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.
Mallow is a staple for me in all of the Zoroark decks, it’s amazing to be able to pull out exactly what you need off Trade instead of risking a huge whiff. Professor Kukui allows us to hit important numbers with Lucario GX and even Zoroark GX. It opens the door for a lot of knockouts you would normally whiff without that critical 20 damage. Instead of playing Max Potion, I’m running Acerola because it has additional synergy with Lucario. You can heal and pick up Lucario GX so you can get in another Aura Strike. Lastly, one Professor Sycamore may seem strange but occasionally you’ll find situations that you would like to discard your hand over shuffling irrelevant cards back into the deck.
Three Parallel City is a necessity for us to compete in the Buzzwole Metagame right now. Our ideal strategy is to lock a Parallel City in place against them to limit their options. With the increase of additional Buzzwole FL for most Buzzwole Lycanroc lists, this hurts a lot as they have to discard two important pieces to their strategy or play handicapped for most of the game. I’ve noticed from testing that the disruption can hurt them enough to make this matchup close to 50-50.
The single Enhanced Hammer is another tech that helps in this Metagame full of Special Energy. It’s nice to have some sense of control on what your opponent can do in the following turn. Knowing that a benched Buzzwole has zero Energy on it is a relieving feeling and worth the tech slot.
I don’t think there’s a strong reason to warrant running basic Fighting Energy with less Enhanced Hammer in the Meta. Lucario is already an efficient attacker that only needs a single attachment. It’s worth the risk of playing a deck entirely of Special Energy.
I’m currently running Acerola over Max Potion, but you could definitely switch them if you prefer. Max Potion allows you to play a Supporter for the turn which can be huge if it’s a Guzma or Kukui. I still like Acerola more because picking up Lucario GX is incredibly useful.
2nd Mewtwo EVO
This is most likely overkill, but with Buzzwole Lycanroc lists focusing on Buzzwole FL it could be necessary. It gives you a nice response to a stacked Buzzwole FL for an easy Double Colorless Energy. They can’t exactly swarm you with them anymore if you can just respond back for a single attachment.
3rd Field Blower
I could definitely see a rise in Garbodor over the next few weeks so adding the extra Field Blower would be worth it. This is always worth considering for Zoroark decks if the Metagame starts to shift in a Garbodor direction.
Buzzwole Variants (45-55 / Close Matchup)
I’m going to lump Buzzwole Garbodor with Buzzwole Lycanroc for this part of the article because the impact of Garbodor doesn’t change the matchup that much with Field Blowers in Zoroark. In general, the typical Zoroark list is unfavored against Buzzwole decks. The early game pressure from Jet Punch is too much to overcome, which is why I’ve had to dedicate a lot of space in the list towards fixing this dreaded matchup. The heavy count of Parallel City, Mew EX, Mewtwo EVO, Buzzwole FL, Acerola and Enhanced Hammer help make this matchup a lot better and very manageable. I start off by getting at least three Zoruas into play, following it up with an early game Mewtwo EVO or Mew EX if you have the Riotous Beating combo early. The Psychic attackers can help slow down the pressure on your Zoruas while dishing out some return damage. While you’re setting up multiple Zoroarks in play you should be looking for Parallel City to disrupt the Buzzwole player as soon as possible. If they get down to four prizes, you should look to get some value from Buzzwole’s Sledgehammer to put more damage in play and give up another one prize attacker. Lastly, Lucario GX is a terrific attacker as it has a bulky 210 HP and can do enough to one shot Buzzwole GX. Taking advantage of Lucario GX as an attacker is enough to push this matchup closer to 50-50.
Zoroark Variants (Favorable)
One of your best matchups in the format is Zoroark variants. Lucario GX and Riolu put a lot of pressure on their engine of Zoroark/Zorua. You can get an easy knockout on either for a single Energy, which allows you to control the tempo of the match the entire game. Approaching this matchup is simple, try to be as aggressive as possible with Lucario/Riolu while maintaining your normal set up of at least three Zoroarks. You should go after any Zoroark GX you see with a Guzma + Aura Strike from Lucario GX. The pressure from the easy knockouts along with the disruption from Parallel City makes this matchup very favorable.
