Written by Brent Halliburton
Hey, I am Brent Halliburton. Many of you may know me as a guy that never plays Pokémon. My kids play Pokémon and after three Regionals this season, they can lay claim to two Top 16 finishes, two Top Ten finishes (is that a thing?), a Top 8, and a Top 4. So if they wrote this article, it would be more interesting, but also have more typos. So I have that going for me.
Normally I write for SixPrizes and I write about the junior meta, but I wanted to write a deep dive on a deck and SixPrizes didn’t seem to be the place for it. Also, I am a Some1sPC believer; as you no doubt know, Russell, Chris, Dylan, and Marc are great people and they are nothing but kind to juniors.
Table of Contents
I. The List
II. List Choices
In our testing, I have messed with Mega Gardevoir a lot. I have probably played more games with Mega Gardevoir this season than any other deck and I think a fair bit of my thinking is different than conventional wisdom. So I wanted to talk about it.
My interest in Mega Gardevoir is easy to understand: Despair Ray is a novel new mechanic for deck-building and hence is interesting! Frankly, I felt like I already knew how Volcanion worked the day after it was printed. The 56 card-ish skeleton built itself because the archetype was fairly obvious. The best way to play Gardevoir was much less obvious and made me think exploring it would be fun. I continue to believe, despite the fact that Mega Gardevoirs reputation as BDIF has already come and gone, that the best build of Mega Gardevoir has not yet been discovered. This means, to me, that the best is yet to come for this deck.
- 2 Gardevoir-EX STS
- 1 Gardevoir-EX PRC
- 3 Mega Gardevoir-EX STS
- 3 Dragonite-EX EVO
- 2 Hoopa-EX PR
- 4 Shaymin-EX ROS
- 1 Rattata
- 3 Professor Sycamore
- 2 N
- 2 Hex Maniac
- 2 Lysandre
- 4 VS Seeker
- 4 Ultra Ball
- 4 Gardevoir Spirit Link
- 3 Trainers’ Mail
- 3 Escape Rope
- 1 Super Rod
- 1 Buddy-Buddy Rescue
- 2 Mega Turbo
- 2 Fairy Drop
- 3 Sky Field
- 1 Parallel City
- 7 Fairy Energy
3 Gardevoir-EX and Mega Gardevoir-EX – It would be nice to run four because Gardevoir is your ideal starter and you would like to set up four Gardevoir over the course of the game, but the list is so insanely tight that you have to settle for three. Having said that, it isn’t terrible to have three because Dragonite-EX is amazing. We didn’t develop a nuanced opinion on the split of STS and PRC Gardevoir. While Life Leap lets you hit them for a tiny bit of damage for one energy, the STS attacks seem superior and have more situational value.
2 Hoopa-EX – You don’t need more than 2 Hoopa-EX. You can’t get by with one because if it is prized, you will find that it is simply too hard to set up. But you don’t need more than two because after you get one out, you are discarding it every turn and then bringing it back with Dragonite-EX as you need it. So one will usually suffice for the game. I have seen many lists that run three, but I don’t know why you would need three.
3 Dragonite-EX – Just as you need 2 Hoopa to protect against bad prizes, you need 3 Dragonite to protect against prizing a Dragonite. After testing it a fair bit, I am a believer in more Dragonite-EX. The goal for your first turn is to set up and with minimal draw supporter counts, you need to get a Hoopa-EX out to set up. After your first Despair Ray, you will have a Hoopa-EX in the discard that you can use to get more Shaymin-EX, Gardevoir-EX, or Mega Gardevoir-EX out of your deck if you want. But after your first Despair Ray, you will probably have a Rattata, a Hoopa-EX, and 2-3 Shaymin-EX in your discard. To keep streaming Pokémon, you need Dragonite-EX. Ideally, the next three turns each start with benching a Dragonite to give you access to Rattata to discard tools, Shaymin-EX to draw, Gardevoirs, or Hoopa-EX. Dragonite-EX is the only basic Pokémon that you can’t grab with Dragonite-EX, so you want to have enough Dragonite-EX to see you through the game.
