From one Regionals to another

Welcome back! Pokémon 151 has made its competitive debut last weekend at Peoria Regionals, and with several events in the same format happening in Sacramento, Lille and Toronto, competitive players need to be on top of this format for the upcoming weeks. There was no surprise deck coming out of nowhere to dominate the competition […]

Stéphane Ivanoff13 Oct 2023

Welcome back! Pokémon 151 has made its competitive debut last weekend at Peoria Regionals, and with several events in the same format happening in Sacramento, Lille and Toronto, competitive players need to be on top of this format for the upcoming weeks. There was no surprise deck coming out of nowhere to dominate the competition in Peoria, but many cards from the new set were successful, notably Mew ex, Ditto, and Grabber, which all made top 8. So while the metagame hasn’t been turned on its head, it has nevertheless evolved, and it’s a good time to analyse it in some detail.

History repeats itself in Peoria

In many ways, Peoria was a repeat of Pittsburgh, the first Regional Championship of the season. At both tournaments, Miraidon did better than expected, notably due to Lugia VSTAR’s popularity, but a Canadian player was able to win with Lost Box featuring Kyogre, another deck that wasn’t expected to do that great. The similarities don’t stop there: in both cases, the most popular deck (Giratina in Pittsburgh, Charizard in Peoria) underperformed, while Mew VMAX flew under the radar and was able to reach top 4. Yet some things did change…

1. Charizard replaces Giratina

Charizard Ex

Following Charizard ex’s domination at Curitiba Regionals in Brazil, Charizard ex became the deck to beat. It was the most played deck in Peoria in day 1 of the tournament, but also (and that’s particularly interesting) in day 2, which means that the deck’s popularity was backed by actual results. Often, the most played deck ends up being countered, but in this case, Charizard ex was able to live up to the hype. It even went from being 15% of the field in day 1 to 19% in day 2, so if anything, it was actually underplayed!
There’s a simple explanation to Charizard ex’s success: its best counter, Giratina VSTAR, completely disappeared. Probably out of fear of Mew ex, and the bad Colorless Lugia matchup (which had the highest win rate in the format in online tournaments in the weeks leading up to Peoria Regionals), many players opted to stay away from Giratina VSTAR, which left Charizard ex with a favorable metagame.

2. Chien-Pao rises up


Chien-Pao ex / Baxcalibur was considered by most players to be a tier 2 deck for a long time, but recently, the deck picked up some steam. The Canadian version of the deck, which features four PokéStop, no Supporter outside of Irida and Iono, a thin 3-0-2 Baxcalibur line, and a boatload of Item cards, including Cross Switcher and two Cancelling Cologne, has become the main version of the deck after Lucas Xing’s top 8 finish in Pittsburgh. It’s also become very popular in Japan, where it’s consistently the fourth most successful deck (behind Charizard, Giratina and Gardevoir), despite a slightly different format.
This might be a case of me attributing far more importance to Japanese results than the average player, but after facing so much of it online, I was convinced that Chien-Pao would be among the three most played decks in Peoria. I was wrong. It still did better than at previous Regionals, and actually had a 10% meta share in day 2, including a top 8 finish by Grant Shen. It’s worth mentioning that Chien-Pao is also one of the best counters to Charizard ex since it can easily deal enough damage to OHKO a 330 HP Pokémon, so it’s not surprising that the deck did well.

3. Fusionless Mew takes over


As I expected and described in my 151 preview [https://www.tcgpark.com/151s-impact-on-the-metagame/], Fusionless Mew is once again the best-performing variant of Mew VMAX.
At the time of writing, the decklists of all players in day 2 of Peoria are not public, so I can’t know to which extent that is true. However, we know that the two highest-ranked Mew VMAX players in Peoria, Rowan Stavenow (top 4) and Collin Merli-Matthews (top 16), both played Mew VMAX without Fusion Strike Energy and with Grabber. This gave them a much better Charizard ex matchup, which seems important in order to succeed in the current format. Rowan Stavenow also played Luxray V, a tech that I mentioned in the article linked above, which can be very powerful in disrupting a deck like Charizard ex, which is extremely dangerous but also requires many resources to set up (especially in the face of Path to the Peak).
Given that Mew VMAX was thought to be at a low point given Charizard ex’s unprecedented recent success, few players chose to run Spiritomb, which was ideal for Mew VMAX. In the future, if more players decide to be cautious and include Spiritomb, Mew VMAX will likely have to play Fusion Strike Energy again, but that would also require it to drop some of the cards (like Path to the Peak, Judge and Grabber) that give it a good shot against Charizard ex.

