Taking out the Trash: Combating Garbodor at Madison and Beyond

An Update on HeyTrainer

It’s been a while since we’ve had an entry! That’s because HT’s been undergoing some aesthetic changes:

* New content management system. We’ve retired the old custom-made system and replaced it with WordPress.
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An Update on the Metagame, and Why Trash Triumphed

For those who have been living under a rock, Guardians Rising came out last month, and it has already had a huge impact. With over 2/3s of the day two finishers in Seattle being some variant of Garbodor, it’s almost as if the entire pre-Guardians metagame was erased for this one tournament.

Sam Chen, who several of you may recognize as last year’s Iron Chef deckbuilding contest champion, came out of Seattle Regionals victorious. Below is his winning list:

Sam's List />

Garbodor/Drampa GX/Tauros GX was by far the better-performing variant, and while I was a bit surprised to see it represented so heavily, I’m not surprised to see it outmuscle the Espeon GX variants. While both versions put up a great showing, head-to-head the more consistent, diverse Drampa/Tauros builds simply fare better when paired against their Espeon GX counterparts.

So what made Garbodor such a dominant force in Seattle?

1. It’s one of the best decks in the format. While Garbodor’s title for absolute best in format is certainly up for contention, I can only think of a handful of people who would have ever placed it below the top three or five decks in Standard. And because it’s new, shiny, and obviously good, people were excited to play it.

2. Seattle was the best time to play Garbodor. Many players still overuse their Items, resulting in huge losses to Trashalanche. Many lists still run extra Items they don’t need, resulting in even or positive matchups turning negative. In short, people were the least prepared for it they ever would be, and people running Garbodor benefitted greatly from that.

3. People are now a lot savvier to new archetypes. Whereas Anaheim had players wrongly ignoring the new cards, the subsequent rise of Decidueye GX/Vileplume primed people to understand how format-defining (format-defiling?) Garbodor would turn out to become.

Deckbuilding and Playing Decisions to Trash Trashalanche

1. Practice against both major variants of Garbodor, with Drampa GX and with Espeon GX. The star of the mid-game may be Garbodor itself, but Drampa and Espeon influence the early game in radically different ways. Drampa punishes overreliance on Special Energy, threatens OHKO’s, and is an ever-present threat for major draw power; Espeon GX threatens spread, Confusion, and attaching too much Energy. If you’re aware of all the awkward situations both cards can put you into, then you’ll be able to up your win % with a non-Garbodor deck.

2. Play your Items carefully. This may seem like new advice, but it’s actually what you more or less should be doing in normal games: not wasting your VS Seekers, waiting to drop Tools at the right moment, etc. What makes playing against Garbodor different though is that you get rewarded heavily for subtle plays. Take for example Talonflame STS’s Aero Blitz: While sometimes you may want to search out an Ultra Ball for one of your Deck search targets, planning to Discard worthless cards in your Hand for the next turn or to just keep your options open, you may instead search directly for the Pokémon you know you are most likely to need. That in turn saves you at least 20 Damage from Trashalanche, and could prevent numerous bad domino effect situations from happening later in the game.

3. Rethink the Items you’re playing in your lists. Some cards are not all that expendable, but even now I’m considering dropping Trainers’ Mail in concepts like Decidueye for good. So far that’s helped me a lot in the Garbodor matchup, and I’m looking forward to seeing what changes can be brought to other lists to beat Garbodor. Other players, like Drew Allen, have tried some even less conventional list choices, such as cutting the fourth VS Seeker for another Supporter – in his case, playing a third Lysandre.

Some Deck Ideas to Beat Garbodor

Finally, here are a couple off-the-wall deck ideas to help you combat Garbodor variants, especially if Garbodor makes another big showing! While they’re both very consistent, neither list is optimized to any metagame, and I’m unsure about how well they fare against the rest of the format. Nevertheless, these lists are illustrative of some of the ways you can beat Garbodor, and as a strong supplement to any rogue ideas you’ve been brewing lately.

    • Metagross GX/Dhelmise

Good matchups: Garbodor, Sylveon
Bad matchups: Greninja, Volcanion

Ever since Metagross GX came out, it’s a card that’s fascinated me not only because of its options against other attackers, but its ability to sustain swarming. Dhelmise, Choice Band, and Professor Kukui make it an even stronger attacker, rising up to one-shot the vast majority of major Pokémon in the format.

Despite running a whole bunch of Rare Candies and mostly ignoring the advice to “rethink the Items you’re playing in your lists” discussed above, Psychic Resistance and OHKOs on every single attacker in any variant of Garbodor offers you a favorable matchup against that deck. Of course, the major hurdle beyond Garbodor is…the rest of the format. Ability lock, Weakness, and even Espeon EX’s Devolving capabilities are real pains to Metagross GX. Even with Magearna EX, Greninja’s Shadow Stitching has proven surprisingly effective at devastating the deck.

Perhaps Metagross needs a bit more reimagining to beat the rest of the metagame. But at least it does a respectable job against the Standard format’s bogeyman.

    • Zygarde EX/Carbink

Good matchups: Garbodor, Darkrai
Bad matchups: Decidueye, Lapras GX

Zygarde appears to cover both major Garbodor variants very well. With multiple Pokémon Center Lady, you dominate Espeon, and with Fighting weakness, you likewise dominate Drampa GX. This design in turn means that Zygarde effectively tanks anything that can’t reach up to OHKO it. Unfortunately, that excludes most Weakness-based decks and Lapras GX, both of which did reasonably well in Seattle’s sea of garbage last week.

One quirk I’d like to draw your attention to is Brooklet Hill’s strange utility in this list. Because we run Brooklet Hill, we also have access to Vulpix GUR; and because we have access to Vulpix, we gain even easier access to every Pokémon in the deck, making the list capable of insane consistency. It also allows for some really fun situational tricks, such as searching out a Sudowoodo when your opponent appears to be over-relying on a single empty Bench space.

From a metagame perspective, I feel like Zygarde has more potential to break out than Metagross GX, and I feel like it’s much less likely to drop games to Garbodor. That said, Zygarde also has some huge holes against the metagame, and thus may require some reimagining in its own right. Perhaps last year’s Zygarde EX/Vileplume AOR could make a comeback?


Get comfy with the stench of Garbodor, because it’s going to linger for a long time. However, it can be defeated, and is a much more balanced deterrence to Items than Vileplume ever was. Just be sure to play your best, rethink your lists, and maybe even rethink your deck choice.

2 thoughts on “Taking out the Trash: Combating Garbodor at Madison and Beyond”

  1. How do you like the new GUR Lycanroc as a possible inclusion in the Zygarde deck, John? No great synergy but the ability could be useful in bringing up a benched Tauros or Drampa and the attacks are decentish.

    1. Hey, Rich! I actually like the idea of Lycanroc GX with Zygarde — gives the deck a good GX attack and auto-gusting.

      After this past weekend’s Regional in Madison, it looks like Metagross was a great call, but Zygarde not so much. Eager to see what happens to both decks, though.

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