An Introduction to a Frightening Archetype
Hello there everyone! I’m Ryan Turner, of the very unknown 2010-2012 Team Missing No. with Erik and Kevin Nance, Guy Bennett, and Zach Bivens. Due to some life situations and a move from the Carolinas to the California bay area, I had taken a break from the game until this year; and now I’m coming out swinging for that Nashville invite!
Now that I’ve introduced myself, I’d like to introduce you to a deck I had been working on in my spare time between games of testing for Memphis. If you enjoy different takes on the meta, and fresh ideas that can potentially take ON the meta, then read on my dudes and dudettes!
The Monster Itself
3 Type: Null (CRI)
2 Silvally-GX (CRI)
2 Zorua (SLG)
2 Zoroark-GX (SLG)
2 Rayquaza (GRI)
2 Tapu Bulu-GX (PR/BUS)
2 Tapu Lele-GX (GRI)
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
4 Max Elixir
3 Professor Kukui
3 Choice Band
2 Fighting Memory
1 Field Blower
1 Rescue Stretcher
At first glance, it may seem a hodgepodge of Pokémon and strategies seemingly haphazardly stitched together. However, once you get some hands-on time with the deck, you’ll quickly realize that all of the moving parts function surprisingly as one; and the strategy becomes quite simple and clear. What exactly is the strategy? Well, it’s simply to get energies into your discard and then transition into an unending cycle of swinging with Tapu Bulu’s Nature’s Judgment attack, accelerate energies from the discard pile back onto Bulu, rinse and repeat. Now let’s dissect the beast so that we can see what each part brings to the table.
3 - 2 Silvally
Silvally is going to be your main means of mobility with its Gyro Unit ability and the necessary tool to be able to get a “Bulu attack, retreat/Guzma, energy acceleration, retreat/Guzma, Bulu attack” loop going. It allows you to move seamlessly between your Rayquazas, Tapu Bulus, and Tapu Leles. It also is a big pain for your opponent to play around, as you’ll be threatening a large Rebel GX knockout on their respective GX’s after they’ve benched three or more Pokémon. If you happen to start the game with a Type: Null, be sure to get a second one on the bench as quickly as you can, and DON’T evolve the active into Silvally until after you’ve retreated (cause that big guy will get stuck up front); unless you’re committing energy to the active. I advise against the latter simply because you need a Grass and Double Colorless to attack, and with just four DCE in deck, you may not hit it by turn two. Just play it safe and attach to the Type: Null on the bench (you can move it up front next turn if you do hit that DCE and need to start swinging).
2 - 2 Zoroark
I had gone back and forth between this, a 2-2 Octillery, and even no draw support Pokémon. Bench space is a commodity in this deck and we don’t run Float Stones, so that ruled out Octillery pretty quickly. No draw support Pokemon and mitigating the lack of them with a couple of extra draw Supporters is fine, and a viable alternative. However, Zoroark serves multiple functions here...it allows you to 1) have on-demand draw power and late-game N protection, 2) have an alternate attacker that can utilize DCE, and 3) helps to discard Grass energies from your hand to be accelerated by Rayquaza and Silvally. Normally, you’re going to get one of these out, and really, that’s about all you need. I think you’ll find that once you lock into the energy loop and attack/retreat cycle, you don’t actually need heavy draw power to execute your strategy.
2 Rayquaza GRI
You’ll be leaning on this Pokémon the most to get your attack/acceleration loop up and going. It’s also Fighting-resistant and a good buffer against Buzzwole early while you’re setting up. Mid-to-late game, you’ll be relying on RayRay to keep the Bulu train chugging along, and enabling Bulu to dish out consistent 180-230 damage (with Kukui + Choice Band) every other turn. Unfortunately, unlike it’s other 130 HP Legendary Pokémon counterparts, Rayquaza sits at 120 HP and is an easy target for Golisopod’s First Impression. However, don’t let that deter you, as you will be able to utilize its Turbo Storm attack to get Bulu ready for a revenge KO. Just be careful with your DCE attachments on Ray, as Enhanced Hammer is quite prevalent in the current meta.
2 Tapu Bulu
The main attacker of the deck, and your answer to, well, pretty much everything. The extremely relevant numbers that Bulu’s Nature’s Judgment can hit are every player’s dream...which is why the requirements to pull off repeated use of it are so high. While, ideally, you’ll be utilizing Silvally’s Rebel GX in order to deal with difficult Pokémon, Bulu’s GX attack is also an equally powerful answer. Additionally it resets any damage done to itself as well as allowing you to follow-up with a Nature’s Judgment the next turn, as you don’t need to discard energy. Adding in another Bulu is definitely a consideration when tinkering with the list, though not completely necessary, as you have Silvally, Zoroark, and Lele to fall back on as well.
