Day of the Tentacle – A Malamar / Inteleon Deep Dive

Rapid Strike Malamar is back! After a rough early season, it now has all the tools it needs to be a competitive presence. This deck is both a budget deck, which plays absolutely no ultra-rare cards, and a powerful archetype absolutely capable of winning tournaments.

Some players have misconceptions against decks which only play single-Prize Pokémon. Sometimes, they don’t appear dangerous, even when they’re top tier. Blacephalon, for example, wasn’t always taken seriously compared to other decks with similar results. I have a theory as to why: I believe that single-Prize decks such as Blacephalon and Malamar need a great decklist to reach their full potential. When they’re first released, they’re often built incorrectly as players try to figure them out, and since they’re less expensive to build, more players will try these decks out, sometimes with disastrous results. Then, other players see that and disregard them as decks for newer players, and don’t correct their misconceptions even after they prove their competitive worth.

Yet Blacephalon, in its many incarnations, was a powerful deck able to compete with other top tier archetypes such as ADP Zacian and Mewtwo & Mew-GX, and Malamar was a top three deck in Japan in the format we’re currently playing, so I’m confident in its chances in the upcoming Regionals.

There’s a reason I’m comparing Blacephalon and Malamar: both decks work in a similar way. They need some time to set up early on, and then they can chain KOs by accumulating a high number of a specific resource (Fire Energy and Rapid Strike cards, respectively) in hand. They have similar weaknesses, such as their lack of disruption, and they are the predominant single-Prize deck of their respective metagames among a majority of two-Prize or three-Prize attackers, with whom they can nevertheless trade favorably.

Just as I spent a lot of time playing Blacephalon, I’ve been playing Malamar more than any other archetype since Brilliant Stars released. It’s far too early to decide on my deck for Liverpool regionals, but Malamar is toward the top of my list.

In this guide, I will explain my deck list and why I have a lot of confidence with it, and help you get better with the deck. Malamar is easy to learn, but harder to master than you might think. I’ll also explain how to approach some important matchups.



Header - Inteleon or Cinccino?

As Alex Schemanske covered in his recent article on Malamar, there are two main ways to build a Malamar deck: you either partner it with Inteleon, or with Cinccino.

Inteleon (058/202)Cinccino (147/202)

Cinccino’s benefit is that you can easily draw more cards every turn. After playing Cynthia’s Ambition and drawing eight cards, if you have two Cinccino in play, you can discard two cards and draw four, getting you to 10 cards in hand. The Inteleon variant does have some ways to go above an eight-card hand, as I’ll discuss in detail later, but it requires specific draws. With the Cinccino variant, it’s just what the deck does naturally.

The downside of the Cinccino variant is that the density of Rapid Strike cards in the deck is lower, because Cinccino and Minccino aren’t Rapid Strike Pokémon, and the deck tends to play more cards that aren’t Rapid Strike cards, such as Battle VIP Pass. Therefore, even if you can easily get to 10 cards in hand every turn, you might not have enough Rapid Strike cards among them in order to KO your target. Note that Drizzile and Inteleon aren’t Rapid Strike cards either but – as long as you have a Sobble or Drizzile in play respectively – they can be exchanged for a Rapid Strike card if you draw into them. On the other hand, if you draw into a Minccino or Cinccino after playing Cynthia’s Ambition, then it’s a dead card, or at best a card that will help you draw more on the next turn.

That’s basically how everything works in the Inteleon version of the deck. Almost every card in the deck is either a Rapid Strike card, or can be traded for one (or more) Rapid Strike cards: Pokémon-searching Items, Rescue Carrier, Scoop Up Net, etc.

The Inteleon variant also has more control over the game. Cinccino’s draw power is nothing to laugh at, but in that version of the deck, there’s no way to search for a specific card, unless it’s a Rapid Strike card (then Octillery will do it). When playing Drizzile and Inteleon, you have no trouble drawing into specific cards, such as Boss’s Orders and Ordinary Rod.

