Welcome back! Last weekend, I attended the first European Regional Championships to be held in two years. Despite some issues, mostly regarding the registration process, the event was a blast. Travelling to a new European city every month or so to play in a major Pokémon tournament used to be an important part of my life, and I’m incredibly glad that organized play is coming back.
Not only was I able to meet with many international friends again, I also managed to reach top 16 in the event, playing Malamar / Inteleon. I had a rough Day 1, barely making it to Day 2, but there, I went 3-0-1 in four rounds against Mew VMAX, before losing my win-and-in to Brennan Kamerman in the dreaded Malamar mirror match.
In this article, I want to share some observations that I made during Liverpool Regionals and afterwards, which are relevant for the rest of the format and specifically for the European International Championships. I’ll touch on two main topics: the Malamar vs Mew VMAX matchup, and the best way to build Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon.
Malamar and Mew VMAX were the two decks I was considering most strongly going to Liverpool. I felt like it was Malamar’s time to shine, and I wasn’t wrong, since it ended up getting top two and top eight, along with a couple of top 16 placements. However, I was worried about the Mew VMAX matchup, which I obviously expected to face a lot in the tournament. I ended up going 6-1-1 against it in the tournament (and the loss was due to a combination of facing a player who knew the matchup very well, and getting one mediocre start and one outright brick), thanks to a key tech and a precise game plan. Let me explain the various levels of the Malamar vs Mew matchup.
First, if Mew VMAX plays the matchup like, for example, the Mew mirror matchup, by simply attacking with Techno Blast (or Max Miracle, since you don’t need the 210 damage of Techno Blast to KO a Malamar), it will lose the Prize race. Malamar can OHKO Meloetta easily in the early game and by the time the Mew player uses Mew VMAX as an attacker, Malamar should be set up to deal 360 damage, enough to OHKO a Mew VMAX even with Oricorio’s Ability active. There is no way for Mew to win that race. This is why, against beginner Mew VMAX players, there is no need for Malamar to tech anything.
However, there’s a much better strategy available to Mew players: relying on Psychic Leap. I personally learned this precise strategy from Haru Nishikawa’s guide to Mew VMAX, which he kindly sent to me, but I’m sure many players also came up with it independently. The idea is that Meloetta is not an attacker in this matchup, Mew V (and Mew VMAX) is. Assuming the Mew player is going first, you can take one Prize on turn two with Max Miracle. Your board should be a Mew V, two Genesect V, a one-Prize Pokémon (probably Oricorio), and either another one-Prize Pokémon or a third Genesect. It is very rare (but not impossible) for Malamar to retaliate with a 320 or 360 damage Rapid Strike Tentacles attack on turn two. If they manage to do it, you lose the game, but there was nothing to be done anyway.
If they don’t, that’s where you start using Psychic Leap. As the Mew player, you’re now one Prize ahead. In the four next turns, you should use Psychic Leap to take KOs, either on the Active Malamar with two Power Tablets, or on a Benched Inkay or Sobble with Boss’s Orders (or Escape Rope). This means you absolutely should not waste your Power Tablets.
After each of the four Psychic Leap attacks, you should send the following Pokémon Active: Meloetta, Meloetta, Oricorio and finally Genesect V. This way, even if the Malamar player is able to reach a million damage, they’ll still end up taking only five Prizes in four turns. After these four turns, each player will have one Prize remaining, and you can simply take your last one with Max Miracle or Techno Blast.
Most Malamar lists play one Boss’s Orders, but as long as you never have a Mew VMAX on your Bench, it doesn’t change the way the Prize race goes. If the Malamar player uses Boss to take a KO on a two-Prize Pokémon instead of the one-Prize Pokémon you sacrificed, that one-Prize Pokémon will still be around and you can still send it afterwards. This just means that instead of taking five Prizes on Meloetta, Meloetta, Oricorio, Genesect V, they will take them on Mew V, Meloetta, Meloetta and Oricorio.
There is one annoying scenario: because of Psychic Leap, you will often end up with only one Mew V on your Bench. The Malamar player can use Boss’s Orders on it (especially if it already had Energy because of Elesa’s Sparkle) to leave you with no Mew in play, making it harder to attack. However, you can still build up a new Mew V to attack with two Power Tablets, or simply use the Meloetta or Oricorio that your opponent spared as an attacker.
