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A World Before Tag Teams — The Popular SUM-LOT Format

One of the first articles I wrote for ChannelFireball was about the Alola format. As a reminder, the Alola format uses cards from Sun & Moon to Cosmic Eclipse. Since then I organized the third Alola Cup! The Top 8 consisted of eight different decks including popular decks such as Pidgeotto Control and Mewtwo & Mew-GX as well as rogue decks like Spiritomb. Juan Andree, the winner of the first Alola Cup, won again with ADP / Keldeo-GX this time, a deck that had so far failed to make cut.

While the Alola format has a lot of diversity and encourages creativity (the Spiritomb deck in Top 8 played Ultra Beasts, Garbodor, and Granbull), some players have complaints about it. Pidgeotto Control, one of the best decks in the second Alola Cup, was the most played deck in the third one and while it has counters, many people don’t enjoy playing against it and are less likely to play the format because of it.

It’s also undeniable that TAG TEAMs, whether they’re Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Reshiram & Charizard-GX or others, are very strong in this format. Between them and Pidgeotto Control, the Alola format uses cards from the late Sun & Moon sets much more than the early ones, and it can sometimes look like the Ultra PrismCosmic Eclipse format with staples (Ultra Ball, Guzma, Tapu Lele-GX…) added in. While one-Prize decks are definitely viable, Evolutions, even (or especially Evolution Pokemon-GX) are quite weak. Even Zoroark-GX, one of the most dominant cards in the Sun & Moon era, maybe even in the history of the game, has failed to make top cut in three consecutive Alola Cups, despite seeing quite a bit of play.

If these are the kind of considerations that made you give the Alola format a pass, I have good news for you! Today, I will be covering the retro format SUMLOT (Sun & Moon to Lost Thunder). This was the Standard format for winter of the 2018-2019 season – the most beloved recent format. Just like the Alola format, the cards in this format are recent enough that most of you have at least some of them on TCGO and even the cards you don’t have are not especially expensive (no Tropical Beach or even Computer Search). Unlike the Alola format, though, there are no TAG TEAMs. Pokemon only give up one or two Prize cards in this format, so games are less hasty and there’s more time to make impactful decisions.

Another benefit this format has is that it’s easier to emulate on TCGO. The rules for the first turn of the game at this time were that the first player could play a Supporter on their first turn, but not attack. Since Sword & Shield, the rules have changed and if you play on TCGO you must use the new rules. Nevertheless, you can approximate the old rules by having both players pass their first turn, and then continue playing as normal (except they drew one extra card), playing turn two as if it were turn one (so no evolving and no attacking for the player going first).

In the Alola format, this causes issues with several cards such as Energy Spinner and Volcanion UNB. In SUMLOT, however, the only real casualty of this arrangement is Lillie, which will only ever draw up to six cards. Since Lillie was played in many decks that’s a real concern, but it’s still playable even in that nerfed state. There are other cards in the format such as Wimpod BUS and Wait and See Hammer that are affected by this change, but the former was basically absent from the format as Zoroark-GX decks pivoted to other secondary attackers, and the latter only started seeing played when Green’s Exploration entered the format, months later.

In this article, I will explain what makes the SUMLOT format great and, of course, I’ll present some of the many, many decks you can play in that format (including my own favorite deck in the format, which you probably don’t expect). Of course, unlike Standard or Expanded, there’s no ladder for games in this format on TCGO, but some people like to organize retro tournaments now and then – I’ve played in a couple of them myself. Keep an eye for the next one, because I can guarantee this format is a lot of fun!

A Format Wide Open

So, why is SUMLOT so good? Like every format that’s fondly remembered, one big aspect is that there was a lot of diversity. I don’t just mean that there were many viable decks, but that these decks can satisfy different types of players. Do you like fast, aggressive decks with Basic attackers? SUMLOT has those. Do you prefer setting up Evolution Pokemon that are slower but have more impact on the board, and can tank hits and heal? SUMLOT has those. Do you like toolbox decks that can use many different Pokemon depending on the situation? Spread decks that will overwhelm the opponent with damage counters? Stall decks that absorb hits until they run their opponent out of resources? All these options are not only possible, but good.

But that’s only part of it. The amazing part of SUMLOT is how much creativity it allows. If playing the same ADP / Zacian, Pikarom or Centiskorch over and over has made you jaded, this older format will be a breath of fresh air for you. I think that it is extremely apparent when you look at what top tier players used in that format.