Finally, the Inteleon variant also has far more synergy with Scoop Up Net. In the Cinccino version, Scoop Up Net is a card you kind of need to play, that can sometimes give you two Rapid Strike cards by taking back Octillery in hand. However, there’s a lot of synergy between Drizzile, Inteleon and Scoop Up Net, both because you can use Drizzile’s and Inteleon’s Abilities again, and because you can get Sobble (a Rapid Strike card) back in hand for Rapid Strike Tentacles damage. Incidentally, because it’s playing more Scoop Up Net, Malamar / Inteleon has a much better matchup than Malamar / Cinccino against control decks and Durant, who tend to use Boss’s Orders and/or Pokémon Catcher to lock support Pokémon in the Active Spot.

Full disclosure: after initially trying out the Inteleon variant, and I wasn’t convinced. I then built the Cinccino variant and, for a while, considered it to be the better of the two. However, I’ve come to be disappointed in it due to the lack of control it has over the game, so I decided to try Malamar / Inteleon again. This time, it clicked, and after playing it a lot, both on ladder and in tournaments, I’ve convinced that it is the better Malamar variant overall, though it’s also harder to play correctly. Thankfully, this guide is here to help you understand all you need to improve your mastery over this deck!


Header - Deck List and Omissions

Here’s my deck list.


****** 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
* 1 Bruno BST 121
* 4 Level Ball BST 129
* 3 Scoop Up Net RCL 165
* 3 Cynthia's Ambition BRS 138
* 2 Rescue Carrier EVS 154
* 1 Ultra Ball BRS 150
* 3 Fog Crystal CRE 140
* 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 ******


I’m fairly confident this deck list is optimized, except for two slots that aren’t totally settled (Ultra Ball and Bruno). Now, this deck list is certainly not revolutionary, so I don’t think every card warrants an in-depth explanation. That said, I want to comment on some choices.

Brawly is a great card to set up on the first or second turn (depending on whether you’re going second or first). Even though it’s almost always useless afterwards, it’s a Rapid Strike itself, so it’s fuel for Rapid Strike Tentacles. For this reason, you’re never disappointed when you draw it. Note that Sobble’s Keep Calling is also a great tool for setting up. Together, these cards give you very high odds of setting up properly on your first or second turn, preparing you for the rest of the game. Setting up is particularly important, which is why I wouldn’t play any fewer than four Brawly.

Cynthia's Ambition (178/172)

As for the rest of the Supporters, I’ve chosen not to max out on Cynthia’s Ambition. It is an excellent card, and it makes the deck as good as it is, but three copies have been enough in my experience, especially since Drizzile or Inteleon can search for it when needed. The issue with playing more is that Cynthia’s Ambition is not a Rapid Strike card (or a card that gets a Rapid Strike card), so drawing one off a draw Supporter decreases your damage output. I want to avoid, as much as possible, situations in which the hand I draw off Cynthia’s Ambition leaves me unable to KO my target, and that means playing as few of these non-Rapid Strike cards as possible. This is why I like playing two copies of Korrina’s Focus. It’s not as good, but it can be searched by Octillery, and it’s a Rapid Strike card so I always feel good drawing it.

Bruno (121/163)

I also play one copy of Bruno. This could be another card, possibly a fourth Cynthia’s Ambition. There are situations in which Bruno is better, though. For example, if you go second and get KO’d on your opponent’s second turn, your hand may have unplayable cards such as Inteleon, or cards that you don’t want to play yet, such as Ordinary Rod. Bruno lets you shuffle these cards. While you’ll only draw seven and not eight cards, if these seven cards are useful (by which I mean either playable, or Rapid Strike cards to shuffle back for the effect of Rapid Strike Tentacles), it will turn out better than if you played Cynthia’s Ambition after being stuck with two or three unplayable cards.

