Ethan's Japan City League winning Gardevoir

Ethan's Japan City League winning Gardevoir

Hey everyone! I’m Ethan, better known as “Hegster” by some.  Right now I’m living in Tokyo Japan, and am experiencing all that the competitive circuit here has to offer; from large events called Champions Leagues, to smaller but still important events called City Leagues.These City leagues can be entered once per quarter, and take place all across Japan, with the goal being to earn enough points from all four of your City League placements to be ranked within the top “X” players, thus giving you an invitation to the Pokémon World Championships. It’s expected that players will need to earn around 250 points from City Leagues to be ranked high enough to qualify. For those curious, the point breakdown for City Leagues is as follows:

1st: 100 Points

2nd: 75 Points

Top 4: 50 Points

Top 8: 25 Points

The system is cutthroat and extremely difficult due to the amount of consistency you need to qualify for worlds. Not to mention, everything is best of 1 including the top 8. Essentially you need to top cut every single City League in the season, as well as bring in usually 2-3 Finals Appearances to secure yourself a spot. Now that City Leagues and the format have been thoroughly explained I’d like to share how I found success at my first City League of the year with a deck I’ve grown quite comfortable with: Gardevoir!

Embracing Gardevoir’s Power

So why Gardevoir? This format has a unique factor of there being so many different decks to consider when deciding what to play for an event, especially as important as this one. So why pick Gardevoir as the deck of choice? Well there are a variety of reasons. The most beautiful way I can describe Gardevoir as a deck is that you can never count it out. When your main attackers are single-prize Pokémon and your early game does not require you to put multi prize Pokémon into play, you have the flexibility to struggle in the first few turns, but still come back later on. That’s what makes Gardevoir so appealing in my opinion. I can have a super slow start, yet still through careful navigation, win games when my opponent has taken two, three, or even in some rare cases four prize cards before I have dealt any damage. On top of that, the deck has one of the most powerful draw engines in the format, a variety of attackers, and when looking at its matchup spread, has some cards it does not like to face up against, but has no auto-loss matchups so to say. In summary, it’s a deck that can come back, be consistent, and win against anything. For those reasons and more, Gardevoir has been a deck that I’ve found comfort in ever since it gained powerful tools in Paldea Evolved. And it got even stronger with the release of Paradox Rift, gaining several new toys to make the deck even more powerful. With an even more versatile set of tools at its disposal, I aimed to create a Gardevoir list that was not only consistent enough for the best of 1 format that I would be playing in, but also strong enough to deal with the meta threats I was sure to face at my City League.

The List

1 Mirage Step

There are lots of circumstances where Mirage Step Kirlia is a very good card. Mainly in the mirror match it is important to use this to get your Kirlias out so that you can develop your board as best as possible early on. This is because the matchup usually becomes a back and forth to see who can develop a better board so that they can find Boss or a big knockout onto Gardevoir ex after being Iono’d down to a low hand size. On top of that, if your hand isn’t great to start, having Mirage Step and your Refinement Kirlias in deck ensure you will have a strong set up by the third turn of the game after you use Mirage Step. 

1 Scream Tail

This card is a welcomed inclusion from Paradox Rift. Combined with Cresselia and Shining Arcana Gardevoir, you now get the option to choose whether to deal big damage to the active, place damage counters on one of your opponent’s Pokmeon, or deal snipe damage anywhere you’d like. Scream Tail also pairs great with late-game Iono plus Counter Catcher to bring up a heavy retreater into the active spot, put your opponent down to a low hand size, and take knockouts or set up Pokémon on the bench to be knocked out in future turns. 

1 Cresselia

Some people choose to dedicate this slot to Jirachi, and while I feel jirachi can be a strong card in this deck, Cresselia provides so much utility in a variety of matchups. For example, in the mirror match, if your opponent has a Manaphy in play, the only way you would be able to pressure your opponent’s Kirlias/Gardevoirs is by playing a gusting card, which you want to save for later. However, with Cresselia, you can take knockouts on Kirlias without playing gusting cards, while also accelerating energy into play without leaving damage on those Pokémon.

1 Zacian V

This card is a personal comfort pick for me, as I’ve been using it in Gardevoir quite a lot through its various iterations. However, I feel that both this and the newly released Luxurious Cape serve almost the same purpose: To take one-hit knockouts late in the game. Personally though, I prefer using Zacian V since it also serves a purpose in the Lost Box matchup as an early game attacker as well as against Giratina in some circumstances.  

