The first Unbroken Bonds legal events took place this past weekend (May 18 & 19) including major events in Sydney (Australia), São Paulo (Brazil), and Santa Clara, CA. I will be going over the meta that occurred in Santa Clara and partially looking at results of the foreign events in preparation for the inevitable development of this new and volatile standard meta.
DDG AND WHAT NONSENSE DID THEY PLAY THIS TIME?
The talk of the community during and after most major events this year has been “did you see what Team DDG played” or “has anyone seen their list yet” and things of this nature revolving around the successful group of players on DDG (and Michael Pramawat who is on Team ARG but usually plays the same list as the top DDG players) and the deck that they all played at the tournament.
The community began fearing and respecting the high-skill deck building of this group around Portland Regionals in October 2018 when Jimmy Pendarvis won the first expanded regionals of the year with Zoroark Seismitoad and shortly after in November when Daniel Altavilla won the Brazil IC with Zoroark Control. These players mentioned and their testing partners have all been notable players for varying amounts of time now, but in my opinion they are at an elite level of building, theorying, and playing which is perhaps only paralleled by the Schulz brothers and Tord Reklev who created iconic 2017-2018 decks like Zoroark Golisopod, Zoroark Gardevoir, and Zoroark Control.
This section was partially given its name since I have had Shedinja Control saved in my PTCGO as “Shedinja Nonsense” since Unbroken Bonds became playable online. This deck which was originally created by Grant Manley and then popularized in the SUM-TEU standard by Pedro Torres is what the cohort of top DDG players played at Santa Clara regionals. Azul Garcia Griego, Isaiah Williams, and Jimmy Pendarvis all advanced to Day 2 with Shedinja Control as well as an unrelated player Adrian Mejia Galvez who placed 12th with the same archetype but a different list which utilized Rhyperior from Burning Shadows to mill the opponent’s deck repeatedly with the help of Devolution Spray Z.
Shedinja Control is a hybrid of Stall and Mill with a splash of control which strives to deny the opponent from taking prize cards via Shedinja’s Vessel of Life ability. The DDG list played no direct way of milling the opponent’s deck and had the sole gameplan of outlasting the opponent by looping Oranguru’s Resource Management. This deck can be countered by the way players build their decks. More Escape Rope, Guzma, Field Blower, Pal Pad, and/or Oranguru UPR to reuse these resources are ample inclusions to enhance a deck’s Shedinja matchup. Escape Rope and Guzmaare good vs Shedinja as they allow you to get around the Pokemon with Vessel of Life attached to it, and Field Blower is good vs Shedinja as it allows you to remove the tool. Shedinja had many advantages for Santa Clara: 1) the element of surprise as not many players were familiar with how the deck is built and even less had tested against it, 2) being slightly under the radar and out of player’s attention since the spotlight was largely on countering Reshizard and Lucario & Melmetal / Regi / Hoopa stall, and lastly 3) having a lot of great matchups in Tier 1 and 2 as long as Shedinja was not aggressively teched for (which I covered why it would not be). I do not expect there to be an influx of Shedinja for cups and Madison since the deck did not make it to the finals, the deck is extremely difficult to pilot correctly, and players may start building their decks to prepare for it.
WHERE THERE’S FIRE… THERE’S MORE FIRE
Santa Clara regionals had two very different Reshizard builds in the finals while São Paulo was also won by Reshizard. As of now there are two variants of the Reshizard archetype: Green’s Exploration engine which Kian Amini placed 1st in Santa Clara with and the “turbo” version which was much more widely played this past weekend.
Kian’s list with 4 Volcanion has a strong potential to trade evenly with one prize decks, while using Reshiram Charizard Tag Team to run through any GX based decks or even tank hits in the end game of a single prize matchup. Cleverly included was also an Eevee Snorlax Tag Team as a powerful and tanky GX pokemon with a different weakness than Reshizard. Draw support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX and Marshadow SHL were omitted to allow the deck to run a Green’s Exploration engine.
The more typical Reshizard variant includes some combination of Dedenne-GX, Tapu Lele-GX, Marshadow SHL, and Jirachi TEU for draw and search and have generally less one prize attackers than Kian’s Green’s build had. Regardless of the build, Welder is the catalyst driving Reshizard’s instant success and placement into Tier 1.
DEVELOPMENT AND SPECULATION
Reshizard is looking like the deck to beat in our current standard format, but Zapdos variants, Stall, and Pikarom are not very far behind. I think that Weezing is the most powerful rogue or under the radar deck at the moment and has potential to beat a lot of the high tier decks aside from stall. At the moment I am battling with myself over Reshizard’s tier placement and whether or not to put it in it’s own tier. It is not unbeatable by any means, but likely has the best or one of the best matchup spreads of any discovered deck in standard at the moment. Below is a tentative tier list that I will be using as a helping hand for league cups and challenges which I will be grinding for the next few weeks.
Tier S or top of Tier 1
Reshizard (both variants)
Zapdos Beasts / Fighting
Pikarom (I currently favor pikabox over turbo pikarom)
Salazzle / Unown Hand
I’ve been testing a lot of decks, and every deck in my tiers 1 and 2 have been going anywhere from 40/60 to 60/40 vs Reshizard. I do not think Reshizard is the end all be all, but I do believe it’s matchup spread is very good and has a chance at winning almost any matchup if played and built correctly. My favorite decks at this moment are Weezing, Zoroark Persian Slowking, and Blacephalon-GX. You can check out one of my videos to find out more about the Zoroark Persian Slowking deck.
Weezing’s ability combined with Spell Tag and Shrine of Punishment is annoying enough that it cannot be ignored and it slowly goes from pestering to obnoxious with the amounts of damage the deck can put on the board. Zoroark-GX variants have been my go to since Zororoc’s inception so I naturally have been drawn to Zoro Persian King. I enjoy the deck’s ability to handle the top decks of the meta with different attackers, but Zoroark cannot come back from slow starts versus Reshi and Pikarom. Lastly, Blacephalon-GX has been revitalized with Welder and has burst damage potential that is no longer limited to beast ring turns. I really enjoy the spontaneous aggressive nature the deck now has. I think Reshizard is a fairly safe deck to play if you are comfortable with either Kian, Pablo’s, or Alex Schemanske’s lists from this past weekend. All lists that I mentioned in this article can be found on Limitlesstcg.com which is a great resource for tournament results and deck lists.