Hello! Last week, I discussed the TEU–EVS format that will be played on TCGO between Evolving Skies’ release date and the official rotation two weeks later, including in some global online tournaments such as the POG Championships. I really recommend you read that article first if you haven’t already!
As I mentioned in the conclusion, there might be decks in this format that couldn’t be played in Japan due to some cards from Team Up (including Jirachi, Cobalion-GX and Tapu Koko Prism Star) having rotated out in Japan already. Today, I’d like to talk about one such archetype: Leafeon VMAX. While I’ll talk mostly about TEU–EVS, there will also be a section on how the deck looks post-rotation.
Grass Knot is Leafeon VMAX’s main draw. With Galar Mine, you can increase the Defending Pokemon’s Retreat Cost by two, increasing Grass Knot’s damage by 120.
Now, you might have the following reaction: didn’t Milotic V do something similar? Yet it never worked out. What makes Leafeon VMAX any different? It turns out that there are many reasons why Leafeon VMAX is a much better main attacker for a deck than Milotic V.
First, its attack costs one Energy fewer, which means you don’t need an external source of Energy acceleration (such as Melony or Frosmoth in Milotic V’s case). In addition, Leafeon V’s Ability lets you attach an Energy to it from your deck. Since it ends your turn, you’ll only want to use that on turn one, but that means that by turn three, you should have attached four Energy in total, powering up two Leafeon VMAX. Therefore, you shouldn’t have any Energy issues even if you whiff an Energy one turn.
More importantly, Leafeon VMAX deals more damage. The difference between 10 plus 50 times Retreat Cost, and 60 times Retreat Cost, should not be understated. Most Basic Pokemon V have a retreat cost of two, so with Galar Mine in play, Grass Knot deals 240 damage, enough to KO any of them (in the absence of other factors such as Resistance). Milotic V would only deal 210 damage to the same Pokemon, whiffing the KO on Pokemon such as Eternatus V and Rapid Strike Urshifu V. Basic Pokemon with a retreat cost of one (three with Galar Mine) tend to be support Pokemon, with 180 HP or fewer: Dedenne-GX, Crobat V, etc. Here, too, Leafeon VMAX can OHKO them, whereas Milotic V doesn’t even OHKO Crobat V.
Forget about Milotic V: what you should be comparing Leafeon VMAX with is Victini VMAX. Both have the same potential to KO any Pokemon V (especially one that’s supposed to evolve) on turn two, but Leafeon VMAX is much better against non-V Pokemon, such as Dedenne-GX and TAG TEAMs. For example, Grass Knot can OHKO Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX with Galar Mine in play!
Finally, Leafeon VMAX’s Grass-type is relevant as it allows it to hit Pokemon such as Moltres V and Umbreon VMAX for Weakness. As for its own Weakness, it can be negated thanks to Snow Leaf Badge. Since matchups between VMAX Pokemon often come down to 2HKOs, Snow Leaf Badge can make sure this 2HKO isn’t changed into an OHKO.
All these elements have made Leafeon VMAX into a popular deck in Japan. It had quite a bit of success at City Leagues, although it severely underperformed at Nationals. One possible explanation for that, according to my friend Antoine Boulay (who lives in Japan), could be that, like other decks (Victini VMAX and Eternatus VMAX) that can OHKO anything on turn two, Leafeon VMAX can be underwhelming when going second, and it isn’t the best at closing games. However, as mentioned above, Leafeon VMAX is more effective than Victini VMAX against some opponents, and it doesn’t have direct counters like Eternatus VMAX does.
The main reason why I’m interested in Leafeon VMAX, though, is that it gains an interesting ally when going from the Japanese format to ours: Absol! Absol can further increase the opponent’s Retreat Cost, and therefore Grass Knot’s damage. Unfortunately, Absol only affects Basic Pokemon, so it can’t be used to let Leafeon VMAX OHKO other VMAX Pokemon. However, it can still be used to fix some math. For example, against TAG TEAM Pokemon with a Retreat Cost of two, most importantly Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Umbreon & Darkrai-GX, Absol’s Ability turns Grass Knot into an OHKO. This also works against Zacian V, who would otherwise survive the attack thanks to Resistance.
To recap, you have a powerful attacker able to OHKO most Basic Pokemon on turn two, with built-in Energy acceleration for turn one. How do you build a deck around it, though? There are several options.
The most popular and most effective way to play Leafeon VMAX in Japan is, like many other decks, to combine it with the Inteleon engine. This achieves two things. First, there are some Pokemon on which Leafeon VMAX can’t get an OHKO but can get close. Such Pokemon include Eternatus VMAX and Alcremie VMAX, who both take 300 damage from Grass Knot when Galar Mine is in play. One or two pings from Inteleon can finish these Pokemon off without having to use an additional attack.
