Our experts look at powerful decks from the new format as top players prepare for the Pokémon World Championships.
Ahead of the 2019 Pokémon TCG World Championships, we've once again convened our Power Rankings panel to examine the top decks to watch for at the event. The competitors will be navigating a new format that includes both a yearly card rotation and a newly released expansion, which should make for an exciting and unpredictable tournament.
It was a daunting challenge to narrow down the field, but our assembly of players, judges, and broadcasters have taken their best guesses at which decks will rise above the rest in Washington, DC. As you watch the matches on Pokemon.com/Live on Friday, August 16, through Sunday, August 18, keep these Power Rankings nearby as a handy guide to the action!
Throughout the history of the Pokémon TCG, players have always been looking for ways to theorize about the post-rotation metagame before they even have new cards in their hands. An effective way to determine which decks might rise to the top has been to look at what cards will no longer be usable in each deck after a format rotation. When looking at the stock Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck list from recent memory, it's clear that it's an archetype that is losing very little—and gaining some important pieces.
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX was, in my opinion, the best deck of the previous Standard format, and it proved itself by making the finals of the 2019 North America International Championships. With the addition of Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX, which is extremely difficult to Knock Out, and the additional consistency boost of Stadium Nav, I don't see any reason to believe this fast-paced, aggressive deck won't be a great choice for the World Championships.
The Ultra Necrozma-GX with Malamar deck could drown out the competition at the 2019 World Championships. The consistency, versatility, and familiarity of this deck make it an attractive choice for competitors.
Using Malamar's Psychic Recharge Ability and complementary Trainer cards, this deck quickly and consistently sets up powerful Psychic-type and Dragon-type Pokémon. While Ultra Necrozma-GX can deal loads of damage using Photon Geyser or achieve multiple Knock Outs using Sky-Scorching Light-GX, players should expect Giratina to be this deck's primary attacker at the 2019 World Championships. Giratina can Knock Out most Pokémon-GX (including TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX) within two hits, it gives up only one Prize card when it's Knocked Out, and it can return itself to the battlefield every turn!
Prospective World Champions should prepare to fight through a sea of Malamar decks. For any player piloting the Ultra Necrozma-GX with Malamar deck, a well-practiced strategy for mirror matches is essential.
The new Dark Toolbox archetype gets its name from the blend of Pokémon it includes: Weavile-GX and its Shadow Connection Ability; Pokémon that get Darkness Energy into play, such as Darkrai Prism Star, Naganadel, and Sharpedo; and powerful Darkness-type attackers that are useful depending on the situation. By using the right attackers, this deck can easily adapt to different opponents.
With Nest Ball, Ultra Ball, and Rescue Stretcher leaving the format, it gets much harder to search for Pokémon and get them into play when you need them. This may benefit decks featuring Pokémon-GX and especially TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, which generally rely less on these cards. Dark Toolbox can use this to its advantage: Mega Sableye & Tyranitar-GX's Greedy Crush can take extra Prize cards for Knocking Out Pokémon-GX, while Umbreon & Darkrai-GX's Dark Moon-GX attack is perfect for getting a Knock Out against these big Pokémon. This makes Dark Toolbox a strong contender for the World Championships.
Reshiram & Charizard-GX instantly became one of the most powerful decks in the format after its release in the Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds expansion, and it's losing relatively little firepower to the upcoming rotation.
There are two main variants of the deck, both with different but equally powerful game plans. The first one plays defensively, using Green's Exploration to take advantage of healing cards like Mixed Herbs or Great Potion. This makes the 270-HP TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX hard to take down. The other variant is much more aggressive and includes an Ability-based engine around Jirachi and Dedenne-GX, making it easier to draw Welder and attack right away.
I personally prefer the second approach; one reason is Ninetales, which is one of the best support Pokémon in the format and fits perfectly into that version. Either way, both are strong decks, so expect to see a lot of Reshiram & Charizard-GX in Washington, DC!