Allow me to dig a little deeper here with a very concrete example of the value of a third Dragonite. If you want to hit for 180 in a game with Despair Ray, you have to discard 7 Pokémon. Throwing away 7 Pokémon is hard. If you think about it, you have an active Gardevoir, and a benched Gardevoir that you are setting up, and then you need to throw away, for example, 2 Hoopa, 4 Shaymin, and a Rattata. That means you have 3 Dragonite and 1 Gardevoir left in your deck. Theoretically, by drawing into a Dragonite, it is possible for you to repeat the act and hit for 180 again by using Dragonite to get Hoopa and Shaymin, then using Hoopa to get Dragonite and Gardevoir (and maybe a Mega Gardevoir that you needed), then using the new Dragonite to grab 2 Shaymin (Yielding 2 Dragonite, 1 Hoopa, 2 Shaymin, and a Gardevoir, all of which are then discarded.) That leaves you with 1 Dragonite in your deck (Ignoring Super Rod for a moment) to get you through the rest of the game assuming none of your 16 Pokémon are prized. This example drives home the value of the third Dragonite because it ensures you can hit 180 twice if a Dragonite is prized.
4 Shaymin-EX – Not unlike Mega Rayquazza, you are playing a deck that rewards filling your bench with Pokémon. Unlike Mega Rayquazza, it also includes a mechanic for clearing bad prizes off the board. If this is not a perfect deck for 4 Shaymin, then nothing is. Run 4 Shaymin. Some people run a 4-4 Octillery line because they can’t afford Shaymin. I AM JOKING. That is not a thing. #4Shaymin4Life.
1 Rattata – The arrival of the first tool removal mechanic in Standard takes the form of a Pokémon you play from your hand to the bench and it removes a tool from the active! If only there was a deck that allowed you to repeatedly play a Pokémon from your hand to the bench, discard it, then get it back from the discard! And lo, Mega Gardevoir and its trusty companion Dragonite hailed it’s rat companion as it blew up Fighting Fury Belts to allow Gardevoir to win stuff.
3 Professor Sycamore, 2 N – We tested with 2 Sycamore and 1 N a fair bit and just found that there were games where we didn’t set up and we missed the draw supporter we needed. We tested with 4 Sycamore and a single N, but N is so good, might as well run 2.
2 Lysandre, 2 Hex Maniac, 4 VS Seeker – For a long, long time we actually tested 3 VS Seeker because we were running 2 Lysandre, 2 Hex and no other non-draw supporters and we felt like there was less need to have Seekers with so few supporters and so many of each. We ended up leaving the 4th in because VS Seeker is ridiculous. Using Hex Maniac to generate the first turn Hex a la Hexquazza is incredibly powerful for slowing down many opponents. It only takes one or two turns of Hex to win the game many times and 2 Hex Maniac give you the flexibility to do so.
4 Ultra Ball – You need T1 Hoopa-EX, so Ultra Ball is important
4 Gardevoir Spirit Link – I see decks that run three, but in a dream world, at some point you throw away a damaged Gardevoir and then re-build a new one. Further, much like Mega Rayquazza, you need to mega-evolve as quickly as you can because otherwise your bench targets are too interesting to your opponent. If you don’t Despair Ray on T2 to clean up your bench you leave valuable prizes exposed and you don’t have room to bench Dragonite-EX and get more cards via Shaymin.
1 Super Rod, 1 Buddy-Buddy Rescue – Usually, if you start with an Ultra Ball, you only need one to get completely set up. When you draw into Ultra Balls later in the game, frequently there are not a lot of Pokémon left in your deck to grab – a Mega-Rayquazza or the Bunnelby, for example. If you have an Ultra Ball in your hand and the Super Rod, you can throw all your Dragonite back in your deck, Ultra Ball Dragonite, grab Hoopa, and get out more Dragonite, so the combo of Super Rod and Ultra Ball gives you the chance to hit for 180 late game easily. Buddy-Buddy is a simpler out to a Dragonite you have already played. Having access to both seemed good.
3 Trainers Mail – The need for early Ultra Balls, Escape Ropes and Spirit Links means Trainers Mails are a utilitarian tool to help acquire the resources you need in an explosive start. Having said that, the draw engine is already incredibly powerful. We found we could cut Trainers Mail for techs without really adverse consequences. With 4 Shaymin, 2 Hoopa, 4 Ultra Ball, 3 Sycamore, and 2 N, even with 2 Trainer’s Mails, you have 17 outs to draw T1. That is a high-powered engine that basically never misses.
3 Escape Rope – You usually do not start Gardevoir-EX and that is usually OK because most decks won’t take a knock-out on their first turn attacking. What is really, really important after that is that you switch a Gardevoir into the active on your second turn and then Despair Ray. This has two benefits: You had someone other than your primary attacker tank the damage Turn One, and then you threw the injured Pokémon away without your opponent taking prizes. That means you need to hit your Escape Rope. Unfortunately, this means you needed your attachment for turn to complete powering up your Mega Gardevoir so attaching to retreat is not an option. Particularly if it is Hoopa or Dragonite, which have much heftier retreat costs. Similarly, late game you may want to retreat and Despair Ray away an injured Gardevoir. Two Escape Ropes is simply not enough to guarantee that you hit the Escape Rope when you need it. You may say a Switch or Float Stone would be equally good, but an Escape Rope does a few other things: First, it can move a Fright Night Yveltal out of the active to allow you to mega-evolve. Second, it it is not a tool so you can switch a damaged Gardevoir to the bench even if it has a Spirit Link on it.
