Revisiting 2017 – Espeon Garbodor

As I am writing this, I just finished my run in one of Pokestat’s old format PTCGO tournaments. The format this time was NAIC 2017, where the legal sets were: Primal Clash through Guardians Rising. I managed to make top 4 with Espeon Garb; a slightly different list from the one that earned me 17th place at NAIC three years ago. In 2017 I saw Espeon Garbodor as the best deck in that format and today I feel the same way. This piece will not have a paywall of course, considering it is an article about an old format and all Stage 2 subscriptions have been paused during this time off from sanctioned events. Perfecting lists has been an obsession of mine for a long time and I can’t help writing about it, even if there is no monetary incentive. I’ll start with my old list and then cover my current build.

2017 NAIC list

Pokémon – 19 Trainers – 30 Energy – 11
 4  Garbodor (GRI)  4  Professor Sycamore  4  Ultra Ball 7  Psychic
 4  Trubbish (BKP)  3  N  3  Choice Band 4  Double Colorless
 2  Espeon GX  2  Lysandre  2  Field Blower
 3  Eevee (SUM)  1  Hex Maniac  1  Rescue Stretcher
 1  Flareon (AOR)  1  Brigette  1  Super Rod
 1  Drampa GX  1  Professor Kukui  2  Float Stone
 1  Oranguru (SUM)  1  Olympia
 1  Shaymin EX (ROS)  3  VS Seeker
 2  Tapu Lele GX
 1  Parallel City

You can read all about my run at NAIC here.

A little too cheeky

My first thought when observing this list about a week ago was that I had gotten a little too cute with my techs and one-ofs. I do recall feeling very confident in this list at the time and earning 17th place implies that it was a good list, but I have 3 more years of deck-building experience now and I feel that there certainly are some flaws with this list. Are all four of those one-of Supporters really needed? This was when Tapu Lele was still a new card, and with VS Seeker in the format I think many of us had a tendency to favor these 1-of Supporters since they had more support than they had ever had in a Standard format. In general, this deck leaned in quite far on options, not only with the Supporters, but with the support Pokemon line up being divided up into one Guru, one Shaymin EX, and two Lele. The other notable quirks would be the Super Rod and Stretcher split (rather than just two Stretcher), the one Drampa GX (rather than a fourth Eevee or third Espeon EX), and an unbelievable count of FOUR Trashalanche Garbodor.

Needless to say, at the time I was not afraid to divert from the orthodox build of Espeon Garb. In hindsight I actually view my mentality as a bit arrogant and irreverent, as it seems like I went out of my way just to do something different, and then stubbornly stuck to my ideas, when in reality some parts of the list would have been better built as many others did. I kept this in mind when creating this updated list:

Pokestats Old Format Tournament list

Pokémon – 19 Trainers – 29 Energy – 12
 3  Garbodor (GRI)  4  Professor Sycamore  4  Ultra Ball 8  Psychic
 4  Trubbish (BKP)  4  N  3  Choice Band 4  Double Colorless
 2  Espeon GX  2  Lysandre  2  Field Blower
 3  Eevee (SUM)  1  Brigette  1  Rescue Stretcher
 1  Flareon (AOR)  1  Super Rod
 1  Drampa GX  1  Parallel City  3  Float Stone
 1  Oranguru (SUM)  3  VS Seeker
 1  Shaymin EX (ROS)
 2  Tapu Lele GX
 1  Garbodor (BKP)

Better in some ways, worse in others

Cutting three of the one-of Supporters and adding the 4th N helped a lot with consistency, but I will say that all three of those Supporters are helpful cards and I missed some of them at times. Most importantly, the Kukui would have been extraordinarily helpful when I was facing Andrew Mahone’s Zoroark Break Drampa deck. Dishing out 140 can be tough when you are trying to deal with Zoroark Break and there were at least two situations between our games where I would have been able to take a knock out if I had Kukui. Trying to manage without Kukui forced me into different strategic routes that were unpleasant and ultimately not effective enough, as I was 2-0’d. Before this recent tournament, I had forgotten that at NAIC in 2017 I had included the Kukui specifically as a tech for Zoroark and that it was at least a 50/50 with the addition. Kukui is a decent option for a few other reasons too. Trashalanche will have the potential to dish out a higher damage cap than your opponent expects when you play a copy of Kukui, or if they know you play Kukui, they will be forced to limit how many items they use even more than normal.

With regards to the other one-of Supporters, I felt completely happy with playing no Hex, and there were few situations where playing Olympia would have been better than the third Float Stone. Olympia is a great tech for the Espeon Garbodor mirror, but I found that an 8th Psychic was just as helpful for mirror and it provides a higher level of consistency across the board. In fact, the 8th Psychic was by far the best change I made to the list. If you read the article I linked in this post, I note that I had really wished I played 8 Psychic at NAIC in 2017. The Garbotoxin Garbodor was an option I added simply to add another dimension to the deck, which is ironic because back in 2017 my mentality was options-options-options, yet I chose to play four Trashalanche. This was also a big part of why I switched over to three Float Stone; simply too few tools to play Toxin if there are only two Float. The fourth N was great, especially against opposing Garbodor decks, but at times I deeply desired a fourth VS Seeker over the fourth N.