Malamar Variants (Favorable)
Another favorable matchup for Zoroark is Malamar variants. I’ll go over the easier one first, which is the Dawn Wings focused variant which happens to be Weak to Dark. The Weakness advantage makes a good chunk of their deck useless and forces them to attack with other Psychic attackers that you resist. This makes them play an awkward two-shot game, while you have access to healing or removing damaged Pokémon from play (Parallel City). The other variant is Ultra Necrozma GX, which is a much harder matchup as it can one shot Zoroark GX and it’s not a Psychic type. The problem for the Malamar player is getting the four-piece combo necessary for the return knockout on Zoroark. They’ll need either four total Energies or three and a Choice Band. This can be difficult, as Zoroark is a deck that can apply pressure from turn two forward by going after their bench with Guzma. The strategy is to limit their bench with Parallel City and target as many Inkay/Malamar as you can with Guzma. Once you limit their bench, they’ll have difficulty powering up multiple Ultra Necrozma GX, this allows you to deal with it much easier as you can settle for a two-shot or an aggressive Lucario GX one shot. The pressure of Zoroark and the limitations you’ve set up with the use of Dark attackers makes this matchup great.
The Greninja matchup will always come down to starts and this one is no different. In this matchup, Greninja needs to get off to a strong start. From turn two and onward, Lucario Zoroark can get easy knockouts on just about everything. After Greninja has finally stabilized, Lucario can be hard to knockout due to the threat of Cantankerous Beatdown GX. The Greninja player has to wait for the right moment to start putting damage on Lucario GX, which makes it a very annoying wall for them to deal with. We also have access to Acerola so we can heal things they try to Water Shuriken in advance. I think the pressure and consistency of Zoroark Lucario make this matchup favorable and the route for Greninja to win requires them having their best starts which are less likely to happen.
Ultra Necrozma Malamar
- 9 Psychic
- 3 Metal
- 1 Beast
With the notable Psychic Weakness of Buzzwole, it makes sense to find an appropriate counter deck from a Psychic-type deck. The strongest Psychic engine is without a doubt through Malamar FL and there are a few ways to run it. My favorite at the moment is the Ultra Necrozma GX variant, as it provides more versatile dimensions compared to a pure Psychic build. It also reminds me a lot of a very strong deck in the past, which was Rayquaza EX/Eelektrik. The game plan is very simple, establish as many Malamar as possible so you can stream attackers that one shot whatever your opponent has active. You focus the early game around consistency, which is boosted a lot from this set thanks to Mysterious Treasure. It’s a race of you trying to set up your bench and your opponent trying to disrupt you. After you set up multiple Malamars you can swarm them with Ultra Necrozma GX or Dawn Wings Necrozma GX to pick up knockout after knockout.
Consistency is the key for me with these types of decks. While 4-3 Malamar will work, I’d rather not risk the chance of poor discards/prizes that force me to play with a single Malamar. The bonus of playing four Malamar is the slight boost in the consistency of drawing it early. It’s a race of setting up and I prefer to maximize those odds.
A 2/2 split is fairly standard here so I’ll just go over their purposes. Ultra Necrozma GX is the main attacker in neutral matchups; it has the potential of doing as much damage as necessary so it’s very useful. Dawn Wings Necrozma GX has an amazing Invasion Ability which synergizes perfectly with Malamar’s Ability. The other great part of Dawn Wings Necrozma GX is that both of these attacks crush the Buzzwole matchup. The current Metagame makes Dawn Wings a necessary two of.
A killer flaw to this deck in the past (RayEels) was losing to N. Oranguru provides a little bit of insurance to N and allows you to draw that final piece to seal the game.
This is the toolbox line of one prize attackers I have currently but that could change in the next few weeks. Mew FCO has free Retreat and can copy most of our attacks. The Giratina Promo helps with the Greninja matchup, while also being a usable Psychic attacker. Lastly, Mimikyu can get return knockouts on bigger threats. All of these one prize attackers have the potential to swing the game.
A huge motivator for me with this deck was the release of Mysterious Treasure. Set up decks like this one were in huge need of search cards like Mysterious Treasure. This card is so good that you can even cut down on Ultra Ball which is one of the best cards ever printed.