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GXCentiskorch VMAXPikachu & Zekrom GXZacian V

Gustavo Wada ended the 2018-2019 season with the most Championship Points in the world. After Team Up came out he went on a rampage with Pikarom, winning two Special Events and the Europe International Championship in the SUMTEU format alone. But he didn’t always use the most mainstream decks. At the Latin America International Championship, the first event of SUMLOT, he brought a Passimian deck with Tapu Koko which also used Counter Energy-compatible Pokemon such as Victini LOT and Tapu Lele. It wasn’t that he wanted to play something fun and unusual. His teammate Lucas Araujo (who also played the deck) explained to me that they didn’t believe in the deck when they built it, but as they tested it it kept winning – they decided it was the deck that gave them the best chance in the format. Both Gustavo and Lucas made the Top 32 at that event. Gustavo Wada would then achieve other results in that format with unusual decks: a Shuckle-GX / Sceptile deck with lots of control tools designed to counter most popular decks and a Meganium / Swampert / Decidueye-GX “Stage 2 box” deck.

A Stage 2 box deck, you ask? This idea comes from none other than Shintaro Ito! While mentioning him is slightly cheating because Shintaro Ito has never been known to play Standard decks, it’s interesting that his success in this format came from making Top 16 at a Champions League, not with a mainstream deck or with a deck tailored to beat the meta as usual, but with a weird combo deck that used four Stage 2 Pokemon, including Meganium LOT and only one Energy card. The idea was to use Greninja-GX’s Haze Slash with Super Boost Energy Prism Star every turn, putting it back in the deck then drawing it again with Swampert.

Robin Schulz was always known to play consistent, solid decks like Darkrai-EX or Zoroark-GX. Yet, at the LAIC, he too was drawn to Stage 2 Pokemon. He brought back Gardevoir-GX, a deck that hadn’t been seen since the start of the season, in a new version that also included Swampert and Solgaleo-GX. The result was a Top 16 finish. And in case you were wondering, no, this success wasn’t just because of surprise. The very next week, Jimmy Pendarvis used the same deck to win a Regional Championship in Roanoke, Virginia.

Alolan Ninetales GXGardevoir GXSolgaleo GX - SM104Swampert

I could go on and on with multiple other examples. Some of you may be thinking of Philip Schulz’s win at Harrogate Regionals with Zoroark-GX / Gyarados, for example. I think I’ve made my point, though: there was a lot to explore in that format. Even the best players were incentivized to search for new and unusual decks, variants, or techs, and were rewarded for it. At the same time, though, it’s not like the metagame was totally chaotic. If you wanted stability, you could do well by sticking with a single deck. The best example of this is Zach Lesage, who became famous for playing Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel at every event (starting with a Top 8 at LAIC).

Why was the format so open compared to both the previous one and then the next? Team Up introduced TAG TEAMs alongside other powerful, aggressive cards like Zapdos and Jirachi – this put a lot of pressure on slower decks – they mostly disappeared from the meta. Therefore, the Team Up metagame was much less open with only six decks finding any real viability. On the other hand, SUMLOT was an improvement over the previous format, SUMCES, because of many new cards in Lost Thunder. Meganium, for example, made decks with multiple Stage 2 decks an option. Counter Gain made comebacks easier for slow decks (or decks that didn’t aim to take Prize cards). Professor Elm’s Lecture helped setup decks and made Zoroark-GX more consistent (before the release of Pokemon Communication in Team Up made players go back to the Lillie engine). Finally and perhaps most importantly, there was Alolan Ninetales-GX.

The Part Where I Gush About Alolan Ninetales-GX

Did you know that when Lost Thunder was released, Alolan Ninetales-GX was the card that everyone hoped to open in packs? It was the Tapu Lele-GX, the Dedenne-GX, the Mewtwo-EX of its set. It wasn’t played as ubiquitously as either of these cards, but it still found its way in multiple decks, both slow (like Gardevoir-GX) and fast (Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX). I think Alolan Ninetales-GX is a fantastic example of what Lost Thunder did right, and the fact that the power creep kept it out of the meta for the 18 months between Team Up‘s release and Lost Thunder‘s rotation out of Standard is, in my opinion, a solid argument for why the TAG TEAM (and V/VMAX) era has been so disappointing.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Mysterious Guidance Ability that lets a player search for two Item cards. This gave Stage 2 decks easy access to Rare Candy, which went a long way to make them more consistent. Other decks had other uses for it, though. In a deck with Ultra Beasts, such as Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX, you could use Alolan Ninetales-GX to search for Beast Ring at the right time. The Ability to search for Items also made it easier to tech Item cards such as Enhanced Hammer, Multi Switch, Max Potion, Field Blower and more, depending on the deck. Custom Catcher was also released in Lost Thunder, so Alolan Ninetales-GX could be used as a pseudo-Lycanroc-GX!

