Exploring the Wilderness – VikaBulu in Standard and Expanded

Hello readers! I’m back again with another article, but this time it’s one that many have been anticipating for awhile now. Of course, the topic of today’s article is about Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX. Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX is the deck I’ve been piloting since it came out, starting with the Madison Regional Championship in June, earning a whopping 382 Championship Points since then. In this article I go over the deck for both the Standard and Expanded formats, going over my current lists for each, and explaining the card choices and counts in each list.

Since the most recent event was the Daytona Beach Regional Championship, I will kick things off with my list for the Expanded format. I’d like to note that this is what I piloted to a 24th place finish out of 644 players, so that’s not too bad for a deck that no one thought could succeed in the Expanded format.

Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX in Expanded

Pokemon – 15

3 Grubbin SUM
3 Vikavolt SUM
3 Tapu Bulu GX
2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Virizion EX
2 Tapu Koko SM30
1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 33

2 N
2 Colress
3 Skyla
2 Guzma
2 Brigette

4 Ultra Ball
2 Heavy Ball
4 Rare Candy
2 Field Blower
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Switch
2 Energy Recycler
1 Scoop Up Cyclone
2 Fighting Fury Belt
3 Choice Band

Energy – 12

7 Grass
5 Lightning

Gosh darn it! I forgot to put down Professor Sycamore on the list!….Oh wait, never mind…I actually meant to do that. Now that the brief moment of panic is out of the way, let’s go ahead and explain the card choices or lack thereof for this crazy list.

0 Professor Sycamore/Professor Juniper

This has been probably the most controversial aspect of my list because of how many Professor Sycamore are being played in other lists, VikaBulu or otherwise. Most lists I see run 3-4 copies and I honestly cringe at the sight of so many in this particular archetype. My initial lists that I got Top 32 with at the Madison Regional Championship and the NAIC ran 2 Professor Sycamore, and even then that was too many. I found myself having to discard too many things that I’d want later in the game or even not hitting what I needed anyway. The card is just too costly and it ended up working it’s way out of all of my Vikavolt lists. Conserving resources is a gigantic part of this deck’s success if you’re playing against someone who knows how to play against it.

Not only does Professor Sycamore discard resources, but it can have you draw into the cards you don’t necessarily want in hand…Energy. Sure you’d probably want a Grass Energy in hand to follow up a Nature’s Judgment discard, but you probably don’t ever want to draw into Lightning Energy. This can literally lose you games just because you have the rest of them in hand. This has cost me a few games as well.

Now for those of you thinking, “It can help you draw the grass you need”, I will explain why that logic isn’t necessarily good. Sure, it can help you find Grass Energy, but it can also find you too many and/or Lightning Energy. Finding Energy also becomes irrelevant once you get two Vikavolt out and have access to two Strong Charge Abilities every turn, which this list usually gets two Vikavolt out by turn 3 if needed. Also, as long as you’re taking prizes, if you have any Grass Energy prized, you can get one from there. Oranguru can also aid you in getting Energy.

As far as trying to hit multiple resources in one turn, you should be planning your turns ahead of time and setting your board up in such a way that you only need one, no more than 2 things in any given turn. Professor Sycamore cannot allow you to plan multiple turns ahead as far as holding on to cards until you need them. Though I understand that sometimes you don’t have anything in hand or even need what’s in your hand for the rest of the game, it’s still not worth potentially losing games you should have won had you not discarded certain things.

0 VS Seeker

This is one thing most are familiar with by now since I made it famous to not have any VS Seeker in the deck before the rotation. Some will still disagree with the decision, but I will tell you wholeheartedly that VS Seeker 100% does not belong in Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX. It will make your very precious turn 1’s and turn 2’s worse, and maybe beyond that when they’re rotting in your hand and you can’t set up. Are you going to VS Seeker for Brigette?…I didn’t think so. Not only that, but if you’re running Oranguru, you can’t play your hand down enough to have good use of it because VS Seekers and supporters are only useful once per turn. I see too many players open with VS Seeker and/or too many supporters to do anything with and just lose because they’re playing 1-2 set up cards during turns 1 and 2. I’m not about limiting my options.

0 Chargabug

Though my written deck list at Ft. Wayne says otherwise(haha), I am almost completely against running Chargabug due to the pure consistency of getting T2 Vikavolt and a second one no later than turn 3. The Chargabug will just be a dead card most of the time though you can still sometimes evolve up to a Vikavolt manually. Chargabug also makes Oranguru worse because you can’t just play it down without a Grubbin on the bench. Now, if you’re highly concerned with Item Lock, it’s understandable to run it, but that’s still only one copy that you can’t search for, not to mention that it can be prized, which means you’d have to run at least two for it to be effective. It just doesn’t seem worth a spot in the deck since it’s only good in maybe a couple of single games in a big tournament.

