On Tuesday, we officially got our 2019 format rotation and we now are playing Sun and Moon-on for our Standard Format. For the first time since I’ve been playing, there is no discard and draw 7 Supporter in the format, which greatly changes the general consistency of decks. I will cover building deck engines in an article next week, but for now I want to focus on something more practical for players heading into League Cups or the Melbourne Special Event this weekend, so for this article I will cover what I consider to be the BDIF headed into the first weekend of Standard tournaments and that is Rayquaza GX / Vikavolt.
I know headed into the World Championships a popular thought was that it may be better to wait until after the World Championship to pick up Rayquaza GXs, as the price would drop, but it appears that this will be a mistake as the price appears to have increased, and it may increase further with successful tournament results.
In this article, I will go over what is to love about Rayquaza GX / Vikavolt headed into the first weekend of tournaments and then go over my decklist for the deck, and briefly go over the matchups against the expected meta decks.
Why Rayquaza for week 1?
As we head into the first weekend of tournaments, it’s important to note that this is the most significant change to deck engines that we’ve seen in the past 7 years as a result of format rotation. With the loss of Professor Sycamore, N, and Brigette, players will now be forced to figure out how to build decks with Supporter cards that are severely suboptimal relative to what we had just a few days ago. What this means in regards to week 1 tournaments is that many players will completely miss the mark on how to build their decks to be consistent with the new Supporter engines, which means there will be a lot of decks being played that just aren’t very good and don’t setup consistently.
If you go into the tournament with a powerful deck that is consistent and sets up its strategy almost every game, you will be poised to do well. Rayquaza GX / Vikavolt is a deck that does this well.
There are three primary factors that I think help with Rayquaza GX’s consistency, and these are:
- Tempest GX – Rayquaza GX’s Tempest GX attack costs [G] and lets you discard your hand and then draw 10 cards. If you get a Grubbin down prior to using Tempest GX, with 10 new cards in hand, you will have a high probability of getting a turn 2 Vikavolt, and once you have Vikvavolt established, the deck runs pretty smoothly.
- You get to play better Supporter cards than other decks, as the use of an early GX attack allows you to use Hala for good effect. After you use a GX attack, Hala draws you 7 cards, making it a better version of Cynthia, which is generally agreed upon as being the best Supporter in the format.
- Vikavolt’s Strong Charge Ability not only powers up your attackers, but it also thins the deck of Energy, making it so you are more likely to draw into Supporter cards to keep your strategy flowing, and makes it more likely for you to draw into your Items or Pokemon as well.
Thanks to these three factors, this deck works consistently in a format where most other decks are going to be struggling to setup and execute their strategy consistently.
Beyond its setup, it is also a ridiculously powerful concept. It’s not uncommon to hit for OHKO’s on GX Pokemon on turn 2 of the game, and by turn 3, you almost always are taking these OHKO’s. Between Strong Charge, manual attachments, and Stormy Winds, it’s very easy to get Energy onto your field. In this deck, I generally use my Stormy Winds Ability to get extra Energy attachments onto my Rayquaza GX. If you get two Vikavolt in play, you generally don’t need to do this, but if you only get one Vikavolt in play, then these Stormy Winds attachments can be vital in hitting for the damage numbers you need in the early game.
Once you get setup, which is usually turn 2 or 3, you generally take OHKO’s with Rayquaza GX for the rest of the game. The only decks that can really match this type of early game aggression in this format are Magnezone / Dusk Mane Necrozma GX decks and Malamar decks, but both of those decks are much less consistent at getting these early game attacks off as they don’t have the benefit of having such a great setup attack built into their deck as Rayquaza does with Tempest GX.
The raw power level of Rayquaza GX is the biggest draw headed into the weekend. If players crack out something like a 250 HP behemoth in Metagross GX, you can rest easy knowing that you can easily OHKO it, a luxury not most other decks will have.
