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The Jolteon Problem in Pokemon TCG Standard, and How to Solve It

Welcome back! The Astral Radiance/Pokémon Go format is nearing its end as we get closer to the release of Lost Origin. That said, there are still three major events (the Baltimore and Porto Alegre Regionals and the Bilbao Special Event) in the current, pre-Lost Origin format. We are in a strange place where the highest point of the format, the World Championships, is over, and it is tempting to assume that the metagame is settled, but historically, things can change even in the very last weekend of a format. That’s why I want to talk about how to approach a competition (in my case, the Bilbao SPE) in such circumstances. Those of you who only play online might not find this article as relevant as IRL players will, but you might want to stick around for the deck lists below!

 

 

Header - A History of Jolteon VIV

Arceus VSTAR / Flying Pikachu VMAX / Bibarel won the World Championships, but while Ondrej Skubal is right to repeat that Bibarel was what ultimately won him the title, I think the bigger story of the weekend was the rise of Jolteon VIV. Japanese players Daichi Shimada and Ryota Ishiyama got second and third place respectively with an Arceus / Flying Pikachu build that features Jolteon rather than Bibarel. By shutting down Water Pokémons’ Abilities with Thunderous Awakening, they were able to be more secure against any Inteleon deck (mainly Palkia / Inteleon and Arceus / Inteleon). Owyn Kamerman used the same idea to reach a top 32 finish, then went 10-0 in the London Open to get first place in the Blue Pod. Meanwhile, the Yellow Pod was also won by Arceus / Flying Pikachu / Jolteon, in the hands of Jake Santiago (the deck also picked up some more results over the weekend, including second place in the Blue Pod. Additionally, a build of Palkia VSTAR featuring Jolteon made top 16 and top 32 at Worlds, played by Miloslav Posledni and Mehdi Hafi respectively.)

Jolteon (047/185)

Jolteon was not really a threat earlier in the format (the highest result a Jolteon deck got at NAIC was 29th, for example), but the World Championships catapulted it to a very solid place in the metagame. This has happened before. In the Brilliant Stars format, it took a while for Jolteon to get any notable results. It was only in May, two months after the first events of the Brilliant Stars format, that it proved its value outside of online events, when Vong Nguyen got second place at Lille Regionals with Arceus VSTAR / Gyarados VMAX. On the same weekend, Grant Manley used Jolteon in his Arceus VSTAR / Malamar VMAX deck to reach 10th place at Secaucus Regionals. From there, Jolteon became a much more frequent sight. Philip Schulz gave the card its best result yet by winning Bremen Regionals with a new build of Arceus, featuring Cinccino.

Bremen Regionals happened on the penultimate weekend of the Brilliant Stars format. On the last weekend, European players gathered for the Milan SPE. I remember that I didn’t want to focus my efforts on playtesting for a format that was almost over. Since I had made Top 4 in Bremen with a classic Arceus / Inteleon list, I thought I could simply play the same deck and do decently enough. I then proceeded to get my worst result in years, whiffing points entirely. It turns out that Jolteon became even more popular in Milan, and I wasn’t prepared for it enough, which resulted in a rough tournament run. Interestingly, Jolteon decks didn’t do that well in Milan in the end, since players were prepared. Compared to previous events, decks without Inteleon (such as non-Inteleon Arceus variants, Whimsicott VSTAR and of course, Mew VMAX) did better, because unlike Inteleon decks, they were not set back by the flood of Jolteon.

Due to my experience in Milan, I’m very afraid of Jolteon. It is tempting to assume that since Jolteon didn’t end up winning the World Championships and it won’t be that popular on the last weekend of the Astral Radiance format, as Arceus / Pikachu players will prefer to play the Bibarel variant. It is possible that this assumption will end up true… but I don’t want to bet on it. That’s why, in my preparation for Bilbao, I’ve been focusing mostly on decks without Inteleon.

Tool Scrapper (208/192)

As a side note, Inteleon decks can beat Jolteon, but not reliably. The best counter to Jolteon is Tool Scrapper to remove its Memory Capsule, but with no Shady Dealings, you can’t grab it when you want, and if you search for it before you actually need it, you’ll probably get hit by Marnie. Beating Jolteon then requires you to draw your Tool Scrapper naturally, but that’s not a safe option. Some decks can also draw it with Irida, but again, there’s no guarantee you’ll get Irida when you need it, so there’s still an element of inconsistency. The main reason to play an Inteleon deck is to have control over your draws, so if you can’t rely on that, you might as well play a Bibarel deck instead.