ACE SPEC – Scoop Up Cyclone

Now, most would argue that Computer Search would be the best ACE SPEC for this deck, which I understand. Computer Search for sure helps you get T2 Vikavolt more than anything else. What if your deck already achieves that anyway? Well, Computer Search will just become another consistency card as opposed to something that’s needed in the deck. I won’t fault anyone for running Computer Search though.

What if I told you that Scoop Up Cyclone is actually the best ACE SPEC in VikaBulu? You’re probably thinking I’m crazy, but let me enlighten you.

With Scoop Up Cyclone, you can change the whole dynamic of a game, even stealing wins right from under your opponents’ noses as they are smelling victory. Here are things you can do with this amazing card:

  • Pick up a Tapu Lele GX that you started with to go into a Brigette
  • Pick up a Tapu Lele GX at any point in the game to reuse or to make room for an attacker or prepare to get out another Vikavolt.
  • “Heal” a damaged Pokemon and not even get rid of energy
  • Reset tools and/or energy and put them back in the hand to use on something else
  • Use it as a switching card
  • Get out of status conditions and/or effects
  • Have a Vikavolt and Grubbin in play, use Strong Charge, then Scoop Up Cyclone the Vikavolt so you can Rare Candy into it again on the other Grubbin, getting ANOTHER Strong Charge
  • Take a game winning prize off the board

What’s great about all of this is that you have better access to your ACE SPEC than almost every other deck, if not all. That is because of the high Skyla count this deck has and the fact that there is minimal discard in here, so you won’t have to worry about getting rid of Scoop Up Cyclone early or when it’s not ideal to use it. Another added bonus that is VERY overlooked is the fact that it doesn’t require you to discard cards or have anything else in hand to use it. That means that it’s usable on an N to 1 or if the other cards in your hand are too important to discard. So, naturally, Scoop Up Cyclone fits right into the theme of the deck, which is resource management.

Before I move on, one cool thing I did with Scoop Up Cyclone at the Daytona Regional was this: I had Oranguru active after Tapu Bulu GX was KOed. I had no Bulu in play, no Grass Energy in hand, and I used my Switch already. I used Ultra Ball to grab Bulu, then used instruct for 3. I drew Skyla, a tool, and a basic Pokémon. I played down the basic and the tool, then Skyla’d for Scoop Up Cyclone, picking up the Oranguru and sending up Bulu. Played the Oranguru back down and used another Instruct for 3. I hit the Grass Energy I needed, then used Strong Charge and used Nature’s Judgment for the win. Pulling off that awesome move felt pretty good and couldn’t have been done without Scoop Up Cyclone.

2 Brigette/0 Pokemon Fan Club

This is something I feel that can’t really be argued in this deck because setting up is the most important thing for this deck to have a good shot at winning the game. I understand that you only really need one Brigette, but having access to it will be of utmost importance. If you only play one Brigette, the odds of prizing it will be approximately 10%, which is basically one in 10 games. That’s way too many games for it to be prized…you don’t EVER want it to be prized in this deck. Having it prized may mean you just lose. Even having it turn 2 isn’t even that bad, as long as you have it. With 2 Brigette, your odds of prizing both are less than 1%, so you can actually bank on having at least one available instead of hoping it’s in the deck every game.

Not only does having 2 almost guarantees you access to it every game, but the odds of opening it or drawing into it on your first turn are about 24% instead of about 11%, not counting mulligan draws. So, in about 1/4 your games, you won’t need to use a Tapu Lele GX to grab it, saving your Lele AND a precious bench spot, nor would you need to use an Ultra Ball, saving you that plus the resources you would have discarded in order to grab the Tapu Lele GX. Having so many natural Brigette plays has won me countless games and contributed to so many T2 double Vikavolt plays since my resources can be used much more efficiently.

Some may notice the lack of Pokemon Fan Club in this deck. The reasoning behind playing Pokemon Fan Club to begin with was that I could use it to grab Shaymin EX and/or Virizion EX. Virizion EX is still in the deck, but Shaymin EX is absent from this list, so it’s not worth having a card that grabs me one less Pokémon for the sake of Virizion EX, especially if I really needed to, I can still Brigette for just a Virizion EX.

1 Oranguru/0 Shaymin EX

This one was really tough for me because I really like Shaymin EX and its great draw power. The problem I had the most with it was the HP, which being at 110, is not worth the risk of giving up two prizes. Though Shaymin EX can draw more per Ability used, the draw (pun intended) to using Oranguru is that you can use it throughout the entire game. So, let’s say you only draw 1 card per turn from it, you’re still probably getting at least 6 cards that game. Anything else is a bonus at that point. Realistically though, Shaymin EX may have a better chance of getting you out of a tough spot or getting what you need, but the easy 2 prizes can still end up making you lose. Let’s dig a little further and say you get 2-3 cards per turn from Oranguru, whether it’s from playing your cards down or using Ultra Ball to clear cards from your hand. Now you have far surpassed what Shaymin EX can do for you AND it’s a one prize Pokémon with more HP and a MUCH better attack. Not only all of that, but it’s something that you can grab along with the other Pokémon from using a Brigette. Now we’re talking!

