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Revisiting Dialga VSTAR After NAIC

Hey readers! July is here, which means we reside in the long lull between NAIC and Worlds. In past years, this would be the time when everyone begins to scour the rotating sets before Worlds to see just how much we’re losing in the new Standard format. There’s also been a full set released before Worlds in the past; we have the Pokemon Go mini-set this year. For better or for worse, the Worlds meta will look very similar to what we saw at NAIC.

That’s not to say that Pokemon Go isn’t an impactful set. Radiant Blastoise gives another ping to decks running Medicham V, and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX has returned to glory in recent online events with Water Energy, Irida and Radiant Blastoise. Radiant Charizard can blow up most Pokemon VSTARs with a Choice Belt, and Mewtwo VSTAR has similar capabilities with a Choice Belt or help from Galarian Zigzagoon. Finally, PokeStop is a neat Stadium that can allow for heavy-Item engines, and at the very least is another counter Stadium to Path to the Peak.

I’d like to bring your attention back to a deck that is near and dear to my heart: Dialga VSTAR. I wrote about this deck before NAIC, but the list has seen great evolution since then. I played Dialga VSTAR with Bird Keeper, Starly and Rowlet to NAIC, and finished 9-4-2 and a 65th place finish (bubble, I know!). Even though I didn’t do the greatest, I’m confident in the deck I put together and it’s my #1 pick moving forward. 

Today, I’ll go over my thought process behind the NAIC list and summarize with some important deckbuilding takeaways you can apply yourself. Then, I’ll go over how I’ve adapted the list to make up for the expected meta in the future. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

 

 

Header - Dialga VSTAR

Going into NAIC, I was convinced that there was a way to make Dialga VSTAR broken. Its two hardest matchups I found were Palkia and Mew because they can Knock Out Dialga VSTAR in one attack for much less commitment than Dialga can in return. I wasn’t worried about the Arceus matchup because you can trade 2HKO’s and end up alright. At the end of the day, if you ever use Star Chronos, you’re in a winning position, barring any draw-pass scenarios. Dialga also has very favorable matchups against random decks in the field: Regigigas, Duraludon and Miltank decks (if you play a counter). 

The trick became finding a way to beat Palkia and Mew. Looking at the Palkia lists that did well at Milwaukee Regionals, I found that most of them did not play a Marnie. They did play Roxanne, but what this meant is that I could exploit the fact that my hand was safe. My testing partner and fellow CFB writer, Isaiah Bradner, gave me the idea of Starly plus Bird Keeper, which searches the deck for any two cards with no attack cost. Bird Keeper already synergized well with the deck because pivoting a Dialga VSTAR or Mew is especially useful for reusing Metal Saucer or multiple Mysterious Tail Abilities in one turn.

The final piece of the puzzle is Roxanne plus Path to the Peak, which I had been toying with simultaneously. The rationale was that despite being a turbo deck, you can mount a comeback with a timely Roxanne, Path to the Peak and a fat Dialga VSTAR. Thus, this version of Dialga was born.

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 14

* 1 Starly DAA 145
* 2 Crobat V SHF 44
* 1 Rowlet DAA 11
* 2 Origin Forme Dialga V ASR 113
* 1 Zacian V SSH 195
* 2 Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR ASR 114
* 4 Mew CEL 11
* 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 4 Metal Saucer SSH 170
* 2 Avery CRE 130
* 2 Training Court RCL 169
* 3 Ultra Ball PLB 90
* 3 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 3 Bird Keeper DAA 159
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 1 Roxanne ASR 150
* 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165
* 1 Energy Switch BLW 94
* 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146
* 1 Path to the Peak CRE 148
* 1 Escape Rope BST 125
* 2 Energy Search BLW 93
* 3 Trekking Shoes ASR 156

##Energy - 11

* 11 Metal Energy Energy 8

Total Cards - 60

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

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The list has a similar shell to Turbo Dialga, but there are a few additional cards that give the deck its flair. To start, there’s both Starly and Rowlet! These two synergize with Bird Keeper and are pivotal in certain matchups. As said before, Starly is great against non-Marnie decks but is useless otherwise. Rowlet serves the special purpose of picking up an early Knock Out against Sobble, but more importantly can poke a Pokemon V for 60 damage. One pesky problem with Star Chronos is that if you aren’t Knocking Out a Pokemon with it, the extra turn doesn’t matter much. If you have to hit for 220 with Star Chronos, then turn around and attack the same Pokemon with Metal Burst with many Energy, you’re wasting a lot of damage. By poking a Palkia V for 60 with Wind Shard, you can always finish it off with Star Chronos even if the opponent evolves into Palkia VSTAR. This strategy also works against Arceus VSTAR, but they typically play Cheren’s Care or Big Charm, especially in the Inteleon version.