3 Professor Kukui
As you may (or may not) be aware, Gardevoir is a pretty good deck. It’s dominance in the meta is something that can’t be ignored, and it’s generally a good idea to have a contingency plan against it. For those times that Silvally’s GX attack on a Gardy and your Zoroark’s speedy KO’s on Ralts’ and Kirlia’s aren't enough, we have to rely on Professor Kukui himself. With the increase in popularity of Max Potion and Acerola, and the fact that we just don’t have the bench space, Tapu Koko isn’t a viable option to get Gardevoir into the 210 HP range of Nature’s Judgment + Choice Band. Take great care to only throw away or use Kukui in the Gardevoir matchup when you absolutely need to. Outside of this matchup, Kukui can be used in conjunction with our array of Pokémon and attacks to set up a multitude of other KOs on very relevant Pokémon in the meta as well. If you’re not expecting too many Gardevoir in your meta, you could cut to two Kukui. If you’re brave enough to simply disregard Gardevoir, just cut to zero, there’s no point in running a single copy as you’re likely to never access it when you need it.
2 Fighting Memory
With the abundance of Zoroark GX in the meta, Fighting typing is a pretty fantastic thing to have right now. Now, yes, Nature’s Judgment along with a Choice Band does one-hit KO Zoroark. However, flexibility, adaptation, and options are a necessity in a game of strategy. Fighting Memory gives us additional opportunity to take surprise KO’s, and affords us another route to take when Bulu isn’t ready to attack or we don’t have access to Choice Band. Most of the time, you’ll want to wait to attach these until the turn you’ll be targeting a Zoroark. Be careful not to overextend in a Zoroark matchup when they bring partners such as Buzzwole or Lycanroc. If you’re considering cutting these, absolutely add a fourth Choice Band. You MUST be able to one-shot Zoroarks, or you will lose to their Acerola + Puzzle of Time loop.
Mew and Mew Ex: These aren’t needed, but they do provide you with a VERY good answer to Buzzwole. They can utilize Gyro Unit’s free retreat, your Max Elixirs, and if you’ve chosen to keep the Zoroarks in, copy Riotous Beating for a DCE attachment and one-shot every Buzzwole on the board. If you expect a heavy Buzzwole presence, toss in a Mew and take some free prizes...just please don’t bench it until you have DCE in hand as well, or that little snot is going to get Jet Punched in the teeth, hard.
Oranguru: If you’d like to free up a few slots, drop the Zoroarks and add in Oranguru. As well as adding some draw, Oranguru is a fine one-prize attacker. However, this will remove a stronger threat in Zoroark from your side of the board, your draw power won’t be as significant, and you will have a slightly more difficult time getting Grass Energy into your discard pile reliably. If you choose to go this route, drop the Fighting Memories, add a fourth Choice Band, and the two considerations below.
Max Potion: Since you’ll be emptying your Bulu of energies every other turn, Max Potion could be a natural fit to increase the longevity of your main attacker (and even assist in getting additional energies off your other Pokémon and into the discard pile in a pinch). A lot of Pokémon in the meta can hit for 180 damage, so consider what’s popular in your area and if 180 will be a relevant number or not. If it’s a bunch of Zoroark and decks that utilize a two-hit approach...Max Potion may be an incredibly surprising card for your opponent to be faced with.
Aether Paradise: Your Tapu Bulu will be taking 30 less damage with this out, making things interesting indeed. This nullifies Jet Punch, turns a Zoroark’s Riotous Beating with anything less than five Pokémon out from a two-hit into a three-hit, Golisopod’s Crossing Cut GX no longer one-shots, Buzzwole will need Strong Energy + Choice Band to one-hit with Knuckle Impact, Lycanroc will need you to have a full bench or a Strong Energy/Choice Band attached if you have four benched to Dangerous Rogue GX, Turtonator with a Fighting Fury Belt and one Steam Up can’t one-hit with Bright Flame...and I’m sure there are many more scenarios it mitigates. Also, since we only run one Field Blower, this provides an extra answer to Parallel City.
