The Oceania International Championships kick off TOMORROW and we’ve got a special article written by our own resident Japanese player in Malaysia, Yuki Fujimori!
Yuki has graciously agreed to do a write-up of the current metagame with Team Up legal, from a Japanese player’s perspective. Without further ado, let’s go straight into it!
Hello Trainers! My name is Yuki Fujimori, currently based in Malaysia and actively playing Pokemon there. You may have seen my name somewhere on the internet before, but this time Team Rainbow Wing kindly gave me an opportunity to write down my thoughts.
Now it’s just before OCIC, and I, as a Japanese, will try to summarize the current standard top tier decks by referring to the previous Japanese winning lists.
As you may know, the cards in “Team Up” are originally from Japanese expansions named “Dark Order” and “Tag Bolt,” which were released in November and December respectively.
Just after that, however, they have released more expansions such as “Night Unison” and “Full-metal Wall,” meaning it’s been becoming more difficult for foreign players to catch up with the latest information about Japanese decks, in the advanced and rather unique sales strategy of TPC Japan.
OK, anyway, this time I will be summarizing the Japanese decks and metagame relevant to OCIC format.
The biggest tournament held from December 8th (Tag Bolt released) until January 11th (Night Unison released) was the “Pokeca Memo Cup,” a 3 on 3 team match tournament, where a lot of famous and top-tier players participated.
The Day 2 decks are as below:
I will borrow some sample lists from the result above, and some City League winning lists from:
Pikachu&Zekrom GX is one of the most powerful decks in the current metagame. Even after other expansions have been released, this deck is still dominating the format.
However, some of the current Pikachu&Zekrom GX decks are more focused on the first-turn action, no longer running Zapdos/Jirachi combo together.
Sample (from Pokeca Memo Cup)
Sample (City League Tokyo winning list on Jan 13th *incl new cards)
It is to note that Deddene GX is of course not yet released in English.
Most of the latest Pikachu&Zekrom GX decks are running 4 copies of Energy Switches to achieve turn 1 or 2 Full Blitz, along with Tapu Koko Prism Star and Thunder Mountain.
The biggest reason they are getting focused on the T1 move is, the Pika/Zek + Zap/Jirachi mixed decks are not able to catch up with the speed of a turn 1 or 2 Full Blitz.
Games almost always end after turn 1, especially when followed up with a Marshadow.
The card which interrupts the opponent’s next turn. T1 or T2 Full Blitz + Let Loose is a devastating combo to most of the decks in the format. Another important role of this is to keep the board advantage in a mirror match: Even if you go first in a mirror and can attach two energies to Pikachu&Zekrom GX, the player going second may attack your active Pika/Zek with his/her own Pika/Zek on their turn 1. In order to prevent this, attaching two energies to Pika/Zek and Let Loosing is extremely strong and an important disruptive play in the mirror match.
One of the biggest additions to the format from Team Up is the Jirachi/Escape Board combo. Absol’s ability prevents Jirachi from retreating, which slows down the opponent’s strategy. This card is especially effective against Zapdos/Jirachi. This is also effective against Malamar because of its heavy-dependence on Escape Board.
Its ability stops the Ability of Prism Star cards. When it comes to Pika/Zek decks, this means the opponent’s Tapu Koko Prism Star is rendered useless in a mirror match. The mirror match depends on whether you can attack faster, so the Wobbuffet helps you by slowing down the opponent’s move.
Tapu Koko GX
Tapu Koko GX is one of the most useful counter-attack in a mirror match. Once your opponent has 5 or more energies in the field, Tapu Thunder GX will blow away the opponent’s Pikachu&Zekrom GX. It makes up a brilliant combination with Tapu Koko Prism Star, easily coming into play requiring only 1 energy attachment from the hand.
Quite a gimmicky card against Buzzwole and/or Marshadow GX which will be mentioned more below. It is to note however that it can be fetched by Volkner.
vs Zapdos/Jirachi 50:50 (depending on build)
vs Ultra Necrozma 50:50 (differ whether going first or not)
vs Zoroark/Lycanroc 55:45
Zapdos / Jirachi
Zapdos/Jirachi has been the biggest invention from the Japanese expansion “Dark Order.” Invented by Team Torchic, this deck has been one of the most popular decks in Japan. Zapdos/Jirachi is especially strong against evolution-based decks such as Malamar, Zoroark/Lycanroc, Blacephalon/Naganadel and even other non-GX decks such as Granbull.
Another advantage of this deck is its flexibility. Because of the simplicity of its strategy, it’s far easier to add some tech cards compared to other decks. That’s the reason this deck is still one of the most popular decks in the format.
Sample (City League Osaka winning list on Jan 13th *incl new cards)
Using Electropower in this deck is more difficult than doing so in Pikachu&Zekrom GX, because it needs to use Thunderous Assault at least two times to knock out huge Tag Team GX Pokemon, and also needs at least two copies of Electropower if you try to 2HKO Tag Team GX Pokemon together with Choice Band.