Bird Keeper (066/072)Roxanne (206/189)

As for the Supporters, Bird Keeper replaces Marnie. I don’t like Marnie in this deck because it resets my own hand, which I found to be detrimental when trying to build a hand with Starly. On top of enabling the bird package, Bird Keeper can pivot out an active Dialga VSTAR or Zacian V. Therefore, it’s safe to attack with a Dialga VSTAR that only has two or three Energy because you can easily pivot it back to the Bench, use Metal Saucers, then attack with Star Chronos on the following turn. On other turns, you can Bird Keeper for an additional Mysterious Tail.

Because there is zero Marnie, I relied on Roxanne as my only disruption Supporter, which I found to be enough most of the time. Roxanne is a much more potent disruption Supporter than Marnie, so I was also able to stall with Dialga VSTAR on the Bench for an additional turn without consequences in the right situation. Path to the Peak is meant to be played alongside Roxanne against Mew but can also be useful against Palkia and Arceus/Bibarel in a pinch. 

Energy Switch (162/202)Escape Rope (125/163)

Two item cards that I found incredibly useful but aren’t in all Dialga lists are Energy Switch and Escape Rope. Both are strong cards in general, but the main reason I include them is for the Mew matchup (more on that later). Energy Switch’s first use is in conjunction with Intrepid Sword. Going first, if you can hit an Energy on Intrepid Sword, Energy Switch acts as an additional Metal Saucer when going for the turn two Star Chronos. This doesn’t happen all that often, but additional options are always nice, especially if you’ve prized one or two Metal Saucer

The other use for Energy Switch is in powering down your first Dialga VSTAR when it’s heavily damaged. If you’re unfortunate enough to Star Chronos and Metal Burst the same Pokemon, you’ll be doing plenty of overkill damage on the second attack. If your Dialga VSTAR will be Knocked Out on the following turn, losing that many Energy can be incredibly detrimental. Energy Switch lets you get around this by moving one of the five Energy to your second Dialga VSTAR or Zacian V. This way, you can continue rolling full steam ahead even after committing five Energy to an initial Dialga VSTAR.

At face value, Escape Rope lets you do-over Mew’s Mysterious Tail Ability, though there are other uses. The switch effect can force the opponent to send up their only Pokemon V when you go second, giving you an opportunity to KO it with Zacian V on you first turn without using Boss’s Orders. In other situations, your opponent might only have one Pokemon in play with more than 220 HP: their Active Pokemon. In these situations, you can Escape Rope out their big Pokemon and pick up a Prize card with Star Chronos.

 

Header - Changes Since Then

That’s where the list was at for NAIC, and it ran well for how I constructed it. I thought about adding a baby Dialga to counter Miltank but didn’t expect much of it. To my surprise, I played against Mees Brenninkmeijer who was playing Mewtwo V-Union/Miltank along with a few other notable players, including Sander Wojcik. Other than a double dead draw vs. Mew, I lost to a Palkia because of non-optimal play. I also tied an Arceus/Inteleon and lost to an Arceus/Malamar, though I went 7-1-1 against Arceus variants over the weekend. In those games, they locked me with Path to the Peak and I took too long to recover. 

Moving forward, I decided that I never want to lose to Arceus or Mewtwo V-Union again. My current list is 58 cards like the one above; cut an Escape Rope and an Ultra Ball for Pumpkaboo and Dialga CEL. Of these two, Escape Rope was the 60th card and Ultra Ball the 59th card. Despite Escape Rope being strong, you can get by with three Bird Keeper. However, two Ultra Ball can mean that finding Dialga VSTAR is a problem. Now, you’ll have to be more careful when using it early. Check if an Ultra Ball is prized because your odds of finding it from Mysterious Tail would be reduced greatly.

