Gengar VMAX with Brilliant Stars and More!

Hello again readers, I’m back with you today to bring you a deck that has been seeing a bit more play recently and will also likely see an additional increase in play once Brilliant Stars releases. There was a part of me that really wanted to ignore the current format and focus entirely on Brilliant Stars today, but doing so what is essentially a month in advance felt like a bit too much. As a compromise, I’m just going to do a shorter coverage of Gengar VMAX in both formats. This works out anyways, as there’s not a ton more to be said about this format, but there’s also not an entire articles worth of content of “Ultra Ball and Choice Belt make this deck way better!” 

While I’m not particularly excited to continue talking about this format, Gengar VMAX doesn’t change too much going forward, so a lot of what I say about the cards and some matchups in the first portion of this article will likely remain true into the next format. Next time, I plan on going entirely with Brilliant Stars, so look forward to that in the coming weeks. With that said, it’s time to get into today’s lists.




****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 17
* 2 Crobat V DAA 182
* 4 Gengar V FST 156
* 4 Houndour BST 95
* 4 Houndoom BST 96
* 3 Gengar VMAX FST 157
##Trainer Cards - 35
* 4 Marnie CPA 56
* 4 Professor's Research CEL 23
* 3 Boss's Orders SHF 58
* 4 Cram-o-matic FST 229
* 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 3 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 3 Urn of Vitality BST 139
* 2 Switch SSH 183
* 2 Tower of Darkness BST 137
* 2 Path to the Peak CRE 148
##Energy - 8
* 4 Single Strike Energy BST 141
* 4 Hiding {D} Energy DAA 175
Total Cards - 60


I already covered a much different Gengar VMAX list way back when the set was relatively new, but that version of the deck was vastly different than today’s, as it focused on the Inteleon engine as a way to get everything you need. In contrast, this version of the deck looks like it took a lot of pointers from the most popular Mew VMAX build, utilizing Battle VIP Pass and Cram-o-matic. While it doesn’t have the inherent consistency of an Inteleon deck anymore, this version has been seeing more than enough success for there to be some merit to it at least. Most of what is in this deck today is pretty much the standard, but some of it could use explanations, as even I almost recoiled away from some of the choices I’ve seen in popular lists.


Header - Card Choices

Two Crobat V

Crobat V (182/189)

I honestly can barely remember the last time I played down a Crobat V before playing this deck again. We’ve reached a point in the game where “bench and draw six” is somehow not good enough to be a staple in every deck. Whether that’s good or bad is neither here nor there, but I think it’s worth noting at least.

Most lists have been playing two copies of Crobat V, and while I don’t think it’s strictly necessary, I really like how much of a cushion it can give you at times. Unfortunately, the drawback of playing multiple copies of Crobat V in a deck with relatively few Basic Pokemon is that you’re going to end up opening the game with it as your starting Pokemon much more often than is desirable. Not great, but probably worth living with, especially considering that you’re stuck with zero Crobat V in your deck if you open it after cutting down to one copy.

Four Houndour and Four Houndoom

Houndour (095/163)Houndoom (096/163)

I’m honestly yielding to popular opinion on this one, as I’m convinced you could get away with one less Houndoom and maybe one less Houndour. You really should only need two up at once in any game, and in some matchups, you can get away with only one in play for a while. I suspect this is a symptom of the open list format that we find ourselves playing. If your opponent knows for a fact that you only play three Houndour, they’re going to be more likely to target them down. If this knowledge remains hidden, you can get much greedier with things like this. 

Four Gengar V and Zero Single Strike Urshifu V

Gengar V (156/264)Single Strike Urshifu V (085/163)

Yes, Urshifu V is a solid choice as a mirror tech and for the Jolteon VMAX matchup. No, I will not put it in my deck at the expense of a Gengar V, which is necessary to find in almost every matchup. While it does require three Single Strike Energy, Gengar VMAX can deal with Jolteon VMAX just as well as an Urshifu V, which with require at least two Single Strike Energy to even attack. Urshifu V also is unable to abuse Hiding Darkness Energy, meaning there’s a total of two cards that can get it out of the Active Spot. I played enough games with it in the deck where that became a problem in the early game, and I was forced to just shrug and lose games because of it. 

