By Kashvinder Singh
We’ve always heard the old saying, “This deck is the play for the tournament”. Sometimes it was, and other times it didn’t quite pan out. A deck may get hyped up to the point where everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, but would that come with a big cost?
This article will attempt to help newer players, returning players and current players, looking for something new, with ten very different decks they might want to invest in for the next few months or perhaps the next year or so.
With the release of Team Up, we’ve seen a few new decks that were hyped up doing as well as many expected, and a few others not living up to the hype. As Pokémon TCG players, there’s always been different kinds of decks players might choose, from the aggro decks to the set-up decks, the stall decks or even the rogue/anti-meta decks.
A side note, this was done with the Standard format in mind as Expanded is somewhat non-existent in our local scene.
A few more notes on how these decks are to be rated:
The value of cards in these decks are taken from Troll and Toad and prices are in USD to make it easier to convert to Malaysian Ringgit, Singapore Dollar, UK Pound or whatever you may be using. Prices are as of 12 March 2019. Cards used are the lowest possible rarity and basic energies are not priced.
Championship Points (CPs) collected are from Oceania International (top 64), Collinsville Regional (top 64), Cannes SPE (top 32) and 15 League Cups – results taken from Pokéstats data. The big three will take the term “IRS” while the League Cup events will take the term “LC” to make easier reading.
Player Ranking – professional players ranked the 10 decks according to the ones they though were best in this current format. For those interested, the idea was adopted from Pokéstat’s Deck Power Ranking to be updated before any big tournaments, link is here.
For rotation, we assume all cards from SUM to CIN are rotating. This may not be the case once rotation hits.
The Ten Decks!
To showcase the decks a new player might want to try or something a returning player might want to invest in, I decided to pick out ten different decks, each with its own style of play and characteristics.
All of them were chosen with a view that these decks, on any day, might end up being the play of a certain tournament. They were also chosen for having helped players score points in the first month of Team Up being legal. The ten decks are:
The Aggression Deck – Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel
The Consistent Deck – Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX
The Stall Deck- Regigigas/Hoopa
The Best Deck in Format (BDIF) – Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
The Anti-Meta Deck – Buzzwole-GX/Lucario-GX
The Accelerator Deck – Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar
The Single Prize Attacker Deck – Zapdos/Jirachi
The Spread Deck – Passimian/Tapu Koko
The Set-Up Deck – Charizard/Ninetales-GX
The Budget Deck – Lost March
The Best Deck in Format
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
Gustavo Wada – Cannes SPE, 1st Place
Total CPs scored: 4,160 + 751 = 4,911cp (1st)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 21 out of 60 cards = 35% (6th)
Pro Player Rank: 1st
Let’s go big here and start off with what I believe is the best deck in the format, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. This deck has many Lighting type attackers but the main idea is to get PikaZek powered up for some big KOs, possibly even four prizes with its GX attack. I had this deck down initially as the Tag Team Deck but it has proven its claim as the best deck with its results.
Being the best deck (statically) comes with a heavy price. The Pokémon section of the PikaZek deck costs just as much as the entire deck of the 3rd most expensive deck on this list, that being Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar. It may be the most expensive deck but if you have the budget, this is the one to get! The prices for some of the cards aren’t likely to drop too with how well the deck has been doing.
Not only has the deck scored the most points in IRS events so far, it has also scored the most points in LC events so far, proving its worth as the best deck in the eyes of many, including to our pro players who helped with the ranking. It doesn’t have a clear cut favourable match as it depends on the deck itself, but when it does set-up, it can take down just about anything, even it’s worst matchups. It does tend to struggle against single prize attackers though.
The downside of PikaZek is that it actually is one of the decks most affected by the next rotation, even though the core of the deck will stay in the game for another two years to come. The likes of Tapu Koko-GX, Guzma, Nest Ball and Choice Band are what the deck will find the hardest to replace come September but with the likes of Dedenne-GX and a few more Lighting support coming, it might have a better chance of replacing the rotating cards than other decks on this list.
Short Term: Great investment if you have the budget
Long Term: If you plan to stick with one deck for the next two years, this is the investment you might want to make.
