How to play Tord’s Gardevoir, Part I

Gardevoir ex is my favourite card from Scarlet & Violet. It’s been a long time since we had a viable, competitive stage 2 deck in the format (Inteleon doesn’t count, I mean a deck that uses their stage 2 as a main attacker, not just as a support option), and Gardevoir ex is exactly that. […]

Stéphane Ivanoff7 May 2023

Gardevoir ex

Gardevoir ex is my favourite card from Scarlet & Violet. It’s been a long time since we had a viable, competitive stage 2 deck in the format (Inteleon doesn’t count, I mean a deck that uses their stage 2 as a main attacker, not just as a support option), and Gardevoir ex is exactly that. Its presence makes the Standard format a more varied environment: it’s a deck that’s a bit slower to set up than, say, a Lost Zone deck, but once this setup is complete, it is extremely powerful thanks to powerful attackers, high HP, and a unique Ability in Gardevoir ex’s Psychic Embrace.

The European International Championships showed that Gardevoir wasn’t simply a cool deck, it was also very strong. Tord Reklev, the best player in the world, came second with his unique take on Gardevoir. Two of his teammates also performed very well with the same deck: former World Champion Robin Schulz made the top 32, and Nico Alabas won the 300-player League Cup played over the weekend. As usual, Tord’s genius was mostly making the deck as consistent as possible: he included no less than four Professor’s Research, as well as a Lumineon V to make sure that, in his words, he was able to “play the game” as often as possible (as opposed to taking a quick loss due to a dead opening hand). Since then, many other players, myself included, achieved success at local or online events with Gardevoir lists that were either the same as Tord’s, or very similar.
My goal with this article is to help you understand why this deck works, and how to play it. It is mainly aimed at newer players; I’m working on my own Gardevoir list and I may write an in-depth guide about it once I’m happy with it, but for now, my focus is on players with little competitive experience who want to pick up the deck. I’ll explain topics such as sequencing which might seem simple to experimented players.

The decklist

Here’s the decklist I will discuss today.

Pokémon – 18
3 Ralts ASR 60
1 Ralts SIT 67
4 Kirlia SIT 68
2 Gardevoir ex SVI 86
1 Gardevoir CRE 61
2 Zacian V CEL 16
1 Cresselia LOR 74
1 Mew CEL 11
1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46
1 Manaphy BRS 41
1 Lumineon V BRS 40
Trainer Cards – 30
3 Professor’s Research SVI 189
1 Serena SIT 164
1 Judge SVI 176
1 Roxanne ASR 150
1 Worker SIT 167
1 Miriam SVI 179
1 Boss’s Orders BRS 132
1 Penny SVI 183
4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
4 Level Ball BST 129
3 Fog Crystal CRE 140
3 Ultra Ball SVI 196
2 Rare Candy SVI 191
1 Pal Pad SVI 182
1 Sky Seal Stone CRZ 143
1 Temple of Sinnoh ASR 155
1 Collapsed Stadium BRS 137
Energy – 12
12 Psychic Energy

This list is actually one card off from Tord’s: I replaced a Professor’s Research with a Serena. This is a popular change that has been made by many players, most notably by the winner of the Korean League Season 3. Serena is a worse draw Supporter than Professor’s Research, but in a pinch, it can work. More importantly, though, it gives the deck a second Gust effect (alongside Boss’s Orders), which is important to get KOs in many matchups, notably against Mew VMAX.

Is this the perfect decklist? No, it isn’t. It’s tempting to say that if the best player in the world was able to almost win another International Championship with it, it must be perfect, but the truth is, there’s no perfect decklist. The right deck to play depends on the metagame.

Tord Reklev is a player who values consistency extremely highly. He often cuts cards that other players wouldn’t dare to, in order to add more consistency cards. This approach works especially well early on in a format: he was able to win the Latin American International Championships earlier this season because his Lugia VSTAR decklist was built to maximize consistency. In a new format, it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll be facing. If you tech any card for a specific matchup, you don’t know if this matchup will end up being popular, or if the tech will even work since you don’t know what kind of decklists people will choose to run. On the other hand, consistency cards are always useful: more draw Supporters are useful no matter what you end up playing against.

However, as time goes on and the metagame evolves, the value of certain tech cards rises, especially as people learn how to counter popular decks. Tord’s 4-3 Lugia VSTAR line was popular early in the Silver Tempest format, but as time went on, 3-2 lines started doing better, because they freed up space for techs such as Escape Rope and Raikou VIV. This doesn’t mean that Tord was wrong to play his list, just that the evolution of the metagame allowed other takes on the deck to work better (it’s also worth noting that Tord’s ultra-consistent approach, even when it wasn’t the most effective, wasn’t *bad* either: he did get a top 4 at the Utrecht Special Event at the end of the format with exactly this kind of list).