One last option would be to play Oranguru so that you can get Tool Scrapper early, then set it on top of your deck at the end of your turn so that if your opponent gets Jolteon Active and plays Marnie, you’ll still draw into your Tool Scrapper. That could work for some decks, but not all. For example, Arceus / Inteleon can’t use that idea because they’ll always end their turn by using Trinity Nova, which shuffles the deck.

Bibarel (121/172)

As the finals of Worlds showed, one way to beat Arceus / Flying Pikachu / Jolteon is to play the same deck, but with Bibarel over Jolteon, since a draw engine is better in the mirror match than six dead cards. However, there will undoubtedly be many people playing the same idea, and I would rather avoid playing this mirror match, so I’ve been focused on other decks instead. As you might have guessed, one of these non-Inteleon decks is Dialga VSTAR, but I won’t talk about it in this article. I’ll refer you to my recent guide to the deck instead!

Instead, I’ll talk about three other decks which I think are good picks for the last batch of Astral Radiance major events.

 

Header - Mew VMAX

If you simply go down a typical tier list for the Astral Radiance format, the first non-Intelon deck you’ll find is probably Mew VMAX, sitting behind Palkia VSTAR and Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon (it’s possible that since Worlds, Arceus / Flying Pikachu is now ranked higher, but Mew VMAX is still above it overall, according to stats from the LimitlessTCG online platform).

Mew VMAX loves it when a new deck rises in popularity, as it deflects attention away from it. The less the player base fills their decks with Path to the Peak and Dark-type attackers, the happier Mew VMAX gets, and right now, with Arceus / Pikachu being the most hyped deck (while Palkia can still contend for the title of BDIF), the metagame is rather favorable for Mew.

Not all is bright for it, though: Arceus / Flying Pikachu is itself a deck that plays four Marnie and four Path to the Peak, which is always a lose condition for Mew. Nevertheless, this can be dealt with. Most Arceus lists don’t play Roxanne, so Mew can actually beat them with Rotom Phone if they make sure to always keep a counter to Path to the Peak on top of their deck. This strategy is not foolproof, of course, but it should give the deck the best possible odds.

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 14
* 4 Genesect V FST 185
* 2 Meloetta FST 124
* 4 Mew V FST 113
* 1 Pumpkaboo EVS 76
* 3 Mew VMAX FST 114

##Trainer Cards - 39
* 3 Elesa's Sparkle FST 233
* 3 Boss's Orders BRS 132
* 4 Power Tablet FST 236
* 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 4 Ultra Ball FCO 113
* 3 Cram-o-matic FST 229
* 4 Rotom Phone CPA 64
* 2 Switch EVO 88
* 2 Escape Rope PLS 120
* 1 Echoing Horn CRE 136
* 2 Choice Belt BRS 135
* 2 Rose Tower DAA 169
* 1 PokéStop PGO 68

##Energy - 7
* 4 Fusion Strike Energy FST 244
* 3 Double Turbo Energy ASR 216

Total Cards - 60

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

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This is literally André Chiasson’s Top 8 list from Worlds. André is a long-time Mew player who has been advocating for Rotom Phone in Mew for as long as I’ve known him, and I think this choice is absolutely correct in the current metagame. The only change I’ve made to his list is adding a third Stadium, because I’m not super comfortable with only two, even accounting for Pumpkaboo. PokéStop is an interesting card in Mew, as it is in theory very effective (half of the deck is Item cards), but it can also discard key cards such as Fusion Strike Energy. The key is to remember that you don’t actually have to activate it; having it as a counter-Stadium is enough (after all, it’s not like Old Cemetery had a notable impact either), but if you need it, you have the option to click the button and hopefully draw the Echoing Horn or Power Tablet you need to win.

Cyllene (201/189)

Alternatively, you could also play Cyllene in the deck. Cyllene is a good card in Mew since you don’t need to play Elesa or Boss’s Orders every turn, and recovering Fusion Strike Energy or Power Tablet can be game-winning. It’s also a way to put a specific card on top of your deck, so you can just put a Stadium back to protect yourself against Path to the Peak.

One last note about Mew: a new variant has been rising in popularity following Michael Pramawat’s Top 8 with it at the London Open. This new variant plays no Fusion Strike Energy or Meloetta; instead, it plays more Items, including Cross Switcher, and four PokéStop, for more consistency. I like the idea a lot in theory (then again, you can put PokéStop in anything and I’ll try it). However, without Meloetta, you lose one of Mew VMAX’s main assets – its ability to attack on the first turn going second, which makes it such a threat to VSTAR decks. This new variant is stronger when going first, but it’s much worse going second against something like Palkia VSTAR. The best way to improve that matchup is probably to play a list with two Avery:

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 12
* 1 Oricorio PR-SW 168
* 4 Genesect V FST 185
* 4 Mew V FST 113
* 3 Mew VMAX FST 114