Do I miss Shaymin EX sometimes? Yes. But the vast majority of the time Oranguru has outshined what Shaymin EX would have done while not making me regret playing it down at some point later in the game. One more VERY important factor is that Oranguru makes you pretty much N-proof. I will say I’m a whole lot more comfortable going down to one prize now that I play Oranguru because you’re going to have at least 3 cards to work with on your turn. Drawing an Ultra Ball makes it even better if you have a Tapu Lele GX left in deck or you need that last Tapu Bulu GX to finish off the game or whatever else you need. The psychic primate (or colorless in this case) has brought so much to the table that I don’t even think Shaymin EX is a consideration anymoret. Unless something else better comes along, Oranguru all the way!!!

2 N

I know this seems a little weird, though I used to run only 2 N in each of my previous iterations of the deck. I think it may be due to the lack of Professor Sycamore and VS Seeker that players are still trying to figure out why I run so few draw supporters. A lot of this has to do with the fact that draw supporters don’t guarantee you anything and is an unreliable way to set up. Not only that, but drawing into multiple supporters, especially duplicates, is usually a bad hand since you have less playable cards. I’d rather have a playable hand and go down to 0-2 cards and utilize Oranguru instead of constantly trying to refresh my hand only to whiff what I need.

Another key point for playing a low N count is that this deck takes prizes quickly, so an N to 4 or less is not ideal. Refreshing your opponent’s hand isn’t the greatest either when they’re sitting with 1-4 cards or even 5 sometimes, especially if they are stuck. There are so many times where I’m like “man, I really don’t want to play this N”, but I feel that I must include it in the deck in case things aren’t going well and I need to stop my opponents’ onslaught or if I need to shuffle energy back into the deck. Shauna was considered, but early game, it draws one less card and has no way to disrupt the opponent. So, N it is!

2 Colress

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love Colress! It’s the best of both worlds when it comes to being a powerful draw card along with being able to conserve my resources. Since almost every deck is focused on setting up their bench, Colress is ALWAYS going to be good on turn 2 and later. This card has contributed to so many turn 2 double Vikavolt games that I’m even considering going up to 3 Colress.

Going into the later stages of a game, you can actually Strong Charge as much energy out of the deck as you can, then play Colress for 8-10 cards, greatly increasing your chances of hitting what you need. Whether you need a tool, Rare Candy and Vikavolt, Field Blower, Energy Recycler, or the game winning Guzma for next turn, you’re probably going to hit it later in the game since the deck is thinned out. Now, you may not want to Strong Charge first if you don’t have 2 Vikavolt out and need to hard draw an energy. Having Energy Recycler in the deck makes it better though because you can risk drawing too many energy as long as you can put more back in the deck. It just all depends on what all you have left in deck.

Going forward though, like I said, Colress has been so good that I may put in a third. The hard part may be how to fit it in the deck.

3 Choice Band/2 Fighting Fury Belt

This has been a debate for the ages about how many Choice Band and Fighting Fury Belt should be included in Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX. Some have had 3/1, 2/2, 3/0 and even 4/0, with each being in favor of Choice Band. With the Expanded format being so wide open, I think some count of both is the best way to go. I’ve been back and forth on if I should run more Choice Band or more Fury Belt, and I have come to the conclusion that it just depends on which decks are popular. I do think that it should be a 3/2 split regardless of which way you go and I strongly believe that you should not omit one or the other. Both are needed in literally every matchup besides an all non-EX/GX deck, such as Greninja and Sableye decks, which Choice Band will be useless. Good thing those decks aren’t popular in Expanded! Everyone already knows why Choice Band is useful, so I will just go over some of the times where Fighting Fury Belt is good:

  • Tapu Bulu GX can hit baby Volcanion and Yveltal for 130 using Nature’s Judgment without discarding
  • Horn Attack can set up Gardevoir GX for a KO the next turn without being at huge risk of being KOed. 40+190=230
  • Nature’s Judgment can OHKO Turntonator GX and Ho-Oh GX while forcing the opponent to have more cards to revenge OHKO Tapu Bulu GX
  • One Tapu Koko Flying Flip puts all 210 HP Pokémon in range such a Golisopod GX, allowing Tapu Bulu GX to sport a Fighting Fury Belt to take a KO, allowing it to survive a Crossing Cut GX from Golisopod GX.
  • One Tapu Koko Flying Flip allows Tapu Bulu GX to use Tapu Wilderness GX on 180 HP Pokémon and not be easily return KOed.
  • Tapu Lele GX becomes a much better attacker against any 50-70 HP basic Pokémon, hitting that odd number with the extra 10 damage. 
  • Basic Pokemon in general will survive some hits they normally wouldn’t survive

That’s not even every scenario for Fighting Fury Belt and the list above makes me want to include more in my deck. There has been plenty of times at the Daytona Regional that I had a Choice Band and wished it was a Fighting Fury Belt, so the count may flip before the next Expanded tournament I play this deck in.

