Galarian Obstagoon Earns Its Stripes in the Pokémon TCG

By Contributing Writer Xander Pero


One major effect of the introduction of TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX and now Pokémon V is the decline of Evolution Pokémon in competitive play. Now that these Basic Pokémon usually have similar HP to evolved Pokémon (or even more), we've seen most decks built around them rather than around Evolutions. Even a deck like Malamar/Giratina, a Stage 1 deck, uses Malamar as support for its Basic Pokémon attackers. Moreover, Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon require additional work to get into play, often requiring multiple turns of evolving or Rare Candy. These constraints limit the speed and consistency of Evolution decks, something TAG TEAMs and Pokémon V don't have to deal with.

One Pokémon has caught on enough to bring back hope to Stage 2 fans: Galarian Obstagoon. It has a respectable 160 HP, and its Untamed Shout Ability is reminiscent of the popular Crobat from XY—Phantom Forces. But its true strength lies in its Obstruct attack. Obstruct does 90 damage and prevents attack damage done to Galarian Obstagoon by Basic Pokémon on the opponent's next turn. With Basic Pokémon making up a majority of the meta, you can easily see why this attack is so powerful. Galarian Obstagoon's capability to succeed is directly proportional to the popularity of Basic Pokémon-reliant decks.

Galarian Obstagoon has already proven itself to be a strong contender after Tim Bartels played it to a 3rd-place finish at the Oceania International Championships, where 42 of the 48 decks in Day 2 relied on Basic Pokémon to attack. The deck has a favorable position in the current meta, and I don't imagine that changing anytime soon.

Check out an example deck list featuring Galarian Obstagoon:


  • Galarian Obstagoon
Pokémon
  • 4
    Galarian Obstagoon
    119/202
    swsh1 119
  • 2
    Galarian Linoone
    118/202
    swsh1 118
  • 4
    Galarian Zigzagoon
    117/202
    swsh1 117
  • 4
    Jirachi
    99/181
    sm9 99
  • 1
    Mew
    76/234
    sm10 76
  • 1
    Tyrogue
    100/234
    sm10 100
  • 1
    Yveltal-GX
    79/131
    sm6 79
Energy Cards
  • 9
    Darkness Energy
    nrg1 32
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia)
    swsh1 178
  • 3
    Marnie
    swsh1 169
  • 3
    Rosa
    sm12 204
  • 4
    Lillie's Poké Doll
    sm12 197
  • 4
    Quick Ball
    swsh1 179
  • 4
    Rare Candy
    swsh1 180
  • 3
    Great Ball
    swsh1 164
  • 3
    Switch
    swsh1 183
  • 2
    Escape Board
    sm5 122
  • 1
    Counter Gain
    sm8 170
  • 1
    Evolution Incense
    swsh1 163
  • 1
    Great Catcher
    sm12 192
  • 1
    Ordinary Rod
    swsh1 171
More Info Copy Deck List

Deck List Linearity

Now that the player going first can't play a Supporter card on their first turn, Jirachi's Stellar Wish Ability is vital for finding cards early in the match. Stellar Wish increases the likelihood of finding additional Basic Pokémon via Quick Ball or Great Ball. Our example list runs nine cards dedicated to Jirachi: the full count of four, plus three Switch and two Escape Board. Unlike the various approaches possible for a deck like Mewtwo & Mew-GX, this deck thrives on executing its sole strategy as efficiently as possible.

Perhaps that's not entirely true; a perfectly linear deck is a perfectly predictable one. Cards that fill a specific niche are in the list too, such as Yveltal-GX, Tyrogue, and Lillie's Poké Doll, to give the deck more options. Strategies besides repeatedly using Obstruct are possible with these cards—they capitalize on placing damage counters throughout the game.

Like many decks, the role of the cards beyond Galarian Obstagoon and other niche attackers is simply to create consistency. Eight search cards—four Quick Ball, three Great Ball, and one Evolution Incense—are more than most decks include. Adding in three copies of Rosa makes these cards easier to get, too. As you'll soon see, Pokémon search is required more in this deck than in many others. Attaching an Energy every turn is important, too; nine Energy seems to be a sweet spot given the space available.