In Japan, Professor’s Research was rarely seen in Gardevoir decks. Instead, players tended to play more copies of Judge, as the disruption factor was considered more important, especially against Lost Zone decks. Currently, almost every player follows in Tord’s footsteps and plays three or four Professor’s Research and only one Judge. The draw power of Research is seen as more important in order to set up properly, and having this kind of good draw Supporter in the deck can make the deck better against opposing Judges and Roxannes. However, it’s worth noting that this version of Gardevoir does have a difficult matchup against Lost Box. Indeed, Tord’s approach was to dodge the deck by not having any ties. Lost Box plays long games, so it will often have a tie, as game three doesn’t have time to conclude. As long as Tord had no ties in his record, he was unlikely to be paired against a player who had any, which decreased his odds of playing against Lost Box. This plan worked: he only faced two Lost Box players over the course of the tournament, despite it being the most popular archetype in the room.
It’s not easy to have no ties, though: Gardevoir is also a deck that can play pretty long games, and end up tying. The bad Lost Box matchup is still relevant, and that might prompt players to play more Judges, like in Japan, or to find some other way of improving the matchup. I’ve been experimenting with Espeon VMAX, for example, and while it’s not perfect, it does help against any deck with Sableye.

The bottom line is that a deck that’s perfect for one event might not be the right call for the next one, and you should never consider a decklist, even a successful one, as definitive. That being said, Tord’s Gardevoir deck is pretty damn good, and it’s an excellent starting point if you want to play Gardevoir.

Explaining the deck

Kirlia SIT

The simple idea behind Gardevoir ex is as follows: discard a bunch of Psychic Energy, notably with Kirlia and Radiant Greninja, which both let you draw cards, then use Gardevoir ex’s Psychic Embrace in order to power up powerful attacks: Gardevoir’s Brainwave and Zacian V’s Storm Slash. The latter can also draw an additional Prize card thanks to Sky Seal Stone, which is this deck’s VSTAR Power of choice. Gardevoir can recover from bad starts thanks to its built-in draw engine and catch up to the opponent thanks to positive Prize trades: Zacian V can take three Prizes on a VSTAR or four on a VMAX, while Gardevoir can KO many V and VSTAR Pokémon. Gardevoir ex itself is a viable attacker; it won’t KO the toughest Pokémon around, but it can take KOs against one-Prize Pokémon, while tanking hits due to its high HP.

Once you have a board set up, you can draw cards every turn, so you can use your Supporter for good situational effects. Boss’s Orders and Serena let you target your opponent’s Benched Pokémon (for example, you can bring a Lumineon V Active to KO it with Gardevoir or Gardevoir ex), Judge and Roxanne provide useful disruption, and Miriam can put any discarded Pokémon back in your deck so you can use them again. Thanks to Pal Pad, you can get back these Supporters. 

Your deck will usually be thin enough after a while that you can get to whichever card you need pretty quickly. However, you’ll have to choose which Supporter to play on any given turn.

Setting up




The first step in a game is to set up. You basically want to get as many Ralts as possible on your first turn, thanks to cards like Battle VIP Pass, Level Ball, and Fog Crystal. This allows you to get multiple Kirlia on your second turn, and then to draw cards with Refinement on every subsequent turn.

That said, Ralts may not always be the priority. When looking at your hand, consider: do you have a plan for the next turn? Say you have an active Ralts and a Battle VIP Pass. It can be tempting to get two more Ralts, but if you don’t have a draw Supporter (or multiple Kirlia) for the next turn, you will end up doing nothing and will likely lose the game. Instead, you could grab Ralts and Radiant Greninja, then use Concealed Cards to draw two more cards. Not only can you draw another Ralts, Battle VIP Pass, Level Ball or Fog Crystal off this Ability, you’re also more likely to draw into a draw Supporter (or a way to find one or to draw more cards, like a Kirlia). On the next turn, you can use Concealed Cards again, so overall, grabbing Radiant Greninja gets you four cards for your setup, not to mention it will also draw more cards later in the game!

Similarly, Mew can also be used to help with consistency. It’s especially useful when you don’t have a good way to grab multiple Pokémon on the first turn. For example, if you open with Ralts and a Fog Crystal, you could use your Fog Crystal to grab a second Ralts, but that might not be enough to help you. Instead, you could use Fog Crystal to grab Mew, then retreat to it and use Mysterious Tail, hoping for a Battle VIP Pass. A Fog Crystal or Level Ball would also help you further your setup. On subsequent turns, Mysterious Tail can grab consistency cards and especially Level Ball (for Kirlia), but also the all-important Rare Candy that can set up a Gardevoir ex on turn 2. Mew’s value is not as high as Greninja’s, but it’s searchable with Level Ball and Fog Crystal, so it can be used in situations where Greninja can’t.

