Greetings! After Brisbane Regionals, Salt Lake City Regionals just concluded, and the results are… actually very different! Mew VMAX dominated Brisbane, which led to some people fearing the metagame was going to be only that. But in Salt Lake City, things were very different. Mew VMAX was still the most popular deck around and it made more than 40 percent of the day two metagame, but not a single Mew VMAX made top 8. Out of the 32 Mew VMAX that made day two (74 players), only five made top 32. The rest were, basically, stacked at the bottom. Instead, Arceus VSTAR variants and Gengar VMAX dominated, with a combination of the two, Arceus VSTAR / Gengar VMAX, eventually winning the whole event in the hands of Drew Kennett. Also notable is Suicune V / Ludicolo taking second place. Most of us thought that this deck belonged to the past, but Daniel Lynch proved that this archetype was still a contender, with a very streamlined deck list that cut every Supporter except Melony and Raihan, as well as Quick Shooting Inteleon and even one Rare Candy, to focus on consistency, Cross Switcher, and a select number of one-of techs: Echoing Horn, Cape of Toughness and Choice Belt.
What do these results mean for the upcoming Regionals, and specifically for Liverpool Regionals, coming up next week-end? Since I’ll be attending Liverpool, this is an important topic to me, so in this article, I’ll share my thoughts on some topics related to the metagame, as well as the four decks I’m considering for Liverpool Regionals.
In the week leading to Salt Lake City Regionals, there was some discussion around the need to ban something to nerf the Mew VMAX deck, the popular choice being Meloetta. I think that the lack of success of Mew VMAX in Salt Lake City makes this debate laughable, at least at first glance, but it’s bound to come up again, so I want to offer my thoughts on this topic.
I deeply believe that bans should only be considered as a last resort. I think having community-ran tournaments without Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (or, for that matter, with any other ban list) were absolutely fine, and I was even in favor of it, but calling for an official ban is dangerous, for several reasons.
The main one is that it creates an expectation that if a deck is too good (and what “too good” means, of course, is different for each person), an answer needs to come from above, instead of from the players themselves. This expectation removes an important part of the game, the very concept of metagaming.
This means that instead of learning how to play against a deck, players will just assume it’s too good, and wait for it to get banned. Trying out counters would become a waste of time: why would you search for some brilliant tech to beat a top tier deck, if that deck will be gone before the next big event? But with no incentive to search for new ideas, creativity drops, and there’s never an opportunity for deckbuilders to show off a secret new deck or tech made to beat the boogeyman of the format.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to let a metagame develop, and let people search for new ideas, instead of just calling immediately for a ban. When Guardians Rising came out in May 2017, Garbodor decks famously accounted for 24 decks of the top 32 of Seattle Regionals. There were calls for a ban then, too. But was Garbodor GRI too strong? No. It was powerful, of course, but people hadn’t adapted to the metagame. Players who were still playing deck lists with up to 30 Items, as was the norm before Guardians Rising, were punished hard by Garbodor. Then, players started to adapt. They moved away from the turbo engines, and they tried out new decks that could counter Garbodor. In the end, the Guardians Rising format is remembered as one of the best and the most diverse of the last 10 years, with Garbodor being an important component of that metagame, but definitely not the only one. Had it taken a ban after two weeks, it’s possible that the Guardians Rising format would have instead remained just like the Sun & Moon format that preceded it: a boring battle between extremely fast decks (Volcanion-EX, Darkrai-EX) with a Hoopa-EX / Shaymin-EX engine, and the turn one Item lock of Decidueye-GX / Vileplume.
The issue is that players calling for a ban rarely consider the consequences of the ban, they usually stop their reasoning at “this card is too good, so it needs to go.” In the ADP case, the lack of official tournaments meant that the community was free to experiment, and most people agreed that without Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX, the format was more interesting, with more decks having a chance. But what would happen in a format without Meloetta? Mew VMAX still has a powerful dedicated draw engine, so it would probably stick around, but without a powerful turn one attacker, it would probably end up playing similarly to other VMAX decks. The early season format was comprised almost entirely of this kind of boring deck that doesn’t do anything turn one and needs to go first to evolve and attack on turn two, and I don’t think that returning to that would make the format better.
The other consequence I can foresee is, of course, Arceus VSTAR becoming even better in comparison. With Mew VMAX nerfed, it’s easy to imagine Arceus VSTAR, which is already arguably the best card in the format, taking seven spots in the top 8 of some Regionals. Then wouldn’t there be a call to ban it, or at least Double Turbo Energy or some other card, in order to nerf it? Would anyone consider whether the format would be better or worse without it? And so on and so on. If TPCI was to ban a card, calls for other bans would become legitimate and suddenly we’re living in a world in which the metagame is shaped not by those who build powerful archetypes and win with them, but who complains the loudest about which cards need to go.
