The return of Pidgeotto Control? My top 2 plays for Qualifier #1

Hey there everybody, my name is Daniel Altavilla and this is the first time I’ll be writing an article for the Limitless TCG website, so allow me to introduce myself. I have been playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game since 2004 and have been competitive with the game from 2005 to now. I was ranked #2 globally based on the Limitless ranking system for the last two seasons, and ranked #2 globally in CP for last season and #1 globally in CP for this season. I offer coaching for anybody looking to better their game and I write articles like this as my main form of content creation. Enough about me though, let’s talk a bit about Limitless.

The Limitless Circuit

Limitless TCG has teamed up with and the beloved RK9 Labs to bring the community a series of free-to-play events leading into the Limitless Invitational, with various prizes for each event and a whopping $400 prize for the winner of the invitational. This is unprecedented in the Pokemon community, as is the expected attendance, with the first go at the event having more players than the biggest Regional Championship ever. This benefits plenty of people who live in places without Organized Play, and allows the community to scratch the itch for Competitive TCG while staying safe in our own homes. This is a huge opportunity for the community as a whole and being a free series of events means there is nothing to lose and much more to gain by entering these events.

I personally will not be entering because I am taking a bit of a break from the Pokemon TCG to focus on other aspects of my life while there are no main circuit Play! Pokemon events to attend, but I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the community and Limitless is really putting their all into this small circuit to give the community something fun to do while we are all staying home and saving lives. I have played my fair share of this meta though, and I’m confident in two plays that would be my top picks going into the event.

Pidgeotto Control

Pidgeotto Control36.80

This deck is something I was afraid to touch in the early stages of the format, writing it off under the assumption that we wouldn’t be able to get around Oranguru SSH’s Primate Wisdom ability while trying to Chip Chip Ice Axe lock the opponent, and that Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword would be too much to keep up with. 

A pretty “obvious” fix for the Pidgeotto variant would be running Cinccino instead, as it is basically Trade and Zoroark-GX Control was an archetype that has seen plenty of success in the last year. The issue I found with Cinccino was that it was actually worse at dealing with Intrepid Sword than Pidgeotto, because you had to spam Jessie & James so often that you wouldn’t be able to trade that much. With Pidgeotto, you could keep any excess cards, so every other turn you could use Ordinary Rod to shuffle in some Discard fodder and go from there. Any game that took too long for Cinccino made the deck worse, but Pidgeotto could play a long game and never have to worry about dropping the loop.

Another big thing was the Turn 1 Supporter rule change – would it be possible to find space for Ball search cards, or was Elm’s still the way to go? Is it feasible to give up a turn against some of these speedy decks when we have such a large late game combo we must build up over time? All of these questions made it clear that no Control-based archetype would be prepared in time for OCIC, and even if the deckbuilding aspect was solved, we would still need to see how decks were built and what the most successful version of ADPZ would look like.

Fast forward to after Tord’s big Malmö Regionals win, and Sander Wojcik’s impressive finish with a very unorthodox deck. Sander seemed to do the impossible – he found the balance for consistency cards and control cards, having a thin line of the disruptive cards and a heavier line of Zacian V, omitting the heavier Cinccino line and focusing on a 2-2. This was definitely something that had a lot of players thinking about the viability of Control archetypes moving forward, and with Tord’s ADPZ list being such a consistent and powerful list, it was obvious that the majority of ADPZ lists would shape up to look very similar, so we finally had a basis for a Control deck to be built off of and a basis for an ADPZ list we could start running games against.

I ended up messaging my friend Will Jenkins as we were among the last few friends who were both attending Toronto amidst all of the Covid-19 panic, and we both had a similar thought process that Control and disruption in general was much, much stronger against ADPZ than we initially gave it credit for and that the other matchups were so good naturally that there wasn’t much of a reason to not give the deck a run.