Boss's Orders (132/172)

The last Supporter in the deck is Boss’s Orders. In one additional similarity with Blacephalon, Malamar can rarely afford to play Boss’s Orders, because it needs to play other Supporters.

However, one Boss’s Orders is good to apply some pressure to the opponent. Sometimes, the opponent will let you go down to one Prize, then try to make Knocking out their last Pokémon as hard as possible. Boss’s Orders lets you finish the game by Knocking Out a Drizzile rather than having to take out a 320+ HP Pokémon VMAX.

Boss’s Orders is useless in several matchups, but one where it’s really important is Mew VMAX. Since Mew VMAX doesn’t play any disruption cards, you can plan ahead for your Boss’s Orders turn, and be able to get enough Rapid Strike cards in hand to KO, say, a Benched Mew V, even if playing Boss means you’re not playing Cynthia or Bruno on that same turn (more on the Mew VMAX matchup later).

Turffield Stadium (068/073)Jumpluff (004/203)

The Turffield Stadium and Jumpluff (or Skiploom) “combination” is something that has been consistently and successfully used by Japanese players, but seems to be disregarded as a gimmick. On a basic level, you can see Turffield Stadium as similar to Level Ball or Evolution Incense: a card that trades for a Rapid Strike card (specifically, Jumpluff). This means that drawing it off Cynthia’s Ambition is absolutely fine, unless you also drew or Prizes both your Jumpluff. However, you can play Turffield Stadium before playing your draw Supporter, then activate it afterwards. This gives you a way to go past the eight card limit of Cynthia’s Ambition, just like Cinccino does in the Cinccino variant. There’s also a chance that Turffield Stadium sticks in play for more than one turn, especially if you play it towards the end of the game after your opponent has played or discarded their Stadiums. If it happens, then Turffield Stadium provides excellent value.
In addition to being a Turffield Stadium target, Jumpluff (or Skiploom) can also be grabbed with Evolution Incense and Level Ball. Because of that, and the higher density of Rapid Strike cards in the deck, it basically never happens that Level Ball or Evolution Incense can’t find a Rapid Strike target. (This is in contrast with the Cinccino variant, which can occasionally run into this issue.)

However, unlike some Japanese players, I don’t like playing two Turffield Stadium. If you already have one (in hand or in play), the second one is a dead card since it can’t be traded for a Rapid Strike card. Instead, I play Tower of Waters as my second Stadium. Not only is it a Rapid Strike card (so drawing it is never bad), it also significantly improves matchups against Control and Durant, in addition to Scoop Up Net.

Ultra Ball (186/172)

Finally, the most controversial card in the list is probably Ultra Ball, and it’s also a card that’s not set in stone in the list. Ultra Ball is fairly useless when drawn off a draw Supporter, because you need to discard two cards to use it, which would decrease the number of cards in your hand, and therefore your damage output. However, it can be used before playing a Cynthia’s Ambition or Korrina’s Focus, in order to get rid of unplayable cards, such as Inteleon (on turn two) and Boss’s Orders, so you can draw more cards off your draw Supporter. Having one extra out, both to Basic Pokémon on turn one, and to Octillery on turn two (or Malamar later), is also never a bad thing.

Fog Crystal (227/198)

It is possible to play a fourth Fog Crystal instead of the Ultra Ball. However, I’m not super enthusiastic about playing four Fog Crystal. After a certain point in the game, Fog Crystal might not be tradable for a Rapid Strike card, the way Level Ball or Evolution Incense always are. The only Rapid Strike Fog Crystal target in this deck is Inkay, and you always want two of them in play. If you have two Inkay (or Malamar) in play, one in the discard, and the fourth one is Prized, then that Fog Crystal you just drew can’t be used for Rapid Strike Tentacles fuel. The same goes if the fourth Inkay isn’t Prized, but you drew two Fog Crystal. Therefore, I’m happy with only playing three.

I should also comment on some cards that I omitted from this list.

