Under a Mountain of Trash – Standard Meta after Guardians Rising
After two Regionals, Guardians Rising is living up to the Sun and Moon legacy. This set has introduced a flurry of new decks, and drastically changed the old ones.
This was the first big tournament with the new set, and players were uncertain what would rise. The uncertainty showed in the results, with Garbodor (accompanied by Drampa or Espeon) taking 24 out of the 32 top spots. Garbodor had not yet proven its power, and competitors didn’t bother building around it, and didn’t know how to outplay it.
Garbodor was built to counter the meta. With an attack that punishes Items, very few decks were prepared to stand up to it. Before Guardians Rising, decks included a large number of Items such as VS Seeker, Trainers’ Mail, and Max Elixir. The faster your deck could play, the better. Most games turned into a competition of big numbers, with the match being decided by who could hit harder. However, that kind of strategy does not work against Garbodor. As the people in Seattle experienced, Garbodor can hit very hard with only a few Items discarded. The one energy attack plus Choice Band sets up easy two-shots, or even OHKOs late game.
But no conditional attack would be good without a partner. If the deck was purely Garbodor, its opponents simply wouldn’t play Items and laugh as they got hit with zero damage. This is where Drampa comes in. Drampa hits for 80, or 150 if one of your benched Pokémon is damaged. Most importantly, it attacks for all Colorless energies, meaning is easily fits into the Psychic energy line Garbodor requires. This damage is simply too high to be ignored, especially considering it OHKOs most EXs if it has a Choice Band. The condition attached to the attack is very easy to activate with Team Magma’s Secret Base, the now absurdly expensive Stadium. When facing against this deck, it comes down to a choice: don’t play Items and die to Drampa, or dump your hand and die to Garbodor.
What decks could stand up to this? Very few, according to the standings. Only ¼ of the Top Cut didn’t play Garbodor, and these decks were scattered. Four of them were Decidueye/Vileplume, but these failed to pull through in Day 2, and all wound up below 22nd place. Vespiquen/Zoroark made it to second, and this deck would return in Madison. Beyond that, the other decks seem to have made it in through chance.
Top 32 at this tournament was the opposite of what it was just one week before. Garbodor’s numbers were slashed down to 1/3 of what they were in Seattle, and a variety of new decks rose to prominence.
This deck took the format completely by surprise. Before it was seen, Metagross was one of the cards that was a disappointment to see as an ultra-rare. But this proved itself to be an overlooked card, taking second and two other placements. It has everything a deck needs: energy acceleration, a powerful attack, and more HP than two Garbodors combined. The attack hits for 150 a turn, which once again OHKOs most things with a Choice Band, and even more with a few Dhelmise on the bench. The only downside to using this attack is that Metagross cannot attack during the next turn, which can easily be removed by a switch card or Pokémon Ranger. On top of that, Metagross is absurdly tanky. 250 HP and a resistance to Psychic makes it hard for anything, especially Garbodor, to deal with it. Combined with the ability to attach energy to itself, Metagross can be very powerful. However, it is slow. To get out a Metagross, you have to make it to Stage 2, which can be hard to do. Each Metagross requires this, and doing such is inconsistent.
Another unexpected deck came from Lightning. Vikavolt provides a Lightning and Grass energy from the deck every turn, which is just enough for either of the Tapus to attack. Tapu Bulu is the heavy hitter, which swings for 180 for just 3 energies. It requires the subsequent discard of those energies, but Vikavolt can just put them back on. With a Choice Band, even the GX attack OHKO many Pokémon, and at the same time heals. It is a very simple deck, but that makes it consistent and only further amplifies its power.
The second place list from Seattle was just a teaser for this deck’s performance in Madison. It took home first place, as well as five other placements. The Stage One duo relies on being able to out damage its opponents, and win the prize trade. There are no two-prize attackers in the deck, which gives it an edge in prizes. However, it does rely on Double Colorless Energies on each attacker. Another benefit of being Stage Ones is the ability to play the Eeveelutions, which allow this deck to hit for a variety of weaknesses. Overall, it is a deck that is hard to stop.
These two weekends had very different metas, but it seems like the second is more likely to stay. The explosion of Garbodor appears to have been contained, but it will stay in the background until something radically changes. Garbodor was still able to do well even though everyone in Madison built their decks around being able to beat it. But given the weeks to come before Nationals, decks could be perfected to shut down Garbodor and purify the meta.