Hey, everyone! I don’t know about all of you, but I thought that Melbourne Internationals was the most enjoyable tournament to watch in a very long time, and one that has made me even more excited for this format than I already was. We saw a wide variety of interesting decks, despite the overwhelming majority of PikaRom and Zapdos, with some Zoroark/Lycanroc decks sprinkled into Top Cut as well as an Ultra Necrozma/Malamar getting ninth and a few of the other spots in Day 2. While watching the stream, I also saw how misplaying could cost you the game much easier than before Team Up came out. I think Melbourne was a trial run for this set, and this weekend in Collinsville will show us some crazy decks that pop up to counter the meta that dominated Melbourne, in addition to those expected Zapdos and PikaRom variants. The meta largely consists of three decks right now, all of which are beatable, which is very exciting to me. I am writing this article to talk a little bit about Ultra Necrozma/Malamar and Psychic Malamar, because those are two decks that did very well in Melbourne. I am just using the lists that got ninth place and the one that got twenty-first place, both of which you can find on Limitless TCG’s website.
It seems like the Australian players that did well with this deck all tested together because their lists are all one or two cards off each other. This was an extremely strong deck that struggled to keep up in the newer formats after losing Professor’s Letter, and seeing how the meta shifted to a high-HP one-prize attacker format Ultra Necrozma became inefficient. Now, with the introduction of Viridian Forest, Ultra Necrozma shines again against GX decks where it can take big knockouts. The new Stadium fills the spot of Professor’s Letter very well, allowing you to fish out those Metal Energy that are required to power up attacks with Ultra Necrozma, as well as being able to discard your Psychic Energies to get back later with Malamar. Jirachi is another big addition to this deck, giving everything added consistency. Jirachi’s job is to find you a Supporter when you don’t have one, or to find you a Pokémon search card when you need it. This card dominated the entire event, being in most of the Day 2 decks, and with good reason. This is also an extremely good counter to Marshadow SLG’s “Let Loose,” and because of Jirachi I think that we will be seeing a lot less of that card being played.
Let’s talk about this card for a second because it has been awhile sense it has been on the radar. This is a card I have always loved; I even played it during the 2017 North America Internationals. “Photon Geyser” does 20 damage and then an additional 80 damage for each Psychic Energy you discard from it. When you pair this card with Malamar, it just makes sense that you are going to be doing a lot of damage. Thanks to that, GX decks are pretty easy to beat, especially when you are playing Choice Band. By discard two Energies you are hitting a very sweet 210 damage with a Choice Band, which is all you’ll need to hit unless you’re up against PikaRom where you’ll need to discard three Energies. “Sky-Scorching Light GX” can finish off games very easily, but it can also put a lot of pressure on your opponent and make them play a certain way. After you’ve been trading back and forth with decks it naturally gets to the point where there are six or less prizes remaining, and because of that it makes it so your opponent cannot play down their Basic Pokémon with impunity because they’d be at risk of getting GX-attacked. The other thing about this GX attack is that Lost March just does not have a chance against it. When paired with the Giratina that puts damage on their bench you will be able to knock out all their Jumpluff and Natu in one turn, which is one of the reasons I do not think we see very much Lost March popping up.
Other than that, the deck has a straight forward strategy. You want to get as many Inkay out as possible turn one while using Jirachi to find cards that you need, then you want to start attacking with Giratina against one prize-attacker decks, or Ultra Necrozma against GX decks. Giratina is very good because even though the damage you place on the Bench is usually irrelevant, you also get to attack with it repeatedly because of the Ability, which puts it back on the Bench every turn. This makes it so you usually win against one-prize attacker decks because you are always going to be getting your attacker out while they are constantly trying to find them.