Alolan Ninetales GXCustom CatcherEnhanced HammerMulti Switch

Snowy Wind might not look like a great attack, but it was very useful for its cost. The 70 damage would OHKO some Pokemon such as Jumpluff and put others in range of attacks from your other Pokemon. The 30-damage snipe had a lot of uses, again, to set up some KOs, and some Bench-sitters like Malamar would be threatened by repeated Bench damage. Because of Professor Elm’s Lecture, decks were incentivized to play 60 HP Pokemon even in the case where another version of the same Pokemon with higher HP existed (for example, Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX decks would generally opt for a 60 HP Rockruff over a 70 HP one), which made Snowy Wind better.

Choice Band was a staple at the time, and it increased Snowy Wind’s damage to 100 on the Active Pokemon. This was enough to 2HKO every Basic GX Pokemon (but not most Evolution Pokemon-GX), and due to Ninetales’ Fairy typing, it could OHKO Rayquaza-GX.

Finally, Sublimation GX was a situational attack, but a very good one. In some matchups, it would do nothing. In others, it would let you take two Prizes at the time of your choice by Knocking Out your opponent’s Buzzwole-GX, Blacephalon-GX, or Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX.  Ultra Beasts were common enough in the format that this attack was strong, but not ubiquitous enough that it would be overpowered

It should also be mentioned that Alolan Ninetales-GX evolved from Guardians Rising’s Alolan Vulpix, one of the best setup cards at the time. The two even worked well together: you could Beacon on turn one for Alolan Ninetales-GX and Gardevoir-GX, and then use Mysterious Guidance on turn two to search for Rare Candy.

Alolan VulpixAlolan Ninetales GXGardevoir GXRare Candy

What’s impressive about Alolan Ninetales-GX is that every part of it was very good, and yet it wasn’t particularly oppressive, because it wasn’t enough to win games by itself. Mysterious Guidance’s effect was very strong, but it was only used once, so it wouldn’t take over the game like Zoroark-GX’s Trade would. In addition, it could only search for Items, not Supporters, so you still had to invest in draw Supporters and couldn’t simply rely on Mysterious Guidance. Snowy Wind was a good attack to have, but its damage was too low to win games by itself.

Alolan Ninetales-GX was an excellent Pokemon, but it could only be used as support and a secondary attacker; you couldn’t make a deck only around it. For what it’s worth, I think this design philosophy is also found in the more recent Cinccino, but games are now over too fast for Make Do to have enough of an impact on the game. We also don’t have a setup Supporter as good as Professor Elm’s Lecture, and no Tapu Lele-GX to search for it.

The Decks

Now, it’s time to present some of the many decks that you can play in this format. Due to the sheer number of viable archetypes, I’ll limit myself to a few of them (seven), but I think this sample will be diverse enough to convince you of the format’s variety. I also won’t mention stall or control archetypes here, for two reasons. First, I don’t play a lot of control and I never played it in the SUMLOT format, so I don’t feel qualified to comment meaningfully on the deck lists. Second, these kinds of decks are usually made in response to a metagame, so it makes more sense to introduce the more straightforward decks in the meta than those made in response to them. Rest assured that these playstyles are possible. Zoroark-GX Control won LAIC and Stall had some success as well.

I don’t think SUMLOT really has a BDIF, but if there’s one deck that stands above others, it’s this one. Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel wasn’t overwhelmingly dominant; there were multiple major events where it didn’t Top 8. However, if you want a safe deck, one that you can play no matter what the meta is, this is the best answer. Zoroark-GX had more success over the course of the format, but Zoroark-GX decks were varied: they could play Lycanroc-GX, Alolan Ninetales-GX, Weavile, Decidueye-GX, Gyarados, and more (and usually combinations of these). Maybe in a specific meta, a specific variant of Zoroark-GX was better. Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel lists didn’t vary nearly as much, so if you wanted to invest in one deck, this was the one to use.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 15
4 Poipole FLI 55
4 Naganadel LOT 108
4 Blacephalon-GX LOT 52
2 Marshadow SLG 45
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
##Trainer Cards - 29
4 Cynthia UPR 119
3 Guzma BUS 115
2 Sophocles BUS 123
2 Lillie SUM 147
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
4 Beast Ring FLI 141
3 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
2 Energy Switch ROS 109
2 Choice Band GRI 121
2 Ultra Space FLI 115
1 Heat Factory {*} LOT 178
##Energy - 16
15 Fire Energy 2
1 Beast Energy {*} FLI 117

