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Diamond in the Rough – Duraludon VMAX with Arceus VSTAR

Hello again readers, I’m back with you today to talk about the deck that while many of us saw coming, I don’t think we saw it being one of the more dominant decks of the format. This past weekend, Riley Hulbert took down the Full Grip cash event with a list of Duraludon VMAX that differed quite a bit from the lists we’d seen before. I admit, that until I’d seen some of the more recent lists, including his, I had written off Duraludon as less of a threat than it is. Whether the deck is incredibly powerful or not, with Riley’s win it has a place in the meta now, meaning it is at least worth consideration.

So why is this deck even good? For every other format, I’ve been of the opinion that Duraludon only existed because people didn’t know how to play against it. While many still can’t figure that out, that’s no longer the only reason it’s competitively viable in this new format. Arceus VSTAR gave the deck something that it sorely lacked in every other format: powerful energy acceleration and a strong consistency engine. No longer are the days of saying “Intrepid Sword” and hoping that you draw the cards you need while manually attaching three Energies from your hand.

The best part about Arceus VSTAR is that giving up two Prize Cards when your opponent KOs it is essentially irrelevant if all you do for the rest of the game is play down two Duraludon VMAX. The next reason Duraludon is so good is that the meta appears to be shifting heavily towards Mew VMAX and Galarian Weezing / Inteleon. While I don’t think the Mew matchup is free by any means, it’s something that is more than winnable. Weezing / Inteleon, on the other hand, is a matchup that I would feel very comfortable taking on with Duraludon now. Obviously, there are other decks in the format, but I expect Duraludon, Mew, and Dark Box Inteleon to be the top three decks played for this format.

 

 

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 11

* 4 Arceus V BRS 122
* 2 Arceus VSTAR BRS 176
* 3 Duraludon VMAX EVS 123
* 2 Duraludon V CPA 47

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 4 Boss's Orders BRS 132
* 4 Professor's Research BRS 147
* 4 Marnie CPA 56
* 1 Single Strike Style Mustard BRS 214
* 4 Pokégear 3.0 SSH 174
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 4 Ultra Ball BRS 150
* 2 Switch SSH 183
* 1 Escape Rope BST 125
* 2 Big Charm RCL 206
* 1 Choice Belt BRS 135
* 4 Collapsed Stadium BRS 137

##Energy - 14

* 7 Metal Energy Energy 8
* 4 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151
* 3 Fighting Energy Energy 6

Total Cards - 60

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

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I have two lists for you today, and I’m starting with the one that Riley used to win the cash event. I stared at this list for ages, played some games with it, and still ultimately decided to write about the exact 60 cards Riley played to the event.

The thing about this deck is that there’s not really a ton of room to make changes to the list without making it an entirely new variant altogether. As far as this variant of Arceus / Duraludon goes, I would say this list is going to be your best bet, and that any changes you make are either at your own risk, or almost entirely inconsequential.

Between the two lists I have today, I’m actually having a very hard time deciding which one I think is “better” and I think that’ll probably show in my writing. Both versions have their benefits, and both take different approaches to beating some of the more dangerous matchups, but I honestly think they achieve almost the exact same thing in some of those matchups. Let’s jump right into this version of the list!

 

Header - Logic Behind the Cards

“Card choices” is being turned into the above heading for this list, as I didn’t actually make these decisions, and really this section has always been explaining the logic that led to such decisions. This might end up sticking in the future for my articles, we’ll see how I feel about it later.

Two Duraludon V & Three Duraludon VMAX

Duraludon V (047/073)Duraludon VMAX (220/203)

The first thing about the current Duraludon lists that really jumps out to me as something that many players could need an explanation for is the fact that there’s more Duraludon VMAX in this deck than Duraludon V. Single Strike Style Mustard is at least a large part of this reasoning, as you’ll need a VMAX in the deck for it to work, but there’s more to it than just that. The fewer Duraludon V in the deck, the more likely you are to open with Arceus V. If it was just Mustard that was behind this decision, then I would argue that a third Duraludon V belongs in the deck. However, as it turns out, Duraludon V really isn’t the Pokemon you want to start the game with, and in my experience so far, only having two copies in the deck hasn’t been something I’ve been punished for yet. 

Four Arceus V & Two Arceus VSTAR

Arceus V (166/172)Arceus VSTAR (184/172)

The logic here is jumping off from the Duraludon count. You really want to start with Arceus V. I think it’s very important to highlight though that despite playing such a thick line, you almost never want to put down a second Arceus V if you can help it. Yes, there will be games where it’s both fine and correct to do so, but I’ve been playing long enough to know that a ton of people have no concept of limiting their Bench size. The goal of this deck is to force your opponent to go through an Arceus VSTAR and then have to KO two Duraludon VMAX. If you ever play down an additional Pokemon, you’re giving your opponent an out to using a Boss’s Orders to circumvent a VMAX KO.

