Written by Sen Caubergh

Hello everyone! My name is Sen Caubergh.

I’m the one on the left.

Most of you know me as a Belgian Pokémon TCG Pokémon player. I study law in Diepenbeek, and I’m a full time Pokémon player when I’m not busy with school. I’ve been playing for Sector One for a couple of months, and this is my first article to bring the Pokémon TCG to the community!

The evolution of the meta game

After worlds, there were three major tournaments: Philadelphia, Danta Catarina, and Melbourne. Slowly but surely, the meta started to develop.

SPE Melbourne:

SPE Melbourne was won by Rayquaza GX. It was a new card from the Celestial Storm expansion and the card became super hyped. The card was already a good contender at the world championships and continued to do well at the next special event. Below is the card list for the winning deck by Vighnesh Murthy:

Rayquaza GX Vikavolt
Rayquaza GX and Vikavolt

 

As you can see, this list is very straight forward. The goal of this list is to set up a Vikavolt on turn two, accelerate a lot of energy on the board, and do tons of damage to your opponent. The deck is also very consistent. Even if you deaddraw, you can still use the Tempest GX attack at the cost of one grass energy, which lets you discard your hand and draw 10 cards!

Unfortunately, Rayquaza’s reign lasted for a very short period since it is countered by two easy techs:

Tapu Lele Dedenne
Tapu Lele and Dedenne

Rayquaza’s has a weakness to fairy type. Because of this, Tapu Lele can KO a fully charged Rayquaza with just a fairy energy and a Choice Band, which isn’t a difficult if you’re playing a deck with rainbow energy or unit energy fairy/dark/fighting.

Dedenne requires one more card to get a KO, but it can still KO a Rayquaza that doesn’t have three energy attached to it. As long as you have a lightning Pokémon on the bench, using Electrichain in combination with a Choice Band will deal 90 damage for a DCE on a Rayquaza GX. This is multiplied by two because of the fairy weakness.

Both these techs require some set up but give you an extra way to one shot a Rayquaza without utilizing a Pokémon GX.

Regional Santa Catarina:

The next big tournament was in Santa Catarina, Brazil.

This tournament was completely dominated by the Buzzwole/Garbodor deck. Seven out of the top eight decks were Buzz/Garb, and ever since this tournament, it is THE deck to beat, or to play yourself. Later, in Philadelphia, Buzz/Garb showed its power again and won the whole tournament.

Here is the winning card list by Caleb Gedemer:

Why is this deck so good? Buzz/Garb only plays non-GX Pokémon, which means that your opponent has to take 6 KO’s to win the game. Normally Pokémon TCG always consist of big GX mons that deal tons of damage. This deck, however, focuses on two-shotting or even three-shotting big GXs while effectively trading out the quick prize win.

Buzzwole, Shrine of Punishment and Magcargo

The first attack of Buzzwole is really good. Like, really really really good. Because you don’t play any Pokémon GX, your opponent is almost forced to put himself on four prizes. This means that Buzzwole has the bonus damage in his Sledgehammer attack. If you can’t KO the Buzzwole while you’re on four prizes, this card will swing the whole game. Also because of the fighting support with Diancie Prism, Beast Energy, and other staple cards like Choice Band and Shrine of Punishment, most of the GXs come in two shot range. This deck also doesn’t need Tapu Lele GX because it can utilize Magcargo and use Smooth Over every turn to draw exactly what you need. (Like Acro Bike, Lillie, Kukui, or Oranguru)

There is also a 1/1 line of Weavile is this deck because you play rainbow energy. If your opponent benches a lot of Pokémon with abilities, Weavile can OHKO everything!

Even if your opponent can get take another prize and remove the four prize boost, Garbodor can take advantage of their full discard pile with its Trashalance attack.

No matter what you do, you are always under pressure:

  • You’re forced to play around the sledgehammer turn
  • You can’t play a lot of item cards
  • You can’t over bench Pokémon with abilities
Garbodor
Garbodor

Regional Philadelphia:

For the rest of the meta, I’ll look at the results of the tournament in Philadelphia, since there were over 800 people participating.

After the Brazilian regionals, people had to adapt to the new Buzz/Garb deck, meaning that the Rayquaza GX deck changed. This deck is from Isaac Milaski:

As you can see, just playing big GXs is no longer a good strategy anymore since you will take an automatic loss to the Buzz/Garb deck. People had to adapt, and many decided to include Dhelmise in their Vikavolt decks.