This deck list is the one Zach Lesage used to win the Mexico Special Event. You could add some techs if you wanted – Raz Wolpe and Yosefi Gad got second and fifth respectively at Harrogate Regionals with a very similar list that had Alolan Muk in it – but consistency is key for Blacephalon-GX.

This deck is easy to use: get a lot of Energy in play, then get big Knock Outs. Beast Ring could make it terrifying – seeing your opponent play three of them in one turn was devastating – but it’s also a card you can play around, due to its nature. If you’re against Blacephalon-GX, try to only give your opponent one turn to play their Beast Rings, by having a plan to take enough Prizes to go from five-plus Prizes left to less than two Prizes left in two turns. If possible use hand disruption on that turn especially if they’re been holding on to a big hand – make it harder for them to play key Items.

In some scenarios, you can even prevent the use of Beast Ring altogether by taking three or more Prizes in one turn, skipping the Beast Ring window. This isn’t easy for most decks but can be done with some setup: for example, hit a Blacephalon-GX for 150, then use Alolan Ninetales-GX’s Snowy Wind to KO the damaged Blacephalon-GX and a Poipole or Marshadow. Why yes, I’m still praising Alolan Ninetales-GX.

Maybe you’re not here for Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel. You don’t want another deck using a Big Basic Pokemon, you want something different from this format. Here’s a deck that plays three Stage 2 Pokemon, then!

Gardevoir-GX’s 230 HP were a lot at the time. It could take a hit from most attackers and heal with Max Potion, then retaliate with Infinite Force. However, you could also stack Energy on Gardevoir-GX to deal higher damage. Swampert provided draw power, Solgaleo-GX provided additional Energy acceleration and could easily OHKO Alolan Ninetales-GX for a Double Colorless Energy. Speaking of which, Alolan Ninetales-GX, along with Alolan Vulpix, were key in this deck, providing the set up necessary to get your big Evolution Pokemon in play.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 21
3 Ralts BUS 91
1 Kirlia LOT 140
3 Gardevoir-GX BUS 93
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
2 Mudkip CES 32
1 Marshtomp CES 34
2 Swampert CES 35
2 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 132
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
1 Cosmog SUM 64
1 Solgaleo-GX PR-SM 104
##Trainer Cards - 27
4 Professor Elm's Lecture LOT 188
3 Guzma BUS 115
3 Cynthia UPR 119
1 Lillie SUM 147
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
4 Rare Candy CES 142
2 Max Potion GRI 128
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Timer Ball SUM 134
1 Energy Loto GRI 122
2 Brooklet Hill GRI 120
##Energy - 12
7 Fairy Energy 9
4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136
1 Super Boost Energy {*} UPR 136

This list was used by Jimmy Pendarvis to win the Roanoke Regional Championship. Other Gardevoir-GX lists were very close to this one; it’s very hard to find space in this list to add anything more!

If you’re new to this format, get used to turn one Ultra Ball for Tapu Lele-GX for Professor Elm’s Lecture getting some combination of Vulpix, Ralts, Ditto and Mudkip, retreating to Vulpix, and using Beacon for Alolan Ninetales-GX and Swampert or Gardevoir-GX. This is what a usual turn one looks like: it’s different from Standard where we don’t really have any deck that requires this kind of set up (except maybe Flygon-GX)! Remember that disruption options in this format are limited to Judge and Marshadow, the former being a one-of at most, and the latter being only used by a couple decks. You don’t have to expect a Marnie every turn!

Does Zoroark-GX even need an introduction? One of the best cards in the game, a solid attacker combined with a draw engine that lets you add many techs to your deck. Zoroark-GX benefited from Professor Elm’s Lecture and could be played with many stage 1 partners. I can’t feature all the options here, so the variant I’m choosing is the Zoroark-GX / Alolan Ninetales-GX / Decidueye-GX deck that had a surprising amount of success in that format.