The Strategy

The deck is designed primarily to set up Galarian Obstagoon and attack with Obstruct as soon as possible. There are a few complementary tricks involving placing damage counters, but Obstruct is the main source of damage output. Until your primary attacker is fully evolved, Lillie's Poké Doll or Jirachi should stay in the Active Spot so any Galarian Zigzagoon remain safe on the Bench. Mew protects the Bench from attacks like Tag Bolt-GX and Venom Shot, so if your opponent wants to target Galarian Zigzagoon directly, they'll need to use something like Custom Catcher or Pokémon Catcher.

The goal on your first couple of turns is to draw into the necessary pieces to begin attacking. Rosa is my favorite card in the deck because it can search for exactly what you need. If you miss an Energy drop on the first turn and your opponent gets an early Knock Out, you can easily find Counter Gain—a card that's normally hard to draw into since there's only one in this deck—and begin attacking for cheap. Like most other decks in the Standard format, the list boasts a full count of Professor's Research and a few Marnie for further consistency.

Most opposing decks will have an answer to one or two Galarian Obstagoon, so the goal is to set up several of them. In some games, no other attacker is needed to win. Just be careful not to put too many Pokémon on the Bench for your opponent to Knock Out. Even if the opponent doesn't have an answer to Obstruct, they can win the game by taking enough Prize cards off of other Pokémon.


Plan Ahead

Figuring out how you expect to take all six Prize cards is integral to winning with Galarian Obstagoon. It's unlikely to Knock Out most opposing Pokémon with a single attack, so there will often be residual damage on the opponent's board. Untamed Shout and Galarian Zigzagoon's Headbutt Tantrum Ability can Knock Out these weakened Pokémon even if they're on the Bench, saving Great Catcher for another target. Tyrogue and Mew provide additional Bench damage. Pokémon in the 160–180 HP range are too difficult to Knock Out with Abilities after a single Obstruct—Tyrogue comes in by giving an additional boost, pushing the HP total in range of an Untamed Shout + Psypower combo.

Against TAG TEAM decks, the best strategy is to Knock Out two TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX—one with Obstruct and one with Yveltal-GX's Doom Count-GX attack. It's best to save Yveltal-GX for the second Knock Out—if you've already used its GX attack, then the opponent has plenty of breathing room and can formulate a plan knowing you won't be able to do more than 90 damage at a time. Remember that Yveltal-GX gives up two Prize cards, too!

In matchups that include your opponent attacking with Evolution Pokémon, targeting those Pokémon is often the smartest strategy. In most circumstances, once any Pokémon capable of damaging Galarian Obstagoon are removed, you'll be on the path to victory. Common example decks of this type are Malamar, Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX/Rillaboom, and other Galarian Obstagoon decks. The focus should fall on the threat: aim for the Pokémon that can actually attack.


Damage Manipulation

When you play this deck, remember this: four is the perfect number. Conveniently, one damage counter from Galarian Zigzagoon's Ability and three from Galarian Obstagoon's Ability results in four damage counters total. Moreover, it's best to place damage counters in preparation for Doom Count-GX on Benched Pokémon. Then, when the opponent's Active Pokémon is damaged by Obstruct, there will still be a Pokémon in danger of Doom Count-GX on the Bench.

Stray damage counters can also pick up Knock Outs by themselves. A Welder-enabled Ninetales can be an effective attacker against Galarian Obstagoon. One way of dealing with this is to Knock Out the 60-HP Vulpix before it evolves. One Untamed Shout plus another three damage counters from either a second Untamed Shout, Bratty Kick, or Psypower effectively deals with one potential Ninetales that could have caused trouble later in the game.


Countering Obstruct

There are three ways to counter Galarian Obstagoon: attackers, “gust” effects that can move Pokémon between the Bench and the Active Spot, and alternate win conditions. Read on to see how each method can be effective against this Pokémon.