This strategy is not foolproof: since you need to conserve precious resources, you won’t draw as many cards as you want every turn, and with Psychic Leap and the opponent’s KOs reducing your number of Pokémon in play, sometimes your Fusion Strike Systems will be underwhelming. This means that it is possible to whiff a key KO at some point, and finally lose the Prize race. I should also note that Mew lists that run basic Psychic Energy are much better at accomplishing this plan. This is because Double Turbo Energy reduces Psychic Leap’s damage to 50, so it can’t KO Malamar with two Power Tablets, or Sobble with no Power Tablet. I have mostly focused my testing on lists with Psychic Energy; the lists with three Double Turbo Energy, in my experience, end up whiffing the KO at some point, and have to rely on Malamar missing an important KO.
However, as the Malamar player, I was uncomfortable playing this matchup, because while I could still win games, in the end, they were out of my control. I didn’t want to play long, drawn-out games that were only decided by whether my opponent managed to draw their last two Power Tablets on a crucial turn.
It was probably around 10 p.m. on Friday night before the tournament that my testing partner Ithiel Arki and I decided to try Escape Rope in the deck (instead of the Ultra Ball). This ended up being the key to the matchup. After the opponent has sacrificed two one-Prize Pokémon and they send out their third one-Prizer as a sacrifice, we can use Escape Rope to force them to bring up a Mew V or Genesect V, and take a KO, leaving us with two Prizes left. Then, on the next turn, we can play Boss’s Orders to once again avoid the remaining one-Prizer and take our last two Prizes for the game. With Escape Rope, it is possible to take six Prizes in four turns, beating Mew to the race.
Note that some players, including Joe Bernard, who ended up in top 8 after starting the tournament 9-0, played Escape Rope but no Boss’s Orders. This can also counter the Psychic Leap strategy, but the timing is more tense: you need to play Escape Rope on turn two to get Mew VMAX out of the Active Spot, and take a KO on an easier target. From that point on, as long as you can take a KO every turn, you should end up winning the Prize race.
Now, if you’re a Mew VMAX player, what can you do to bring the matchup in your favor again? One answer that I’m currently exploring is Avery. Avery is a very curious card: when it was revealed, it was basically trash (except against Eternatus VMAX), and most decks would actually have loved playing against it as it meant they could discard the Crobat V and/or Dedenne-GX that would be on everyone’s Bench. Now, one year later, Avery is a very solid Supporter card. Because of strong alternatives like the Inteleon line, the presence of Path to the Peak and simply the way Prize trades work, many decks avoid playing Basic support Pokémon like Crobat V and Lumineon V, so their board is usually full of Pokémon they actually need. Some decks, like Mew VMAX, Suicune V / Ludicolo and Malamar, need their Bench to function, and Avery is very dangerous for them. Avery can force a Malamar player to discard important Pokémon from their Bench, making it much harder for them to OHKO a Mew VMAX. This can give the Mew player one more turn without getting KO’d.
I hope that this write-up helps you understand how the matchup really works and why, in my opinion, Malamar needs both Escape Rope and Boss’s Orders to consistently Mew when it’s played by good players.
Now, with absolutely no segue, let me talk about Arceus / Inteleon, by which I mean the pure version of Arceus that doesn’t play any non-Water Basic Energy (no Moltres or Zapdos). This deck was hyped up before Regionals started, in part because of its excellent win rate in online tournaments, and it did make Top 8 at both Brisbane and Salt Lake City Regionals, but it seems like lately, it’s mostly be replaced by lists that focus on Darkness Energy and Galarian Moltres for the Mew VMAX matchup. One would be forgiven for thinking that “pure” Arceus / Inteleon isn’t good enough after all when you can play other lists with more varied attackers. However, the same week-end that Liverpool Regionals took place, there was a Champions League in Japan, and the deck that ended up winning was none other than Arceus / Inteleon.
Those who’ve been reading me for a long time know that I give a lot of respect to Japan’s metagame and players. On multiple occasions, I’ve done well with decks that were good and performed well in Japan, but were ignored outside of it. Even though Japan’s format is a bit ahead of ours, I think that it’s close enough that their results are worth taking into account. More specifically, I think that we have a lot to learn by looking at their approach to deckbuilding. That’s true no matter which deck, but I think it’s especially valuable for Arceus VSTAR variants, who have an incredible of options.
