The 2017 Pokémon TCG Play! Pokémon Championship Series season rolls on as São Paulo, Brazil, hosts the Latin American International Championships! Players from all over the world will gather in São Paulo, eager to earn major Championship Points and other big prizes on the road to the 2017 Pokémon World Championships in Anaheim, California, in August.
Not much time has passed since the Oceania International Championships, but the metagame has completely transformed since then. The Standard format was overrun by Darkness-type decks for months, but things have changed with the introduction of the Pokémon TCG: Sun & Moon expansion. We’re sure to see some exciting strategies come into play, and potentially some new ones. You never know what will happen, but here are some of the decks to watch out for at the Latin American International Championships.
There’s a new kid on the block. After taking five of the Top 8 spots at the Oceania International Championships and winning two recent Regional Championships in Europe, it’s clear that Decidueye-GX is a major contender in the Standard format. Using the Forest of Giant Plants Stadium card, the goal is to get multiple Decidueye-GX into play as quickly as possible to start overwhelming the opponent with the Feather Arrow Ability. Most players combine this with Vileplume, whose Irritating Pollen Ability prevents Item cards from being played. The end result is a devastating duo that players are scrambling to figure out how to defeat. This seems like the deck to beat heading into the Latin American International Championships.
What’s New: Instead of going with a traditional build, players are starting to evolve this deck even further as others attempt to counter it. For example, instead of basic Grass Energy, we’re starting to see Rainbow Energy, which gives this deck the flexibility to use other kinds of attacking Pokémon. Don’t be surprised to see Jolteon-EX included in this deck, whose Flash Ray attack provides a great answer to the Fire-type Volcanion-EX decks that typically only use Basic Pokémon.
Volcanion-EX decks have had plenty of success this season, but they didn’t have any major tournament wins—until Spain’s Pedro Eugenio Torres used one to win the Oceania International Championships. Some would call it good timing with the rise of Decidueye-GX decks and their Weakness to Fire, but there’s no denying the raw power that these decks possess. Any deck that has a slow start is susceptible to immediate pressure from Volcanion’s Power Heater attack, coupled with the damage boost from Volcanion-EX’s Steam Up Ability. And with four Volcanion-EX in play, the Volcanic Heat attack can do as much as 250 damage, which is capable of taking down just about any Pokémon out there.
What’s New: It might seem like Volcanion-EX would easily burn through Decidueye-GX decks, but it’s a bit trickier than it looks. Vileplume’s Irritating Pollen Ability can create some awkward situations, especially when it comes to Pokémon that have a hefty Retreat Cost, such as Volcanion-EX and Hoopa-EX. As the Grass-type deck gains popularity, we might see players remove Hoopa-EX from their Volcanion decks because it’s such a liability if it gets trapped in the Active position. We could also see increased usage of Hex Maniac, Olympia, or other Supporter cards that can help against the irritating Vileplume. And if Jolteon-EX is getting used more, Pokémon Ranger will become a necessity in Volcanion decks.
Many Pokémon struggle with the giant 240 HP of Decidueye-GX, but Mega Rayquaza-EX is not one of them. With the Sky Field Stadium card in play and a full Bench of eight Pokémon, the Emerald Break attack can do exactly 240 damage. And by now, most players are well aware of the swift destruction this Pokémon can bring as quickly as the first turn of the game. Much like Volcanion-EX, the sheer damage that Mega Rayquaza-EX can deliver always makes it a threat in tournament play. If it gets one turn to use Item cards against Vileplume decks, that’s usually enough to get the ball rolling.
What’s New: Hoopa-EX’s Scoundrel Ring Ability is essential in getting Mega Rayquaza-EX up and running quickly, but its big Retreat Cost makes it an easy target for Vileplume decks. Manaphy-EX’s Aqua Tube Ability is a great solution to that problem, taking away the Retreat Cost of any of your Pokémon that have Water Energy attached. Since Mega Rayquaza-EX can use any type of Energy to power up its attack, the deck can easily use basic Water Energy. Just be careful: Manaphy-EX has only 120 HP, so it might be a soft target for the opponent.
Mega Mewtwo-EX has been a big part of the Standard format for the entire 2017 season, and that hasn’t changed yet. The Psychic Infinity attack can do a ton of damage very quickly, especially with the help of Double Colorless Energy and Mega Turbo. It even gains the help of Espeon-GX, which is excellent against Pokémon that have a Weakness to Psychic (such as opposing Mega Mewtwo-EX). The Divide-GX attack can come in handy in many situations, especially against Pokémon that have low HP.