4 Battle VIP Pass

Recently there has been lots of discussion on whether or not battle pass should be played in Gardevoir right now. We’ve seen both versions do well here in Japan, as well as recently seeing one get Top 4 at the Latin America International Championships without including any copies of Battle VIP Pass. Personally though, I believe that VIP Pass should be played in gardevoir. Not to get into too much detail, but the main idea is especially if you go second, you really need to pop off and build a strong board against certain threats in the format that are super aggressive such as Iron Hands ex and Iron Valiant ex. Without battle pass, it can be a struggle to get out a bunch of Ralts early on in the game, thus making your setup a little slower than what it might need to be to keep up. 

2 Rare Candy

A third Rare candy was on the list of cards I considered playing in this deck before the event but decided to use the deck slots on other cards. Having another rare candy is a solid way to have another out to early pressure with turn 2 Gardevoir, or later on in the game, get Shining Arcana Gardevoir into play. However, it’s not the next card on my list to be added to the deck. That card would most likely be Jirachi for its ability; helping out against the Lost Zone decks that have been popping up more recently, as well as having utility in the Gardevoir mirror match.

2 Counter Catcher

I would argue this is the best new card Gardevoir got access to with the release of Paradox Rift. The ability to play gust on an item and still have access to either draw more cards for the turn, or combine the gusting effect with Iono to disrupt your opponent cannot be understated. Plus it pairs so well with Scream Tail (as I mentioned earlier) to trap a Pokémon and take knockouts on benched Pokémon. 

2 Avery

This card I feel has always been good in Gardevoir, but its status has now been elevated thanks to the release of Scream Tail. With Avery, your opponent is put into a difficult situation as they are forced to only keep 3 of their benched Pokémon, discarding the rest. If they are playing Manaphy and Jirachi to attempt to stop the pressure both Cresselia and Scream Tail can apply to benched Pokémon, they are left with a difficult choice: keep Manaphy and Jirachi, discarding all but one of their other important attackers or support Pokémon on their bench and leaving them with a super weak board (especially if you follow this up by taking a knock out on their active Pokémon). Or give up on their bench protection and discard either one or both Jirachi/Manaphy. 90/100 times, the latter option will occur, and you’ll be able to be unchecked when it comes to choosing which of your opponents Pokémon you want to attack.

1 Worker

This slot was Professor’s Research for a while when playing this deck, but it was cut in the upcoming days due to the partial rise in decks playing Path to The Peak that I expected to play against. I also feel that while Professor’s Research is a solid card late in the game when you are Iono’d to a low hand size, early on it usually isn’t as good as just drawing 3 cards due to the large amount of resources you would be forced to discard in return for you drawing 7 cards. There are instances where it is good to have Research, but Worker felt like the safer option. 

1 Moonlit Hill

Now this is a Promo Card available and legal for play here in Japan, but has yet to be released in the West. For those unfamiliar it reads: Once during your turn you may discard a Psychic energy from your hand, if you do, heal 30 damage from each of your Pokémon. Now this card has a variety of uses. It can help you power up a Shining Arcana Gardevoir to attack with 8 energies on it with none on it to begin the turn (6 psychic embrace abilities putting it to 20 HP remaining, then using the stadium to heal it, leaving it with 50 HP remaining, then using 2 more psychic embrace abilities to leave it with 8 energies attached and 10 HP remaining), heal your damaged Pokémon if your opponent used something like Sableye’s Lost Mine attack to set up multiple Pokémon to be knocked out on their next turn, or just as another way to get more psychic energy into the discard pile to fuel Gardevoir ex’s Psychic Embrace ability. If you’re looking to play this list without the card legal in your area, Lost Vacuum or Artazon are both solid replacements. 

1 Collapsed Stadium

A great card in this list that was used a bunch in the tournament. I highly suggest that if you are playing this deck to include this in your deck list because of the variety of practical uses it has. It can be a way to get rid of an unwanted Pokémon on your bench, or limit your opponents bench. And it can discard damaged Pokémon on your side of play, denying your opponent from taking 2 prizes the following turn if you get rid of Gardevoir ex for example. 

All right! That’s all the notable cards from the list, now let’s get into how the Tournament went down!

