So last weekend was the first Regional Championship in Europe with the most recent Standard ruleset in effect, and the playerbase got a pretty good look at what the greatest minds in the game were willing to bring in this format if there is real money on the line.
Unsurprisingly, the star Pokémon of the weekend all have their name start with a G: Garbodor, Gardevoir, and Golisopod. Since we’ve already given some attention to Gardevoir in the past few articles I’m going to be focusing on the combination that ended up taking the event by storm: Golisopod/Garbodor. However, I’m also going to feature another deck that snuck into the top 32 and has been seeing some play.
When Burning Shadows was spoiled and translated for English players it was pretty obvious Golisopod was going to be relevant in some way or another. 210 HP and a single Energy attachment to do 120 damage? It’s just not possible that a card with these properties does not see play.
However, as players were testing for Worlds, there was a slowly creeping sensation that a Golisopod focused deck just didn’t seem that good. The deck certainly delivered on early pressure with that quick 120-150 damage, but as games went on it got harder and harder to get the necessary cards to keep switching Golisopod up. The fact that players could play up to 8 N per game thanks to VS Seekers probably didn’t help. Although on the flip side, Golisopod players could also use VS Seeker for Acerola and Guzma. Still, Golisopod was not exactly the most hyped deck going into Worlds.
Then Worlds actually happened and two Japanese players, Sho Sasaki and Naoto Suzuki, put Golisopod back on the map. Instead of a list entirely focused on Golisopod and Grass Energy (and perhaps Lurantis Promo) like most people had been doing, they brought a hybrid Golisopod/Garbodor deck with Rainbow Energy. Garbodor GRI makes for a perfect partner to Golisopod as it shines in the late game when opponents have (begrudgingly) played down their items and opened the door for Trashalanche.
They made Top 4 and Top 2, so players were (understandbly) eager to see if the deck would continue to work past rotation. I think Bremen Regionals has shown that it does, considering it won the whole thing and it took up almost a fifth of the entire Top 32.
Let’s look at the winning list, piloted by Marc Lutz:
Pokémon – 17
3 Wimpod BUS 16
1 Tapu Koko PR-SM
3 Tapu Lele-GX
3 Trubbish BKP
1 Garbodor GRI
2 Garbodor BKP
1 Tapu Fini-GX
Trainer Cards – 32
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
2 Field Blower
4 Float Stone
1 Heavy Ball
4 Choice Band
1 Rescue Stretcher
Energy – 11
4 Double Colorless Energy
3 Grass Energy
4 Rainbow Energy
Note: Mees Brenninkmeijer played a list that was only 1 card different (a fourth Acerola instead of the fourth Choice Band) and made Top 32.
The deck’s strategy is as simple as it is effective: ram into your opponent over and over with Golisopod’s First Impression until they’ve lost. Very few decks can trade well with a Pokémon that does 120 for a single Energy while also healing itself with Acerola, and the few ones that do (such as Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt) struggle with the ability lock that Garbotoxin provides.
But Golisopod is not a one trick pony: it has two other relevant attacks. Armor Press can be used if you manage to attach a Double Colorless to a Golisopod that already has a Grass Energy. It’s an acceptable substitute for finding a way to switch Golisopod out, since 100 damage tends to be enough to set up a KO for the next turn on most 2-prize Pokémon, and occasionally the -20 damage Golisopod takes is relevant as well. Cross Cut GX is a super strong hit-and-run that lets you get a burst KO on something like a Tapu Lele if you have a Choice Band, and it also synergizes well with First Impression by getting Golisopod to the safety of the bench.
While trying to work around the bug behemoth your opponent will also have to be careful about managing their Items, since any Trubbish on the field can turn into the tech Trashalanche Garbodor in the deck. Trashalanche has definitely lost some steam since the rotation of VS Seeker, it’s still in here just to threaten the option. But for the most part the 3 Trubbish are here to make it easy to get a turn 2 Garbotoxin as often as possible, which will slow down Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Metagross and even Volcanion decks to a grinding halt.
Because of the 4 Guzma in the deck, you can afford to attach a Choice Band to Garbotoxin Garbodor fairly often and still not worry much about having it dragged active, which makes your matchup against ability decks even better than they were before. Rarely will your opponent be able to Field Blower all your Tools, since you outnumber them at least 2 to 1.
These 4 Guzma as well as the 3-4 Acerola are a necessity because repeatedly switching Golisopod in and out for First Impression requires more effort now that VS Seeker is rotated out. You don’t want to have to Float Stone your Golisopods constantly since you tend to want to save your Float Stones for Garbodor, and sometimes you want to get the extra damage of Choice Band. Thankfully both Guzma and Acerola provide a lot of utility beyond just activating First Impression. Acerola is especially powerful, often capable of negating your opponent’s entire turn of attacking with one supporter use.
