Pokémon TCG experts rank the top decks leading up to the North America International Championships.
We've enlisted five of the Pokémon Trading Card Game's top minds to help us try out a new feature on Pokemon.com: the Pokémon TCG Power Rankings. Read what these Pokémon TCG experts have to say about the top decks of the current format as we head into the 2019 Pokémon North America International Championships.
We also have a team of experts providing their takes on the event's Pokémon video game competition. Take a look at the Pokémon VGC Power Rankings!
The combo of Zapdos and Jirachi has seen great success since its introduction into the format, winning both the Oceania International Championships and, paired with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, the Europe International Championships.
With the launch of the Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds expansion, Ultra Beasts are strong partners that could take this deck to yet another title. Its biggest advantage is an extremely efficient Prize trade. By focusing on regular Basic Pokémon, it forces opponents to take six single Knock Outs to win the game. Meanwhile, Buzzwole can take two or even three Prize cards with a single attack against cards like Zoroark-GX or Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. Nihilego can do the same, and it's especially effective against the popular Reshiram & Charizard-GX.
Zapdos and Jirachi provide a reliable and consistent deck core, while Ultra Beasts add the power that's necessary to keep up with big TAG TEAM cards and other Pokémon-GX. Together, they are surely a top contender for the upcoming North America International Championships.
With two Regionals wins under its belt already, Reshiram & Charizard-GX is the most successful deck to come out of the Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds expansion. It uses Welder and Kiawe to quickly power up its namesake for superpowered attacks. Thanks to these Supporters, the deck can also run a variety of situational attackers: Eevee & Snorlax-GX against Zoroark-GX decks, Arcanine against Vileplume, Shining Lugia against Water-type attackers, and so on. This means Reshiram & Charizard-GX decks have an answer to everything!
International Championships bring together players and strategies from all over the world. In such an unpredictable environment, aggressive and versatile decks with no glaring weaknesses are great choices, so I wouldn't be surprised to see many players default to Reshiram & Charizard-GX, and I expect the deck to reach at least the Top 8. That popularity also plays against it, though: players will definitely be prepared to face Reshiram & Charizard-GX.
Since Zoroark-GX arrived with a win at the 2018 Europe International Championships, no single Pokémon has more profoundly defined the Pokémon TCG. High damage from its Riotous Beating attack and unparalleled draw power from its Trade Ability offer quite a complement for any number of potential partner Pokémon. Persian-GX adds a recent twist to this familiar story—its Cat Walk Ability facilitates intricate combos beyond what Zoroark-GX decks were previously able to do. With Triple Acceleration Energy, Persian-GX adds another solid attacking option to a deck whose limit is already sky-high. The Zoroark-GX deck's strength has always been the niche cards it can use to full effect, and options like Dewgong, Slowking, Marowak, and Silvally-GX offer the ability to succeed in today's TAG TEAM world.
While I've always trended more toward the “beat Zoroark!” side of things than the “play Zoroark!” camp, there's no denying its strength—since that win back in London, Zoroark-GX has won more International Championships than not. The TAG TEAM era has posed some challenges, with higher-HP opponents requiring new adaptations in every strategy—but if any card can overcome them, it will be Zoroark-GX.
With the release of the Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds expansion, many players speculated that Pikachu & Zekrom-GX would be shelved in favor of the new hotness (literally) of its Fire-type counterpart, Reshiram & Charizard-GX. While Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds has shaken things up quite a bit, and Reshiram & Charizard-GX has made its presence known, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is still a very real threat in the current metagame.
Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds also brought a pair of gifts for the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks in the form of Dedenne-GX and the Electromagnetic Radar Trainer card. These cards not only increase the deck's consistency considerably when used in tandem, but they also help to smooth things out at any point in the game. In a deck that threatens to do so much damage so quickly, finding key cards at the right moment is even more important than usual.