Four Marnie, Boss’s Orders & Professor’s Research

Marnie (169/202)Boss's Orders (132/172)Professor's Research (147/172)

While this might not normally be worth highlighting, when looking at the next list I think it’s an interesting sort of commentary on how deck building has shifted over time. This list plays a maxed-out Supporter line, and I think it shows in its consistency. Very few decks over the last few formats have played four of each of these Supporters, and I think the shift back towards that older style of building decks is something really interesting. Since I’m already talking about it here, the next list cut some of these Supporters in favor of adding some tech cards, and given enough games, I’d be very interested to see the difference in the number of times those Supporters were whiffed. 

One Single Strike Mustard

Single Strike Style Mustard (134/163)

Riley said he used this card in almost every round he played, which I think really goes to show how powerful it is in this deck. I’ve already talked about how dangerous playing down extra Pokemon is for this deck, so it shouldn’t be understated just how powerful it is to completely skip the part where you need to play down a fragile Pokemon V that’s at risk of being hit with a Boss’s Orders.

Previously, this would have been far too much of a gimmick, as getting your hand down to just Single Strike Mustard in a deck with a ton of Energy and Supporters would have been unrealistic at best. However, with the addition of Ultra Ball and Arceus VSTAR, it’s now pretty much a cakewalk to get Mustard played down. Part of me seriously wonders if playing a second copy would be worth the time just to prevent it from being in the Prize Cards when needed.

Four Pokegear 3.0

Pokegear 3.0 (174/202)

Not only does this deck play a ton of Supporters, but it also plays even more ways to draw into them. Someone had a take on Twitter that decks were getting a bit too consistent, and I honestly think Duraludon is one of the best examples of that. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s very rare for Duraludon to not execute its game plan. Because of this, many of the decks that it beats have almost no way of getting around Duraludon’s strategy. In the past, there was always a chance that the deck would just not draw the cards it needed, and you could steamroll it. While that possibility is still there, it’s leaps and bounds lower than it used to be.

Four Collapsed Stadium

Collapsed Stadium (137/172)

From what I can tell, this is really the big claim to fame that Riley’s list has. Rather than focus on outlasting Mew with healing, or disrupting their Energies with Crushing Hammer, this deck limits their Bench size to four, essentially nerfing their entire draw engine. This also has benefits in other matchups at well, particularly against the Inteleon decks, but I think it shows the most relevance against Mew.

 

Header - Matchups

Mew VMAX: Slightly Favored

I’ll be honest, I think this is as good as it gets against Mew, and Duraludon is finally able to live up to its full potential with this matchup.

Like most matchups, you’ll want to lead with Arceus VSTAR and make them go through two Duraludon VMAX. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the most realistic of things as a turn one Meloetta can apply insane amounts of pressure.

Depending on what you start with, a second Arceus V might need to be your priority on your first turn, and then a shift towards using Mustard to get Duraludon VMAX in play is probably the main goal. Notably, if you’re forced to play down a second Arceus V, you might not be able to get away with a Duraludon V if you’re going second. If they’re able to Boss KO a Duraludon V on their second turn and you have two Arceus V in play, your game is probably going to be quite difficult.

That said, sometimes you’ll need to just go for it and hope they can’t KO it. From what I’ve seen, there are a few different ways to take your Prize Cards, but when they lead Meloetta with two Fusion Strike Energies on it, don’t even think about trying to Boss around it. Take the KO on Meloetta with Arceus VSTAR and set up your Duraludon VMAX. Allowing four Fusion Strike Energy to hit the field, with none of them on a Mew, is incredibly dangerous, as Mew VMAX with two Psychic Energy can easily take a KO on Duraludon with just two or three damage modifiers. 

If you’re able to KO a Meloetta, then your game is probably going to be a VMAX KO and then a Boss KO on Genesect. However, if they’re leading Mew VMAX and it has Special Energies on it, you can pretty reasonably get away with trying to Boss KO three Genesect V or Mew V. Choice Belt allows Arceus VSTAR to OHKO a Genesect V even with Double Turbo Energy, and Mew V is already within range as long as Oricorio isn’t in play. If Arceus VSTAR successfully takes two Prizes, then I think you should be in a very good position to win as long as a Melodious Echo that can hit through Duraludon with four Fusion Strike Energies in play isn’t on the table.

