After a few month hiatus, I’m happy to be back with my newest article! This article will be focused on BuzzRoc, going over how it changes with the new set, what you can expect from new matchups and its place in the Metagame going forward. I’ve been doing a ton of testing and logging every single game, so you’ll see a healthy dose of numbers as well. In preparation for this article, I played out a 40 game testing sample, logging changes to the list along with some notes on each game. Ultimately, I aim to incorporate a lot of raw data with meaningful insight to paint a full picture of the current state of BuzzRoc.

Updated BuzzRoc

Before I go too heavily into the analysis, I’d like to start with the new list and analysis on some of its FLI cards. My first draft of updated BuzzRoc was this:

New Cards

Rockruff FLI – There is a fair bit of debate on which Rockruff is superior, but I firmly stand by the 70 HP Rockruff in most cases. The loss of a damaging attack is rarely important as BuzzRoc has so many one-Energy attacks and the extra 10 HP is huge when trying to avoid KO’s from residual Jet Punch damage. In Zoroark/Fighting variants, the Promo Rockruff can certainly be valid as a means to KO opposing Zorua, but even that is a decreasingly compelling reason for inclusion as Zoroark variants begin to fall out of favor.

Diancie Prism Star – This card is Regirock-EX but almost universally better. More damage, only worth one prize and one less retreat. There are only two downsides to Diancie, lower HP and being unrecoverable. These downsides are far less significant than the upsides, however, since Buzzwole has higher priority targets and typically plays little to no recovery. This card is as powerful as predicted and should be in every BuzzRoc deck.

Buzzwole FLI – I’ll fully admit that I underestimated this card. At first glance, I said the card may have potential but was likely bad due to the strict condition on Sledgehammer’s damage bonus. This could not have been farther from the truth. When your opponent is at four prizes, Sledgehammer is an absolutely brutal attack that is capable of easily hitting 170 and even 190 damage with BuzzRoc’s slew of buffs. When your opponent has any other number of prizes, Buzzwole FLI is a reliable non-GX attacker with two decent attacks.

A largely understated aspect of this card is its effectiveness against Mewtwo EVO and Mew-EX. Any time a deck takes their first KO with either attacker, Sledgehammer is a clean and resource-light response that forces your opponent to either attack around Buzzwole FLI or commit a large amount of resources to knocking it out. No deck in the current Metagame is happy attacking into Buzzwole FLI and “spending” 130 damage on a single prize KO is fundamentally unappealing. If your opponent is unable to take a prize immediately after hitting the four prize mark, Sledgehammer will sweep the game. It’s happened a surprising number of times in my testing alone.

This card has warped the way games are played as a boosted Sledgehammer is deadly. I tiptoe around the four prize mark any time I reasonably can regardless of the deck I’m playing. I expect players to do this at an increasingly high rate as the format matures.

This card is incredibly powerful in Zoroark decks as well and I expect this to be a trend across any deck that can include it.

Beast Ring – Beast Ring was widely heralded as the most powerful card of FLI and threatened to ruin the Standard format. Has it lived up to the hype? Somewhat. Beast Ring is undeniably powerful, but it’s ultimately a dead card two-thirds of the time. That said, I find landing a Beast Ring to be the single most important thing to winning games with BuzzRoc in the current format. Without it, you rely very heavily on Max Elixir to push you through a format that one-shots Buzzwole-GX with more ease than ever before.

A pronounced issue I find is that it makes BuzzRoc a nearly impossible matchup for anything that can’t repeatedly one-shot a Buzzwole. This means that anything with a middling Buzzwole matchup previously can’t stand up to the deck anymore. It also stifles the development of new decks terribly as it becomes a game of “keep up with 200+ damage a turn from Turn 2 or lose.” I’ve seen and worked on a ton of new concepts that can’t accomplish this and ultimately falter. While I don’t think BuzzRoc is overpowered in the context of the Metagame, I do think it’s more oppressive than other decks and is unhealthy for the game overall with the addition of Beast Ring.

Beast Energy – Beast Energy is more or less a better Strong. Honestly, I hesitate on calling it “better” and it might actually be worse than Strong Energy given how useful Lycanroc-GX is in so many matchups. For now, I’ll be leaving it as-is, but I would consider dropping Beast Energy for a fourth Strong completely valid.

I had a few thoughts in mind when making this list:

  • I want to be highly aggressive. This meant maxing out on Strong/Beast Energy to get the most possible opportunities to buff my damage.
  • Landing Max Elixir is not as important due to Beast Ring. This means Basic Fighting Energy are valid drops.
  • Buzzwole FLI and Beast Ring to provide cheap, high damage attacks and powerful mid-game refueling eliminate the need for non-GX attackers like Sudowoodo and Mew.
  • The core of the deck stays the same. No need to reinvent the wheel.