There are other issues I could mention, such as the fact that there’s almost never a community-wide consensus on which cards are too good, or the fact that changing the format with bans can be very confusing for new players. I don’t think TPCI is seriously considering a ban anyway. However, I am convinced, based on my long experience of playing TCGs (and other games, like League of Legends, where nerfs are expected whenever anything becomes good), that TPCI is right in only banning cards whenever they lead to the game becoming degenerate (most Expanded bans are there to prevent a deck from beating or completely locking the opponent on the first turn, before they can ever play) and not just because they make one deck a bit above the rest.
With that out of the way, let’s look towards the future. Mew VMAX was by all accounts heavily played at Salt Lake City, and it was the most represented deck in day two, but it ended up doing pretty poorly there. To me, this means that, while it’s still a good choice against the average player, top players were also very prepared for it. You can get to top cut by dodging Jolteon VMAX or Malamar or Gengar VMAX, but you can’t get there by dodging Mew VMAX – there are just too many of them. I have to imagine the same will be true in Liverpool: despite a poor performance in Salt Lake City, Mew VMAX is widely recognized as a top tier deck and no reasonable player will suddenly accept a poor Mew VMAX matchup.
Europe used to be known for its Zoroark-GX players, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Arceus VSTAR started having the same popularity here. Both Pokémon are excellent cards with great attacks and Abilities, who can be paired with a wide variety of other cards, but also tend to need these other partners as they lack some efficiency by themselves. We’re also known for control players, and control players have a lot of tools these days. Bibarel and Cinccino provide draw power and Zoroark lets you use plenty of useful Stage 1 cards such as Seaking and Floatzel, as well as Wormadam to OHKO Arceus VSTAR if an opponent wants to simply rely on that. I’m not a control expert, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some players (Sander Wojcik if no one else) do well with some strange new archetype geared towards beating Arceus and Mew.
Fighting-type attackers are very well situated in the metagame right now. Arceus VSTAR and Gengar VMAX were at the top of Salt Lake City, and Jolteon VMAX is still around. This allowed Sandaconda V (and VMAX), of all things, to get top 16 in Salt Lake City, and Galarian Zapdos V was also very successful in Arceus VSTAR builds, especially combined with a Cape of Toughness so that it can’t be OHKO’d by Arceus VSTAR. I think there’s potential for other Fighting decks to do well in Liverpool. With that in mind, here are my top four picks for Liverpool Regionals.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 14 * 1 Oricorio FST 42 * 4 Genesect V FST 185 * 2 Meloetta FST 124 * 4 Mew V FST 113 * 3 Mew VMAX FST 114 ##Trainer Cards - 39 * 4 Power Tablet FST 236 * 2 Training Court RCL 169 * 3 Rotom Phone CPA 64 * 1 Rose Tower DAA 169 * 1 Pal Pad UPR 132 * 4 Ultra Ball PLB 90 * 3 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 3 Switch SUM 132 * 4 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 1 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225 * 1 Fog Crystal CRE 140 * 3 Elesa's Sparkle FST 233 * 1 Escape Rope BUS 114 * 4 Cram-o-matic FST 229 ##Energy - 7 * 2 Psychic Energy HS 119 * 1 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151 * 4 Fusion Strike Energy FST 244 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Even though Salt Lake City showed that Mew VMAX was beatable, and that even top players like Alex Schemanske and Azul Garcia Griego could be kept out of day two by cards like Gengar VMAX and Path to the Peak, make no mistake, Mew VMAX is still a top tier deck, and something that many players of all skill levels will be bringing to the event. Mew VMAX is an excellent fallback plan: if you can’t find some new idea to break the format, might as well default to the most threatening deck around!
Unlike the deck list that Natalie Millar used to win Brisbane Regionals, the dec klist above still uses Psychic Energy. There are multiple benefits to Psychic Energy in this deck. First, it gives you another option to beat Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX. Second, it works well with Fog Crystal, which is an excellent card that thelps your turn one setup. Finally, with Psychic Energy in the list, this deck can use Training Court as a Stadium, which means you don’t have to run something like Old Cemetery. Running Psychic Energy makes it a bit easier to stream Psychic Leap attacks, which is a useful strategy against one-Prize decks like Hoopa / Moltres. This type of deck list has been popularized in Japan by a team featuring Haru Nishikawa (LimitlessTCG Invitational champion and runner-up at POG Championships 2021), Shuto Itagaki (Junior World Champion 2012 and top 8 at Worlds 2018 in Masters) and Reiji Nishiguchi (top 8 at Worlds 2017).