Let’s talk about this one first because it just won the tournament and you will be seeing a lot of this deck. Not only is it an extremely good deck, it is also incredibly fun and a lot of players are going to gravitate towards it. This matchup gets a little bit weird because it is a one-prize attacker deck, but they are so fast and almost always take the first knockout on the first turn that they can attack. This complicates the entire strategy of prize trades, and you must accept that you will be playing from behind. The good news is that if we do not start one of our GX Pokémon then we have a pretty good chance of winning. The goal is the same: you want to get as many Inkay out as possible--all four if you can--because we are going to need them for when they constantly targeted. We want to start attacking with Giratina starting on turn two to take a return knockout on their Zapdos after they knockout an Inkay. If you have the opportunity to play down a Giratina turn one and attach an Energy to it you are going to want to do this because that is one less Malamar you need in order to attack the following turn. The damage counters coming from its Ability are largely irrelevant in this matchup, so just focus on getting it into play with an Energy attachment as soon as possible. Getting the turn two return knockout on Zapdos is extremely important, and something that you should be doing everything in your power to accomplish. There are some ways that we can just completely shut them out of the game. If, for example, they go very aggressive and only have a Zapdos in the Active and a Jirachi on the Bench we should prioritize taking out the Jirachi. It makes it very hard for them to recover, especially with Zapdos already in the Active when we knockout their only Jirachi on the board denying it the bonus damage. Jirachi makes this deck work, so if we can get rid of them then we are in good shape. The other side of that however is that if they have multiple Jirachi out you want to avoid them. You want to target down Zapdos instead, because eventually you will be able to use “Sky-Scorching Light GX” to take the final two prizes on two Jirachi. It is a very good way to swing the prize trade in your favor. You cannot play down Ultra Necrozma until you have to knockout though, or else they will just knock it out and take a couple prizes. The advantage this list has is that you can Acerola the Ultra Necrozma if you started it or if you are attacking with it before the time has come. Zapdos has a rough time attacking for 190 damage in one go and because of that we can Acerola and take over the prize trade that way. The last detail that I am sure won Isaiah a few games against Malamar is that they can Escape Rope and force you to bring up a Malamar, which is an easy knockout for them since all they need is one of their three Professor Kukui or an Electropower to finish it off. This is a very good play on their part and one that you should avoid playing into as much as possible. Malamar is not going to be safe Active if they Escape Rope, but if they’ve already played a Supporter it is fine because we are okay with them wasting an Electropower to take the knockout on us. That is one less Electropower for when we bring up Ultra Necrozma GX to try and finish off the game.
This has traditionally been a close matchup but with the addition of Viridian Forest and Jirachi it is in Ultra Necrozma’s favor. Zoroark has one strategy and that is to try and knockout as many Inkay or Malamar as possible before we get set up. Thanks to all the tools we have, they’re usually only able to pick off one or two of them before we start attacking with “Photon Geyser.” The games are generally similar in this matchup; always starting with them using Guzma to take a knockout on a Malamar and then we respond with an Ultra Necrozma to finish off the Zoroark that just took a prize. Having the Choice Band is pretty easy thanks to Jirachi, but we also can draw into the Beast Energy to get the knockout as well. 210 is not a safe number when you’re re playing against Ultra Necrozma, but it could get a little weird if they are playing Jon Eng’s version that also has the Bodybuilding Dumbbells in it, which I think is actually a very good tech in the deck. In that case we just have to find another Energy and attach it to finish off the Zoroark. You should not be scared to play down an Ultra Necrozma and attach an Energy to it at all. They will not be one-shotting it early in the game, and having that extra Energy could be the difference between a knockout and just a waste of a turn. The other huge tool that we have for this matchup is Marshadow GX. This is a card that saw a little bit of play to try and counter Zoroark last format but it was never very good because the deck that surrounded it just was not consistent enough. That is not the case anymore. Muk is not usually a card that Zoroark goes for against Malamar, and if they do it is easy for us to take a knockout on it. If they get the Alolan Muk out and you believe Marshadow is your way to win, you just need to target down the Muk and knock it out before it becomes an issue. Muk shuts down our Jirachi as well, which is not that big of an issue because Jirachi is really just for the early game for us. If Muk is not in play then Marshadow is an extremely good card to trade with their Zoroarks. We can also get it back with Rescue Stretcher and win the game by attacking with it twice. We have the advantage in the prize trade with this matchup because they have to target down Malamar while we try to knock out their Zoroark. They do not get the luxury of one-shotting Ultra Necrozma unless they have a “Dangerous Rogue GX” charged up. Lycanroc is very imposing, and we need to make sure that if they are threatening a “Dangerous Rogue GX” that we are aware of it and act accordingly. This version of Ultra Necrozma might just be too consistent and too fast for Zoroark to handle.
