as of writing this, the first International Championship of the season in London is merely a week away. I’m very excited for the weekend and am sure it’s going to be a ton of fun, but at the same time, deck choices must be made soon and I’m still not sure what to pick.
For all of you who are in the same situation, I decided to collect my current thoughts in this article, and maybe they’ll be of some help! Lists or opinions might and probably will still change in the course of the next week, but I mostly do consider them well refined already. For some decks I’ll link to a decklist I think is ideal already instead of putting up an own one. Note that this is not necessarily a ranking of decks I believe are the best or that will be the most played, but a list of decks that I personally am most likely to bring to the tournament.
My Top 5 Decks
Metagross is the deck I used for the Regional Championship Bremen and I think it’s still much better than the public opinion seems to portrait it. Its main selling point is obviously the Gardevoir matchup, which in my opinion is extremely favourable. Gardevoir players may argue that Parallel City + Plea GX makes it close, but I disagree. Obviously it’s possible to lose a game sometimes, but I’d always be very happy to face a Gardevoir in tournament.
The key to the matchup as well to many other matchups is being very patient and reacting to opponents attacks instead of being aggressive yourself. There’s few situations where you should start attacking first unless you already have 3 Metagross in play. I think a common mistake is players going for a Guzma KO play when their board isn’t fully established yet, proceeding to get N’d and missing an attack on the turn after, with the game then quickly snowballing out of their reach. The biggest priority is always being able to respond to an opponent’s attack.
The only deck I lost against in Bremen was Drampa Garbodor, however a total 3 times (2 of which were Tord though, so I guess it’s not that bad…?). The biggest problem is Garbotoxin + N being hard to draw out of consistently. Trashalance will also usually hit for 2HKOs because of the crazy number of Items in the deck, so even when drawing a Field Blower of N, attacking will often only net a single prize. The whole Espeon EX and Po Town package is also annoying to deal with.
A card I’ve added in hopes of improving the matchup is Parallel City. It not only gets rid of Po Towns while conserving Field Blowers, but also limits the opponents bench which can be very annoying for the Garbodor player. They’ll probably have to at least discard some Tapu Leles, which are otherwise quite decent attackers in the matchup. Parallel also has some cool application in other matchups which is why I think it’s worth the space.
As a sidenote, since Volcanion decks have been cutting down their stadiums and Field Blowers to a minimum, it’s actually possible to make the matchup a lot better by including some Altar of the Sunne. Coupled with Giratina Promo for Greninja, the deck could in theory include answers to both of its classical autolosses.
The biggest problem with Metagross however remains its inconsistency. Brigette is of utmost importance it feels like, and not getting to play it in any of the first two turn usually ends up in losing any close matchup. Prizing Alolan Vulpix can also end up losing games, but including a second one that would be almost useless in most other games doesn’t seem optimal either.
Overall, I think Metagross is legit, and keep it in my mind as a possible fall back play, but will probably pick something less risky without such huge variance in matchups. After all I could end up facing 5 Gardevoir decks, but then again, it’s also possible to see multiple horrible matchups and swiftly get knocked out of contention.
4. Celesteela Registeel
The point of the deck is once again to have a good Gardevoir matchup. Registeel is extremely good at putting up early pressure against it, and Celesteela can come in and score some easy OHKOs afterwards. Other matchups are a bit more complicated, but these two Pokémon can honestly handle a lot of them. Also, Blaster GX and its Town Map effect is totally the coolest GX attack, right?
One thing I really dislike about the deck is its dependence on Max Elixir. Some games they’ll hit well, in others fail horribly, and it just doesn’t feel good to have games decided by that. In testing the deck also lost a bunch of games to Garbotoxin plus N, as Celesteela’s high energy cost make it very hard to establish a relatively self-sustaining board.
I regard this as a solid deck and possible surprise play, but am not fully convinced it can go all the way and am more likely to put the rest of my testing time before London into different decks I think.
In the third spot we have Gardevoir, which I believe to be the best deck ever since rotation. However, even though I think it is the overall strongest deck and has the tools to cover a very wide array of matchups, I’d rather avoid playing it myself if possible.
One reason for that is obviously that the status as best deck brings counter decks and people who are prepared to face it. Although, as seen many times before, like at the last EUIC where Yveltal was the number 1 deck going into the tournament and still made up all the Top 4, that usually doesn’t end up being a big hindrance, it can still lead to some frustrating losses and in general makes the day more stressful then when playing something less expected, especially when paired with facing a lot of mirrors. In the end it’s probably a matchup where the better player comes up on top most of the time, but a day full of Gardevoir mirrors still seems dreadful to me. I also don’t consider myself a top Gardevoir player and would rather face the likes of Pablo Meza and co. with something that could maybe give me an advantage.
