In this article, I take a look at two solid options for the upcoming Connecticut Regionals in the Standard format. One has been doing well at League Cups but did not cut in Bremen – that would be Alolan Ninetales GX – while the other just took second place in Bremen – Tord Reklev’s new spin on Drampa GX/Garbodor.

 

Alolan Ninetales GX

 

Alolan Ninetales

 

The list below is from Tablemon’s (Pablo Meza’s) YouTube channel. I know I always seem to be referring to Pablo Meza’s lists in my articles as of late, but what can I say? We don’t have a top 8 list from a Regional this season yet to reference and Pablo’s lists are both public and solid.

In this case the list was provided to Pablo by Azul Garcia Griego (with a one-card difference), who is not only one of the best current players but also someone who won a League Cup with the archetype this season.

 

Here’s the list:

 

Pokemon: 18

4 Alolan Vulpix GRI
3 Alolan Ninetales GX
1 Alolan Ninetales BUS
2 Tapu Lele GX
2 Remoraid (Ion Pool)
2 Octillery
3 Tapu Koko promo
1 Espeon EX

 

Trainers: 30

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
3 Guzma
2 Brigette
1 Acerola
4 Aqua Patch
4 Ultra Ball
4 Choice Band
2 Float Stone
1 Field Blower
1 Rescue Stretcher

 

Energy: 12

8 Water
4 DCE

 

Observations on the deck and list

 

Tapu Koko

 

Alolan Ninetales GX may not have cut in Bremen, but as I said this deck has had success at League Cups at least throughout the United States and is an underhyped but extremely solid option at the moment. The star of the deck is a versatile attacker with great support from DCE and Aqua Patch that can hold its own against virtually anything in Standard.

With 210 HP, the ability to discard its own energy (great versus Gardevoir GX and Tapu Lele GX) and a printed weakness that almost exclusively matters in one matchup (Metagross GX), Alolan Ninetales GX is not an easy OHKO target. Ice Path GX is one of the most frustrating GX attacks to try to play around in the game at the moment unless your deck does actually have a reliable way to OHKO Alolan Ninetales GX.

The most successful Standard deck of the moment, Golisopod GX/Garbodor, notably has no way to OHKO Alolan Ninetales GX unless the Ninetales player gets foolish with Items. Ice Blade is good by itself for softening up Pokemon to be taken out later by Blizzard Edge, but it is even better in tandem with Tapu Koko’s spread damage. Blizzard Edge is of course the deck’s main attraction and biggest weapon, almost always doing one of three things: doling out OHKOs outright, finishing off softened-up targets, or leaving Pokemon with very few hit points (and therefore vulnerable to being finished off by Flying Flip or Ice Blade). The attack can be chained with relative ease via Aqua Patch and/or DCE.

I have not seen a list go this heavy on Tapu Koko before although I like the idea of focusing on Flying Flip in the early turns more consistently than prior builds, notably setting up things like opposing Alolan Ninetales GX, Espeon GX and Golisopod GX to go down to a Choice Banded Blizzard Edge after only a single spread attack (or a non-Banded Blizzard Edge after two spread attacks). The high count of Tapu Koko is great with Guzma. Also, a Tapu Koko start is nice because its free retreat makes it easier to attack immediately via Aqua Patch, allowing you to do things like achieve a turn 2 Blizzard Edge more consistently.

I think that in this metagame which is dominated by Pokemon that sit just outside of Blizzard Edge OHKO range, the increased focus on Tapu Koko is smart and possibly essential.

Time to state the obvious regarding weaknesses: Alolan Ninetales GX has a big natural advantage against the various Fire variants out there (based around Ho-oh GX, Salazzle GX, Volcanion EX and/or Turtonator GX) which is relevant since these decks are always around, skirting the boundary between Tiers One and Two, with plenty of fans of all skill levels piloting them.

On the other side of weakness, as I said before, Metagross GX is one of the few Pokemon that Alolan Ninetales GX hates to see. Sometimes you can get lucky and steal games in the matchup with the combination of Tapu Koko and Espeon EX and/or effective use of Safeguard (if the opponent doesn’t manage to get a quick Metang powered up), but Metagross GX versus Alolan Ninetales GX is generally as ugly as you’d imagine.

The good news is that Metagross GX lives on the fringe given its Stage 2 inconsistency and highly linear style of play, among other things that turn players off the deck. In other words, you are probably never going to show up to a Regionals and be forced to play against 4 Metagross GX decks in a row. I think Metagross GX is fine to take as a near-autoloss.

I like the idea of trying to fit a second Alolan Ninetales given how GX-and-EX centered the format is right now. Not every deck has a great answer to Safeguard, let alone the means to deal with multiple Safeguarders. Even if you can’t win a game on Safeguard by itself, a fast Alolan Ninetales puts a surprising amount of pressure on the opponent to find a response (sometimes forcing the opponent to make suboptimal plays in the process), allowing you to continue to set up Alolan Ninetales GXes in the back to handle any answers that do materialize.

The list above does have the means to recycle the Safeguarder via Rescue Stretcher but obviously it is hard to rely on a single-copy Item card for streaming anything. The second copy would also allow you to avoid Prize issues and simply increase your odds of getting a fast Alolan Ninetales more often.

As good as Safeguard can be, I do have to caution you about going “all in” on this Ability. Safeguard is not going to be effective, or game-winning, in every matchup; some decks do indeed have easy counters, like Gallade BKT in the Gardevoir GX deck, and can punish you severely for relying on Alolan Ninetales exclusively. Garbotoxin is also still alive and well.

If you put everything into the invincibility approach when up against certain matchups or lists, meaning you sacrifice resources and/or don’t even bother preparing anything other than the Safeguarder(s), you can end up looking silly when your opponent does something like Rare Candies into Gallade and OHKOs you, or drops a Mew FCO and Strong Charges it up to be able to copy Tapu Bulu GX’s Nature’s Judgment also for an OHKO.

If you are playing in a matchup that seems vulnerable to Safeguard, in a best-of-3 series, be very observant all throughout game 1 and try to identify any and all Safeguard counters in the opponent’s list so you don’t get surprised in game 2 or game 3. The key to making Safeguard work is to aggressively target down any card that is or can become a threat, and to do this you have to know what threats the opponent has.

This deck is among the most consistent in Standard due its use of both Octillery and 4 Alolan Vulpix. In a format devoid of VS Seeker, Abyssal Hand is better than ever. People have run 1-1 or 2-1 Octillery before but I like the enhanced consistency of 2-2.

 

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