If I were to determine there would be a low amount of Gardevoir at the tournament I brought this deck to, I would drop the three Professor Kukui and add either a third Tapu Bulu with two Aether Paradise or two Max Potion, or one Max Potion and two Aether Paradise.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the general idea of the deck is to utilize Rayquaza, Max Elixirs, and (on occasion) Silvally to accelerate energies from the deck and discard pile onto a benched Tapu Bulu. The great thing about the deck is that while it has many options and tools at its disposal, it’s strategy in every matchup is very linear in nature, and you’ll be looking to set up in the same manner just about every game. Put your Ultra Balls to use early by discarding Grass Energies, and don’t be afraid to Sycamore a large hand away if you have two or more energy in hand...seriously, it may feel contradictory to dump a hand of four or more energy away, but this is actually an ideal scenario for you (Rayquaza will be accelerating two back after every attack). I do generally advise against throwing away energy when it’s the only one in your hand, as you want to be able to manually attach from hand as well each turn.
A typical first couple of turns should look like this:
- Play Brigette or retrieve Lele to play Brigette for a Type: Null (if you didn’t start one on the bench), Tapu Bulu (if you didn’t start one on bench or active), and Zorua. If you have the means to get an energy or two into the discard and a DCE in hand, go for Rayquaza over Zorua (again, drawing cards is nice, but not as necessary with this deck as others once the Rayquaza/Bulu loop begins).
- After your bench is established, manually attach a DCE to Ray (care for Enhanced Hammer if you’re Turn 1 of the game), or attach a Grass to Type: Null (or Bulu if it is active and you need that 30 chip damage from Horn Attack). If you have Elixir, you’ll usually want to attach the first energy from it to your Type: Null over Bulu. This allows you to begin accelerating from the discard on your Turn 2, swinging for 120 damage, and threatening a Rebel GX. If you have two energy in discard to accelerate to Bulu, Elixir to the Bulu, and prioritize getting Rayquaza into active so that you’ll have a Turn 2 Bulu destroying your opponent’s field (and Silvally won’t be stuck up front).
- On your Turn 2, use your Ultra Balls to get Silvally ready on the bench. If you have a Type: Null active, evolve the one on the bench or you’ll be stuck until you find a Guzma if you evolve the active. If your Bulu is on the bench and you have the means to get three Grass on it (via Elixir or manual attachments), do so, retreat your active with Gyro Unit, and start swinging. If your Bulu is active, retreat via Gyro Unit, promote Ray or Silvally, and begin accelerating energy from your discard. Also prioritize promotion of Rayquaza, even if you only have one energy to accelerate, since you’ll be able to to get it out of active with the free retreat granted by Gyro Unit anytime you like.
And the cycle has begun! Later in the game, ensure you have a Rayquaza on the bench at all times. If your Bulu gets taken out, simply promote Ray, and you’ll have another Bulu ready to attack the very next turn (with one manual attachment or Elixir)! Don’t be afraid to accelerate to Tapu Lele, Zoroark, or Silvally as all of these are great attackers in their own right. If you happen to fire on all cylinders and get an early Bulu ready to go, go ahead and pop a second one down on the bench and manually attach or Elixir to it so you’ll be able to respond if the other Bulu gets KO’d. After your first Silvally and Bulu are out, fish for your Zoroark, and then second Silvally. Having Silvally established takes precedence 100% of the time over Zoroark.
I’ve chosen to omit a “Matchups” section in this article because, frankly, your own setup and order of operations isn’t going to change, regardless of matchup. Get set up as described above and then: utilize Bulu + Kukui + Choice Band for the Gardevoir matchup, Bulu + Choice Band and Silvally + Fighting Memory for Zoroark variants, Bulu + Choice Band or Bulu + Kukui for Buzzwole, and Bulu + Anything for the Volcanion matchup (do NOT discard your Field Blower, save it for the Fury Belts on their GX Pokémon).
Post-Memphis, it seems Lycanroc is going to have a strong presence and utilized in multiple decks. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of being able to play around Lycanroc’s Dangerous Rogue GX. Your opponent will be able to KO your Silvally with it and a Strong Energy or Choice Band when you only have two Pokémon on your bench. Mitigate this by forgoing one Zorua for another Type: Null in order to have a second Silvally ready as soon as possible.
Very much like the VikaBulu archetype, if your source of energy acceleration isn’t dealt with, you likely will sweep the game no matter what is across the table from you. Unlike the VikaBulu archetype, you have several other hefty attacking threats even if your energy acceleration is taken out, no Stage 2 setup requirement, an unlimited source of energy (your discard), and extreme mobility to deny key knockouts on your Pokémon.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the read, and that you will set aside some time to learn this very interesting and extremely fun to play archetype. Happy holidays everyone, see ya at the tables!