Three Boss’s Order

Boss's Orders (58/72)

Many lists I’ve seen are only playing two copies, and while that might technically be enough, a large part of me feels like that relies on good luck with Cram-o-matic a bit too much. A third copy isn’t really a magical cure-all to that, but it will inevitably lead to the player having access to it more often. This deck discards a ton of cards, and I felt like I only ever had the opportunity to play Boss’s Orders one time in a game. With a third copy in the list, you should usually have access to it at least twice a game instead of once.

Two Path to the Peak

Path to the Peak (148/198)

A lot of the lists I’ve seen have been playing four Path to the Peak and two Tower of Darkness. That’s six Stadium cards, four of which cannot be played down when trying to thin your hand for Crobat V. Path is a good card for slowing down Mew VMAX, but four is such a weird thing to play when there’s already another good Stadium in your deck. I don’t want to call it bad, as it’s really not, but it comes off as poor value when considering how tight this list can be. I really considered playing zero copies and going all in on Tower of Darkness, but I’m once again yielding to popular opinion and keeping it in this list. 


Header - Matchups

There’s not a ton to say about this deck’s matchups currently if I’m being honest. I’ll go over a few of them for the sake of it, but I’m also going to gloss over the more polarized ones for the sake of my sanity.

Mew VMAX: Mostly Favored

Meloetta (124/264)

The only reason I feel comfortable calling this favored is because Houndoom can be the one to KO Meloetta, forcing your opponent to either use a Boss’s Orders or go down to a weird Prize count. Both sides of this matchup need to be extremely careful with how they play down their VMAX’s, but Gengar is generally a little safer to play them down once you’ve removed a Fusion Strike Energy from play.

Without Meloetta swinging for 280 damage, Mew needs all four Power Tablet to OHKO a Gengar VMAX. Not impossible, but also not likely, and something that you can easily observe by looking at what they’ve already played. Notably, three Power Tablet is enough if you’ve used Single Strike Roar even once, so keep that in mind, as you may be forced to attack Energy from your hand twice. Using Gengar V is generally a good strategy, especially if they were unable to take a KO with Meloetta on their first turn. If they did, then VMAXs are your best friend. If possible, you want to end your first turn with a Houndour in the Active Spot, but it’s not strictly necessary if you’re able to avoid playing down extra Pokemon V.

Single Strike Urshifu: Slightly Unfavored 

Single Strike Urshifu VMAX (086/163)

While it might seem like an impossible matchup, Single Strike is basically a mirror match where they have a slight advantage. In general, I’ve found that this matchup comes down to who takes the first KO on a Pokemon V. As long as either player is able to stream OHKOs, weakness is much less of an issue than it seems.

The most important thing here is to make sure you don’t have two VMAXs played down before your opponent has two or fewer Prize Cards remaining. In general, you lose if you don’t take the first KO, but they could have a poor enough board state for that not to be strictly true. You’ll want to use Gengar V to take either your first or second KO, assuming they are able to KO your first Gengar VMAX. Use your best judgement to determine the correct course of action, but unless you’re winning with it or otherwise discarding your last one, Gengar VMAX should not be in play while your opponent is at exactly three Prize Cards.

Rapid Strike Urshifu: Unfavored

Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX (088/163)

This matchup is way worse for you than Single Strike. This is one of the “gloss over because its awful” matchups I mentioned. They kill stuff way too easily, and you don’t have the extra damage that Single Strike’s Houndoom do to their VMAXs. Even if you OHKO the first Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, all they need is a single Energy and VMAX to return the favor. This one is just bad.

Jolteon VMAX: Even

Jolteon VMAX (051/203)

This matchup comes down almost entirely to how well both players draw. If you’re able to start slamming down KOs on your second turn, they almost never have an answer to a Gengar VMAX with more than 200 HP remaining. Your biggest issue will be finding a Switch when you need it. Obviously, a decent portion of games don’t go like that because of the coinflip, but if you win the flip and don’t draw poorly, this matchup is perfectly easy.