Dhelmise Shining Lugia Deoxys
Dhelmise, Shining Lugia and Deoxys

 

Even the Malamar decks had to adapt to deal with the Buzz/Garb deck and decided to play Shining Lugia (bonus: it has fighting resistance) and Deoxys to make the matchup more favourable.

All these ‘counter’ cards have two things in common: They can one-shot Buzzwole and Garbodor, and they aren’t GXs. This is necessary to put the prize trade in your favour.

Malamar Variants:

Malamar Necrozma GX Marshadow
Malamar, Dawn Wing Necrozma GX, Marshadow and Necrozma GX

 

A very consistent deck is the Malamar deck, partly because you can play four copies of Ultra Ball and four copies of Mysterious Treasure. You can search what you want, whenever you want. It has also potential to one-shot everything in the game because Necrozma’s Prismatic Burst attack has no limitation. It tends to have a bad Zoroark matchup, but Marshadow can easily make up for that because of its fighting typing.

A good tech in the current format is probably Sudowoodo from Guardians Rising, since you make it harder for the Zoroark decks to one-shot your Marshadow. In order to one-shot the Marshadow, they need a Kukui and Choice Band combo.

Sudowoodo
Sudowoodo

Zoroark Variants:

Zoroark GX Lycanrox GX Banette GX
Zoroark GX, Lycanrox GX and Banette GX

 

One of the best cards in the Pokémon TCG has always been Zoroark, and of course it found a way to compete. Xander Pero came up with a Zoroark/Banette deck which is a really good Buzz/Garb matchup.

With it, you only need to play three supporter cards, or discard them with the trade ability, in order to put 120 damage on a Buzzwole. Next turn you can use the ability Shady Move to put another damage counter on the Buzzwole. Remember that four prize Garbador trick? If you KO the Buzzwole during your turn with your ability, follow that up by playing or discard another supporter card, and then take another KO with the Banette, you skip the fourth prize turn completely, avoiding Sledgehammer’s bonus.

The Zoroark/Lycanroc deck also adapted by adding in Weakness Policy and Devoured Field. By adding in these cards, you can hit for 130 damage with a Zoroark GX, which is the magical number to KO a Buzzwole while still countering the Shrine of Punishment stadium card. The Weakness Policy really helps against Buzzwole, making a potential one-shot impossible, even in the Sledgehammer turn.

Weakness Policy Devoured Field
Weakness Policy and Devoured Field

Other players decided to go for a full deck counter, instead of just a tech.

Metagross GX:

Metagross GX Max Potion
Metagross GX and Max Potion

 

This deck is tanky. It can deal 150 vanilla damage, it’s good late game, and has a build-in search GX attack so you don’t have to play many items, letting you play around Garbodor. Also if a Buzzwole comes close to KO’ing Metagross, you can use a max potion and use Geotech System three times, forcing the Buzz/Garb player to start over.

New decks/Adaptations since the release of Dragon’s Majesty:

Reshiram GX Hooh GX Fiery Flint
Reshiram GX, Ho-oh GX and Fiery Flint

 

The Ho-oh Kiawe deck has some more support and gets a new partner! Kiawe is a great card to use with Reshiram GX on turn one, letting you attach four fire energy right away. You can use the GX attack on your second turn, and also power up a Ho-oh GX with the help of the new Fiery Flint card! Victini Prism also joins the party by replacing Salazzle GX and doing almost the same job as a non-GX Pokémon.

My Meta Conclusions:

  • Obviously Buzz/Garb is the deck that you need to either beat, play or have at least a 50/50 matchup against.
  • Zoroark GX combined with a partner is a really safe play if you’re experienced, since it gives you so many options to have 50/50s across the whole board.
  • Malamar variants are also very safe since they’re naturally very consistent and have a decent Buzz/Garb matchup, while also being able to one-shot Zoroarks.
  • Vikavolt decks can beat everything if they get set up. If you can get rid of the inconsistency, it’s a really good contender.

Tier list (according to me):

Tier 1: Buzzwole/Garbodor
Tier 2: Zoroark, Malamar & Vikavolt decks
Tier 3: Metagross, Ho-oh Kiawe, Spreaddecks
Tier 4: Other decks

My list is based off of the results of the previous regionals. Every deck in this meta can win or lose against everything. Every game has to be played to know who will come out on top.

Thanks for reading my meta guide, I hope it’s been helpful! The deck lists are copied from Limitless TCG, where they provide amazing access to the decks and results! If you’d like to follow my TCG adventure, you can find me on Twitter at @SenCaubergh_!