The single most meaningful aspect of Mewtwo & Mew-GX is that when it comes to choosing the attacking suite to work with its Perfection Ability, there are limitless options—but also no concrete strategies. Jirachi-GX is probably a must-have for its Psychic Zone Ability, which negates Psychic-type Weakness. The Sun & Moon—Unified Minds expansion features several more potential partners for this duo: Dragonite-GX provides massive damage, Naganadel-GX offers a route to damage your opponent's Bench, and Aerodactyl-GX can punish other aggressive TAG TEAM strategies. When considering all available Pokémon-GX—some traditionally challenged by the need for deck space in Evolution-based decks—the options are endless. Nevertheless, the lack of a defined path to victory will make this deck difficult to play. With the Standard rotation happening before Worlds, Mewtwo & Mew-GX could fall flat—or a player could perfect Perfection and rise to the top.
We asked our panel what else players should keep in mind as they prepare for Worlds.
Robin Schulz: Without Guzma in the format, the Shedinja Control deck is a very scary threat in the Worlds metagame. Be sure to prepare a strategy for dealing with it, whether in the form of Ninetales or anti-Tool cards like Lysandre Labs or Faba.
The lack of easy “Catcher” effects might be the biggest difference between the new and old format, and it will be important for decks to adjust accordingly. It's as important as ever to find ways to interact with the opponent's Bench, so players should have very good reasons if deciding not to include them in their decks.
Ellis Longhurst: Heading into the 2019 World Championships, there is a significant amount of hype around Pokémon-GX and TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX. These Pokémon have powerful attacks and/or Abilities, but they give up two or three Prize cards when Knocked Out. By applying pressure to Pokémon-GX using one or more single-prize attackers, competitors can potentially swing a match in their favor. Under the right circumstances, Pokémon like Buzzwole, Tapu Fini, and Nihilego can even Knock Out a Pokémon-GX in one hit! Trading prizes favorably is a smart way to earn a victory—and perhaps even a World Championship title.
Christopher Schemanske: I think it's important for players to just enjoy the moment. Worlds has always been special to me, as I think it is to many others, for the unparalleled atmosphere. Players from around the world are present all for the same reason, but with so many different backgrounds and experiences that led them there—it's truly a magical place. I've had mixed levels of Worlds success over the years, finding some pretty interesting ways to make some days go awry (including last time in DC!), but it's always the highlight of my season. I expect this year, while a different experience, to be the same. A special congratulations and good luck to everyone making their first journey to Worlds this year—have fun!
Stéphane Ivanoff: The Worlds format definitely favors Basic Pokémon, which are much easier to get into play since we lack the consistency cards of last season. Still, without Guzma in the format, it's easier for Pokémon to stay in play until they reach their highest Evolution stage, so there is hope that we'll see some Evolution Pokémon surprise us at Worlds. I've got my eye on two specific Pokémon from Sun & Moon—Unified Minds: Naganadel-GX, whose Ultra Conversion Ability reminds me of my beloved Zoroark-GX; and Beheeyem, whose Mysterious Noise is a unique attack you could build a deck around. Both of these Pokémon can make great use of Triple Acceleration Energy, and I'm sure that creative deck builders will try to make them work. I hope they'll succeed!
Kenny Wisdom: If I were playing in the World Championships, I would be most concerned with remembering to effectively play with and against Reset Stamp. Similar effects have existed in the Pokémon TCG before, but it's easy to forget exactly how powerful and format-shaping these hand-reducing cards can be. Unlike N before it, Reset Stamp isn't necessarily a card that every deck can afford to play multiple copies of, much less an entire playset. With this being the case, it's going to be equally important to understand when to play your own Reset Stamp as it is to know when to play around it. I suspect well-timed Reset Stamps are going to decide a lot of matches in DC, and I'd encourage you to be on the winning side of that as much as possible.
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 and 2019 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.