I’ve been hearing a lot recently about how Mew VMAX is the only viable deck, and everyone should play it… but it isn’t. Mew VMAX is obviously an excellent deck, but I think that players are not reacting properly to it. My guess is that in free online tournaments, there are many people trying out ideas or playing their pet deck for fun or for lack of other options. In major IRL events such as Regionals, though, with money on the line, where you spend time and money just for participating, I think that we’ll see a much more focused metagame.
The 2015-2016 season was dominated by Night March. Free of its dedicated counter (Lysandre’s Trump Card, banned in June 2015), Night March reigned over the metagame. Just like Mew VMAX today, it was a very fast deck, with more draw power than anything else, able to KO even two-Prizers on the first turn of the game, going second. So the metagame adapted. Seismitoad-EX variants, Trevenant BREAK, Vileplume decks – basically every non-Night March deck was there to beat Night March. I believe that a similar phenomenon will happen with Mew VMAX in our current format. Decks that have a bad Mew VMAX matchup will be discarded, and serious competitions will be a battle between Mew VMAX and decks built to beat it (or at least compete with it, and beat other anti-Mew VMAX decks).
2016 wasn’t the most fun of metagames in my opinion, but I think that’s because Seismitoad-EX, Vileplume and Trevenant were all Item lock decks, meaning that whenever you weren’t playing against Night March, you were playing against Item lock (I’m a vocal defender of Item lock (and Ability lock) as a part of the game, but only if it’s a part of a wider, more diverse metagame, not when it’s the only option if you don’t want to play Night March). I don’t think a metagame focused around beating Mew VMAX would necessarily be bad, because there’s a wider variety of decks that can beat Mew VMAX.
Malamar tends to beat Mew VMAX. Gengar VMAX and Eternatus VMAX are favored against it. Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX actually has a bad Mew VMAX matchup looking at LimitlessTCG data, but I think that’s fixable. Mew VMAX has switched to playing no Basic Energy, making it entirely dependent on Max Miracle (and Echo Horn) to beat Duraludon VMAX. Natalie Millar did beat Louis Pozzacchio’s Arceus / Duraludon in the finals of Brisbane Regionals, but let’s not forget Pozzacchio had beaten Kaiwen Cabbabe (playing the same list as Natalie) in top four.
And of course, there’s the topic of this article: Hoopa / Galarian Moltres / Inteleon, also known as Dark Box / Inteleon among other names (it seems like every year or so there’s a new deck that gets called “Dark Box”). I’ll call it Hoopa / Moltres in the rest of this article since this is the name I first heard used for it.
Hoopa / Moltres is not a new deck. It was the seventh most successful archetype in the online Fusion Strike metagame according to LimitlessTCG data, so its viability is proven. It was also very effective in the Brilliant Stars format in Japan, and it won Brisbane Regionals in the Seniors division, so it is relevant to our current format.
In a metagame focused around Mew VMAX, Hoopa / Moltres is a great choice. Not only is it favored against Mew VMAX, due to its battery of Dark-type attackers (mainly Galarian Moltres, a one-Prizer that will OHKO Mew VMAX in the midgame), but it also beats other anti-Mew VMAX decks such as Gengar VMAX, Eternatus VMAX, and Malamar. It’s a deck with a lot of options and interesting game plans, and the Inteleon line gives it the flexibility it needs to make these plans work.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 21 * 2 Galarian Moltres EVS 93 * 1 Hoopa DAA 111 * 2 Koffing SHF 41 * 1 Sableye V SSH 120 * 2 Galarian Weezing SHF 42 * 1 Galarian Zapdos V CRE 80 * 1 Castform Rainy Form CRE 33 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 4 Drizzile SSH 56 * 1 Inteleon SSH 58 * 2 Inteleon CRE 43 ##Trainer Cards - 31 * 3 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 2 Training Court RCL 169 * 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 4 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 2 Energy Search SSH 161 * 2 Raihan EVS 152 * 2 Klara CRE 145 * 4 Level Ball BST 129 * 3 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Air Balloon SSH 156 * 4 Professor's Research SHF 60 * 2 Marnie SSH 169 ##Energy - 8 * 7 Darkness Energy EVO 97 * 1 Fighting Energy EVO 96 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Here’s the deck list I’m currently playing. This deck plays a lot of low counts of cards, so let me explain.
2 Galarian Moltres, 2 Klara
Although Galarian Moltres can be considered the main attacker of the deck, because it’s the one you’ll use in every matchup (except Durant, I guess), we only play two because it only becomes good in the midgame. Also, Klara works fantastically with Galarian Moltres, allowing you to get back both the Pokémon and the two Energy you can attach to it at the same time, so you can use more Moltres if needed.