Pikachu & Zekrom
This is the last deck that saw a rise in popularity during this tournament, and with good reason. The deck is extremely strong, but the main issue is that it does not have the best matchup against Ultra Necrozma. The strategy is very similar to how we beat Zapdos, because for the most part they will be attacking with Zapdos early to take a few cheap prizes, which they will do very well. We need to once again make sure that we have all our Inkay down in order to keep streaming Malamar while attacking with Giratina to take a couple prizes on their Zapdos. Then we shift gears as they are forced to start attacking with PikaRom. Usually, they will try to avoid attacking with PikaRom unless they know they can get a double knockout on two Malamar through the GX attack, but if they attack with it early it is very easy for us to just bring up Marshadow and one-shot it, taking three prizes before they get to do anything about it. They will lose that prize trade every single time if they go that route. Their goal is to use Energy Switch to move energy to PikaRom and use “Tag Bolt GX” with six Energies to knock out two of our Malamar at the same time. This is another reason why I said you want to get as many Inkay out as possible, because if you do not they will run you over after you run out of them. The list that got ninth only plays one Rescue Stretcher and if you expect a lot of PikaRom I would consider putting in a second one because you are going to need to stream as many Inkay as possible during the match.
Those are the three major decks that popped up during this tournament, and other than the mirror-match, which is just about taking the first prize and not playing any GXs down there is not much else to talk about for this version. Now, let’s talk about the version that I think is better, which is the pure-Psychic version of the deck piloted to a twenty-first place finish by Darin O’Meara.
The disadvantage to playing this deck is that you play more GX Pokémon than the Ultra Necrozma version, which can cause a lot of problems when you are trying to have prize trades. The advantage, however, is that you are just pure consistency and won’t have to worry about your deck not doing what it is supposed to do. You are only playing one type of Energy, which makes it so you don’t have to struggle to find different types of Energies to power up your various attackers; you will always have the required Energy to attack. I do, however, disagree a little bit with this list. I think that Gengar and Mimikyu GX is the best card in the deck by far because it has a truly amazing GX attack that can just win you games, but I think that you need to pair it with an Acerola to bring it back into your hand. The decks that you want to use Gengar against are all the top decks mentioned above, and you want to use it on turn one or turn two depending on if you go first or second. Anytime after that is just too late. If you go second and get to GX attack on the first turn then you will theoretically be going first thanks to your opponent not being able to do anything. This makes it so they cannot go after your Inkay and you get a free turn to set up, which is huge. The issue with the card is that it is weak to Zoroark, and Poltergeist is very easily played around. Other than the GX attack you do not get to do much with the card, which is why I believe that Acerola is a much-needed card in the deck. I have also not liked Chimecho at all because it really does not do anything in this format. Zapdos just dominates it because they can still play down Zapdos, and Zoroark being able to just “Ram” with Zorua is enough pressure to stop us from attacking with it. I do understand how it could be good in the mirror to prevent them from playing down Malamar, but it is only good if you get to attack with it on the first turn, and only if you are playing against the mirror. I think that is just too niche of a Pokémon to play in a deck like this. I would rather have another Giratina or an attacker that can attack for two Energies like Mimikyu GRI to take its spot. There are a lot of times that I noticed Marshadow GX would be amazing if I had a Pokémon that could attack for two Energies instead of three, and Mimikyu seems like the best card to put into that spot.
Honestly, a lot of the matchups are very similar as the ultra Necrozma versions except you use different Pokémon to take big knockouts.