Will sent me a Pidgeotto list a handful of cards off of what I’m at now, with some things staying the same throughout the process – 4 Quick Ball was very strong, it found Pidgey at any point in the game without having to use your Supporter for turn. Professor’s Research was also pretty good because it was a mass Discarding effect to allow you to thin your deck out for the late game, while also burning through your deck so that you didn’t have as heavy a reliance on setting up those Pidgeotto early, meaning you could take your time and discard your deck, Resource Management cards back in, and eventually it would all fall into place, instead of having triple Pidgeotto in play from turn 2 but being pretty stagnant from then on, until it was time to rock and roll with the full lock. The deck now plays out similar to a Hammer Time variant, where you discard an energy here, drop a Reset Stamp there, mix in a Custom Catcher to bring something up and force a Switch out, etc. until lock time, all the while mass-milling your own deck to make the combo easier to access. There was even a Dedenne-GX so that if your cards fell the right way, you could drop a Lt. Surge’s Strategy, use 2 Professor’s Research and a Dedechange all in one turn, going through 20 cards just like that. 

Will also adopted a small anti-mill package consisting of a Girafarig LOT and a 1-1 Magneton CEC line, which exists solely to keep spamming Call Signal against mill to not only give you access to Lt. Surge’s Strategy, but also after 3 or 4 uses will allow you to start Reset Stamping Mill down to 2 and then using double Mars or a Jessie & James, putting them in a bind where they can either refill their hand with Intrepid Sword, having to bench a Zacian V which you can Custom Catcher and Absol, while skipping out on Resource Management, or just use Resource Management every turn while you are free to switch between a Girafarig and your own Oranguru to eventually run them out of Energy or Bellelba & Brycen-Man. Call Signal also lets you easily find Supporters and put an opponent down to 2 Prizes when they try to Stinger/Blacephalon in those matchups.

The deck seemed to have it all at this point – a true basis to finally set up, a stronger balance and consistency than the one Sander had set up for us in Malmö, and a strategy that could be executed flawlessly against most of the meta, but was missing one thing – an actual answer to ADPZ besides hoping they whiff pieces here and there. Now don’t get me wrong, I have played countless games vs ADPZ with this Pidgeotto deck and I have won many games where I couldn’t hit a heads on Crushing Hammer to save my life, and before I had fit in the Team Yell Grunts. It was still Control at the end of the day, you could always force up an ADP, lock their hand, and Resource back in the Stamp, Surge, Pal Pad for Double Mars to keep locking them turn after turn, hoping that they could not rip a Switch or a Supporter card off of their topdeck with Primate Wisdom. But that is too random of a strategy, and didn’t work well enough consistently enough to count the matchup as more than unfavored.

Then I decided to throw in 2 Team Yell Grunt and try that out considering it worked so well for Sander – now there is Articuno-GX, Surge Grunt Grunt, and quad Crushing Hammer to just keep energy off the board for ADPZ throughout the game. Eventually they will take KOs with Zacian V, but then you clear them off, and even if 5 Prizes go by as long as Altered Creation-GX doesn’t go off or your opponent whittles their resources down trying to play the game, you will eventually just get a perfect lock.

This brings another issue into question though, we can beat ADPZ as an aggressive deck, but with the copy of Oranguru that Tord played, will we actually be able to close a game out? And the answer is pretty simple – you can both have Resource Management, but only you have Bellelba, so your opponent is adding 3 and losing 3 while drawing for turn every turn. You have a solid option from here – Crushing Hammer/Yell Grunt the Oranguru every turn to keep your opponent from actually setting up a board behind the Guru, while setting your own active Guru up and using Profound Knowledge twice to just KO the Guru. This will keep you in the advantage and will crush any hopes your opponent has of winning because once they commit to the Guru strategy, the aggression goes quickly downhill.