These assumptions were of varying correctness. While the third and fourth points have held true quite well, I ended up making changes that directly contradicted the first and second. This list was short lived after achieving an unsatisfactory win-rate of 50%. While a 50% win-rate is theoretically fine and in a game like Hearthstone it would be of no issue, a 50% win-rate at a tournament in Pokemon is an undesirable result. As a result, I immediately moved to make changes. By the 12th game in the sample, the list had evolved into this:

Current BuzzRoc

Other Inclusions and notes on counts:

Super Rod – Super Rod is a card that I previously disliked but currently like quite a bit. Between all of the accelerators in this deck, your basic Energy is under a great deal of pressure. A means to recover them and ensure that your Max Elixirs and Beast Rings stay effective is always welcome, though finding a space for it is difficult. In addition, recovering Lycanroc-GX and Octillery can give you the aggression or consistency you need to close out games.

While it has many benefits, Super Rod is not in my current list as it is a very passive card. On its own, its effect is minimal, requiring an Energy accelerator or search effect to make full use of it. In addition, careful management of resources and discards can largely mitigate the need for Super Rod.

7 Total accelerators – This is a count I hold steadfast to. Whether you decide to go four Elixir and three Beast Ring or vice versa, dropping below the seven-count will begin to lower the reliability of hitting what you need when you need it, to uncomfortable levels. I was missing Beast Rings constantly at three, so I’ve bumped it up to four over Max Elixir. I could easily foresee this changing, but there was a notable win-rate spike at four Beast Ring and I stand by it.

5th Special Energy – A fifth Special Energy gives you more reliable access to damage buffs. I currently value the 10th basic Energy more for the reliability of acceleration, but an extra damage boosting Energy has its advantages, especially now that the deck isn’t trying to attach to Mew. The fourth Choice Band is my most likely drop for it.

Mew FCO – Previously a staple in BuzzRoc decks, Buzzwole FLI has appeared to push Mew FCO out of BuzzRoc decks entirely. And for good reason: Buzzwole provides a much beefier body with sky-high damage potential and plenty of ability to OHKO Mew-EX. I foresee Mew staying at a count of zero from here on out, but adding it back in to combat an uptick in Mew EX play wouldn’t be unreasonable.

Sudowoodo BKP – In the past, Sudowoodo has had a major purpose as one of BuzzRoc’s few two-Energy, high damage, non-GX attackers. Now that Buzzwole FLI has entered, this is a less exclusive classification. In addition, the extra Energy required to do big damage with Buzzwole-GX is no longer a big deal with the release of Beast Ring. To add to that, Sudowoodo is not a valid target for Beast Ring or Beast Energy’s damage boost, making it a further still unappealing option.

4th Guzma – A very common inclusion that has plenty of merit. I’ve dropped it for the fourth Choice Band as I feel Lycanroc-GX’s presence allows for a thinner Guzma count. That said, I would love to see the fourth Guzma back and it wouldn’t be a surprise to find a spot for it before Madison.

My testing revealed a few things to be true:

  • Landing Max Elixirs is still highly important. That said, landing Beast Rings is even more important. In an effort to increase the occurrence of both, I increased the Basic Energy count to 10 and the Beast Ring count to four.
  • I was correct in my assumption that Buzzwole FLI and Beast Ring would patch up the need for other non-GX attackers. Several results from the past weekend’s tournaments support this finding.
  • Space is tighter than I expected it to be. This is especially evident with the drop to three Guzma.
  • Finding Choice Band when you need it is critical in a format full of 190 HP and Fighting-Resistant 180 HP attackers. Missing them loses games.

In all, the changes were:

-1 Strong Energy

-1 Max Elixir

-1 Guzma

+1 Fighting Energy

+1 Beast Ring

+1 Choice Band

After these changes, the deck’s win-rate jumped to 55.17% over the following 29 games. Subtracting games against Malamar from this sample (Buzzwole’s new and popular rough matchup that I had to learn through repeated losses) cause this win-rate to spike to an incredible 82.35%.

An 82.35% win-rate is remarkable, especially considering the broad variety of decks it’s against. The Malamar matchup is a major area of concern, however. It is new, consistent and has proven to be successful. These are the three key elements for a deck to gain a great deal of popularity. In my most recent 15 games with BuzzRoc, 10 of them were against Malamar. While the PTCGO Metagame is not necessarily reflective of the actual Metagame, it paints an important picture regarding representation; a very large number of players are at least considering Malamar as a play. This is alarming for Buzzwole and it means that having a concrete, effective game-plan is crucial to success. Fortunately, I’ve spent many hours losing this matchup so that you won’t have to, at least some of the time.