Attackers

One major drawback to Obstruct is that it doesn't prevent additional effects of attacks. For example, Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX can use its first attack, Tandem Shock, for the Paralyze effect, even if the damage is ignored. Then, because Galarian Obstagoon can't attack, it can be damaged and Knocked Out by any Pokémon. Blacephalon and its Fireworks Bomb attack can damage Galarian Obstagoon for the same reason—placing damage counters directly is different than doing damage with an attack.

Other common attackers are Reshiram & Charizard-GX, Greninja-GX, and Eelektross. Reshiram & Charizard-GX can hit Galarian Obstagoon with Double Blaze-GX, whose additional effect not only increases the damage by 100 but also overrides the blocking effect of Obstruct, scoring a Knock Out. Greninja's Mist Slash has the same clause. For Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks, Eelektross is an easy addition that can Knock Out a Galarian Obstagoon with one Electropower.


Gusts

If there are enough Pokémon in play, then it's possible to take six Prize cards while avoiding Galarian Obstagoon entirely. Most decks without Ninetales (who can lure a Pokémon off the Bench with its Nine Temptations Ability) run four Custom Catcher or four Pokémon Catcher, along with maybe a Great Catcher or two. But without something like Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX's Altered Creation-GX attack, that's not enough to take six Prize cards around Obstruct. Phione is a pesky card for Galarian Obstagoon to face because it's reusable and easy to find with Quick Ball. With enough uses of Phione's Whirlpool Suction Ability, it becomes possible for the opponent to take six Prize cards.


Mill

Decks that try to run their opponent out of cards (“milling”) against Galarian Obstagoon are effective because they don't worry about taking Knock Outs. Cinccino and Magcargo/Zacian V are the best mill decks currently in the Standard format. Because Obstruct maxes out at 90 damage, winning the game before running out of cards can be difficult. Untamed Shout and other damage-placing effects are great ways to Knock Out Lillie's Poké Doll without attacking. Each wasted attack is crucial because every turn is more cards being milled with Bellelba & Brycen-Man, so it's crucial to find other ways to remove Lillie's Poké Doll.


Managing the Counters

By knowing what the opponent can do to counter your strategy, you can actively prepare and develop a countermeasure for their counter.

Galarian Obstagoon can take a similar course of action when facing any Pokémon-GX. Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX and Blacephalon-GX have the option of inflicting Special Conditions. The smart strategy is to hold onto your Switch and Escape Board until you need to get out of these situations. With Escape Board attached to Galarian Obstagoon, its Retreat Cost is reduced to 1. Then you can retreat into a Lillie's Poké Doll and send it under the deck to begin attacking again. Switch does the same thing but can also weave in a Stellar Wish and avoid the Retreat Cost altogether.

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, and some Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks play Phione. The way to counter Phione is to put Lillie's Poké Doll on the Bench. That way, it can be promoted after Whirlpool Suction, denying any Prize cards. Be wary of the combination of Phione plus a gust effect—once Galarian Obstagoon is sent to the Bench, the effect of Obstruct ends, and it can be damaged by Basic Pokémon.

Galarian Obstagoon is a strong deck that runs against the current meta, making it a deck that I think will continue to place well at tournaments. That said, the popularity of the current heavy hitters won't decline, either. Something to watch for is whether Evolution-based decks will become more popular at upcoming tournaments. Namely, Magcargo-GX can easily Knock Out Zacian V and can damage Galarian Obstagoon. It'll be exciting to see how the meta continues to take new shapes, and to see which new decks may become viable and clinch a major win!

Be sure to continue following the 2020 Championship Series and check out more articles at Pokemon.co.uk/Strategy.




About the Writer

Xander Pero
Xander Pero is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He was an avid fan until discovering sanctioned tournaments in 2009. He formerly traveled often for the Top 16 circuit, but now spends his time focusing on university, where he studies systems engineering. You can find him at various tournaments, as well as on Twitter at @xanderpero.

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