The biggest weakness for this deck is the failure to set up Malamars. Max Elixir helps fix that issue should things go horribly wrong. This way you can power up attackers by using Max Elixirs and attachments over having to wait for Malamar to get set up.
I prefer Super Rod over Rescue Stretcher in here because of Max Elixir. Being able to put back Energy helps increase those odds and that’s more game-changing to me than Rescue Stretcher. If I didn’t run Max Elixir, I would value the ability to get a Pokémon back immediately over Energy.
9 Psychic 3 Metal 1 Beast
I think this is the current best line for the deck but you could try and get away with less Psychic Energy. Playing more is better to get them into the discard faster and to make those Max Elixirs consistent.
I’ve seen some people try out Beast Ring in here and I think it’s interesting, but haven’t played with it enough. I prefer the immediate use of Max Elixir to help power up my attackers from turn one over waiting for a mid-game Beast Ring.
Buzzwole Lycanroc (Favorable)
One of our best matchups and the main reason to play this deck. The Psychic attackers in our deck make it very easy to knockout Buzzwole while being either a single prize or hard to knockout in return. Dawn Wings Necrozma GX is the biggest problem for them, as both attacks knockout Buzzwole and it has 180 HP with Fighting Resistance. The GX attack can be a game changer, as it prevents all effects including damage from your opponent. The strategy is to set up as many Malamars as possible so you can get your attackers going. I would start off by powering up Dawn Wings Necrozma because it protects your Energy investment and then slowly transition into using one of the single prize Psychic attackers. If you’re able to set up multiple Malamars then you should have no problem one shotting whatever they may have active. Assuming the worst, Max Elixir and attaching Energy to Dawn Wings can still be enough to deal with their early game Buzzwole. You just have to eventually set up Malamars later or you’re going to struggle to deal with Beast Ring.
Zoroark Variants (Unfavorable)
Zoroark variants are difficult but much easier with the Ultra Necrozma GX version. As I explained in the Zoroark portion of this article, they can put a lot of pressure and disruption on our Malamars which causes us to fail to execute our main strategy. With that said, you need to try your best to get as many Inkay/Malamars in play while powering up Ultra Necrozma GX to deal with Zoroark GX. If you’re able to set up multiple Malamars and deal with their pressure then you’ll be fine trading with Ultra Necrozma. Being able to one-shot those with Photon Geyser while they’re trying to two-shot you will make the difference to win the game.
Malamar Variants (50-50)
Mirrors are always a pain and typically 50-50, but this deck has a positive matchup against the Dawn Wings Necrozma build. It’s way easier for you to stream consistent one-shot knockouts while they’re forced to play an awkward two-shot game. Assuming you’re able to set up at the same pace as them, then it’s favorable. In an Ultra Necrozma GX mirror, it comes down to who can set up first and stream their attackers consistently. It will eventually become a one-shot trade war with whoever can consistently stream attackers winning the game. The best strategy for all of these matchups is to set up as many Malamars as you can while powering up Ultra Necrozma GX.
Buzzwole Garbodor (Slightly Favorable)
This version of Buzzwole is way harder than the Lycanroc one. Garbotoxin is an annoying problem and the pressure of Buzzwole can be overwhelming. However, the matchup is still favorable as long as you can power up your Psychic attackers through Field Blower + Malamar or Max Elixir. The main focus is on trying to power up attackers while under Ability lock and there’s a good amount of outs to get there. If this deck becomes more popular I would consider running a third Field Blower.
The Greninja matchup is tricky and fairly annoying to deal with. We can’t apply a ton of pressure early unless we get lucky drawing into and hitting our Max Elixirs. If you’re able to do that and power up an attacker then the matchup is favorable but that’s unlikely. The problem with this matchup is Shadow Stitching shutting down the stream of Ultra Necrozma GX. Along with the pesky 170 HP of Greninja Break, it’s hard to actually get the one hit knockouts every turn that we aim for. What we have going for us is the Giratina Promo which stops Giant Water Shuriken, making it much more difficult for them to get their knockouts. It becomes a struggle to get knockouts for both sides, making it awkward for either to finish the game. You’ll be very dependent on hitting Max Elixir to give you that push to get the knockout on Greninja Break with Ultra Necrozma GX. The time bought with Giratina Promo should be enough to squeak out a win.
