Welcome back to the Charizard Lounge! It’s that time of the year again for people to start investigating a new format, and everyone seems to be asking the same question: “What’s the play for 2019?” In this article, I have decided to go set-by-set, mentioning relevant cards and how they will shape the upcoming format. I will also give my guidelines for how I have been approaching deck-building in a blind meta, how I see staples shaking out, and some of my top picks heading into this fall.
Sun and Moon Base Set
With the suspected decline of Fighting decks, cards like Tauros GX and Umbreon GX stand a real chance of rejoining the format. Tauros GX has been thrown into many different decks in the past because it can attack for decent damage for just a Double Colorless Energy, and if you’re not able to knock it out in one attack it’s likely to punish you in return with Mad Bull GX.
Umbreon GX is a bit different; I may be biased, but I have always been a big fan of being able to spread damage around the board, and Umbreon GX does a fine job of that by hitting for 90 to the active and 30 to the bench. 30 damage might seem negligible, but it can really add up over the course of a game and eventually allow you to take a multiple knockout turn. Umbreon GX has the added benefit of being able to be searched out via Eevee’s “Energy Evolution” Ability (attach a basic Energy to Eevee, evolve Eevee into an Eeveelution of that type). This bump in consistency is something that is going to be very valuable next format, as people will need to mess around with their lists quite a bit to find the most optimal counts for cards.
There are a few Stage 2 Pokemon I think have real potential to either make a return or really make a debut in competitive play, and those are Vikavolt, Decidueye GX, Solgaleo GX and Primarina GX.
Vikavolt has seen its way into and out of the competitive scene over the past season, but with the format seeming to slow down quite a bit, “Strong Charge” is certainly an ability some players may turn to in order to continue powering up their Tapu Bulu GXs, or maybe even a new partner like Rayquaza GX.
Decidueye GX might not be surprising, this card was considered to be pretty good pretty much from the moment it was released; being able to drop 20 damage every turn turns out to be a pretty good Ability. Another thing about Decidueye GX that I think warrants mentioning is that it is one of the very few cards that will be able to recover Special Energy, via its “Hollow Hunt GX” attack, which allows it to pull any three cards from the discard pile and add them to your hand.
My personal favorite from these three is Solgaleo GX. Solgaleo GX has always been lurking around as a fringe option, but recently it has even fallen out of that area, but I think there’s some definite chance of it being worthy of a better spot on the chart coming into September. Solgaleo GX has that great ability “Ultra Road” which grants you a free switch every turn (Switch, being a card I expect to be included in a few decks now given the loss of Float Stone) as well as the monstrous attack “Sunsteel Strike” doing 230 damage at the mere cost of discarding all of your energy, and Solgaleo GX is enormous with 250 HP. 230 damage knocks out a lot of different Pokemon, but you can always add ten extra damage by using the Dhelmise with the “Steelworker” ability from Guardians Rising, increasing damage dealt by a metal type Pokemon by 10, if 240 should ever become a really relevant number to hit. Of course, Choice Bands will always be available also. I can definitely see a thin line of everyone’s favorite lion being added into something like a Metagross GX deck as a way to swing the mirror by being able to one-shot opposing Metagross GX (Solgaleo GX with a Choice Band).
Finally, Primarina GX! You might have forgotten Primarina GX existed since it’s done approximately nothing of note since its release, but there are a few things going on that I think make it worth revisiting, and those things are Lapras GX and Crasher Wake. Lapras GX has a very low maintenance attack that costs [W] and allows you to draw three cards. Doing this for a few turns in the early game with a giant Pokemon like Lapras GX will be a far-from-bad option going forward, as the normal way to punish this play would be for your opponent to play an N, but with N rotating the options are suddenly very limited for hand-disruption. Crasher Wake allows synergy for a number of plays, including searching out Rare Candy and Primarina GX, and the cost of discarding two Water Energy is perfectly fine, because you have Aqua Patch to accelerate that energy back from the discard to really get Primarina GX’s “Bubble Beat” up to some wild numbers very quickly. Primarina GX itself is a very strong card at face-value. 250 HP is a real hurdle to get over, and an attack that can virtually reach over any Pokemon make this card seem very strong.
The last Pokemon I want to mention from Sun & Moon Base Set is Oranguru. Oranguru is no stranger to the competitive scene of Pokemon, with its “Instruct” ability allowing you to draw until you have three cards in your hand. This ability was strong in the past, and it should certainly continue to be strong in the future.
