What’s up, readers? With the Expanded format behind us, for now, we are back to Standard where “Let Loose” and Lusamine rule the game. As we saw in Collinsville, Blacephalon won the entire event and Stall had a Top 4 spot along with many Day 2 finishes. After an amazing 9-0 finish on Day 1, Daniel Altavilla came in second at this event piloting Zoroark/Lucario/Lycanroc. At recent League Cups, the Pikachu & Zekrom GX-Box deck has shown popularity along with the emergence of Zapdos/Lycanroc.

As we head into Denver, these are the decks to beat. They have had the best results and thrive on being extremely consistent decks in general. Malamar is probably the best deck to take a loss to, as it is not too consistent, nor can it handle the speed of the Lightning decks. Blacephalon and Zapdos variants will be relatively popular, but taking a loss to either of these matchups likely won’t cost you the event.

Now for what I consider to be the best deck in the format, and a deck I am highly considering for the event: Stall.  In Collinsville, the Stall lists were not very refined and had a few cards they just could not beat such as Jolteon GX, Oranguru UPR accompanied by a switching card and Judge, and Persian from Team Up. Other than that, the only deck Stall lost to was Naganadel/Quagsire, which isn’t very good.

As for these cards that beat Stall there is a very simple solution: Lugia GX. While Lugia fixes the Lightning Box matchup and the Oranguru issue, it still does nothing to help us beat Persian.

Here’s the list:

 

4 Regigigas

This is your main wall. It’s a one-prizer with high-HP and is used in basically every matchup.

3 Hoopa

Hoopa is a great wall for matchups like Lightning Box and ZoroRoc. ZoroRoc has no answer other than Alolan Muk, and if they put that thick boy in play it is very easy to trap it in the Active position.

1 Regice

Regice is something I came up with that I hadn’t seen anyone else playing. The goal of Regice is to effectively use it as a second Goomy by locking Wondrous Labyrinth in play, and/or use it to lock a Pokémon Active like Marshadow by sticking Mount Lanakila.

1 Goomy

Goomy is basically a substitute for a second Shuckle GX, but it’s better because it gives up a single prize and can combine with Wondrous Labyrinth to require your opponent to find an additional two Energy to attack. Goomy is very strong against Zoroark because it forces your opponent to put Alolan Muk into play, which becomes a win-condition for you.

1 Magikarp & Wailord GX

Magikarp & Wailord GX has a ton of HP and is extremely good in the late game. You don’t want to play more than one because it can get knocked out fairly easily in specific matchups like Lightning Box or Blacephalon.

1 Shuckle GX

This is just another wall. Shuckle is great against Zapdos and ZoroRoc, as they can never efficiently get three Energy on their Pokémon, and it’s also good against less popular decks like Lost March and Spread. It can even be used to “Wrap GX” a Ditto Prism Star, so if your opponent is only running a single Persian and no Meowth, knocking out Ditto with Shuckle is a great solution to that problem.

1 Lugia GX

Lugia GX is the card the makes this deck the BDIF in my opinion. Lugia allows you to use “Lost Purge GX” to Lost Zone problematic Pokémon such as Oranguru or Tapu Koko Prism Star. Lugia is also a win condition for the deck, as you don’t run Unown “HAND,” and you can even use Lugia GX to take prizes once your opponent is out of resources.

1 Larvitar

This is an idea that was brought to me by Isaiah Bradner. Larvitar is strictly for the Lightning Box matchup. Having Larvitar allows you to use Lugia’s GX attack on Tapu Koko Prism without losing your only out to a fully powered Lightning attacker. Over the course of the game, Shrine of Punishment pings will add up on these Pokémon, enabling Larvitar to come in out of nowhere for the surprise knockout.

4 Steven’s Resolve

Steven’s is the backbone of this deck. You want it in your opening hand so you can quickly set up to control the board and get your combos. Chaining Steven’s allows you to set up your hand to have two Lusamine and every Supporter you could ever need.

4 Bill’s Analysis

Bill’s is some extra consistency that allows you to search for cards without ending your turn like Steven’s. Bill’s is also great because it can grab a Steven’s if you don’t already have one in your hand.