Post-Pokestats-tournament changes

-1 Shaymin EX +1 Tapu Lele GX

I had been skeptical of playing the Shaymin EX before the event, but I actually did not own a third Lele on PTCGO, so I decided to keep Shaymin. In testing for the event, and during the event, I consistently felt that a third Lele would have been more useful. There were a few situations where the Shaymin was better than a Lele would have been, but for the majority of circumstances, getting any Supporter would have been stronger than drawing until I have six.

After reading my old tournament report I saw that I had actually changed over to 3 Lele post-NAIC, so there is no doubt in my mind about this change now.

-1 Sycamore +1 Professor Kukui

Although I very much desired a fourth VS Seeker and liked four Sycamore, I saw no way to fit them. Looking at the deck now, it amazes me that I fit in so many different options into my old list. Now it feels like the deck is unbearably tight on space. I really am not thrilled about dropping that Sycamore and I feel like if it were included back into the deck, the list would have an ideal level of draw consistency.

I still do not feel like I have the deck perfected. My inclination is that the only way to get from 98% perfect to 100% would be to really re-haul my approach to it and start over. Right now it feels like a puzzle I have put together that can’t fit one of the pieces, but if I rearrange the puzzle in a different way, I might be able to. Maybe the answer is to go back to no Garbotoxin. Maybe Parallel is not important enough. Maybe the list actually is as good as I can make it.

Match ups and other information about the format, featuring Michael Perez

Observations about the format in general

It was a turn-of-the-format time in the recent history of Pokemon where 2-prizers, stage 1s, and stage 2s began to coexist without the help of Archie or Maxie’s trickery. Ironically, Maxie and Archie were the predecessors of a somewhat slower format, where their beloved Jirachi EX’s Stellar Wish came true once again, but this time in the form of Tapu Lele GX. Tapu Lele GX was everyone’s favorite $40-$75 card. Arguably it was the card that balanced and shaped each format it was legal in. Tapu Lele GX not only had Jirachi’s ability in the form of Wonder Tag, but it had Mewtwo EX’s X Ball, making the card very versatile. Tord Reklev has earned over 68,000 USD playing Pokemon since 2016; he demonstrates Lele’s power throughout his results, which are: 1st place at 3 Intercontinental championships, 2nd at another, and top 4 at worlds in 2019. Lele GX wasn’t legal for all of those formats, but Tord played 3-4 copies at each of the events above where it was legal. He was one of the few who understood how busted Lele GX was, and demonstrated that it wasn’t only great for Wonder Tag, but also great for Energy Drive. Lele GX wasn’t a great support card only because it could search out a supporter, it was great because just 2 doses of Energy Drive in a seemingly unfavorable match up, such as Zoroark/Gardevoir VS. Buzzwole/Lycanroc, could swing the Zoroark player into a winning position.

Zoroark GX was the best Pokemon ever printed. This may be an opinion, but I believe it is not disputable. There were only a couple cards that gave Zoroark GX trouble without hitting for weakness: Drampa GX put a clock on Zoroark by taking out its Double Colorless Energy, and Garbodor stopped Zoroark’s Trade. There are only a few ways to beat a good Zoroark player: 1. Drampa/Garb 2.Luck sack 3. Buzzwole and/or Lycranroc 4. Cheating (lol). Obviously these aren’t always successful in stopping it- as shown with its insane success rate, but the method that had the most long term success was probably Garbodor. Up until recently, expanded was usually a fight between Zoroark and Garbodor. In the last 3 years, expanded decks with Zoroark have taken up 29.6% of all top 16 spots, while decks with Garbodor have taken up 19% of top 16 spots. These numbers should exemplify their power and rivalry. Garbodor coming in 2nd to the best Pokemon ever printed is evidence enough of its strength.

At the Indianapolis Intercontinental championships in 2017, 15 Garbodor decks advanced to top 32; 5 were Drampa/Garb, and 10 were Espeon/Garb. mind you that only 8 participants played Drapma/Garb, and only 13 played Espeon. Two of those Drampa/Garbs made top 8, and one advanced to win the event: Tord. Espeon had another showing at worlds in 2017. 2 Espeon/Garbs made top 8: At 3rd was Xander Pero, and at 6th was Jimmy Pendarvis, who played 4 Tapu Lele GX

Trashalanche Garbodor was one of the most popular cards of its time, and with good reason: the threat of trashalanche forces your opponent to make the tough choice: “is playing this item worth compromising my position?” This is a much more healthy phenomenon than was Seismitoad’s Quaking Punch, where the opponent doesn’t have a choice. Not only does Trashalanche give the opponent a choice to make, but the consequences of the decisions made in reaction to its threat are immediate and damaging.