2 Heavy Ball

I see so many lists online that play only one Heavy Ball and I feel that is a BIG mistake. Why would you play only one of a card that gets not only your Stage 2 into play, but can also grab you your main attacker? I can’t really say too much though because I did play only one in my initial Expanded list at Fort Wayne. Though I did do well with just the one, there were times where I had to use it early or have to discard it, then I have to discard more resources because I only had Ultra Ball available to search for my Vikavolt or Tapu Bulu GX. I quickly regretted playing only one Heavy Ball, so I am now an advocate for 2 Heavy Ball and 2 only. Any more in the deck and you will definitely have too many…trust me, I’ve tested it.

2 Energy Recycler/0 Brock’s Grit

Most players have known me for playing only 1 Energy Recycler, which I still play in the Standard Format, but Expanded is so much faster that you must be able to find Energy Recycler a lot quicker. Not only that, but prizing it would be “scoop phase” most of the time since this format almost forces you to have to keep discarding for Nature’s Judgement in order to keep up with the current meta. Unlike in Standard, I almost always have to use at least 1 each game to keep going, so playing 2 is a must.

Brock’s Grit…I really don’t even like talking about it, but I will for the sake of putting this to rest. Bottom line: Brock’s Grit is too slow to be good in this deck. I understand that sometimes you can use Tapu Lele GX for it and you sometimes Skyla for Energy Recycler, but Brock’s Grit CANNOT be played before OR after another supporter in the same turn. Sure, it can get Pokémon back too, but you’re going to fall behind trying to use that card with how fast this format is. So I will strongly recommend staying away from Brock’s Grit in Expanded.

2 Field Blower

This count is slightly questionable, but has definitely been working out so far. I see a lot of lists run three Field Blower since Garbodor can be a problem, and I definitely understand the higher count. Considering this list doesn’t discard much and consistently gets out two Vikavolt by turn 3, two Field Blower has been enough because I usually don’t play it until I get out two Vikavolt so I can get value out of playing the Field Blower.  I can probably see myself going up to 3 though if Garbodor becomes more popular than it is right now.

1 Enhanced Hammer

This is something that I decided to include last minute as I was filling out my deck list for the regional. I knew it would be completely dead in some matchups, but those were the ones I should win anyway. The problematic ones are the ones that actually play special energy such as Garbodor, Gardevoir GX, and Golisopod/Zoroark. Enhanced Hammer did actually come in handy quite a few games, especially being able to Skyla for it sometimes. Depending on the meta, it may go to 0 or it may go to 2.

1 Switch/0 Float Stone

Words can’t describe how much I dislike Float Stone in this deck. It’s literally a detrimental card to play down and smart opponents will take advantage of it. For example: if you play a Float Stone down on a Tapu Bulu GX or a Vikavolt, I’m going to celebrate on the inside and never Field Blower them off until I see that you’ve used your tools already because you can’t attach a Choice Band or Fighting Fury Belt on them while a Float Stone is already attached. Personally, I use my Vikavolt to attack sometimes and Choice Band makes it very deadly as a one-prize attacker. Another problem with Float Stone is that you can’t retreat the active Pokémon while it has a different tool attached, possibly costing you games.

Switch, on the other hand, is amazing in VikaBulu because of it’s overall utility. It can be used while a tool is already attached to the active, which is very important. To add to that, it can be used to promote a Tapu Koko since it has free retreat, then later in the turn go into whoever you need if you prefer to not use Tapu Koko that turn. It’s great because it also allows you to burn a card in hand to use Oranguru’s Instruct Ability for an extra card if needed. Getting out of special conditions is a plus because you can not only get out of it, but even use the same Pokémon that was switched out the active to begin with. Float Stone cannot provide that utility. Switch can also be substituted for an Escape Rope if you choose to do so.

3 Skyla

This is the glue that holds this deck together…and that’s an understatement! Boy, the plays you can make with Skyla! This is a card that I’m seriously considering going up to a 4-of because of the utility it provides and the fact that it enables you to plan your turns out instead of relying on “draw and pray”. Skyla gives you complete access to your entire deck besides energy cards, which means having any piece to the Vikavolt combo will get you the other piece to complete the puzzle. After that, it will provide you with anything else you need throughout the game and not have to hope to get it, which equals more wins because you’re not whiffing off draw supporters and you can actually sculpt game however you want to.