##Trainer Cards - 44
* 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 2 Marnie SSH 169
* 1 Cyllene ASR 138
* 2 Avery CRE 130
* 4 Power Tablet FST 236
* 4 Cross Switcher FST 230
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 4 Ultra Ball FCO 113
* 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 3 Cram-o-matic FST 229
* 4 Trekking Shoes ASR 156
* 2 Rotom Phone CPA 64
* 1 Switch EVO 88
* 1 Echoing Horn CRE 136
* 1 Pal Pad SSH 172
* 2 Choice Belt BRS 135
* 4 PokéStop PGO 68

##Energy - 4
* 4 Double Turbo Energy ASR 216

Total Cards - 60
****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ****** 

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When going second against Palkia, try to end your first turn with Oricorio Active to force your opponent to have Boss’s Orders or double Cross Switcher to take a two-Prize KO. Then, you can race by using the usual plan of taking two Prizes every turn. Avery is useful both to reduce your opponent’s damage output and consistency, and to make room on the board to play Echoing Horn to bring back a Palkia V (in a Cross Switcher list, you can play Avery->Echoing Horn->Cross Switcher to take two Prizes out of nowhere, and it’s not even that unusual!).

Overall, this list is very fun, and strong as well, but I feel like keeping the option of a powerful turn one Melodious Echo is still the best way to play Mew overall.

 

Header - Arceus / Duraludon

Whenever I mention Arceus / Duraludon to another top-ranked player, they seem to scoff. I’ll be the first to admit that the deck is much more linear than Palkia / Inteleon or Mew VMAX. Still, I think that a significant portion of the player base have convinced themselves that this means the deck shouldn’t be taken seriously, despite it winning a Regionals, getting consistent results over in Japan and having the second best win rate in online events in the current format.

I think they’re mistaken. Admittedly, Arceus / Duraludon can appear inconsistent when you first try it, but I believe that’s because lists were not perfected for a long time. An Arceus / Duraludon deck made Top 8 at Japanese Nationals using four Trekking Shoes and four Tower of Darkness. These cards allow the deck to achieve its plan much more reliably. I’ve based my own list on it:

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 11
* 4 Arceus V BRS 122
* 2 Arceus VSTAR BRS 123
* 3 Duraludon VMAX EVS 123
* 2 Duraludon V CPA 47

##Trainer Cards - 37
* 1 Karen's Conviction CRE 144
* 1 Pokégear3.0 HS 96
* 2 Avery CRE 130
* 3 Hyper Potion SSH 166
* 2 Ordinary Rod SSH 171
* 1 Pal Pad UPR 132
* 3 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 4 PokéStop PGO 68
* 1 Switch SUM 132
* 3 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Tool Jammer BST 136
* 4 Ultra Ball BRS 150
* 1 Single Strike Style Mustard BST 134
* 3 Professor's Research SHF 60
* 1 Marnie SSH 169
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 4 Trekking Shoes ASR 156

##Energy - 12
* 3 Fighting Energy SMEnergy 6
* 4 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151
* 5 Metal Energy SWSHEnergy 8

Total Cards - 60

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

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Arceus / Duraludon is not a deck that you want to fill with lots of tech cards. Not only would you have no way to dig for them, but the deck also needs consistency to work. Fortunately, Trekking Shoes helps to compress the deck. You don’t need to play as many Pokémon-searching Items when you play it. Role compression is also a thing: instead of playing Big Charm for additional tankiness and Choice Belt for additional power, Tool Jammer can do both by countering Choice Belt in the first case and Big Charm in the second.

PokeStop (068/078)Tower of Darkness (137/163)

The interesting part of this deck list, in my opinion, is the choice of PokéStop over Tower of Darkness. Both have pros and cons. PokéStop can dig a little deeper than Tower of Darkness, and more importantly, it can be used unconditionally, whereas Tower of Darkness is only worth it when you have another Single Strike card in hand, which is not that reliable. On the other hand, PokéStop can only draw some specific cards, and it will discard potentially useful resources. Discarding Basic Pokémon can also be an issue against decks running Echoing Horn. In addition, PokéStop can also help the opponent sometimes.

Overall, I’ve chosen PokéStop because I think that thinning the deck is particularly useful in a deck like Arceus / Duraludon where you want to be able to reliably hit important cards like Boss’s Orders and Hyper Potion towards the end of the game. What I mentioned in the previous section also applies here: you don’t have to activate PokéStop every turn. It’s perfectly fine to play it simply as a counter to Path to the Peak at first, and only use its effect in the midgame once all your Energy is attached or drawn and all the Pokémon you need are in play.

