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“Punching Above Your Weight Class” – Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX/Mismagius Hand Lock for UPR–HIF/Atlantic City/Köln

Hello everyone! With Sheffield Regionals behind us, players are starting to use information from that event to shape their testing and Deck decisions for Atlantic City, Köln, and Knoxville soon after. Hidden Fates has been legal for play for a small while now and not made too much of an impact—largely due to such a low amount of new Standard-legal cards being introduced at a meager 55. Many players were anticipating Jessie & James overtaking the Standard format due to its immediate banning in Expanded, but the results from Sheffield paint a very different story. Of the 55 players in Day 2 of the event, there was only 1 player who was publicly known to have ran it, Alessandro Cremascoli. From Hidden Fates, the other card that was expected to make a splash was the latest Charizard-GX SM211, a promo card from the elusive Hidden Fates tins. It was mainly seen as a 1-of in Mewtwo & Mew-GX lists as a way to 1-shot 140-HP Pokémon unconditionally and hit 300-HP Pokémon via its GX attack.

Sheffield Breakdown / The Meta

For completion’s sake, here is the Day 2 meta breakdown from Sheffield Regionals:

  • Reshiram & Charizard-GX: 18/55 (32.73%)
  • Pikachu & Zekrom-GX: 8/55 (14.55%)
  • Mewtwo & Mew-GX: 8/55 (14.55%)
  • Malamar: 6/55 (10.91%)
  • Blacephalon-GX: 4/55 (7.27%)
  • Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX: 3/55 (5.45%)
  • Oranguru/Pidgeotto: 3/55 (5.45%)
  • Blacephalon UNB: 1/55 (1.82%)
  • Keldeo-GX/Bronzong TEU: 1/55 (1.82%)
  • Quagsire DRM/Naganadel LOT: 1/55 (1.82%)
  • Shedinja Control: 1/55: (1.82%)
  • Dark Box: 1/55 (1.82%)

So what does all this mean for the meta? ReshiZard decks still have a hold as the most popular deck—and for good reason too. Having a powerhouse of an attacker and strong support in the forms of a type-specific Gust effect and type-specific Energy acceleration is nothing to scoff at. These decks even have a phenomenal card-selection engine in Jirachi TEU, a staple in Standard since its release. Alex Schemanske wrote a wonderful article last week better outlining this deck and its options.

Going further, we have PikaRom and Mew Box as the next most popular options in the current meta. The former provides a fast clock, and the latter is perhaps the best toolbox deck in the format. Between options like Charizard-GX HIF, Solgaleo-GX SM104, and Latios-GX UNM, Mewtwo & Mew-GX can pressure from a myriad of angles.

Despite having only three copies in Day 2, the last deck I’ll touch on is Oranguru/Pidgeotto Control, which placed as high as Top 4. It was theorized this deck may be the best-suited option to abuse the destructive power of Jessie & James, but it’s apparent Fabien Pujol and Mehdi Hafi thought otherwise. It’s not publicly known if Sander Wojcik played any copies, so I can’t comment one way or another there. The argument here is Oranguru already seeks to lock your opponent out of the game via Energy denial then slowly loop itself until your opponent decks themself out. Jessie & James can be a luxury card here because it merely speeds up the clock—and in a best-of-three format, this can actually be counter-productive. Your goal is to win a long enough Game 1 that your opponent cannot win Game 2 and force a draw in Game 3. By Game 1 going too quickly, the odds of you drawing the match instead of winning increase quite a bit.

This all being said, I truly feel there is untapped potential in Jessie & James that’s yet to be unlocked in a major tournament setting. For the past few weeks, I’ve been theorizing and testing a new archetype that would abuse Jessie & James to its fullest extent and produce a large amount of non-games—that is a game in which one player steamrolls the other by locking them out of the game in some fashion from early on. In this case, it’s discarding your opponent’s entire hand.

Mismagius Hand Lock

Pokémon – 13

3 Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX
4 Misdreavus UNB
4 Mismagius UNB
2 Dedenne-GX

Trainers – 37

4 Jessie & James

4 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

4 Dusk Stone
4 Mysterious Treasure
4 Order Pad

4 Pokégear 3.0

3 Beast Ring
3 Cherish Ball
3 Reset Stamp
2 Pokémon Communication

2 Shrine of Punishment

Energy – 10

9 Grass
1 Beast {*}

The Combo

This deck, at its core, is similar to the Zoroark-GX Exodia build that was played in Expanded last season. On your first turn of the game, you reduce your opponent’s hand to 0 cards then proceed to overrun them with a powerful attacker. While the combo of this particular deck is more convoluted than that of the Zoroark-GX Exodia deck, it’s nothing to shy away from.

