Team Challenge—Summer Qualifiers Meta

Christopher Schemanske
June 18, 2021

Do you remember the feeling of spending a Friday night super worked-up trying to out-analyze the metagame for the next day's League Cup, coming up with a brilliant plan, and walking in the next day to find out you've made a horrible mistake (or, if you're a lucky one, a prophetic revelation)? Team Challenge metagames have that same kind of vibe, only with the extra-strange dynamic that there won't be any players from 3 states over to round out the meta with whatever's hot over there these days. There's an infinitely wide spread of decks—no other tournament is going to facilitate 75 Sandaconda players!—but a nonexistent margin for error, with only the winner advancing. That makes Team Challenge similar to League Cups, but with an extra twist of the knife.

Picking a deck for such an event creates a fascinating dynamic, accordingly. For a lot of players, the series of four events presents an opportunity to ride out a deck for a few events, and see how the meta ebbs-and-flows from event-to-event. At the same time, the must-win nature of the event makes picking a deck with high-polarity matchups a risky endeavor: an autoloss ends your day, but all it takes is a string of a few lucky pairings to make a successful day. A similar argument can be made about decks with relatively-even matchups: rather than pairing luck, you look for in-game luck (or skill, techs, whatnot) to push across the edge of some closer games.

That brings us to the meta we've seen emerge throughout the Team Challenge 2 Qualifiers! My goal is to do our best to make “Other” not reign supreme in any meta breakdown, but the reality of Team Challenge is that we would need a lot of decks to get to that level of specification—and graphics can only get so big! With apologies to the soul that entered an event with 4 Lotad and some energy cards, we had to draw the line somewhere.

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX makes for an unsurprising forerunner, as the sheer power of ADP is something we’ve seen time and time again. Particularly in the context of Team Challenge, it’s a deck that makes a lot of sense in the individual stage of the event. Moving forward, into the Playoffs, it’s one of the decks I’d expect to fall from grace a little bit: with the unique format of Team Challenge Playoffs, a well-rounded deck like ADP/Zacian V may become less desirable than one that can take especially strong matchups in the right situations (and be excluded from the weekend, should the opponents choose well). Still, though, a deck with so much popularity isn’t something players can ignore during their strategizing.

Mewtwo & Mew-GX continues to find new partners as it breaths its last few breaths of Standard format eligibility, with a Grass-centered variant becoming the newest feature in our meta analysis. This is a deck we've seen gain steam over the last few weeks, and it's no surprise why: an effective way to deal with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX is something of keen interest to Pokemon TCG players in 2021, and Mewtwo & Mew-GX certainly provides that. Urshifu is one of the only real challengers the Sword & Shield era has mustered to-date for the Tag Teams, and we've seen Mewtwo & Mew-GX pick up in a play in a trend that's hard to not associate pretty clearly.

As we move into the playoffs, it's hard not to imagine fairly-safe plays like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Rapid Strike Urshifu-GX, and Eternatus VMAX make up a majority of the contenders. In particular, I'd expect us to begin seeing some of these decks with some weirder lists, in an effort to counteract the inevitable luck of mirror-type matchups. I'd expect, sadly, that the more exotic Pokemon VMAX—Alcremie, anyone?—will take a back seat as we move into the Playoffs. If we saw anything from Team Challenge 1, it's that the dynamic meta game can lead to all sorts of outcomes, and I'm excited to keep an eye on developments as we move through the Team Challenge 2 playoffs.