The Lost Zone engine (using Comfey and Colress’s Experiment to draw cards and send others to the Lost Zone, in order to attack with Cramorant for no Energy cost, and later use other payoff cards such as Mirage Gate and Sableye) has been very successful since the start of the Lost Origin format. It has been used to power up all sorts of Pokémon: Giratina VSTAR, Hisuian Goodra VSTAR and even Dialga VSTAR! However, so far, it’s been at its most successful in the Lost Toolbox deck, which foregoes Mirage Gate in exchange for more switching cards in order to use Comfey’s Ability more often, letting the deck use Sableye’s Lost Mine as early as turn two (the other main attacker in the deck is Radiant Charizard, which is used in the late game). In fact, Lost Toolbox is probably the deck with the most impact on the metagame: its success and popularity make most players try to counter it. Because of this, we’re finding ourselves in the middle of a war of escalation.
On one side, players are trying to counter Lost Toolbox. This usually comes in the form of Empoleon V, whose Emperor’s Eyes Ability shuts down Comfey, delaying the Lost Toolbox player their main way to send cards to the Lost Zone, and therefore slowing them down greatly (Empoleon V also shuts down Cramorant’s Ability, so even if the Lost Toolbox player gets four cards in the Lost Zone, they still can’t attack). Lost Toolbox lists usually play four Escape Rope, so a lone Empoleon V turned out to not be a good enough counter: good players would send Empoleon V back to the Bench with an Escape Rope, then use Flower Selecting as much as possible in order to reach their Lost Zone threshold. Doing this two turns in a row would let them get to 10 cards in the Lost Zone and keep playing the game with no issue.
In response to that, many decks, such as Kyurem VMAX / Palkia VSTAR, Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR and even Giratina VSTAR started running two Empoleon V. The idea is that if the Lost Toolbox player uses Escape Rope, they would simply bring the second Empoleon V in the Active spot instead and keep denying Abilities.
Cross Switcher fits well into builds that are already playing PokéStop. While it can be awkward in combination with Colress’s Experiment or Flower Selecting (what if the top two cards of your deck are both Cross Switcher?), it’s also one more way to switch between multiple Comfey. Overall, I don’t think it’s the best option to deal with Empoleon V, because it’s not easy to find two Cross Switcher while under Empoleon V’s lock, but it’s a solid card in the deck that can be useful in every other matchup. Marco Cifuentes used Cross Switcher to make top 8 in last weekend’s Limitless Showdown, a major online event with more than 650 players.
Path to the Peak is straightforward: play it and remove Empoleon V’s Ability until it leaves play. It’s especially efficient against Giratina decks, which usually play at most one Stadium card and one Lost Vacuum, and therefore can’t easily remove it. If you’re very worried about Empoleon V, I think Path to the Peak is the best counter. However, it has two downsides that could have an impact, including in non-Empoleon matchups. First, if you’re running Path to the Peak, you’re not running PokéStop. That makes the deck slower. Getting the turn two Lost Mine is still possible, but slightly less likely. Second, Path to the Peak is obviously antisynergistic with Radiant Charizard. That’s not too big a deal, because you only need Charizard in the late game when you don’t need Path to the Peak anymore, even to deal with Empoleon V, and you can remove your own Path to the Peak with Lost Vacuum (in fact, using Lost Vacuum on your own Stadium is a good way to send more cards to the Lost Zone quickly). That said, it still requires you to keep Lost Vacuum until the end of the game, for safety.
Finally, Canceling Cologne can be played to simply remove Empoleon V’s Ability for a turn. Compared to Path to the Peak, it’s more punctual, but it is compatible with PokéStop. In fact, PokéStop is a good way to find Canceling Cologne! I thought about Cancelling Cologne soon after Empoleon V started popping up, but Alex Schemanske really pushed the idea to the next level by playing four copies of it in his Limitless Showdown deck. While that didn’t go that well for him, he then won the 433-player Late Night Series #60 with a list that included three copies of it, showing that the concept was solid. The nice thing about Cancelling Cologne is that it’s absolutely fine as a one-time effect, rather than a durable one (like Path to the Peak) since you only need to shut down Emperor’s Eyes once or twice per game. After that, Sableye and Charizard can attack normally, so not being able to use Flower Selecting is just a minor inconvenience.
With all of that in mind, a question comes to mind for those playing in Peoria Regionals or simply online: which side of this war are you on? Is it better to play Lost Toolbox, having to make space for Empoleon counters, or should you play Empoleon yourself to get the best odds against Lost Toolbox?
While I tend to favor the Lost Toolbox side of this conflict if I have to choose one, I think the real answer is: neither. Because the metagame is focused on countering Lost Toolbox or Empoleon V, the path is open for other decks to succeed. Let me explain.
