A Pokemon TCG Guide to Giratina VSTAR and the Lost Zone Engine

Welcome back! In a recent article, I described how Jolteon was becoming a threat in the Astral Radiance format after its strong showing at Worlds. Because of this, I was set on playing a deck that wouldn’t take a loss to it for the last event of the format. In the end, I chose to play Arceus / Duraludon, and ended up getting second place at the Bilbao SPE. While this tournament was probably easier than an average European Regionals due to many top tier players not attending (either because of other commitments or because of cancelled flights preventing them from getting to the event), there were still many excellent players around, so I’m proud of this performance.

I lost in the finals to Mew VMAX, another deck that I was considering for the weekend. I was not the only one, as Mew had maybe its best weekend ever: in addition to winning Bilbao, it also got second place at both the Baltimore and Porto Alegre Regionals, in addition to some Top 8 spots. While Palkia was still a popular pick, maybe other players, like myself, were worried enough about the popularity of Arceus / Flying Pikachu (with or without Jolteon) to pick another deck for this weekend.

Of course, Jolteon is not that much of a concern anymore (great news for Palkia players!). This is because, with the release of Lost Origin, the Inteleon engine is taking a step back to the new lost zone engine. If you’re not caught up with the new set, lost zone decks aim to fill the lost zone with unneeded cards thanks to Comfey and Colress’s Experiment in order to get the most out of some payoff cards: Cramorant, Sableye, Giratina VSTAR and Mirage Gate.

Cramorant (050/196)Sableye (070/196)Giratina VSTAR (212/196)Mirage Gate (163/196)

Giratina VSTAR is of course the flashy card of the set. Is it the best lost zone deck? Unclear, but it’s, at the very least, very good. If nothing else, its arrival forces changes in the metagame: defensive decks like Arceus / Duraludon or Stonjourner VMAX can’t deal with a Pokémon that can just KO them in an attack no matter how high their HP; similarly, Arceus / Flying Pikachu, the deck that won both Worlds and the NAIC, was tailored to the Astral Radiance metagame, and ends up being pretty ineffective against Giratina VSTAR, which it can’t hit for Weakness. Giratina VSTAR, on the other hand, has a great damage output that makes it excellent against most V and VSTAR decks, while Star Requiem takes care of Pokémon VMAX.

Giratina VSTAR also won the Champions League in Yokohama which attracted 3000 players, if you were having any doubts about its viability.

This article is a guide to help you understand, build and play this new Giratina VSTAR deck. As always, I’ll be upfront about the guide’s limitations: the Lost Origin format is still young, and the metagame will undoubtedly evolve over the course of the next weeks (and months). It is likely that the Giratina deck will change as players figure out better ways to build it by testing it more thoroughly, or that the apparition of new archetypes will necessitate changes in our builds. Therefore, I make no claim that the list in this article is optimal or that it will stand the test of time. However, I think that this guide is a great introduction to the deck, what it can do and what it fears, and it will help you get started if you’re lost or don’t have confidence in your plays. I’m sure that either myself or another writer will come along with a deep dive on the deck when we feel we’ve figured it out entirely!



Header - The Deck List

Let me start by showing off my current deck list.


****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 16
* 1 Drapion V LOR 118
* 3 Giratina V LOR 130
* 3 Giratina VSTAR LOR 131
* 4 Comfey LOR 79
* 1 Sableye LOR 70
* 2 Cramorant LOR 50
* 1 Lumineon V BRS 156
* 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46

##Trainer Cards - 31
* 1 Lost Vacuum LOR 162
* 2 Switch CES 147
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171
* 1 Energy Recycler BST 124
* 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 2 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Roxanne ASR 150
* 1 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165
* 1 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 4 Colress's Experiment LOR 155
* 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 4 Mirage Gate LOR 163
* 2 Escape Rope BUS 114

##Energy - 13
* 4 Psychic Energy SWSHEnergy 5
* 2 Capture Energy RCL 171
* 4 Grass Energy SWSHEnergy 1
* 3 Water Energy SWSHEnergy 3

Total Cards - 60

****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ****** 


This list is fairly standard. It’s only a few cards off the Yokohama-winning deck list, but it feels particularly strong.

