Pokémon TCG Meta-Snapshot July 2018: North America Internationals Lookback

What an end – 3-time International Championship winner Tord Reklev falls at the finals against Stephane Ivanoff’s Zoroark Garbodor to win the North America International Championships this season.

It also marks the cut-off date for accumulating points this season – any League Challenges and League Cups from here on out contribute to qualifying for the 2019 Pokemon TCG World Championships.

With Celestial Storm set to officially release in August and just in time for the World Championships, July is the last month for the Breakthrough – Forbidden Light format to truly shine. Here are the best decks that have dominated recent rankings:


Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX

Buzzwole GX:Lycanroc GX

Dominant since it’s release, Buzzwole GX is the probably the best big basic Pokémon GX to date. It’s first Attack deals 30 damage for one Energy, which also hits 30 damage to one Benched Pokémon of your choosing – a slow and steady Attack that helps to make up the numbers. Once Buzzwole GX is loaded with three Energy cards, it can sweep your opponent’s Pokémon with Knuckle Impact or Absorption GX.

With the meta-shift comes the increased use of the non-GX Buzzwole (Forbidden Light). For only one Fighting Energy, this “baby” Buzzwole can deal a minimum 120 Damage if your opponent has exactly four Prize cards remaining. Even without it, this non-GX Buzzwole can do enough damage for a 2-hit KO.

Not only can both Buzzwole use Strong Energy to add damage, Forbidden Light also introduces:

  • Diancie Prism Star (with an Ability that adds 20 damage to Fighting Pokémon Attacks)
  • Beast Energy (only can be attached to an Ultra Beast, provides all types of Energy, and adds 30 damage to the attached Pokémon’s Attacks), and
  • Beast Ring (can only be used when your opponent has 3 or 4 Prize cards remaining. Search your deck for 2 basic Energy cards and attach them to an Ultra Beast Pokémon). This easily charges backup Buzzwole to keep the momentum going.

Lycanroc GX (Guardians Rising) is added to drag Pokémon lurking on the Bench into the Active spot with the Ability Bloodthirsty Eyes, and doubles as another threat with Dangerous Rogue GX. The deck also plays Brooklet Hill instead of Brigette to set up your field at the beginning of the game, which can also help search for Remoraid to setup the Octillery draw engine.


Ultra Necrozma GX/Malamar

Ultra Necrozma:Malamar.png
3rd Place – Cancun Special Event 2018 – Victor de Velasco

It’s the return of Eels! Malamar’s (Forbidden Light) Psychic Recharge is reminiscent of the powerful Energy card “recharge engine” from the Black & White era’s Eelektrik’s (Noble Victories) Dynamotor Ability. Except this time, Malamar attaches Psychic Energy from the Discard Pile to your benched Pokémon.

To partner with Malamar is Ultra Necrozma GX. This unique card only one normal Attack and one GX Attack, but it’s game-breaking stuff. It’s normal Attack, Photon Geyser, deals 20, plus 80 more damage for every Psychic Energy discarded from this Pokémon – the perfect partner for Malamar. 

Once you’re out of Energy, switch in Dawn Wing Necrozma GX (Ultra Prism) using it’s Invasion Ability, and recharge the Ultra Necrozma GX on the bench using your Malamar. A simple strategy that can easily take down most Pokémon GX in the current meta-game. 

Dawn Wing Necrozma is no slouch either. Load it up with 3 Energy and you can use it’s  GX attack, which provides immunity for the turn as long as you’re behind in the Prize race.

With Mew as another backup attacker, Mysterious Treasure as an extra Ultra Ball, and one Beast Energy Prism Star (as Ultra Necrozma is an Ultra Beast, after all), this is a powerful deck, which is only susceptible to an Ability Lock. 


Necrozma GX/Malamar

Necrozma GX?Malamar.jpg

Some players prefer the consistency of pure Psychic Energy – utilising the original Necrozma GX (as it doesn’t require a Metal Energy) to start steamrolling opponents. Necrozma GX needs a little more power to deal a one hit KO however, as you only do 60 damage for every Psychic Energy discarded.

Aside from that, the decks plays the same way as the Ultra Necrozma GX deck above. Being an all Psychic, the deck is able to play several techs depending on the meta. Like Mimikyu (Guardian’s Rising), which can copy the last opponent’s Attack used.

Some also include Mew (Fates Collide) as possible – a great one Prize attacker with free Retreat that easily takes up the role of Necrozma GX without needing Dawn Wings Necrozma GX. 

There’s also Marshadow GX, which is able to copy the Attacks of any Basic Pokémon in the Discard Pile. It’s Fighting type also helps against the rising number of Zoroark GX deck variants. 

Next is Mewtwo (Shining Legends). It has the Pressure Ability, which reduces the Attack of your opponent’s Pokémon by 20 as long as Mewtwo is active. This can reduce Buzzwole GX’s Jet Punch on both Mewtwo and onto your bench Pokémon.