Zacian V can also have value on the first turn, thanks to its Roar of the Sword Ability. Say you’re playing against Lost Box. You have a good hand, but you need to take Prize cards quickly in order to keep up in the race, as they will likely take a KO every turn, thanks to Cramorant or Sableye. You could use a Battle VIP Pass or Fog Crystal to grab a Zacian V, attach an Energy to it, and then use Roar of the Sword to attach another Energy to Zacian V. Then, when your Ralts or Mew is Knocked Out by Cramorant, you can promote Zacian V, attach an Energy, and retaliate with a KO of your own on the second turn, even if you don’t have Gardevoir ex in play yet.

In many matchups, Zacian V should be kept for later on (for example, against Lugia, it would be an easy target for Lugia VSTAR), but using this way is acceptable if you need to, like in the Lost Box matchup, or if you happen to start with it.

Finally, one last thing to cover about your first turn is that you don’t always need to play all your cards. If you have a good setup, instead of using your Level Ball to grab a fourth Ralts, it might be better to keep it for Kirlia on the next turn. The right decision depends on the exact situation (your hand, the board, the matchup), but it’s something to keep in mind.


Now it’s time to discuss sequencing: the right order in which to play cards. On any given turn, you will have many ways to draw cards: Radiant Greninja’s Concealed Cards, Kirlia’s Refinement, Gardevoir’s Shining Arcana, and draw Supporters (Professor’s Research, Serena, Judge / Roxanne, Worker). Mew can also add a card to your hand, and of course, you have to decide at which point you play cards such as Fog Crystal and Level Ball. How to choose which cards to play first?

There’s actually no set rule! For almost any pair of effects, I can think of a situation in which it’s useful to use one before the other, and another situation in which you should use the reverse order. I’ll try to describe some of these situations below.

Concealed Cards vs Refinement:
If you have Psychic Energy in hand, it’s almost always better to use Concealed Cards before Refinement. This is because you can only discard an Energy for Concealed Cards, but you can discard anything for Refinement. So, for example, if you use Concealed Cards first, then Research, and you don’t have an Energy after Research, you can still use Refinement, but if you used Refinement first, then you couldn’t use Concealed Cards after Research. The exception is if you’re going to evolve Kirlia. For example, if you hand is Gardevoir ex, Psychic Energy, and Research, and you should probably use Refinement, then evolve, then play Research, so you don’t lose out on a draw Ability.

Refinement vs Shining Arcana:
Obviously, if you’re going to evolve Kirlia into Gardevoir CRE, use Refinement first before evolving. However, if you have one of each in play, then things vary depending on your goals this turn. In some situations, you want to find a Psychic Energy off Shining Arcana to achieve some result. For example, usually, you can only put seven Energy on a Gardevoir CRE in one turn: one manual attachment and six uses of Psychic Embrace. However, you might want an eighth Energy in order to reach 300 damage and KO, say, a Lugia VSTAR. In this case, you want to maximise your odds of doing so.

If you just use Refinement and Shining Arcana back-to-back, in either order, your odds of finding a Psychic Energy off Shining Arcana are the same. However, by using Refinement first, you get the opportunity of drawing a Level Ball, Fog Crystal or Ultra Ball, which you can then use to thin your deck by one (non-Energy) card, giving you better odds of drawing an Energy with Shining Arcana. You might think this barely matters, but when your deck gets low enough, choosing the right order can actually have a non-negligible effect on your odds!

In most other situations, it’s better to use Shining Arcana before Refinement. This is because you can draw cards, such as Battle VIP Pass, that you’ll likely want to discard with Refinement.

Draw Abilities vs Pokémon-search Items (e.g. Refinement vs Level Ball):
Again, the right choice here depends on your goals for the turn. On the first turn, you’ll usually want to use Concealed Cards before any Level Ball, Fog Crystal or Battle VIP Pass, so that you have higher odds of drawing Pokémon (unless your hand is already so amazing that you can already fill your board). Similarly, on turn 2, when you want multiple Kirlia in play, it’s better to draw cards first and use Level Ball after that, so your odds of drawing a Kirlia are higher. However, if you already have, say, two Kirlia, then you should use Level Ball first and then draw cards because your Level Ball would be useless if you draw one more Kirlia off of Refinement. Similarly, in the late game, Level Ball should usually be played first because you usually have a few remaining targets in the deck.

