Hello everyone. I’ve been on vacation the last two weeks, enjoying a bit of non-Pokémon time for once, but let’s be honest: I’ve been playing Pokémon anyway. As part of my preparation for the World Championships, I want to explore as many slightly unusual ideas as I can. Maybe I’ll end up playing Palkia or Arceus anyway; these are the best decks in the format and any competitive player should at least consider them for Worlds.
However, I enjoy playing more unusual decks, and I think that finding an offbeat deck that my competitors won’t have tested as much against might give me better chances overall. Moreover, even if I wanted to play Palkia or Arceus, there’s no reason to spend the six weeks or so between Pokémon Go’s release and Worlds playing only these decks. Might as well use this time to try out more diverse ideas in the hope that inspiration strikes; and even if it doesn’t, I would end up being more prepared when playing against any rogue deck.
Since I won Lille Regionals with it, I guess I’ve been the main advocate in the community for the Liminal Deck (that is, an Inteleon engine with Pokémon usually considered to be secondary attackers, such as Galarian Moltres and Rowlet). It probably won’t come as a surprise that I’ve been trying out this sort of deck a lot in the current format. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a deck list that I’m really satisfied with. However, my experimentation has allowed me to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of this kind of deck, and that’s what I’m writing about today. In fact, I’ll go beyond just Liminal variants: I’ll give a rundown of all my experiments with Inteleon Toolbox decks (what’s the difference between Inteleon Toolbox and Liminal? I see Inteleon Toolbox as a broader category that includes Liminal, but also Water Toolbox decks that use Radiant Greninja, for example). I’ll explain what works in these decks, and what gives them trouble. By the end of this article, you should understand where I’m at, and maybe you’ll have your own ideas to fix what isn’t working!
Liminal is a subcategory of Inteleon Toolbox deck that uses a heavy Inteleon line, along with various attackers, mostly one-Prize Pokémon. These include, but are not limited to: Galarian Moltres, Hoopa DAA, Radiant Charizard, Rowlet, Moltres BRS and Zeraora VIV. Some two-Prize Pokémon are sometimes used, such as Hisuian Samurott VSTAR, Galarian Zapdos V, Galarian Moltres V and Medicham V. Inteleon Toolbox decks usually use several Energy types in order to use a wider variety of attackers, in order to hit more decks for Weakness.
This brings me to my first issue with the deck: there are now more Weaknesses to hit than before. In the Brilliant Stars format, your deck was mostly Dark-type attackers which dealt efficiently with Mew VMAX while still being useful in other matchups. Galarian Zapdos V was often played to KO Arceus VSTAR, but the deck only needed one Fighting Energy in addition to the Dark Energy. A Water Energy was often used to have the option to attack with Inteleon SSH.
In comparison, in the Worlds format, the main threat to cover is Palkia VSTAR. That usually means we want at least one Lightning-type attacker, most likely Zeraora VIV, which has free retreat, making it a good Pokémon to Bench in any matchup. However, Zeraroa is definitely not as strong against Palkia as Moltres was against Mew. It requires Raihan (or Energy Switch) to be powered up in one turn and Choice Belt to OHKO Palkia VSTAR (and Tool Scrapper, if Palkia has a Tool Jammer). This means that, unlike Moltres, you can’t simply play Klara to get back your Zeraora and get an OHKO.
Zeraora is also much worse in a non-Palkia matchup than Moltres is in a non-Mew matchup. Galarian Moltres is still a powerful attacker in the late game no matter what you’re facing, and it will be your main way of dealing big damage against high HP targets, such as Duraludon VMAX. Zeraora only has its free retreat going for it against non-Palkia decks.
Now, I expect Palkia to be ubiquitous enough at Worlds that running an attacker that only helps against it is worth it. However, the issue is that this spreads out our Energy base. We still need Galarian Moltres to beat Mew VMAX, and running Galarian Moltres means running at least five Dark Energy (you could get away with four, but I’m not super comfortable with that).
Also, if you decide to run mostly Dark attackers with Zeroara, you run into another issue: you lose to Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon (and possibly other Arceus decks). Because of Cheren’s Care, Arceus decks are very annoying to deal with. Thankfully, some are cutting Dunsparce now, making Zapdos very effective. So, we can just make a deck with Dark attackers, Zeraora and Zapdos, right? Well, it’s not that easy. The issue is that, as I mentioned, Zeraora is not an easy counter to Palkia the same way that Zapdos is an easy counter to Arceus. Palkia can definitely lose two Prizes to Zeraora and still win the game overall since it attacks faster. Also, you need to Bench Manaphy as soon as possible in that matchup because of the threat of Radiant Greninja, and that will take a spot on your Bench for most of the game.