Another interesting addition is the non-GX Dawn Wings Necrozma (Promo). For a single Psychic Energy, Gulf Stream can do 20 damage plus 20 more damage for each damage counter on this Pokémon, as long as you have 6 Prize Cards. Buzzwole players will have to think twice if they wish to attack Dawn Wings Necrozma.

Finally, we have Hoopa (Steam Siege) with it’s Hyperspace Punch that deal 20 damage to two opponents Pokémon of choice, and Latios (Shining Legends), whose BreakThrough attack works exactly like Jet Punch, except that it requires two Colorless Energy.


Buzzwole GX/Garbodor

Buzzwole Garbodor.jpg
2nd Place – Mexico Regional Championship 2018 – Christopher Schemanske

Take the power of Buzzwole and Buzzwole GX, and add the Garbodor (Breakpoint) that locks out all Abilities to put your opponent under serious pressure. This is especially true if they are Ability dependent, like Malamar or Zoroark GX decks.

There are two significant additions that stand out – Fighting Fury Belt over Choice Band to give Buzzwole GX more staying power on the field, and Order Pad. On a Heads, Order Pad allows you to search your deck for any Item card and put it to your hand – helping you to find the elusive Float Stone, increasing your Buzzwole GX HP with Fighting Fury Belt, or getting the Ability lock just when you need it.


Zoroark GX/Garbodor

Zoroark Garbodor 1
1st Place – NA International Championships 2018 – Stéphane Ivanoff


The deck that won the North America International Championships. The idea is simple – use Zoroark GX to setup the board, and lock your opponent’s Abilities with Garbodor (Breakpoint). Garbodor (Guardians Rising) punishes opponents that play too many items with Trashalanche.

The execution however, is difficult. The key to playing this deck is knowing what to Attack and when to begin the lock, as you have to inevitably lock away your Zoroark GX draw engine as well. 

Smart players could take advantage of using Field Blower onto their Garbodor (Breakpoint) to free themselves for a one-turn burst of draw power, then locking Abilities once more before ending their turn. 

Stéphane Ivanoff‎ played two key techs in his winning list – Latios (Shining Legends) and Kartana GX, which can discard an opponent’s Special Energy when played onto the Bench from hand. The deck also plays Unit Energy LPM (Ultra Prism), which can also be used by Kartana GX.


Golisopod GX/Zoroark GX

Zoroark Golisopod.jpg
1st Place – Mexico City Regional Championships 2018 – Eder Jarillo Soto

Making its comeback is the one-Energy attacker Golisopod GX, combined with the amazing draw engine of Zoroark GX.

Like most current decks, there’s a Brigette to help set up on your first turn , but this deck plays three copies for maximum efficiency. Extra copies later in the game can be discarded with Zoroark GX’s Trade Ability.

Being a two-hit Pokémon deck, it uses Acerola to return a damaged Golisopod GX to hand. You can then promote a new Golisopod GX to the Active Pokémon spot and hit the First Impression for 120 damage (150 damage with a Choice Band attached). Or you can promote a Tapu Koko (Promo) or a Pokémon with Float Stone first, evolve a benched Wimpod with the new Golisopod GX in your hand you rescued with Acerola, and hit the First Impression.

This combination is made even more stable with Puzzle of Time, to recover cards you need and keep the cycle going for as long as possible. Post Ultra Prism, some players have added Lurantis (Promo), which adds 20 damage to Fire and Grass type Pokémon.

Some decks might include Mew EX or Mewtwo (Evolutions) to counter the popular Buzzwole GX threat.


Zoroark GX

2nd Place – NA International Championships 2018 – Tord Reklev

Forget Lycanroc, Garbodor or Golisopod. Tord Reklev took a pure Zoroark GX deck into the North America International Championships with a more reactive-based deck, only  falling at the last hurdle with a bad draw.

In Tord’s build, consistency is key. Zoroark GX is supported with 4 Tapu Lele GX, one Mew EX for Psychic-weak opposing Pokémon and one Oranguru (Ultra Prism) with Resource Management, which allows you to recycle any 3 cards in your Discard Pile into the bottom of your deck.

In addition to the usual 4 Puzzle of Time, the deck also includes several Trainer cards meant to counter the current meta – Delinquent, Team Flare Grunt, Enhanced Hammer, Reverse Valley, Weakness Policy, and 3 Counter Catcher to pull any opponent Benched Pokémon onto the Active spot when you have more Prize Cards remaining than your opponent.


Zygarde GX/Lycanroc

2nd Place – Singapore Special Event 2018 – Klive Aw

An under the radar card which gained prominence when used by Klive Aw to get into the finals of the Malaysia Regional Championships and Singapore Special Event this season. Zygarde GX is an alternative Fighting type Pokémon that is weak to Grass types instead of Psychic (like Buzzwole).

We spoke to Klive to get an in-depth look at the deck, and why it uses no Bonnie. Click here to check out our special Rogue Rodents feature on the deck.


Good luck for the new 2018/19 season of the Pokémon TCG, and we hope to see you in an upcoming tournament – perhaps with one of these decks in tow or something to counter them all?

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