 

Header - Matchups

The big four decks to worry about are Palkia VSTAR, Arceus VSTAR (both Bibarel and Inteleon), Mew VMAX, and Mewtwo V-Union. Other fringe decks are Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, Regigas, LunaSol, Mewtwo VSTAR and Radiant Charizard/Inteleon. 

Mew

This matchup is where all the tech cards shine. Against Mew, don’t bench a Pokemon V ever. Your strategy is to continuously use Radiant Greninja, Mew and Starly to build a massive hand while bleeding Prize cards. Once your hand is big enough or the opponent has three Prize cards remaining, you’ll double-bench Dialga V and attach an Energy to a non-Pokemon V such as Mew. Then, assuming your opponent Knocks Out a Dialga VSTAR, you will then play all Metal Saucer and Energy Switch in hand, load up a big Dialga VSTAR, then play the right combination of Avery/Boss’s Orders/Roxanne alongside Path to the Peak to completely cripple their board. On your opponent’s next turn, they will have three cards in hand, two or three Pokemon in play, and unlikely to have a loaded attacker.

How does this all come together? Well to start, the opponent doesn’t play Marnie, so you are free to build your hand continuously. There also isn’t any counterplay to your strategy, since you can reliably have two Energy in play on non-Dialga V, so they can’t even win by targeting your Energy on board. Moreover, the additional Energy is insurance for when you prize a Metal Saucer; if all four Metal Saucer are in deck, you don’t even need the attachment to use Star Chronos starting at zero Energy. Because you are taking three or more Prize cards on your double turn, you can then win the game on the following turn, leaving your opponent only one turn to take their remaining Prize cards or else you win. Ultimately, your odds of winning are greater than 50 percent. 

One niche play you can make is to Escape Rope out the opponent’s active Mew VMAX if they don’t have another in play. This means that you can take prizes on your Star Chronos turn. However, your main goal should be to remove their attackers or Genesect V. Even if they can find Pumpkaboo, if they can’t draw cards with Fusion Strike System, your Dialga VSTAR should live. That’s why Avery is so important, both in the early game to reduce the number of Pokemon in their deck, and on the Star Chronos turn to ensure they have few Pokemon in play.

Cutting Escape Rope has its downsides in this matchup. Both it and Energy Switch are situational Item cards that usually get tossed on turn one when playing the usual turbo strategy. However, because Energy Switch is required the 40 percent of the time you prize a Metal Saucer in the Mew matchup, I decided that the Escape Rope is the first cut.

Arceus

The Arceus matchup is on the simpler side; go for an early Star Chronos and play around Marnie plus Path to the Peak. I find that using Metal Saucer on Zacian V is a mistake because that makes it much harder to use Star Chronos. If you never use Star Chronos, you’re unlikely to win, because that also means you never reached a Dialga VSTAR with six Energy (enough to OHKO an Arceus VSTAR). Besides having the insane T2 Star Chronos, you should aim to have four Energy on Dialga VSTAR with an additional attachment in hand attacking into an Arceus VSTAR when going second. The opponent will have to choose between Marnie or Cheren’s Care. If you’re going first, you can sometimes hold off on attacking that turn and instead use Intrepid Sword depending on how likely it is for the opponent to Boss’s Orders and attack your Dialga VSTAR.

Pumpkaboo greatly helps this matchup because it gives you a searchable out to Path to the Peak. You should almost always aim to save Training Court to replace a Path to the Peak. If you’re able to regain Abilities, you should do as much as possible to extend your board, such as playing Metal Saucer, using Crobat V and thinning the deck. Don’t be afraid to preemptively Metal Saucer to another Dialga VSTAR or Zacian V if that’s your win condition; Marnie/Roxanne is the opponent’s main form of counterplay. Often, you’ll use all three attackers in a single game. 

Starmie V and Radiant Charizard are two cards that may be teched into Arceus/Inteleon. These can be a bit of a problem if you’re unaware that the opponent is playing them. To beat Starmie V, make sure to hold off on putting more than four Energy in play when your Dialga VSTAR is undamaged. If it is already damaged, you’re free to unload as much as you like. Radiant Charizard can be a bit harder to deal with when you’ve taken your first two because Raihan plus Double Turbo Energy gets there. However, if you save Star Chronos for an opportune time alongside Path to the Peak, it is unlikely that the opponent can replace your Stadium and pick up a Knock Out in a single turn. If you’re really afraid, you can add a Coating Metal Energy in place of a regular Metal Energy, but be warned that you cannot retrieve it with Metal Saucer or Training Court.