If you prefer Weavile or Lycanroc-GX, don’t worry, you can play them too!

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 21
3 Zorua SLG 52
3 Zoroark-GX SLG 53
3 Rowlet SUM 9
3 Decidueye-GX SUM 12
3 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 132
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
1 Oranguru UPR 114
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
##Trainer Cards - 31
4 Professor Elm's Lecture LOT 188
3 Guzma BUS 115
3 Cynthia UPR 119
2 Acerola BUS 112
1 Mallow GRI 127
1 Judge BKT 143
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
3 Rare Candy CES 142
2 Max Potion GRI 128
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Timer Ball SUM 134
1 Switch CES 147
1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
1 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
1 Counter Gain LOT 170
1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
##Energy - 8
4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136
2 Rainbow Energy BKT 152
2 Fairy Energy 9

This list was used by Angus Johnson to win Brisbane Regionals.

This deck had a lot of options, perhaps more than any other deck. Counter Gain let Alolan Ninetales-GX attack for one Energy and with Decidueye-GX, you could let your opponent take a Prize lead while setting up damage counters on the field, then take multiple Prizes in one big turn. You could also simply go for 2HKOs with Zoroark-GX! Having to play a Stage 2 line (and therefore Rare Candy) in addition to multiple Stage 1 lines made the deck quite cramped, though, which means that the deck had to play only a three-three Zoroark-GX line. Yet it could still find space for techs: some lists would include Magcargo, Alolan Ninetales-GX GRI or even Yveltal-GX!

Do you enjoy sequencing? Is your favorite Expanded deck Archie’s Blastoise? Then you’ll probably like Granbull. The idea is simple: get your hand to zero cards and Granbull will deal 160 damage for a single Energy – pretty good deal for a single-Prize attacker with 130 HP. Of course, discarding your whole hand isn’t usually recommended, but with Magcargo and Oranguru in play you can draw cards every turn and make sure you’re able to keep attacking.

This deck may seem like a gimmick, but when Tord Reklev brings a deck to an International Championship, can you really call it that?

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 17
4 Snubbull LOT 137
4 Granbull LOT 138
2 Slugma CES 23
2 Magcargo CES 24
2 Oranguru SUM 113
1 Blitzle LOT 81
1 Zebstrika LOT 82
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
##Trainer Cards - 37
4 Apricorn Maker CES 124
3 Diantha FLI 105
2 Guzma BUS 115
1 Tate & Liza CES 148
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
4 Nest Ball SUM 123
4 Great Ball SSH 164
3 Choice Band GRI 121
2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
2 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
1 Switch CES 147
1 Pokémon Catcher EPO 95
1 Pal Pad SSH 172
1 Fiery Flint DRM 60
1 Field Blower GRI 125
3 Shrine of Punishment CES 143
##Energy - 6
6 Fairy Energy 9

While Tord Reklev did get Top 8 at LAIC with Granbull, the list above is not his; it was used by Nicolas Galaz to take second place at the same event. Most Granbull lists look very similar, though. They include consistency cards, Apricorn Maker as their main Supporter alongside many Ball cards, and some strange-looking choices. What are Fiery Flint and Mysterious Treasure doing in that list, you may ask? They’re simply here to discard cards, to make sure you can get your hand down to zero cards before attacking.

Playing this deck requires some practice: you must know how to order your actions when you have multiple Magcargo and/or Oranguru in play, how to play your cards to maximize your odds of getting the cards you need, and so on. Once that’s done, you know enough to beat most matchups, but then you’ll need more practice to deal with harder situations.

Granbull is a competitive deck but I can’t deny it has issues with some decks. Zoroark-GX decks with Alolan Muk are hard to deal with: Alolan Muk shuts down Oranguru’s Ability (and KOs Zebstrika if you manage to get it out), and the healing from Max Potion and Acerola makes it hard for Granbull to get Knock Outs. Stall and Control decks also make it hard for Granbull to take Prizes, not to mention that, since they don’t take KOs, they prevent Granbull from using Diantha.

It’s worth mentioning that Tord Reklev brought a unique anti-stall Granbull list to Harrogate Regionals. This list featured Oranguru UPR, Gladion and Judge – in theory it could beat stall in the long run by infinitely recycling resources, using Judge and taking Prizes when a Judge would finally give the opponent a dead hand. The time limits of paper tournaments made that strategy hard to use, but I can’t help but think that in an untimed online event a similar Granbull list could be incredibly good in the hands of a great player.

Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX, or Buzzroc, was one of the main decks of the first part of the Sun & Moon era, and Zoroark-GX’s main competitor to the title of best deck in the format. It had ups and downs, Max Elixir rotating out seemed to be bad news for the deck. It survived through the Celestial Storm format and came back with a vengeance in the Lost Thunder format thanks to Alolan Ninetales-GX. It’s unusual for a deck known for its aggression to be improved by the addition of a slower card, yet Alolan Ninetales-GX was a fantastic addition! It could attack thanks to Unit Energy FDY and Snowy Wind was a pretty good combination with Buzzwole-GX’s Jet Punch to get damage on the Bench. Sublimation GX could be used to take Prizes efficiently against Blacephalon-GX and in the mirror match. Mysterious Guidance was great to search for Beast Ring and also to find Switch, Multi Switch and other tech cards. Multi Switch could be used to power up a Lycanroc-GX out of nowhere to use a devastating Dangerous Rogue GX attack.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 18
4 Buzzwole-GX CIN 57
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
2 Rockruff FLI 75
2 Lycanroc-GX GRI 74
2 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 132
1 Marshadow SLG 45
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
1 Diancie {*} FLI 74
1 Buzzwole FLI 77
##Trainer Cards - 30
4 Professor Kukui SUM 128
4 Cynthia UPR 119
3 Guzma BUS 115
1 Lisia CES 137
1 Lillie SUM 147
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
3 Beast Ring FLI 141
2 Switch CES 147
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
1 Multi Switch GRI 129
1 Field Blower GRI 125
3 Brooklet Hill GRI 120
##Energy - 12
7 Fighting Energy 6
4 Unit Energy {F}{D}{Y} FLI 118
1 Beast Energy {*} FLI 117

This list was used by Alex Schemanske to win the SUMLOT tournament in the Atlas League, just last month! He mentioned that he would normally have played a second Lillie over the fourth Professor Kukui but made that change due to how the first turn rule is handled on TCGO, making Lillie less effective.

While Buzzroc is an aggressive deck, it’s not aggressive in the way ADP / Zacian or Pikarom can be in today’s format. On turn two, this deck will only have two Energy in play (unless you somehow took two Prizes already and let them play Beast Ring). It has powerful options, including Absorption GX dealing up to 290 damage with Choice Band and Diancie Prism Star, but you always know what these options are, and you have a few turns to prepare for them. I think this makes this deck more balanced and interesting to play (both with and against) than other aggressive decks, including past incarnations of Buzzroc.

I mentioned spread decks, and here’s one of them. The other is a certain breed of Malamar variants that also use Tapu Koko. Use Tapu Koko with Double Colorless Energy or Counter Energy, as well as Shrine of Punishment, to spread damage on the opponent’s board. Then, in the late game, you can use Tapu Lele’s Magical Swap to turn these damage counters into Prize cards. If the opponent tries to keep a small Bench, you can use Passimian as an attacker instead. Passimian also becomes the main attacker against Zoroark-GX decks since it hits for Weakness.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 16
4 Tapu Koko PR-SM 31
2 Passimian UPR 70
2 Passimian SUM 73
1 Slugma LOT 43
1 Slugma CES 23
2 Magcargo CES 24
1 Tapu Lele PR-SM 45
1 Oranguru UPR 114
1 Oranguru SUM 113
1 Latios SLG 41
##Trainer Cards - 36
4 Lillie SUM 147
4 Guzma BUS 115
3 Professor Kukui SUM 128
1 Tate & Liza CES 148
1 Judge BKT 143
1 Cynthia UPR 119
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
4 Nest Ball SUM 123
3 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
3 Acro Bike CES 123
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Switch CES 147
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Energy Loto GRI 122
3 Shrine of Punishment CES 143
##Energy - 8
4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136
3 Counter Energy CIN 100
1 Psychic Energy 5

This list was used by Patricia Gonzalez Walsh to win an Argentinian Special Event. Oranguru and Magcargo give the deck a good draw engine, and Psychic Energy guarantees you can use Magical Swap even if you’re not behind in Prizes. It also lets Tapu Lele use Psywave if needed.

