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State of the Meta — December 2018

The Roanoke Regionals may have come to a close, but the Anaheim Regional Championships and the Markham League Cup are still on the horizon. Players will want to take time to study the popular decks and make plans for these coming events. Here at PokeGoldfish we've taken the time to break down the decks used to see what's popular, what rogue decks found success, and what we expect trends mean for the future. Buckle down trainers, there's a LOT to cover!

Blacephelon

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There's no denying that Blacephelon decks are not only doing well, they may become the dominant force in the meta game. 27% of decks in the top 68 were Blacephelon variants with Tran Nyugen piloting one to second place and Chris Siakala piloting one to eighth place. If the deck you intend to play has a hard time against Blacephelon it's probably better leaving it home. It's popular, powerful, and is going to see play at any major event for the foreseeable future. It can take down stall decks (we'll talk about them later) with big enough swings and Burst GX destroys them in sudden death. It comes with a simple straightforward game plan to attain victory which is always solid for consistency in tournament.

So how do you take it on? First as you can see to the right, Sceptile with its ability Power of Nature completely shuts it down. Rob Stephens did attempt to run a Spectile Stall Deck that did break top 68 but only manage to hit 60th place. Still this rogue deck had the right idea in trying to cause problems for Blacephelon! 

Sceptile CES 10

The other major counter can be put simply: Water beats Fire. Matt Vuchichevich piloted a deck that used Lugia-GX as well as Suicune-GX to 53rd place. However there's plenty of options for water decks in this current format including:

Okay that's MORE than enough of a list to get the idea across that there are plenty of options for Water decks in the current meta. A proper concept that works well with a Water Pokemon could be the rogue to look for at the next big tournament so be prepared!

Lost March

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Bill's Maintenance CES 126The Twitch Chat was buzzing when they heard a Lost March deck had gone undefeated for all of day one at the Roanoke Regionals. Charlie Lockyer was able to bring Lost March to fifth place. Noel Totomoch and Connor Finton were able to pilot the deck to 20th and 58th respectively. When the cards from Lost Thunder were revealed, many expected this deck to be the kind of deck to sweep up the format but with an abysmal presence at the Latin American Nationals, only one was even able to crack top 68. So what's the deal with Lost March?

Many players are learning how to better play against Lost March decks. Taking out a Hoppip and simply leaving a Jumpluff able to attack makes it more difficult for the opponent to actually get their major damage set up as an example. Another issue purely comes from consistency. Sometimes it seems like a Lost March deck absolutely steam rolls, a few Professor Elm's Lecture at the beginning of the game, Lost Blender hitting good targets, and maybe even Trumbeak hits a few supporters and disrupts your opponent. Other games the deck takes too long to actually get set up, too many Jumpluff end up in hand (and no one runs Bill's Maintenance to counter that issue) and gets steamrolled itself. 

Despite these issues there's no doubt that players will still be running this deck so it can't be ignored. Knowing how to play against it with your own deck is the best way to handle it, but even a single Shuckle-GX added into a deck can horrifically stall the opponent. Some Lost March decks are even playing Super Boost Energy to try and counter it. There are also players using Machoke to try and stop damage to the bench or spread decks which generally wipe the floor with Lost March decks. Keep an eye out for Lost March but don't expect it to make too big of a splash.

Decidueye-GX

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Franco Llamas and Stephen Hunter were able to take a deck based around Decidueye-GX to third and fourth place respectively and they weren't the only ones to make it work well either. Outside of stall decks (I do promise we'll get to those soon) Decidueye-GX variants were the second most used deck type in the top 68. The deck also found success at the Latin America Internationals and were commonly used. The deck takes Zororak-GX alongside Alolan Ninetales-GX to give it draw power and the ability to get out Decidueye-GX fast to offer serious consistency. 

Dialga LOT 127How to take this deck on? We recently spotlighted a deck that uses Porygon-Z to counter decks that use Rare Candy but there could be another potential option. Joe Turrentine piloted a deck that used Dialga with Turn Back Time that could also be a curious rogue option as well! You can also force the opponent to at least not be able to hit the bench with Machoke from Guardians Rising and its ability Daunting Pose:

AbilityDaunting Pose
Prevent all damage done to your Benched Pokémon by your opponent’s attacks. Your opponent’s attacks and Abilities can’t place damage counters on your Benched Pokémon.

You can also try to use Slaking with the ability Lazy to try and block out the opponent from using Decidueye-GX or any other Pokemon from using abilities, but the one player who ran a Slaking deck at Roanoke Regionals didn't make day 2, so keep that in mind.

The deck is something many players should consider giving a shot if they want to make day 2, as it's strong, consistent, and an excellent overall choice. Expect to see this deck being played and consider if you're trying to craft something new or rogue, think about how you will take on this deck. 

Stall Decks

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Unown LOT 91As promised, it's time to discuss stall decks! Nine Stall Decks managed to hit top 68 with Regigigas variants being the most popular chosen, followed by Steelix variants and rounded off at the end by Shuckle variants. These decks main goal is to hold your opponent until they run out of cards while making it difficult to have your own Pokemon knocked out. 77% of the decks also ran one of the new Unown released in Lost Thunder, specifically with the ability Hand.

