Hello again, everyone at Some1sPC. I'm excited to bring you another article in preparation for the initial use of Unbroken Bonds in competitive TCG play. This new set is, in my opinion, one of the best that we have gotten in quite some time. With cards like Dedenne-GX being comparable to staples such as Shaymin-EX and Tapu Lele-GX, as well as format-defining new archetypes such as Reshiram & Charizard-GX, this set will easily be the most impactful since the release of Guardians Rising. That being said, this article aims to give you a guide through the spontaneity that is our current Standard format.
With not only the increasingly large number of cards available for use with the release of each new set, but also the now awkwardly timed release of cards in relation to Japan, stabilizing the format is more difficult than at any point in the current era of Pokémon. There are an absurd amount of new possibilities to consider, and with the awkward alignment of card sets, looking at results from Japan is much less effective than before. For instance, the domination of Buzzwole & Pheromosa-GX decks there has been rendered completely irrelevant due to the simultaneous release of Reshiram & Charizard-GX in the US, a card released much later in Japan. Therefore, an immense amount of testing and theorizing is the most efficient way to get a grip on this new format. Hopefully, my personal results with this can help anyone reading this article.
So looking at the dialogue amongst the community, opponent's decks on PTCGO, the slim amount of available results, and other sources of Pokémon content not unlike this article, I have come to some general conclusions. Firstly, the top deck spots seemingly belong to Reshiram & Charizard-GX, Zapdos/Ultra Beasts, Mill variants and, surprisingly Weezing. It seems like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks have been put on the back burner due to the initial notion that they have a poor matchup against Fire decks. Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX also seems to be discounted for similar reasons. While good, stall decks have yet to find solid ground, as they rely heavily on knowing the contents of their opponent's deck, an extremely difficult feat in such an undefined Meta. Additionally, after the results of this weekend’s tournament in Santa Clara, many of the stall decks relying on Vileplume are thwarted by techs like Stealthy Hood or Arcanine. Water decks like Naganadel/Quagsire, although having obviously good matchups against Fire decks, seem to fold to just about everything else, especially with "Towering Splash GX" being rendered useless with many decks now playing Mew. With all this information, and more, let me talk about what I feel are the best tech cards to play in the current climate.
Hand disruption is absolutely essential right now. With decks like Salazzle/Unown "HAND" defeating any deck without hand disruption, as well as the small surge in baby Blacephalon decks folding to hand disruption, these cards need to have a presence in the current format or the previously mentioned decks will be too strong to compete with. Similarly, due to the nature of cards like Jirachi and Green's Exploration allowing for large hands to accumulate, a well-timed shuffle effect aimed at your opponent can really seal some games when they least expect it. This effect is also very good when facing stall style decks. Having a large hand makes Lucario & Melmetal-GX variants too versatile to deal with at times. Putting them down to four cards can remove any healing or denial options from their arsenal and give you an extra turn to put some damage on board.
Field Blower/Faba/Lysandre Labs:
Players have become far too accustomed, at this point in time, to not having their Tools taken away. This has caused some decks to implement strategies that a Field Blower could absolutely ruin. Tools such as Spell Tag take Weezing decks from tier two to tier one, so being able to negate them with Lysandre Labs or Field Blower can swing an unfavored matchup to a potential win. Similarly, I have seen a lot of rogue decks like baby Blacephalon, Naganadel/Quagsire, and even Blissey rely on the use of Wishful Baton. By not allowing them to continuously keep Energy on the field, these decks will eventually fold, barring some extremely lucky draws. Lastly, decks like Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX, as well as Whimsicott-GX are utilizing the vast amounts of Fairy Charm available for various matchups like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Zoroark-GX, and Blacephalon-GX. Removing these Tools that potentially prevent your deck from attacking will really pay off if you face a Fairy type deck. In regards to the Fairy matchup, I do find Faba to be better, as it will prevent your opponent's potential Diantha from cycling anything back. Most importantly, Lucario & Melmetal-GX decks rely on Metal Frying Pan to survive the onslaught of Fire attackers currently in the format, so surprising them with Field Blower can be devastating.
The new Mew from Unbroken Bonds is such an underrated card. A surprise Mew can not only slow down an opposing Weezing deck, but also stop any shenanigans from "Tag Bolt GX," or even "Towering Splash GX." Not only this, but Mew's attack is surprisingly amazing at setting up knockouts on future turns. Teching this card in Zapdos, Naganadel/Quagsire, and even Zoroark decks could prove extremely helpful.
Healing in this format seems extremely good in these tanky three prize Pokémon decks. Popular decks like Zapdos/Ultra Beasts, Weezing, Zoroark, and Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX, to name a few, can't produce high enough damage output to one-shot any high-HP attackers. For this reason, cards like Acerola, Max Potion, and even Miltank could prove to be extremely useful when paired with the proper decks.
Initially, when I was viewing this card I passed over it as just a potential tech for maybe Greninja-GX. However, I'm slowly coming to realize the potential that this card possesses. Firstly, it stops Alolan Muk from preventing your Basic Pokémon from having Abilities. Attaching it to Ditto Prism Star can allow you to Evolve into an important Stage 1 Pokémon that your opponent thinks they've prevented from entering the field, in quite a surprise fashion I may add. Attaching it to Mew not only stops Alolan Muk from allowing your Bench to have damage, but also stops Weezing's "Detention Gas" from knocking it out as well. Allowing a Jirachi to "Stellar Wish" under Alolan Muk's "Power of Alchemy" can potentially lead to a game-winning scenario. Not only this, but Stealthy Hood allows a lot of decks previously hindered by Muk to potentially shine, like Granbull, as well as decks that lose to Vileplume, as Stealthy Hood stops "Hazardous Pollen" from having any effect at all. A surprise Stealthy Hood against a lone Vileplume could mean a swift Bench-out on an unsuspecting opponent.