Second, Drizzile is great to find specific techs, and Leafeon VMAX is regularly faced with situations where it needs a specific Trainer card: Galar Mine is the obvious example, but not the only one. Air Balloon reduces the damage an opponent’s Pokemon will take from Grass Knot, and Drizzile can search for Tool Scrapper or Tool Jammer to get rid of it. Against Welder decks, getting Snow Leaf Badge as fast as possible will save Leafeon VMAX from a game-losing OHKO.
While Leafeon VMAX is clearly the most important Pokemon in the deck, there are two Pokemon-GX that you can consider playing in there. The first one is Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX, since both Jet Punch and Beast Game GX work well with Inteleon’s damage. After one Quick Shooting, you can use Beast Game GX to KO a Sobble for two Prizes, for example. The other, and in my opinion, better, option, is Cobalion-GX.
Recently, there’s been a rise in the use of Cobalion-GX in decks that feature Inteleon: Natalie Millar and Henry Brand both played it in the 25th Anniversary Invitational, in Rapid Strike Urshifu / Inteleon and Ice Rider Calyrex / Inteleon respectively. (They were not the first people to use it; the first time I saw Cobalion-GX in Urshifu was in a decklist by Patricia Gonzalez Walsh, although others may have played it as well.) In a deck that otherwise doesn’t have a GX attack to use, Cobalion-GX gives you an extra turn to use Quick Shooting, and to search for whichever card or cards you may need to close out the game; typically, a Boss’s Orders to KO an easier target.
With all of this in mind, here’s what a decklist can look like:
##Pokémon - 22 4 Sobble CRE 41 4 Drizzile SSH 56 2 Inteleon CRE 43 1 Inteleon SSH 58 4 Leafeon V 3 Leafeon VMAX 1 Marshadow UNB 81 1 Dedenne-GX UNB 57 1 Cobalion-GX TEU 106 1 Absol TEU 88 ##Trainer Cards - 28 4 Professor's Research SHF 60 3 Boss's Orders RCL 154 2 Marnie SSH 169 3 Quick Ball SSH 179 3 Level Ball BST 129 2 Switch HS 102 2 Pokémon Communication TEU 152 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 1 Tool Scrapper RCL 168 1 Tool Jammer BST 136 1 Snow Leaf Badge 4 Galar Mine RCL 160 ##Energy - 10 6 Grass Energy 1 4 Capture Energy RCL 171
Most of the cards have been explained already, but I’d like to focus on a couple of choices.
First, you may notice that this list only plays three Quick Ball. While this may seem sacrilegious, I think it’s enough when you consider that this list also runs Capture Energy. Quick Ball is great on the first turn, but if you’ve played an Inteleon deck, you know that it’s often a dead card in the midgame, so cutting one is fine since there are still nine Item outs to finding a Leafeon V on turn one. What’s important is that Leafeon V’s Ability allows you to be fine attaching a Capture Energy elsewhere: if you were playing Capture Energy in Eternatus, you’d want to attach it to an Eternatus V on turn one, otherwise you wouldn’t get an Eternatus VMAX attacking on turn two (except with Galarian Moltres V plus Energy Switch). However, since Leafeon V can get an Energy with Greening Cells, it’s okay to attach a Capture Energy to, say, Sobble, on turn one. You can then retreat Sobble (or Drizzile) on turn two by discarding that Energy and attack with Leafeon VMAX.
Second, this deck plays Switch rather than Air Balloon because, if Galar Mine is in play, Air Balloon wouldn’t give your Pokemon free Retreat. Snow Leaf Badge can still give a Leafeon V or VMAX free Retreat, even under Galar Mine. This can be useful to retreat to Cobalion-GX in the endgame.
Third, Absol. I’ve explained how it can fix the math against some Pokemon, but it’s also a nice, disruptive card in general. Think of how often a Shadow Rider player uses Air Balloon to retreat their Active Shadow Rider into Gengar & Mimikyu-GX on turn one; with Absol in play, this doesn’t work, and they need a Switch or Escape Rope instead.
Finally, Marshadow is mainly used to remove Chaotic Swell to get a Galar Mine in play. If Swell decks are popular, I think adding an Ordinary Rod to recover Marshadow (and other Pokemon in other matchups, of course) could be a good adaptation.
Other cards to consider include a third Inteleon CRE, Erika’s Hospitality, Mew, and Reset Stamp. Phoebe is an option (but probably not a good enough one) for Decidueye, Zamazenta V and Glaceon VMAX. Fan of Waves could also be played to deal with Hiding Energy, which Eternatus (or other Darkness-type) decks could play to be immune to Grass Knot. There’s also an argument to be made for playing Guzma & Hala since Galar Mine is so important to the deck, and it lets you search for Tool Jammer to deal with Air Balloon and even Capture Energy to get Absol or another Sobble. I think adding Guzma & Hala would probably mean committing to at least a small Tag Call engine, though, and that would change the deck significantly.