I’d also like to discuss a particularity in the case when the search Item in question is Ultra Ball. It can be important to keep Ultra Ball as your last action because it can discard Psychic Energy. If you need a specific amount of Psychic Energy in the discard, then you want to draw as many cards as possible and keep Ultra Ball for the end. This way, if you draw one or two Energy cards off of your last Refinement, you can then discard them even though you have no Abilities left.

Draw Abilities vs Mysterious Tail:
This is similar to the previous question. You should usually use draw Abilities first, and then Mysterious Tail afterwards, as this allows you to see the most cards. For example, if you’re searching for a Rare Candy and you start by drawing two cards and then using Mysterious Tail, you’ve seen eight cards. However, if you use Mysterious Tail first, then you see six cards, and they get shuffled back into your deck, so the two additional cards you see from your draw Ability could be cards that you just already saw.

On the other hand, in the late game, when Item cards are not as important, you should probably play Mysterious Tail first. For example, let’s say you need to draw Boss’s Orders this turn in order to win the game. If Ultra Ball for Lumineon V is not an option anymore (because it’s Prized, discarded, already in play, or there’s no Bench space for it, or there’s a Path to the Peak in play, or you have no Ultra Ball left), you should start by using Mysterious Tail, in order to thin your deck by one card (or two if you can play the Item card you found in order to thin your deck by one more card) and increase your odds of drawing the Boss’s Orders. (If Ultra Ball for Lumineon V is still an option, though, then the right decision depends on the amount of Ultra Ball left in the deck, but it’s almost always better to keep Mysterious Tail for the end because, due to the low deck size, you’re likely to find an Ultra Ball, which is all that you need.)

Draw Abilities vs Fog Crystal:
If you don’t need Pokémon, should you play Fog Crystal to grab Energy first or wait until the end? Usually, you want to draw as many Psychic Energy as possible in order to discard them, so you should keep Fog Crystal for the end. My usual rule is to play Fog Crystal when I have no more Energy in hand to either discard or attach. So if I have Psychic Energy and two Fog Crystal in hand, I’ll first Concealed Cards. If I draw an Energy, I’ll discard it with Refinement; otherwise, I’ll play one Fog Crystal to get an Energy to do so. Then, if I drew an Energy, I’ll attach it (or use another Refinement if I still can), or I’ll play the second Fog Crystal to get one more Energy if needed. This is all assuming I need Psychic Energy in the discard; if I already have all I need for the rest of the game, then I might play differently.

On the other hand, if you might need to use Fog Crystal to grab a Pokémon (say, a Zacian V), then you should delay playing the Fog Crystal for as long as possible, using other effects first. This gives you a chance to draw into either the aforementioned Zacian V (allowing you to use Fog Crystal for Energy), or other cards such as Energy. Then, if you still need Zacian, you can play Fog Crystal to draw it.

Draw Abilities vs Professor’s Research:
Here’s an interesting question. It’s turn 2, you have two Ralts and a Kirlia in play, plus Greninja, and Research in hand (along with some other cards). Do you use Concealed Cards / Refinement first, or Professor’s Research?

This depends on the cards in your hand. If there are few cards and you can afford to lose them, I would recommend Professor’s Research first. You can then draw cards after Research, so you don’t run the risk of drawing cards that you then have to discard.

However, if you have, for example, a Rare Candy in hand, then it’s tempting (and, in my opinion, often the right play) to draw first, in order to search for a Gardevoir ex or Ultra Ball. If you draw into another Kirlia, you can then use it to draw even more. Ideally, you find Gardevoir ex or Ultra Ball at some point, then you play Rare Candy, and then you discard the rest of your hand with Research, so your Rare Candy wasn’t wasted. Note that you don’t even have to play Professor’s Research if you end up drawing into other important cards, like Sky Seal Stone. With Greninja and multiple Kirlia in play, you can simply keep drawing cards every turn.

A temporary conclusion

Originally, I was planning on writing a complete guide, but it turned out to be longer than I thought. Because of this, I will end this article here. Next week, I will cover the rest of what you need to know to play Gardevoir well: some plays to know involving some of the deck’s less obvious cards, like Collapsed Stadium and Penny, Prize mapping, and how to approach some of the most common matchups for the deck. Again, I hope for all of this to be useful for players who have never played Gardevoir before. I’m sure you’re left with plenty of questions, like “do I need a Gardevoir ex on turn 2?” and “how do I choose which attacker to use in a given situation?”. The answers, as they often do, depend on which deck you’re facing, so I’ll do my best to explain the key factors for each matchup!

As always, thank you for reading!


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