Other aces up this deck’s sleeve include two of the other Tapu’s. Tapu Koko Promo would be useful even if the only text on it was “free retreat”. You really just want to have something in your deck that will have free retreat no matter whether your opponent has a Field Blower or not. But Tapu Koko does have a useful attack in Flying Flip, capable of damaging your opponent’s entire field to potentially put them in KO range for Golisopod or Garbodor. I like using it when my opponent starts with something disposable like Vulpix, or when I’ve dragged up something heavy like an opposing Garbodor with a Choice Band.
Tapu Fini is mostly played for its GX attack, Tapu Storm, which is similar to Sylveon GX’s Plea. For a single Rainbow you shuffle your opponents Active back into their deck. This is most relevant if your opponent has put a lot of their eggs into one basket, such as a big Gardevoir GX with a lot of their energy. Instead of having to two shot it while it one shots you, you simply shuffle it back into their deck, along with all the Stage 1s, Basics, tools and energy cards underneath. It’s a great way to painlessly reset all their progress.
Other than that its attacks are nothing to write home about, though with a Choice Band Aqua Ring actually gives you a viable attacker against Fire decks as you’ll be able to put out 100 damage per turn while switching to something disposable like a Wimpod or Tapu Koko. At the end of the game you can use Hydro Shot wtih 2 Rainbows to take your last two prizes.
Ideally on turn 1 I like to get at least 2 Wimpod in play using Brigette (made fairly easy thanks to the 3 Tapu Lele), as well as at least one Trubbish. Most decks aren’t able to put on turn 1 pressure but if keeping Garbotoxin up is important for the matchup at hand you should get a backup Trubbish. Developing double Golisopod has priority in all matchups other than Fire since it’s your most effective early game attacker and having 2 up makes it much easier to keep using First Impression. Getting Golisopod out quickly is made easier by the 1-of Heavy Ball, since that lets you search out both Wimpod and Golisopod (but also any Garbodor if you need it to).
An important ruling to be aware of with this deck is that in order for First Impression to do 120 base damage, you need the attacking Golisopod to be a Golisopod when it moves from the bench to the active. This means that if you are sending up a Wimpod, then evolving that into a Golisopod, First Impression will only do 30. Situations like this are why getting out 2 Golisopod and a free retreater in play are such important parts of board development in this deck.
In playtesting and when playing against it at Bremen I found that Golisopod is very, very hard to keep up with for other Garbodor variants as well as just about any other deck in the format. The card is just so darn energy efficient and the few things that are good against Golisopod can be (and are) teched against. My biggest annoyance when playing it was definitely bench management: if you happen to start Tapu Lele, your bench gets clogged very quickly since you usually want 2 Wimpod, 2 Trubbish, Tapu Koko as well as a 2nd Tapu Lele to get Brigette with. But if that’s the biggest problem with the deck then you know you’ve got a First World Problem on your hands…
One of my favourite things about the deck is that it threatens very quick turn 2 Guzma KOs on opposing benches if the door is left open. For example, if an Alolan Ninetales deck only manages to get one Vulpix on the bench on turn 1, chances are Golisopod is able to get a quick KO on it since the deck has 11 outs to a Guzma and only needs 1 energy attachment between two turns to power up an initial attack.
Like all evolution decks it can run into a bit of trouble if it doesn’t get that desired turn 1 Brigette or at least a couple of basics down, but there’s no currently viable deck that doesn’t have a weakness like that. And if worst comes to worst, you can always attack with Tapu Lele’s Energy Drive. If your opponent doesn’t KO it, you can Acerola it back to your hand and even repeat the process next turn by placing it back down and searching another Acerola.
Normally this is where I would talk about other techs to run, but I think this list is about as good as it gets for the deck right now. Sometimes you wish you had space for things like a 2nd Heavy Ball, 2nd Rescue Stretcher or a 2nd Brigette, but these things are luxuries rather than musts, whereas every other card in the deck feels like a must-have.
If there’s one deck Golisopod doesn’t want to face, it’s probably the other deck I wanted to feature today. Like Golisopod, it made its debut at the World Championships, in a variant ever so slightly different from what people were expecting, piloted by a Japanese player.
I’m talking of course about Ho-oh GX/Salazzle GX.
Here’s the deck list:
Pokémon – 15
2 Salandit GRI
1 Volcanion STS
3 Tapu Lele-GX
Trainer Cards – 31
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
3 Max Elixir
2 Float Stone
4 Choice Band
1 Super Rod
1 Nest Ball
Energy – 14
14 Fire Energy
This might just be the most aggressive decks in the format. Just about every game, your plan for turn 1 should be the same: use Kiawe on a Fire GX, preferably Ho-oh EX, then start taking prizes with that before your opponent can respond to that threat. Ho-oh is most effective at this since its Phoenix Burn does 180 base damage, so with the aid of one of your four Choice Bands it can OHKO just about anything (including the bulky Espeon-GX). But Volcanion-EX and Turtonator-GX can put the hurting on just as well, especially when aided by Steam Up.
With this early start you build up a prize lead that works into your game plan for the mid and late game, and that’s Salazzle GX. This card was initially overlooked when released, but its Diabolical Claws is actually quite strong when paired with a quick attacker such as Ho-oh GX.