It’s hard to deal with both Arceus and Palkia. My solution to that is to use attackers that are useful against both these archetypes. There are two such attackers: Samurott VSTAR and Radiant Charizard.
Samurott VSTAR is a Pokémon I still strongly believe in, in this kind of deck. I’ve explained my reasoning in detail in this article but to summarize, Samurott VSTAR is a powerful early game attacker that can deal with a Pokémon VSTAR with Moon Cleave Star and Choice Belt; then, when it’s KO’d, that progresses the game towards the endgame in which Galarian Moltres gets better and becomes our main attacker. A 1-1 line of Samurott is enough for that purpose, since the second one is much less powerful (due to not being able to use Moon Cleave Star anymore).
There are other valuable reasons to use Samurott VSTAR. It can OHKO Mewtwo V-Union, which I think shouldn’t be underestimated going into Worlds (mostly the Stall version, but Arceus VSTAR / Mewtwo V-Union is better than you’d expect too). It’s also an Evolution Pokémon, so it can deal damage to Flying Pikachu VMAX which would otherwise almost wall most Inteleon Toolbox decks.
Radiant Charizard is the newest addition to the deck from the Pokémon Go mini-set, and it too is a valuable attacker, but for the late game. With a Choice Belt, it deals 280 damage for one Energy (as long as there’s no Path to the Peak in play), so it can OHKO either an Arceus VSTAR or Palkia VSTAR. In my opinion, Charizard is an important inclusion for its universal potential: no matter what you’re facing (except a Stall deck), being able to deal that much damage for only one Energy in the late game is valuable. Unlike Zeraora or Galarian Zapdos V, it’s not just here for one matchup.
With that in mind, here’s my Liminal deck list.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 19 * 1 Snorlax VIV 131 * 1 Galarian Moltres EVS 93 * 1 Galarian Zigzagoon SSH 117 * 1 Hisuian Samurott V ASR 101 * 1 Hoopa DAA 111 * 1 Hisuian Samurott VSTAR ASR 102 * 1 Radiant Charizard PGO 11 * 1 Rowlet SHF 6 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 * 1 Inteleon CRE 43 ##Trainer Cards - 33 * 3 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Pal Pad SSH 172 * 2 Training Court RCL 169 * 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171 * 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 2 Bird Keeper DAA 159 * 3 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 2 Energy Search SSH 161 * 1 Raihan EVS 152 * 1 Klara CRE 145 * 4 Level Ball BST 129 * 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 2 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 1 Professor's Research SHF 60 * 1 Irida ASR 147 * 1 Sonia RCL 167 * 1 Rare Candy UL 82 * 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146 ##Energy - 8 * 1 Water Energy SWSHEnergy 3 * 6 Darkness Energy SWSHEnergy 7 * 1 Fire Energy SWSHEnergy 2 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
You can see this deck in action in this video:
However, there’s an issue with this deck: disruption. This deck is reliant on combinations of cards to achieve results, and it will rarely have game on board. Most of the time, you won’t think “I win next turn no matter what” but “I win next turn as long as I can play Boss’s Orders” (or Klara, or whatever). And then you get hit by Roxanne.
Roxanne is a major pain for this deck, as it can completely ruin your plans. Both Arceus and Palkia play it, and even worse, it’s usually paired with Path to the Peak, which prevents you from using Radiant Charizard as an attacker. To be honest, I would be much more optimistic about Liminal’s odds at Worlds if Roxanne didn’t exist. As it is, it feels like every game has a chance to be lost towards the end if we draw dead, and that’s a very uncomfortable position to be in.
There are, obviously, counters to Roxanne. You could play a Bibarel line to draw out of it, or at least a Mew CEL to find a Level Ball or Evolution Incense to draw into Drizzile or Inteleon and do what you need to do. These solutions are not foolproof, and they take more space (in the deck and on the Bench), but they can help. Unfortunately, finding this space means cutting more cards, which will remove options for other situations.
Finally, there’s one last issue to mention when talking about Inteleon Toolbox: its tendency to lose Prize races against other one-Prize decks. Sure, Charizard and Moltres will KO two-Prize Pokémon and let you come back from a Prize deficit, but what if the opponent doesn’t play any two-Prize Pokémon? Against Lunatone / Solrock, for example, it’s very hard to win, because they’re faster and will just trade Prizes all game long. The list above has basically no way to counter that, unless you can somehow take two Prizes in one turn with some combination of Moon Cleave Star, Quick Shooting, Galarian Zigzagoon and Aqua Bullet.