The Consistent Deck
Danny Altavilla – Collinsville Regional, 2nd Place
Total CPs scored: 3,050 + 704 = 3,754cp (4th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 34 out of 60 cards = 56.66% (8th)
Pro Player Rank: 2nd
Next up is an old favourite, Zoroark-GX. Zoroark’s Trade lets you discard one card to draw two. With four Zoroarks, that’s discard four for eight cards, which means you will most likely draw into the cards you need for that turn (or with Mallow/Magcargo, you will definitely draw into what you need for sure). ZoroRoc as a deck is quite flexible at times too, seeing play with the likes of Weavile, Lucario-GX and even Alolan Ninetales GX at any time, making it a great counter to any threat.
ZoroRoc is still a favourite of many, including our pro players (all of them voted ZoroRoc inside the Top 3). It’s the most popular deck to have scored points (54 players) and it scored the most points behind PikaZek at LCs. It did get back to back 2nd places at the Oceania Internationals and Collinsville Regional, just to show how strong the deck is (even though it doesn’t actually have a strong showing in these IRS events). And with PikaZek and other Zoroarks around, either combination of Lycanroc-GX or Lucario-GX will turn that matchup in your favour.
For a long while Zoroark-GX decks were not the easiest things to get. That has changed as this ZoroRoc list is the cheapest deck to get out of the Top 5 decks (CP wise) on our list, making it a great choice for someone looking to score as many points as possible. You could even drop the Lucario-line to go with just ZoroRoc and that would save you US$21!
If you’re a newer player or a returning player, I personally would not recommend Zoroark-GX as it will be rotating in September, which means this deck will be gone completely. That is unless you’re living in an area where Expanded is a thing.
Short Term: Good for the next few months if you’re chasing for CP. Would not recommend if you’re a new player though.
Long Term: Avoid it unless you’re in a place that has expanded, then it might be a good investment
The Accelerator Deck
Austin Ellis – Collinsville Regional, 20th Place
Total CPs scored: 3,750 + 424 = 4,174cp (3rd)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 16 out of 60 cards = 26.66% (2nd)
Pro Player Rank: 4th
Malamar’s Psychic Recharge may be the best ability in the game now, allowing you to recharge energy to one or even two attackers in one go. The fact that Ultra Necrozma-GX can take big one-hit KOs and also multiple prizes with its Sky Scorching Light GX makes this deck a big threat to any opponent.
Malamar has had strong showing in the IRS events even though it’s far off from the other three top decks when it comes to points scored in the LC events. 3rd most CP scored shows that it is a deck to be taken seriously, even if the big results has not shown up yet. This list has a strong match-up against ZoroRoc and PikaZek while a Malamar list with Tapu Koko or a Spell Tag-focused deck might have a good matchup against Zapdos. It can lose out if you get the dreaded “dead Malamar hands”.
The deck is one of the more costly ones though, but a big part of the reason is due to Jirachi. If you were to build the deck with more Tapu Lele-GX and Marshadow, you could save yourself $32, which would make the deck the 6th most expensive on the list and not far off from ZoroRoc’s total cost. Admittedly, the deck is a lot cheaper now than it was when it first showed up so now might be the right time to invest in it.
Need another good reason to invest in Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar? This deck list is the 2nd least affected by the upcoming rotation in September with the likes of Guzma, Nest Ball, Marshadow and Marshadow-GX (which this list doesn’t play) being the most difficult to replace. Nothing from the new set might be an instant inclusion to the deck but the fact that this deck did finish 2nd in the latest Japanese Champions League should prove why it’s still a good choice to invest in.
Short Term: Great investment for a deck that will still do well even with the release of the next set
Long Term: Also a great investment for the long term as the core of the deck will still be around for the next year and having a strong answer to almost any deck is very appealing to players
The Single Prize Attacker Deck
Andrew Mahone – Collinsville Regional, 22nd Place
Total CPs scored: 3,840 + 565 = 4,405cp (2nd)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 20 out of 60 cards = 33.33% (5th)
Pro Player Rank: 3rd
If you don’t agree with PikaZek being the best deck, then very likely this is the best deck in your opinion. Zapdos has a simple but effective game plan, hit fast and hit hard. More often that not Zapdos will pick up the first prize and some decks tend to struggle with the speed and also the prize trade since Zapdos only gives up one prize, especially against GX-focused decks.