Guardians Rising was the set that really spun the meta when it came out, and I would point out two Pokemon especially that will continue to define parameters of the game: Garbodor and Metagross GX. These are certainly not the only strong Pokemon in the set, but they are the cores to decks that I would definitely avoid taking an auto-loss to going into the new format.
Garbodor is really able to punish these new aggressive Item cards like Acro Bike and PokeNav, while Metagross GX is just a huge, tank who can sometimes beat decks that don’t have a way to attack for 250 damage.
Garbodor’s “Trashalanche” attack redefined the way decks were made soon after its release, doing 20 damage for each Item card your opponent has in their discard pile; this adds up very quickly, it turns out, when decks frequently play around 18-20 Items and those Items are usually critical in setting up and pursuing whatever strategy other decks are going for.
Metagross GX is just a 250 HP Pokemon with an Ability that accelerates Energy from the discard and an attack that can reach up to 210 (with a Choice Band, Dhelmise and Professor Kukui). Since Metagross accelerates energy on its own, it is able to abuse Max Potions very effectively, meaning it’s very often going to be at a fresh 250 HP, a number that not many decks are able to beat down in a single attack.
Other Pokemon on this especially long list include Drampa GX, Lycanroc GX, Tapu Koko GX, Alolan Ninetales GX, Turtonator GX, Golisopod GX, Sylveon GX and Tapu Lele GX for GX cards, and Trevenant, Dhelmise, Honchcrow, Rayquaza and Alolan Vulpix for non-GX cards.
Drampa GX could definitely make a resurgence in the new format. “Big Wheel GX” was used in the past to get out of a bad hand early in the game, but would frequently be punished with an N back to six cards. People were usually fine with this, since all they wanted was a new hand, but now with N gone and Judge presumably going to be at low counts, it is very likely people will be able to keep those ten cards they draw off of “Big Wheel GX”. The utility attack “Righteous Edge” discarding Special Energy is a really good option to have as well. Another thing worth noting is that Drampa GX’s “Berserk” attack is really easy to boost up by playing either Po Town and evolving your own Pokemon through it, dealing them 30 damage; playing your own Shrine of Punishment and another GX Pokemon, dealing all GX Pokemon 10 damage between turns; or just using Rainbow Energies.
Lycanroc GX should stay as strong as it is now. “Bloodthirsty Eyes” is a great Ability, “Dangerous Rogue GX” is a great GX attack and “Claw Slash” is a great answer to Fighting-weak Pokemon like Zoroark GX.
Tapu Koko GX, Alolan Ninetales GX and Golisopod GX are all Pokemon I can see fitting into a different style of deck that emphasizes longevity. Tapu Koko GX can use Aether Paradise and Acerola to make a continual loop, so long as Pokemon aren’t able to one-shot a Tapu Koko GX.
Alolan Ninetales GX has a lot of support for it, largely in the form of Baby Alolan Ninetales. Forcing your opponent to have to play around “Luminous Barrier” as well as forcing them to be able to one-shot Alolan Ninetales GX in fear of having their damage returned via its GX attack, which can put them into an awkward situation. Alolan Ninetales can also deal with Shrine of Punishment decks reasonably well by making use of its “Ice Path GX” attack at a good time to push all of its damage onto the opposing active and completely heal itself.
Golisopod GX can be taken in a number of different directions, most likely I imagine to be Zoroark GX/ Golisopod GX, which seems to be the most consistent choice.
Tapu Lele GX will continue to be the most common Pokemon included in any deck. Being a reasonable attacker in any deck that plays Double Colorless Energy as well as having one of the best Abilities in the game allowing it to fetch any Supporter from the deck when it gets benched, there’s no reason to not anticipate seeing this card in nearly every deck this season.
Turtonator GX is a Pokemon I expect to be commonly splashed here and there if decks like Metagross GX of Solgaleo GX ever get popular. With a Choice Band, Turtonator is able to do 100 damage to these fire-weak Pokemon GX. If those Pokemon attack into Turtonator, they take another 80 damage. This puts both of these very high HP Pokemon within range of an easy KO.
Sylveon GX I don’t overly expect to be used as a standalone deck anymore, but I do think It will be used in the best version of Gardevoir GX. Using “Magical Ribbon” to get any three cards out of your deck makes setting up multiple Gardevoir GX very easy. Having access to the extremely disruptive “Plea GX” can also be extremely useful in matchups against other decks that have to set up Stage 2 Pokemon on the bench.