The combo basically involves evolving Misdreavus the same turn it’s played thanks to Dusk Stone, using its Mysterious Message Ability at least twice, playing Lt. Surge’s Strategy, using Reset Stamp to reduce your opponent’s hand to 4 or fewer cards, then playing 2 copies of Jessie & James to reduce their hand even further to 0. This forces a situation where they can really only depend on the top card of their deck as an answer.

By knocking out Mismagius with its Ability, you can force your opponent to take Prize cards without them having ever attacked into you. This allows for you to play come-from-behind cards like Lt. Surge’s Strategy and Reset Stamp to great effect. Before continuing, I will add that this deck can encounter variance—and as such, I much prefer it in a best-of-three environment over a best-of-one setting.

The rest of the deck is either built around finding pieces to your combo or supporting your game once you develop the lock. Your main attacker is Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX. Since you are dropping your opponent to 4 or fewer Prizes—usually 3 or 4 total—you can abuse the Energy acceleration and deck-thinning of Beast Ring. This allows you to quickly power up Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX to swing with either Elegant Sole or Beast Game-GX in a plan similar to that seen in Frank Percic’s Quagsire DRM/Naganadel LOT deck which he used to make Day 2 of Madison Regionals 2019 or in some Archie’s Blastoise lists.

Supporters

4 Jessie & James, 4 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

Due to the nature of the deck, there aren’t any traditional draw Supporters—or any Supporters outside of Lt. Surge’s Strategy or Jessie & James. Adding other Supporters would simply decrease the consistency of locking your opponent and detract from the overall game plan. You tend to have all the draw power you need anyway, thanks to 4 copies of Mismagius UNB and 2 Dedenne-GX. I’ve found the best way to sequence your draw options is to save Dedenne-GX until you have a hand of 5–7 dead cards and can toss them in the discard pile for a fresh hand of 6. You draw through your deck so quickly that cards like Pokégear 3.0 and Order Pad typically find you outs to whatever Supporter you need in a given sequence.

Item Search

The Pokémon Item search can seem a bit unintuitive at first, so I’ll briefly address it count-by-count.

4 Dusk Stone

4 copies of Dusk Stone is fully necessary for finding your Turn 1 Mismagius.

4 Mysterious Treasure

The utility of Mysterious Treasure is two-pronged in a deck like this. First and foremost, it finds your copies of Misdreavus. Secondly, it can serve for as high as a net -2 cards in hand to draw more cards off of Mysterious Message. A common theme you’ll experience with the deck is digging as hard as you can, and discarding extraneous cards with Mysterious Treasure then failing the search is a powerful way to do that.

3 Cherish Ball

3 copies of Cherish Ball is primarily for finding your Dedenne-GX, but is dual-purpose and also fetches Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX in a pinch. Despite the “1 Dedechange Ability per turn” clause on Dedenne-GX, we still want to run 2 copies. This not only protects us from unfortunate prizing, but also provides some degree of longevity in case the hand lock whiffs. I’ve also found myself using Cherish Ball and failing the search to reduce my hand size, similar to what I discussed with Mysterious Treasure.

2 Pokémon Communication

Now comes the somewhat awkward part of the search counts: 2 Pokémon Communication. With as few Pokémon as this deck runs, Pokémon Communication is dead in some hands. But on the flip side, without it there will be hands where you draw into a Mismagius and can’t play it immediately. Mismagius are better in your deck than in hand. There are additionally some niche situations where you can use Pokémon Communication to find one of your Pokémon-GX or a Misdreavus. It also has use with certain tech options that will be discussed later.

2 Shrine of Punishment

Shrine of Punishment is one of the more unconventional cards in this list—especially given how fragile Dedenne-GX is—but I assure you it has a positive use. The card essentially aids in setting up a Beast Game-GX turn versus TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX. In scenarios like these, you will likely swing for 190 damage with Elegant Sole. Shrine of Punishment takes this up to 200, then again ticks up to 210 going back into your turn. At this point, Beast Game-GX will take a knockout on 240-HP Pokémon. To hit the 250–270-HP range, you simply need Beast Energy {*} on either turn. If you don’t hit the Beast Energy {*}, a Jet Punch can help your Beast Game-GX math as well in these scenarios.