Firstly, I don't find this card to be amazing by any means. However, decks that can afford to play it should consider doing so. Oftentimes, we will see decks using cards like Professor Kukui, Giratina, etc. to help heighten the damage cap of their attackers. I think Koga's Trap is a great addition to these types of decks. It not only tacks on extra damage with Poison, but leaving your opponent's Pokémon Confused is a very underrated ability. Tails on a Confusion flip could be the difference between a win and a loss in many scenarios. The added pressure of the surmounting Poison damage can give decks with heavy retreaters or few switching outs a difficult time.
Looking at all of these strong cards coming into the format, this next section of the article will highlight where the best fit for some of these lie in the current meta.
Reshiram & Charizard-GX:
If you're thinking about playing this deck, some cards I would highly recommend are firstly, Field Blower. For starters, Reshiram & Charizard-GX is really the only thing keeping Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX in check. You are one of the few cards that can one-shot a Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX. That being said, you'll need your opponent to not have a Choice Helmet equipped or else you're in for a potentially bad time. A second card I think has potential would be Miltank. A turn of healing for this deck can be absolutely devastating to any opponent that plans on chipping away at you with multiple attacks, like Zapdos. Not only this, but it is a potential non-GX, non-Fire attacker. This means that it can get through barriers like Hoopa and Bronzong, if your opponent attempts that route as an answer to your deck. And of course, have some sort of answer to Vileplume, whether that be Flareon, Stealthy Hood, Arcanine, etc.
Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX:
Barring its unfavorable matchup to Reshiram & Charizard-GX, the presumptive best deck in format, this deck seems absolutely top tier. Its ability to constantly heal and attack for 150 damage will absolutely dominate any non-GX based deck. Not only this, but with the multitude of Fairy Charms available, this deck can deal with almost anything. In theory, it should beat everything but Reshiram & Charizard-GX, which sadly is a huge problem. Even with Choice Helmet, a Field Blower and then a GX attack leads to an easy six prizes for your opponent. If there ever is a way for this deck to be more favored in this matchup, I think it has all the tools necessary to win a large tournament.
I think this is honestly one of the best decks in the format right now. In testing, there just hasn't seemed to be much that can keep up with the constant barrage of damage. This deck has an amazing Zapdos and Naganadel Quagsire matchup, which I think will be important going into this current Meta. Looking at the cards I've identified, I think that a Field Blower, Marshadow, and Mew would be great in this deck. Both Marshadow and Mew have good synergy with Mysterious Treasure, a card essential for this deck to function. Mew can also set up easier knockouts through the spread of it's own damage, as well as blocking attacks in the mirror match. Some lists may also opt to play Alolan Muk over Mew, which I think is a fine idea as well.
I initially had a huge interest in this deck due to the new additions of Kyurem and Fighting type Quagsire, however, streaming attackers that can hit big numbers has just proven to be too difficult. If you do attempt to play this, as it has a very positive matchup against Fire decks, I would recommend teching a Drifblim UPR in order to deal with Weezing decks, as otherwise it is quite a poor matchup.
This has been an extremely good deck since its inception, and only gets better with Unbroken Bonds in format. There isn't too much insight I can give on the deck, as it is very similar to previous iterations, however the best use of cards for this deck from what I have highlighted would definitely be Mew and Stealthy Hood. Stealthy Hood allows for this deck to deal with a lot of problems it previously had. Firstly, it allows it to attack through Vileplume, which is a huge strategy for stall decks to deal with Zapdos. This also allows room to cut the 1-1 Jolteon-GX line many players were opting for. Stealthy Hood also allows for Jirachi to work around Alolan Muk's "Power of Alchemy." This can be crucial when looking for cards like the game-winning Guzma. Lastly, by attaching it to Mew, Weezing can never damage it from the Bench. Mew's attack placing damage counters also negates Spell Tag, which works really well when Zapdos can deal 110 damage with an Electropower, just ten damage shy of a knockout.
Pikachu & Zekrom GX:
The last deck I would like to talk about is Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. This deck seems to be in a weird place currently. Many players seem to still be considering it a threat, and some individuals I've talked to are even adamant about playing it, however I just don't see the appeal. New cards like Electromagnetic Radar and Dedenne-GX have improved the deck slightly, but Reshiram & Charizard-GX just seems to outclass it infinitely. The deck can set up just as quickly with Welder, yet it has more HP and a much stronger attack. If you do plan on playing the deck, I would highly recommend one Field Blower to counter any potential Fairy Charms you may see.
Lucario & Melmetal-GX/Vileplume:
This deck takes a hard hit after doing so well in Santa Clara, as many players are now prepared to answer whatever the deck can throw at it. If you do opt to play this, I would actually cut the Vileplume, as many players will have specific answers for that. Instead, focus on heavier denial, similar to Peter Kica's list in Santa Clara. However, I would not recommend playing Mill in the current format.
In this final portion of the article, I would like to go over a few sleeper picks that I feel could do very well in this very loose Meta. Firstly, let's look at Blacephalon-GX.
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