3 Plumeria

Plumeria is the main way of denying your opponent’s Energy and slowing down the game. You can chain Plumeria with Lusamine to slowly whittle away at your opponent until they are out of resources. A lot of lists are cutting down to two Plumeria, but the card is very important to the deck’s strategy, and having three is ideal because it is almost always a viable top-deck.

3 Lusamine

Lusamine is an insanely broken card and should 100% be banned, but that’s not the point. Lusamine allows this deck to really strive, as it gives you infinite amounts of all your Supporters to deny your opponent mobility and prevents you from decking out in combination with Tate and Liza. Three Lusamine are optimal in case you prize some or need to get a chain going and don’t have access to Steven’s, so it’s more likely to draw one.

2 Gladion

Gladion is obviously in the deck just to get important cards out of your prizes. It’s nice to have Gladion because it essentially gives you access to every single card in your deck, and with a deck that doesn’t take prizes that’s pretty good. Gladion can also be good if your hand’s dead, as it’s pretty likely there’s either a Steven’s or a Bill’s in your prizes.

2 Acerola

Many lists run higher counts of this card but that’s completely unnecessary. Acerola isn’t a card you want to be playing in consecutive turns, as stalling for one extra turn doesn’t really progress your game plan, so having extra Acerola is almost always useless. Acerola is still very good though because in matchups like Malamar or Blacephalon it forces your opponent to put specific Pokémon onto their Bench, otherwise you can infinitely chain Acerola with Lusamine until you win.

1 Tate & Liza

Tate & Liza is basically just so you don’t deck out, but also has the added utility of allowing you to switch into a different wall in certain situations.

1 Team Skull Grunt

Team Skull Grunt is an insanely powerful card but you don’t really need more than one. Correct timing with Team Skull Grunt is key; knowing the proper time to use this card might be difficult but there are a few things you can do to up your odds of getting multiple Energy. If your opponent attacks then plays a draw Supporter, playing a Team Skull Grunt is usually pretty good, as they didn’t have the opportunity to attach any Energy they may have drawn. Playing Team Skull Grunt after your opponent takes a couple prizes is also a pretty good play, because they don’t have a chance to play any Energy they drew off the prizes. Other than that, you really just have to have a read on your opponent, whether it’s a good time to play Team Skull Grunt or not.

1 Faba

Faba is great for the deck, allowing you to get rid of tools like Escape Board on something like Marshadow so you can lock it in the Active position. It’s also great against Zoroark because it allows you to get rid of their Energy without discarding extra cards from your hand.

4 Max Potion

Max Potion is pretty self-explanatory. As a Stall deck you often need to buy yourself a couple extra turns to set up a lock on your opponent, and Max Potion allows you to do that without any drawback since you won’t usually be attacking.

4 Crushing Hammer

Crushing Hammer is a card we’ve seen fade out of most Stall decks, as it doesn’t really help in too many situations, but I’ve found it to be very helpful in the Lightning Box matchup because it gives you the opportunity to discard their Energy without using your Supporter for the turn. Some people might argue that the card is not good due to its reliance on a coin flip, but even if you flip tails it likely won’t lose you the game and had it not been in your deck it could have been a dead card anyway.

3 Ancient Crystal

Ancient Crystal just allows you to up Regigigas’s HP. It forces Lightning Box to use an extra Electropower to take the knockout, and also makes Naganadel four-shot a Regigigas.

2 Counter Catcher

Counter Catcher allows you to have easy access to your opponent’s Bench, which is super helpful when trying to lock one of your opponent’s Pokémon Active. Most lists play three or four but overall, I felt it wasn’t necessary; two were good enough.

2 Enhanced Hammer

Lets you discard Special Energy. Enhanced Hammer is very strong in matchups like Zapdos/Ultra Beasts or ZoroRoc, but not too useful in many other matchups.

2 Nest Ball

Just a bit of consistency and gives you an out to Pokémon search off Bill’s. It’s also nice to grab Nest Ball off Steven’s on turn if you don’t know what your opponent is playing yet.

2 Rescue Stretcher

Rescue Stretcher is immensely helpful in two ways: it allows you to chain more of a specific Pokémon such as Goomy, Shuckle, or Regice, and also lets you discard Pokémon off Plumeria without too much of a drawback.

1 Counter Gain

There’s only one reason this is in the deck and that’s so you can use Lugia’s “Lost Purge GX” attack without having to attach two Energy.