When playing this deck, be careful about Bench management. In each matchup, you must have an idea of the Pokemon you’ll need. If you need Passimian, you’ll need to devote up to four slots to putting the Passimian into play, which means space for Tapu Koko, Magcargo and Oranguru is limited. Even in matchups where you don’t need Passimian in theory, it might be a good idea to keep a couple spots open in case you need to finish the game with a big Team Play attack.

As you may expect from a deck with Counter Energy, you could tech this deck for other matchups. Shaymin SLG can be good against Grass-weak Pokemon such as Lycanroc-GX, and Victini LOT can OHKO Decidueye-GX.

What makes spread decks so good in that format is that Beast Ring was core to a couple decks, and spreading damage then moving it with Magical Swap let you skip the Beast Ring turns entirely. Sure, Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel could accelerate Energy with Naganadel instead but having to remove three Energy for each KO was a high price to play and couldn’t be sustained throughout the game.

Finally, here’s my pet deck in this format, one that didn’t play enough at the time (I tried, did bad once and moved on to other decks instead of trying to refine my list) but got second place at the Atlas League SUMLOT event last month: Solgaleo-GX / Alolan Ninetales-GX.

Unlike the other decks in this list, Solgaleo-GX had no results to speak of at the time outside of some limited League Cup success. It was played in Japan and was a successful deck at local events over there, though. However, I think it was incredibly underrated and we didn’t exploit its potential at all.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 20
4 Cosmog SUM 64
2 Cosmoem UPR 61
2 Solgaleo-GX SUM 89
2 Solgaleo-GX PR-SM 104
3 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 132
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
1 Solgaleo {*} UPR 89
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
1 Dialga LOT 127
##Trainer Cards - 28
4 Cynthia UPR 119
2 Sophocles BUS 123
2 Professor Elm's Lecture LOT 188
2 Guzma BUS 115
1 Judge BKT 143
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
3 Rare Candy CES 142
2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
2 Nest Ball SUM 123
2 Max Potion GRI 128
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
1 Mt. Coronet UPR 130
##Energy - 12
7 Metal Energy 8
3 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136
2 Fairy Energy 9

Solgaleo-GX was the last true Stage 2 deck. It epitomizes, perhaps even better than Gardevoir-GX, what a Stage 2 deck should be: slow to set up, but extremely powerful once it is. Look at this list. Once you’re set up, you have a free switch effect every turn (better than simply having no Retreat Cost, since you also get rid of Special Conditions) and no Weakness – you can’t lose due to your opponent locking something in the Active Spot or hitting you for Weakness. Solgaleo-GX SUM can put a lot of Energy on the board once, or OHKO basically anything in the format with Sunsteel Strike. Solgaleo-GX PR can get Energy back with Turbo Strike, hitting for Weakness on popular Pokemon such as Alolan Ninetales-GX and Gardevoir-GX. But that’s not all.

Alolan Ninetales-GX is used for setting up, of course, but its attacks are good enough that it’s worth diluting your Energy base to add some Fairy Energy. The snipe damage from Snowy Wind can matter, and Sublimation GX is an important option against Buzzroc and Blacephalon-GX.

Against spread decks, you can even use Prominence GX to heal all your Pokemon. To do this, you must not have used Sol Burst GX in the early game, of course, but since spread decks tend to use low HP Pokemon, you don’t really need Sunsteel Strike all that much against them, so it’s OK to have fewer Energy in play against them.

This deck is not flawless. It has consistency issues. But what it can do is so powerful compared to the rest of the meta that these issues are worth putting up with.

If you try out this deck, I recommend adding a fourth Double Colorless Energy, maybe instead of a Nest Ball. Turbo Strike is a very strong attack and using it on turn two can win you some games!

The least useful card in the list was probably Dialga. While Turn Back Time looks useful against Decidueye-GX or even Stage 1 Pokemon such as Zoroark-GX I don’t think I used it at all in the tournament. I’m still very glad I had Dialga because it provided me with a second non-GX attacker to use against Hoopa.

Conclusion

Once again, I must emphasize that the list above is only a sample of decks you can play and have success with in the SUMLOT format. Even without dipping into stall or control archetypes I could have mentioned multiple Malamar variants, Lost March, White Kyurem and more! For each of these decks there are many variations, techs you can add to improve some matchups and so on.

I personally had a lot of fun playing this format and I know I’m not alone. Hopefully, this will inspire you to try it out and sign on the next time someone runs a tournament in this format – if no one else does it, maybe I’ll organize one myself!

Discussion

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