Speaking of which, after having played multiple different Gardevoir lists over the last few months, I’ve arrived to liking the one Pablo used to win Vancouver Regionals the most. I’ve mostly used Max Potion heavy Gardevoir versions like the one in my latest 60cards article before, and still like them, but the consistency and options gained by the 2-2 Sylveon line and Float Stone seem difficult to pass up on. Whereas Max Potions can end up being dead cards, or feel like win more at times, Sylveon together with Float Stone are seemingly always helpful and can swing matches just as well.
This might just be a decision between executing a slightly weaker strategy but doing it more consistently, and having the “stronger” deck but failing to do what it wants to accomplish more often. I can fully understand playing a list more like the one Mark Garcia used in Vancouver, and even the concept of playing 4 Max Potion that’s been floating around social media recently is probably not bad, but in the end, I’d just go with the so called optimal list.
A common question is whether Mr. Mime will be worth a spot in the list, and I’d probably say no. Its upside is that it can make your day a little easier by pulling out a free win versus a Ninetales deck or something similar, but I think most matchups where it shines are not bad in the first place. In addition, many decks that would struggle against it have some sort of Ability lock, like Buzzwole who’s usually paired with Garbodor. If you want to dedicate one deck slot to making specific matchups easier, I’d rather go with Giratina Promo, as that actually heavily swings a possibly very relevant matchup.
My final opinion is that if you feel comfortable with Gardevoir and know your matchups, there’s little reason to not go into London with it. It’s one of more difficult decks to play well and will reward good play more than most other decks I think. Personally, I could see myself going in with it, but when in doubt would rather pick a Garbodor deck, like the following two.
Golisopod is a very efficient and versatile attacker, and has the tools to persist in almost any matchup, which I really like. It’s somewhat good against Drampa, destroys Greninja, and has some other less important positive matchups.
The most important factor for determining whether wanting to play it is the Gardevoir matchup. As a one energy attacker, Golisopod should be fine against it, but still, Gardevoir seems to come out on top more often than not when piloted by a good player. If given the choice, I think I’d rather be on Gardevoir’s side of the table any time, which honestly makes me shy away from Golisopod a bit.
The most popular and I guess safest version is of course the Garbodor one. Both Garbotoxin and Trashalance are just good and give the deck a major power boost. Especially Garbotoxin seems mandatory to keep the Gardevoir matchup close. However, Ability Lock also makes the deck itself very vulnerable to dead draws, which is a problem as Golisopod needs to play cards to increase its damage output almost every turn. Many games seem to be lost to unfortunate hands that the deck cannot get out of, which is one of the reasons Gardevoir isn’t the good matchup it should be in theory.
Golisopod greatly benefits from an additional form of draw support, which is the reason why I also strongly consider the version with Zoroark instead of Garbodor. The upside is a significant improvement in consistency, the downside however the loss of the so important Ability lock against Gardevoir. The plan becomes to put up tons of pressure with Guzmas and using Enhanced Hammers to stop multiple Gardevoir from getting out of control. The deck is less susceptible to randomly lose to itself in the middle of the game, but it doesn’t have the means of stopping the Gardevoir player should they just draw really well themselves. Especially Max Potion variants seem troublesome.
A tech I like is the Espeon-EX. It’s not meant to go for a damage everything and devolve strategy, but sometimes such situations with a lot of damage on different Pokémon just happen naturally and a Miraculous Shine can make the different there. It can also be used to take single KOs while simultaneously negating any Rare Candies played.
I’m very tempted to just go with one of the Golisopod variants, thinking it can give me enough in-game options and matchup coverage to handle most of the field. However, I’d first need to convince myself I can go head to head against good Gardevoir players with it.
1. Drampa Garbodor
If the tournament was tomorrow, I’d just pick Drampa Garbodor. I don’t even think there’s much to explain here, both Garbodor are simply incredible and this seems to be the best deck to use them to their fullest potential. It also rewards good play which is beautifully demonstrated by players like Tord and Sam who just seem to never lose a match with it!