In the games where you have to KO Meloetta, you’ll probably be better off taking a KO on Mew VMAX and then using Boss to KO a Genesect. In general, the only real way of messing with their setup is with Collapsed Stadium, and there’s probably not very many situations where you don’t want to just play it down, but be aware that you could be removing potential win conditions from play if your opponent has been playing down specific Pokemon as replacements for what you’ve KOed and removed. 

Dark Box Inteleon: Favored

I personally think this matchup is as close to free as you can get, and if you want to see just how to play it, go check out the VODs on Mahone’s channel, as Riley ended up playing that matchup at least once on stream.

Briefly though, in this matchup you care less about using Duraludon twice and more about switching between up to four different attackers. You want to be spreading out the damage they give you, and if possible, avoid putting yourself in situations where Sableye V being used twice could lose you the game. To do this, let the first Arceus take two hits from Hoopa, while hopefully taking two Prize Cards itself, and then switch into a different Arceus or Duraludon. If they want to KO that damaged Arceus, then they’ll have to use a Boss to do so, meaning they can’t use Raihan or Klara, and they aren’t doing any damage to a fresh attacker. If they go for Sableye too early, then you’re going to be getting some extra Prize Cards, which is never a bad thing, but if you play in a way that lets them just KO two VMAXs, then you might be in trouble.

All of the Random DTE/Twin Energy Decks: Favored

A ton of decks have popped up that only use Special Energies to attack, and the fact that Duraludon outright beats them has to be one of the biggest reasons to play the deck. There’s not that much to be said for these matchups but be aware that some could play Path to the Peak, and then all of a sudden, you’re going to be at risk. 

Decks like Shadow Rider VMAX and Gengar VMAX with Path to the Peak

That heading says it all, but there are a few decks that simply don’t care that you have 360 HP and can’t be hurt by Special Energies. Shadow Rider Calyrex can pretty easily build up a board state that lets them just walk all over your setup. Gengar, on the other hand, actually plays only Special Energies, but with Path to the Peak available, has the capability of hitting 360 damage at once if they really put all of their eggs in the same basket. Choice Belt and all four Single Strike Energies are enough to make you a not very happy camper. 

 

Header - The Healing List

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 11

* 4 Arceus V BRS 122
* 2 Arceus VSTAR BRS 176
* 3 Duraludon VMAX EVS 123
* 2 Duraludon V CPA 47

##Trainer Cards - 36

* 4 Professor's Research BRS 147
* 3 Marnie CPA 56
* 3 Boss's Orders BRS 132
* 2 Raihan EVS 202
* 1 Single Strike Style Mustard BRS 214
* 4 Pokégear 3.0 SSH 174
* 4 Ultra Ball BRS 150
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 2 Switch SSH 183
* 2 Hyper Potion CPA 54
* 2 Big Charm RCL 206
* 1 Choice Belt BRS 135
* 1 Collapsed Stadium BRS 137
* 3 Crystal Cave EVS 144

##Energy - 13

* 6 Metal Energy Energy 8
* 4 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151
* 3 Fighting Energy Energy 6

Total Cards - 60

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

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This list is largely the same as the other one, but there are some key differences. 

  • Rather than four Collapsed Stadium, it only plays one and then rounds out the Stadium count with three Crystal Cave, providing an essential healing option for Duraludon.
  • As some additional healing, Hyper Potion is in the list. This works wonders against Mew VMAX that has been forced to use Max Miracle to do damage to your Duraludon VMAX
  • Raihan has taken the place of two other Supporters, as this version of the deck is much more comfortable with using only one Duraludon VMAX and then two Arceus VSTAR.

That’s it. Those are the only real differences between the variants. Even with there being different variants, the lists are largely the same.

Matchups

Honestly, most of these matchups will play out in the exact same way as they did for the other list, but against Mew you can feel much freer to do the double Arceus plays, as Hyper Potion buys you a decent amount of time to let your one Duraludon VMAX take enough KOs. 

I know I didn’t talk that much about this version of the deck, but that’s because I think they accomplish the same things despite their differences. Try out both versions and see which one you prefer more.

 

Header - Final Thoughts

That’s it for today. This format is just starting, and we’ve already seen a ton of surprises come out of it, and I’m excited to see what else happens for the first official in-person events in two years. I think there’s a ton of development that we’ll see over the next few months as the meta is defined, and I’m curious to see which decks still around and which decks fade into the background. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to pm me somewhere, and I’ll try to get you an answer. 

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