2 Mega Turbo – Worked for us. Because your opponent generally has to two-shot you, you only need one mid-game Mega Turbo to keep streaming Gardevoirs fairly consistently. Some lists have run three and I understand that because when you need that Mega Turbo, you NEED that Mega Turbo, but it never seemed critical to us.
2 Fairy Drop – There is usually a turn where you need to convert their two shot into a three shot to win the prize trade. A key Fairy Drop is what facilitates that. It may seem like more Fairy Drop is mo’ better. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to have them clogging your hand T1 when you are trying to set up and draw Spirit Links, Sky Fields, and Ultra Balls, so it is probably better to run more Trainer’s Mail and fewer Fairy Drop.
3 Skyfield/1 Parallel City – We tested with 4 Sky Field a lot because the Sky Field gives you the room for heavy damage output and it gives you the room for setting up completely. There are simply turns where you need to bench another Shaymin-EX to get where you need to be. Having said that, the matchup with Mega Ray and Rainbow Force are poor. Parallel City allows you to turn those matchups around by capping their damage output for a turn or 3. Just going head to head with Skyfield is a recipe for trouble but a surprise Parallel City allows you to keep streaming 110-140 damage per turn and can make it difficult for them to respond in kind.
7 Fairy Energy – All of the lists that I see have 8 Fairy Energy, but we have tested with 7 virtually from the start and it has been fine. Really, is just important to see 2 energies in your first two turns. After that you are good. I know from a lot of testing and decks you see today that you can get away with 4 DCE and it is enough energy for many decks. Going to 7 to stream 2 energy attackers seemed fine and gave us an extra slot. This deck thins itself very efficiently on Turn One so drawing into energy is not a problem.
This list has room for techs. The cards that are most easily cut are the 3rd Trainer’s Mail, the 4th VS Seeker, the 2nd Hex Maniac, and the 2nd Lysandre. If I cut the two supporters, I would leave the 4th Seeker.
Here are my top ideas for techs for the deck:
Bunnelby or Jirachi – Here is where I went off the rails. People play many different techs after the stuff I walked you through. Some play Absol to move damage counters, but in our testing it rarely changed outcomes – e.g. we never used it. It was more frequently just another Pokémon benched. Some played Hawlucha. In our testing, Hawlucha helped in the Mega Rayquazza matchup by gusting up smaller HP Pokémon but few other situations. I could see the theorymon of it helping in Yveltal, to get out of Fright Night, but in practice it rarely did.
Also, we wanted a single prize Pokémon that we could attack with for a turn. Many people looked to Raticate to fill this purpose, but we found that we spent too much time using Rattata to discard tools and then throwing Rattata away to hit for numbers. The amount of time that we had a Rattata hanging around and then had a Raticate in hand to go aggro with was basically never. I have polled a lot of people on this as well and I think the real concensus is that the Raticate line is simply impractical. Given that so much of your draw is fueled by Shaymin, holding a Stage One in your hand is simply impractical.
Bunnelby, Spinda, and Jirachi are the three Pokémon that fit our bill: single energy attackers that do something interesting. Spinda is a hard counter to Gyrados, which could be a very tough matchup otherwise. Jirachi is Jirachi, and frankly is probably an equally good play.
Bunnelby is a card that I love, as you may figure out if you read my articles on SixPrizes. I felt like getting back two cards in exchange for a prize seemed like a pretty reasonable trade in many games. Furthermore, if you Lysandre a Hoopa or something and play Rattata to remove their Float Stone, you could create an alternate win condition where you can burrow them out or make them reach, playing Olympia as their supporter for turn or using their DCE to retreat all so they can claim a 7th prize. Some people don’t play any of these Pokémon to focus more on consistency. We found in our testing that having a few more Pokémon in the deck was never a problem.
Beedrill-EX – This helps improve the Garbodor matchup significantly by giving you another strong tool removal mechanic. With a colorless attack and a single energy retreat and the ability to get it off the board after its usefulness had ended, there is a lot to be said for this. Also, it can be searched with Hoopa-EX.
8th Fairy Energy – If you have energy problems, I feel bad for you, son.
Delinquent – because Delinquent. I love alternate win conditions.