As for the risk of discarding useful resources, it’s mitigated by having one Pal Pad and two Ordinary Rod in the deck. Two Ordinary Rod might seem a little excessive, but it makes sure that you can still come back even if you discard some key Pokémon early on with PokéStop (or Professor’s Research). It is also useful against Mew and Palkia to deny your opponent the use of Echoing Horn.

 

Header - Ice Rider / Palkia

Finally, I want to mention Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX / Palkia VSTAR. The main draw of this deck is its ability to take down 280-HP Pokémon VSTAR thanks to Max Lance boosted by Choice Belt. Since Palkia and Arceus are so prominent in the current metagame, that makes Ice Rider a nice pick. Palkia VSTAR is a useful secondary attacker and it can power up Ice Rider after it discards Energy, while also forcing the opponent to prepare for the threat of Radiant Greninja’s Moonlight Shuriken.

You can play this duo with either an Inteleon or a Bibarel engine, but obviously, Bibarel makes more sense if you’re worried about Jolteon. Unlike the other decks mentioned above, this deck still uses some Water Pokémon with Abilities (Palkia VSTAR and Radiant Greninja), but the deck can still work under a Jolteon lock, even with Marnie and Path to the Peak, due to Bibarel’s draw. Note that Jolteon only shuts down the Abilities of Pokémon in play, so you can still Pitch a Pyukumuku, since this Ability activates from the hand.

In addition, the deck naturally runs Irida and Tool Scrapper, which provides some additional help against Jolteon and Memory Capsule.

PTCGO Code

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

##Pokémon - 18
* 2 Bidoof BRS 120
* 2 Bibarel BRS 121
* 1 Crobat V DAA 104
* 1 Eldegoss V RCL 19
* 1 Pumpkaboo EVS 76
* 1 Empoleon V BST 40
* 2 Ice Rider Calyrex V CRE 45
* 2 Origin Forme Palkia V ASR 39
* 1 Pyukumuku PR-SW 169
* 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46
* 2 Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX ASR 245
* 2 Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR ASR 40

##Trainer Cards - 34
* 4 Irida ASR 147
* 3 Melony CRE 146
* 4 Cross Switcher FST 230
* 4 Quick Ball FST 237
* 4 Ultra Ball FCO 113
* 4 Trekking Shoes ASR 156
* 2 Capacious Bucket RCL 156
* 1 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
* 1 Tool Scrapper RCL 168
* 1 Leon VIV 154
* 1 Switch EVO 88
* 2 Choice Belt BRS 135
* 1 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 1 Training Court RCL 169
* 1 Roxanne ASR 150

##Energy - 8
* 8 Water Energy Energy 3

Total Cards - 60

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

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I based this deck list on the one that Grant Manley used to make Top 16 at the World Championships. Notably, this list has Empoleon V as a situational attacker. Empoleon V shuts down Basic Pokémon’s Abilities, which makes it very strong against Solrock / Lunatone, Regigigas, Miltank, Snorlax (and Mewtwo V-Union by extension) as well as decks relying on Mew.

Eldegoss V (005/073)

I chose to give the deck some more options by including Leon, Roxanne and the slightly experimental Eldegoss V. Lumineon V has seen play in this kind of deck, so running a support Pokémon to grab a Supporter isn’t anything wild.

There are two reasons I chose Eldegoss V over Lumineon V, though. First, any deck with Bibarel wants to discard cards that aren’t immediately useful in order to draw more cards. A situational Supporter such as Leon is the kind of card that you don’t really want taking space in your hand all game long just so you can use it later. By having Eldegoss V in your deck, you can discard Leon when you have it in hand (or if it’s the first card you see with Trekking Shoes), and then get it back at the moment you actually need it. Given how crucial Leon can be to reach 310 damage in combination with Choice Belt (which is an OHKO on Flying Pikachu VMAX and Mew VMAX), having a way to get it back at the right time can make all the difference.

As for the second reason to prefer Eldegoss V, it’s simply that Lumineon V is a Water Pokémon, so it’s weaker against Jolteon. Eldegoss V can also be used to deal with Jolteon’s lock, though it’s situational: if you need to use Star Portal, you can always play Eldegoss V to search for Irida and grab your Tool Scrapper. It’s unlikely that this scenario will come up much (you usually want to use Star Portal early on, and at that point you won’t have an Irida already in the discard), but it’s a possibility to keep in mind.

 

Header - Conclusion

As I’ve made clear, I don’t want to lose to Jolteon in Bilbao, and the decks above, I think, are suited to that goal. They should also do at least decently against Palkia VSTAR and Arceus / Pikachu / Bibarel, making them good choices overall.

Thank you for reading! This was my last article on the Astral Radiance format. I can’t wait to dive into new and updated Lost Origin decks. See you soon!

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