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Malamar’s Back! Malamar and Cynthia’s Ambition in SSH-BRS Standard

Hello again readers, I’m back with you today with my first article focused solely on the SSH-BRS format. I recently sat down and proxied a bunch of decks so that I could start getting some games in for the first format in over two years that will likely see in-person sanctioned event. Some of the decks I built were kind of mediocre, some were really strong. The one common theme between them all is that they felt much more fun and skill-based than most of the decks I’ve seen played in the last few formats. Arceus VSTAR has to be one of the coolest cards printed recently, and there’s an almost countless number of decks that will spring up around it. However, for today I’m sticking with something closer to home, that while it didn’t receive that many new cards, the ones that it did make it much more powerful. As evidenced by the title and thumbnail, I’m talking about Rapid Strike Malamar.

Malamar (070/198)

Of all the decks I played this past weekend, Malamar was the one that I had the most fun with and feel like is potentially one of the best decks in the format. Ironically, the card that made me like Malamar so much is one of the new cards that I initially passed up on my first few looks at the set.

Cynthia's Ambition (138/172)

Cynthia’s Ambition seems like a mediocre card when you first look at it, and usually that’s true. However, since Malamar is almost always being KOed every turn, Cynthia’s Ambition should almost always allow you to draw up to eight cards. Malamar is almost always emptying its hand at the end of the turn in order to take KOs, so it’s no exaggeration to say that you could draw six or seven cards without discarding whatever else is in your hand. For a comparison, Malamar was previously relying on Korrina’s Focus or Bruno to rebuild after using Rapid Strike Tentacles, and despite it only drawing up to six or seven cards, Malamar was still able to take big VMAX KOs quite easily. When you draw one or two additional cards, it’s even easier to get to the magic 320 damage attacks.

Manaphy

Ability: Wave Veil
Prevent all damage done to your Benched Pokémon by your opponent’s attacks.

[W] Rain Splash: 20 damage.

Cynthia’s Ambition isn’t the only card that Malamar gained, and I would argue that Cynthia pales in comparison to this next one. Malamar had one very critical weakness in the SSH-FST format, and that was its mind-numbingly bad matchups against Jolteon VMAX, and to a lesser extent, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. The new Manaphy with Bench Barrier doesn’t necessarily make Jolteon into some amazingly free matchup, but it certainly takes it out of the unwinnable category that it currently occupies. Rapid Strike was already not that terrible for Malamar, and with the addition of Manaphy, I believe it finally becomes a decent matchup. There are also some other small things that Manaphy helps with, specifically Inteleon SSH’s snipe damage that when timed correctly can remove all of your Malamar and Inkay from play. 

Now that I’ve covered the new additions to the deck, I have two different lists today, both of which I think are quite powerful.

 

 

Header - Malamar / Inteleon

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 22
* 4 Inkay CRE 69
* 4 Malamar CRE 70
* 1 Manaphy BRS
* 2 Remoraid BST 36
* 4 Sobble CRE 41
* 3 Drizzile SSH 56
* 2 Octillery BST 37
* 2 Inteleon SSH 58
##Trainer Cards - 32
* 2 Quick Ball FST 237
* 4 Cynthia's Ambition BRS
* 3 Brawly CRE 131
* 1 Korrina's Focus BST 128
* 4 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 207
* 4 Level Ball BST 129
* 4 Fog Crystal CRE 140
* 1 Boss's Orders RCL 189
* 1 Tower of Waters BST 138
* 2 Ordinary Rod SSH 215
* 2 Rescue Carrier EVS 154
##Energy - 6
* 4 Spiral Energy CRE 159
* 2 Psychic Energy Energy 5

Total Cards - 60

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

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There are a few points of departure from your typical Malamar list in this one, most of the things I’ve messed with in the deck have led me to this list, and I can honestly say I’m very happy with where it has ended up. Before I talk about some of my decisions with card counts and such, I want to differentiate between the Inteleon and Cinccino builds of the deck. I’ll be talking about the Cinccino version after this one, but I’m personally of the opinion that the Inteleon version is currently slightly better. Here’s why:

Keep Calling

Sobble (041/198)

I played around 10 games of Malamar with Inteleon where I went second, and while that’s not a lot, the point is that in those games, there was exactly one time where I didn’t use Keep Calling or Brawly to fill my Bench on my first turn. The consistency boost that playing Sobble in your deck adds is completely irreplaceable. The big thing that makes this so important is that the games where you only find one Inkay at a time and it continuously gets Boss KOed are few and far between. When you have Keep Calling as an option, you’re literally always guaranteed to get two Inkay down if you want it and they’re not in your prize cards.