Brock’s Grit – I am not really a believer in Brock’s Grit. It uses your supporter for turn, it puts back a bunch of energy and Pokémon. When would you need this? It seems you would be better served by using Bunnelby to put back Super Rod and Buddy-Buddy if you thought this was your problem. If you are under Garbodor lock, then saying, “my plan is to play Brock’s Grit, then Sycamore into 6 Pokémon the next turn for the win” sounds terrible. If you aren’t under ability lock, then using Buddy-Buddy for Dragonite-EX sounds so much better.
Olympia – Switch effects are great.
Now is the part of any good article where we talk about matchups and how they work.
Yveltal is an important matchup because Yveltal. The best strategy that they have early is to get their Fright Night in the active to regulate your spirit links. This is a matchup where having 2 Hexes might help because hitting a T2 Hex is probably important. This lets you mega-evolve and Despair Ray to clean prizes off your bench. Efficient use of Despair Ray keeps your bench protected from Pitch-Black Spear. Successful execution here reaps multiple rewards: You can generally take a prize off the Fright Night Yveltal and if he has only Speared you once, you generally won’t be KO’d by an EX after this because he would need to hit for 170 (Pitch Black Spear for 40) and you only have 2 energies attached. Yveltal-EX struggles in this matchup because you can hit 170 easily and you are attacking with a 2 Energy attacker. Also, you can generally put them in a situation where they have to choose between Paralleling themselves and Paralleling you. If they decrease your damage output, they are leaving Shaymin on the board, so it won’t slow you down. If they parallel themselves, you still need a Skyfield to KO an Yveltal-EX, but Fright Night Yveltal, without an FFB to help them, is vulnerable. Mid-game, after you Mega-evolve, they will try to get a Garb out to regulate your Dragonite-Shaymin chaining. This is not terrible for you because you probably took a prize off a baby Yveltal early so Lysandre’ing Garb to bring Abilities back online does not turn it into a 7 prize game and generally you can tank an Yveltal-EX a bit.
You are somewhat favored against BDIF in this matchup.
Their strategy is to attack with Darkrai. Their objective is to get enough energy on the board that they can one-shot your Gardevoir and run through your board, but the challenge is they need 11 energies to do so due to dark resistance. . They want to pile DDEs on a Giratina on the bench but never bring it up because then you can Hex and one-shot for weakness.
Unfortunately, a 180 HP Darkrai is a challenge for you to OHKO due to psychic resistance (An argument for running Giovanni’s, which many people do, but really this is the only situation where Giovanni’s seems so critical). Your perfect scheme is to KO a Darkrai before they KO a Gardevoir, that generally puts you far enough ahead in the trade that you can trade two shots for the win. In a perfect world, they either miss the DDE or miss a Max Elixir and end up three shotting a Gardevoir at the start of the game. It is important that you get the first KO to start. Finding your Fairy Drop early can swing this matchup.
They may try to bring a Garbodor online to regulate your Dragonite-Shaymin chaining again. This is a mistake for them because it makes their Giratina an immediate target. If they don’t bench Giratina, they won’t get to numbers that let them OHKO, but hopefully you have already taken your big prize for the game so you no longer need to reach big numbers to beat them. Even an FFB Darkrai gets killed by two Despair Rays, so the need to hit a Rattata is limited after the initial OHKO. You simply trade better than they do and can target Hoopa and Shaymin while protecting your bench with Despair Ray.
Obviously, you need to manage your board to get Spirit Links down regularly and/or keep Gardevoirs powered up. If they swing up with a Chaos Wheel to knock out a Mega Gardevoir, you won’t be able to Link Blast for the KO because they have 4 energies on the Giratina. So you need two energies and the ability to add a third to use Luminous Blade or you have a Spirit Link already attached to the Gardevoir and then you can mega-evolve to KO.
You are favored in this matchup.
Rainbow Road/Mega Rayquazza
These matchups play out fairly similarly in that they bench a fair amount of EX Pokémon which they need to KO you. The difference between these two decks is that it is possible against Rainbow Road for Mega Gardevoir to OHKO the active. Ideally, you want to start this matchup with a Hex Maniac to slow your opponents board development. Both decks more or less require Hoopa/Shaymin plays to set up and attack. Rainbow Road generally has less of an opportunity to Hex you, but Rayquazza, benching many more Shaymin, will want to try to Hex you as well. Assuming you both set up equally, your opponent is favored in this matchup because they can easily one-shot your Mega Gardevoir, while you either lose the prize trade, taking a single prize per Xerneas, or lose the prize trade because you have no way to OHKO a Mega Rayquazza.