4. Consistency over all?

Gardevoir ex

There’s a long-standing debate among deckbuilders regarding whether it’s better to play a consistent list or a teched out list. A consistent list will achieve its main game plan more often but might have trouble with specific decks. Techs can allow a deck to counter some of its difficult matchups, but at the cost of being useless in other situations, decreasing the deck’s overall regularity.
Of course, there’s no definitive answer to that question. Depending on the format and the deck, consistency or techs can be the better choice. In Peoria, though, consistency seemed to be the key to achieving victory (or at least top 8); my theory is that in a metagame with so many viable decks if you tech your deck, you run the risk of just never having the tech be useful since no deck makes up for a huge amount of the metagame. Given that an incredible record of 11-2-2 was needed to make the top 8, players probably favoured having a deck that works all the time rather than one that is better suited at beating some specific decks. Here are some notable decks that exemplified this phenomenon:

  • Lost Box decks vary a lot, and the three that made the top 8 in Peoria were different variants: Raymond Long won with Kyogre, Jac Carter came second with a Turbo build, and Terrence Miller made top 8 with SableZard. Interestingly, all three played four copies of Nest ball, which is not necessarily the norm in Lost Box (lists run three more often than not). Terrence Miller also played Ditto from 151 in his deck, which acts as a consistency card since it’s essentially a fifth Comfey start.
  • Grant Shen’s top 8 Chien-Pao ex decklist cut Lost Vacuum and Escape Rope for two more Pokémon-search Items. With a full four Ultra Ball, four Nest Ball and four Battle VIP Pass (plus four PokéStop), the deck was as consistent as could be! Cutting Lost Vacuum is risky, but makes sense in a metagame where Giratina VSTAR doesn’t see as much play, and Path to the Peak decks in general are on the decline (with the exception of Fusionless Mew).
  • However, I think the most obvious example of consistency overall was Brent Tonisson’s top 8 Gardevoir decklist. I wrote recently about the differences between Australian Gardevoir (which Brent Tonisson originally built) and the lists played in the rest of the world. Brent did include two Reversal Energy this weekend, which was needed in order to fight Charizard ex, but the rest focuses on consistency above all, with a full four copies of Battle VIP Pass, Level Ball, Fog Crystal and even Ultra Ball!

What comes next?

Given the metagame in Peoria, you might be wondering what to play next, in Sacramento or Lille. In general, here’s what I would expect in the weeks to come:

  • Charizard ex stays the most popular deck.
    As I mentioned, the percentage of Charizard in day 2 was higher than its percentage in day 1, which meant that Charizard did better than the average deck; that’s rare for the most played deck in the room. I see no reason for Charizard to lose steam right now, so I expect that it will be played just as much.
  • Chien-Pao ex rises a bit higher.
    As one of the best counters to Charizard ex, Chien-Pao ex is a logical play, especially since lists are getting even more refined and the deck has no exploitable weakness. (I originally wrote “no obvious weakness”, which is wrong. There are ways to counter Chien-Pao ex very effectively, for example by playing Scizor, but that’s not very good against the rest of the metagame!) The modern variants of Chien-Pao are also very Item-heavy which tends to be fun to play for a majority for the player base, so that’s one more reason to see a lot of Chien-Pao around.
  • The Lugia meta share decreases.
    Lugia VSTAR underperformed significantly in Peoria, going from 13% of day 1 to 9% of day 2, and didn’t even feature in the top 16. This will likely lead to some people switching to another deck, as Lugia seems to have trouble in the current metagame. Historically, this deck has been more popular in America than in Europe, at least since rotation, so I would expect a bit more Lugia in Sacramento than in Lille. These regional metagame differences remain marginal, though.

So, what’s the play for the next Regionals?

It’s Giratina VSTAR.