Manaphy (041/172)

First of all, maybe the most important: Manaphy. Cutting the savior of all single-Prize decks from a single-Prize deck?! It actually makes a lot of sense. There are two decks that Manaphy is really useful against: Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and Jolteon VMAX. The former is beatable even without Manaphy, thanks to its Psychic Weakness. The latter is much harder to beat, but it’s also getting less common because of Manaphy’s existence. Even if we don’t actually play it, Manaphy still protects us from our worst enemy, in a way!

There’s another, more pragmatic reason not to play Manaphy in this version of the deck. Our setup relies mainly on Brawly and Keep Calling, both of which only search for Rapid Strike Pokémon. Our only way to get Manaphy out of the deck is with Level Ball, which is not as easy to come by. Also, Manaphy can easily clog a hand, by virtue of not being a Rapid Strike card.
Incidentally, if you want to play Malamar but are afraid of Jolteon VMAX or other sniping attacks, I think Malamar / Cinccino is much better suited to the inclusion of Manaphy. First of all, there are other ways to get Manaphy as early as turn one in that deck (Battle VIP Pass and Minccino’s Call For Family), and Manaphy can always be discarded via Cinccino’s Make Do in the matchups where it’s not useful.

Inteleon (043/198)

Second, I don’t play Inteleon CRE. I don’t think it’s unusual in this deck, but in case you’re wondering about it, Inteleon CRE doesn’t do a lot of good in this deck. Inteleon SSH can be traded for two Trainer cards, which is one of the ways in which you can get more than eight cards in hand. That’s a better damage boost than Quick Shooting, so Inteleon CRE doesn’t offer much… except one thing: fix the Mad Party matchup. Malamar has some trouble against Mad Party, which trades KOs with it but is a bit faster. Inteleon CRE can be used to take an additional KO against a Sinistea or Bunnelby: just use Quick Shooting twice in a turn with the help of a Scoop Up Net. I don’t think Mad Party is popular enough to justify the inclusion of this card, but if you want to be prepared against it, you can definitely fit in, and since it’s a Rapid Strike card, it will remain useful in every other matchup as Rapid Strike Tentacles fuel. That said, don’t cut an Inteleon SSH for it! I would rather cut the Ultra Ball in the list above, because the two Inteleon SSH are just too good not to play.

Zinnia's Resolve (225/203)

There are two draw Supporters that you can consider in Bruno’s spot (in addition to the fourth Cynthia’s Ambition). First, Professor’s Research also fits the role of a draw-seven card, and unlike Bruno and Cynthia, it’s good even when the opponent didn’t just get a KO. You can play it on turn two if you went first, for example. Second, Zinnia’s Resolve is another way to refill your hand, with a more manageable downside than Professor’s Research.

I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by Zinnia’s Resolve overall in my playtesting, and will definitely try it again in this deck, but its effectiveness varies heavily depending on the matchup. It’s excellent against Mew VMAX, for example, because you will always draw six cards against this deck, even on your second turn, and because Mew VMAX doesn’t play disruption, so you can keep a decent-sized hand after taking a KO and then pay Zinnia the turn after when it draws more cards than Cynthia would. On the other hand, against, say, Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX, Zinnia’s Resolve is terrible, because their Bench is very limited.

Marshadow (080/203)

The last card I will mention is Rapid Strike Marshadow. It’s possible that many of you didn’t know about this card at all, and for good reason, since it’s never seen any play to my knowledge. In this deck, though, Marshadow does two things. First, it’s an additional set up card. It doesn’t fill your Bench like Sobble does, but if you played Brawly, Marshadow’s Rapid Hunt can set you up very effectively for your second turn. Second, it’s a Basic Psychic Pokémon. I mentioned above that the lack of targets made Fog Crystal a mediocre card in the midgame, and it’s a reason why I only play three. Marshadow is one additional target and makes playing four Fog Crystal more reliable.