It’s very hard to deny Ho-oh prizes since nothing can really take a hit from it, and as a result Salazzle is able to turn into an OHKOing machine itself: after just three prizes taken Diabolical Claws can already reach OHKOing numbers with a Choice Band, and after four it’s just as dangerous as Ho-oh. Probably moreso, in fact, since it’s much harder to KO since it has a bit more HP and less energy on it, making it less vulnerable to attacks like Psychic and Energy Drive.
The deck borrows some tricks from the Volcanion decks (that are also still alive and breathing, by the way). As mentioned before you’ve got Steam Up at your disposal to increase damage output if your Pokémon are not getting there, probably most useful for the 1-of baby Volcanion to provide some additional pressure as well as a 1-prize attacker. Do keep in mind that Steam Up does only power up Basic Fire Pokémon, so it doesn’t work to increase Salazzle’s reach.
Turtonator is also here. In some ways it’s a fifth Ho-oh, doing a little less damage but having the (strange) advantage of discarding energy, reducing its vulnerability to the aforementioned attacks. It also works as a bit of a safeguard against having to discard too much energy, since you can recover those by spending a turn using Nitro Tank GX to bring that energy right back into play.
Like seemingly every other big Fire Pokémon in the format, Ho-oh has a strongest attack cannot be used in consecutive turns, so we’re going to need plenty of switching cards. Since just about every deck now seems to have Pokémon worth sacrificing on their bench (usually unevolved versions of their attackers, only worth one prize), Switch gets the nod over Escape Rope, and we also have the usual 4 Guzma to do this job as well as 2 Float Stone. If you fail to hit one of these your Ho-oh is probably going to have to resort to using Sacred Fire on a target of your choice – not ideal, but at least you have the option to pick off a damaged Pokémon that you might have whiffed the KO on before.
Kiawe also lets you attach the Fires from your deck to non-Fire Pokémon, which makes Tapu Lele a potential candidate for them. You’ll never be able to sweep opponents with a big Energy Drive seeing as every other deck packs one of those too, along with Double Colorless Energy, but if you find yourself unable to find any Fire Pokémon it might just be your only option.
You’ll want to attach as many energies in your opening turns as possible, so as to make it harder to get N’d into nothingness later in the game. Since you take prizes so quickly, you can find yourself being N’d to 3 as early as turn 2-3. For that reason, Max Elixir is in the deck to fuel the heavy attacking costs of your benched Pokémon. If you’ve already got your main Ho-oh powered up you’ll probably want to have at least one energy on a Salandit as early as possible, so that the option of using Salazzle is open to you when you need to. After all, you can’t Max Elixir to Salazzle itself.
When playing against this deck in Bremen the one thing I noticed really quickly is how fast games go by. There’s no complex set up, no evolving basics other than usually just 1 Salandit per game, no hard damage configurations, just a bunch of attaching energy and attacking, with prizes being taken very quickly. It’s ideal if you find yourself having trouble finishing 3 games in 50 minutes.
However, it’s not without its weaknesses. I’m not really referring to its vulnerabilty to Water (though Alolan Ninetales and Greninja decks do still exist), but rather its reliance on opening hands and going first. The deck is very intimidating when going first and getting a turn 1 Kiawe, but if it misses either one of those things it loses a lot of its power. If you have to go second, you’re essentially giving your opponent 2 free turns to build a response to what you’re doing, and it gets worse if you also whiff the early Kiawe. Between Elixirs, manual attachments and Power Heater you can kind of make up for it, but the deck is really built around using Kiawe at some point or another.
Ho-oh is also very energy intensive, and this means it gets OHKO’d by Espeon-GX’s Psychic if it has 4 energy on it. Tapu Lele is less of a problem because it doesn’t do enough damage to OHKO and it gets OHKO’d in return, fortunately.
I wouldn’t really run this deck myself since it seems a little too reliant on variance. Considering both the opening flip and the odds to miss turn 1 Kiawe, it is really only capable of running at full power in less than 50% of games. Other decks get worse by going second as well, but for example Espeon/Garbodor has the fairly likely turn 1 Psybeam to fall back on, Drampa/Garbodor has turn 1 Big Wheel GX, etc. This deck’s only real turn 1 play is Power Heater, but with only 1 Volcanion it’s a bit hard to pull off.
But that doesn’t mean the deck is too bad to see play in tournaments. There’s a reason “the best defense is a good offense” is a saying: this deck can occasionally just flat-out roll your setup if you don’t establish immediately, and once there’s 3 prizes left there’s not much you can do to prevent Salazzle from closing out the game. I’d definitely recommend giving this deck a go, if only for a League Cup, since it’s just so much fun and you’ll have enough time to grab lunch between games.
Whether you’re going with the bug life or the phoenix, I hope you have a heck of a time trying out these strong decks. I expect Golisopod to see a lot of play in Connecticut and Ho-oh to be present at least, so be prepared against them at the very least.
I’ll see you next time!