Trainer – Supporter
You can play this card only if your opponent has 3 or less prize cards left.
Both players shuffle their hand into their deck. Then, you draw 6 cards and your opponent draws 2 cards.
Trainer – Stadium
Once during each player’s turn, that player may shuffle their hand into their deck and then draw 5 cards. If they use this effect, that player’s turn ends immediately after.
Translations by https://limitlesstcg.com/
There are only two cards in the winning deck list that are not yet legal in our format: Roxanne and Jubilife Village. Jubilife Village doesn’t seem important at all, and while Roxanne is a great addition to the deck, it’s not like it can’t function without it. Here’s the complete deck list:
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 18 * 4 Arceus V BRS 122 * 1 Dunsparce FST 207 * 3 Arceus VSTAR BRS 123 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 ##Trainer Cards - 31 * 1 Avery CRE 130 * 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Pal Pad UPR 132 * 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 4 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 1 Big Charm SSH 158 * 2 Echoing Horn CRE 136 * 1 Tool Scrapper RCL 168 * 2 Melony CRE 146 * 3 Level Ball BST 129 * 1 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Ultra Ball BRS 150 * 2 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 1 Professor's Research SHF 60 * 1 Marnie SSH 169 * 2 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171 * 1 Cheren's Care BRS 134 * 1 Roxanne * 1 Jubilife Village ##Energy - 11 * 2 Capture Energy RCL 171 * 7 Water Energy SWSHEnergy 3 * 2 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151 Total Cards - 58 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Here are some interesting choices that I think are worth keeping in mind:
3 Drizzile, 2 Inteleon SSH, 0 Inteleon CRE
The cut from four to three Drizzile has been happening more and more and, while it’s a bit strange from a consistency perspective, I haven’t had issues with it. When going second, there’s a decent chance that you’ll use Keep Calling on turn one, and then your Sobble will get Knocked Out, so three Drizzile are enough to evolve the rest of the squad. More importantly, as you can see, there are no Quick Shooting Inteleon but two Shady Dealings Inteleon. I think a common mistake that we’ve made in the early format was trying to build Arceus / Inteleon with a regular Supporter line, when we can actually play a bunch of one-of situational cards and access them when we need, with Starbirth and Shady Dealings. To that end, a second Shady Dealings Inteleon is invaluable. With only one, the deck has a hard time functioning if it’s Prized, and it might lack a way to find the winning Boss’s Orders to finish a game. Moreover, Inteleon is actually a decent attacker that you can use to prevent your opponent from just taking three KOs on three Arceus.
The Supporter Line
Professor’s Research and Marnie are only one-ofs in this deck. This is because it doesn’t actually need them that much! You can play draw Supporters, but most of the time you want to be using something else: Melony if you need the Energy acceleration, Boss’s Orders to KO an important target, or Cheren’s Care to heal. Therefore, you can afford to play fewer draw Supporters. You often won’t have a Supporter to play on the first turn, but that’s actually fine.
In additional to the Supporters I’ve mentioned, this deck also features Avery. As I mentioned earlier, Avery is in my opinion pretty underrated in the current format, and it’s personally helped me against all sorts of decks, mostly those that play the Inteleon engine.
Finally, there’s a Pal Pad to help recover these situational Supporters, and it can also be used to let you get a third or even fourth Boss’s Orders if that’s necessary.
2 Double Turbo Energy, 2 Capture Energy
Most Arceus VSTAR lists I’ve seen play four Double Turbo Energy, which seems obvious, right? However, after testing various lists, I think it’s a mistake. Double Turbo Energy is really only useful on turn 2. After that, you can accelerate Energy to another Arceus, and you can use Basic Energy to attack. If you Cheren’s Care the Active Arceus, then you’ll need to power up a new attacker from scratch, but you’ll have the Double Turbo Energy you scooped back in hand to do so, you don’t need to play a bunch more from your hand. Sure, with only two Double Turbo Energy, you’ll probably need to Starbirth for it in most games, but that’s absolutely fine.
Instead of two more Double Turbo Energy, Capture Energy provides a small boost in consistency that helps the deck set up better, and it can be attached later on to Arceus or even to Inteleon without decreasing its damage output.