Of the Top 4 decks, Zapdos saw the least amount of placings but it did still better than the other two not named PikaZek, with 4,405 points scored (and that amount will keep rising). Any deck that takes a while to setup tends to get punished by the speed of Zapdos.
But of course, being one of the more popular decks make it the 2nd most expensive deck on this list. Zapdos, Jirachi, Jolteon, Guzma and Shrine are all heavily priced so if you’re able to afford those, it’d make a great first deck for new or returning players.
The September rotation does hit the deck more than PikaZek, losing Guzma, Nest Ball, Escape Rope and Choice Band, all vital to the strategy of moving Zapdos to the Active every turn. The deck may eventually mesh into the PikaZek toolbox style deck if there aren’t many switching cards released in the next few sets (or switching Guzma over to Tate & Liza for the time being).
Short Term: Like PikaZek, great investment if you have the budget for this current format.
Long Term: Might still be a good investment even though it’s losing important pieces in the next rotation
The Aggression Deck
Zack Lesage – Collinsville Regional, 1st Place
Total CPs scored: 750 + 193 = 943cp (5th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 12 out of 60 cards = 20% (1st)
Pro Player Rank: 5th
If you want a deck that’s strong enough to hold its own in the meta and take big KOs while disrupting your opponent’s game plan, last format’s BDIF is just what you need. Like Rayquaza-GX and Lost March, Blacephalon-GX can deal an insane amount of damage, picking up easy KOs on even 3-prize Tag Team-GX with ease.
Formerly the best deck in the format, the current meta hasn’t been too kind for Blacephalon-GX players. It sits in this weird state of being one of the best decks still but not quite tier 1, easily the 5th best in both IRS and LC events and universally agreed by all the pro players helping out as the 5th best deck. The new Lighting attackers has made things harder for this deck even though ZoroRoc is still around, usually a good match for Blacephalon-GX.
Just like Pikazek now, Blacephalon-GX used to be priced quite heavily. With it seeing less play, the price is steadily dropping down but it’s still in the region of the Malamar decks. Now might be the best time to get yourself some Blacephalon-GX.
And I say that with two reasons in mind. Firstly, the deck is the least affected by rotation of any deck on this list, just 20% of the deck is gone (although Marshadow being one of them hurts the most). And secondly, there are tonnes of Fire support coming in the next set, making the deck great again. It might have a whole new look in a few months time, be it as a Turbo deck or even a new deck with the new Blacephalon releasing in Unbroken Bonds.
Short Term: Good investment with Blacephalon’s price having dropped recently
Long Term: Not just great, it might be the best investment for the long term with fire support on the way
The Anti-Meta Deck
Peter Kica – Collinsville Regional, 6th Place
Total CPs scored: 100 + 90 = 190 (8th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 25 out of 60 cards = 41.66% (7th)
Pro Player Rank: 8th
There has always been a deck whose sole purpose is to counter one or two of the biggest decks in said format. Currently, Buzzwole-GX/Lucario-GX might be the best counter deck with the likes of Zoroark-GX and PikaZek being the two biggest threats. Yes it’ll lose out to the odd Malamar or Lost March, but if you’re expecting a field of Zoroark-GX, this is the kind of deck you’d want.
As you’d expect for a deck solely made to counter the meta (like PikaZek and ZoroRoc), Buzzwole-GX/Lucario-GX hasn’t scored many points or seen that much play. But it did get a Top 8 finish in Collinsville and a few Top 4s in League Cups.
It’s also one of the more pricey decks on this list even though Buzzwole has dropped in price, having Jirachi pushes the cost even higher.
The rotation will hit the deck big time with Buzzwole-GX gone. But as long as Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is around, you can bet Lucario-GX won’t be far behind so newer anti-meta decks may show up eventually with Lucario in mind.