Palkia VSTAR was widely considered to be the best deck of the Astral Radiance/Pokémon Go format. While it didn’t end up winning NAIC or Worlds, it still had very strong showings at both events, and most importantly, it was the deck that everyone was focused on beating, hence the popularity of Flying Pikachu VMAX and the return of Jolteon and Memory Capsule.
The emergence of new decks has turned players’ focus elsewhere. Arceus / Flying Pikachu is barely seen anymore (there are still some players running Arceus / Giratina / Flying Pikachu, but they’re not a strong presence in the metagame) and Jolteon seems pretty much forgotten. However, Palkia is still just as good as before, and it has at least even matchups against new decks such as Lost Toolbox. When a deck is great and people aren’t bothering to counter it, you know it’s about to do incredibly well. Better yet, Palkia doesn’t care about the escalation war going on. It is absolutely unaffected by Empoleon V, and techs such as Canceling Cologne and Path to the Peak in Lost Toolbox aren’t a big deal to it either. It is in the perfect spot to sweep the tournament!
Palkia / Inteleon lists are all relatively similar, but there are two main variations on it, which I’ll call American Palkia and Japanese Palkia. American Palkia, popularized by Isaiah Bradner and his group at NAIC, plays four Battle VIP Pass, Galarian Zigzagoon and three Scoop Up Net, while Japanese Palkia, which is more popular in Japan, runs only one Battle VIP Pass (to grab with Irida on turn one), but a thicker Inteleon line (usually 4/3/2+1) with Rare Candy and is more likely to play additional one-of Supporters such as Marnie and Raihan.
American Palkia was more popular in the Astral Radiance format, and I think that’s because it’s better against Arceus / Flying Pikachu and other similar decks. When decks with four Marnie are popular, getting your whole board set up on the first turn is important. However, I think Japanese Palkia might be stronger now. Rare Candy allows you to attack with Inteleon early on (and Raihan helps as well), which is strong against one-Prize decks such as Lost Toolbox.
Here’s what I would play:
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 18 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 3 Origin Forme Palkia V ASR 39 * 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 * 1 Inteleon CRE 43 * 3 Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR ASR 40 ##Trainer Cards - 34 * 3 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Training Court RCL 169 * 1 Marnie SSH 169 * 4 Cross Switcher FST 230 * 1 Echoing Horn CRE 136 * 3 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 1 Melony CRE 146 * 1 Raihan EVS 152 * 1 Roxanne ASR 150 * 2 Level Ball BST 129 * 2 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Canceling Cologne ASR 136 * 1 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 4 Irida ASR 147 * 1 Rare Candy UL 82 * 1 Battle VIP Pass FST 225 * 1 Boss's Orders BRS 132 * 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146 * 1 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 3 Capacious Bucket RCL 156 ##Energy - 8 * 7 Water Energy Energy 3 * 1 Capture Energy RCL 171 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Overall, the deck is strong by itself and doesn’t need to be teched for Lost Toolbox or other decks in the metagame. I don’t think Empoleon V is necessary in this deck, as you’d need two to be really useful, and I think that’s a huge loss of space and can make other matchups, such as Mew VMAX, much worse.
I did make two adjustments, though: first, I included a Marnie in the deck. Marnie is useful against Lost Zone decks because it prevents them from accumulating cards endlessly in hand, but it’s also a good card overall that can be played in every matchup, so I wouldn’t really consider it a tech. I also made the choice to put Canceling Cologne back in the deck. It’s part of a play where you bring up the opponent’s Manaphy Active, shut down its Wave Veil Ability with Canceling Cologne, then attack with Radiant Greninja to take two Prize cards. This can be used against Lost Toolbox, especially since they play little disruption to prevent that play, but it’s also a good play in the mirror match and any other deck that plays the Inteleon engine.
If Palkia is such a great deck with good matchups against everything, and if it’s sufficiently off the radar that most people aren’t going to focus on countering it, why would you play anything else? Apart from personal reasons (such as if you don’t own the cards, or have never played the deck before and don’t feel like starting now with no preparation), there’s also the simple fact that many players have come to the same conclusion as me. I’ve seen multiple threads and memes on Twitter from players who agree that Palkia is the solution to the current metagame. It’s not unlikely that many players, especially top players, will show up to Peoria with Palkia / Inteleon. The deck has been underrepresented online (both on ladder and in tournaments) due to most people wanting to try out new cards and archetypes. However, when it comes to IRL tournaments with actual stakes, I think many people will fall back on safe plays. Even online, the hype around the new set is bound to fall off soon, and you should expect more Palkia in the days and weeks to come.
If you’re worried about Palkia and anti-Palkia decks (maybe Arceus / Flying Pikachu will make a resurgence?), Mew VMAX is another safe play that steps outside of the war between Lost Toolbox and Empoleon V. The days of everyone teching Dark attackers and/or Path to the Peak in their decks are over, so Mew VMAX now enjoys a more comfortable time. It also has a good matchup against Arceus / Goodra, one of the newer decks to emerge, that could be popular to due having favorable matchups against both Palkia and Lost Toolbox.