Matchups

I’m not going to go over all of BuzzRoc’s matchups here as they are largely the same as they have been in the past. That said, I do want to address some new ones to keep you up to speed on how to navigate some of the trickier ones.

Malamar

There are currently two builds of Malamar, but the matchup plays out almost identically. Of the two, the Psychic focused build is more difficult to beat due to greater consistency and more Psychic attackers. My current list has an 18.18% win-rate against Psychic Malamar and a 21.43% win-rate against all Malamar variants. This would place the matchup at roughly 80/20, but I believe that with the correct approach it can be brought to 60/40 or 65/35. While Buzzwole is still unfavored, the matchup is not so severely lopsided as my current data would suggest.

There are two major points to the Malamar matchup:

  • Lycanroc-GX is your main attacker.
  • Do not over-bench Buzzwole-GX’s before you can see exactly how the prize trade in a game will play out. In many matchups, having two Buzzwole-GX on board early is ideal as it gives you Max Elixir and guaranteed future Beast Ring targets. Against Malamar, the only time you want Buzzwole-GX on the bench is if it’s the recipient of a Beast Ring that turn AND you know you’ll need it to be able to take all six prizes.

These points carry nuance beyond their short form, of course, but the points on their own will curb the disadvantage against Malamar significantly.

Aim to attach to Rockruff as quickly as possible. I attach to it Turn 1 whenever I can and unless an excellent opportunity arises, the second energy on a Rockruff Turn 2 is almost always more valuable than a Jet Punch. Jet Punch is essentially worthless in this matchup. With Max Elixir in Malamar decks and Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX not having to discard its energy to knock you out, targeting down Inkay and Malamar is rarely effective. The only time it’s particularly effective is when your opponent has a slow start and can’t evolve them or power up an attacker quickly. With the newest builds of the deck, this is a very rare occurrence. Your primary usage for Jet Punch in this matchup is to set up Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX for a Claw Slash KO, but even then the attachment is often best placed elsewhere.

Once you can see how the prize trade will play out (e.g. your opponent has benched six prizes worth of GX Pokemon), you can begin to bench Buzzwole-GX’s. They will be easy KO’s, so it’s important to make use of them quickly or threaten with something else while you develop them. Overusing them will result in many losses, as it did in my testing results.

Moon’s Eclipse GX is a highly powerful attack that can completely disrupt a matchup. Remember to play around it when possible. Another important point here is that a Guzma in combination with Bloodthirsty Eyes can reset the secondary effect of Moon’s Eclipse, giving you an out to get around the invulnerability.

Absorption GX is almost always the wrong GX attack to use due to Malamar’s ease of knocking out a three Energy Buzzwole early on. You should save the GX attack for Dangerous Rogue GX, an attack that almost always grabs a knockout when used and segues cleanly into Claw Slash for high damage in the following turns.

The additional TL;DR of this matchup is:

  1. Attack with Lycanroc.
  2. Bench Buzzwole-GX when you can Beast Ring to it and know it won’t give your opponent an easier time taking six prizes.
  3. Use Dangerous Rogue GX to swing the prize trade and follow up with Claw Slashes for 170-200. Claw Slash one-shots are greatly helpful to winning this matchup.

Mirror

The mirror plays out very similarly to before except for one key difference: Sledgehammer. Avoiding being at four prizes is very important to keep your opponent from one-shotting a Buzzwole-GX for little commitment. I typically like to take a KO on a Rockruff or Remoraid to start the game off and transition to larger KO’s from there. While it is rare, three prize turns are possible with this deck and can completely dodge your opponent’s Beast Ring window by going from 5 prizes to 2. Use this to your advantage and always keep an eye out for the opportunity. Setting up 30 on a Remoraid or Rockruff or 60 on an Octillery makes the extra prize easy to pick up and Diancie Prism Star and Beast Energy give you the means to reliably two-shot a Buzzwole-GX with Jet Punch.

Another important difference to acknowledge is that coming back from zero energy on board is now a very easy feat with Beast Ring. Landing them is a large part of the reason I’ve chosen to go up to four as whiffing it will seal the matchup. When you place your opponent in Beast Ring range, be sure that you know how to respond to an immediate three-Energy Buzzwole and have appropriately managed your resources to do so.

Ultra Box

This is not a deck that I consider particularly powerful but it has nonetheless been a presence in the Metagame. The key to this matchup is targeting down Poipoles in the early game and aggressively KO’ing Naganadel-GX in the mid to late game. The only time you should be taking a knockout on something else is:

  1. If you don’t have a way to hit around their non-Poipole or Naganadel active.
  2. If you have mapped out your prize exchange such that you can race your opponent with any two Prize KO.