One reason why Roxanne is so devastating against the Liminal deck is because it plays so many cards that only work in combination with other cards. What use is Galarian Moltres if you don’t have Klara or some other way to get multiple Energy in hand? Or Fire Energy without Radiant Charizard, or vice versa, or even having both when Path to the Peak is in play?
One way to solve this issue is to play a more consistent deck. Enter Water Toolbox. This deck only plays Water Pokémon, has Frosmoth to accelerate Energy, Radiant Greninja for draw power (and for attacking!) and has a powerful engine thanks to Inteleon + Irida which, as anyone who has so much as glanced at a Palkia deck in action can tell you, is devastatingly powerful. And with Nessa, you can easily recover discarded Pokémon and Energy.
This deck has been played in Japan after Radiant Greninja was released, but before Palkia entered the scene (in Japan, these cards were part of two different small sets), and had decent results. Obviously, one would expect Palkia to be a better version of this deck now, but by running almost only one-Prize Pokémon, we’re not as threatened by anti-Palkia techs such as Raikou V.
One question remains: which attackers are we using exactly? This deck might be more consistent than Liminal, but it doesn’t have access to Radiant Charizard or Galarian Moltres. Instead, the main attacker is Radiant Greninja, powered by Frosmoth. In some matchups (such as Mew VMAX), you want to basically only use it. You can also use Inteleon itself as an attacker, especially against one-Prize decks. Rare Candy is a must-have in this deck because it lets you use Aqua Bullet on turn two, which is often your best move (especially because you don’t need Frosmoth in play to do achieve that). Finally, there are some Pokémon V that can be useful in some situations.
Starmie V is a fantastic attacker against all sorts of threats: Arceus VSTAR after Trinity Nova, Palkia VSTAR after Star Portal… good opponents will try to play around it, but if they misplay or just can’t afford to not attach an Energy, Starmie V can sometimes punish them.
Crabominable V is more situational, but it can deal heavy damage after you dealt some damage to the opponent, either with Moonlight Shuriken or simply a Quick Shooting or two, so it’s a powerful threat against VMAX decks.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 18 * 1 Crabominable V FST 76 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46 * 2 Snom SHF 29 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 1 Starmie V ASR 30 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Frosmoth SHF 30 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 * 1 Inteleon CRE 43 ##Trainer Cards - 34 * 2 Nessa VIV 157 * 1 Energy Retrieval SSH 160 * 1 Cape of Toughness DAA 160 * 1 Canceling Cologne ASR 136 * 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Training Court RCL 169 * 1 Pal Pad UPR 132 * 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 3 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 4 Level Ball BST 129 * 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Rescue Carrier EVS 154 * 1 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 4 Irida ASR 147 * 1 Rare Candy UL 82 * 1 Battle VIP Pass FST 225 * 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146 * 2 Capacious Bucket RCL 156 * 1 Escape Rope PLS 120 ##Energy - 8 * 1 Capture Energy RCL 171 * 7 Water Energy SWSHEnergy 3 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Waterbox has issues with Flying Pikachu VMAX and is still not immune to Roxanne, but it will usually draw decently enough. Also, note that the deck has a great solution to the third issue I mentioned above (losing Prize races): against Solrock / Lunatone for example, you can bring Manaphy Active, use Canceling Cologne to make it lose its Ability, then use Radiant Greninja to KO two Pokémon in one attack. This lets you take two Prizes in one turn and basically take the lead back.
Instead of Canceling Cologne, I was considering another way to win Prize races even if the opponent takes the first KO: using Slowbro to take two Prizes on the last turn. You’d need a 2-1 line for that, but you could basically bench two Slowpoke when your opponent has two Prizes left, and take two Prizes on the next turn because they can’t KO both Slowpoke and you just need to evolve one to Slowbro and attach two Energy to it.
It turns out that this is a big space commitment in the list and Slowbro doesn’t come up very often, but the idea stayed with me.
I also wondered if using Radiant Blastoise rather than Radiant Greninja in this kind of deck could yield results. You’d lose on the option of a double KO, but with Blastoise, Scoop Up Net and Inteleon, you could take Prizes on low HP Pokémon on the opponent’s Bench without attacking, and Radiant Blastoise is actually a pretty decent attacker.