Scoop Up Net Engine

Scoop Up Net (207/192)

I’ve always had a soft spot for this engine, and this might be the deck that abuses it the most. With Shady Dealings and four Scoop Up Net, there’s literally not a card in your deck that you don’t have access to at a drop of a hat.

While Inteleon and Drizzile aren’t Rapid Strike cards, Sobble is, which means you have access to four more cards to throw around with Rapid Strike Tentacles. Shady Dealings, particularly with Inteleon, is also a net gain towards increasing your hand size. When used in conjunction with Rescue Trolley, a single Inteleon can easily turn into three Rapid Strike cards, or in other words, 120 damage. Now if you do that twice in a turn with Scoop Up Net, that’s 200 to 240 damage, depending on what you grab and if you Bench Sobble again. Scoop Up Net enables all of this and allows you to do it almost every turn. Finally, Scoop Up Net also allows you to pick up Octillery or a Malamar in order to boost your hand size even more, allowing you to hit even higher numbers if necessary. 

Card Choices

I’m only going to cover the more interesting decisions I’ve made, whether by including something or excluding something else. Malamar doesn’t have a ton of leeway in what it can play because at least some portion of your deck needs to be dedicated to doing additional damage with Malamar.

Two Quick Ball

Quick Ball (237/264)

Depending on how much you’ve looked at Malamar lists in the past, this is weird for one of two reasons. Some of you might be thinking along the lines of, “only two Quick Ball?” Others, who have played with Malamar more, will be thinking, “Quick Ball in Malamar?!”

In general, Quick Ball has seen very little play in Malamar because it doesn’t contribute to having larger hands due to its discard cost. There are also a ton of different options to find Pokemon. However, with the main draw engine of Malamar now being Cynthia’s Ambition rather than Bruno and Korrina’s Focus, there’s a decent argument for playing cards that lower your hand size before you play Cynthia’s Ambition. This is especially true in the Inteleon version of the deck, where you’re constantly picking up Drizzile and Inteleon with Scoop Up Net, and with the inclusion of Manaphy as well, there’s no shortage of cards that need to be thinned out when you can’t play them down.

While I wouldn’t advise it in a game where you’re going to be playing a ton of turns, you can also use Quick Ball to discard an extra Cynthia’s Ambition. Finally, you can use it to store a Rapid Strike Pokemon with less than 90 HP for Rescue Carrier to retrieve after using Cynthia.

No Ultra Ball

Ultra Ball (122/116)

It honestly makes me really happy that the first deck I’m covering in the new format doesn’t play any Ultra Ball at all. Quick Ball is weird enough, and while Quick Ball has its uses, the cost required to play Ultra is much too high for Malamar to justify it. Ultra Ball is almost always a bad card in Malamar. 

One Boss’s Orders

Boss's Orders (058/072)

Way back when I wrote about Mew VMAX, I went into a detailed explanation on how to beat Malamar. Everything in the game plan relied on the idea that Malamar doesn’t play Boss’s Orders. While in my recent games with Malamar I was beating Mew a decent amount of the time with the additional draw support from Cynthia’s Ambition, I felt that adding a Boss to make the matchup much easier was worth the spot. One of Malamar’s greatest weaknesses was that your opponent could just hide behind a single Prize Pokemon while setting up big turns with Inteleon’s Quick Shooting. With Boss in the deck, there’s always going to be some amount of pressure that Malamar puts on it’s opponents.

No Inteleon CRE

Inteleon (043/198)

While there’s certainly an argument to play an Inteleon CRE over one of the other, less useful, Rapid Strike cards, I don’t think Quick Shooting does anything that makes it worth including in the deck beyond maybe some added value with Scoop Up Net shenanigans. 99 percent of the time, I would rather just evolve into Inteleon SSH and find more cards. Going forward, I’m going to be testing a copy of Inteleon CRE, but I doubt I’ll find that it’s worth it.

After coming back to this around a day after initially writing this section of today’s article, I had an epiphany. Mad Party is back, and Mad Party probably outpaces Malamar by one KO, so including a single Inteleon CRE would make that matchup incredibly easy. I didn’t change anything written previously after thinking about this, as I don’t know how 

An Interesting Option

Turffield Stadium (068/073)Skiploom (003/203)

This is something that I’ve seen in a bunch of Japanese lists, but I ultimately think it’s too much of a gimmick. Yes, it technically allows you to do a “free” search for a Rapid Strike card, specifically Skiploom, but I also don’t like the idea of playing a Stadium that isn’t a Rapid Strike card itself.

