The Upside Down
The moment the scans for Guardians Rising were leaked and Garbodor started getting widespread hype, I knew that pairing it with Espeon GX could be an extremely strong combination. With Energy Evolution Eevee, you could consistently get a turn 1 Espeon GX doing 30 or 60 damage with Choice Band and automatic Confusion. This is an insane amount of pressure to put on your opponent starting from the first turn, especially for such a minimal card investment. When your opponent’s active Pokemon is Confused, it forces them to make tough decisions. If their deck is not built around free retreating attackers, they are forced to play item cards like Float Stone, Switch, Escape Rope, VS Seeker for Olympia, or they are forced to either not attack or go for the Confusion flip, which, staring down a 200HP Espeon GX, rarely seems worth the risk of flipping tails. Forcing your opponent to make sub-optimal plays or take unnecessary risks early game sets Garbodor up perfectly to swoop in late game and punish your opponent for playing so many item cards. Additionally, Espeon GX has two other outstanding attacks. Psychic punishes your opponent for playing Energy cards. Many popular Pokemon EX/ GX with 180HP that require at least 3 energy to attack can be OHKO’s with a Psychic + Choice Band. This equation is especially relevant verses popular attackers like Volcanion EX and Drampa GX, both of which require 3 energy for their main attacks.
Divide GX is a criminally underrated GX attack that can be used in so many different ways that can potentially swing a game. If your opponent’s active Pokemon is trapped active and Confused, you can snipe around the active Pokemon with Divide GX. If you missed any OHKO’s because of a Choice Band whiff, you can finish them off on the bench. You can preemptively spread 3 damage counters to multiple attackers on the bench to reduce the dependance of finding Choice Band later. Having the option to use all 3 of these attacks on a 200 HP Pokemon with the ability to Evolve with a Psychic energy makes Espeon GX incredibly versatile. Combine this with the incredible consistency and attacking options that Tapu Lele GX provides, and the option to shut off your opponent’s abilities with the Garbotoxin Garbodor, and you can see why this was my number one choice heading into Madison Regionals. The truth is, the sole reason I went to Madison in the first place was because I believed I had the best deck in the format.
I decided to drive up the morning of the tournament, a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago, leaving at 5am. My usual testing crew was unable to go, so I enjoyed the drive up alone on the open road. I borrowed most of the cards from Jando Luna, and got the rest of the cards I needed from Caleb Gademer and Richard Lucas when I arrived at the tournament. I had a few flex spots in the list. For the tech supporter slot, I either wanted to play a 2nd Hex Maniac, an Olympia, a Pokemon Center Lady, or a Karen. I ended up cutting the Super Rod, replacing it with a Karen, and playing the 2nd Hex Maniac as well. I had a tech Pokemon slot that would either be Jirachi or Oricorio. With so much Drampa GX running around, I figured I would be better off teching against that and relying on the newly added Karen to beat Vespiquen. Karen combined with Garbotoxin seemed like a very effective method of dealing with a Vespiquen deck. I did not play a single game with the final list. Here’s is what I played:
Pokemon – 18
4 Eevee SUM
Trainers – 30
4 Ultra Ball
Energy – 12
Round 1 vs Danny Chalet (Volcanion)
Volcanion is an extremely one sided match up for Espeon GX/Garbodor. If they start with a baby Volcanion, turn 1 Confusion is very strong, forcing them to flip in order to do a minimal amount of damage. If they ever put a Choice Band on a Volcanion EX, it is an instant Lysandre + Psybeam target. With Garbotoxin online, they are never able to OHKO an Espeon GX, and since Danny’s version of the deck was more reliant on Starmie than Energy Retrieval, he was unable to recover energy from the discard pile easily. You can afford to take an 8 damage counter hit from Turtonator in order to flip it upside down, and from there it is easy to KO it or snipe around it with Divide GX. In game 2, I stranded a baby Volcanion active for several turns with 120 damage on it, refusing to KO it; instead using the time to Divide GX around it and wait to draw a Lysandre to bring up a Choice Banded Volcanion EX on the bench. He finally attempted to Power Heater, flipping tails and knocking himself out. From there, I was able to Lysandre and strand one Volcanion EX, and use a secondary Espeon GX to score a OHKO on the next fully powered Volcanion EX.
