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Alola! — a Fun & New Alternative Format for All

 

Alola, readers! Some of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that I’ve been organizing several tournaments called the Alola Cups, held in the unique Sun & Moon to Cosmic Eclipse format – in other words, all sets from the Sun & Moon era, or the seventh generation of Pokemon. I’ll refer to this format as the Alola format for the rest of the article.

Both Alola Cups so far have had around 60 players and the general feedback has been that the games are really fun, especially compared to Standard. Today, I want to dive into this format, explain what makes its success and give some examples of good decks. Hopefully, this will spark your interest in time for the next Alola Cup!

Why the Alola Format?

Pokemon players love playing retro formats. At most major events, you’ll see people bringing Standard decks from some past era – 2010, 2006, whatever – just to have fun once they’re out of the main event. Many players feel like the game used to be better, something that I tend to agree with although not without caveats, but it’s a topic for another time. In any case, it also gives players a reason to keep their old cards and a way to relive the fun they used to have with their old decks, or simply discover a new way to play the game if they weren’t around at the time.

The Alola format is slightly different, though. It’s not a retro format in the traditional sense, since it wasn’t ever played competitively (in most of the world, anyway; Japan briefly had all these cards in the same format). However, it’s not far from a familiar format, since after all, you can see it as a combination of the Sun & Moon to Unbroken Bonds and Ultra Prism to Cosmic Eclipse formats. By looking at these formats, we can get an idea of what to play in the Alola format, although there are card combinations to be used that were never legal in Standard at the same time, such as Tapu Lele-GX and Cherish Ball. In this sense, the format is both familiar and new.

Combining all the sets from the Alola era is not a random decision. I took the inspiration from three-time World Champion Jason Klaczynski, who sometimes writes about old formats and recommended playing with all cards from, say, the ex-era (the third generation) together. Cards from one era share some common traits, such as the presence of Pokemon-GX in the case of Alola. This mechanical identity gives the feeling that these cards were meant to be played together. For example, there are many cards that mention GXs, whether it’s to help them (Cherish Ball) or to hinder them (Great Catcher). In Standard, Great Catcher is an awkward card that’s very useful against some Pokemon and decks, but completely useless against others (say, Eternatus VMAX). You can Great Catcher Dedenne-GX but not Crobat V, despite the fact that these cards do similar things. In the Alola format, every two-Prize or three-Prize Pokemon can be targeted by Great Catcher. This means that Great Catcher is a card to be used against multi-Prize Pokemon, and not the much more arbitrary subset of “multi-Prize Pokemon released before February 2020”.

As for why Alola and not another generation, there are two reasons. The first is that the Sun & Moon era is still fresh, with about a third of the sets currently Standard-legal, while another third rotated only six weeks ago. This means that many players, even newer players, own cards from this era, which means the barrier to entry is lower. Some recent Standard decks like Pikarom can be very successful in the Alola format, with some adjustments, of course. One of the issues with Expanded is that it’s hard for a new player to get staples such as Computer Search, let alone Tropical Beach. There is nothing of the sort in the Alola format.

The other reason is that compared to the sixth or fifth generation of Pokemon, the seventh generation has much more interesting mechanics – at least in my opinion. Pokemon-GX are an improvement over Pokemon-EX for two reasons. First, unlike EXs, GXs can be either Basic or Evolution Pokemon, so the power cards are more varied. Second, GX attacks are a great addition to the game because they add strategic decisions. Should you use Tag Bolt GX or Lightning Ride GX? Hollow Hunt GX or Ice Path GX? These important decisions can change the course of a game. Even in decks with only one GX attack, choosing when to use it can be very important. Basically, GX attacks add meaningful choices to the game, increasing the skill cap, but in a simple way that is unlikely to confuse even new players. In addition, because of their inherent limitations, GX attacks are allowed to have unique effects that would never get printed on a regular card (Blade GX, Stinger GX and Eternal Flame GX are among my favorite, although I don’t think the latter has ever been used in a competitive game), and in turn, this makes decks more diverse as well.