Alolan Vulpix, Dhelmise, Rayquaza, Honchcrow and Trevenant are non-GX Pokemon that I expect to see pop up fairly frequently in different decks as well.
Alolan Vulpix is very useful in setting up Pokemon throughout the game with its “Beacon” attack, getting any two Pokemon from your deck for no Energy.
Dhelmise increases the damage from metal type Pokemon by 10, which sets up critical math allowing Stakataka GX to hit 130, Metagross to hit up to 210 against other GX Pokemon (needing a Choice Band and Professor Kukui as well).
Spread decks should be seeing a large increase in play with the release of Shrine of Punishment, which I suspect will give life to Honchcrow. Honchcrow’s “Raven’s Claw” attack, for [C][C], does 10 damage, plus 10 more damage for each damage counter on each of your opponent’s Pokemon. It’s not unreasonable for Raven’s Claw to reach numbers in excess of 250 damage.
Another non-GX capable of achieving a very high damage output is Trevenant, with its “Poltergeist” attack doing 30 damage times the number of total trainer cards in your opponent’s hand. In a format with no N, it’s very reasonable to see hand sizes growing large throughout the game, which is great news for this spooky tree.
Burning Shadows was the set released for Worlds 2017, but has since then not aged especially well compared to the other Sun & Moon sets.
Salazzle GX and Ho-Oh GX are the only real fire types that pose any threat at the moment, although neither are especially great.
Noivern GX could potentially see play in some kind of disruption deck, although that also doesn’t seem particularly good early in this upcoming format.
Tapu Fini GX has always been amongst my favorite Pokemon GX, and may be a decent inclusion in decks that play either Water or Rainbow Energy this fall just for being able to shuffle away a Stage 2 Pokemon your opponent took a couple turns to set up with its Tapu Storm GX attack.
Necrozma GX and Marshadow GX will continue to be successful to a certain extent in Malamar decks since they won’t have to worry about cards like Parallel City or Garbotoxin Garbodor keeping them down.
Gardevoir GX seems to be a favorite going into the new format. I think this is mostly because of peoples’ comfort with the deck already, but it does have a lot to offer. Playing it with Sylveon GX means you’ll be able to set up Gardevoir GX very easily because of its “Magical Ribbon” attack getting you exactly what you need every turn. Losing Gallade and Octillery will hurt a little bit, but the deck will still be a definite contender in the new format. Access to both “Plea GX” and “Twilight GX” means you are able to play a pretty flexible game as well, which is certainly worth mentioning.
Tapu Bulu GX was a decent contender throughout the 2018 season as well, and it’s not crazy to think the format may be suited to allow for it to return and be successful, especially if Zoroark GX stays popular.
Shining Legends has one very obvious card that should be seeing play: Zoroark GX, but there are more than should be mentioned as well. “Rally Back” Shaymin, “Pike” Virizion, “Breakthrough” Latios, “Let Loose” Marshadow, “Scoundrel Guard” Hoopa, “Strafe” Yveltal, Shining Mew, Shining Jirachi and finally Mewtwo GX.
Zoroark GX has proven it is one of, if not the best card ever printed. Nothing coming up looks like this should change, and with the rapid decline of Fighting decks given everything they lose in rotation, Zoroark looks well positioned to continue its reign. The biggest debate is what to play along with Zoroark – Magcargo, Trashalanche Garbodor, Lycanroc GX, Golisopod GX, Gardevoir GX, or really anything you want. This seems to be another attractive quality of Zoroark GX is that you can adapt to pretty much anything that becomes popular by just playing it with something else to counter whatever other people start playing.
Shaymin and Virizion could easily find their way into some sort of Vikavolt deck; Shaymin serves as a great non-GX counter attacker and Virizion as a strong non-GX secondary attacker, likely alongside Tapu Bulu GX or Rayquaza GX.
Breakthrough Latios is yet another non-GX attacker that makes great use of a Double Colorless Energy. Spreading 30 damage to the active and 30 to any Pokemon on your opponent’s bench is really good and can be used to great success to set up numbers for your other attackers to take knockouts.