Short Term: Not a bad deck to invest in for the next few months, especially with Buzzwole-GX having dropped in price
Long Term: Anti-meta decks tend to have a short term goal in mind so avoid it at all cost for the long run.
The Spread Deck
Benjamin Branch – Oceania International, 46th Place
Total CPs scored: 380 + 0 = 380cp (6th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 42 out of 60 cards = 70% (10th)
Pro Player Rank: 7th
Since the introduction of the “flying flip” Tapu Koko, it’s been the face of spread decks for the last few years, be it with Latios, Weavile, Malamar and now Passimian more recently. It differs from conventional decks in trying to pick up multiple KOs after a few “flips”. Shrine of Punishment makes it difficult for GX decks to deal with it at times and the likes of Necrozma-GX and Tapu Lele helps to pick up the last few prizes.
It hasn’t actually had any big scores to date in the first few events of this current format, but the four scores it does have still shows how good it can be in the right meta environment. And the fact that Passimian/Koko actually has a good matchup against all four of the top decks makes it a tempting choice. Sadly it does lose out to decks you’re never really expect to see (and Stall).
Even though Jirachi already takes up 34% of the total price, it’s still worth playing for the next few months even though most parts of the deck will be rotating soon. Interestingly enough, the Trainer cards are the ones that cost more than the actual Pokémon of this deck, with Shrine of Punishment still being one of the more expensive non-Supporter trainer cards around.
Eventually most will have their hands on Jirachi but getting the rest of the pieces for a period of five months may not be inviting enough for others to go with it and instead look into other decks that will stick around longer. That and the fact that Passimian and likely Tapu Koko are both rotating make it a dead concept come September.
Short Term: Good investment for the next few months if you’re willing to get the expensive Jirachis.
Long Term: Avoid at all cost. Passimian is rotating and Tapu Koko potentially.
The Stall Deck
Alessandro Cremascoli – Cannes SPE, 2nd Place
Total CPs scored: 160 + 75 = 235cp (7th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 35 out of 60 cards = 58.33% (9th)
Pro Player Rank: 6th
Doesn’t matter what we do, stall decks will sadly always be around. The game plan is simple, make it difficult for your opponent to take KOs using the bulky Regigigas, the safeguarding Hoopa or the anti-basic Vileplume, which has seen more play with Zapdos, PikaZek and Blacephalon in the meta. Then there’s the added disruption and mill cards just to make things more difficult for your opponent.
This very list did finish 2nd in the Cannes SPE so there’s no doubting how good the deck can be even if it’s annoying to play against. A Vileplume variant also did well over in Collinsville so no matter the variant; this deck, in the right tournament, might spring a surprise result once in a while. That is if you can avoid your bad matches, be it the energy accelerating decks or the ones with no damage cap (and no Special Energy).
This deck is actually the cheapest to invest in, the Pokémon line costing little over US$10. It’s the Supporter cards that will cause pain to your wallets, including the aforementioned Shrine of Punishment. I will say, you should only invest in a deck of this deck if it suits your style of play (not many tend to play this kind of deck properly too of note), if not you might be better off playing something else.
There are cards coming in the next set that helps with the milling strategy so another variant of this deck style might be coming out even though most part of this deck will be rotating come September. And to be fair, there’ll always be a stall/mill/wall deck around no matter how we try to get rid of it.
Short Term: Only invest in it if Stall decks suits your style
Long Term: Same as above
The Budget Deck
Joshua Bradley – Oceania Internationals, 42nd Place
Total CPs scored: 130 + 0 = 130cp (9th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 16 out of 60 cards = 26.66% (2nd)
Pro Player Rank: 10th
With more non-GX attackers gaining popularity, one of the fan favourites has been Lost March, a descendant if you will of the old Night March decks from years past. Many new players I’ve seen have started their Pokémon TCG journey with this deck due to it being one of the cheaper alternatives and its ability to take big one-hit KOs is enough to entice even veteran players to give it a go.