A Note on the Alola Format Online

From Legendary Treasures (2013) and until the release of Sword & Shield, the first turn rule was that the player going first could not attack but could play a Supporter. Since this rule was in place throughout the Alola era, it is used for the Alola format. However, it’s impossible to play a Supporter card going first on TCGO. To bypass this, the convention is that both players have to pass their first turn without doing anything, and then carry on with the game as normal, treating the official second turn of the game as the first, and so on. This means that both players will have one extra card in their opening hand, which is an unfortunate consequence, but it’s the best approximation of the original rule that we can get on TCGO.

Unfortunately, skipping the first turn also has the effect any card with a special effect on the first turn of the game does not work, since the first turn will be the second one according to TCGO. These cards include Volcanion, Lillie, Wimpod, Wait and See Hammer, and Energy Spinner. Again, this is not ideal, but it’s a necessary sacrifice in order to play the game. (Using the current first turn rule would have much more drastic effects on the format.)

Of course, this only applies on TCGO. If you play this format IRL (and I would love to organize an IRL Alola Cup someday), you can play the format as it was intended.

The Basics

In order to understand how to build a deck in this format, let’s start with the staple cards, those that you’ll want in pretty much anything. Your main draw Supporters are – well – that really depends. There is no Professor’s Research or an equivalent in the Alola format! The closest thing to a generic draw Supporter is Cynthia, which is less aggressive. This is another draw to the format in my opinion: games are not decided by who can draw the highest number of cards in one turn, as they can sometimes be in Standard. This also gives Evolution decks (which don’t benefit from Professor’s Research as much since they may have to discard Evolution cards on the first turn) a better shot in the format.

Apart from Cynthia, the second generic draw Supporter is Lillie, but due to the first turn rule (see above), it’s not as good. So, Supporter engines vary far more from deck to deck! Decks based around a single type may enjoy cards such as Welder, Volkner, and Kiawe; set up decks can use Professor Elm’s Lecture; TAG TEAM decks can use Cynthia & Caitlin to go with their Tag Calls; Stall decks can use Steven’s Resolve; and Green’s Exploration decks already have Green’s. There are yet more situational options, such as Bill’s Analysis, Roxie, Judge, and Erika’s Hospitality.

CynthiaKiaweProfessor Elm's LectureSteven's Resolve

One big reason why such varied cards can coexist is Tapu Lele-GX. While Dedenne-GX is also part of the metagame and can be used in aggressive decks, Tapu Lele-GX can guarantee that you get the perfect Supporter at the right time, and that makes it perhaps the most universal Pokemon of the format.

Other support Pokemon include Jirachi (alongside its beloved Escape Board) and Marshadow, which both draws additional cards and disrupts an opponent’s setup.

As for Items, Ultra Ball is a universal card that fits into almost every deck. Then, depending on the type of Pokemon you run, you may find some use out of Cherish Ball, Mysterious Treasure, Tag Call, or Nest Ball. All in all, there’s a lot of ways to adapt your draw engine to what your deck wants to do.

Outside of the consistency cards, the most important card to include is probably Guzma, a better Boss’s Orders that’s only made better by the existence of Tapu Lele-GX. Other utility Supporters include Acerola, Guzma & Hala, and Tate & Liza. As for Items, you should also adapt to what your deck wants to do or what you wish to counter. Reset Stamp wins games like in Standard, Field Blower can remove Tools and Stadiums (although it has no effect on powerful Prism Star Stadiums such as Heat Factory Prism Star and Thunder Mountain Prism Star), Escape Rope can be especially good against Green’s Exploration decks that often play with a very limited Bench, while Choice Band increases your Pokemon’s damage against most of the metagame. If you plan on playing from behind, you can use Counter Gain and Counter Energy.

What I hope I’m getting across here is that, due to the large and varied card pool, decks with different strategies will look very different. In this format, you can play TAG TEAM Pokemon or one-Prize attackers, you can win by rushing down your opponent or let them take five Prizes before locking them in an unwinnable board state, and you can use powerful Pokemon-based draw engines or forego Abilities entirely to use Green’s Exploration. No card is in every deck, not even Switch, Ultra Ball or Guzma!

The reason why this format can get this varied is that everything has counters that are available to other decks. Admittedly, TAG TEAMs are very powerful, but they can lose to powerful one-Prize attackers who, in turn, may have issues with Control. Control decks are strong, but they may lose games to aggressive decks using Let Loose but Let Loose doesn’t do much if your opponent has a board full of Zoroark-GX. Zoroark-GX, though, can be countered by Power Plant or Mimikyu (which can themselves be countered by Marshadow and Stealthy Hood). This is not even getting into some more specific examples! Decks that use too many Items may have trouble if they face against Garbodor‘s Trashalanche, but Gardevoir-GX laughs at Trashalanche as it shuffles ten Item cards back into its deck – and so on, and so on: examples are endless.