The Australian build of Mew VMAX is of course still effective. I’m a big fan of the lists that run four Tower of Darkness. This is a way to play four Stadiums, to have as many counters to Path to the Peak as reasonable, but since you can discard a Tower of Darkness to draw two if you already have a Tower of Darkness in play, this means that your Stadiums are never stuck in hand doing nothing in other matchups. I would probably cut two Rose Tower, a Rotom Phone and either a Cram-o-matic or Choice Belt from Natalie’s list in order to fit the four Towers.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 23 * 2 Jumpluff EVS 4 * 4 Inkay CRE 69 * 4 Malamar CRE 70 * 2 Remoraid BST 36 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Octillery BST 37 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 ##Trainer Cards - 31 * 4 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Tower of Waters BST 138 * 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171 * 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 4 Brawly CRE 131 * 4 Level Ball BST 129 * 3 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 4 Cynthia's Ambition BRS 138 * 2 Rescue Carrier EVS 154 * 3 Fog Crystal CRE 140 * 1 Ultra Ball SLG 68 * 2 Korrina's Focus BST 128 * 1 Turffield Stadium RCL 170 ##Energy - 6 * 4 Spiral Energy CRE 159 * 2 Psychic Energy HS 119 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Malamar is my comfort pick. I might be overestimating it a little, but I think most people are underestimating it, so that balances out! I think the deck is well situated in the metagame, since it should beat decks like Arceus VSTAR / Gengar VMAX and Suicune V / Ludicolo that performed well in Salt Lake City, while several Arceus VSTAR deck lists are running fewer Inteleon (Quick Shooting Inteleon combined with Aqua Bullet Inteleon and Scoop Up Net can be an issue for Malamar, since it’s possible to KO Malamar and Inkay on the same turn with Aqua Bullet and two Quick Shotting).
I’ve explained why I favor Malamar / Inteleon over Malamar / Cinccino, and every choice in the whole deck list, in my recent Malamar Deep Dive. The only change I’ve made so far is cutting Bruno for a fourth Cynthia’s Ambition, which I’ve found slightly better in my recent testing.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 20 * 1 Crobat V DAA 104 * 4 Houndour BST 95 * 1 Morpeko FST 179 * 3 Umbreon V EVS 94 * 4 Houndoom BST 96 * 2 Umbreon VMAX EVS 95 * 3 Single Strike Urshifu V BST 85 * 2 Single Strike Urshifu VMAX BST 86 ##Trainer Cards - 30 * 1 Switch HS 102 * 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 3 Tower of Darkness BST 137 * 4 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 2 Air Balloon SSH 156 * 3 Ultra Ball BRS 150 * 2 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 4 Professor's Research SHF 60 * 4 Marnie SSH 169 * 4 Urn of Vitality BST 139 ##Energy - 10 * 4 Capture Energy RCL 171 * 2 Fighting Energy SWSHEnergy 6 * 4 Single Strike Energy BST 141 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Another comfort pick of mine, Single Strike has been very underplayed since Brilliant Stars came out, but it might be time for it to get out of retirement. Umbreon VMAX and Morpeko are still excellent attackers against Mew VMAX, and Morpeko can now use Choice Belt in order to OHKO Mew VMAX even if there’s an Oricorio on the field. Single Strike Urshifu V can OHKO Arceus VSTAR if there’s no Dunsparce, and the VMAX is a situational attacker mostly useful for Duraludon VMAX.
Single Strike Urshifu’s main competition is Gengar VMAX, which also uses Houndoom and can can OHKO both Mew VMAX and Arceus VSTAR. Gengar has a better Mew VMAX matchup, and while Stonjourner makes for a good attacker against Arceus VSTAR if there’s no Dunsparce, Gengar VMAX itself can OHKO Arceus VSTAR without having to use its Weakness. On the other hand, Single Strike Urshifu is effective against Gengar itself, so it has the edge in the Single Strike mirror match. If Gengar VMAX picks up popularity due to its strong showing at Salt Lake City, Single Strike could be a way to benefit from that without sacrificing much on the Mew and Arceus matchups.
Similarly, Single Strike Urshifu doesn’t fear Fighting techs such as Galarian Zapdos V as much as Gengar VMAX does, which is another argument in its favor, especially since Zapdos in Arceus decks seems like a powerful choice right now.