This is a lot of power coming from a deck, and while any deck has its flaws as a meta shapes up further, I think Pidgeotto Control is a deck that has worked its way into Tier 1 in my eyes, just like it was last format. People don’t really like to play disruptive decks like Pidgeotto because it isn’t aggressive and is very methodical, but this is peak Pokemon Trading Card Game material for those who want to think out a strategy for the long game and weigh out options thoroughly instead of just going super aggressive and hoping to out draw your opponents or dodge Blacephalon.

How to Avoid Timeout Issues

The first thing anyone I’ve talked to about Pidgeotto for the Limitless Circuit says to me is “but Danny, isn’t 25 minutes too short of a time for you to finish a game?” And my response is always no because the deck is way different on PTCGO than in real life, and so are all of your opponent’s decks. Let’s say we are playing against an ADPZ in real life, and they wanted to take illegal actions to stall against us. So they shuffle their deck excessively constantly, overthink their plays, whatever else people can illegally abuse. In PTCGO, there is no shuffling, cards go from hand to table pretty quickly, and while your opponent can take a while on each play, there is no reason to do so as they will get a Game Loss if the match doesn’t resolve in the 25 minutes.

If you put a handful of games in with Pidgeotto, it will start to become pretty clear what options you have for each scenario, so you won’t have to think so hard as you grow with the deck. Even if your first couple of games with the deck are during the Limitless Qualifier, you will be able to finish any game in 25 minutes where both players are playing at an average pace, even if they have a 30-card Deck when you get the Chip Chip lock going. If you have an opponent that thinks they will lose anyways so they try to give you a loss too, (which is a bad idea because of tiebreakers), you can compensate by just trying to speed up your thought processes throughout the game. There is definitely balance, and I would not worry about finishing any game.

An issue here is the Mill matchup, Control mirror, or ADPZ with their own copy of Oranguru. These games might not finish properly in time if you both are mindlessly using Resource Management, so keeping that in mind, you can try to spam Call Signal and lock your opponent’s hand, start taking KOs on Orangurus, or doing whatever is in your power to close the game out in time even if it isn’t the optimal way to play the matchup. Worst case, because you and your opponent share lists at the beginning of the round, I would look at my opponent’s list, check our prizes at the beginning of the game, and concede if one player prized enough techs to make the matchup unwinnable. This starts to become clear as the game continues, for example if my Girafarig and Faba are prized, but my opponent has a Girafarig and Faba available to use, why would I sit there and give them a Game Loss after 25 min, when there is a 0% chance I can take the game? If I am playing against Mill and they play 7 Fire to my 2 Recycle 2 Water, why am I going to play when I will run out of Energy first every time?

Sometimes games will not finish, and that is with any matchup and is also OK. You can take 2 or 3 losses in the event and still cut without an issue, so time is not going to be an issue to stress over unless you are just playing too slow with the deck and taking too long to think. And honestly, this Pidgeotto deck does not have too many “big brain” plays that are difficult to make, it is just about doing the right play at the right time, and with any deck that will come to you as you play games.

Ultimate MewBox

Ultimate MewBox111.37

This Mewtwo deck is well known as the Henry Brand Perth-winning deck which took the community for a ride as it is very unconventional for a Mewtwo-based deck. Nobody would have expected something like this to end up being good, but sure enough the deck has answers to a lot of meta decks right now, and is a force to be reckoned with as it is consistent and can answer most situations in the game right now. I haven’t played this deck nearly as much as I have played the Pidgeotto deck, but MewBox is my top choice for an Attacking deck as it is so fun and so powerful. You have different attacking options for so many matchups, a pretty cut and dry ADPZ strategy, your own copy of ADP, Solgaleo-GX to set up multiple attackers, and a mixture of Professor’s Research and a Tag Call engine. This deck is beautifully consistent, powerful, and full of options so one game can look completely different from the last.