MarshadowZoroark GXGarbodorGardevoir GX

Decks

Here are some very concrete examples of what decks can look like! There has been so much variety in the two first Alola Cups that it’s impossible to showcase every archetype here. I’ll settle for a small subset of successful decks, which hopefully will be representative of the wide diversity of the format.

Pikarom

For better or for worse, TAG TEAMs have taken over the game since their introduction in ,Team Up so it’s no surprise that they’re a big part of the Alola format as well. And when you talk about TAG TEAMs, the first one that should come to mind is Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, the first TAG TEAM archetype in the game. Pikarom has changed a lot since its first apparition more than a year and a half ago, but in all that time, it’s never been bad. In the Alola format, it has all the Lightning-type support that is missing from the current Standard compared to last season (Electropower, Zeraora-GX, Thunder Mountain Prism Star, Volkner), as well as older cards such as Marshadow and Nest Ball.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 12
2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
2 Marshadow SLG 45
2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
1 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
1 Tapu Koko {*} TEU 51
1 Raikou SLG 32
1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX CEC 165
##Trainer Cards - 36
4 Volkner UPR 135
4 Cynthia UPR 119
3 Guzma BUS 115
4 Ultra Ball DEX 102
4 Electropower LOT 172
4 Cherish Ball UNM 191
2 Nest Ball SUM 123
2 Energy Switch SSH 162
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Tag Switch UNM 209
1 Switch ROS 91
1 Stealthy Hood UNB 186
1 Great Catcher CEC 192
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Escape Rope PRC 127
1 Thunder Mountain {*} LOT 191
##Energy - 12
12 Lightning Energy Energy 4

This list was used by Logan McKay to get second place in the second Alola Cup. This list has a lot of consistency thanks to ten “Ball” cards but can afford to play a small Item toolbox with unique copies of cards such as Tag Switch, Field Blower, and Great Catcher thanks to the Volkner engine. Logan chose not to run Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX – Tandem Shock is not as good in a format where Guzma is both highly played, and easily searchable by Tapu Lele-GX. Instead, Tapu Koko-GX can be a powerful threat against decks that want a lot of Energy in play, especially Welder-based decks such as Mewtwo & Mew-GX. Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX can also be used to punish these kinds of decks.

Also noteworthy is the inclusion of Raikou. As a non-GX attacker, Raikou can be used to KO Hoopa, and its Booming Thunder is also useful against Energy denial strategies.

Other Options Zapdos can be used in combination with a fourth Guzma in order to target Basic Pokemon on your opponent’s Bench before they get to evolve. Eelektross is very playable since it can be searched by Ultra Ball, and it can counter Vileplume. Alternatively, you could use Jolteon-GX for this purpose.

You could run a Jirachi engine in this deck, which would make it more resilient to Reset Stamp, but it takes space both in the deck and on the Bench.

Reshizard

After Pikarom came Reshizard, and the Fire dragon duo also has a lot of potential in the Alola format, thanks to the combination of Welder and Kiawe: it’s easy to put a lot of Energy in play very quickly. Just like Pikarom, Reshizard can use powerful consistency cards such as Cherish Ball and make great use of Marshadow‘s disrupting Ability to get an explosive lead in the game.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 12
4 Jirachi TEU 99
2 Reshiram & Charizard-GX UNB 20
2 Marshadow SLG 45
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX CEC 226
1 Dedenne-GX UNB 195
1 Absol TEU 88
##Trainer Cards - 36
4 Welder UNB 189
3 Guzma BUS 115
2 Kiawe BUS 116
1 Professor Kukui SUM 128
1 Mallow & Lana CEC 198
4 Ultra Ball ROS 93
3 Nest Ball SUM 123
3 Escape Rope BUS 114
2 Field Blower GRI 125
2 Escape Board UPR 122
2 Choice Band GRI 121
1 Switch SUM 132
1 Stealthy Hood UNB 186
1 Reset Stamp UNM 206
1 Fire Crystal UNB 173
1 Adventure Bag LOT 167
2 Power Plant UNB 183
2 Giant Hearth UNM 197
##Energy - 12
12 Fire Energy Energy 2

Reshizard was the most successful deck in the first Alola Cup, taking up half of the Top 8, although it didn’t manage to reach the finals. Bart Musser got Top 4 with the list above, and his teammates also placed very well with the same list.