1 Mount Lanakila

Mount Lanakila gives you a nice option to lock Pokémon in the Active that otherwise couldn’t be locked, such as Marshadow or Jirachi. It’s also helpful against Blacephalon, making it much easier to get a Blacephalon stuck in the Active spot. Mount Lanakila is also the Stadium that you will use to force out Stadiums from your opponent so you can eventually lock Wondrous Labyrinth in play.

1 Shrine of Punishment

Shrine can act as a win-condition in some matchups if they bench six prizes worth of GX Pokémon. It also allows you to knock out a Zeraora GX with Larvitar in the Lightning Box matchup.

1 Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star

Wondrous Labyrinth is extremely strong as it can completely shut your opponent out of the game. Along with Regice, Wondrous Labyrinth can stop your opponent from ever removing the Stadium from play, which can completely lock some decks down.

1 Rainbow Energy

Rainbow Energy is in the deck almost strictly to allow you to remove a Pokémon from play using Acerola, but it also allows you to attack with Pokémon like Regice or Hoopa to close out a game in a timely manner.

2 Double Colorless Energy

Double Colorless Energy are here to allow you to use “Lost Purge GX” with Lugia, but you play two so you can attack later in the game to finish in a timely manner.

Other cards commonly seen in some Stall lists include Unown with the “HAND” Ability, but I’ve chosen not to include Unown because the Lugia package taking prizes is an easy and more efficient way of ending the game.

Girafarig is a Pokémon I have opted not to play, as it is another bad starter, which you never want as a Stall deck and it just seemed redundant, as most decks don’t play a way to recycle their cards. Girafarig can be helpful in mirror as it can be used to break your opponent’s Lusamine loop, but I don’t feel it’s enough to confidently win the mirror, so the spot felt like it could be better used elsewhere.

Mars is another card many Stall players include in their deck, but this card is what I call “fake helpful.” Mars doesn’t actually progress you in the game in any way–it takes up a slot in your deck to speed up the game slightly when your opponent is in a position where they cannot win.

Durant is a card pretty commonly seen in Stall lists, which is another card I would call “fake helpful,” as you can only really use it when your opponent is already locked out of the game so there’s no reason to waste the spot when you can just pass.

Another card that is not included in my list is Acro Bike. Acro Bike is a card we saw in Riley Hulbert’s Top 4 Collinsville list, the logic behind which to give you more outs to good cards off “Let Loose” and Bill’s. Players such as Adler Pearce, who ran the same 60 as Riley, have said the Acro Bikes were very helpful in finding an extra Pokémon, or the Steven’s you need to get going after “Let Loose.” After a bit of testing though, I found the Acro Bikes to be pretty useless, and they were better off being different cards to help tech for specific matchups, raising rather than slightly lowering the odds of not dead drawing off “Let Loose.”

Vileplume BUS is a card many players, including myself, played in Stall at Collinsville Regionals, but after a lot of testing I’ve found the card to be pretty useless. While Vileplume does auto-win a lot of matchups like some Zapdos variants and Malamar, overall, the card isn’t needed to beat those and it just takes up space. Vileplume’s original purpose was to beat the PikaRom matchup, which was thought to be unwinnable at the time. As the lists evolved however, a combination of Lugia and Energy denial proved to be enough to beat PikaRom, while also not conceding to lists with Jolteon GX like Vileplume did.

Another card I don’t play that was frequently seen in Stall is Articuno GX. Articuno’s “Cold Crush GX” attack is extremely powerful and a great asset for Stall, but since I run Lugia GX, “Cold Crush” is strictly out-classed by “Lost Purge.” The one advantage Articuno did have was the ability to become the Active without needing a switching card like Tate & Liza to move into the Active.

I have also opted not to run the Mt. Coronet and Metals engine, which is usually seen alongside Lugia. I felt these cards were pretty useless; while they did let you get free discards for Plumeria or set up to “Lost Purge” at equal prizes, it still felt like the slots could be better used.

Matchups

 

Malamar (70/30)

Malamar is a super favorable matchup. Your goal is to just wall with Hoopa the whole game, since Malamar’s only attacker that can two-shot Hoopa is Giratina. While walling with Hoopa, you want to try to lock a Pokémon Active, whether it’s an Ultra Necrozma they were forced to Bench early, or a Malamar that can’t get the Energy necessary to retreat. If you find your opponent only plays two copies of Giratina, you can “Lost Purge” the Giratina and hard lock your opponent with an Acerola loop on two Hoopa, since they will no longer be able to two-shot it.