One thing I’ve done a lot is Skyla for a game winning Guzma, forcing my opponents to HAVE TO play an N if they even have it. This is great late game because more than likely they have 4 or less prizes left and are not likely to hit what they need off the N they play, or even have a follow up for the next turn.

With Oranguru being in the deck, I can actually use Skyla to be a hand refresher because of Ultra Ball. I will Skyla for Ultra Ball, grab a Pokémon I need or even fail it, then Instruct for 3 cards. Doing that has been so good in both Expanded and Standard that I use it quite often, probably once every three games or so. The possibilities with Skyla are almost limitless.

1 Virizion EX

OMG! This card can definitely pull it’s weight plus more! The ability, Verdant Wind, can single-handedly win certain matchups. Status Conditions are prevalent in Expanded due to Darkrai decks, Raichu, Espeon GX, and Hypnotoxic Laser. Virizion EX stops all of that and allows you to play your normal game plan. If you see your opponent playing any of those cards, get it out ASAP.

Something about Virizion EX that is overlooked is the fact it can accelerate energy. Not only does this get around Garbotoxin, but this can soften up Pokémon to be taken out with Nature’s Judgment without having to discard, which is HUGE against Garbotoxin and Hex Maniac. It also singlehandedly puts Seismitoad EX to shame with it’s resistance to water while hitting the toad for weakness. If you’re playing Expanded VikaBulu without Virizion EX, you’re playing it ALL wrong.

Now that I’ve gotten the not so obvious card explanations out of the way, let’s get into the common matchups for the Expanded format.

Matchups

Darkrai Variants – 70-30

This matchup is much easier than most make it out to be. As long as you get set up and play around Hex Maniac, you’re good. Do a Flying Flip on turn two if you don’t have the proper set up so you can do a Fury Belted knockout with Tapu Wilderness GX the turn after. With Virizion EX out, they will have almost no way to knock it out because Tapu Bulu GX will be at 220 HP and immune to Dead End GX. If you can set up two Vikavolt on turn two, then it doesn’t really matter what you do unless they Hex chain you starting turn 2 going first. Otherwise it will be pretty easy since they have to play other supporters to keep up with knockouts. If you get them on odd prizes, you basically win.

Volcanion/Turbo Turtles – 65-35

If you get turn 2 Vikavolt, you can just start taking knockouts every turn, which if you have a Fighting Fury Belt on Tapu Bulu GX the same turn you knock out their Pokémon, they will have to hit Blacksmith + double Steam Up, or Blacksmith + Steam Up + Field Blower to get the return knockout and that’s IF they already have an energy attached to their attacker. Otherwise they’re not going to get the return KO and you will probably win, especially if you use a Vikavolt + Choice Band to knockout a Volcanion EX at some point to put them at odd prizes. Just make sure when using Tapu Bulu GX, to have a Fighting Fury Belt attached if possible.

Gardevoir GX – 60-40  (50-50 w/Mr. Mime)

It all comes down to how fast each player sets up. If both players set up evenly, it’s in favor of VikaBulu. Doing one Tapu Koko Flying Flip will set you up the rest of the game if done by turn 2 or 3. Just don’t be caught off guard by Acerola plays. If Gardevoir gets up and running and you’re playing catchup, it will be VERY hard to come back…sometimes you may have to just go to the next game to save time. If your opponent is playing Mr. Mime, since they have one less bench spot for another Gardevoir, pressure them with Belted Bulus for 40, then finish them off with Nature’s Judgments. If they Acerola, they’re probably not knocking you out that turn. That’s when you get your Scoop Up Cyclone and repeat the last turn.

Garbodor/Necrozma GX – 45-55

This matchup is unfavorable because of the many one prize attackers that can attack for cheap while putting you underAbility lock. Make sure you don’t put down more two prize Pokémon than you have to and use Scoop Up Cyclone only after a Black Ray GX. Be sure to avoid walking into a Mimikyu play because it can copy your Nature’s Judgment for a single Psychic Energy due to Dimensional Valley. Typically you want to get out two Vikavolt before you Field Blower just so you can get the most out of your Abilities. Resource management is very important in this matchup, so save your Ns, Field Blower, and Fighting Fury Belts until later in the game if you can help it. That way you can pull off a Field Blower on their Garbotoxin and Dimensional Valley + Fighting Fury Belt on Tapu Bulu GX + N to almost seal the game if they don’t hit everything they need that next turn.

Golisopod GX Variants – 75-25 (w/Garbodor 70-30)

Considering the high Choice Band count in this deck, you should be able to reliably OHKO all their Golisopod GX. An early Koko spread will basically win you the game because you can still OHKO through Armor Press with Choice Band or just finish it off with Fighting Fury Belt because 20+190=210. A well timed Enhanced Hammer can also put them far behind.

