in stone what the top 3 decks are for the tournament: Buzzroc, Zororoc, and Malamar/Psychic attackers.



There is room for debate on which Malamar variant is better, either Psychic Malamar or Ultra Necrozma Malamar. I believe that Psychic Malamar is the popular choice and will be the variant that represents Malamar in Tier 1. Zororoc is one of two popular Zoroark-GX variants, the other being Zoropod. I think both are strong decks with high skill caps and good matchup spreads, but the deciding factors to put Zororoc above Zoropod in my tier list are that Zororoc is slightly favored vs. Zoropod (as long as neither deck is heavily teched for zoroark variants) and Zororoc has a slightly more aggressive strategy that gains extra percentage points in both Malamar matchups. I think that both are great choices and many loyal Zoroark-GX players will stick to the variant they have had the most practice and success with throughout the season. Buzzroc is considered the best deck in format going into NAIC and I don’t imagine that will change. The other viable Buzzwole-GX variant is Buzz/Garb, which is a respectable choice for the tournament but does not have the same oppressive qualities that Buzzroc has.

Tier 1

I predict that the archetypes in this tier will each take up more than 10% of the day 1 meta due to their previous success, good matchup spreads, and inherit strength. I expect that 5-6 of my 9 swiss rounds will be against decks from this tier.

  1. Buzzroc
  2. Zororoc
  3. Psychic Malamar
  4. Zoropod

Tier 2

These archetypes are viable and I expect them to have good showings, but they are not as inherently strong as the Tier 1 archetypes. I expect that 2-3 of my 9 Swiss rounds will be against decks from this tier.

  1. Ultra Necrozma/Malamar
  2. Buzz/Garb
  3. Greninja
  4. Zoro/Garb

Tier 3

The archetypes in this tier have at least 1 of the following qualities: lack of recent success, consistency issues, poor matchup spread. I would be surprised if any of these individual archetypes have more than 1-2 slots in day 2. I expect that 0-1 of my 9 swiss rounds will be against a deck from this tier.

  1. Lapras
  2. Espeon/Drampa/Garb

Below are two charts depicting my predicted Day 1 meta share, which I will use to create weighted meta scores for each of the archetypes listed.

So how did I come to these numbers? For a complete methodology of my standard meta predicting procedures, refer to my article on metagaming!

Buzzroc - 20%

Buzzroc is being labeled the best deck in format… and for good reason. It is an oppressive archetype that now focuses on the one-prize powerhouse Buzzwole FOL for most of the game. Archetypes like Psychic Malamar have been forced to adapt to this strategy by utilizing its own one-prize attackers like Mewtwo SM77 and Hoopa STS. Almost every archetype on this list has some type of tech or change to the standard lists because of Buzzroc. The deck is surely meta-defining. Buzzroc has seen so much success and I would be surprised to see that change. I think Buzzroc is a strong pick for NAIC and I estimate around 20% of the day 1 meta will be made up of Buzzroc.

Zororoc - 15%

Yes, Zoroark-GX is still alive and well. Zororoc is my top pick for NAIC based on its skill cap, matchup spread, playstyle, and my extensive practice and experience with it. I believe that we will see many Zororoc players revisit the archetype based on its recent resurgence and success.

Psychic Malamar - 15%

Here we are, the last of the big 3. I have estimated that the triangle of decks, Buzzroc, Zororoc, and Psychic Malamar, will take up a combined 50% of the day 1 meta. Psychic Malamar is the more consistent Malamar variant and it has the most favored Buzzroc matchup out of every deck on my tier list.

Zoropod - 11%

This is my second pick for NAIC. Zoropod is consistent and can handle most things that come its way. The only downfall of the archetype is its linear damage output. I expect it to see a fair amount of play based on its recent success. I had to bump this up to Tier 1 because in my opinion there is very little that separates it from Zororoc in viability.

Ultra Malamar - 11%

This Malamar variant has better matchups to Zoroark-GX variants than the Psychic Malamar variant, but it loses percentage points in the Buzzroc matchup and Greninja matchups. I prefer Psychic Malamar by far, but many people enjoy the higher damage output of Ultra Necrozma-GX.

Below is the data that I plugged into my functions to determine meta scores for each of the decks. The meta score system that I created takes all of the archetypes on my tier list (n=10), each matchup in perspective of each of the 10 archetypes (9 matchups each), multiplies the “grade” or matchup score that I have allotted by the predicted day 1 meta share of the opposing deck in the matchup, and then adds all 9 weighted matchup grades together to create a meta score for the deck. This meta score is a numeric depiction of the archetype’s matchup spread in the estimated meta. Below are all of my matchup grades. I tried to be as objective as possible as to manifest an agreeable and accurate matchup spread for each archetype. Please refer to the legend and keep in mind the matchup is in the perspective of the archetype in Column A “Archetypes”.

Disclaimer: These matchup estimations are based off of tournament play, spectating matches, matches vs. testing partners with physical cards, and matches vs. testing partners on PTCGO. These are largely based off of my own experience and are the closest I can estimate the matchups to be at the time of writing this. I spent hours deliberating these matchup grades to be as objective and accurate as possible.


These matchup grades or scores are then multiplied by their weight. So for example, Psychic Malamar having a favorable matchup (4) vs. Buzzroc would count as +0.8 to the archetype’s meta score, while having that same matchup (4) vs. a deck I estimate will be less popular like Espeon/Garb would only count as +0.12 towards the archetype’s meta score. I am using 1-5 as my scale, but as 7% of my predicted meta is allotted to “other”, the highest possible score is 93% of 5 which is 4.65 and the lowest possible score is 0.93 which is 93% of 1. Below are the calculated meta scores.


With 0.93 being the lowest possible score and 4.65 being the highest possible score, 2.79 is the midpoint. Anything above 2.79 has an overall positive matchup spread. Anything below 2.79 has an overall negative matchup spread. I was surprised to see Zoro/Garb be #4 and I was also surprised to see Psychic Malamar end up so low. Remember, this is not a subjective rating of the decks. I input the matchups shown above and weighted them according to my predicted meta shares. What this chart means is that if you were to play against the archetypes on the tier list at the frequency that I predict the average player will, then Zororoc will have the most positive matchup spread for your 9 rounds of Day 1 swiss, followed by Buzzroc, followed by Zoropod, etc. The top 3 archetypes on my meta score chart, Zororoc, Zoropod, and Buzzroc, are my top 3 picks for NAIC.

My advice to anyone still unsure of what they are playing at NAIC is to play the deck from Tier 1 you are most experienced and comfortable with. Tier 2 also has some respectable choices, but I suggest sticking with tier 1 if you are well-versed with any of those archetypes.If you are equally confident in your skill with multiple viable deck choices, that is where my meta scores/matchup spreads come in to help.

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