It has one last, very niche, use: Shadow Flicker can be used against Duraludon VMAX. That deck lacks mobility, so there’s a good chance that the opponent won’t be able to Switch twice to remove Shadow Flicker’s effect. If you’re able to KO Duraludon VMAX on the next turn, you can then take four Prizes off it. This means you can win the game by taking out only two targets: Arceus VSTAR and Duraludon VMAX.


Header - Mastering the Deck

My first tip to get better with this deck is simple. When you win the coin toss, choose to go second! This might be unintuitive. After all, almost every deck in the format wants to first, and the main reason they do is because decks are built around Pokémon VMAX and/or VSTAR. The player who goes first is also the player who can evolve first, and usually gets the first important attack. Malamar is an Evolution, too, so shouldn’t it want to go first?

The simple answer is no. Even if you go first, you won’t be able to use a significant attack on your second turn. Malamar needs to set up first, and setting up means using either Brawly or Keep Calling. If you go first, you can only use these on the second turn, whereas if you go second, you will very likely be able to set up on your first turn.

If you set up on turn two, your opponent may have already taken a KO on their first turn. Mew VMAX, for example, can do so with either Melodious Echo or Psychic Leap (or even Oricorio’s Glistening Droplets). There’s even a non-negligible risk you get donked, if your hand is bad. Melony decks and Hoopa / Moltres, among others, can also donk you.

Even against an opponent who can’t deal damage on the first turn, going second is generally better. In the mirror match, for example, while going first would be better with an ideal hand, if both players’ hands are average, the player going second will usually get the first KO, which means they most likely win the game.

While setting up, keep in mind that your ideal board in almost every matchup is: two Malamar, one Octillery and three Pokémon of the Inteleon line (two Drizzile and one Sobble is perfect to maximize the damage potential). Avoid Benching Pokémon you don’t need, such as a third Inkay. However, there are exceptions. For example, if your hand has two Malamar and you opened Inkay, you could assume that your active Inkay is going to be KO’d, and Bench two more in preparation, so you can play both your Malamar on turn two before playing Cynthia’s Ambition. Only do this if you can also play down two Sobble and a Remoraid.

During a game, you should expect that one of your Pokémon (usually the Active Malamar, but opponents will sometimes target Octillery) will be Knocked Out every turn. Your goal, almost every turn, to retaliate with a KO. For this, you need a Malamar, an Energy, an Inkay on the Bench for the follow-up (unless the opponent has one Prize left and/or you just need one more KO to win the game), and enough Rapid Strike cards to take a KO. In the following sequencing discussion, I will assume that you have a Cynthia’s Ambition, but the same applies to Bruno and Korrina’s Focus.

Cynthia’s Ambition sets your hand to eight cards. Ideally, you have a Malamar, an Inkay and an Energy on the Malamar before playing it. If you have cards that can do so (Evolution Incense, Fog Crystal, Drizzile…), use them before playing your Supporter. Keep Octillery’s Rapid Strike Search to get a card after Cynthia’s Ambition.

As I mentioned, almost every card in the deck is either a Rapid Strike card or can be exchanged for a Rapid Strike card. The exceptions are draw Supporters, Boss’s Orders, Ordinary Rod, Psychic Energy, Inteleon (when you don’t have a Drizzile in play) and Ultra Ball. Because of this, it is likely that after playing Cynthia, you have about six Rapid Strike cards in hand. How can you improve this amount?

First of all, you can improve your odds, especially in regards to Psychic Energy. Say you need Malamar and an Energy, and you only have one Drizzile to play before Cynthia’s Ambition. Let’s assume you have Octillery in play, which can also find Malamar or an Energy anyway. Which card should you get off Shady Dealings?