Comfey (079/196)Scoop Up Net (207/192)Colress's Experiment (205/196)

Comfey, Scoop Up Net and Colress’s Experiment form the lost zone engine and are absolutely non-negotiable. Your goal is to use Colress’s Experiment and Flower Selecting as much as possible in the early game to access your payoff cards: Cramorant on your first attacking turn, and Mirage Gate the turn after that, if possible. This is very reasonable as long as you play Colress’s Experiment on the first two turns you can play Supporters. For example, a good turn one would look like something like this: start with Comfey, use Colress’s Experiment, use Flower Selecting, bench another Comfey and Cramorant (maybe thanks to a Battle VIP Pass), Scoop Up Net your active Comfey to bring the other one Active, use the second Flower Selecting, getting to four cards in the Lost Zone, retreat (either by discarding an Energy or with Switch, Escape Rope or Air Balloon) to Cramorant, and use Spit Innocently to either take a KO or damage an attacker. Along the way, it’s even better if you can Bench a Giratina V, and Radiant Greninja to help draw cards.

In addition to Scoop Up Net, Switch and Escape Rope help move between Comfeys, in order to use multiple Flower Selecting each turn. Switch is the more reliable of the two, but Escape Rope is a good card against Empoleon V, which shuts off Comfey’s Ability, slowing down the deck entirely.

On your second attacking turn, if you’ve played two Colress’s Experiment in two turns and used Flower Selecting a total of three times, you can now play Mirage Gate. With it, you can power up your two attackers: Giratina VSTAR and Radiant Greninja.

This combination should be familiar, as it’s the same idea that made Palkia VSTAR so threatening: your main attacker deals huge damage to the Active Pokémon, but Radiant Greninja can also attack and take out two support Pokémon in one turn with Moonlight Shuriken. This threat can be countered by Manaphy, but it’s strong enough that it’s worth playing Water Energy for it.

Sableye (070/196)

Sableye is another attacker that can take multiple KOs in one turn, though that requires the opponent to leave their board open to it, as this list plays no Echoing Horn to bring back easy targets like Sobble or Pumpkaboo. However, you don’t have to take multiple KOs in one turn for Sableye to be good. It can also finish off a damaged Pokémon on the opponent’s Bench, take out a single one-Prize Pokémon such as Bibarel or take a KO and deal some additional damage in order to prepare other Pokémon for a KO. If your opponent has, say, a Palkia VSTAR with a Big Charm on it (30 damage off from a Lost Impact KO), you could use Lost Mine to KO a Drizzile with nine counters, and put the remaining three on that Palkia so that it can be KO’d by Giratina VSTAR on the next turn. In my experience, Sableye isn’t used in most games, but it’s a good option to have, that doesn’t require much investment since the deck already plays Psychic Energy.

Boss's Orders (TG24/TG30)Roxanne (206/189)

The Supporter line may be a bit strange beyond the four copies of Colress’s Experiment with two Boss’s Orders and two Roxanne. As Colress is our early game Supporter, other Supporters will only be played in the midgame and endgame. Boss’s Orders is a strong card that needs to real explanation. Roxanne is of course a strong card in the late game. The reason I play two copies of it is because lost zone decks enjoy having redundancy. In an Inteleon deck, you’d play one Roxanne, knowing that you can find it whenever you need it with Shady Dealings. In this deck, though, you might hit Roxanne off a Flower Selecting on the first turn of the game, and chances are that the other card will be much more useful, especially this early in the game (it’s one thing to keep resources for the late game, but if your first action of the game is a Flower Selecting that reveals Roxanne and Battle VIP Pass, you’d be a fool to Lost Zone the VIP Pass). By playing two Roxanne, we increase the odds of still having access to at least one Roxanne when we need it.