Like the Malamar matchup, Lycanroc-GX is extremely powerful here, but a point of contrast to the Malamar matchup is that achieving a OHKO with Claw Slash on a Naganadel-GX is nearly impossible. For this reason, Buzzwole-GX remains a key piece to winning this matchup. Generally, you should limit the number of Buzzwole-GX’s on your bench to those you are immediately attaching to, though benching an extra in preparation for Beast Ring is not a game losing play.

Other New Decks

These new decks refer to things like Latios/Greninja-GX, decks that haven’t been considered by the community at large. In general, BuzzRoc is an extremely difficult matchup for any deck that doesn’t one-shot it turn after turn. This means that most new decks are going to struggle greatly both with your early pressure and huge damage potential. Having tested against many of these decks now, the matchups play out almost identically. Take early knockouts and go on a Beast Ring-fueled rampage in the midgame, saving your GX attack for Dangerous Rogue in any case where your opponent is using an attacker with 220 or more HP. If a deck can consistently cope with this and also stand a change against the other decks of the Metagame, I expect it to go from fringe to Meta pretty quickly.

Thoughts on the new format overall

Overall, I’ve found this to be the most enjoyable format this year. The new set introduced important checks to the powerhouse decks of the format and brought some diversity to the top of the Metagame, though Tier 2 has admittedly had a huge amount of variety over the course of this season. I currently feel that Tier 1 is comprised of BuzzRoc, Malamar and Zoroark/Lycanroc (another deck that benefits greatly from Buzzwole FLI), but this will almost certainly change over the next few weeks. Golisopod/Zoroark always seems to find a way to adapt and there are plenty of fresh concepts that have had little time to develop. My favorite pet concept at the moment is Alolan Exeggutor and it seems that many players are testing pet concepts at the moment.

In addition, Garbodor decks may see a resurgence. While I don’t feel that any existing Garbodor deck is quite powerful enough to stand up to the powerhouses of Tier 1, Mysterious Treasure is a tremendous asset to receive. Do not be surprised if a totally new or newly reinvigorated Garbodor concept comes out of the woodworks to take a strong finish. The bottom line is that it’s likely too early to start dropping your Field Blowers and it may never be completely safe.

I do feel that an unfortunate casualty of Forbidden Light is stall and mill decks. BuzzRoc is even more of a menace now than it was before, easily two-shotting Sylveon-GX and one-shotting Hoopa SHL for a single energy, let alone the one-shots that result in three Energy hitting the board. In addition to this, Malamar being able to constantly recycle basic Energy means that any strategy aiming to deplete it of resources in this way stands at a severe disadvantage. While current lists of Malamar do not play any kind of answer to Hoopa SHL, a single Shining Lugia tech can run through Hoopas like nothing and easily addresses the matchup, should the need arise. That said, Buzzwole FLI becoming a potent and popular non-GX fighting attacker may spell the death of Hoopa centered decks on its own.

My current frontrunner for the format is Zoroark/Lycanroc, packing a great deal of flexibility and answers to every top deck. It has the aggression to race other decks of the format and either plenty of one-shot potential with Buzzwole FLI and the Counter package or powerful disruption with Enhanced Hammer and heavy Parallel City. It has the highest overall win-rate out of my testing pool at 77.42% over 31 games (many of these being against notable players instead of PTCGO) and the greatest ability to adapt to changes in the format. Given how powerful it’s been, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a fresh take on Zoroark/Golisopod return as a top contender in the format, but I haven’t found the list to make such a resurgence yet.

The last deck I want to draw attention to is Greninja. While I do feel that most current lists struggle with BuzzRoc (especially new BuzzRoc), the absence of Garbodor and Golisopod-GX from the Metagame has given it an excellent window of opportunity. Given some slight adaptations (I’ve seen successful players trying out additions like Greninja-GX, Mewtwo EVO and Eneporter); it may have a real shot at becoming a prevalent Metagame force. I don’t have much concrete insight to offer here as I have yet to test the deck, but I would certainly encourage anyone with the time to give it a try.

Conclusion

This wraps up my thoughts on BuzzRoc and the BKT-FLI format. I’ve loved seeing how the format has been shaken up and Madison’s results will undoubtedly be of great interest to any competitive player. I’ll likely be taking Zoroark/Lycanroc to the event myself and I would be happy to answer questions on any of the three decks I labeled Tier 1 through Facebook or the comments. Good luck to everyone in Madison and I look forward to writing for you all again soon!

 

-Conner