Round 2 vs David Nunez (Carbink/Zygarde)
Zygarde is bad against Espeon GX for the same reasons that Volcanion is. It requires a lot of energy to do any relevant damage, and it isn’t easily moved out of the active spot. So for this matchup, I would target Zygarde with Lysandre and flip them upside down, snipe around them, and KO with Psychic.
Round 3 vs Ray Fernandez (Mega Rayquaza)
Ray was a super nice guy, and we ended up hanging out a lot throughout the tournament, rooting each other on. I remember game 1 he opened up with a Trubbish, so I assumed he was playing Drampa/Garbodor. Low and behold, he was actually playing Mega Rayquaza with a 2-2 Garbodor tech and Psychic energies. I was able to play around the Garbodor a bit by not going over board with item cards. However, since Espeon is weak to Psychic, it really doesn’t take much for a Trashalance to OHKO it. I was able to keep up in the prize trade because I had the option to OHKO Hoopa EX or Shaymin EX every turn. Game 2, he benched Sudowoodo, which restricted my bench to 4. I was drawing dead, and the only potential draw card in my hand was Tapu Lele. I figured the only way to get out of it was to Divide GX the Sudowoodo for a OHKO, then bench the Tapu Lele and grab Sycamore. Unfortunately, he simply Rescue Stretchered the Sudowoodo straight back onto his bench, and I continued to fall further and further behind in the prize trade.
Round 4 vs William Kummings (Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu)
Tapu Bulu GX has a 3 retreat cost, so you can easily lock them active and upside down. Garbotoxin shuts off any means of energy acceleration, and Field Blower can get rid of Float Stones to keep your opponent in awkward locks.
Round 5 vs Kong Lee (Drampa/Garbodor)
Going into Madison, this was the deck that had the biggest target on its back, taking up 24 spots out of the top 32 the previous weekend in Seattle. Knowing this, any player going into Madison would be unwise to play a deck that couldn’t take it down. I was surprised to be running into my first one at round 5, but I knew it was a positive match up. Espeon can OHKO a Drampa with Psychic if they have 3 energy and you have a Choice Band. Additionally, Drampa isn’t particularly mobile, and in order to one shot an Espeon they need a Choice Band and a Professor Kukui. This means that they will typically put a Float Stone on the first Drampa and retreat to the other one on the bench with a Choice Band. You can interrupt this strategy with either Lysandre + Psybeam or Field Blower + Psybeam. Brigette is MVP in this matchup, as you can prevent your Eevee from taking damage from Magma’s Secret Base, thus making it harder for them to score a OHKO with Drampa. The downside of this matchup is Espeon is extremely easy to KO late game by an opposing Garbodor, and I dropped Game 2 because of this.
Round 6 vs Reno Bernardo (Mega Rayquaza)
He played Magearna EX and Metal Energy in his Rayquaza list, theoretically giving him a better matchup against me, but he was never able to use Mystic Heart to any great effect. Since Mystic Heart doesn’t take away existing Special Conditions, I was always able to confuse a Pokemon before it had a Metal attached, and Garbotoxin turned it off altogether later on.
Round 7 vs Chris Nagel (Greninja)
This was the matchup I was most concerned about going into the tournament. They can freely retreat between all of their Pokemon, so Confusion is almost never relevant, and they don’t rely heavily on Item cards, so Garbodor is an ineffective attacker. In the end, Double Hex Maniac and Garbotoxin got us there. Combined with early pressure from Tapu Lele GX, and trading hits and switching between Espeon GXs to deny knock-outs, his lack of the Giant Water Shuriken ability was enough for me to win 2 long games.