Night March – Auto Loss

Unless your opponent draws that bad, you might as well assume you lost that round. Of course, you still want to play it out and maybe your opponent hits a brick wall or misplays, but it doesn’t look good. Just try and use a Belted Bulu to lead the game, then use nothing but one prize Pokémon until they get to one prize left. Oricorio can be teched in to help the matchup, but it’s still near an auto loss with it unless you put rescue stretcher and/or Mew, which will make other matchups and your consistency worse.

Toad Variants – 75-25

It’s not going to be an auto win, but it should be pretty easy to handle the toads. As long as you can get a Choice Band down on Tapu Bulu GX, you’re in for a win. If not, then it may be difficult to navigate the game. If it weren’t for Tapu Wilderness GX, the matchup would be closer to even if you didn’t get Choice Band down. If you can pull off Emerald Slash to a Bulu with Virizion EX you shouldn’t lost at that point. Just be smart about your plays and force your opponent out of the Quaking Punch lock so you can get Vikavolt out and win.

Drampa/Garbodor – 65-35

With the release of Po Town, this isn’t the auto win it once was. Now they have a more consistent damage outlet for their bench while no longer damaging their Drampa GX. The matchup is still pretty easy since you can limit your item usage and OHKO their Drampa GXs. Just make sure to Tapu Wilderness GX with a Choice Band to keep your Energy even if you have no damage, but only if they don’t have another Drampa GX ready to go. You can then charge up a 2nd Tapu Bulu GX and put game on board.

Trevenant – Unknown

I actually have no testing vs this deck but I’d imagine it would be about 40-60 because of the item lock and inability to set up properly if going second. Being able to Guzma will allow you to get Vikavolt out, but only if you have the pieces already in hand. Being able to Tapu Wilderness GX will help the matchup tremendously.

There are other matchups that can be covered, but pretty much all of the other decks are almost nonexistent and most likely not face one in any given tournament. Now that I’ve covered what I know about the deck in the Expanded format, I will now cover the Standard format.

Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX in Standard

Pokemon – 14

3 Grubbin SUM
3 Vikavolt SUM
3 Tapu Bulu GX
2 Tapu Lele GX
2 Tapu Koko SM30
1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 34

3 N
3 Skyla
1 Lillie
2 Guzma
2 Brigette

4 Ultra Ball
2 Heavy Ball
4 Rare Candy
4 Puzzle of Time
2 Field Blower
1 Switch
1 Energy Recycler
3 Fighting Fury Belt
2 Choice Band

Energy – 12

7 Grass
5 Lightning

If you notice, the Standard version of this deck is very similar to the Expanded list, being only a few cards different. Since the reasoning for the same card choices in Expanded are the same for Standard I will just go over the cards that are different between the two.

3rd N

This is due to the fact that there is no Colress in Standard. I highly dislike playing 3 N, so I may end up playing a different supporter that is NOT Professor Sycamore in it’s spot. If Gardevoir GX w/Sylveon and Metagross stays popular though, it may become a Judge at some point.

1 Lillie

This card has been very good in so many situations and I feel it’s almost necessary for this deck. Now, I wouldn’t load up on Lillie because just like any other supporter besides Skyla, it’s not very good when you have multiple in hand. Lillie isn’t there for the first turn like most would think, but it’s there to supplement a hand that has cards that you want to keep in hand for that turn or the next. Lillie has contributed to quite a few T2 double Vikavolt plays. If I have a piece already in hand, it helps draw into the other one instead of discarding everything to try and hit what you need or shuffling back everything, only to whiff. It can also allow you to plan out your turns ahead of time since you can keep certain cards in hand longer.

3 Fighting Fury Belt/2 Choice Band

Like I said earlier in my explanation for the Expanded list, I have been going back and forth with this count. No matter what, unless something drastic happens with the format, I will keep some form of 3/2 count of Fighting Fury Belt and Choice Band. For Standard, I currently like having more Fighting Fury Belt because it helps Tapu Bulu GX survive longer against decks like Gardevoir, Volcanion and Metagross. Also, with Greninja becoming more popular, you don’t really want too many Choice Band since it’s a dead card in that matchup for the most part.

Again, it all depends on the current meta.

1 Energy Recycler

With the format being a little slower than Expanded, you won’t need to find your Energy Recycler until later in the game. Not only that, but this list is running Puzzle of Time, so you can actually use Energy Recycler up to three times in a single game. Without the Puzzle of Time, adding a second Energy Recycler wouldn’t be a bad idea.

4 Puzzle of Time

This is probably more surprising than the list running 0 Professor Sycamore. Puzzle of Time is something I’ve been wanting to play in a deck that used them effectively, but couldn’t find one that did until I threw them in VikaBulu. The combos you can pull off and the versatility the card brings is unreal. It even acts as a consistency booster for the deck as well.