Tournament Report 

Round 1: Roaring Moon W

I went first and got down 2 Ralts, plus a Manaphy to block against Moonlight Shuriken just in case my opponent was playing Radiant Greninja and water energies. My opponent took a prize with Morpeko Turn 1, to which I followed up with a Mirage step, getting all my Kirlias into play. Due to my Kirlias not having dark weakness and 80 HP, my opponent was forced to take the knockout on my Kirlia with Roaring Moon ex and went down to 4 prizes. From there, I used Shining Arcana Gardevoir to take 2 prizes to even things up at 4, and from that point on it was smooth sailing. Counter Catcher was online the next turn to gust around the Morpeko, and a Reversal Energy on my Shining Arcana Gardevoir meant I only needed to use psychic embrace 3 times to take the Knockout on Roaring Moon ex; putting me out of range from Morpeko taking a knockout. But it didn’t matter; my opponent gusted another Pokémon, went down to 2 prizes, and I took my last 2 prizes by dealing 160 damage to my opponent’s Squakabily ex with Scream Tail to close out the game. 

Round 2: Miraidon W

I had a very slow start. My opponent’s Path to the Peak was sticking and I was unable to find Gardevoirs (Shining Arcana or ex). My opponent did have a slow start too but was able to attack with Raikou V and take 3 prizes before I took one. In the turns of drawing dead, I hit a Raikou for 10 damage with Teleportation Burst, and finally got out of path to KO Raikou with Gardevoir ex thanks to the ten damage previously placed on the Raikou V. My opponent then responded by taking two prizes with Iron hands + rope. However they benched Mew ex, so I played counter catcher, and then played Iono while also benching Zacian, forcing them to have a gusting card to win off Iono to 1. I took the prize with gardevoir ex, they whiffed Boss, and I took the final 2 with Zacian + Boss on Miraidon ex.

Round 3: Roaring Moon W

The game started the same as my round 1 match. However, my opponent went down to 3 prizes before I was able to finally take a knockout onto a Roaring Moon to go to 4 prizes. An important note is that both my counter catchers were prized, which is crucial since you need to gust around Morpeko to make your prize mapping be knocking out three 2-prize Pokémon. My opponent KO’d my Shining Arcana with Morpeko, putting them down to 2 prizes. I played the Counter Catcher I took off my prizes, while powering up another Shining Arcana Gardevoir. Then to top it off I played a Collapsed Stadium to discard my Gardevoir ex out of play to make it so my opponent couldn’t win the next turn. They took the forced 1 prize card on the Shining Arcana Gardevoir with Roaring Moon ex since with Reversal Energy it was unable to be knocked out by Morpeko. I then put another Gardevoir ex into play, benched Zacian, powered it up, and Storm Slashed for the game.

Round 4: Gardevoir W

My opponent really struggled to set up. They went first but I guess the Iono I played on the first turn going second put them in a spot where they were unable to use Mirage Step, or get a lot of Kirlias out. From there I just developed my board to be better than theirs by using my own Mirage Step, and through that was able to string attackers more easily and eventually win the prize trade back combined with late game disruption via Iono.

Round 5: Giratina W

I really don’t like taking the prize lead in this matchup unless I am in a spot where there are no lines for me to lose. I damaged both Giratina V with via cresselia; setting them up for later, while also getting energy accelerated into play without damaging my Pokémon because I did not play Jirachi. The combination of Cresselia, plus counter catcher and Iono later in the game was too much for my opponent to respond. I used Cresselia to take 1 prize, Shining Arcana Gardevoir took a 1 prize knockout as well as a knockout on a Giratina V, and I finished the game with a 6 energy knockout on a VSTAR thanks to Cresselia putting damage on the Giratina earlier in the game.