Pokemon – 13
Trainers – 33
Energy – 14
I ended up settling on a very straight forward approach with this deck as far as the Pokemon line is concerned. I ended up just going with 4 Rayquaza GX, as I think it is by far the strongest attacker for the deck. I know Tapu Bulu GX has been seeing play in some lists as it can be solid for being able to power something up that can OHKO in a single turn, but from my experience, Rayquaza GX is able to do the same thing pretty consistently. Between Strong Charge, manual attachments, and Stormy Winds, I’m almost always attacking for a OHKO with Rayquaza GX on the second turn of the game.
I did have Tapu Bulu GX in my initial list, but I never really found myself wanting to attack for it, so it got cut.
If Tapu Bulu GX could OHKO a Gardevoir GX, then sure, I would play it to diversify my weaknesses. But it doesn’t, so it doesn’t really do anything to improve that matchup, so I don’t see the point of playing it.
3-3 Vikavolt was pretty standard in VikaBulu lists last season and it once again works well here. It also gives us a powerful non-GX attacker. It does 150 damage, and with the one Choice Band in the deck, it can go up to 180 damage and knock out some GX Pokemon.
Oranguru gives us both some extra draw power, as well as a non-discarding non-GX attacker, acting as our go to Hoopa counter. Marshadow SGL also gives us some extra Pokemon based draw, as well as our only option to disrupt our opponent’s hand. Finally, the deck plays a single copy of Tapu Lele GX, which is good in pretty much all stages of the game to find our Supporter cards.
The primary Supporter line is comprised of 4 Cynthia, 3 Lillie, and 2 Hala. I can’t think of a deck right now that shouldn’t play 4 Cynthia, it is the best draw Supporter in the game right now as it is effective at all stages of the game.
I was a little split on whether to play more Lillie or Hala, but ended up setting on going for a higher Lillie count, as the third copy of Lillie makes it more likely for me to open it without the aide of Tapu Lele GX. Additionally, as I tested more, I found games where I wouldn’t use Tempest GX because I was able to get a turn 2 Vikavolt without it, and then was able to stream Rayquaza GX for the rest of the game for easy wins. The scenario of not using Tempest GX in a game mostly applies to games in which you go first, as in those games, you can generally take knockouts before your opponent and keep your opponent behind in prizes for the entire game. When going second, you don’t have any options for attacking for damage on turn 1, so you will almost always use it unless you have Rare Candy/Vikavolt in hand already.
I don’t play any disruption Supporter cards. Neither Judge or Ilima are very effective in disrupting your opponent, so I don’t think they’re really worth playing, and we already have Marshadow which can have the same effect while not using our Supporter for the turn. I would rather focus on my own setup than disrupting my opponent in a format without good options for disruption.
I do have one copy of Volkner, which has tested really well. It lets you search out an Item and a Lightning Energy, so you can use Volkner to find the missing piece to the combo (Vikavolt via Ultra Ball or Rare Candy) to get out a turn 2 Vikavolt. Additionally, Volkner gives us a good way to access our 1-ofs such as Energy Recycler, Escape Rope, Field Blower, and Choice Band.
The Items are pretty straight forward. 4 Ultra Ball/3 Nest Ball is a pretty consistent search engine for decks like this. As we are discarding so many cards with Stormy Winds, Rescue Stretcher can be good for bringing back Pokemon that we’ve had to discard. Energy Recycler is of course in there to recover Energy to re-power up our field after we lose Energy from the field when a Rayquaza GX gets knocked out.
I went with a 2/1 split on Switch and Escape Rope. I think Switch in general is the better option as your opponent will likely have their biggest threat to you in their active position. It’s still nice to have the Escape Rope in case you can switch up something more vulnerable, or something that helps you in the prize trade, and with Volkner we can search it out when needed.
The one Field Blower is to get rid of Shrine of Punishment. It’s not a heavily invested counter, but we can search it out with Volkner and when our deck is thinned from Strong Charge, we will improve our probability of just drawing into the card. Without Octillery, the consistency of the Buzzwole/Garbodor Shrine deck is much less, so they will have a rougher time streaming Shrine of Punishment, so I think between staggering and Stadium removal, you can take a much lighter approach to that deck.