Since this deck runs 3 Skyla, finding Puzzle of Time is almost never a problem, so having 1 Puzzle+Skyla in hand means you have “double Puzzle” as long as you have at least one Puzzle of Time left in the deck. Being able to grab back key resources such as Energy Recycler, Field Blower, tools, N, Guzma, a KOed Pokémon, or even energy is HUGE! This allows you to be a little more aggressive with your plays and resources and opens up some crazy plays throughout the game.

Oranguru makes Puzzle of Time even more busted because you can either use a single Puzzle to manipulate the top 3 cards and draw right into what you put on top OR have one Puzzle or Skyla in hand, then possibly Instruct into the other piece of the puzzle(pun intended).

Puzzle of Time also contributes to a LOT of T2 double Vikavolt plays. Here’s how:

  • Turn 1 after you set up with Brigette, use Puzzle of Time to rearrange the top 3 cards to draw into whatever piece you need for turn 2 Vikavolt, which having multiple pieces in top 3 will be best.
  • Example: You have Skyla + Rare Candy in hand, you have a Vikavolt and Rare Candy/Heavy Ball in top 3. Put Vikavolt on top, with Rare Candy/Heavy Ball second. If two Vikavolt are in top 3, then put both on top. Turn 2, you Rare Candy into Vikavolt, use Oranguru’s Instruct for 1-2, then Skyla for the other piece to the 2nd Vikavolt.
  • You have Rare Candy + Heavy Ball in hand along with a Puzzle of Time and Skyla, or 2 Puzzles, or you draw into it off Oranguru. You Heavy Ball for Vikavolt, play Rare Candy, then “double Puzzle” back Heavy Ball and Rare Candy.

There are other scenarios as well, but I’m sure you get the picture. The uses for Puzzle of Time don’t stop there though.

Let’s say you have a Vikavolt and Oranguru in play and you’re okay with using a Puzzle of Time to rearrange the top 3 cards. If you like them, then proceed to use Instruct to draw the card(s). If not, you can then Strong Charge whether you get energy or not, so you can shuffle your deck and have a shot at better cards before you Instruct.

One last point I will say about Puzzle of Time is the fact that you can recover very easily from your Vikavolt being knocked out. If you have access to 2 Puzzles or Puzzle+Skyla, you can grab back Vikavolt+Rare Candy to get it back in to play as long as you have a Grubbin already on the bench. If you have one piece for Vikavolt already in hand, you can just grab back the other piece and something else to keep you going in the game.

So, as you see, there are so many ways Puzzle of Time can be used, especially in combination with Skyla and Oranguru. I am very surprised I was even able to fit them into the deck because the list was already tight on space. The list is not set in stone, so some other techs may find their way into the deck in place of Puzzle of Time, but it’s going to take a lot to dethrone it.

Matchups

Gardevoir GX –  55/45

This matchup plays similar to the Expanded matchup, with it coming down to how quickly each player sets up. Since you’re relying on only 1 Stage 2, you typically can set up faster. If you can get an early Tapu Koko spread off, the matchup is much easier than 55/45. If they’re playing Mr. Mime, then a Fury Belted Tapu Bulu GX is the way to go. Poke them for 40, then Nature’s Judgment for 190 to finish it off. Since they used a bench spot for Mr. Mime, it will be a little harder for them to keep a fresh Gardevoir GX available, which means you can pressure them a little better. Just don’t attach unnecessary Energy to ANYTHING because not only will it take away from your total available energy, but will leave anything with energy on it vulnerable to Gardevoir GX.

Gardevoir GX w/Sylveon GX  45-55

This matchup plays almost the same as the above matchup, except you have to play a little more carefully. The matchup will be a little tricky because of Plea GX, especially when combined with Parallel City. Usually, you don’t want to evolve into more than one Vikavolt unless you have a way to get them back out without any issues. Try not to use your Field Blowers unless there’s a Parallel City out because that card will limit your ability to win the game. If you need to overextend to KO the Sylveon before it uses Plea GX, just do it because you can let that put you 2 turns behind.

Volcanion  60-40

As long as you’re able to get out a Vikavolt turn 2 and start swinging for 190+ every turn, Volcanion cannot keep up on energy every turn. Fighting Fury Belt will be essential in this matchup because it will force the opponent to have Field Blower or double Steam Up with a Bright Flame from Turntonator GX. FFB will also allow you to OHKO baby Volcanion without discarding for Nature’s Judgment. If they power up a Ho-oh GX, be sure to try and use Tapu Koko’s Electric Ball + tool to OHKO it and swing the prize trade in your favor. You can also use Vikavolt as well, but only do that if you have another one on backup. Be sure to save your Ns for later in the game because they will likely be taking prizes almost every turn.