Other Options

I’ll full-on admit I don’t believe this list is perfect, but I do think it’s a good place to start. I’ve gone back and forth on adding other cards to the deck, and most of them are ones I could see making the cut in a tournament-ready list.

Weezing HIF

This is a card that has come in and out of my list on several occasions, usually swapping with the 4th copy of Order Pad. When discarded with Jessie & James, you can trigger Weezing’s Surrender Now Ability and make your opponent discard an additional card. This allows scenarios where you can double Jessie & James an opponent on 5 Prizes and still lock them out of the game, or single Jessie & James an opponent on 3 Prizes. It also becomes searchable via Mysterious Treasure or Pokémon Communication, and is a good option to toss with either of those cards as well. There are interesting lines of play in a mirror situation where you discard a Weezing from an opponent’s Jessie & James, which can occasionally disrupt their plan, but it isn’t good enough to include in a list purely for that reason.

Chip-Chip Ice Axe

When I initially drafted lists for this archetype, Chip-Chip Ice Axe was often the 61st–63rd card. It helps to develop a stronger lock by selecting your opponent’s top card of their deck instead of leaving it solely to chance. By extension, Hiker has potential here too, but at the cost of using your Supporter for turn. With cards like Marshadow SLG being rotated, I feel Chip-Chip Ice Axe is less necessary, as it often decreases consistency at the end of the day. It’s also only usable during similar times as when you would Jessie & James your opponent.

Pal Pad

This is a card I haven’t yet tested but is next up on my list to try. The combo can sometimes struggle if you have to discard copies of Jessie & James early on, so Pal Pad can grab those copies back and allow you to dig for them with a higher success rate. In case the game does go longer, you can bring back a 5th and 6th copy of Jessie & James to re-lock your opponent again and again.

Weakness Guard Energy

The most recent suggestion for this deck comes from the hands of my friend Zak Turchansky. In theory, it helps the ReshiZard matchup because now you can’t be 1-shotted unless your opponent loads up 6 Energy on a Reshiram & Charizard-GX. This being said, if I’m attaching an Energy from hand for turn, I’d much rather be attaching Beast Energy {*}.

Counters

So if this deck is designed to lock your opponent out of the game, what options does your opponent have to mitigate these effects? The most common one is Jirachi TEU. Who needs to worry about having a hand when you can just grab a Supporter off of your top 5 cards in deck? Quite honestly, the rise of Ability-focused ReshiZard variants has me slightly concerned about the viability of the Mismagius Hand Lock deck. Against these variants, I almost recommend going second to set up an Elegant Sole knockout on Jirachi for the same turn you lock them. This is possible due to Energy acceleration with Beast Ring. The truly difficult scenario is when your opponent opens double Jirachi, meaning a knockout does almost nothing.

A more niche—but more powerful—counter is Zebstrika LOT. When your opponent doesn’t have much to lose from discarding a hand of 0 to 1 cards, Zebstrika gains extreme relevance. This being said, being a Stage 1 Pokémon, Zebstrika will have issues hitting the board after the lock happens. The trade-off here is obviously consistency for strength.

Conclusion

When I get bored, I tend to do what I can to push the meta as far as it will bend, with this deck being the latest experiment with that. Historically, Pokémon as a game has favored decks that prevent your opponent from playing how they would ideally play, as long as you pose a threat on the board in conjunction with it. The game also favors decks that hit hard and fast. Mismagius Hand Lock seeks to do both in a swift fashion.

While I won’t be playing in either Atlantic City, Köln, or Knoxville Regionals, I’ll still be in attendance of Knoxville and will continue to test and perfect this archetype as if I was playing it. I feel confident it has the ability to do major damage on a format that doesn’t inherently have many answers to it—and as such, it would be my play for both Regionals at this time.



This post first appeared on Sixprizes.com - Pokemon Cards Explained By The Mas, please read the originial post: here

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“Punching Above Your Weight Class” – Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX/Mismagius Hand Lock for UPR–HIF/Atlantic City/Köln

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