Round 8 vs Thomas Caballeros (Umbreon GX/Zoroark)
Zoroark is a very good attacker against my deck. Zoroark resists Psychic, applies a ton of pressure for just a DCE, and has the ability to Stand In and get rid of Confusion as long as Garbotoxin is not in play. Additionally, Zoroark BREAK can Foul Play powerful attacks like Psychic and Divide GX. I was able to win an incredibly long game 1, and in game 2, he set up a huge 4 prize turn on the final turn of time using Foul Play to copy Divide GX to win the game.
Round 9 vs Ahmed Ali (Volcanion)
Ahmed was playing a turbo version of Volcanion, with Max Elixirs and Trainer’s Mails. This made the matchup even better, as now Garbodor was a strong attacker. It should be noted that this was one of the first times all day I actually attacked with Garbodor.
I am 7th seed going into Day 2. I was a little nervous because there were a lot of good players playing Vespiquen decks, which is a very shaky matchup for me. I got a burger downtown with Michael Slutsky, Adam Keibler and a few other friends, then crashed early on a pull-out sofa that Richard Lucas was so kind to offer me. A few hours of sleep, a hot shower and a hot coffee and I was ready for day 2.
Round 10 vs Aidan Koenig (Drampa/Garbodor)
Aidan was a super cool kid. He played the only other copy of Team Rockets Handiwork besides my own that I saw all tournament. Game 2 he is able to apply enough pressure with Drampa GX early game to force the tie.
Round 11 vs James Miller (Volcanion)
I don’t remember much about this match, but the strategy was the same versus any other Volcanion matchup, which is great for us.
Round 12 vs Daniel Altavilla (Drampa/Zoroark)
This was a very hard fought match from both sides. I was able to win a very long game 1 by being aggressive with Espeon GX verses his Drampa GX. Team Rockets Handiwork was able to capitalize by discarding some key Supporters late game. Game 2, he used Foul Play on Zoroark BREAK to copy Psychic several times to win the prize trade in another long game, not allowing nearly enough time for Game 3 to finish.
Round 13 vs Chris Siakala (Drampa/Garbodor)
At this point, I know that I only need to win 1 more game, and I can intentionally draw and be guaranteed into Top 8. Alternatively, I could ID the final 2 rounds and potentially still make it in. Chris and I decide to play it out. I believe Drampa/Garb is a positive matchup for me. We play a very long game 1, which I win, and a very long game 2, which he wins. Going into game 3, there is probably 20 minutes left, plenty of time for 1 of us to take the series. It goes back and forth for a while, and finally, time is called. I am turn zero, and there is no way on board for either of us to bench each other out or take our remaining prize cards. I do whatever I can, and pass along to him who is now turn 1. He does his thing, and at the end of his turn he kind of looks at me like, “Well, there’s nothing either of us can do”. I agree, and just about concede, but I think to myself, you know what, at least let me play out my turn. So I’m turn 2, I draw. Tapu Lele. I think for a moment and just about scoop up my cards and extend the hand. Then, I see a small pile of 2 cards near his discard pile. I say “Is that your deck?” He says yes. A lightning bolt goes off in my head. I can Tapu Lele for Team Rockets Handiwork and deck him out. So thats what I did. I flipped the first heads and he decked out heading into turn 3. This was the most insane series of the whole tournament.
Round 14 vs Christopher Schemanske (Metagross GX)
Still on cloud nine from my miraculous last minute win, I sit opposite a distressed Chris Schemanske, who says something like “I don’t suppose you want to ID”. He was down-paired against me, and would certainly bubble in with another tie, where I might not. So I refused, and he understood. I found that this was a somewhat tough matchup, because Metagross GX can OHKO an Espeon GX with a Choice Band and a Professor Kukui while avoiding KOs with Max Potion and switching between Confused Pokemon by manually retreating and using its abilities to recycle energy. Additionally, Garbodor is extremely ineffective with Metagross’ tanky 250HP and Psychic resistance. I was able to win a very long game 1 on the back of Garbotoxin and Espeon’s Psybeam. He was able to squeak out a win in Game 2 by chasing after my Garbotoxin Garbodor and applying continuous pressure with Metagross GX. With only a few minutes left in Game 3, we end up in a tie, at which point we both laugh at his comment “I wanted to tie 75 minutes ago!” Fun fact: At some point, he put a Choice Band onto a Dhelmise and flipped heads through confusion to OHKO my Espeon GX.