The deck competes with the popular choices of the current metagame by using a variety of hard-hitting Pokémon, all of which can be powered up in one turn through Malamar's Psychic Recharge Ability. Reshiram & Charizard-GX, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, and Zoroark-GX are no match for Ultra Necrozma-GX's Photon Geyser attack, and Giratina ensures the deck trades Prizes evenly or better against single-Prize Pokémon such as Zapdos and Volcanion.
With so many ghostly Pokémon using Psychic Energy, it should be no surprise that the Ultra Necrozma-GX with Malamar deck also favors some tricky strategies. Mimikyu's Copycat attack and Gengar & Mimikyu-GX's Horror House-GX can unexpectedly push an advantage or turn the tide of a battle.
The consistency, raw power, and versatility of the Ultra Necrozma-GX with Malamar deck make it a top contender for the title at the North America International Championships. The challenge will be for players to choose the right strategy for each match.
We also asked our panel what else fans should watch for in Columbus.
Christopher Schemanske: The North America International Championships are shaping up to be a battle of some of the season's most proven decks and the relative newcomers offered by Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds...and that's before the inevitable surprise decks show up. The range of viable decks looks as diverse as ever going into Columbus. (The same goes for strategies, as seen with things like Weezing spread and Lucario & Melmetal-GX stall tactics.) We'll see who comes out on top!
Ellis Longhurst: No matter which deck players choose to battle with at the North America International Championships, they need to be able to recover from hand reset. Cards like Judge and Marshadow are standard inclusions in many decks, and they are often played to game-changing effect. Using cards such as Pokégear 3.0, Green's Exploration, or Persian-GX, players can search for the resources they need to keep their strategy on track after a hand reset.
Robin Schulz: Fire decks have been the center of attention since the release of Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds, but the dominance of Lightning decks prior to that should not be forgotten. Their flexibility and the quality of their support cards is still incredible, and they deserve to be taken as seriously as before.
Stéphane Ivanoff: I'm a big fan of Evolution decks and the slower gameplay they entail—focusing less on sequencing your cards, and more on long-term planning. That's why I'm personally disappointed that Basic Pokémon, and especially TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, are so dominating right now. That said, Triple Acceleration Energy is a fantastic boon for Evolution decks, and in addition to Zoroark-GX, it has already helped some forgotten Pokémon like Nidoqueen and Blissey. I look forward to seeing what other decks players can create with Triple Acceleration Energy!
Kenny Wisdom: This series of articles has largely focused on the best decks in the metagame and the choices you can make to maximize your win percentage at the North America International Championships. While everyone wants to win, and that competitive spirit is part of what makes Pokémon so great, it's important to remember it's not the only thing that makes this game mean so much to all of us. Always remember to have fun, practice empathy, and act in a way that builds community. Pokémon is the best game in the world, and it's for everyone.
About the Panel
Robin Schulz is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He has been competing in Pokémon tournaments for 10 years and was the Pokémon TCG Masters Division World Champion in 2018. He spends a lot of time traveling and competing, and he rarely misses a big event. Aside from playing Pokémon, he attends university, where he is studying mathematics.
Stéphane Ivanoff is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. A longtime Pokémon fan, he has played the Pokémon TCG competitively since 2010 and is a former National Champion, seven-time Worlds competitor, and the 2018 North America International Champion in the Masters Division. He studied mathematics and has a degree in probability and statistics, but he says that doesn't help his game as much as you'd think! You can follow him on Twitter @lubyllule.
Christopher Schemanske is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. After seven consecutive seasons of invitations to the Pokémon TCG World Championships, culminating in a Top 16 finish at the 2018 event, he's switched most of his involvement in Pokémon to serving as tournament staff. You can find him playing or judging at Pokémon TCG events, as well as on Twitter @cschemanske.
Kenny Wisdom is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. A longtime player of the Pokémon TCG, he claims to be the most prolific writer in the history of the game. These days you can find him on the desk as part of the commentary team covering Play! Pokémon events as well as on Twitter @kwisdumb.
Ellis Longhurst is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. She has been competing in high-level Pokémon TCG tournaments since 2006 and creating written content for the Pokémon community since 2011. Now she brings some Australian flavor to the Play! Pokémon commentary teams at the International and World Championships.