Header - Adding Brilliant Stars


##Pokémon - 16
* 2 Crobat V DAA 182
* 3 Gengar V FST 156
* 4 Houndour BST 95
* 3 Houndoom BST 96
* 3 Gengar VMAX FST 157
* 1 Manaphy BRS 
##Trainer Cards - 36
* 3 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 4 Marnie CPA 56
* 4 Professor's Research CEL 23
* 2 Boss's Orders SHF 58
* 3 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 3 Choice Belt BRS 
* 3 Quick Ball FST 237
* 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 3 Cram-o-matic FST 229
* 3 Urn of Vitality BST 139
* 2 Switch SSH 183
* 2 Tower of Darkness BST 137
* 2 Path to the Peak CRE 148
##Energy - 8
* 4 Single Strike Energy BST 141
* 4 Hiding {D} Energy DAA 175

Total Cards - 60


Yes, this list is very similar to the previous one, but did you really expect me to not use it as a base when the actual format is a month out? Gengar VMAX is the deck that probably gains the most and least at the same time. On one hand it gains Ultra Ball and Choice Belt for an insane consistency boost and much easier OHKO attacks, but on the other hand that’s really all that changes. Obviously, I’m not going to leave explanations at that, so here’s a breakdown of the ball card counts and why Choice Belt is so good.

Ball Cards

Battle VIP Pass (225/264)Evolution Incense (163/202)Cram-o-matic (229/264)

For reference, Battle VIP Pass and Evolution Incense fall under the blanket of “ball cards.” There’s not four-of anything, and I have no idea how to react to this. Every ball card has its merits, and I don’t think cutting a significant number of any of them is acceptable, but I suspect that we’ll be able to iron out what is correct in the future.

I initially wiped out the Battle VIP Pass and Cram-o-matic engine from the list, but after thinking about it more, I decided that Cram-o-matic was too good to not play, and that if I’m playing Cram-o-matic anyways, then Battle VIP Pass could make its way into the deck again, albeit both in lesser numbers. 

Ultra Ball (161/149)Quick Ball (237/264)

Ultra Ball is the “big” one now, but I still haven’t gone all the way to four copies in this deck. I’ve seen a ton of “four Ultra Ball is a must in everything!” takes, and I don’t know what to tell you except that won’t be true until rotation at the earliest. Yes, some decks will want four Ultra Ball, but just as many won’t. This deck doesn’t have a ton of things it wants to discard that aren’t other Ball cards, so at that point, why am I not just playing those instead? Quick Ball is still very powerful, and until it and Evolution Incense are gone, I expect to see a balance between the three in many decks. Ultra Ball is still replacing some copies of them, but not all of them. When cards can still do what Ultra Ball does but at less of a cost, then they’re still going to be better in some decks.

Honestly, rather than four Ultra Ball, I’m more offended with myself for playing Battle VIP Pass while only playing three Quick Ball. Once we’re closer to the format, I really am going to enjoy experimenting with these counts.

Choice Belt

30 damage might seem insignificant, but when 320 is the number to hit most of the time, and Gengar hits 290 with two Single Strike Energy, then you realize just how powerful that little boost is. If we were just getting Ultra Ball and not Choice Belt, I don’t think Gengar would care all that much. But between the advent of VSTARs and their lower HP, Gengar could easily be the answer to them with its cheap attacks and high HP. Essentially, rather than being buffed by the new cards added to its deck, aside from Choice Belt, Gengar is indirectly buffed by the new decks that will be popping up. I’m playing three Choice Belt in this list because I don’t see a world where Gengar doesn’t want it to be attached at almost all times and finding it without something like Jirachi TEU is obnoxious at the best of times.


Header - Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s deck, I hope you got something out of this one, and that the taste of Brilliant Stars was worth the effort. I’m really looking forward to getting involved in deckbuilding again with the new set being the last one before we’re theoretically playing in-person events again. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but in less than two months’ time, I’m going to be sitting down to play a Regionals for the first time in years.

With that said, that’s all I have for today. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll try to get you some answers. Until next time!

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