The 2017 Pokémon TCG Play! Pokémon Championship Series season is heading towards another major milestone tournament: the Oceania International Championships in Melbourne, Australia! Players will be coming in from every corner of the world, eager to earn major Championship Points and other big prizes on the road to the 2017 Pokémon World Championships in Anaheim, CA, in August.
We’ve seen a lot of different strategies find success at the European International Championships, Regional Championships, and other events so far this season. The metagame in the Standard format has shifted a lot over the past few months, and the addition of the Sun & Moon expansion has shaken things up again. There’s some uncertainty over what decks will emerge as the top contenders, but let’s take a look at some strategies that are likely to appear in Melbourne.
After Chris Siakala’s win at Athens Regionals and Kenny Britton’s win at Anaheim Regionals, one thing is clear: Darkrai-EX is on a roll. Using a combination of Max Elixir and Yveltal’s Oblivion Wing, the goal is to get a lot of Darkness Energy into play quickly to pump up the damage of Darkrai-EX’s Dark Pulse attack. When Double Dragon Energy is in play, it essentially adds 40 damage to Dark Pulse, making it that much easier to hit for massive damage. With two recent Regional Championships wins, Darkrai-EX is the deck to beat heading into Oceania Internationals.
What’s New: The recent addition of Exp. Share keeps Darkness Energy in play even after a Pokémon gets Knocked Out, keeping Dark Pulse’s damage high over the course of the game. A recent resurgence in Mega Evolution decks and Vespiquen decks, which rely heavily on Special Energy cards, made a perfect environment for the return of Giratina-EX. Salamence-EX’s Beastly Fang attack helps against decks that use a lot of Pokémon-EX, including opposing Darkrai-EX decks. Right now, this deck is well positioned in the metagame, but don’t be surprised if players start to tweak their decks to counter it.
Mega Mewtwo-EX has been a top contender in the Standard format this season, and that has yet to change. Double Colorless Energy combined with Mega Turbo make it easy to pile a bunch of Energy onto Mega Mewtwo-EX, making its Psychic Infinity attack get out of hand very quickly. With the added disruption of Garbodor’s Garbotoxin Ability, decks that rely on Abilities have a hard time keeping up with the 210-HP powerhouse. The raw power of this strategy always makes it a contender.
What’s New: Some players have started including Espeon-GX to cover a lot of potential problems with this deck. The Psychic attack can take down a fully powered Giratina-EX or Yveltal in one attack, both of which tend to be a major problem for any Mega Evolution Pokémon. The Divide-GX attack can rack up multiple KOs against any deck that uses a lot of low-HP Pokémon, such as Combee in Vespiquen decks. And in a pinch, a desperation Psybeam attack can buy some time by leaving the opponent’s Active Pokémon Confused. Espeon-GX is also very useful against other Mega Mewtwo-EX decks: its Psychic attack hits for Weakness, but the Psychic Infinity attack does not.
When Battle Compressor rotated out of the Standard format this year, many people wrote off Vespiquen as a viable deck. But recent tournament results would disagree: at two recent Standard Regional Championships, at least two Vespiquen decks made the Top 8, including a second-place finish by Dylan Bryan in Athens. The Trainer cards Acro Bike, Ultra Ball, and Professor Sycamore can discard Pokémon to fuel the Bee Revenge attack, and Unown and Klefki can use their Abilities to do the same. Once enough Pokémon get into the discard pile, Bee Revenge can do enough damage to take down nearly any Pokémon in one attack. And when you have a Pokémon that’s capable of that kind of damage without being a Pokémon-EX, you have a winning deck on your hands.
What’s New: Vespiquen decks tend to run 25 to 30 Pokémon, which means there are a lot of different ways to build them. Some choose to use Zoroark as a backup attacker, while others use Zebstrika to target Shaymin-EX and other Pokémon that have a Weakness to Lightning and a Resistance to Fighting. Some even use Flareon, Vaporeon, or Jolteon so Vespiquen can hit other popular Pokémon for Weakness. But if Giratina-EX regains popularity, its Chaos Wheel attack will require this deck to be built differently to beat it. Some options are adding basic Energy, including Pokémon Ranger, or even using Marowak for its Bodyguard Ability.
At the beginning of this season, the combination of Yveltal-EX and Garbodor stood tall over the Standard format for months. It won multiple Regional Championships and the European International Championships, and it looked nearly unstoppable. And then, suddenly, it disappeared. Not a single one made the Top 8 at Dallas or Athens Regionals, and it was seemingly replaced by Darkrai-EX decks. Igor Costa’s Top 8 finish in Anaheim finally brought Yveltal-EX back to life, proving that the former powerhouse still has what it takes to win. Don’t be surprised if it makes a comeback at Oceania Internationals.
What’s New: Tauros-GX seems to have found a perfect home in this deck. It’s a big Basic Pokémon that can use all its attacks with just a Double Colorless Energy attached, and it’s very difficult for some decks to deal with. Plus, it provides a fun trick. If one of your Basic Pokémon is damaged, such as Yveltal or Yveltal-EX, use Ninja Boy to swap in a Tauros-GX in its place. Then, use Mad Bull-GX to unleash a furious attack and get a surprise Knock Out. It can only be done once, but sometimes that’s all it takes.