My deck list has nothing particularly unusual in it. The new inclusions from Brilliant Stars are the very obvious Choice Belt and Ultra Ball. One Boss’s Orders tends to be enough when you use your Umbreon VMAX at the right time, and you’ll notice that I’ve kept the two Fighting Energy in the deck. This makes it easier to use Laser Focus on turn one if you go second. This can be important against Arceus VSTAR, because this way, they can’t OHKO Urshifu on turn two with Trinity Nova (not unless they have a Choice Belt and have managed to attack without Double Turbo Energy, which probably means Melony, which is not the most popular choice right now).
Every competitive player should have Arceus VSTAR on their radar right now, but which one out of the dozens of variants of the deck is the best for the occasion? It’s hard to decide.
Nicholas Moffitt and Ian Robb made top 4 and top 8, respectively, in Salt Lake City with Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon with tech attackers such as Galarian Moltres and Galarian Zapdos V. Their inclusion of Cape of Toughness in order to protect Zapdos from Trinity Nova is particularly interesting, and something that I think any Arceus player needs to account for going forward. This probably means playing Dunsparce, which some players have dropped, and Tool Scrapper could also make a comeback. Obviously, it’s hard to fit all the techs you want into a single Arceus list.
There’s another way to combine Arceus VSTAR with a Fighting-type attacker, though, in a way that makes it much better against Dunsparce: by using our old friend Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. Against other Arceus decks with Dunsparce, you can use Urshifu to KO Dunsparce and, say, a Drizzile, and then Arceus is in range of a Gale Thrust KO.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 17 * 3 Arceus V BRS 122 * 3 Arceus VSTAR BRS 123 * 2 Crobat V DAA 104 * 2 Galarian Moltres V CRE 97 * 1 Hoopa V PR-SW 176 * 1 Yveltal CEL 19 * 2 Rapid Strike Urshifu V BST 87 * 2 Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX BST 88 * 1 Lumineon V BRS 156 ##Trainer Cards - 31 * 4 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 4 Ultra Ball BRS 150 * 1 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 2 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 2 Air Balloon SSH 156 * 1 Escape Rope BUS 114 * 1 Switch SUM 132 * 2 Energy Switch SSH 162 * 1 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 1 Collapsed Stadium BRS 137 * 4 Professor's Research SHF 60 * 2 Marnie SSH 169 * 3 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 1 Raihan EVS 152 * 1 Echoing Horn CRE 136 * 1 Training Court RCL 169 ##Energy - 12 * 2 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151 * 2 Rapid Strike Energy BST 140 * 2 Fighting Energy SWSHEnergy 6 * 6 Darkness Energy SWSHEnergy 7 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
This list might remind you of old Urshifu / Moltres builds, but Arceus VSTAR gives this deck both a consistency boost and some early Energy acceleration, so it isn’t as reliant on Rapid Strike Energy. Between Trinity Nova, Energy Switch and Raihan, this deck has many ways to power up G-Max Rapid Flow in one turn.
Are two-Prize Dark attackers, along with Arceus VSTAR, good enough to beat Mew VMAX? That’s my main concern. It might be possible to include Galarian Moltres and Klara somewhere in the list, but I’d be worried about consistency.
This kind of deck list has won tournaments in Japan, so I’m basing my deck list on them, but to be honest, I’m afraid I won’t have the time to properly test and refine this list before Liverpool Regionals, so it’s unlikely I actually pull the trigger on it this weekend. However, I legitimately think it’s a concept worth exploring and it could be a great choice for the Liverpool metagame specifically, as long as you figure out the Mew VMAX matchup. It seems clunky at first glance, but remember, Arceus VSTAR / Beedrill / Flygon V / Sandaconda VMAX got ninth place in Salt Lake City. Arceus VSTAR makes some clunky ideas possible and lets strange cards succeed if they’re a good fit for the metagame!
I’m very excited about the current format. Yes, Mew VMAX’s influence on it is indisputably massive, as even when it doesn’t win, it’s the most played deck and the one that everyone seeks to counter, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It anchors the format around one main threat, while many different types of decks, whether they’re Arceus VSTAR toolboxes, streamlined Gengar or Suicune deck lists, single-Prize decks or even control archetypes, find their place in its orbit. Decks are varied and games are enjoyable to play and to watch, and I can’t wait to see what new decks or techs will surprise us this weekend and beyond. And obviously, I’m ecstatic to be able to once again travel to play in a major event, and see everyone I’ve missed in the last two years!
If you see me in Liverpool, don’t hesitate to say hi! I’m always glad to meet readers. For those of you not in Europe, thanks for reading anyway and I hope these insights can still help you for other Regionals, local events, and/or online tournaments!