AbilityHAND
Once during your turn (before your attack), if this Pokémon is your Active Pokémon, and if you have 35 or more cards in your hand, you may use this Ability. If you do, you win this game. 

Stalling games can end up with the opponent having quite a large hand, and a game was actually won usining Unown live on stream so while it's an unusual choice, it's a useful way to try and close out games if the opponent gives up trying to attack and tries to just hold out and use Cynthia or cards similar to make the game last as long as possible. It also makes games where you have to face against another stall deck possible.

A lot of players are talking about stall decks and worry they may choke the format but when looking at the data this just doesn't seem like the case. The highest placing Stall Deck was piloted by Aaron Morgan just missed out on top 18. Only two of the Stall Decks were able to even pass the threshold of top 32. While yes, a solid number were able to make day 2, most placed very low. The truth of Stall Decks are that yes, they can be effective but with Malarmar decks (which we'll get to soon) as well as decks that simply don't need a lot of energy can take them down if they're played correctly. Alolan Muk also stops the abilities of a lot of basic Pokemon used in these decks and is finding more and more use with Ditto Prism Star to aid it. You can expect to see these decks and need to learn how to combat them, but in all honesty they're not likely to place high if the current trends continue. 

Gardevoir-GX

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Without a lot of Steel Types in the format currently as well as Alolan Ninetales-GX making it easier than ever to run Stage 2 decks, Gardevoir-GX has been seeing more and more play. In fact Jimmy Pendarvis used it to win Roanke Regionals itself! Using things like Super Boost Energy or going up against energy heavy decks like Malamar or Vikavolt variants. The deck obviously works with the success it found at Roanoke but also its use during the Latin American Internationals to mild success. 

Alolan Dugtrio UPR 79

The obvious way to beat the deck would be to take something with a Steel type and try to take it down, but every single top 68 deck also ran Solgaleo-GX to avoid this issue. So how to counter the deck? Joe Turrentine's Dialga Deck we mentioned earlier looks like a solid choice, but it also needs a lot of energy so it falls right into the trap of Gardevoir-GX. Yet again Porygon-Z could stop this deck cold so we need to mention it here as well. There's also the possibility for low energy decks that simply can hit hard and fast to take it out as well. Like we did for Water types, let's take a look at the possibilities.

  • Alolan Dugtrio with Gold Rush (Avoids Energy attachment entirely, hit fast and hard)
  • Registeel (Which was a rogue deck that stomped Granbull) 
  • Solgaleo
  • Empoleon (The Metal version this time)
  • Metagross (Plus Steven's Resolve without your turn ending)

Especially after it took a big first place, you have to expect this deck to see use going into the future until the if and when it putters out. It's not a bad idea to consider playing this deck, just be aware people will be on the look out for it.

 

Malamar

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Ultra Necrozma-GX FLI 95Malamar decks don't seem to be going anywhere; Psychic Recharge is just such a strong ability and can be used to power up a lot of decks. Becket Pierce took a purely Psychic focused variant to 5th place at Roanoke Regionals while Dalton Didelot ran an Ultra Necrozma-GX to place 7th. With cards like Mysterious Treasure and Acro Bike easily getting Psychic energies thinned from the deck and into the discard pile and right into whatever main attacker you want to use.

We can see a trend with Malamar decks however: the simpler they are the more success they seem to find. The less odd cards here and there to worry on the better for placement as seen at Roanoke. Another interesting thing to note is that only one Malamar Spread Deck, piloted by Hunter Harless, made an appearance in the top 68 after they were seen heavily at the Latin American Internationals. With so many Blacephelon decks running around its not too much of a surprise, basic Pokemon with high HP tend to stop these decks in their tracks, and there simply wasn't as many Lost March decks to come up against where this variant can shine. There is also the Shining Lugia variant as seen previously from Sen Caubergh that saw success that could pop into a tournament and surprise.

To put it simply: a Malamar deck kept simple will almost always be able to find moments to work and do well in a tournament setting. They're very consistent, their energy attachment methods can break past stall decks, and they simply are going to be a small staple of the format for the time to come.

Buzzwole

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Buzzwole decks seem to be on a decline. They made up only 8% of the top 68, and the highest placing was piloted by Lance Bradshaw only to make 27th. While this isn't shabby by any means, the deck simply isn't pulling in the results seen at the Latin American Internationals nor the special event that took place in France. But why is this?

To put it bluntly, it seems right now that Blacephelon is better. Not to mention the presence of Malamar decks will always end up with the Pokemon getting hit for weakness one way or another. The idea that we wont see anymore Buzzwole doesn't seem likely; the deck can still reach day 2 and players want points, but there's a real chance this deck might be on the decline with fewer and fewer players using it while looking for stronger placing decks.