This depends on the number of Psychic Energy still in your deck. If there are two, it’s better to get Evolution Incense to find Malamar. This way, even if you draw a Psychic Energy off Cynthia, you can attach it (if you draw both of them, one will be useless this turn, but that’s unlikely). On the other hand, if there’s only one Psychic Energy, it’s better to get Fog Crystal to get the Energy. Since it’s the only Psychic Energy, there’s no risk that you draw the second off Cynthia (Spiral Energy is a Rapid Strike card, so we don’t mind drawing it), and I like using Fog Crystal early on since there are times when there are no more Inkay in the deck, so Fog Crystal could be a dead card.

While these kind of probability tricks improve the average number of Rapid Strike cards you’ll draw, they’re not enough by themselves. In order to deal with bigger threats, such as Pokémon VMAX or Arceus VSTAR with a Big Charm, Malamar needs eight, sometimes nine Rapid Strike cards, so you need to draw cards after using Cynthia’s Ambition. There are multiple ways to do this.

Octillery (037/163)Turffield Stadium (068/073)Rescue Carrier (154/203)

First, Octillery can grab one card. Sometimes, you’ll need it to get Malamar or Spiral Energy. At other times, you can simply use it to grab a random Rapid Strike card which will be shuffled back in the deck afterwards. Keep Rapid Strike Search for after your draw Supporter, or you will decrease the density of Rapid Strike cards in your deck, unless it’s the end of the game and you need to draw a specific card, such as Scoop Up Net. In this case, you can use Octillery to grab a card to play before your Supporter (Malamar or Spiral Energy, generally), to improve your odds of drawing the key card.

Second, Turffield Stadium can be played before Cynthia’s Ambition, and activated afterwards. Usually, I try to keep it to counter an opponent’s Stadium, but if you happen to have drawn it, or you already have Malamar, Inkay and an Energy, and you still have a Shady Dealings available before playing your Supporter, you can play this Stadium to essentially give you an extra card in hand.

Third, Rescue Carrier is one card that gets you two cards back. Often, one of these cards is an Inkay that you’ll have to play back, but sometimes you can just play Rescue Carrier (or get it with Shady Dealings) after your Supporter to turn one card into two Rapid Strike cards. Avoid playing Rescue Carrier for only one card if you can, and try to maximize its potential. For example, on turn two, there will often be one Pokémon in your discard (the one that just got Knocked Out). You could use Ultra Ball to discard a second one and draw more cards with Cynthia’s Ambition, and then use Rescue Carrier to get both Pokémon back after Cynthia’s Ambition. While Rescue Carrier helps you not to run out of resources, most of the time, it’s perfectly fine to use one in a game just to increase your damage, even if the Pokémon you get back aren’t relevant.

Fourth, Inteleon is another way to get two cards with one. In fact, you can even get more than that, because Inteleon can grab Rescue Carrier and a Rapid Strike Trainer, which amounts for three Rapid Strike cards. Inteleon is key to improving your damage output, and that’s why when you’re approaching a critical turn against a high HP opponent, it’s very important to have two Drizzile on your Bench ready to evolve.

Scoop Up Net (207/192)

Finally, there’s Scoop Up Net. It‘s the hardest card in the deck to use properly, and the one that requires the most thinking.

At its simplest, Scoop Up Net is another two-for-one card. Play it on Octillery, get Remoraid and Octillery back in hand – that’s two Rapid Strike cards. Similarly, you can use Scoop Up Net on a Drizzile, getting Sobble and Drizzile back. Keep Sobble in hand, evolve another Sobble into Drizzile, get a Rapid Strike card. The one Scoop Up Net got you 80 damage (Sobble and the Rapid Strike card).

Ideally, you want to use Scoop Up Net on Inteleon, allowing you to reuse both Inteleon and Drizzile’s Abilities, getting you even more cards. If you have an Inteleon, Drizzile and Sobble in play and a Scoop Up Net, you can reuse Drizzile and Inteleon’s Abilities and keep Sobble in hand, getting you at least four Rapid Strike cards. The trick to this optimization, when your goal is to deal as much damage as possible, is trying to evolve as many Sobble and Drizzile in a turn as possible.