Despite being in the name of the deck, Hoopa is not that important. It can be used in the early game, as early as the first turn, to take a KO on a small Pokémon such as Sobble, Inkay, Meloetta, Houndour, etc. Against other one-Prize decks especially, Hoopa lets you get the lead in the Prize race. It can also soften up big VMAX Pokémon so you can KO them with another attacker later.
2-2 Galarian Weezing
With Ascension, you can get Weezing in play on the first turn, shutting off Abilities for your opponent. This can be debilitating against Houndoom engines, Inteleon engines, Octillery and of course Genesect V. Weezing can then use Severe Poison to start damaging opposing Pokémon. In some matchups, it is fantastic: for example, it buys a lot of time against Jolteon VMAX because they can’t use Zigzagoon’s or Inteleon’s Abilities to put damage on your Benched Pokémon as long as Weezing is Active. In other matchups, such as Arceus VSTAR, Weezing is easily KO’d. Even if you don’t use it in every matchup, if Weezing can buy you a bit of time to set up, it’s done its job.
1 Sableye V
Sableye V benefits a lot from the residual damage you can get on opposing Pokémon thanks to Weezing, Inteleon, and Hoopa, and can be used to KO big targets. If a Pokémon has taken four damage counters from Severe Poison, for example, Sableye V deals 250 with Crazy Claws, so any Pokémon with 290 HP or fewer is Knocked Out by the combination of the two. Against Pokémon with more, such as Arceus VSTAR with Big Charm or Jolteon VMAX, Inteleon can make up for the difference.
1 Galarian Zapdos V
There was a time when players used Rapid Strike Urshifu V and a Rapid Strike Energy to beat Jolteon VMAX. Galarian Zapdos V does essentially the same thing, but with higher damage which allows it to also OHKO Pokémon such as Eternatus VMAX, Gengar VMAX and Arceus VSTAR (even with a Big Charm). Also, the Fighting Energy (unlike Rapid Strike Energy) can be used by other Pokémon in other matchups, and can be searched by Energy Search or recovered by Raihan or Training Court.
1 Castform Rainy Form
This is just a free retreat Pokémon. Some players opt for Tapu Koko instead due to its higher HP, but Castform can be searched via Level Ball. A free retreat Pokémon is valuable in this deck because you can just send it Active after a KO is taken, and then retreat to whichever attacker you want to play on that same turn. Without Castform, you would often need to set up a Galarian Moltres the turn before the one you actually use it, which could then be KO’d by the opponent before it gets to attack.
4 Professor’s Research, 2 Marnie, 2 Raihan
This decks often needs a lot of cards, so Marnie is a bit weak and not something we want to play often. Professor’s Research, on the other hand, is fine. The discard cost is not too important in this deck because we have Training Court and Klara to recover cards, and some Pokémon, such as Koffing and Weezing, are not important past the first few turns anyway. Therefore, it’s often the best Supporter to play.
Raihan is sometimes even better, though. It allows us to power up Sableye V in only one turn, but also Galarian Zapdos V. Often, an Arceus or Jolteon player will only have two Pokémon V in play, so Zapdos still needs two Energy to attack. Raihan allows us to power it up in one turn, making a big difference.
3 Scoop Up Net, 1 Air Balloon
Scoop Up Net has multiple uses in this deck. It acts as a Switch to move from one attacker to another, and it lets us reuse Drizzile’s and Inteleon’s Abilities. Some lists play four Scoop Up Net, but I chose to cut one for an Air Balloon because you’ll usually need to use at least one Scoop Up Net just to switch your Active Pokémon, and Air Balloon is better for this kind of situation since its reusable. Air Balloon can also be used to retreat Zapdos or Sableye if you open with them.
2 Energy Search, 2 Training Court
Getting Energy is important for this deck, whether it’s the Fighting Energy for Zapdos or a simple Dark Energy to use Ascension or Assault Gate (or Keep Calling) on turn one. Energy Search lets you get Energy early on, and Training Court lets you recover them. Training Court is also a counter-stadium, especially against Path to the Peak, which would make Zapdos unusable. Gengar VMAX, Jolteon VMAX and Arceus VSTAR, cards that are weak to Zapdos, are all commonly paired with Path to the Peak, so Hoopa / Moltres needs a Stadium card to counter it.
Hoopa / Moltres is a toolbox deck, so you can deviate from the list above in multiple ways to try to add other cards that deal with specific decks or situations. Some lists opt to remove Galarian Weezing, for example, in order to fit more techs and/or consistency cards. Here are some other cards to consider, even if you keep Weezing.
