We are less than two weeks away from the North American International Championships, and the BKT-FLI Standard Format seems fairly defined. Buzzwole-GX decks are much stronger because of the new tools that were released for it in Forbidden Light, Malamar (FLI) has found powerful partners that can fight favorably VS Buzzwole in Necrozma-GX, Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, and Ultra Necrozma-GX, and Zoroark-GX variants, namely Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX (GRI), are still proving to be versatile and oppressive in this Buzzwole-GX oriented meta. We have ourselves what can be called a Triangle meta, or a Rock-Paper-Scissors meta, which refers to having 3 central decks that each have favor over the next one in the triangle. So in this case, Buzzwole-GX is favored VS Zoroark-GX, Zoroark-GX is favored VS Malamar, Malamar is favored VS Buzzwole-GX, and so on. It’s not as simple as saying that A always beats B, B always beats C, etc, which is largely what this article will focus on.
I’ll start with Buzzwole variants and explain why I believe the meta is centralized around them. I’ll focus on Buzzroc (Buzzwole (FLI) Buzzwole-GX (CRI) Lycanroc-GX (GRI)), since it is the most popular and most successful of the Buzzwole variants. Buzzroc has several very powerful tools for it currently: Strong Energy, Beast Ring, and Diancie Prism Star to name a few. Not to mention how strong the attackers themselves (Buzzwole (FLI), Buzzwole-GX, Lycanroc-GX) are even without the additional support. With the new standard build of Buzzroc focusing on baby Buzzwole, the deck has become even more oppressive due to the high damage output it is often reaching with an onslaught of one-prize attackers. Another positive for the deck is that its draw engine consists of Octillery (BKT) and Supporters, so there aren’t multiple GX pokemon sitting on the bench that are liable to be knocked out (I’m looking at you, Zoroark). The only large-scale event in North America for the BKT-FLI format was Madison Regionals, at which Buzzroc took 12 spots (43%) in day 2. Buzzroc went on to take 1st and 2nd at the tournament, an indicator of what our standard format would be looking like. At Sheffield Regionals two weeks later, Buzzroc still had the most day 2 spots (7) but did not win the tournament. Buzzroc is a fast, oppressive deck that does not need much to set up which makes it’s damage output fairly consistent. I feel it is safe to say that going into NAIC you should not be taking any less than a 40/60 matchup to Buzzroc.
THE OTHER TWO SIDES OF THE TRIANGLE
Zororoc has not gained much from Forbidden light outside of the possible inclusion of baby Buzzwole, which I have tested with but do not have in my current iteration of the deck. Psychic Malamar is only possible because of Forbidden Light, so it is still fairly new to the format. I will cover the other variants of the top 3 decks along with tier 2 archetypes in next week’s article just in time for NAIC, but today I will be closely looking at the matchups between the tier 1 triangle.
MY OPINIONS ON THE 3 BIG DECKS
Unless 50% of the meta for NAIC is Psychic Malamar, I think that Buzzroc is a fairly safe deck to play. It’s low energy requirement and lack of setting up to stay in the game is very enticing. While it is favored VS. Zoroark-GX variants, the matches should still be practiced. They are by no means autowins. I’m expecting Buzzroc to take up about 15% of the Day 1 Meta.
Psychic Malamar is the more consistent and streamlined variant of Malamar which is why I value it as the better version. If you’re expecting to play against multiple Buzzrocs in Day 1, then this is a great pick. As I will say a few times by the end of this article, none of these matchups are autowins. Practice both the good matchup and the bad matchup (and the mirror!) out of the triangle if you are piloting one of these decks. I am expecting Psychic Malamar to take up about 10% of the Day 1 Meta.
This is my personal favorite because of its versatility and skill cap. Having the draw power of Zoroark-GX allows you to have more options throughout most games due to having more cards in your hand. The room for techs like Mewtwo EVO and Mew-EX DEX make me comfortable in the unfavored matchup vs. Buzzroc, as well as playing 4 strong energy to hit 130 with Claw Slash. I am expecting Zororoc to take up 7%-12% of the Day 1 Meta. I think this number fluctuates based on how many Zoroark players take this over ZoroPod.
Buzzroc Vs. Zororoc (60/40-55/45 in Buzzroc’s favor)
Buzzroc has type advantage, speed due to mostly basic attackers, low cost attacks, energy acceleration… let’s just say that Buzzroc has a lot going for it. Zororoc has Zoroark-GX, possibly one of the greatest cards the Pokemon TCG has ever seen. Because of the incredible draw power that Zoroark-GX brings to decks, not only is consistency increased but Zoroark decks are able to play more techs due to cycling through your deck quickly. So while Buzzroc seems to be created almost to beat Zoroark, the Zororoc player can make this match close by playing optimally and having the right list. I believe that playing 4 strong energy as opposed to a split of strong and basic fighting in Zororoc is the way to go. A strong energy and DCE on Lycanroc-GX can deal 130 damage with Claw Slash, exactly enough to OHKO a baby Buzzwole. Getting the energy attached turn one to a Rockruff is the most important thing in this matchup on Zororoc’s side next to getting turn one Brigette, so I also have been running one copy of Energy Loto as an extra out to hitting an energy. The Zororoc player should prioritize knocking out Octillery/Remoraid and Rockruffs. Without Octillery, the Buzz player’s only options for drawing cards are supporters. Without a Lycanroc-GX available to the Buzz player, there will be little to no options for non-psychic weak attackers which means that the Zororoc will have opportunities for return KO’s with their psychic tech attackers. I am confident on the Zororoc side of this matchup that if I get turn 2 Claw Slash that I will most of the time have a very close game, but Buzzroc’s speed can snowball games out of the Zororoc player’s reach.
Psychic Malamar Vs. Buzzroc (65/35-60/40 in Psychic Malamar’s Favor)
Malamar’s attackers normally include Necrozma-GX, Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, and either Hoopa STS and/or Mewtwo Promo #77. These all hit Buzzwole for weakness and Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX resists fighting. The Hoopa and Mewtwo are used to keep the prize trade favorable to even with the onslaught of opposing baby Buzzwoles. Malamar does take a minimum of two turns to get going due to malamar being a stage 1, so Buzzroc has the chance to get some early aggression. It’s likely Buzzwole’s worst matchup in the meta, but it is not unwinnable. Lycanroc-GX is the better of your GX attackers to use in this matchup due to it having grass weakness as opposed to psychic weakness.
Zororoc Vs. Psychic Malamar (65/35 in Zororoc’s favor)
The last matchup of the triangle. This is heavily favored for Zororoc. Necrozma-GX needs 4 psychic energy to OHKO Zoroark or Lycanroc with Prismatic Burst which is very tough to chain for turns in a row. Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX is weak to dark, so the Malamar player either puts it down and risks giving up two easy prizes or they lose the utility of the ability Invasion by not benching Dawn Wings. Malamar players sometimes tech Marshadow-GX BUS as an answer to Zoroark-GX, but with its 150HP it is oftentimes a liability. Parallel City or Sudowoodo GRI can be played alongside the Marshadow-GX to prevent return KOs, but then the Zororoc player can just return the KO with a psychic attacker or Lycanroc-GX instead.
Next week I will be going over my predicted meta shares and tier list for NAIC, including my lists for several of the archetypes. Be sure to check back for that, and good luck!