However, Scoop Up Net has a cost: your board. Getting Octillery back in hand, for example, gives you two more Rapid Strike cards, but it also gets rid of an important support Pokémon. If it’s not the last turn of the game, you need to decide whether getting a KO this turn is worth losing Octillery for the following turn. This choice should depend on the matchup and the board state. In most matchups, I would recommend against sacrificing your board to get a big KO. For example, I recently lost a game because I went all-in to KO an Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX on turn three, getting Octillery back in hand and shuffling basically all my hand back. I then proceeded to dead draw for a few turns so, even though I got the Prize lead, I was never able to close out the game. Thinking back, there was no need for me to take that risk. Had I simply hit Calyrex for about half its HP, I would have kept my board, and even though I would have got behind in Prizes, the Prize trade is in Malamar’s favor so I could probably have won the game anyway.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s right to make this play. Sometimes you’re running out of turns, and you need to start taking Prizes now, even if you’re not sure you can keep doing so. Or, against a deck with no disruption, or if you can keep a Cynthia’s Ambition to refill your hand on the next turn, it can be fine okay to get rid of the Octillery safety net. Sometimes you can afford to take a turn to rebuild your board in the middle of the game with Brawly!

Ideally, try to keep Scoop Up Net for the end of the game, and only use it on Inteleon before that point, but with this card, flexibility is key!


Header - Matchups

Most matchups (Gengar VMAX, Ice Rider, Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon…) don’t need any specific tips, and the guidelines I described above should help you beat these decks. In this section, I will discuss some specific decks against which you need to change your game plan, or at least, keep some thoughts in mind.


Mew VMAX is a very aggressive deck, but on the bright side, it usually doesn’t play any disruption. This means that using Scoop Up Net on Octillery in the midgame to deal more damage is viable. As long as you have a draw Supporter (or a way to get one with Shady Dealings), you know you won’t draw dead.

Mew VMAX usually uses Meloetta in the early game, and Mew VMAX afterwards. This is ideal for Malamar, because you can KO Meloetta even while you’re still setting up, and then when the opponent uses Mew VMAX, you have a couple Drizzile in play so you can play Inteleon, meaning your deck has reached its full potential. Mew VMAX also often plays Training Court, and you can use it to get an Energy and basically save you a card.

One card to watch out for is Oricorio. With it in play, you need nine cards instead of eight to OHKO Mew VMAX. That said, it’s still not that hard to do once you’re set up.

Mew VMAX’s best tool in this matchup is Psychic Leap. They can use it to save a damaged Mew VMAX if you couldn’t get a KO, or even to KO an Inkay or Sobble and send a one-Prize Pokémon Active instead of the three-Prize Mew VMAX. Most Mew VMAX players don’t use it as often as they should, in my experience, but this might change in the future!

This is why Boss’s Orders is key in this matchup. Don’t use it for no reason; when the opponent uses Psychic Leap, use it to bring up a Mew V (or Genesect V) from their Bench to KO it, letting you still get ahead in the Prize race.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of success in this matchup.

Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX

Duraludon VMAX is very tanky – you’ll need nine cards to OHKO it. While you can try to 2HKO it, it usually plays healing cards, so it can be frustrating. Try to get to a board state in which you can use Inteleon’s Shady Dealings twice in a turn. Usually, after you’ve KO’d Arceus VSTAR and Duraludon VMAX, there will another Duraludon VMAX, but not ready to attack yet. Because of this, it’s perfectly fine to go all in to KO the first Duraludon VMAX, even if it means playing multiple Scoop Up Net. You’ll have time to rebuild your board afterwards.

Also, in this matchup, use Spiral Energy when facing Arceus VSTAR, and keep your Psychic Energy for Duraludon VMAX. As much as possible, don’t waste Ordinary Rod, and play it once you can shuffle at least one Energy, two if possible (and needed), back in your deck.