The Drampa Garbodor vs Gardevoir matchup may be the most discussed and played matchup of the BKT-on format, and I for one believe it’s in Garbodor’s favour, if only ever so slightly. I know many Gardevoir players think the exact opposite, and it might just be so very even that no one is right. In any case, I would be ok with facing multiple Gardevoir with this deck. One annoying aspect however is that the matchup tends to take a lot of time, which can make it hard to finish 3 games.
The deck gained some options with Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion, but I don’t think any of them are actually worth it. I’ve tried Buzzwole, Kartana, Shining Jirachi, and more, but in the end, Espeon GX and EX just feel like the best and only needed partners.
The possible rise of Zoroark is said to make life harder for Garbodor, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. There may be some Zoroark variants that beat Drampa, Zoroark Golisopod for instance seems hard to deal with, but generally, Garbotoxin and Righteous Edge are annoying for them, as is Po Town + Berserk.
This is a deck that hasn’t received a lot of public discussion yet, but I frequently see it on PTCGO and also initially assumed it would be the best pairing for Zoroark. However, neither Gardevoir nor Garbodor decks seemed to be favourable matchups, so I stopped testing it. It’s not particularly bad against either though, and generally a good deck that can hold its own in many matchups, so I still expect to see some in London and would not be surprised if some were to do well.
As far as Zoroark decks go, I think this and the Decidueye version are the best ones, along with Golisopod Zoroark as mentioned.
Vikavolt Tapu Bulu
VikaBulu isn’t taken very seriously by a big part of the player base, but I think it deserves better. Its strategy is, although very simple, quite powerful, and makes it run through a bunch of matchups with ease. However, in the most important ones, it does struggle.
Against Garbodor decks, an N plus Garbotoxin can put it out of the game at any time, no matter how much it might have dominated the game up to that point. As a side note, I don’t understand how players can ever justify playing less than 4 Professor Sycamore, as that just seems like begging to lose to N. A common argument is that you don’t need much more than a Vikavolt, but what about Field Blowers and manual Energy attachments? I honestly don’t get it.
Gardevoir is in my experience also quite a tough matchup. In theory, it should be very manageable, but it honestly just feels like they always have some options and are just the strictly better deck. Gardevoir’s 230 HP just make it awkward for Bulu, even if they don’t play Mime and can be softened up by a Koko spread. Koko GX or Clefairy are decent options for getting rid of a huge Gardevoir, but oftentimes are just less effective than they should be. To make it worse, a late game Plea GX for two Vikavolt can bring back almost every game. I’m not saying the matchup is horrible, but I would not be confident when facing a really good Gardevoir player with VikaBulu.
Overall, the deck is not bad, and I would like to play something as straightforward, but think it’s just not a reliable deck to pilot through such a big and strong field. More than with most other decks, it seems like the key to doing well with it is running hot, as in hitting turn 2 Vikavolt and drawing out of Ns. Not to discredit anyone who does well with it, I just feel like too much can go wrong in important matchups.
The last deck I have at some point considered is Greninja. It has a bunch of great matchups and I believe that the notion of it being more inconsistent than most other decks is just wrong. In fact, Greninja feels like one of the more reliable decks in the standard format and executes its gameplan quite consistently. Every deck will dead draw at times, but with Greninja people seem to blame it on the deck more often than with others.
The reasons why I would not play it are, in this order: Golisopod, Giratina, Mirror. Golisopod looks like it’s going to be a popular pick once again, and taking a clear autoloss against a top deck is usually only acceptable when beating other good decks handily. However, every deck can tech in Giratina to make it win against Greninja, so that’s another problem that can cause a Greninja player to lose important points. And if Golisopod and Giratina happen to not see a lot of play, making Greninja a good play, you’d probably have to face some mirrors, which is about the worst and most frustrating mirror match I could imagine.
As one could expect, my possible deck choices can be divided in decks that aim to beat Gardevoir, Gardevoir itself, and decks that go even with it, while also being viable against most of the other field. In the end, it’s probably the correct choice to go with an inherently strong deck for tournaments like these and play them as well as possible, instead of trying to come up with something crazy. After all, the major tournament winning decks of last year are Yveltal, Volcanion, Decidueye, Garbodor and Gardevoir.
To be fair, the situation this year is a little different as we used to have Regionals in the same format preceding Internationals, but I’d still expect the meta to stay comparable to what we saw before SHL and CRI.
Thanks for reading and I hope this article ends up being useful for some of you. I definitely want to make articles on here a regular thing, but we’ll have to see how that turns out.
For now, see you guys in London!