Part of Reshizard’s success can be credited to a largely unknown metagame, many players tried to do too much with their decks and maybe didn’t focus on consistency as much as they should have. This was the ideal environment for a fast and consistent deck using two copies of Marshadow. This deck frequently gets a turn one Kiawe, which means that the pressure is on immediately.

Other Options There’s not a large variety of attackers in this deck and in the end, this was Reshizard’s downfall. Being reliant on three-Prize attackers means two things: first, this deck will lose the Prize race against one-Prize attackers (Granbull ended up taking second place, defeating several Reshizard players on the way), and second, it has no answer to Hoopa (which the winner used). Of course, Welder decks have a variety of attackers at their disposal, so it’s easy to change the list to cover these weaknesses. Heatran-GX trades much more effectively with one-Prize Pokemon. Turtonator is a one-Prize attacker that still has OHKO potential. Arcanine as an Evolution Pokemon can counter Vileplume.

It’s also possible to run more Fire Energy and have a list that looks more like the Fire Toolbox decks of early in the 2020 season: Ninetales, Victini Prism Star, and perhaps Blacephalon.

Golurk

While I’m sure the two previous decks were no surprise, this one might be different. You may not even be aware of a playable Golurk! There was one released in Cosmic Eclipse that deals 160 damage for a Double Colorless Energy, as long as you have no Supporter card in your discard pile. This led to a unique archetype: a deck without any Supporter (except Gladion, which doesn’t go into the discard). Golurk’s consistency comes from support Pokemon, such as Zebstrika, Oranguru, and Marshadow. The latter two had rotated by the time Golurk was released, along with the more important Double Colorless Energy, which explains why it never saw any play in most of the world, but in Japan, it was a successful deck in the time it could be played.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 15
4 Golett CEC 89
4 Golurk CEC 90
2 Oranguru SUM 113
2 Marshadow SLG 45
1 Blitzle LOT 81
1 Zebstrika LOT 82
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
##Trainer Cards - 37
1 Gladion CIN 95
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
4 Super Scoop Up BUS 124
4 Nest Ball SUM 123
4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
4 Acro Bike PRC 122
3 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
3 Buff Padding TEU 136
2 Switch EVO 88
2 Great Catcher CEC 192
1 Spell Tag LOT 190
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Energy Loto GRI 122
3 Power Plant UNB 183
##Energy - 8
4 Triple Acceleration Energy UNB 190
4 Double Colorless Energy FCO 114

Player tsui2234 used this deck in the second Alola Cup and finished with a Swiss record of 6W-2L, unfortunately bubbling out of Top 8 by a very small margin. I confess that I hoped that Golurk would make top 8, since this deck so beautifully represents the uniqueness of the Alola format, being based around a card from Cosmic Eclipse (Golurk) and a card from Sun & Moon (DCE) that never had a chance to coexist. Still, I think this record proves that the deck is very viable.

With Buff Padding, Golurk has 190 HP, so it trades very well with other Pokemon. Despite the absence of Supporters, the deck has many options: Great Catcher plays the role of Guzma, and Super Scoop Up can act as Acerola, and can be used to reuse Marshadow’s Let Loose.

Rescue Stretcher is a fantastic card for one-Prize decks, as it guarantees that you have enough Golurk (and Golett) to last the whole game. Power Plant can slow down more aggressive decks, shut down Jirachi-GX‘s Ability so that Golurk can one-shot Mewtwo & Mew-GX, and give the deck a chance against Zoroark-GX.

Other Options I would be more comfortable running this deck with a thicker line of Zebstrika: Sprint is amazing in this deck to replace Supporter-based draw. While Golurk can OHKO Dedenne-GX, Choice Band would let it reach 190 damage in order to OHKO (almost) any Basic, non-TAG TEAM Pokemon-GX, especially Tapu Lele-GX. As with any deck, Reset Stamp is also a card you can play.