Battle VIP Pass (225/264)Lost Vacuum (217/196)

Battle VIP Pass is an excellent card in lost zone decks because Comfey, Radiant Greninja and to a lower extent Colress’s Experiment (because it’s only playable if you go second) let you draw cards on your first turn, so the odds of finding at least one Battle VIP Pass are higher than in your average deck. In turn, Battle VIP Pass can find a second Comfey and Cramorant to allow a turn one attack. It’s not uncommon to end the first turn with everything you need on the board (two Comfey, a Cramorant, Radiant Greninja and Giratina V). Nevertheless, some additional searching cards (Quick Ball, Ultra Ball and Capture Energy) can also help to set up in the early game.

Lost Vacuum is another card that helps to reach the Mirage Gate threshold faster. If you use it on your own Air Balloon, you can actually send two of your own cards to the lost zone, but almost all the time, you’ll want to use it on the opponent’s cards. The main reason to play Lost Vacuum is to get rid of annoying Tools such as Big Charm (that would protect a VSTAR from a KO) or Big Parasol that could protect a Pokémon from Star Requiem. I actually haven’t seen Big Parasol played in a recent list yet, but I’m sure someone will include it in a VMAX deck at some point.

Ordinary Rod (215/202)Energy Recycler (124/163)

I chose to include two recovery cards: Ordinary Rod and Energy Recycler. I originally tried two Ordinary Rod, but it can be common to end up with a lot of Energy in the discard, especially if you use Moonlight Shuriken, so I swapped one to an Energy Recycler for the extra recovery and it felt better. I don’t recommend two Energy Recycler, though, because you don’t need that much Energy back, and having the option to recover a Pokémon is useful.

Drapion V (182/196)

Finally, Drapion V is a tech for the Mew matchup. In my few games against the deck, Mew seemed like a bad matchup because Cramorant doesn’t have easy targets to KO in the early game (and if you damage a Mew VMAX, it can simply heal while KOing a Comfey with Psychic Leap), while Lost Impact isn’t enough to KO Mew VMAX. Star Requiem can of course take three Prizes in one attack, but it requires 10 cards in the lost zone, and the deck lacks strong options before that. Drapion V helps the matchup by just being a powerful attacker that doesn’t require Energy to KO Mew VMAX.

Note that two common types of cards are missing from this deck: damage boosts and Stadiums. Damage boosts such as Choice Belt and Galarian Zigzagoon are not needed in this deck because Giratina’s damage output is already high enough, and Sableye can fix the math when necessary. There are arguments for Galarian Zigzagoon; for example, with two Zigzagoon pings, Sableye can KO two Comfey in one attack. I don’t claim that Zigzagoon is bad in Giratina, but merely that it’s not necessary.

As for Stadiums, there’s no Stadium that Giratina really needs, and it isn’t affected by common disruptive Stadiums such as Path to the Peak either. Therefore, Giratina becomes the first good deck in a while to not play any Stadiums. That said, if there turns out to be a need to counter Stadiums in the metagame, or if you’re not comfortable letting your opponents have unlimited access to their PokéStop or Magma Basin, you could play Training Court, Path to the Peak or Collapsed Stadium.


Header - Tips and Tricks

Now that we’ve established the basics of the deck, here are some things to keep in mind that will help you achieve better results:

  • If you don’t know what your opponent is playing, it’s better to go first with this deck, as in a majority of matchups (including the mirror match), that will work out in your favor. However, just like Mew VMAX, you can attack going second, so there can be merits to choosing to go second. Against one-Prize lost zone decks, going second is preferable, so that you can be the first player to take a KO with Cramorant. I also suspect that going second against Mew VMAX could be better than going first, but I’ll need more testing to confirm it.
  • Giratina’s relationship to Energy attachments is unique. Usually, even decks with versatile Energy acceleration, such as Palkia VSTAR, you need to be careful where they choose to manually attach Energy: whiffing a turn one Energy attachment in a Palkia deck isn’t the end of the world, but it can limit your options and force you to use Star Portal earlier than you want. Giratina, on the other hand, doesn’t really care. You can use your manual attachments on the first few turns in order to retreat your Comfey if you need, because your early game attacker, Cramorant, doesn’t need Energy at all. Then, once Mirage Gate is active, you can just power up Giratina VSTAR with it and a manual attachment, even if there was no Energy in play before.
    • Obviously, I don’t mean that you can do absolutely anything with your Energy; getting early Energy onto Giratina helps. But it’s good to keep in mind that using your Energy attachment to retreat a Pokémon on the first turn is absolutely fine in this deck, whereas it would be considered bad in many other archetypes.
  • Speaking of Energy, remember that Lost Impact can lost zone Energy from anywhere on your board, not just from Giratina VSTAR itself. If there’s a Water Energy that remains on Radiant Greninja after attacking with it, or a Capture Energy that was played earlier, you can use them as fuel for Lost Impact, and keep your Energy on Giratina so it can more easily keep attacking on the next turn.
  • Mirage Gate can attach Energy to two different Pokémon. This is mostly useful to keep in mind when you want to use Moonlight Shuriken. Since that attack requires two Water Energy, if you want to power up Greninja with Mirage Gate, you’ll need a Water Energy in hand. Mirage Gate will attach a Water Energy and a Psychic or Grass Energy, powering up the attack.
    If you don’t have a Water Energy in hand, though, you can still power up Greninja in one turn, using two Mirage Gate. For example, the first one can attach W to Greninja and P to Giratina, and the second one can attach W to Greninja and G to Giratina. Then you just need to attach one additional Energy (any Energy) to Greninja to use Moonlight Shuriken.
  • Sequencing-wise, I recommend using Colress’s Experiment before Flower Selecting. You’ll see a wider selection of cards with Colress, so the choice should be easier to make: for example, after the first turn, Battle VIP Pass should obviously be lost zoned if you see it, and you’re more likely to see Battle VIP Pass in the five cards from Colress than in the two cards from Comfey. Then, because your hand is better defined after choosing which three cards to draw, you can make your choice on Flower Selecting with more information.
    • As for Concealed Cards, you should use it first if you’re sure that you’re going to use the Ability. However, if you only have one Energy in hand and you’re not sure whether to discard it to draw two or to attach it, you should use Colress (and potentially Comfey) first to see more cards before making your decision.
  • If you’re playing against a deck that can attack with Radiant Greninja (either the mirror match, Palkia or Kyurem), try having only one Comfey in play at the end of your turn. You can use several Flower Selecting, just don’t bench your Comfey again after picking it up with Scoop Up Net.

The most important skill to get better with Giratina VSTAR (and other lost zone decks) is to know which cards to keep and which cards to Lost Zone when using Flower Selecting or Colress’s Experiment. This obviously depends on many factors, such as the state of the game (Battle VIP Pass is one of the best cards to get on the first turn, and an obvious candidate for the lost zone after that, for example). The matchup you’re playing also plays a role. Here are some examples:

  • Depending on the matchup, Giratina VSTAR could be invaluable or an afterthought. Against one-Prize decks, you’ll probably need to use Giratina at some point, but your priority should be to avoid benching more than one Giratina. Therefore, once you have a Giratina VSTAR in play, you can lost zone any other Giratina V or VSTAR. Against decks with Pokémon V, though, Giratina VSTAR is a strong attacker, and you’ll likely want to use two or even three in a game.
  • On the flip side, Cramorant and Sableye are much better against one-Prize decks. In most matchups, you only attack once with Cramorant, so the second one can be sent to the lost zone without a second thought. In one-Prize matchups though, a Basic attacker that can OHKO many other Pokémon (including opposing Cramorant) is too good for the Prize race to pass, and you’ll most likely use two per game, and maybe even get them back with Ordinary Rod.
  • Colress’s Experiment is a card to keep as long as your lost zone has fewer than seven cards, but it can become useless afterwards. Using a third copy can help you get to ten cards to use Star Requiem if it’s relevant in the matchup, but often, Lost Zoning additional copies of Colress is fine after the first two.
  • Don’t be afraid to lost zone a generically good card, such as Boss’s Orders or Mirage Gate. We play additional copies of these cards for specifically this kind of situation. That said, if your first Boss is already gone, avoid throwing out the second copy unless it’s clear from the board state that you won’t need it.