Hoopa and Yveltal are both Pokemon that look good on paper, but I’ve always found an excuse to not want to play them. Hoopa should always be a card to keep in mind when building a deck, because if your attackers are all exclusively Pokemon GX, then you’ll get beat out by a single Hoopa. Yveltal is hardly remarkable, but being a non-GX Pokemon that recycles energy and does decent damage, it made my list for cards to keep in mind from the set.
Shining Mew and Shining Jirachi are both cards I like a lot in very different decks in this new format.
Shining Mew, for a single Psychic Energy can fetch any two Energy cards from your deck and you get to attach them to your Pokemon in any way you like. I think they could be good in Ultra Necrozma decks to make finding the Metal Energy easier and get you attacking faster.
Shining Jirachi is a card I can see finding its way into spread decks. “Stellar Reign” allows you to devolve a Pokemon to its lowest stage, which, if done at a good time can just wipe s big threat off the board.
“Let Loose” Marshadow is a card I think will see decent play. Benching Marshadow allows you to shuffle both player’s hands into their decks and then both players draw four cards. This would be devastating after your opponent uses something like Metagross’s “Algorithm GX” to search any five cards out of their deck or Steven’s Resolve to search for any three cards. Any deck playing Mysterious Treasure should be playing one Marshadow.
Lastly from Shining Legends, I expect for Mewtwo GX to continue to be included in many builds for the GX attack and for an easy low-maintenace attack for KOing things like Zorua while not being weak to Zoroark GX. The Rotation of Mew EX also makes Mewtwo GX much more likely to survive extra turns against Zoroark decks.
Crimson Invasion is another set that I do not think ages very well after rotation. Buzzwole GX, Kartana GX, Silvally GX and Registeel are the Pokemon from the set I think will be worth keeping in mind post rotation.
Buzzwole GX will likely find itself moving from its own archetype into more of a secondary attacker position. Spreading 30 damage to the active and 30 to any bench Pokemon will never be a bad attack, but I think the loss of Strong Energy and Max Elixir and Octillery effectively kill the archetype. This has been debated lately, by people trying to cling to old archetypes, but I guess time will tell.
Kartana GX I suspect will find its way into different Beast Box decks, even if for no other reason than a searchable Pokemon with Enhanced Hammer as an Ability. The “Blade GX” attack is also very strong, though, in preventing the seven-prize game, which will be particular common against decks like Metagross GX.
Silvally GX went very underrepresented all season, but with the direction I expect Buzzwole to go, Silvally could very well become viable. It has a great ability, allowing Basic Pokemon to freely retreat (without access to Float Stone I think this ability is only better). Silvally also has two great attacks, which are both for [C][C][C], meaning you have a ton of flexibility as far what you end up playing Silvally with. First, its regular attack does 120 and accelerates an energy from your discard pile to your bench. Second, the GX attack does 50 damage times the number of your opponents benched Pokemon. On top of all of this Silvally can become Fighting, Psychic, Fire or Lightning type just by attaching the corresponding Tool to it, allowing you to have ample type coverage to adapt to a changing meta.
Registeel is just a strong non-GX attacker that recycles metal energy. Pokemon like this almost always seem to be worth keeping in the binder.
Ultra Prism is a set that has a lot going for it. Dawn Wings Necrozma GX, Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, Glaceon GX, Dialga GX, Weavile, Tapu Lele, Magnezone (Metal type) and Solgaleo Prism are all great cards. This set also included the former box promo Ultra Beasts: Pheromosa GX, Celesteela GX and Xurkitree GX.
Dawn Wings Necrozma GX will be included in every Malamar variant and its GX attack can be critical for swinging games. The Invasion Ability also makes making Guzma plays that much easier. Invasion will also be paramount in streaming attacks with Ultra Necrozma.
Dusk Mane Necrozma GX is a card I like a lot going into next format. “Sun’s Eclipse GX” is able to suddenly KO anything after letting your opponent take the lead by just playing a Beast Ring to attach two Metal Energy to Dusk Mane Necrozma GX and attaching another from hand, and you can follow that up by attaching one more energy and using “Meteor Tempest” in order to take up to four prizes over two consecutive turns.
Glaceon GX is a really interesting card as well, as it offers a way to establish a first turn lock on your opponent, locking their Pokemon GX out of abilities, turning off any first turn Tapu Lele GX play. The attack “Frost Bullet” for 90 damage and 30 to the bench is also really good and can set up turns of taking multiple prizes (same as Umbreon GX from Sun & Moon Base Set). Glaceon GX also has the benefit of using cards like Aqua Patch and “Energy Evolution” Eevee.