ZoroRoc (80/20)

This matchup is extremely favored, as they don’t play any way to recycle Energy and the only way they can knock out a Hoopa is to put Alolan Muk into play, which has a hefty four Retreat Cost and is very easy to lock into the Active position. Crushing Hammer is also very helpful in this matchup, since ZoroRoc plays a pretty low Energy count to begin with, so not having to use a Supporter to discard an Energy really puts you in a great position. If the ZoroRoc players runs an Oranguru, it’s completely fine because you can just “Lost Purge” the Oranguru and force them back to square one, trying not to run out of Energy. ZoroRoc is the deck that has the easiest access to running Persian as a tech, so if the opportunity presents itself without putting you in a losing position, knocking out Ditto Prism just in case they play Persian is usually a good play.

Zapdos (90/10)

The only real way Zapdos variants can beat Stall is if Stall dead draws. Zapdos has no real answer for the combination of Wondrous Labyrinth, Regice, Goomy, and Shuckle. Eventually, they will run out of steam and deck-out after a couple turns of passing.

Lightning Box (55/45)

This matchup is very close but I think Stall has a slight edge. As the Stall player, there are a couple things you must do to win. Firstly, you have to “Lost Purge” the Tapu Koko Prism Star, as it’s the only attacker that can one-shot Hoopa. Secondly, you need to use Larvitar to knockout Zeraora to eliminate your opponent’s free Retreat option. At this point, they will be down some Energy and have no free Retreat. Walling with Hoopa is the main strategy as you try to discard all your opponent’s Energy so they cannot use Zapdos to pressure Hoopa. Putting down Wailord or Regigigas is also very strong because it forces your opponent to set up a PikaRom, which cannot attack Hoopa and just holds a ton of Energy. Eventually, they have no Energy and you win the game.

Blacephalon (60/40)

This matchup can get a bit sticky due to Blacephalon’s two copies of Marshadow, but it is favored. You want to lead with two Regigigas and set up a Lusamine loop on Acerola to force your opponent to bench a Blacephalon. Once a Blacephalon is on-board, you go into Hoopa and start to repeatedly pull the Blacephalon back into the Active spot until eventually, your opponent won’t be able to retreat it. Now, Blacephalon can put Alolan Muk into play so you have to be careful to not let them win through Bench-out, but if you ensure that doesn’t happen they can’t put Muk into play without getting instantly punished.

Spread (90/10)

Spread is another matchup where the Pokémon like Shuckle and Goomy just win you the game, since your opponent has no way to attach more than one Energy a turn, which you’ll assuredly discard every turn.

As for the random decks you might have seen, most of them just lose to one of the walls in the deck, such as Lost March basically conceding to Shuckle. Even Naganadel/Quagsire is a winnable matchup now, as you can send up your Wailord to force a ton of Energy onto a Quagsire, then use “Lost Purge” with Lugia to remove all their Energy from the game and win.

As you can see, I think Stall is favored against every top deck at the moment, thus making it the best deck in the format. While there are ways to beat Stall such as Persian, in general, Stall has the best all-around matchup spread, beating every top tier deck, and being a very good deck against off-meta decks you might face. The biggest issues you’ll face as a Stall player are Marshadow and Persian, and like I said before, the only way to beat Persian is to hope your opponent doesn’t play Meowth then take a knockout on Ditto Prism Star. As for “Let Loose,” there’s not much you can do other than to hope you draw out of it, or proactively set up a board that is prepared to whiff for a turn or two incase you do brick.

In conclusion, I’m not sure if I would play Stall or not going into Denver, but if I don’t, I will definitely make certain I can beat it. The reason I wouldn’t bring Stall to this event is because of the mirror match. In the mirror, it often depends on whether either player plays Unown “HAND,” and it’s a near automatic tie if neither player does. If only one player has Unown they’ll win, whereas if both players do, the first player to draw a Steven’s wins the game. Stall mirror is completely devoid of skill, which is not something I’d want to play when trying to take down a Regional.

 

– Catron