Choice Belt is a good card in general, so it’s always worth considering. Unfortunately, it’s not very relevant against Mew VMAX. Galarian Moltres OHKOs Mew VMAX after three Prizes (170*2 damage), but not after two Prizes, even with Choice Belt (150*2 damage). Usually, Inteleon’s Quick Shooting would be an option to fix the math, but Mew VMAX’s Fusion Strike Energy will protect it. That said, if the opponent uses a Double Turbo Energy and has no Fusion Strike Energy attached, you can still get a surprise KO this way.
Another Dark-type attacker, Galarian Moltres V is strong early game and can start taking KOs before Galarian Moltres deals enough damage. It’s also better than Sableye V in the early game. However, it’s a bit harder to power up in one turn because you need two Energy in the discard to do so (one for its Ability and one for Raihan). It also makes the deck a bit weaker to Path to the Peak. Galarian Moltres V is pretty good combined with Choice Belt.
Both Galarian Moltres and Galarian Moltres V can accelerate Energy to the board, and Energy Switch is an option to move this Energy to another Pokémon. This lets you power up Sableye V or Galarian Zapdos V in one turn even if you can’t play Raihan, which can take the opponent by surprise. I think this is the kind of tech that has a lot more potential in IRL tournaments where deck lists are hidden.
By adding one Water Energy, the deck gets the potential to attack with Inteleon SSH, which is strong against one-Prize decks with low HP Pokémon, such as Malamar (with some Quick Shooting damage, you can KO Malamar and an Inkay or Sobble in one turn with Aqua Bullet). Also, this lets you use Castform’s attack, which spreads damage. It’s costly for what it is so you probably won’t actually use it, but the attack fits the deck well enough to at least deserve a mention (If nothing else, this attack is the reason to play Castform Rainy Form rather than another Castform. And even if you don’t play Water Energy, you should play that Castform so that your opponent doesn’t know that you’re not playing Water Energy).
The deck’s exact game plan depends on the matchup, but basically, you want to set up multiple Sobble, using Keep Calling on turn one if you can. Against decks that rely a lot on Abilities, Weezing is also a great Pokémon to set up early on. Lots of Inteleon decks are skimping on draw Supporters lately and relying on Drizzile instead, and Weezing is a great way to abuse that. Then use either Sableye, Zapdos or Moltres depending on what is in front.
Against Fusion Strike, Weezing is a great card. Ideally, you get rid of the initial Meloetta with Hoopa, then set up Weezing. The opponent might use Boss’s Orders or Escape Rope to get rid of it, but if they KO it with Max Miracle and it’s their third Prize taken, you can then retaliate with Galarian Moltres for a KO.
Fusion Strike lists tend to play Echo Horn, so make sure not to leave a spot on your Bench if you have a Pokémon V in the discard. In the gameplay video for this deck I made for ChannelFireball, I lost a tense game because I forgot that I had discarded Zapdos, and my opponent proceeded to bring it back, making it an easy target for them to close out the game at the end.
Against any deck where Zapdos is useful, make sure to keep your Stadiums available to counter Path to the Peak, and consider using Klara to get Zapdos and Fighting Energy back after it’s Knocked Out.
Arceus VSTAR lists tend to play Dunsparce (especially the popular Arceus / Inteleon deck). You can use Hoopa and Boss’s Orders to KO Dunsparce early on, allowing you to hit Arceus for Weakness later thanks to Zapdos, which lets you bridge the gap between the early game and the part of the game where Moltres is a monster. Arceus / Inteleon remains a difficult matchup, though.
In general, remember that thanks to Shady Dealings, you can often access the card you need. Professor’s Research is a great tool to draw cards, but sometimes you already have everything you need and one card in your hand will be key for later (a Stadium to counter Path to the Peak, for example), so it’s not rare that you have a Professor’s Research in hand but it’s better not to play any Supporter.
Hoopa / Moltres is a strange deck, not easy to learn because of its number of attackers, none of which looks to be “the main one.” Its matchup spread is pretty polarized, with tough matchups against many Arceus VSTAR variants, a very good shot against Mew VMAX and excellent matchups against some Mew VMAX direct counters. In my opinion, this makes Hoopa / Moltres a fantastic metacall… in the right metagame. I have no idea when or where this metagame will appear: it could be next week or in two months! However, if you ever find yourself noticing that Arceus VSTAR is dropping in popularity while everyone either plays or directly counters Mew, think back on this deck, as it could be the perfect play.
In the meantime, thank you for reading and I’ll see you soon!