This matchup can be scary, and lists that play Collapsed Stadium and/or Avery are tough, but Malamar can still prevail.

Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX

Urshifu’s G-Max Rapid Flow can KO two Pokémon at the same time. While Malamar has a Fighting resistance, if the opponent plays a Boss’s Orders, they can easily KO two Malamar on the Bench (some Quick Shooting pings can also help.) For this reason, in this matchup, your board state should be three Inkay, two Sobble and a Remoraid (third Inkay instead of third Sobble). It’s likely that your opponent will target your support Pokémon instead of Malamar, but you only need five Rapid Strike cards to KO Urshifu thanks to its Weakness, so you should still be able to answer with a KO and get ahead in the Prize race. If at one point Urshifu isn’t a concern anymore (for example if the opposing deck isn’t pure Rapid Strike Urshifu, but Arceus VSTAR / Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX / Galarian Moltres V), you can play a Scoop Up Net on the third Malamar for additional damage and/or to free a Bench spot.


Durant (and control decks) is annoying for Malamar because they don’t take any Prizes, which means that Cynthia’s Ambition and Bruno are weak cards. Thankfully, Durant has few HP, so we don’t need a huge hand to knock them out. Instead, the challenge comes from managing resources to deal with their plays. The key cards in this matchup are Tower of Waters and Scoop Up Net, and to a lesser extent Ordinary Rod.

Set up as usual, including a second Inkay. While you don’t need backup for when Malamar gets Knocked Out, you might need to retreat your Active Malamar if it gets confused by Team Yell Horn, so you need a second one ready to attack.

Keep your Scoop Up Nets as much as possible. If your opponent uses Boss’s Orders on a Drizzile or Inteleon, it’s better to retreat manually (using Turffield Stadium to remove their Galar Mine) than to use a Scoop Up Net. Similarly, Tower of Waters lets you retreat a Confused Malamar for only one Energy. Scoop Up Net should be played only when you have no other option.

Towards the late game, it often happens that the only way you can lose is if the opponent mills your last Scoop Up Net. In this situation, you can use Shady Dealings to get Scoop Up Net in hand, even if you don’t need it right now, just so it doesn’t get milled. Even if the Durant player uses Marnie, the card will go safely to the bottom of your deck and won’t get milled.

Mirror match (and other single-Prize decks)

Unfortunately, the mirror match is not a very intricate matchup. Both players will trade KOs back-and-forth, and the one who took the first Prize will win almost every time. That said, resources do matter in this matchup.

Don’t bother trying to get rid of support Pokémon. Instead, apply pressure by removing a Malamar from play every turn. The player who takes the first KO will still need six Malamar to win the game (since each of their KO will be answered by a KO on Malamar). It’s imperative to only use Ordinary Rod to shuffle back two Malamar in the deck (and Energy). Using it on only one Malamar will lose you the game!

By the way, don’t concede even if it looks like your opponent is in the lead. If their last Prize card is a Malamar or Ordinary Rod, they’ll still lose even if they’re ahead.
The same general principles apply to other single-Prize matchups.


Header - Conclusion

With that, I think that I’ve covered all that you need to know to increase your win rate! My last piece of advice is to practice a lot with the deck. After playing your draw Supporter, you need to quickly evaluate your hand to know whether you can get the KO or not, and it’s not as easy as counting your Rapid Strike cards: you often have to think how best to use a Scoop Up Net or whether it’s worth playing a Rescue Carrier for only one card, for example. And even the best players will sometimes fumble and miscount their hand (I’ve counted Drizzile as a Rapid Strike card in hand before – it happens) or Bench a Pokémon they shouldn’t have. As you get more practice, you get a better sense of what you can do, whatever hand you draw. On TCGO, there’s a timer counting down. In IRL tournaments, you must keep a reasonable pace of play. In both cases, practice so you can play faster and avoid losing to the clock!

If you’d like to watch the deck in action, I recently recorded a gameplay video:

Thanks for reading!

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