Mega Gardevoir-EX took the Dallas Regional Championships by storm—it was used in four of the Top 8 decks, including Xander Pero’s winning deck. The idea is fairly straightforward: get Mega Gardevoir-EX powered up quickly, fill your Bench with a bunch of Pokémon, and then discard them with the Despair Ray attack to do a bunch of damage. The strategy is able to remain very consistent by using cards such as Shaymin-EX, Hoopa-EX, and Dragonite-EX for their one-time Abilities, and then letting Despair Ray discard them so the opponent can’t use Lysandre to target them for an easy two-Prize Knock Out.
What’s New: Professor Kukui gives this deck just enough power to take down some popular Pokémon in one attack. For example, Darkrai-EX has Resistance to Psychic, so even a Despair Ray attack with the Sky Field Stadium card in play and 8 Pokémon on the Bench would max out at 170 damage—10 damage short of a KO. The extra 20 damage from Professor Kukui can be game-changing.
There’s no doubting the swift destruction that Mega Rayquaza-EX can cause with its Emerald Break attack. With the Sky Field Stadium card in play and 8 Pokémon on the Bench, it can crash into the opponent’s Pokémon for 240 damage. With the Δ Evolution Ancient Trait, Mega Rayquaza-EX can come into play on the first turn, and your turn won’t end if it has the Rayquaza Spirit Link Pokémon Tool card attached. Then all it takes is Double Colorless Energy and Mega Turbo to power up the Emerald Break attack.
What’s New: Unfortunately, the metagame has not been kind to Mega Rayquaza-EX. Lots of decks are using the Parallel City Stadium card, which can cripple the Emerald Break attack by reducing the Bench size to 3. Garbodor’s Garbotoxin also hurts this deck quite a bit by shutting down the Abilities of Shaymin-EX, Hoopa-EX, and Dragonite-EX, all of which are crucial for filling up the Bench. One bright spot is that Sun & Moon introduced Oranguru and its Instruct Ability, which can offset an opposing N trying to disrupt your hand late in the game—although Garbotoxin still shuts it down.
Much like Mega Rayquaza-EX, Volcanion-EX thrives thanks to brute force. Its Steam Up Ability allows it to do large spurts of damage, especially when two or three Volcanion-EX are in play at the same time. Volcanion’s Power Heater attack helps get more Energy into play quickly, and Max Elixir does the same. The end result is a fast, hard-hitting deck that punishes any deck that gets off to a slow start. Unfortunately, Volcanion-EX shares some of the same weaknesses as Mega Rayquaza-EX: Parallel City can reduce attack damage from Fire-type Pokémon, and Garbodor’s Garbotoxin severely limits its damage output by shutting down Steam Up.
What’s New: Volcanion didn’t gain much from Sun & Moon, but Professor Kukui can help it do enough damage to take down Mega Evolution Pokémon more easily. With two uses of the Steam Up Ability and the extra 20 from Professor Kukui, the Volcanic Heat attack can do 210 damage, which is enough to take down Mega Mewtwo-EX or Mega Gardevoir-EX. Throw in a Fighting Fury Belt for another 10 damage, and it can take down a Mega Rayquaza-EX or even a Darkrai-EX that has a Fighting Fury Belt of its own.
With Darkrai-EX becoming so popular over the last few months, Fighting-type Pokémon are in prime position to shake things up. Zygarde-EX has not been very popular in tournament play, but it has the tools to be great in the right environment. There are two routes to take: give Zygarde-EX a Fighting Fury Belt to wear down the opponent with a massive 230-HP Pokémon, or give it the Power Memory Pokémon Tool card to fire off a powerful All Cells Burn attack that’s capable of taking down most Pokémon, especially when used with Strong Energy. But the real stars of this deck are Carbink and Carbink BREAK. Carbink BREAK’s Diamond Gift attack keeps a steady flow of Energy going to your big attackers, and Carbink’s Safeguard Ability protects it from your opponent’s Pokémon-EX’s attacks. Carbink BREAK sets things up, and Zygarde-EX knocks them down.
What’s New: Lycanroc-GX is another Fighting-type Pokémon that provides some extra options. Crunch can annoy the opponent by discarding Energy, and the Lycanfang-GX attack can close out a game with one last big attack. This deck is powerful in the correct environment, but it’s also very risky. If you come across a lot of Darkrai-EX decks, you’ll probably have a good day…but if you find yourself matched up against Vespiquen decks, it can get ugly fast.
These are just a few of the decks that could pop up at the Oceania International Championships. Plenty of other strategies are out there as well, such as ones featuring Greninja BREAK, Gyarados, or Jolteon-EX. And don’t be surprised to see new Sun & Moon cards make an impact. Solgaleo-GX, Lurantis-GX, and Decidueye-GX are just a few of the new Pokémon-GX that have major potential in the right decks.
One thing is for sure: the Oceania International Championships are going to be unpredictable and exciting. The competition will be fierce, and there’s no telling which decks and players will reign supreme. Be sure to check back at Pokemon.com/Strategy to find out which decks made the biggest impact!