Green’s Tinachomp

Green’s Exploration is a card that became much worse when it became impossible to play it on turn one going first. In the Alola format, however, there is no such restriction, which makes Green’s Exploration-based decks better. While many attackers, from Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX to Blacephalon, can be used with Green’s Exploration, Garchomp & Giratina-GX had the most success. In fact, it is the only archetype to make the Top 8 at both Alola Cups! This is even more impressive when you consider that only one player used the deck in each of the events, giving it a top cut rate of 100-percent so far.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 16  
4 Weezing CEC 77 
4 Misdreavus UNB 77
3 Mismagius UNB 78
3 Garchomp & Giratina-GX UNM 146
1 Mimikyu CEC 97
1 Blacephalon CEC 104
##Trainer Cards - 35  
4 Green's Exploration UNB 175
3 Roxie CEC 205
2 Cynthia & Caitlin CEC 189
1 Mallow & Lana CEC 198
1 Lt. Surge's Strategy UNB 178
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Guzma & Hala CEC 193
1 Acerola BUS 112
4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
2 Tag Call CEC 206
2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
2 Lure Ball CES 138
2 Dusk Stone UNB 167
1 Switch SSH 183
1 Karate Belt UNM 201
1 Great Catcher CEC 192
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Energy Spinner UNB 170
1 Counter Gain LOT 170 
1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
2 Power Plant UNB 183
##Energy - 9  
4 Psychic Energy Energy 5
2 Rainbow Energy BKT 152
2 Fighting Energy Energy 6
1 Weakness Guard Energy UNM 213

This list was used by Bret Jenson to reach Top 8 in the second Alola Cup. In addition to Green’s Exploration, it uses the Roxie/Weezing engine to spread damage counters on the opponent’s board, so that Tinachomp can deal 240 damage with Calamitous Slash. In a format without VMAX Pokemon, this will OHKO almost every Pokemon!

Mismagius is key in this archetype, both because it’s a draw engine that can also give some protection against Reset Stamp, because giving the opponent a Prize lead lets you use Counter Catcher and more importantly, it activates Karate Belt. As with most Green’s Exploration decks, you ideally want to bench only two one-Prize Pokemon in addition to your TAG TEAMs. This means that you can afford to use Mysterious Message twice, and your opponent will still have to KO two Tinachomp to win.

Blacephalon is a fantastic alternate attacker. In games where you don’t have to use Mismagius early, you can let your first Tinachomp get KOed, then use Blacephalon. However, against non-attacking decks (stall and control), you can instead use Mismagius thrice to put your opponent at three remaining Prizes, and then use Blacephalon to spread damage counters and decimate their board! This is especially effective against Pidgeotto Control since Fireworks Bomb can KO two Pidgeotto. In addition, you get to use Reset Stamp to put your opponent at three remaining Prize cards.

The last Pokemon, Mimikyu, is a riskier inclusion. On the one hand, it’s extremely effective against Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Zoroark-GX. On the other hand, since it has an Ability, having it in play means you can’t use Green’s Exploration anymore, and if you happen to start with it (not that unlikely in a deck with nine Basics), you’re in a bad spot.

Other Options So many of them! Green’s Exploration decks can add a myriad of cards. Pokegear 3.0 is common in Green’s Exploration decks because their main Supporter is so powerful that you’ll want easier access to it, and in this deck it can also search for Roxie. Rescue Stretcher can be used instead of the less versatile but (on average) more effective Lure Ball. Martial Arts Dojo can increase your damage and let Tinachomp OHKO even other TAG TEAMs after one damage counter from Roxie.

Pokemon-wise, this deck can use Shining Mew to charge up a Tinachomp. Shining Mew will easily be KO’d due to its abysmal HP but that’s not really an issue for this deck. Some Japanese lists also ran Landorus, especially in combination with Martial Arts Dojo since a Fighting-type attacker is always interesting, and Landorus can also soften up Pokemon for Tinachomp while moving Energy to it.