Palkia

Dialga’s hardest matchup is Palkia. When going first, you control the tempo and can steamroll the game with the right start. However, this perfect start doesn’t happen often, meaning that you will likely trade 2HKO’s for most of the game and then be surprised by a OHKO with an Echoing Horn, Zigzagoon, Choice Belt combo. This can be impossible to play around sometimes. Also, when going second, you start the game on the backfoot and are susceptible to a Boss’s Orders on your opponent’s second turn. 

You should be aggressive when going first, but don’t overextend on the board. Benching Crobat V is almost always a mistake because the damage modification will come back to bite you later on. Radiant Greninja is a great support Pokemon, but Zacian V is more important early on to build up an attacker and take a quick two Prize cards. Your strategy should be to take two with Zacian V, then take the last four either on a pair of Palkia VSTAR or on two smaller targets such as Sobble and Radiant Greninja. Conveniently, you can Star Chronos and then attach once more to Metal Burst a Palkia VSTAR for 280, taking three Prize cards over two turns. You can also avoid this altogether by poking a Palkia VSTAR for 60, then taking four with Star Chronos and Metal Burst on two Palkia VSTAR. This requires two Boss’s Orders, so it can be hard to pull off. Realistically, you’ll play the hand you are dealt because you cannot extend on the board as much as in the Arceus matchup.

If the opponent doesn’t play Marnie, you can attempt the Mew strategy as a last resort. However, you should be cautious because Radiant Greninja can severely cripple your board. You cannot stop them from sniping off two Mew, so you need three in play to be reliably safe and able to continue building the hand. Finally, your play of winning in three attacks likely isn’t possible because it requires three Boss’s Orders. The opponent will have an undamaged Palkia VSTAR active and a damaged Palkia VSTAR on Bench, plus another Palkia V or VSTAR potentially. You cannot use Star Chronos to Knock Out the active, so you must play Boss’s Orders. Then the opponent will send up a Sobble, and you must use Boss’s Orders again. Then the opponent can attack with Inteleon and use Roxanne paired with Path to the Peak, leaving you to find your last Boss’s Orders will under Path lock. Good luck with that!

Mewtwo V-Union

The Mewtwo V-Union matchup is an auto-win with Dialga CEL. You can repeatedly use Temporal Backflow to recover Scoop Up Net, Metal Saucer, etc while empowering this Dialga and a Dialga VSTAR. The only response to your baby Dialga is Mewtwo V-Union, which you can promptly Knock Out with Dialga VSTAR. Then if they go back to Miltank, once again transition back into Dialga, ideally in a single turn by stockpiling Metal Saucer and retreating Energy off the Dialga VSTAR.

Other Matchups

Other matchups aren’t as intricate nor as popular as the above four. Against the decks I previously listed, Avery does major work in slowing down the opponent. You should aim to sacrifice a Prize card so that the opponent goes from five to three, activating Roxanne. Then, you can use Avery and Star Chronos, then Roxanne and Metal Burst to completely wipe their board. Boss’s Orders might be better depending on the situation, so keep that in mind. In any case, aim to use all three attackers, first using a Dialga VSTAR with only two or three Energy, saving Metal Saucer for the second one. You may be able to run away with some games using the first Dialga VSTAR, but plan on having enough resources for two and even a Zacian V

 

Header - Summary

Dialga VSTAR is an incredibly versatile deck because you have the alternate win condition of Roxanne plus Path to the Peak and a big tank. Most decks can’t Knock Out Dialga VSTAR in a single attack, especially if you add a Big Charm. With Star Chronos, you can mount a comeback by setting up a Knock Out with Rowlet. You also have the traditional turbo engine of Mew and Scoop Up Net, so you can instantly win games by opening with a good hand. Depending on how many slots you dedicate to the alternate win condition, you sacrifice some amount of turbo. For example, this list plays zero Battle VIP Pass, three Trekking Shoes and only two Ultra Ball now. However, it does play five draw Supporters, which is a step above the traditional four and nearly double that of some recent well-performing lists.

Whether or not you will be competing in Worlds or the London Open, I wish you luck in your future endeavors. I will be in London competing on Day 1 and hopefully Day 2, so feel free to say hi if you see me there!

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