5-0 first seed going into cut

Top 8: Fusion Mew W

My start was really rough, which sucked since I was also going second. My opponent KO’d one of my two Ralts in play turn 2 with Boss, and I was able to respond by benching another Ralts, playing Rare Candy to evolve into Gardevoir ex, and KOing Eiscue on the bench with Scream Tail. My opponent judged me and KO’d my scream tail. I responded by playing Counter Catcher to bring up a Genesect V, KOing it with a Gardevoir ex that had 40 damage on it via 2 Psychic Embrace abilities. Since my opponent’s Mew VMAX had a box of disasters and a DTE, it would take three Power Tablets to knock out my Gardevoir ex. Of course my opponent found the three Power Tablets needed to KO my Gardevoir ex, on top of playing Iono, putting him down to 2 prizes and me at 3. This was a big turn for me. I needed to set up some way to win in 2 turns. I played super rod to shuffle my Scream Tail back into the deck, and played Avery. My opponent discarded his board down to: Mew Vmax with a Box of Disaster active, 2 Genesects, and a Mew V left in play. I noticed that my opponent was down 2 Mew V in the discard pile as well as 2 Fusion Energy, with the 3rd being on the benched Mew V. I understood that if I damaged the active Mew VMAX with Scream Tail one of three things would happen: 1. My opponent would Psychic Leap with the damaged Mew VMAX, forcing Genesect into the active, and removing the damage and Mew VMAX from play. However this would leave him with just the Mew V on the bench as the only attacker, meaning if I could knock out that Pokémon I would take out the only Pokémon that could deal damage to me next turn, thus taking two prizes and my final prize the next turn. 2. Evolve the bench Mew V into Mew VMAX and attack something, but with that play I could just power up a Zacian V and take a one hit knockout. Or 3. Just attack with the active damaged Mew VMAX, but that play would just lose my opponent the game next turn. All 3 scenarios felt like winning options for me, and so my opponent chose the first option, Psychic Leaping, promoting Genesect and going down to 1 prize. To which I responded by finding my last Counter Catcher, playing it to bring up the Mew V on the bench, and taking the knockout. My opponent had no way to attack and conceded the match.

Top 4: Lost box W

I got off to a strong start. Got Zacian V & 3 Ralts down, attached an energy to Zacian V, and used the Roar of the Sword ability so I could attack with Zacian V next turn if my opponent knocked out my active Ralts with Cramorant, which they did. No Colress’s Experiment was played, though, so I took the chance to push my aggression by playing Counter Catcher and knocked out the only Comfey my opponent had in play with Zacian V. He wasn’t able to use flower selecting or play Colress’s Experiment with his weak hand, so all he could try and do was stall a few turns by playing counter catcher to bring other Pokémon into the active spot in hopes of me being unable to retreat and attack. I was able to pivot back into Zacian V to continue attacking, and got to develop an insane board as I wasn’t put under heavy pressure. My opponent eventually played Roxane, but at that point it was too little too late as I was way too far ahead to come back, winning the game and advancing to the Finals.

Finals: Gardevoir W

I would be going second in this final mirror match, and an important one at that. We both set up and used Mirage Step, but he had a Kirlia prized and I didn't. Even though he Mirage Steps first, his lack of Kirlia and him burning a super rod early means I have the tempo even if he has the early prize lead. I pick off all of his Kirlias with my Cresselia as he has no Jirachi to prevent it. We then go back and forth taking prizes on benched Kirlias and Gardevoirs. Eventually he takes a KO on my ex while behind, but I’m prepared. I KO his only form of draw in his Shining Arcana with my Cresslia, and Iono him to 2. He has no draw from there, and I’m able to knock out his Gardevoir ex with Shining Arcana Gardevoir to take my last 2 prize cards, and win the tournament


Closing Thoughts

Gardevoir is an incredibly versatile and powerful deck that stands above the rest in the standard format, and I’m glad I was able to pilot it to a win in my first step towards Honolulu Hawaii in 2024. I feel like I played almost as perfectly as I could throughout the event, the only thing I still have questions about is where the list stands. I feel like Jirachi is probably a good inclusion in the deck moving forward, but space is tight so there aren’t any obvious cuts in my mind. If you’d like to play Jirachi I think the best cuts in my mind are cutting Zacian V and either Battle VIP Pass or Level Ball for Jirachi and Luxurious Cape. Besides that the rest of the list felt great, and I wouldn’t make any other adjustments moving forward!

A big thank you to TCEevolutions for featuring this article on their page! With only 25 minutes to play best of 1 here in Japan, any time saved is crucial. Their High Count Damage Dice allow me to quickly put damage dealt on my Pokémon, so that I don’t have to waste any extra time like I normally would with loads of dice, or the acrylic counters popular here in Japan. Definitely one of my favorite products I have been using while playing in Japan.
Make sure to follow me on X:  @hegstertcg, where I post everything from meta analysis, deck list, and more! I’ll also be opening up my coaching again soon, so if you found the information in this article comprehensive, and want to learn the skills you need to start winning games, send me a message on X, or contact me at: Signing off for now!
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