Stall

Love them or hate them, non-attacking decks are also a part of the Alola format. There are many defensive cards in the format: Pokemon like Hoopa, Vileplume, or Lucario & Melmetal-GX; Supporters like Plumeria, Lusamine, and Faba; Items like Enhanced Hammer, Reset Stamp, and Max Potion. Combine them all, and you can make a deck that aims, not to take Prizes, but to prevent the opponent from taking them. Benefitting from an unknown metagame, Stall ended up winning the first Alola Cup. However, once it became a known quantity, it was much less effective. It barely had any presence in the second Alola Cup as players adapted with techs such as Arcanine in Reshizard, or simply Stealthy Hood to counter Vileplume’s Ability.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 13
3 Regigigas CIN 84
3 Hoopa SLG 55
2 Oddish UNB 6
2 Vileplume BUS 6
1 Unown LOT 91
1 Lucario & Melmetal-GX UNB 120
1 Girafarig LOT 94
##Trainer Cards - 45
4 Steven's Resolve CES 145
3 Lusamine CIN 96
3 Bill's Analysis TEU 133
3 Acerola BUS 112
2 Plumeria BUS 120
2 Lt. Surge's Strategy HIF 60
1 Team Skull Grunt SUM 133
1 Tate & Liza CES 148
1 Mars UPR 128
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Gladion CIN 95
1 Faba LOT 173
4 Max Potion BKP 103
3 Pokégear 3.0 UNB 182
2 Rare Candy DEX 100
2 Nest Ball SUM 123
2 Metal Frying Pan FLI 112
2 Ancient Crystal UPR 118
1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
1 Enhanced Hammer PHF 94
1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
2 Power Plant UNB 183
1 Wondrous Labyrinth {*} TEU 158
1 Mount Lanakila BUS 118
##Energy - 2
1 Recycle Energy UNM 212
1 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136

Here is the winning list, which has multiple options to prevent the opponent from taking Prizes. Vileplume will wall decks without Evolution Pokemon, Hoopa stops GX Pokemon, and Regigigas‘ tankiness (especially with an Ancient Crystal) makes it effective against other attackers such as Granbull. Lucario & Melmetal-GX with Double Colorless Energy plays the role that was traditionally held by Articuno-GX, removing multiple Energy with its GX attack. Also of note is the array of defensive Stadium cards: Power Plant can shut down Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Zeraora-GX and Zoroark-GX, Mount Lanakila combines with Guzma or Counter Catcher to leave something stranded in the Active spot, and Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star is good against almost every attacker.

Other Options Other Stall lists in the first Alola Cup usually ran Green’s Exploration instead of Hoopa and Regigigas. While they would have fewer defensive Pokemon, they were more consistent, especially when it came to setting up Vileplume, which they were more reliant on. It’s also possible to run Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX to set up Vileplume very quickly, especially with a small Tag Call engine. I don’t know if I would recommend these changes, though: Vileplume is not that strong without the element of surprise, since it can be countered by Stealthy Hood if nothing else.

I’m sure there are plenty of other options for Stall decks, but I’ll be honest, I’m not an expert, so I don’t know how to best build them.

Pidgeotto Control

In the second Alola Cup, as Stall decreased in popularity (and success), Pidgeotto Control replaced it as the non-attacking deck of choice. With Professor Elm’s Lecture, setting up multiple Pidgeotto on the Bench is fast enough, and from there on, the draw engine leads to the Reset Stamp, Jessie & James, and Chip-Chip Axe lock combo that we know and – well – that we know of.

Pidgetto Control ended up being the most successful deck of the tournament, winning it and getting two Top 4 placements. It’s only appropriate to feature the winner, Jake Pilch’s, list.

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 20
4 Pidgey TEU 122
4 Pidgeotto TEU 123
4 Oranguru UPR 114
2 Alolan Grimer UNM 127
1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
1 Magneton CEC 69
1 Girafarig LOT 94
1 Ditto {*} LOT 154
1 Articuno-GX CES 31
##Trainer Cards - 36
4 Professor Elm's Lecture LOT 188
2 Tate & Liza CES 148
2 Mars UPR 128
2 Lt. Surge's Strategy HIF 60
2 Jessie & James HIF 68
2 Gladion CIN 95
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Faba LOT 208
1 Bellelba & Brycen-Man CEC 186
4 Pokégear 3.0 SSH 174
4 Acro Bike PRC 122
3 Chip-Chip Ice Axe UNB 165
2 Ultra Ball SUM 135
2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
1 Pal Pad UPR 132
2 Power Plant UNB 183
##Energy - 4
3 Water Energy 3
1 Recycle Energy UNM 212