I combined these thought processes and ended up with this:
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 20 * 1 Medicham V EVS 83 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 1 Radiant Blastoise PGO 18 * 1 Slowpoke PGO 19 * 2 Snom SHF 29 * 4 Sobble CRE 41 * 1 Starmie V ASR 30 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 2 Frosmoth SHF 30 * 1 Slowbro PGO 20 * 2 Inteleon SSH 58 * 1 Inteleon CRE 43 ##Trainer Cards - 32 * 2 Nessa VIV 157 * 1 Energy Retrieval SSH 160 * 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Training Court RCL 169 * 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 2 Cross Switcher FST 230 * 3 Quick Ball SSH 179 * 4 Level Ball BST 129 * 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Pal Pad UPR 132 * 1 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 4 Irida ASR 147 * 1 Rare Candy UL 82 * 1 Battle VIP Pass FST 225 * 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146 * 2 Capacious Bucket RCL 156 * 1 Raihan EVS 152 ##Energy - 8 * 1 Capture Energy RCL 171 * 7 Water Energy SWSHEnergy 3 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
The main idea here is that by getting an extra turn with Medicham’s Yoga Loop (using Raihan), we can Bench Slowpoke and evolve it into Slowbro before the opponent can do anything about it. Medicham V also combines well with Radiant Blastoise’s Pump Shot and Inteleon’s Quick Shooting. However, if we manage to set up a Yoga Loop on a two-Prize Pokémon, we can actually take four Prizes in a row (Yoga Loop for two Prizes and Slowbro for two more), going from four Prizes to zero and avoiding Roxanne entirely. That’s not easy to do (especially against Arceus decks, because they can heal) but it can be a surprising way to win a game that most would expect to lose.
Of course, we don’t have to use Yoga Loop. Blastoise is a pretty effective attacker, especially with Choice Belt. Against Mew VMAX, for example, the plan is to take three KOs on Genesect V (or Mew V) with Blastoise. Cross Switcher helps with that: this way, we can use Nessa to get back Blastoise and its Energy while still targeting a Pokémon on the Bench.
In this situation, Slowbro can be a powerful ally, even if we can’t set it up in one turn. For example, if we apply the plan above, we can take four Prizes on two Genesect V with Blastoise. Even if the opponent has only two Prizes left too, if we have a Slowpoke on the Bench, they have to make a choice. If they KO Blastoise, Slowbro can end the game with Twilight Inspiration. If they Boss the Slowpoke, Blastoise can attack again and we just need another Boss’s Orders to end the game. I feel this scenario showcases why Slowbro works better with Blastoise than with Greninja, whose damage output on a single target is lower.
To be honest, I feel like this deck list is a bit too inconsistent. Radiant Greninja’s Concealed Cards is a very powerful tool, and cutting it for another Radiant Pokémon will definitely affect the deck’s consistency. Still, being able to choose between all sorts of unusual synergies is what I find appealing in Inteleon Toolbox decks, so even if the deck is not as good as I’d like, maybe there’s some idea to take away from it.
This is basically where I’m at regarding Inteleon Toolbox decks. My next step is to explore a variant that’s more focused on Radiant Charizard. If you include cards such as Ordinary Rod, multiple Raihan, Magma Basin and Twin Energy, you can actually attack multiple times with Radiant Charizard over the course of a game, earlier than an opponent would typically expect. The nice thing with this idea is that Charizard can beat Mew VMAX by taking three KOs on Genesect V or Mew V (or it could OHKO Mew VMAX with Choice Belt and Leon). And since Mew usually doesn’t play Roxanne and definitely doesn’t play Path to the Peak, you can achieve this consistently. This means that you don’t have to play Dark Energy, Galarian Moltres or Samurott VSTAR (even though no Samurott makes the deck weak against Mewtwo V-Union), making the deck more consistent. Similarly, you don’t have to play Zeraora because Radiant Charizard is already a good attacker against Palkia VSTAR.
Another option would be to lean more heavily on Samurott VSTAR. A 2-2 line to make using it more consistent, and the deck could include Dark Patch and Temple of Sinnoh, cards that make Samurott more effective. I could even see running Galarian Weezing alongside Samurott, with Radiant Charizard as a late game attacker. This would change the deck quite a bit (no Rowlet or Bird Keeper), but Weezing is one of these cards which always has the potential to win games by itself (if you’re lucky) so I always keep it in the back of my mind.
With that, you’re basically all caught up with my train of thought! Thanks for reading, and see you next week!