We keep the 7/7 Grass/Lightning split that was popular in the Turbo Rayquaza decks. This seems to be the right amount of Energy for Rayquaza decks, and the even split allows us to maximize our Strong Volt Abilities throughout a game, something a deck like VikaBulu never could do as it always had to play more copies of Grass than Lightning as Tapu Bulu GX attacked for [G][G][C], making it need a heavier focus on Grass Energy, which Rayquaza GX’s [G][L][C] attack relies on each Energy type equally.
Zoroark Variants – Zoroark variants are generally favorable, as they don’t OHKO you, while you OHKO them. The deck doesn’t dump too many Item cards when it’s getting setup, limiting Trashalanche to ineffective damage numbers. The only way I could see your prototypical Zoroark GX deck competing would be to start playing Tapu Lele UPR and Rainbow Energy, and using that with a Choice Band to OHKO Rayquaza GX, and even that probably isn’t enough.
With the loss of Brigette, Zoroark variants are a lot less consistent in getting setup in this format as well, making it more likely that your opponent will miss early game attacks, making it so that your opponent can fall so far behidn that there is no way for them to recover.
Metagross GX – This is a favored matchup as you are generally going to be quicker in your setup than they are. You can use Marshadow to disrupt their Algorithm GX as well. Put a priority on getting out two Vikavolt in this game and build up your Energy to OHKO them. Usually you naturally get to this OHKO number naturally by the time they get setup to attack. Even when they are setup, they still need to find Choice Band to take a OHKO. Most of the time they will have it, but not always. In games where they run hot and get multiple Metagross GX in play right away, while streaming Choice Bands, you will probably lose, but these games are the exception and not the rule.
Naganadel Beast Box – This is another great matchup, as they are unable to put significant pressure on you during the early game, so as long as you get setup, you will take the early prize lead and because of the nature of this deck, you just never give up that lead. The flaw for Beast Box in this matchup is that they have to wait until you take some knockouts to activate Beast Ring to get access to their OHKO attacks, which prevents them from putting on the early game pressure they would need to have a good matchup.
Gardevoir GX – This is a somewhat poor matchup, as Gardevoir GX OHKO’s a fully powered Rayquaza GX for a single Fairy Energy, but with that said, this isn’t in auto loss territory. Gardevoir GX is pretty inconsistent, so often times they won’t setup in time to keep up with you, and when they finally do get Gardevoir GX on line, you just OHKO them to close out the game. Against the Sylveon GX variants, you can use Let Loose with Marshadow to disrupt their first Magical Ribbon, and if you can follow that up with a knockout on Sylveon GX, you will have greatly stifled their setup.
Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX – Once again, another good matchup for similar reasons as to why Beast Box is a good matchup, and that is that Buzzwole decks have no way to properly pressure you in the early game, which allows you to take a prize lead that you never give up against them. Without Max Elixir, the quickest they can get into a OHKO attack is on turn 3, so you now have plenty of time to get setup without feeling overly pressured. Additionally, they lost Octillery, and now only play Oranguru for supplemental draw, so the consistency of Buzzwole decks is very compromised at the moment.
Malamar – On paper, if both decks setup, Malamar will almost always beat a Rayquaza GX deck as they can use Moon’s Eclipse GX to pull ahead in the game. In practice, Rayquaza GX is a heavy favorite in this matchup.
The problem with Malamar is that it just doesn’t setup very well in this format for a variety of reasons. Without Professor Sycamore, Max Elixir, and Professor’s Letter in format, it becomes much harder to get your Energy into the discard pile/on your Pokemon.
Additionally, without Float Stone, you have to have a Switch in hand to get into your attacker. In last season’s Standard format, you could attach a Float Stone, then play your Supporter to find your Malamar, and then since the Float Stone is already attached, if you find the Malamar, you can just retreat it after accelerating with Psychic Recharge. In this format, you can’t pull off that play, you need to hit the Switch in addition to your Malamar. With most draw Supporters only drawing up to six cards (with Copycat being the exception that can break higher), Malamar players now will often whiff getting their setup and attack off.
