Standard Options – BuzzRoc, Magnezone Stuff, Espeon, and Empoleon

There’s a new set out and that means it is time to update the common archetypes to fit the new cards, and time to make some new decklists for the new options. In this piece I have four decks I cover, including Empoleon, Buzzwole Lycaroc, Magnezone Dusk Mane Necrozma, and Espeon Garbodor. It’s worth noting that I think Greninja has a lot of potential now that Cynthia is out. There are other new ideas that I will explore probably next week as well, such as Rotom and Luxio.

To start, I want to cover Empoleon. The attraction with this deck is that it theoretically has a good metal matchup, can do well in prize trades, has high HP, has lots of support (Brooklet Hill, Counter Energy, Aqua Patch), and can take advantage of the big benched that Zoroark decks usually have. I started out with a fairly basic list with not many interesting additions but ended up with a somewhat techy list. This is what I have right now.

Pokémon – 17 Trainers – 34 Energy – 9
 3 Piplup (32)  2 Professor Sycamore  1 Field Blower  2 Counter Energy
 1 Piplup (31)  2 Cynthia  1 Float Stone  7 Water
 2 Prinplup  3 N  2 Choice Band
 4 Empoleon  1 Professor Kukui  3 Rescue Stretcher
 2 Remoraid  3 Guzma  3 Aqua Patch
 2 Octillery  1 Skyla  4 Ultra Ball
 2 Tapu Lele GX  1 Brigette  4 Rare Candy
 1 Vulpix
 3 Brooklet Hill

Pros & Cons of Empoleon

What I have realized with Empoleon is that you never fit everything you want into the deck. I imagine a bowl full of stuff a deck needs to work well. You can fit something important, but inevitably it pushes out something else that you need. With this list, I have cut down on many counts in an effort to fit some amount of everything that is needed.

Seven water is less optimal than 8, and I would really like a 3rd Counter Energy. 3rd Choice band would be great, 2nd Float would be as well, and only one Field Blower makes Garbodor tough. But that’s not all, I even need another Cynthia and another Kukui. This is the biggest problem I have had with Empoleon and this is the reason it is my least favorite pick out of the four decks I cover. With that being said, I still think Empoleon is a great deck.

Matchups do look pretty strong for Empoleon despite the issues it can have. Magnezone seems fairly favorable, Zoroark variants are good because of the big benches they have, and Buzzwole loses the prize exchange. The rhetoric sounds pretty familiar here; it is, in essence, the same argument that players have made for Greninja. So, why not just play Greninja? The problem I have with Greninja is that it is a Stage 3 deck (with the breaks) and has no Rare Candy. Greninja is, more than any other deck, reliant on getting consistent average luck with prize cards and draws. Greninja does not need to run hot to beat decks, it just needs to consistently not run cold. Empoleon avoids a lot of this issue by playing Rare Candy, Octillery, and not having another evolution after the Stage 2. I am not completely comfortable calling Empoleon a better version of Greninja yet, but that is where I am leaning at the moment.

One downside to the deck is that it does lose to Espeon Garbodor. Espeon has been seeing some hype lately, which by the way just makes me the happiest little list creator out there (Connor Pedersen won Oceania with my Espeon Garbodor list), and because of this, I would be a little concerned about playing Empoleon. A second Blower should make the matchup more like a 50/50, but I still would not be too comfortable with it. Golisopdo Zoroark did just win though, which means Espeon might struggle.

Comments on the list

There is one copy of the other Piplup from Ultra Prism because it can be used to finish off knockouts. This card is mostly overlooked by players, but I think one copy is a good idea.

I may cut down to a 2-1 Octillery line, because many Gardevoir lists do that. This deck relies more heavily on Octillery than most decks though, so I think 2-2 is correct.

Sycamore is very risky in this deck because of the very high number of cards that are hard to discard. I find there are very specific scenarios where I want Sycamore, but in most cases, I just want N or Cynthia. I could certainly see cutting down to 0 Sycamore in order to Max my Cynthia count. 

Kukui is a great threat because it forces your opponent to play around it. They end up knowing they cannot bench as many Pokemon which can cripple their set up. On the other hand, if they do not realize you play Kukui, you can easily punish them with a one-shot. A second copy would be nice because it can be hard to get the one copy at the right time, but the list simply cannot fit another at the moment.

Three Rescue Stretcher is a lot, but this deck only has nine basic Pokemon. In a deck with damage dependant on your bench size, it is crucial to keep dropping Pokemon down on the bench. Three Stretcher is not actually that much, and I could see playing four.

General Strategy

This deck plays out like many other Stage 2 decks. If you have experience with Gardevoir, this deck should come to you very easily. Go for the T1 Brigette, set up Octillery quickly, and try to swing with Empoleon on your third turn (sometimes your second turn).

As Empoleons are knocked out, your main goal is going to be to make new Empoleons repeatedly. This is most of the hurdle you have to manage in the mid to late game. Other than that, you need to make sure your damage output is high enough to take a one-shot (most of the time). If your bench is full and they have three benched, that is 160 damage, not too shabby. This means you are going to need a Choice Band a lot of the time to get KOs on Pokemon like Dusk Mane Necrozma and Buzzwole. If you cannot achieve that damage with Choice Band, you can go for a Kukui, or Guzma something else up. These are usually going to be your three options in a normal mid-game turn. So, instead of getting overwhelmed with supporter options and when to play certain cards, start off by deciding which of those three routes you are going to take.

By the late-game it is nice to have a Tapu Lele left on your opponent’s side that can be KO’d easily with a Choice Band. I like to take the last two prizes this way. Other times I will have KO’d a 1-prize Pokemon in the early game and I can pick off an Octillery or a Grubbin or a Rockruff, or something else of this nature to take the last prize. Keep this in mind while you are planning out your turns.

You always want to consider how taking a Pokemon off the field will affect your damage output on the next turn, because if knocking out a Lele means you cannot take a KO on something else on the next turn, maybe you want to go for a Ko on the active, or sometimes just take a two-shot knock out.

That is the condensed version of the deck. There is more detail I could go into, but there are still three other decks I want to give attention to. Next up is Buzzwole Lycanroc. This deck saw more play at Oceania than any other deck and for good reason. The deck hits hard, it’s decently consistent, and it can still do pretty well even when it runs cold. This is the list I have developed with Ultra Prism legal.

Buzzwole Lycanroc

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