Header - Weaknesses

While it’s good to know what your deck can do and how it can crush opponents, you also need to be aware of its shortcomings. Giratina VSTAR is a powerful deck, but it has two weaknesses plaguing it. I choose to talk about them in general terms, rather than discuss specific matchups, because my testing is incomplete.

First, the deck has no early game disruption (aka Marnie). Your first few turns need to be used to play Colress’s Experiment, so you can’t afford to play Marnie. This means that other decks can build their hand without fear until they take three Prizes, at which point you can play Roxanne. That flaw in no way prevents Giratina from being good – after all, many top tier decks, such as Palkia / Inteleon and Radiant Charizard, don’t play Marnie either, but it’s one thing that other decks can exploit. One-Prize decks, in particular, tend to like when their opponents don’t play Marnie because they can chain attackers more easily when their hand isn’t disrupted, and if they can do that, they’ll usually win the Prize trade.

Speaking of Marnie, Giratina can be a bit weak to Marnie, itself. Comfey and Colress’s Experiment rely a lot on the idea that you’ll accumulate cards in hand to give you more options. There’s only one card in the deck, an Ultra Ball, that can search for Giratina VSTAR, but it’s absolutely fine because you’ll usually draw one thanks to Colress or Comfey. However, if you get hit by Marnie, you’ll lose access to many options, and might end up in trouble, especially if you’re disrupted on the turn before the one where you can play Mirage Gate. That said, you could play Oranguru as protection against Marnie if you’re worried about it.

I’m not sure how exactly these weaknesses will be exploited, but it’s clear to me that if Giratina VSTAR starts winning a lot, players will seek to build decks that can capitalize on these flaws. A deck with Empoleon V and Marnie, for example, seems like a strong candidate to beat Giratina and other Lost Zone decks, since it can disrupt hands and shut down Comfey’s Ability that would otherwise help the Giratina player to get out of their bad spot.


Header - A Note on Arceus / Giratina

In this article, I’ve focused on the lost zone engine build of Giratina VSTAR. That said, another variation, Arceus / Giratina, is seeing some play in online events. That deck doesn’t use Comfey, Colress’s Experiment or Mirage Gate (and therefore it can’t fill the lost zone, so it can’t use Star Requiem). Instead, it uses Arceus VSTAR as the main Pokémon to power up Giratina VSTAR that can then take big KOs with Lost Impact.

Arceus / Giratina currently has an excellent 55 percent win rate in LimitlessTCG online tournaments, which means it might be a powerful but underrated archetype (like Arceus / Gyarados in the Brilliant Stars format). Unlike Lost Zone Giratina, Arceus / Giratina doesn’t play Colress’s Experiment, so it can use Marnie, which should give it the edge in the Giratina mirror match. It also doesn’t have a lot of targets for Moonlight Shuriken. In my opinion, Arceus / Giratina is likely to become the new face of Arceus VSTAR + four Marnie + four Path to the Peak + Bibarel decks, a combination that won NAIC and Worlds. That is a topic for another day, though!


Header - Conclusion

Overall, Giratina VSTAR is a balanced archetype with a variety of powerful attackers. Lost Toolbox can abuse more effectively the combination of Comfey and Colress to fill their lost zone faster (but at the cost of not having space for a powerful VSTAR attacker), and Arceus / Giratina will more consistently chain Lost Impact, at the cost of not having the option to use Moonlight Shuriken or Lost Requiem. Lost Zone Giratina is in the middle, having the most options. With its varied game plans against all types of decks, it has everything a deck could want, and I’m sure it will show its power in the upcoming Regionals.

As always, thank you for reading!

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