Essentially, this idea is a commitment of roughly four slots in order to get one additional card into your hand twice a game. As much as I love a good gimmick, Malamar doesn’t need to get an extra card like this anymore, and if it did, it would be more efficient to use Shady Dealings to do so. The number of important cards that would have to be cut for this causes me pain just thinking about it. All in all, it’s a cool idea, but not something I think is that good.

Matchups

I’m not spending much time on this one today, as I haven’t gotten to play a lot of the matchups I would have liked, instead I focused on familiarizing myself with many of the other new decks in the format. That said, I think Malamar doesn’t really gain any terrible matchups, and the bad matchups it had get a bit easier to beat. Let’s jump right into the other version of this deck

 

Header - Malamar / Cinncino

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 21
* 4 Minccino BRS
* 4 Cinccino SSH 147
* 4 Inkay CRE 69
* 4 Malamar CRE 70
* 1 Manaphy BRS
* 2 Remoraid BST 36
* 2 Octillery PR-SW 89
##Trainer Cards - 32
* 3 Great Ball SUM 119
* 4 Cynthia's Ambition BRS
* 4 Korrina's Focus BST 128
* 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 4 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 1 Scoop Up Net RCL 207
* 4 Level Ball BST 129
* 4 Fog Crystal CRE 140
* 1 Tower of Waters BST 138
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 215
* 2 Rescue Carrier EVS 154
##Energy - 7
* 4 Spiral Energy CRE 159
* 3 Psychic Energy Energy 5

Total Cards - 60

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

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Korrina’s Focus (128/163)

While it’s not my personally favorite, this version of the deck has a few benefits to it as well. Cynthia’s Ambition is once again taking center stage in this list, but rather than have Brawly as the second Supporter, this list opts to play a full four Korrina’s Focus. I was originally planning to play a split between Bruno and Korrina’s Focus, but it occurred to me that with the loss of Sobble and Brawly, the deck really needs its Rapid Strike cards. The one thing I do like about this version of the deck is that there aren’t many incredibly complex ways to get a fist full of Rapid Strike Cards. With Inteleon, there’s a ton of thinking involved to try and maximize the value of every card. With Cinccino, you really just need to set up a bunch of them and draw as many cards as possible with Make Do. 

Battle VIP Pass (225/264)

Another very cool think about this list is that it can play Battle VIP Pass, and almost never get punished by it being a dead card. Since Cinccino is your main draw engine, you need extra cards to discard, and those usually coming in the form of anything that isn’t a Rapid Strike card. After your first turn, Battle VIP Pass is unplayable, making it the perfect target to discard. Even if you only play one on your first turn, it really is a massive boost to your set up, as you can’t rely on Keep Calling or Brawly to find your Pokemon. Great Ball also makes a reappearance in this list, as the idea behind Quick Ball is no longer relevant since Cinccino does more than enough to thin out the unplayable cards in your deck. 

Psychic Energy (232/198)

Finally, I chose to go with an additional Psychic Energy instead of an Ordinary Rod in this build for a few reasons. The biggest one is that I wanted to be able to draw into a Basic Energy more often, since Inteleon isn’t in the deck to make it automatically searchable. Yes, Octillery still exists to help find Spiral Energy, but another biproduct of changing to this build is that Octillery is now a much larger target, as it’s the only search engine in your deck that guarantees a specific card.

That brings me to my biggest gripe with the Cinccino version: you don’t have access to your entire deck whenever you want it. Yes, the raw draw power is better, but Cinccino is inherently much more reliant on luck than Inteleon is. We’ve all had that moment where the card we needed in order to win was the bottom card of the deck after drawing eight of the nine remaining cards in the deck. That usually doesn’t happen with Inteleon. 

 

Header - Final Thoughts

Malamar is one of my top contenders for the next format, and I really can’t understate how enjoyable I found this format to play. I’m really looking forward to the return of in-person events, and I’m excited to see where the format takes us. I think there’s a ton of work to be done on discovering what’s good in the meta, especially since this set has such a impactful group of cards coming in to shake up the game. 

That’s it for today, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to PM me and I’ll get you some answers. Stay safe, and I’ll see you next time!

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