Granbull

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Tapu Koko PR-SM SM30

Granbull made a serious splash at the Latin American Internationals, but how did it do at Roanoke? The highest placing Granbull Deck was piloted by Simon Trottier-Lacasse and reached a respectable 16th place, but the other three players didn't place higher than 36th. In contrast, three Granbull decks placed within the top 16 at the Latin American Internationals. Is the deck losing steam or is there something else this lower budget deck is running into?

At the Latin American Internationals, there were far more spread decks. With Tapu Koko having 110 HP one perfectly placed All Out dishes enough damage to take them down. There were also much less Blacephelon decks to contend with as well. Granbull has the capability to take down Blacephelon-GX but it needs a Choice Band attached, and it can be killed right back by using 3 Fire Energy which isn't hard for the deck to manage. 

Despite this it's unlikely this deck is going anywhere. With a bit of luck and some serious thinking, this deck can manage to set up fast and just crush which is quite wonderful. The biggest thing that could take down this deck would be a resurgence of Metal decks. We mentioned the rogue Registeel deck that was the only defeat Nicolas Galaz saw day one at the Latin American Regionals, but there's other possibilities as well. It will be interesting to see where this deck ends up! 

Rayquaza-GX + Vikavolt

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This deck was unable to truly make much headway at the event. The highest placement was from Justin Kulas who piloted the deck to 32nd. With Gardevoir-GX and [[Granbull] being popular, Rayquaza with its Fairy Type weakness simply has a hard time. Vikavolt itself is also unfortunately weak against Fighting and Buzzwole decks are still common enough to take it down quickly. This deck is well loved, and it would be surprising to not see it at all in a tournament, but simply put the meta is currently unkind to it.

Zoroark Control + Spread Decks 

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Two decks were conspicuously missing from the top 68 at Roanoke Regionals so we will briefly address them here. First Zoroark Control. After it seemed to dominate the Latin American Internationals many were expecting it to come to Roanoke Regionals and do the same. That expectance however is exactly why the deck didn't really show. Without the element of surprise, players had cards like Faba added to their decks to help, and almost every player was expecting control and/or stall decks in general and were sure to prepare for them. 

For Passimian Spread this is likely just where we find the current meta game with such a large amount of Blacephelon decks running rampant. Blacephelon-GX has a lot of HP and is a Basic Pokemon, and simply can set up and shred this deck before it can make a full impact. Unless Lost March becomes even more popular, this deck is likely going to take a huge tumble in use.

The Rogues

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We've already mentioned almost all of the rogue decks when appropriate through this article outside of one which two of the cards from we used as the featured cards for this section. We're going to quickly list these rogue decks with links to their deck lists and their placements to study for those interested.

As you can see, none of these decks placed particularly high, but they did all make it to day 2. There may be something worth looking at in these decks however to see if there are better ways to implement their strategies to beat common meta threats.

Future Rogues

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After taking a look at the meta, what future rogue decks could we see popping up to try and take advantage of where things currently are? We have four ideas we want to take a look at and briefly discuss why they may end up making a solid impact or not.

Shuckle LOT 16Ho-Oh-GX & Salazzle-GX: At the special event in France, two decks with a major focus on Ho-Oh-GX and Salazzle-GX powered up by Kiawe were seen. Patrick Landis was able to place 16th with the deck, but will this deck see more play once again after seeing basically none recently? The honest answer is likely no. The deck can work, but why play a deck that needs the risk of Kiawe when Blacephelon decks can manage far easier and with more constancy?

Tropical Shake: With the new Shuckle introduced in Lost Thunder, Alolan Exeggutor can set up faster than ever with Tropical Shake. Simply play two, use its ability Fresh Squeezed, and you're already attacking full force! With Net Ball and Professor Elm's Lecture so easily searching out the Pokemon you need, this deck should be able to get rolling very consistently. Its real problem is just how prominent Blacephelon is. With Fire Weakness all over the deck, it's going to be burned out before it can get going.

Glaceon-GX: Roberto Gomes Coregio Junior was able to get 10th place at the Latin American Internationals using a deck that combined Zoroark-GX and Glaceon-GX and in this current meta, a deck with a strong Water Pokemon has a lot of room to shine. This and any other water deck could suddenly jump up in the results, so for sure this is a smart thing to look out for or maybe build yourself.

Alolan Dugtrio Gold Rush: We mentioned Alolan Dugtrio earlier, but this deck, which is incredibly cheap to boot, has the opportunity to try and make a break out soon. It can take out Fairy type decks in a format where we have two major ones. It ignores energy attachment, making stall decks cry. It can reasonably out speed Lost March. Plus it can crank out a lot of damage fast to try and deal with high health basics. Need we say more? It obviously has similar issues against Blacephelon, but it's still very possible this deck could get players to day 2 and beyond.


Now it's time to hear what you think! Disagree with our assessments on the current meta decks?  Is there a rogue deck just waiting to dominate? Let us know in the comments below or let me know directly over on Twitter @LiteralGrill. Until next time, stay lit trainers!

- Linnea "LiteralGrill" Capps


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