Magnezone is a card I won’t be surprised to see become very relevant. I actually tested Magnezone a lot for Worlds, before I eventually decided it wasn’t the right play. Metal is a great type post rotation, so being able to attach all the Metal energy you want has to be worth considering. On this note also, Dialga GX has one of the best GX attacks of all time in “Timeless GX.” “Timeless GX” does 150 damage and you immediately take another turn. With correct timing, this can be used to prevent your opponent from getting to use Beast Rings, or could be used to make a huge comeback by taking back to back GX knockouts (the first with Timeless GX and then following that up with something like a Meteor Tempest from Dusk Mane Necrozma GX). Dialga also has a great first attack that, for just one Metal, lets you draw until you have six cards in your hand, reminiscent of the Worlds Promo Stadium still legal in Expanded: Tropical Beach.
On the topic of Metal, Solgaleo Prism is great for readying up additional attackers with its “Radiant Star” attack, which allows you to attach a Metal Energy from your discard to your Pokemon in play for each of your opponents Pokemon in play. With 160 HP, your Solgaleo Prism is also surprisingly difficult to knock out in a single hit.
Weavile is another Pokemon that has real potential for this upcoming format. With so many decks seeming to rely on Abilities, “Evil Admonition” is likely to be a very strong attack, doing 50 damage times the number of Abilities your opponent has in play. All that said, I don’t think Weavile should ever be anything more than a secondary attacker, since some decks will be able to play around Evil Admonition by not putting many Pokemon with Abilities in play.
Tapu Lele is the last card from Ultra Prism I want to bring to light. With spread expected to be a strong archetype, the “Magical Swap” attack allows you to rearrange damage on your opponents Pokemon. The idea here would be spreading damage all over your opponent’s board until you’re able to take all six prizes in the same turn by moving damage wherever it needs to be to knockout six prizes worth of Pokemon. This card from Ultra Prism is a Fairy type, but the same card was also printed as a Psychic type, which will allow you to play around with typing.
The box promo Ultra Beasts have potential to see varying degrees of success.
Pheromosa GX seems like a good partner for Rayquaza GX and fixes its late-game issue with Beauty GX likely being able to close out games.
Celesteela GX is another big metal type Pokemon with strong attacks and high HP but also has unique typing, being resistant to Fighting types.
Xurkitree GX in the right meta can just be a wall against decks that only play Special Energy with its “Flashing Head” Ability; from what I have tested from the next format I am not certain this ability will be worth playing Xurktree GX for early in the season, but depending on the direction the meta goes that may change.
Forbidden Light is another really strong set post rotation. Malamar should be a really strong archetype post rotation, both Straight Psychic and Ultra Necrozma GX. Besides Malamar, Nagandel GX, Greninja GX, Magnezone (Lightning type), Diancie Prism and Alolan Exeggutor are all great cards to keep in mind. Forbidden Light also included the set version of the box promo Lucario GX.
Naganadel GX is another Pokemon I tested extensively for Worlds, but I think it will be much better after rotation. The Ultra Space Stadium allows this deck to be extremely consistent with its search by letting you grab any Ultra Beast from your deck every turn. In a format without N, this additional deck-thinning will be very valuable, and will rarely be a priority for your opponent to punish with a Judge or anything else.
Greninja GX is a card I was initially not very interested in. Given some more consideration, I think it has strong potential with both Zoroark GX and Glaceon GX. Greninja GX allows you to place three damage counters on an opposing Pokemon when you evolve into it and Frogadier allows you to place two damage counter when you evolve into that. Also worth mentioning is that Froakie has a 70 HP version. The Zoroark GX build would be much more consistent, being able to use “Trade” several times per turn to continually draw into more and more pieces of your Greninja GX line. The Glaceon GX version would be much more based on stealing cheap knockouts with bench damage and dropping Frogs.
The Lightning type Magnezone I don’t think is overall as good as the Metal type version from Ultra Prism since there aren’t as many strong Lightning type attackers. That said, I wanted to mention that this is another potentially strong partner for Rayquaza GX post rotation.
Diancie Prism I expect to still be relevant. The plus 20 makes for some interesting math, such as letting Lycanroc GX’s Claw Slash hit for 130 instead of 110 or letting Lucario GX’s Aura Strike hit 170 with a Choice Band. Both numbers are pretty relevant to be able to hit.