Finally, while the deck can work with six Water Energy, I like the seventh one to increase the odds of a turn 1 Energy and to guarantee that you can Trinity Nova three Energy without fail.
In Japan, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX has gotten better recently, and obviously it just won Liverpool Regionals so it has to be on most players’ mind. Plus, Fighting techs, whether it’s Galarian Zapdos V, Stonjourner in Gengar VMAX or strange attackers to pair with Arceus like Sandaconda VMAX, are on the rise precisely because they can hit Arceus effectively. That’s why I think that Dunsparce is a core card. However, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX can easily KO Dunsparce on the Bench to get rid of it, so Manaphy should be played alongside it to protect it as well as the rest of the Bench.
Even if I could, I wouldn’t copy card for card a deck that was made for a different metagame (and a different format). Here’s the deck list I’m currently playing, inspired by the one above but different in some important aspects which I’ll explain below.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 20 * 4 Arceus V BRS 122 * 1 Dunsparce FST 207 * 3 Arceus VSTAR BRS 123 * 1 Galarian Zigzagoon SSH 117 * 1 Pumpkaboo EVS 76 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 ##Trainer Cards - 29 * 1 Avery CRE 130 * 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Pal Pad UPR 132 * 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 4 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 1 Big Charm SSH 158 * 1 Judge FST 235 * 2 Melony CRE 146 * 4 Level Ball BST 129 * 2 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Ultra Ball BRS 150 * 2 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 1 Professor's Research SHF 60 * 2 Marnie SSH 169 * 2 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 1 Cheren's Care BRS 134 ##Energy - 11 * 2 Capture Energy RCL 171 * 7 Water Energy SWSHEnergy 3 * 2 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
The deckbuilding decisions I’ve discussed above are those that I find valuable, and as you can see, I’ve kept them here. However, I also made some changes.
First, I included Galarian Zigzagoon. This Arceus / Inteleon list already plays two Choice Belt in order to deal more damage (especially to Mew V and Genesect V, which are OHKO’d by Trinity Nova even through the -40 damage modifier from Oricorio and Double Turbo Energy), and with Galarian Zigzagoon, you have the opportunity to deal 220 damage on turn two with a Choice Belt. This is incredible in the Arceus mirror match, as getting a KO on the opponent’s Arceus V usually gets you enough tempo to win the game.
I’ve also added Pumpkaboo as a replacement of sorts to the third Stadium card. This lets me remove a Path to the Peak that has been placed before I can use Starbirth. I saw this card in several Arceus decklists in Liverpool and I felt it was a good choice.
With these two additional techs, I’ve increased my Ball count to four Level Ball, since there are more targets. I’ve also included a second Scoop Up Net; I think one is not enough in general, and it works well with Zigzagoon and the Inteleon line. Note that in the Malamar matchup, it’s possible to deal 30 damage to a Benched Inkay with Zigzagoon and two Scoop Up Nets, and then KO Malamar and Inkay with Inteleon’s Aqua Bullet. This line of play is much easier to do with a Quick Shooting Inteleon, so I’ll consider adding it again if I need to improve that matchup, but hopefully the Zigzagoon option and Avery are enough.
Finally, I’ve added Judge. In the absence of Roxanne, it’s the best disruption card we have against Mew VMAX. You might think that Judge is strictly worse than Marnie, but Mew players can use Rotom Phone or Switching Cups to put a Stadium card on top of their deck, so they’ll draw it if you play Marnie (it also protects the card from being discarded by Sidney). Because Judge shuffles the deck, it counters Rotom Phone and Switching Cups, so it’s the best card to pair with Path to the Peak if your Mew VMAX opponent used one of these Items at the end of their turn.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the list as it is now, but I’m sure that I’ll keep making changes as I test more in preparation for the European International Championships. At least you’re caught up with where I am now!
I know that this article didn’t introduce an incredible new deck or even a surprising new tech. However, I usually get positive reactions when I explain precise concepts on Twitter, such as the intricacies of the Mew vs Malamar matchup. That’s why I thought that writing down these thoughts in a more structured article could be useful at least to some of you. Please let me know whether you enjoy this kind of dive into specific aspects of play or deckbuilding!
Finally, I’d like to thank once again those of you who came to see me in Liverpool Regionals. It was great meeting players who’ve read my articles or watched my videos!