No, come back. I swear I’m not obsessed with Giratina! My infatuation with the deck is mostly over, and I would rather play something else, to be perfectly honest. However, the way I see it, everything is set up for Giratina to rise back to the top (or at least close to the top) in Sacramento. If my predictions above are true, then Charizard ex will be the most played deck, and Lugia will be on the decline: that’s the perfect combination for Giratina. Moreover, decks are cutting outs to Path to the Peak. Grant Shen’s Chien-Pao and Brent Tonisson’s Gardevoir both played one fewer Path out than usual, which worked out well given Giratina’s irrelevance. However, a Giratina deck with four Path to the Peak can counter these decks effectively.
Yes, Mew ex is an issue, but it’s mostly played in Lugia, which is a bad matchup anyway. Mew ex in Miraidon is manageable: they can’t power it up in one turn unless they play Raihan (which is unusual) or have two Flaaffy in play, but if they play two Flaaffy, you can punish them with Moonlight Shuriken.

Pokémon – 15

4 Comfey LOR 79
3 Giratina V LOR 130
3 Giratina VSTAR LOR 131
2 Sableye LOR 70
1 Spiritomb PAL 89
1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46
1 Cramorant LOR 50

Trainer Cards – 31

4 Colress’s Experiment LOR 190
2 Boss’s Orders LOR-TG 24
2 Roxanne ASR 188
1 Iono PAL 254
4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
3 Nest Ball SVI 181
4 Mirage Gate LOR 163
3 Switch Cart ASR 154
2 Escape Rope BST 125
2 Super Rod PAL 188
4 Path to the Peak CRE 148

Energy – 14

4 Basic {P} Energy Energy 22
3 Basic {G} Energy Energy 18
3 Basic {W} Energy Energy 20
4 Jet Energy PAL 190

I’ve already written a two-part complete guide to Giratina, so I won’t reiterate my points here. As I mentioned, I think that Path to the Peak can exploit weaknesses in the metagame, so I want to keep four of them. The other inclusion is Spiritomb since Fusionless Mew VMAX is otherwise a bad matchup, and it can also help against Lugia. However, you could cut Spiritomb for a fourth Switch Cart to improve your Lost Box matchup, or a fourth Nest Ball for consistency.

If you want an unusual pick that’s not Giratina, my other idea would be some sort of Arceus deck. Arceus actually had a solid day 1 in Peoria, but the deck then had issues due to its Miraidon matchup, which was well-represented at the highest tables. Nevertheless, Arceus VSTAR has the potential to perform very well right now, in my opinion. One possible way to play it is to combine it with Alolan Vulpix VSTAR, which is very effective against Charizard (unless they play the Charizard ex from 151) and Gardevoir (unless they play one of the possible counters to it, such as Spiritomb, that allows Zacian V to hit Vulpix).

Alternatively, I think some Judge-Path deck (that, unlike Mew, doesn’t lose to Spiritomb) is viable right now. Here’s an example

Pokémon – 15

4 Arceus V BRS 122
3 Arceus VSTAR BRS 123
2 Bidoof CRZ 111
2 Bibarel BRS 121
1 Spiritomb PAL 89
1 Skwovet SVI 151
1 Slaking V PGO 58

Trainer Cards – 31

4 Iono PAL 254
4 Judge SIT-TG 25
3 Boss’s Orders PAL 248
2 Cheren’s Care BRS 168
1 Melony CRE 195
4 Nest Ball SVI 181
4 Ultra Ball SVI 196
1 Escape Rope BST 125
1 Switch SVI 194
1 Choice Belt PAL 176
1 Vitality Band SVI 197
1 Box of Disaster LOR 154
4 Path to the Peak CRE 148

Energy – 15

8 Basic {W} Energy SVE 3 PH
4 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151
2 V Guard Energy SIT 169
1 Jet Energy PAL 190

This is as basic as Arceus gets: disrupt the opponent with Judge, Iono and Path to the Peak, hit for damage, power up other attackers. Slaking V is included due to its synergy with Spiritomb (and Path to the Peak), and it’s a solid answer to Miraidon: it doesn’t get OHKO’d by Miraidon ex unless they play Zapdos, and it can KO any Pokémon in the deck, except a Miraidon ex with Bravery Charm attached (and even then, it’s still possible with the extra damage from Vitality Band). This decks relies on Judge-Path a lot, so it is not the most reliable, but that power will also win you games.


Thank you for reading! If you didn’t attend or follow Peoria Regionals too closely, I hope that this helped you get up to date with the state of the metagame. I’ll be following Sacramento from afar, and then I’ll be attending both Lille and Toronto Regionals, so I’m excited to see what more the format has to offer!

All the best,

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