Alolan Exeggutor was a surprise card from this past season, but is still worth keeping in mind. 160 HP is a big HP to hit on a non-GX, and this card has great synergy with Zoroark GX. Being a non-GX attacker that is difficult to take out in a single hit, Alolan Exeggutor is likely to put up decent damage while also forcing an odd prize-trade.
Lucario GX is likely to become the new face of fighting type Pokemon with the suspected decline of Buzzwole and Buzzwole GX. Lucario GX’s “Aura Strike” attack is able to knock out a Zoroark GX with just a single attachment. Then, on top of that, when Lucario GX is damaged and not knocked out, it can really hurt with its “Cantankerous Beatdown GX” attack dealing 30 damage times the number of damage counters on Lucario GX.
The last regular set to talk about, which is also the most recent set, is Celestial Storm. Personally, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the set. I think there was a lot of decent cards in the set, but I don’t personally think any will be format-defining after rotation. Pokemon that I think are worth mentioning are Stakataka GX, Shiftry GX, Blaziken GX, Banette GX, Scizor GX, Rayquaza GX, Registeel and Celesteela.
Magcargo was pretty widely expected to be the most popular version of Zoroark GX played at the World Championships, but ended up seeing very minimal success there. Being able to use the “Smooth Over” ability to stack a card to the top of your deck and then immediately using “Trade” to draw into that card removes a lot of RNG factor from your play and creates a potentially insanely high skill ceiling. I expect people to continue tinkering with this idea after rotation, but I’m not sure how successful it will be.
Stakataka GX is one of my favorite cards from the set; its Ability makes your Ultra Beast Pokemon take 10 less damage from attacks and its attack is decent at [M][M][C] dealing 120 damage. The GX attack is a great finishing move as well, for the same energy cost as its regular attack it deals 50 damage plus 50 more for each prize card you have taken. This means if you get to your last two Prize Cards that Stakataka GX is pretty much guaranteed to be able to take your last two prizes.
Shiftry GX is a card that people initially thought to slap into Zoroark GX decks, which is perfectly reasonable. I think the card really got some attention at its release because of its ability to one shot opposing Zoroark GXs if you’re able to meet the condition of having a Choice Band attached and the same size hand as your opponent to do extra damage with the “Extrasensory” attack. I just think the same thing can be accomplished more easily with either a Lucario GX or a Lycanroc GX.
Blaziken GX is another card that people were excited about when everyone thought that the non-GX Blaziken would also be in the set. Even if it had been in the set, I have serious reservations about wanting to play a deck that requires you to set up multiple Stage 2 lines in order to function. I think Metagross GX is easier to defend in this regard because you really only need two Metagross GX and you also have the built-in consistency boost in “Algorithm GX” to allow you to make sure you can get set up and running.
Banette GX was a card people were initially excited about because Zoroark GX decks could play it in order to counter Buzzwole and Buzzwole GX due to type advantage. While that may be true, I think knowing that Zoroark GX is the most dominant Pokemon in the game at the moment, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to dedicate space in your Zoroark GX deck to a Pokemon that gives up two prizes and is weak to opposing Zoroark GXs. That said, I do think Banette GX has a place in the meta, likely paired with Shrine of Punishment and Drampa GX in order to make full use of everything Banette GX has to offer.
Scizor GX is another card I really don’t see being successful. Scizor GX’s Ability reads that if it has 100 HP or less remaining its attacks do 80 more damage. While this is an interesting ability, I think it can be easily played around by intentionally using attacks to cleanly two-shot Scizor GX without putting it under that threshold or it can just be one-shot by something like Ultra Necrozma GX or Dusk Mane GX. I think this is one of the weaker options even just in terms of Metal type attackers.
The last GX from the set I want to talk about is Rayquaza GX, and it’s actually one of the last cards I want to talk about, period. Homie Eric Smith (owner of the Rare Candy YouTube channel, check them out), just placed extremely well at the 2018 World Championships with the deck with his Top 8 finish. I know prior to the event people were really torn on whether or not they liked Rayquaza GX, and I was actually on the nay-side. I think the deck is very linear and doesn’t have a lot of options in terms of out-playing people. You more or less are challenging your opponent’s ability to keep up with you- if they can, yikes; if they can’t you steamroll them. Being optimistic about Ray moving into post-rotation, I can definitely see it being paired with either Vikavolt or Magnezone. Going for a first-turn “Tempest GX” after hopefully benching at least one of the basics to whichever Stage 2 you have chosen, and seeing ten new cards, you should hopefully be able to get either of those Stage 2 Pokemon into play and really start ramping up the Energy after that.