- 7 Fighting
- 4 Strong
- 1 Beast
Buzzwole Garbodor is more intriguing to me than Buzzwole Lycanroc because they’re almost the same deck but Garbodor has disruption. Garbodor is quite useful in a lot of matchups and can be more effective in the mirror. The innovation of Order Pad by Ian Robb also makes this deck way more consistent in getting out key cards like Beast Ring. Assuming you don’t get an inconsistent start, I think this is far superior to playing a weak Lycanroc line. The deck strategy is to apply pressure in the early game with Jet Punch while powering up as many Buzzwoles as possible through Max Elixir and Beast Ring. You will also need to search out Trubbish/Garbodor early so you can establish the Garbotoxin lock. The deck is fairly simple and just overwhelms your opponent with its sheer power through board dominance.
Buzzwole Variants (50-50)
The mirrors are very draw dependent as games can vary based on how well you or your opponent starts. We have an advantage with Parallel City being able to disrupt them, but they will probably have the edge in multiple Buzzwole FL. Hitting Order Pads to make our Beast Ring turn stronger is also very important and it has a large amount of variance. Fighting Fury Belt can do a lot of work against them since they don’t play Field Blower. Forcing them to have more resources and pieces to get knockouts is game-changing. The last advantage is that Garbodor can slow them down a bit and prevent the effectiveness of their Abilities. I think Parallel City is enough to make this matchup slightly favorable, but there is still a lot of variance to overcome to make it truly favorable.
Zoroark Variants (Favorable)
Zoroark variants are your best matchup, as you can put a lot of pressure on them with your Buzzwole army. Buzzwole’s Jet Punch deals with early game Zoruas and the acceleration through Max Elixir establishes an attacker than can one-shot everything. This deck has even more consistency towards hitting a powerful Beast Ring turn, so the moment they do start taking prizes you can pop off. The other advantage will be the Garbotoxin lock; they will have to draw their Field Blowers at the right time or crumble. It’s important to know that Zoroark lists will probably evolve to deal with Buzzwole by adding more Psychic attackers and disruption.
Malamar Variants (Unfavorable)
The worst matchup in the format for Buzzwole Garbodor is Psychic decks like Malamar. The Psychic attackers and ability to power them up fairly easily makes it hard to deal with. Dawn Wings Necrozma GX and the swarm of one prize attackers is frustrating, but we do have one thing going for us that Buzzwole Lycanroc doesn’t. That would be Garbotoxin, slowing down their ability to use Malamar and forcing them to find other ways of powering up attackers. If we can slow the game down enough to go after their Energy acceleration then you can easily take the game. It’s still possible to race them with a swarm of Buzzwoles through Max Elixir and Beast Ring, but it can be difficult to pull off.
Greninja is another favorable matchup for Buzzwole Garbodor. The early game pressure of Buzzwole GX will net early prizes and knockouts which will disrupt their set up. From there, Buzzwole will have enough Energy through Max Elixir to get knockouts on Greninja. When Greninja finally starts to take prizes, you can probably get off a big Beast Ring turn and get another key return knockout. Ideally, you’re setting up the Garbotoxin lock from turn two on to slow down their damage with Water Shuriken. The speed and lock of Buzzwole Garbodor is way too much for them to handle.
I hope that provided a lot of insight into our fresh Forbidden Light format and prepared you for Columbus, Ohio! The Metagame is shaping up to be all about Buzzwole, which means more Buzzwole and counters to Buzzwole. Preparing for an event as large as the North America International Championship requires consistency and playing a deck that’s strong regardless of the Metagame. All of these factors combined, I hope you can find the deck that’s best for you. I personally have three decks at the top of my radar as choices for the event. Zoroark Lucario is one of the more consistent options, but I’m still trying to figure out the Buzzwole matchup. Malamar Ultra Necrozma is a great deck that has a solid Buzzwole matchup but requires setting up to get there. Buzzwole Garbodor is a solid stand-alone deck, but it has so many similarities to Buzzwole that it makes it feel like a toss-up in the mirror match. The best way to feel comfortable in your decision is to start practicing and get in those playtesting games. We all have our preferences and for a big tournament like this, you need to experiment with decks/techs so you’re ready for the event!
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Until next time,