What’s New: With the rising number of decks using Vileplume, Garbodor has become more difficult to use effectively—especially with many of them using Beedrill-EX’s Double Scrapper attack to discard Garbodor’s Pokémon Tool card to turn off its Garbotoxin Ability. Instead, we may see players start to use Wobbuffet for its Bide Barricade Ability. If you start with it as your Active Pokémon, it can stop your opponent from using Abilities such as Shaymin-EX’s Set Up, which can slow down Decidueye-GX decks. Then, if you need to play Item cards again in the middle of the game, you can retreat to Wobbuffet to shut down Vileplume’s Irritating Pollen Ability. It may not be as permanent as Garbodor’s Garbotoxin, but it doesn’t require a Pokémon Tool card to function.
Darkrai-EX dominated the Standard format for months, but it seems like the king has been knocked off the throne. The Dark Pulse attack is still quite powerful, especially when Max Elixir and Yveltal’s Oblivion Wing attack can get lots of Darkness Energy into play quickly. The main hurdle for Darkrai-EX is the emergence of Decidueye-GX. It just doesn’t match up very well against the 240-HP Pokémon-GX, and struggling against one of the most popular cards is never good. Still, Darkrai-EX is powerful enough to deal with most other decks, so it remains a top contender.
What’s New: A lot of decks heavily rely on using the Abilities of Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX on the first turn of the game to set up, so Silent Lab can be a powerful Stadium card if you go first. It’s also excellent against Volcanion-EX, limiting its damage output by shutting down the Steam Up Ability. Hex Maniac is increasingly important to combat Decidueye-GX and Vileplume, so don’t be surprised to see more of them pop up in Darkrai decks. Some players might even add Garbodor to their decks, but that remains a risky strategy as long as Vileplume decks are running Beedrill-EX.
Mega Gardevoir-EX faded in and out of tournament play over the past few seasons, but lately it’s been making some noise in the Standard format again. The Brilliant Arrow attack can do extreme amounts of damage, but it takes time to get enough Fairy Energy in play to make it happen. It all starts with Max Elixir and Xerneas’s Geomancy attack, both of which can ramp up Energy quickly. And once the Energy is in play, Exp. Share can help keep it in play even after your Pokémon get Knocked Out.
What’s New: As the metagame shifts more towards big Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX, Mega Gardevoir-EX becomes an appealing option because it can do enough damage to Knock Out just about anything in one attack. The option to use the dual-type Mega Gardevoir-EX also gives this deck a great answer against the popular Mega Mewtwo-EX because it can attack for Weakness. And with no Metal-type decks on the horizon, Mega Gardevoir could be in a good position at Latin American Internationals.
Primal Groudon-EX hasn’t been very popular in the Standard format this season, but the timing might be right for it to make a return. This 240-HP Pokémon has the devastating Gaia Volcano attack, which can do incredible amounts of damage with the help of Strong Energy. The key for Primal Groudon is slowing the game down. The Ω Barrier Ancient Trait prevents the opponent from targeting it with Lysandre, and Wobbuffet’s Bide Barricade Ability can slow an opponent’s strategy to a grinding halt.
What’s New: Primal Groudon players aren’t thrilled about using Ultra Ball because they can’t afford to discard many cards, but before Sun & Moon, there was no other Item card that could search for Wobbuffet reliably. Now, Nest Ball provides a clean solution, and it really helps this deck find multiple Wobbuffet in the beginning of the game to keep those Abilities locked down. Much like Mega Gardevoir-EX, Primal Groudon-EX benefits from this metagame full of Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX. Its goal is to take two Prize cards per attack, not slowly take down smaller Pokémon such as Vespiquen.
The last deck on our list is a bit of an odd one, but it made some waves at a recent Regional Championships in Europe. Karl Peters from Germany showed up using a bizarre deck that included only four Pokémon—and all four were Lapras-GX. The idea is to wear down the opponent’s resources slowly using cards such as Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, and Team Flare Grunt, all while hiding behind the high-HP Lapras-GX with a Fighting Fury Belt attached. Between the Energy disruption and the hard-hitting attacks, the opponent might struggle to power up enough Pokémon to put up a fight.
What’s New: Now that people know about this deck, it might become less effective. The element of surprise can be very powerful in the Pokémon TCG, but that will be gone at the Latin American International Championships. If Decidueye-GX and Vileplume decks continue to be popular, Lapras-GX will probably struggle. Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer can’t be used when Vileplume’s Irritating Pollen is in effect, and a Weakness to Grass certainly doesn’t help.
These are just some of the decks that could pop up at the Latin American International Championships. Plenty of other strategies are out there as well, such as ones featuring Gyarados, Umbreon-GX, Xerneas, Yveltal-EX, and many more. One thing is for sure: this event is going to be exciting. The competition will be fierce, and more players will pave their road to the World Championships. Be sure to check back at Pokemon.com/strategy to find out which decks made the biggest impact!