When facing an evolution-based deck such as Malamar or Zoroark/Lycanroc, it’s important to have a game plan on how to take the prizes throughout the game from to the early-game stages.
Some of the Zapdos/Jirachi players have been choosing to play Ultra Beasts, especially Buzzwole. The purpose is apparently to counter Pikachu&Zekrom GX and Zoroark GX. One of the advantages of this deck is, also, the availability of switching cards. In single prize attacker decks sometimes Buzzwole just gets stuck in the Active, but this deck allows you to take Buzzwole back easily to your bench to continue attacking with other Pokemon.
Some even play Nihilego to use the opponent’s GX attack or Thunderous Assault. When they play Ultra Beasts in this deck, Beast Energy is likely to be played too.
Shrine of Punishment
It deals additional damage to GX Pokemon, but not so effective in a mirror match. At least one copy of a stadium card is sometimes important to counter the opponent’s Prism Star Stadium anyway.
vs Pikachu&Zekrom GX 50:50 (depending on build)
vs Ultra Necrozma 55:45
vs Zoroark/Lycanroc 60:40
Ultra Necrozma GX / Malamar
Malamar decks have been one of the most powerful decks in the format since it was introduced into the card pool. Now that our format is facing the enormous power of Tag Team GX, Malamar players are shifting more to Ultra Necrozma GX builds. Thanks to Viridian Forest, it has become easier to fetch Basic Metal Energy for Photon Geyser. Photon Geyser is the biggest reason to play this deck, since it’s one of the only ways we have, to efficiently OHKO Tag Team GXs.
Sky Scorching Light GX is also a strong attack, especially against Zapdos/Jirachi. Together with Giratina’s Distortion Door ability, it can swipe away Jirachis on the opponent’s bench.
Sample (from Pokeca Memo Cup)
A handy attacker against Pikachu&Zekrom GX and Zoroark. It shines especially in early-game against Pikachu&Zekrom GX, because once Tag Bolt GX attack gets ready, it’s difficult to over come the situation and race prizes.
You need to be careful as your opponent is likely to be running Alolan Muk.
The best way to help you run multiple types of basic energies in a deck. In this deck, its discarding effect is also useful to put Psychic Energies into the discard pile.
It especially shines when fighting against non-GX decks. The combo with Sky-Scorching Light GX is devastating for Jirachi to take the last few prizes if your opponent is not careful about benching them in multiples.
The importance of these switching cards has been becoming bigger because some play Absol as a tech against the Jirachi and Escape Board combo. Unfortunately Absol sometimes prevents Inkay from retreating as well, which can be avoided if you have Switch or Escape Rope.
vs Pikachu&Zekrom GX 50:50
vs Zapdos/Jirachi 45:55
vs Zoroark/Lycanroc 45:55
Zoroark GX / Lycanroc GX
Zoroark/Lycanroc is known to be a very consistent deck, and so it is in this new metagame. Trade Ability is still the best card-drawing system and Bloodthirsty Eyes with Dangerous Rogue GX attack is always a big threat for benched GX Pokemon.
In fact, Fighting Pokemons are in a good position in this metagame because of Pikachu&Zekrom GX, which makes ZoroarkLycanroc considered to be the “play” in the format.
However, Zapdos/Guzma, an infamous bench-attacking combo, is always a headache for evolution decks such as Zoroark/Lycanroc.
Sample (from Pokeca Memo Cup)
This is MUST when trying to counter an early-game Pikachu&Zekrom GX through Lycanroc’s Dangerous Rogue GX attack.
Some play Counter Gain and Multi Switch together, but Counter Gain has higher priority in my opinion so far.
Not a tech card, but a key card in this format because you will use Alolan Muk in almost all the matches, to stop Marshadow from Pika/Zek, Jirachi from Zapdos/Jirachi and Marshadow GX from Malamar. Ditto Prism Star is a “Basic” choice for this option, but Alolan Grimer also can be considered.
Now the number of single prize attackers is decreasing, then Devoured Field could be replaced to Field Blower. Weakness Policy is a strong option for Pika/Zek to fight against Zoroark/Lycanroc, which will lead to lose the game directly. One copy of a Stadium can be kept in the deck to counter the opponent’s Prism Star Stadium.
vs Pikachu&Zekrom GX 45:55
vs Zapdos/Jirachi 40:60
vs UltraNecrozma 55:45
Based on my observation on the Japanese metagame, the four decks above will be the most popular decks in OCIC, or even after that. Still, as you may realize, Pikachu&Zekrom GX will be the most dominant deck in Melbourne. You will also see other potential decks such as Blacephalon/Naganadel, Jirachi/Charizard and Counter Koko/Passimian, but almost all the decks will have a question in common: “How to defeat that Pikachu.”
Let’s see how the tournament will be. Good luck to all the Pokemon players gathering at Melbourne!
Written by: Yuki Fujimori
Edited by: Malik Hisyam