So with the Energy and retreating issues, what often ends up happening is the Malamar player will have their half powered up GX attacker sitting on their bench, waiting to be gotten into during their next turn, at which point you can approach the matchup two ways. Hunt down the GX Pokemon to take two prizes and force them to find a new attacker as well as a way to get it active, or accept the OHKO from something like Necrozma GX, but knockout a Malamar to limit their ability to setup further attackers. I generally go for Guzma on the GX if they won’t have access to enough Malamar on their next turn to power up another attacker, otherwise taking out a Malamar to compromise their board setup is generally better.
In regards to that Moon’s Eclipse GX turn that helps give Malamar the edge, we do play Escape Rope, so if you can find the Escape Rope and a Guzma, and just kind of sit on that hand, then you can use Escape Rope and then Guzma to take a knockout on it after they use it. Otherwise, if they have another GX, or if you’re on odd prizes trying to get back on even prizes, just using Guzma is an effective move after this turn.
Baby Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine of Punishments – The darling of Day 1 of the World Championships is back, and this time in much more compromised form. They no longer have Strong Energy for Baby Buzzwole, so its attacks have 20 less potential for damage. This deck was very reliant at the World Championship on a 2-2 Octillery line, allowing them to consistently draw through their deck and stream attackers. In this format, that’s gone, so the consistency is very lacking with this deck.
From what I’ve seen, the best lists are playing Magcargo in addition to Oranguru to try to fix this problem. This isn’t nearly as good as Octillery, but it can be effective. Knocking out the Magcargo will effectively shut down their engine, and then they will start whiffing attacks.
To deal with Shrine of Punishment, just try to stagger benching your Rayquaza GXs to limit the amount of damage you will be hit by it, and try to find your Field Blower to remove it from play when possible. Keep your Item use under control so Trashalanche is forced to 2HKO you. The other important thing to remember when approaching this matchup is that you have Vikavolt as a non-GX attacking option that you can use to force them to take four knockouts to win the game, just make sure that you have the Energy to take a OHKO with Rayquaza GX on field already (or a second Vikavolt in play) when you do make this move.
I think this pretty well covers all the big matchups you should expect to see during week 1. There are two common themes that I think show up across various matchups that put Rayquaza GX / Vikavolt into a strong position headed into the format.
- Decks that may have been favored in BKT-CES, such as Malamar and BuzzGarb, are no longer have a consistent enough engine to keep up.
- Decks such as Zoroark GX and Beast Box don’t have OHKO access in the early game, which allows Rayquaza to grab onto a lead and never give it up
The one thing that should also help it, is that some of it’s theoretically rougher matchups should have some rough times with other elements of the meta. For example, Gardevoir GX decks will get absolutely demolished by Metagross GX and Metal Beast Box decks. Similarly, Buzzwole/Garbodor (which I don’t think is even bad), will have similar problems against these decks, with Metagross GX healing off their attack damage, and Stakataka GX making them hit for barely any damage against Beast Box.
I think most random decks that players bring will likely fall into one of these two categories as well, either not having a consistent enough engine to keep up, or not being able to pressure with enough early game damage to keep up.
Headed into the first weekend of tournaments, I think Rayquaza GX/Vikavolt is the clear play as we try to figure out the new Standard format. It has a built in consistency engine with Tempest GX, and then once you use your GX, you have access to Hala for 7, a better Supporter than other decks can play. Additionally, once setup, Vikavolt thins the deck, making it much easier for you to draw into the cards you need in the later stages of the game.
I think it has pretty good matchups against what will likely be the other week 1 meta decks, and thanks to its raw power and consistency, I think it should do better than most decks at dealing with random, unexpected decks, as long as these aren’t decks that were specifically designed to beat Rayquaza.