Hey everyone! The first couple of major tournaments in the Forbidden Light format have concluded and we now have a Metagame to look at, as we prepare for the North America International Championships. Buzzwole has dominated the Standard format the last few months and it continues to get even stronger, as lists are refined from the enhancements gained in the last set. The Metagame is shaping up to be centered on Buzzwole and I plan to go over that in this article. I'll also be preparing you for what I predict the Metagame to end up being for the North America International Championships. It should give you a solid idea on what to expect and I’ve also got some tips that I've learned from my experiences at large events like Internationals. Finally, I'll go over my current Top 3 deck choices for the event which include Zoroark Lucario, Malamar Ultra Necrozma, and Buzzwole Garbodor.
Current Metagame Leading into the North America International Championships
Deck to Beat
Malamar Variants (Necrozma GX or Ultra Necrozma GX)
Zoroark Variants (Lucario, Golisopod, etc.)
Analysis of the Forbidden Light Format and Preparing for North America International Championships
Buzzwole Lycanroc was already the top deck pre-Forbidden Light and now with the buffs from the set, it continues its reign as the best deck. I expect it to be popular at every event, including the North America International Championships. The success and popularity of Buzzwole make it the deck to beat moving forward, which should be your main focus in preparation for Columbus in July. I expect players to have this line of thinking and we might see a repeat of what happened in Utah Regionals for Expanded. Zoroark was known to the community as being overpowered and oppressive and people thought it would win everything. Utah Regionals consisted of mostly Zoroark and anti-Zoroark decks, which means that the Metagame truly revolved around Zoroark. The counters were able to put a stop to its reign, as only one Zoroark made Top 8 and none made Top 4. I think this may happen once again, as Buzzwole is certainly beatable if you're prepared, which makes me wonder if we will have a similar Metagame. Another important thing to note is the overall Metagame seems to favor the comfort pick of the top players in the game at the moment. They certainly have an impact on the results of the Metagame, which changes when they move away from archetypes. The success of Buzzwole can be contributed to this as well since a majority of the players with the most CP right now have been running Buzzwole. I expect the Metagame to change with these last few tournaments before the International, as players focus on countering Buzzwole.
Looking at the rest of the overall Metagame, Zoroark continues to stand strong with people favoring Lycanroc the most. It has an uphill battle with the difficult Buzzwole matchup, but the consistency and strength of Zoroark put it as a stable Tier 1 option. The new up and coming Tier 1 decks are Malamar variants that have a positive Weakness matchup against Buzzwole. I expect Malamar to stay in Tier 1 because of the Weakness matchups and how powerful the deck is. Moving onto Tier 2, I think any of these decks have a chance to make a last-minute push just days before Internationals as Tier 1 threats. They have a lot of strengths and the potential to be as good as the rest of the field. My current prediction is that people will focus on countering Buzzwole Lycanroc, so the Metagame will develop into Buzzwole and Anti-Buzzwole.
This will be my 7th United States “National” type event and I've learned a lot from my experiences in a field of over 1000 Masters every single year. In my opinion, preparing for these National type events is completely different from any other event, including the World Championship. Fighting through a field of so many players which includes most of the very best that you would face at Worlds, makes for a unique tournament setting. Facing around 100 players at the main event of Worlds or your local Regional allows for a more clear Metagame compared to 1000 from everywhere across the United States and the World. In those smaller events, you can make accurate predictions on the right deck choice or tech for the event. With an insanely large field, it's really a shot in the dark of what your opponents might be playing. The number of rounds will also be at its highest, as we get put into pods and play in the highest number of rounds possible for the season. This means your deck will have to be as consistent or lucky as possible, to function properly for all of those rounds.
Based on what I've seen from these past National events, consistency and playing YOUR best deck is usually the route to go. You need to worry less about making the perfect deck choice or the spiciest tech and play the deck that will consistently get you wins. The sheer strength and consistency is usually the answer for most players who do well at this large event. My personal experience with these events has been me usually playing the deck to beat and facing mirrors or counter decks all day. It usually doesn't end well going that route because you're playing the most expected deck which people have tested a countless number of games against. You have to remember that people are probably putting the same amount of time if not more playing the same matchups as you. They aren't clueless and are probably ready for the matchup if you're playing the deck to beat. Taking my personal experience into account, I doubt that I would play Buzzwole Lycanroc for the North America International Championship unless I fall for the same trap again. I don't think it's worth facing a near 50-50 matchup in Buzzwole mirrors or facing decks aimed to beat me. The ideal deck is something less expected, but similar in strength and consistency. Picking a deck isn't an exact science and this is just my opinion. Nobody really has the answer to the question “What's the play?”
My current favorite Zoroark variant is Zoroark Lucario for a number of reasons. The first one is because it's significantly favored in the mirror, which is still very popular in the current Metagame. The next reason is the efficiency of Lucario's attack being a single Energy attachment compared to two for Lycanroc GX. I hate falling behind with Zoroark Lycanroc because you whiff an attachment or happen to go second. Like most Zoroark decks, the strategy is mostly the same as you abuse Trade and combos with Puzzle of Time. The main difference is the Lucario feature, which fills a nice typing in the current Metagame. You can easily knock out opposing Zoroarks for a single Energy and potentially one shot a Buzzwole GX with the many damage multipliers in the deck.
A 3-2 line of Lucario GX is enough for the deck to function properly without being inconsistent. It's very important to pick the appropriate time to evolve your Lucario GX which would ideally be for knockouts on a critical threat from your opponent's board. Otherwise, it's best to leave them as Riolu on the bench so you can save your Aura Strike for later. Another thing to remember is Riolu is an incredible early game threat as it can knockout Zoruas on the first turn of the game for a single Energy.
With the current Buzzwole Metagame, I've been going all in to try and compensate for a rather unfavorable matchup without counters. Mewtwo EVO provides a searchable target in the early game through Brigette that can take hits and dish out damage towards an opposing Buzzwole. Should any Buzzwole get carried away with three Energy, it can also clean those threats up. Mew EX is still the nice late game finisher or early push to swing the entire game into your favor. It's best to try to limit Mew EX by saving it for the end or using it when you're ahead since it’s a two prize liability.
One of my favorite cards from Forbidden Light is Buzzwole and I love it in this deck. It's a fantastic 130 HP one prize attacker that can immediately swing the tempo of the game into your favor. Being able to one shot most two prize attackers in the game for a single Strong Energy and giving up a single prize card will win you games. It may be awkward to use at times, but having access to this ace in the hole is worth the slot.
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