Metagross  40-60

This matchup is pretty bad, but can still be won if you can get off a couple of Flying Flips early on. Two Flying Flips will put Metagross GX at 210 Hp, which is enough to take a KO with Tapu Bulu GX+Choice Band. Three Flying Flips will allow you to use Fighting Fury Belt instead, letting Bulu survive a Giga Hammer + Choice Band as long as they don’t hit a Field Blower. Attempt to apply as much pressure early and take a couple of prizes before they get fully set up, then use Guzma to finish the game off by KOing Tapu Lele GX.

Drampa/Garbodor  65-35

This matchup plays out basically the same way as the Expanded matchup plays out, except you don’t have to be as conservative with your Field Blower. Puzzle of Time will keep you in the game as long as you’re not reckless with your resources or plays. Timely Field Blower and Tapu Wilderness GX will most likely win the game on their own.

Golisopod Variants – 75-25

This plays out the same as in Expanded because you can hit 210 easily or Koko spread for 20, then finish off each Golisopod GX with a Fury Belted Nature’s Judgment for 190. Everything else you KO in one hit as well.

Greninja – 75-25

This matchup is not an auto win because they can possibly get T2 Shadow Stitching going first through Rare Candy. If they don’t do that, or you get to Strong Charge before being locked, then you’re golden. You still have to play smart though. Unless your opponent won’t have another Greninja Break the following turn, you’re probably going to want to Tapu Wilderness GX any amount of damage off because of Giant Water Shuriken + Moonlight Splash + Choice Band. Even if you have a Fighting Fury Belt, you have to anticipate the Field Blower, so you don’t get blown out. Getting out Fighting Fury Belt on Bulu early can win you the game since it can OHKO Frogadier with only a Horn Attack and 2HKO a Greninja.

Rainbow Road – 50-50

If the Rainbow Road deck goes first, it can potentially set up 2 Xerneas attackers by turn 2, which means they can start chaining them. At that point they’re trading one prize for your two unless you use Tapu Koko and Vikavolt, in which you can’t really effectively use either in this matchup. If you go first, getting the initial KO + Fighting Fury Belt can give you a chance to take 3 prizes with Tapu Bulu GX, allowing you to stay ahead in the prize race and eventually win the game. Using Tapu Koko to KO a Galvantula or Bisharp line will probably swing the game in your favor.

Conclusion

There you have it! I have covered all of the things about the Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX deck everyone has been wondering about and the common matchups it may encounter in each format. I feel that I have the most experience with the deck simply because I haven’t stopped playing it since it came out and have tweaked it to adapt to the changes in the meta. If you choose to try out my lists, I’d be happy to hear how it’s working for you and feel free to change it however you like. If anyone has any questions or feedback, comment below to let me know how you feel about this article.

As of the writing of this article, I am currently at 200 CP for the season and am still aiming for Top 16 North America for points. Hopefully I can attend as many events as I hope to so I can achieve that because every missed event will only put me further behind. So, with that being said, I hope to see everyone at many future events and say hi if you’d like. Good luck to everyone on their road to worlds!

5 thoughts on “Exploring the Wilderness – VikaBulu in Standard and Expanded

  1. What interesting lists! I’d like to try them on PTCGO as they go against my conventional deck building ideas. Going forward with Shinning Legends and Crimsons, how does the lists in both formats change?

  2. I’ve been playing under a year and only online, but I play a different partners with Vikavolt; which the start is obviously quite similar; but the attack & win conditions are slightly different. Dont laugh too much but; Necrozma-GX & Aegislash.

    Instead of swinging for 180/210 (3 times) with Bulu. I swing for 100 with Black Ray and double it with Aegislash. A singular Flying Flip can turn that double to 240 (to take all 6 prizes at once), likewise I dont play stage 1’s and only evolve via Rare Candy.

    Because of some decks that have self healing (Bulu & Ninetales) or because Acerola exists (Gollisiopod) I play both Vikavolt-GX & Clefairy; in order to have the possibility to hit that 210 number; which on the bright side also having DCE- means that its possible to power up ‘Super Zap Cannon’ on the same turn- and chain them as well. Also Gigatron-GX can be the attack of choice on something vs Xerniuses or Greninja.

    But everyone’s Lele; turns to 2 Prizes- if they play a 2nd; that’s 4; and if you get their main attacker, or backup attacker its 6. I’ve had games vs Firebox, WaterBox, Darkrai & DramaGarb- where I’m figuratively shaking hands after Turn 3.

    I think I’m going to try this with Puzzles, and Switch, because there are numerous times at the beginning where once I’m out of the active- I dont care if they Field Blower that Float Stone away. However, I dont have Oranguru to keep the cards coming in.

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