Top 8 vs Aaron Tarbell (Decidueye/Vileplume/Ninetales)
Both games I was able to turn 1 Brigette to set up my bench and get a tool on Trubbish. Getting a Turn 2 Garbotoxin was crucial, turning off his Feather Arrow and Irritating Pollen abilities. Using Espeon GX to Confuse his Alolan Ninetales was crucial to prevent him from sniping the Garbodor on the bench to regain his abilities. I think this was the single worst matchup for Aaron from the entire weekend and its unfortunate that he ran into it in Top 8.
Top 4 vs Michael Pramawat (Vespiquen)
I had gone the entire tournament without facing a single Vespiquen deck, which I thought I would play several of. The Karen tech I had decided to include last minute was literally a dead card in my deck for the entire tournament. I can’t think of a better opponent in Top 4 than Michael Pramawat, who is such a great player and even nicer guy. I felt like I was playing in a friend’s living room as opposed to center stage at Top 4 of a Regional tournament, which was a huge relief.
My game plan was to apply early pressure with Espeon GX, knowing he wouldn’t be able to fuel a 200 damage Bee Revenge so early, along with Garbotoxin, while setting up Trashalance attacks in the wings with Karen to reset his Bee Revenge damage. Game 1 everything was going fine except I couldn’t find a tool to put on Garbodor. I decide regardless of not having Garbotoxin online that Karen would be a strong play. The next turn, he is able to use Unown, Klefki, Acro Bike, and Sycamore to get most of the Pokemon back into his discard pile, nearly undoing my efforts with Karen completely. At this point, he N’s me and I begin drawing dead. I finally draw a Tapu Lele GX and I have the option to search my deck for any Supporter. If I get N and take a KO he could whiff DCE for long enough for me to win the game. As I’m searching my deck for a Supporter, I notice he has 3 cards left in his deck. My thumb comes across Team Rocket’s Handiwork and I stop and think. If I flip 2 heads with Handiwork I immediately win the game. However, if I only flip 1 heads, my hand is still dead, and he might have time to win the game. I assumed that he had an N to replenish his deck to buy him enough time to win by attacking. So I do what I think is the smart choice and take the N. This plan back fires on me, as he is able to dig through his deck for the last DCE and enough time to take all his remaining prize cards. I later told him that I had the option to take Team Rockets Handiwork, at which point he told me that I likely would have won even if I only flipped one heads. Seeing his list later, I discovered he only played 1 N, and it’s likely all his VS Seekers were gone too, and he would have simply decked out. Looking back, I am kicking myself for not grabbing the Handiwork.
Game 2, I prized my Garbotoxin Garbodor, giving him free reign of Abilities, and making it so Karen was almost completely negligible by his onslaught of Unown, Klefki, Shaymin, and Tapu Lele to help replenish his Bee Revenge power.
I was a man on a mission, heading to Madison on my own with a pet deck I had made months prior. I met my end by a formidable opponent, with much more experience than me. It’s fair to say I was outplayed in an even matchup in Top 4. But I was still incredibly proud that I was able to go undefeated until that point. Looking back at my decklist, I would instantly cut Karen in lieu of a Rescue Stretcher, and cut Jirachi in lieu of an Oricorio. I think I would have won the whole thing with these 2 changes.
Moving forward, I think this deck is incredibly strong. Even though I seldomly used Garbodor, simply threatening Trashalanche combined with Auto-Confusion was enough to force my opponent into making enough suboptimal plays to win games. Psybeam was by far the attack I used the most, and over the course of the tournament, my opponents decided to attack through confusion about 8 times, which gives you an idea of how awkward confusion is as a status condition to play around. I also want to mention that this deck wouldn’t be viable without Energy Evolution Eevee, and be careful when declaring your attack, because Psybeam and Psychic sound very similar.