Some real shining gems in Celestial Storm are two non-GX bulk rares- Registeel and Celesteela.
Registeel has an ability that makes it take 20 less damage from attacks and a great attack that does 60 plus an additional 60 if the defending Pokemon has an Ability for [M][C][C]. I think this is a fantastic addition to Ultra Malamar as a way to swing the formerly shaky Gardevoir GX matchup by hitting perfect math for a knockout on Gardevoir GX and also forcing your opponent to dedicate two Energy on a Gardevoir GX in order to knock out a pesky single prize attacker.
Celesteela has an attack that for five energy does 160 damage, OR if you and your opponent have exactly three prizes remaining between the two of you, the attack cost is just a single metal energy. I think Celesteela is a great inclusion in any deck already running Metal Energy just for the chance at being able to nuke something some turn with a non-GX Pokemon. Further, Celesteela is a non-GX bench sitter in decks like Naganadel/Stakataka.
Deck Building in a Blind Meta
Building decks in a blind meta is one of my favorite things in Pokemon. People act like there is a fine science to this or a formula for making new decks, but that is completely absurd. The secret to making a strong deck in an unknown meta is consistency. More than any other time you want to be sure you are able to do the same thing every single game and that you are consistently able to do that. How do you do this? Well, let’s look at Metagross GX.
Metagross GX is an archetype I have referenced several times during this article, as it is one of my favorite archetypes moving into the new format. Metagross GX has 250 HP, the “Geotech Systems” Ability which allows each of your Metagross GX in play to accelerate one Metal or Psychic energy to your active Pokemon once per turn, the “Giga Hammer” attack that deals 150 damage with the drawback of that Metagross GX not being able to attack the following turn, and finally the “Algorithm GX” attack which allows you to search your deck for any five cards and add them to your hand.
When I think about how to approach putting a Metagross GX deck together I think about what I want to accomplish on my first several turns (and this is a good way to approach building any deck, but it’s especially true in decks that require a very certain way of setting up). I know on my first turn I want to get at least 1-2 Beldum into play and use Steven’s Resolve. Cards that can allow me to do that are Ultra Ball, Nest Ball, Order Pad (to fetch any of these balls that can then fetch Beldum or the Tapu Lele GX that can use “Wonder Tag” to get the Steven’s Resolve, etc). Another option for my first turn can be spending my entire hand, using a Lillie to draw until I have eight cards again, then using Alolan Vulpix’s “Beacon” attack to search for any two Pokemon. Both of these two first-turn options likely result in me getting a Metagross GX into play on my second turn, which will then allow me to use “Algorithm GX” to search my deck for any five cards, which should certainly mean all of my Beldums will be becoming Metagross GX then on my following turn. Sure, your opponent will have the opportunity to play cards like Judge or “Let Loose” Marshadow in order to slow your setup, but you certainly force these plays. In an ideal world, you end up with three Metagross GX in play on your third turn. This creates a board-state where your opponent suddenly needs to be able to hit over 250 HP in order to take any prizes, and assuming you lost some prizes along the way (we can assume Alolan Vulpix and something like Tapu Lele GX), your opponent will need to attack over 250 HP TWICE because of the seven-prize game you have forced them into).
Then, some cards that will help close out the game include Dhelmise, Choice Band and Professor Kukui, which are all required in order for Metagross GX to reach 210 damage from “Giga Hammer”, perfect math for knocking out what is likely to be the most popular archetype moving into next format: Zoroark GX. Max Potion, Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, and Rescue Stretcher are all cards I would like at different counts in the deck as well. I don’t see any reason to play any fewer than four Max Potion, but I also don’t see the need for any more than one Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, as its utility is pretty minimal outside of matchups like other Metagross GX decks.
Definitely follow my testing to see the final sixty cards that emerge from me for this archetype as we get close to Philly Regionals or Memphis Regionals.