More specifically, I want to recommend Fusionless Mew, the variant of Mew VMAX that plays no Fusion Strike Energy, Elesa’s Sparkle or Meloetta, and instead plays four Double Turbo Energy, PokéStop, more Item cards such as Cross Switcher and tech Supporters. This version was invented by Michael Pramawat, who made Top 8 at the London Open with it. I was intrigued at first, but then brushed it off because it felt bad going second. Without Meloetta, you lose one of Mew’s strengths: its ability to deal heavy damage with a turn one Melodious Echo.
However, Fusionless Mew has advantages that make up for it. It is slightly more consistent, thanks to PokéStop, and more importantly, it can play more cards. Since it doesn’t have to play Elesa’s Sparkle, it can more easily run various Supporter cards, such as Marnie and Roxanne. The lack of disruption has been a weakness of Mew decks, which is solved here. In fact, some players have even included Roxanne and Path to the Peak together, including Christian Tuomi, who made Top 8 at the Bilbao SPE, and more recently, Wie “capahab” Junseo, the winner of the Limitless Showdown.
There’s little to change in the latter’s deck list, so I just swapped one card.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 12 * 1 Oricorio PR-SW 168 * 4 Genesect V FST 185 * 4 Mew V FST 113 * 3 Mew VMAX FST 114 ##Trainer Cards - 44 * 2 Marnie SSH 169 * 1 Avery CRE 130 * 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 1 Roxanne ASR 150 * 1 Cyllene ASR 138 * 4 Power Tablet FST 236 * 4 Rotom Phone CPA 64 * 4 Cross Switcher FST 230 * 4 Quick Ball FST 237 * 4 Ultra Ball BRS 150 * 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225 * 3 Cram-o-matic FST 229 * 1 Pal Pad SSH 172 * 1 Echoing Horn CRE 136 * 1 Switch Cart ASR 154 * 1 Hyper Potion SSH 166 * 2 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 2 PokéStop PGO 68 * 1 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 1 Lost City LOR 161 ##Energy - 4 * 4 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
I like a lot of Junseo’s ideas. Specifically, the Stadium split is highly recommended. PokéStop is a good card, but not one that you need to use every turn, so you can afford to take space for some more techy Stadiums. Path to the Peak is used in combination with Roxanne (and potentially Cross Switcher) to give the deck a strong comeback option. Lost City can be used to get rid of, say, a Drapion V for good, but it’s also important in the Lost Toolbox matchup. Radiant Charizard is a threat since it can easily take four Prizes in two turns in the late game. With Lost City, you only have to deal with it once, because it can’t be brought back from the Lost Zone by Klara.
The only change I made was adding a Hyper Potion to the deck. This can be used to remove some damage counters from play against Lost Toolbox, in order to avoid giving up Prizes early on. If you can do that and use Lost City against Charizard in the late game, you should win the Prize race. Having Marnie and Roxanne is also important against that deck.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a deck to play that’s not been already mentioned, I recommend Giratina VSTAR. There’s no need to talk about the deck itself in any detail here, since I already wrote a full guide on it (I recommend you give it a read if you’re interested in the deck!). I just want to explain why I think the deck is strong right now.
Last week, I felt like Giratina VSTAR was a good deck, but maybe not in the best place in the metagame. However, I think it might be due for a good finish now. Empoleon V is annoying for the deck, but not as much as you’d think because it plays Lumineon V to get Colress’s Experiment, and can also use Giratina V’s Lost Abyss to draw cards and send cards to the Lost Zone in the early game. If the opponent has Empoleon V Active, they’re not putting a lot of pressure on you, so it’s fine to take a turn or two to fill your Lost Zone this way.
Giratina VSTAR is also pretty good against many decks that can be expected to rise. Palkia is, in my opinion, at least an even matchup. Giratina VSTAR is very good against tanky cards like Hisuian Goodra VSTAR that could be played to counter Palkia, as well as against something like Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR / Flying Pikachu VMAX. As for the Lost Toolbox matchup, it might be slightly unfavored, but that can be fixed if you add a Collapsed Stadium or two to the deck. Since Lost Toolbox can’t take OHKOs on big targets before the end of the game (when they can use Radiant Charizard), they’ll have to spread damage counters on your Pokémon before that. Collapsed Stadium can be used to discard your Pokémon that have taken damage (such as Giratina V or, especially, Lumineon V) before they can get Knocked Out by Lost Mine. It’s a tech that’s been rising in popularity in Japan and, I think, for good reason!
Overall, Giratina VSTAR is, in my opinion, a riskier play than Palkia or Mew, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up winning in Peoria.
Thank you for reading and good luck if you’re playing in any tournament this weekend!