Espeon GX’s Psybeam provides a good way to chip away at a big Pokemon, while investing very little, thanks to Eevee’s Energy Evolution. It also Confuses the defending Pokemon. TPCI could have given Espeon GX Hypnosis, whose Sleep condition would induce a lot more variance than Psybeam’s confusion. Confusion gives the opponent the tough choice of attacking or retreating, and Espeon’s Psychic is a threat to those who attach too many energy to one Pokemon. That’s what makes this deck so fun! It forces the opponent into making tons of micro-decisions, and your opponent makes the wrong choice eventually. This is how a Casino beats you at a table game. They are gambling, yes. But they are gambling less than you, because you’re an imperfect human who has to make all the bets, and you’re bound to make the wrong one eventually.

The reader may be asking: why are these 2 weirdos writing an article about Espeon/Garb? Well, it’s a very healthy deck. Another reason is we are quarantined and chose the mirror to play for fun in our excess of spare time. I started writing down some reasons why I would lose the match up, and turned those notes into some rules for staying in a winning position in the mirror when I got a call from Phinn saying he was gonna write about it. The serendipity made me feel like participating.

Espeon Garbodor mirror

Each card has a set of roles it can play:

  • Espeon GX can be your Knight and your Queen. It can be used for early aggression to take out undeveloped threats, and late game to set up checkmate by threatening Divide GX. At every point in the game you should be aware of the role your Espeon will play in the trade.
  • Trashalanche is your Rook and Pawn. When your opponent leaves an opening, it can be devastating, but at worst will serve as a way to keep the opponent in check as a means of maintaining a positional advantage via item suppression.
  • Tapu Lele GX can serve as the Pawn or the Knight, taking early knockouts or forcing your opponent to give up position.
  • Drampa is the Bishop. Once you have damage on another Pokemon, it can easily take out any other Pokemon, but you have to get it into position first. It’s hard to respond to Drampa as long as you haven’t played items. It forces the opponent to desperately look for a response (which involves playing more items), which usually is a GX that can be dealt with using Espeon GX’s Psychic or Trashalanche.
  • Item cards are your kings. Their management is on average the most crucial part to winning the match up.

Now that we have a rough understanding of how each card fits into the picture, here are the rules:

  1. DON’T PLAY ANY ITEM CARDS. This one should be obvious. It’s a very dangerous game when each item you discard does 40 more damage to your own psychic types. This rule also means don’t play so aggressively, because going too fast too soon can let you get N, Garbotoxin locked late game for a crazy comeback. Consider not putting down tool cards, especially if you already have one in play. The last thing you want is to lose 2 items to a field blower, then you get trashalanche’d for a KO.
  2. Spread out energy attachments and attach Psychic before Double Colorless. If I’m not ready to Berserk or Psychic yet, I’m quite likely to attach a Double Colorless to my trashalanche Garbodor, Trubbish or even Lele. This is to avoid loading too many energy on my Espeon or Drampa, so that the opposing use of Espeon GX’s psychic doesn’t become too powerful.
  3. Take advantage of your opponent attaching too many energy. It is important to consider whether to punish over attaching energy using Lele GX or Espeon GX. It’s fairly often that Lele GX is a very good option to to start off with; putting pressure on the opponent without putting your Espeons or Trashalanchers in danger. However, keep in mind that Drampa can wipe your DCE off with ease.
  4. After taking your 1st and 2nd prize cards, take care of loose ends by using Parallel City for any Lele’s, or an Espeon, or Drampa with significant damage on e’m.
  5. After these 2 prize cards, determine whether you will be the aggressor or defender of this particular match. If you’re the defender, being down on prizes and hoping for a comeback, get ready to N and Garbotoxin. If you’re the aggressor, set up Oranguru to get out of late game N’s. You probably want an energy attached to either of these just in case they get Lysandre stalled or end up being an ideal attacker. This is the point in time where you’ll want to decide if you’re gonna try to Rescue stretcher/Super rod any Tapu Lele GX or a potential Shaymin EX to dig deep for the kill later on. Though, keep in mind that if you shuffle back in consistency based around abilities, your opponent could lock you out of them, making them dead cards.
  6. Tapu Cure GX doesn’t seem to be worth your time. Big Wheel is usually a good GX attack to get into the game at the beginning, or to get back into the game after an N to 1 or 2. Divide GX can be a good way to knock out a damaged bench EX and reduce Berserk’s damage output, but I don’t see it as a sufficient way to spread damage for later knockouts: it’s usually not worth it to leave an Espeon active with 3 energy if you aren’t taking prizes with it that turn.
  7. Some time between 3 and 2 prizes remaining, start thinning the deck as best you can without discarding more than 2 items. I know this sounds hard, but in the mirror it will be a slower and more drawn out process than in other match ups.

My favorite way to checkmate is to keep three trashboys on the bench, accompanied by a wise orangutan with a psychic energy attached. It’s very important to have 3 trashalanchers on the bench in anticipation of the late game. Once the mid-game begins, it usually becomes a long trashalanche war. Under the circumstance that I can’t fully charge up 3 trashalanchers, I like to leave one as a Trubbish with a psychic energy, and one as a Garbodor without an energy, and one as a Garbodor with an energy. This set up means that if I get N’d low, I can draw a DCE to attack with Oranguru, a Garbodor to evolve my Trubbish with an energy, or a psychic energy to attach to my already evolved Garbodor and whichever one I draw, I have a way to hit for significant damage.

That’s about it!

– Phinn & Michael