What makes 2019 Standard unique to me is that this is the first format I have ever played without a “discard and draw seven” Supporter. I played while N was briefly out of format before it was reprinted, but losing both of these cards, with all signs pointing towards never seeing them again?? That is a first for me. While the bulk of my past month of testing has been for Worlds 2018 format, the most valuable testing for 2019 Standard has come in the form of playing with new Supporter cards, and WOW will they make next format a lot different.
Before I get into what Supporters I expect to see a lot of, I think the most important thing I can say first is that I really don’t see a “standardized” Supporter lineup being made. I do expect nearly all decks to play a full set of Cynthia, but aside from that… I don’t think uniformity will be a trend the way it has been the past several years.
Drawing cards will be based largely around shuffle-draw Supporters like Cynthia, Copycat, and Tate & Liza. Each of these Supporters has different benefits, but I expect Cynthia to be the standout winner here. Shuffle-draw six is consistent, and I remember just mentioning how that is key when building a deck for an unchartered format. That said, I really like Tate & Liza better than any of the other draw Supporter right now. Drawing five is obviously not as good as six, but the option to use as a Switch is really nice. Hala should be in this category as well, but its inclusion is largely deck-dependent (All eyes on Drampa GX and Rayquaza GX).
Lillie, Professor Kukui, TV Reporter, Underground Expedition and Hau are all draw Supporters I think will find homes in decks coming into the new season. That said, it’s not easy to say which are the best/worst. Lillie is the best early if you can pull off a big Lillie for 6-8 cards on your first turn, but its usefulness late game begins to deteriorate and then when you need to find that energy to win the game and that’s all you need, being able to SEE the most cards is best, which actually points towards Underground Expedition, since you get to see four cards and hopefully one is that energy card you needed to win the game.
Utility Supporters are an even rougher patch to cover. Team Skull Grunt, Mallow, Acerola, Guzma, Kiawe, Plumeria, Cyrus, Crasher Wake, Diantha, Lysandre, Apricorn Maker and Fisherman are all Supporters I expect to see in varying counts over the first quarter of 2019. These cards, aside from Guzma (which I expect we will see in every deck), are very much deck and meta dependent.
Stadiums are also going to be very relevant, and I suspect also very variable, as we enter 2019 Standard. Decks that can make use of consistency Stadiums like Ultra Space and Brooklet Hill are likely to have a slight edge in terms of consistency over decks that cannot do that. Equally, decks that can abuse the mobility given by Altar of the Moone and the damage inflicted from Shrine of Punishment will be interesting and worth looking into.
Decks to Look Out For
All Signs point to post-rotation being very exciting and a ton of fun. I’ve mentioned tons of Pokemon I expect will be popular this coming season that we already have released, but I promised to include archetypes that I expect to be successful as well. I’ve played most of the decks on this list, and this list is largely just based on what cards the archetype has available to it and how well I think they are able to play in a vacuum.
Zoroark GX with almost anything will be good. In the Supporter section of this article I discussed briefly about all kinds of different Supporters and how this might be optimal or that might be better. Well, it turns out throwing away dead cards and drawing extra cards every turn is literally guaranteed to be good. The best thing about Zoroark GX is that you can take it in so many directions and no matter which direction you go you still have Zoroark GX in your deck and that means you will AT WORST be a bad Zoroark GX deck, which really is not that bad at all.
Naganadel’s Beast Box has Ultra Space, Mysterious Treasure, and one of the most broken cards in the format: Beast Ring. On top of that, Max Potion is also in the format, and Naganadel attacks for just one of any energy (I will let you do the math there). I think this deck can be made to have answers for almost anything, including Zoroark GX.
Malamar Variants have Mysterious Treasure, strong attacker options, and Altar of the Moone. This deck can also be catered to suit whatever direction the meta decides to go between big psychic type Pokemon GX, the non-GX psychic types or Ultra Necrozma GX.
Finally, Metagross GX. 250 HP is a lot. With no fear of N or Garbotoxin this deck can really just be a monstrous pain to deal with. It might not have the bells and whistles the other archetypes I have listed have, but it is linear and easy to play and should certainly be kept in mind when preparing for events coming up.
Thanks for the long read! Be sure to ask any questions you came up with in the comment section below; I will do my best to keep up with answering all of them. Don’t hesitate to say “hey!” at any events coming up if you see me. Feel free to add me on Facebook (Cod Mic Gra) where I will be posting all of my decks throughout the season, including the ones that don’t end up being successful enough to make it into an article 😛