I like this decklist because, while Pidgeotto Control (and its successor, Cinccino Control, now known in Standard as Excadrill Control) started existing with the release of Reset Stamp in Unified Minds, Jake improved it by adding cards from the early Sun & Moon era that had rotated out by the time Unified Minds was released. Tapu Lele-GX gives the deck more consistency, whether it’s to search for a Professor Elm’s Lecture on the first turn or for a Jessie & James later on. Guzma is an improvement over Boss’s Orders. Alolan Muk is the most unique addition. It shuts down annoying Abilities like Zeraora-GX’s Thunderclap Zone or Mewtwo & Mew-GX’s Perfection more reliably than Power Plant, and it’s also effective against non-GX Pokemon’s Abilities, especially Marshadow and Oranguru. What’s more, Alolan Grimer is the deck’s best starter thanks to its Collect attack.

Other Options Once again, I’m not the most qualified to explain everything that can be played in control, but I’m sure you can take any frustrating card you lost to once and fit it in this deck. Persian, Crushing Hammer, Aipom, Plumeria, Slowking – you get the idea. Consistency-wise, both Top 4 finishers (João Pedro Medeiros and Francesco Caterino) played Hapu in their lists, which helped them dig through the deck a bit faster.

Zoroark-GX

Alright, unlike the previous decks, Zoroark-GX didn’t make Top 8 at an Alola Cup yet. This is disappointing to me, but I still wanted to mention it, because I don’t get enough opportunities to talk about Zoroark-GX these days!

While it hasn’t made Top 8, Zoroark-GX did get several Top 16 placements, so it’s not far from it. Zoroark-GX / Persian-GX, with the Naganadel-GX tech was one of the best decks in the SUMUNB era. The last two sets of the Alola era (Unified Minds and Cosmic Eclipse) give the deck powerful additions such as Cherish Ball and Reset Stamp.

I believe that the best way to run the deck is to use a Cherish Ball/Tapu Lele-GX/Professor Elm’s Lecture engine. Elm on turn one gets you a board full of Basic Pokemon, and on turn two you can use Cherish Ball (or Ultra Ball/Pokemon Communication) to get Zoroark-GX and start drawing cards. From there, it’s a question of using the right strategy. Stinger GX allows for great comebacks against TAG TEAM Pokemon: simply put some damage on one, use Stinger GX, then finish off the damaged TAG TEAM for your last three Prizes. Against Stall and Control, you can use Stinger-GX as well to basically get three free Prizes, before you start taking KOs, helped by Reset Stamp which will put your opponent at a very low hand size. Beware of Power Plant in Pidgeotto Control, though: Marshadow UNB is core for this reason. In other matchups, you get to make great use of your utility Supporters thanks to the draw power from your Pokemon: heal with Acerola, target easy Prizes with Guzma, Pal Pad to get more resources, etc.

Zoroark-GX has weaknesses (ADP is an important one) but none that it can’t tech for – although, unfortunately, it can’t tech for everything at the same time. I’m confident that it will be successful in this format soon enough!

Zoroark GXPersian GXNaganadel GXAcerola

And More!

This is only a small part of the metagame. For the enthusiastic deck builder, there are many more combinations of cards to exploit! Mewtwo & Mew-GX can be played with Welder, but it can also benefit from Malamar, Blastoise, or Solgaleo-GX for Energy acceleration, and it can copy literally every GX Pokemon’s attacks in the game, from Charizard-GX‘s Flare Blitz to Noivern-GX‘s Distort. Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX may not have its new best friend Zacian V, but it can partner with Water Pokemon instead and benefit from Aqua Patch. If you enjoy attacking Stage 2s, Gardevoir-GX might be what you’re looking for. It can trade effectively with many Pokemon and its Fairy typing is strong against ADP and Tinachomp. If you prefer non-GX Basic Pokemon, Blacephalon has everything it wants in this format, whether that’s Jirachi, Fiery Flint, Victini Prism Star, Pidgeotto, or Oricorio-GX. Even Unown HAND might be viable combined with Salazzle and Psyduck.

I hope this introduction to the Alola format got your interest. I would love to see more players take an interest in the format, whether it’s to play established decks, to build new ones, or even just to watch it being played. If you would like to get involved in the format, start playtesting now and maybe keep an eye on my Twitter: the third Alola Cup will be announced very soon. I hope to see you there!

Stéphane

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