Your bread and butter is going to consist of using Sol Burst or Altered Creation GX, depending on the matchup and what situation you are in after their first turn, and then following up with Flygon-GX to hit 240-270, Xerneas Prism to OHKO an opposing ADP, Vileplume GX to KO anything with little enough HP, or Blastoise GX’s Rocket Splash to have an attack that lacks a damage cap. SnivySaur acts as a Gust effect, Alolan Raticate-GX is going to have uses here and there, mostly to KO Jirachi for 2 Prizes after an Altered Creation without having to attach an energy, or for the Mill matchup where you can just not attach for a while and still apply pressure. Indeedee V cannot be copied with Perfection but is a very powerful attacker in any Mewtwo mirror or any matchup where they are a bit too reliant on multiple Energy attachments, like PikaRom, and I even threw in a Cryogonal so that you have a chance against Blacephalon.

The deck is pretty straightforward as a toolbox that just goes for whatever your best option is at any moment while burning through your deck and setting up an unstoppable board, and plays similar to any other Mewtwo variant from the past, minus the Welder reliance. The only matchups I really want to go into are Mill and Blacephalon because I’ve teched for those exclusively. For mill, you have Cryogonal and a single copy of Bellelba & Brycen-Man. You can use Cryogonal to prevent your opponent from using Crushing Hammer while you set your board up with energy, and then use Altered Creation and try to take 3 KOs from there, but what I like to do is use Cryogonal as soon as turn 1 and then gust up the Zacian V with SnivySaur, which they cannot retreat as you use Frozen Lock repeatedly. Eventually, whether you are using Cryogonal much or not, you should be able to take 6 Prizes or catch your opponent in a deckout with your own copy of Bellelba, so that matchup is as solved as it can get. Pidgey is a different beast though, where I do not think Ultimate MewBox actually has a chance, but it is also one of the least represented decks at all times.

For Blacephalon, you want to Altered Creation, and upon getting KO’d you will just keep using Frozen Lock. Ideally, you can take 2 KO’s with the Cryogonal before your opponent gets their bearings, and from there it is easy to win. The math works out so that they need 6 (or 7 with a Big Charm) Fire to KO your ADP, and they have 13-14 Fire in the deck max. Then, three Fire are put onto Blacephalon for the Fireball Circus attack. This leaves us with 9-10 Fire energy gone, meaning a Blacephalon is no longer capable of both setting up a 2nd Blacephalon and KOing a Cryogonal, which leaves your opponent with Victini Prism or Victini V to try and finish the game. When your opponent goes into Victini V, you can just SnivySaur around it, and try and cheese the win from there. The matchup was doable for Kaiwen Kuan’s singleton Cryogonal tech at Perth Regionals, and he did not use Reset Stamp or anything and did not have SnivySaur as backup, so it is more than doable for Ultimate MewBox.

This deck is definitely very fun and feels as wild and crazy as we all expected the Perfection ability to be once the Unified Minds were released before Worlds last year, so I’m having a lot of fun with it on Ladder and would love to see a bit more representation for this variant during the Limitless Qualifier.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to everybody for checking out this article, and thanks to Limitless for allowing me to publish it on the Limitless TCG website. I am excited to see how these Qualifiers play out ultimately culminating into the Invitational, and we as a community should be prepared for a few weeks of fun, exciting gameplay. The world is in a place right now where there is not much for people to do and we are all left hanging with questions about how things are going to turn out in the future, so the best thing to do is to keep clinging on to things that we love, and one thing I can say we all love is the Pokemon Trading Card Game.

If you want a fun deck for the qualifier, go for the Ultimate MewBox deck, as it has very large potential going into the Limitless Circuit and it is a blast to play. If you want a bit more of a challenge but a great matchup spread, go ahead and try out Pidgeotto Control. Either way, I hope everybody has a great time with the coming events and please make sure to stay home and stay safe.

3 Responses

  1. Trenton Staley

    love pidgeotto control, was the deck I played last year and am looking into playing for Q1
    Also can I get some more info on coaching

    Thank you

    Trenton Staley

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