This is a little bit harder to win with this version because you play so many GX Pokémon, but if you can avoid playing them down you’ll be in a very good spot to win the game. With how consistent you are you shouldn’t have to worry about stumbling as much as Ultra Necrozma would, and thanks to that you should always be able to get the turn two knockout on a Zapdos. The other big advantage we have in this matchup is Dawn Wings Necrozma GX; when you are trading back and forth you can bring up Dawn Wings and GX attack with it preventing yourself from getting damaged the next turn, which can potentially lock them out of the game. You do have to drop it down when they are at two prizes instead of one prize because a Guzma would still win the game. The other thing you must be wary of is how many Escape Rope, Electropower, and Guzma they have used. Escape Rope plus Guzma makes it so that “Moon’s Eclipse GX” no longer has an effect. A way to avoid this combo is to save “Let Loose” for the turn you want to use Dawn Wings. “Let Loose” is not very good against Zapdos and Jirachi decks early game anyway, but if you pair it with a very disruptive GX attack then you will easily be able to move the prize trade to your advantage.
This is an easy matchup for us to take down because of how consistent we are. All you must do during the game is get a Dawn Wings or a Giratina in the Discard Pile while you attack with Marshadow GX three times. We play two Marshadow GX and two Rescue Stretcher, which makes it really easy to get it out every turn. I have noticed that Zoroark players do not have an option other than knocking out the Inkay during their second turn, and then if you return knockout with a Marshadow GX not only do they have to find more Zoroark, they also have to get a Double Colorless Energy and a Choice Band to return knock us out. Then we just find a Marshadow to get the return knock out on them. This is a prize trade that we easily win thanks to how consistent the deck is because we are very straightforward in our strategy and build. Just like every matchup, the game plan is to get as many Inkay out as possible to make sure you can stream Energy every turn. If there is ever a time that you cannot get Marshadow out you still have a chance because attacking with Giratina twice is still an effective trade against Zoroark. They must knockout two Giratina and you get to knock out a Zoroark, which is still going to win you the game. This is also one of the few matchups that you do not want to put the damage onto your Giratina. If you don’t put them on Giratina, Lycanroc will not be able to one-shot it. You would rather have the four damage counters on a Malamar because they are getting knocked out anyway in one shot.
Pikachu & Zekrom
If they start PikaRom the game is already over for them because of how easy it is for us to take a knockout with one of our two Marshadow GX. This causes complications for them, which they really cannot get over. I have found that if you go second in this matchup you want to use Gengar and Mimikyu’s GX attack to stop them from playing cards on the following turn. There is no worry about you whiffing the Psychic Energy that is needed to knock them out because you are just a straightforward, streamlined deck. After you use the GX attack you want to knockout whatever they have Active and then you will be winning the prize trade. If they start PikaRom you want to use Gengar and Mimikyu GX’s attack with a Marshadow GX so that you can easily take three prizes on the second turn of the game. They have to try and win the game by attacking with Zapdos, but they do not play as many Zapdos as variants that are more focused on it so they will be using a strategy that fizzles out. They do have a higher chance of using PikaRom’s GX attack so you do have to be careful. Allowing them to knockout two GX Pokémon is not something that will help you win. Refrain from playing down Tapu Lele GX at all costs, and if you have Marshadow GX down make sure you are getting a knockout on the PikaRom, or else just attack with Giratina to take some prizes. There is no rush, because as soon as they drop down that PikaRom you have an easy three prizes to take. This is a very favorable matchup for the Psychic version of Malamar.
These decks proved themselves at the first tournament with Team Up, and because of that and my testing with the deck, this is one of the decks that will be on my radar for the near future. The power-level of both versions of this deck are extremely strong, and when picking between the two you just have to decide if you want to play the more consistent Psychic version, or the Ultra Necrozma version that has a little bit of consistency issues but has a higher power-level. Personally, I am all about consistency for bigger events and overall power for smaller local events. You must be a consistent deck to go the distance when you are playing fourteen rounds of Swiss and a Top Cut in best-two-out-of-three, but if you are playing five best-of-one rounds and Top Cut you are safe to play a slightly less consistent deck. This is a deck that you should test for Collinsville and any tournaments coming up. You are going to either be playing the deck or playing against it, there is no doubt about that in my mind.
That being said, I do have a couple of cards that I would want to add or subtract from the respective decks.
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