This deck strangely enough has had only points scored in one tournament, and that was in the Oceania Internationals. Sure it can hit big numbers and have an easy time against the likes of ZoroRoc and PikaZek but it’s near auto-loss matchup against the likes of Zapdos, Tapu Koko and more important Ultra Necrozma-GX might have keep others from actually going with the deck.
I did call this the budget deck but here’s a fun fact, this actually isn’t the cheapest deck on the list, that goes to the Stall deck, beating it by about US$10. Budget won’t be a big deal for a deck like this, as the core of the deck is easy to find and most players might even have it already, including Jumpluff which came out as a League Promo during the previous season.
The upcoming rotation won’t be hitting this deck all that much although losing Marshadow might hurt the deck more than having lesser cards rotating than other decks, with Let Loose being a big part of the game plan for Lost March decks. If Double Colourless Energy (DCE) is rotating, that might hurt the deck too as Natu will need to attach two energies for its Lost March attack instead of just one DCE at the moment.
Short Term: Best deck to start with for a new player
Long Term: It’s a budget deck for a reason, so players won’t really have this deck in mind for the long run. Perfect choice for someone tight on budget though.
The Set-Up Deck
Anthony Cognard – Cannes SPE, 28th Place
Total CPs scored: 50 + 65 = 115cp (10th)
Predicted Rotation Effect = 19 out of 60 cards = 31.66% (4th)
Pro Player Rank: 8th
And lastly to an old favourite who finally has a playable card, Charizard! While this format may not be kind to Stage 2 decks, some people will still give it a go. It will take a while to set your Charizard up (and why 3 Jirachi is helpful in this deck) but once it’s there and with the right board state and Prize race, it can beat just about any deck. It being its own energy accelerator is a massive help too. Again, that is if you can set things up.
The deck itself is not that expensive but it’s the 3 Jirachis that makes the deck the 4th most expensive on this list, making up for 41% of the total cost. You could do without the Jirachi, by using Ninetales or even Meganium to set up your stage 2 attacker for a cheaper alternative.
The deck is still new so it has not gotten the results to show its potential apart from a Top 32 finish and a few Top 4 results in League Cups. The deck does have a good matchup against GX-focused decks like Zoroark-GX and Blacephalon-GX but loses out to the likes of Malamar and Zapdos.
Even for a new deck, the next rotation will hit the deck quite heavily with the likes of Rescue Stretcher and Energy Recycler gone but it can be replaced. It is still the 4th least affected by the rotation of the decks on this list and it does have potential to succeed with the new Fire support coming in the next set, allowing Charizard to one shot just about any Pokemon.
Short Term: Not a good meta for Stage 2 decks at the moment so avoid it for now
Long Term: Might actually be a good investment with all the fire support coming in the next set
To put everything else in perspective:
Prices (US Dollar):
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX – $240.03
Zapdos/Jirachi – $228.62
Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar – $187.50
Charizard/Flareon-GX – $185.17
Buzzwole-GX/Lucario-GX – $173.39
Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel – $172.85
Passimian/Tapu Koko – $149.96
Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX – $142.69
Lost March – $84.32
Regigigas/Hoopa – $77.88
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX – 61 points
Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX – 60 points
Zapdos/Jirachi – 58 points
Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar – 53 points
Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel – 41 points
Regigigas/Hoopa – 26 points
Passimian/Tapu Koko – 24 points
Charizard/Flareon-GX – 20 points
Buzzwole-GX/Lucario-GX – 20 points
Lost March – 19 points
Many thanks to Rauf Fazil, Anselm Sim, Bertrand Yan, Colin Tang, Erik Arts, Zachary Michael Everest and Jesse Parker for their help with the ranking of these decks on such short notice!
To bring this to a close, I would personally recommend players to invest in a deck that’s likely to suit your style of play, not necessarily the best deck. But if you are ok with any of the different styles, Malamar and Blacephalon-GX are the two decks I would strongly suggest to invest in, with both short and long term in mind. Unless you have the budget to afford Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Zapdos, then either one might be your pick.
Sadly it does prove that to be competitive in the game, you have to splash the cash but some of the options we have are a tad better than the prices on the two Lighting decks. Those opinions might change in three months time with the new set out but for now I would go with one of those decks.