The way you fight back against this is to balance early Lysandres and Parallel City use. On the one hand, if you can Parallel City and get it to stick for a few turns, they can no longer OHKO your Pokémon. On the other hand, if you can quickly Lysandre Shaymin and Hoopa and take two prizes per turn, you can put yourself in a strong position. So you need to choose when to lean in to Lysandre’ing vs. digging for the Parallel. Generally the way you will decide this is how quickly you are getting out Gardevoirs and attaching energy to them and how quickly they are getting their board set up. If they have a full board state and are one-shotting you right away, you need to Parallel them immediately to try to slow them down. Ideally, you have a strong Hex and slow down their board, then after a Lysandre, you hit a Parallel, then Lysandre once or twice more for the win. Trading blows with their Mega Rayquazza is a recipe for disaster.
They are favored in this matchup. If they get everything they need and you get everything you need, they win.
Greninja is a difficult matchup that requires getting out ahead of the opponent quickly. If you are KO’ing Greninjas before they Break, without have to push for the big KO on a Break, then your path is much easier. If they start Shadow Stitching and have Greninja Breaks that are difficult to knock out, it can be very difficult. The good news is that you can keep your board clean and if they double Water Shuriken and then attack for 40 to 80, you have taken 160 to 200 damage and they missed the KO, you can retreat that Gardevoir and Despair Ray it away. Unfortunately, if you are not streaming KOs and regulating the amount of Greninja they can produce, it is virtually impossible for you to stream Mega Gardevoirs. Despite that, if you get a quick KO on a Frogadier or Froakie, then KO a Greninja or Frogadier, then KO another Greninja, they may struggle to set up a board state that allows them to generate enough damage output to keep up.
A well-timed Hex and a Fairy Drop can impact this matchup as well. If they double Shuriken and Stitch for 160, then you Fairy Drop and Hex them, they are not able to KO your Gardevoir that turn. If that allows you to take multiple KOs with a single Gardevoir in the mid-game, it can swing the tide but it requires very careful bench management and it requires that your opponent be struggling to find their Break Pokémon.
People tell me that this is a 50/50, but in our testing, we won fairly consistently.
Because you are so ability reliant, decks with powerful attacking abilities like Greninja and Volcanion can cause a challenge. In this matchup, you can take easy KOs on the baby Volcanion and Shaymin (and Hoopa if they play that). You can also go all-out and take a KO on a Volcanion-EX, but it requires significant resource depletion to get there.
Unfortunately for you, they can triple Steam Up and then use Volcanion-EX to one-shot your Mega Gardevoir. Your hope here is that they miss a Max Elixir or two and are relying on Volcanion to power up Volcanion-EX. If you only kill one Volcanion, you are playing a seven prize game, but if they are slow to develop their board state, you can KO two. Once their board is set up, you are probably looking to trap a powered up Volcanion active and KO it to regulate their ability to triple Steam Up (Parallel City is also useful in this regard). Alternately or late game, if you find your Lysandre, you can target down Shaymin and Hoopa that they bench. If you find yourself in a spot where you need to hit back-to-back Rattatas and 180 damage, that can be difficult or impossible. You probably want to use your Fairy Drop and/or Hex Maniac early in this matchup, as your goal early is to prevent finding yourself getting KO’d by a Volcanion-EX after a single attack by a baby Volcanion. Alternately, and this is true for several of these matchups, you should watch and track the switch effects a deck runs. If they don’t run Olympia, you can always feel free to Lysandre a Volcanion-EX with no energy, use Rattata to discard their Float Stone, and then burrow them out or Rototiller some resources back.
This is a fairly even matchup.
Wreck their face. They will probably start crying when you flip over your Gardevoir. For two energy, you OHKO their entire board by hitting for Psychic weakness. The result is that Damage Change is never an issue for you. They need five energies on a Mega Mewtwo to OHKO you. Then you will OHKO them back. There is basically no hope that they can manage the tempo of this game.
This is your loss. You are going to lose terribly. Prepare yourself. For two energies, they OHKO you. My recommended strategy is to try to determine if they use Olympia. If not, Lysandre their Hoopa repeatedly and use Rattata to remove the float stone. The most recent list on SixPrizes only has 3 Float Stones as the switch effects. That list can be exploited. Go for the deck out. You cannot OHKO them, but they OHKO all of your Pokémon. You have Bunnelby. You can deck them out.
In Top 8 at Fort Wayne, we won one of our three games against Mega Scizor. We found the key thing that allowed us to win the one game was our opponent prized 2 Mega Scizor and Sycamore’ed away a third on his first turn. So pray for luck.
Hopefully you feel ready to play Mega Gardevoir now! As long as you don’t see a Scizor, it can be a very strong play in the current meta with strong consistency and good matchups across the board for most of the popular decks in the format.