Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX is one of the best cards to come out of Chilling Reign. An Ability that combines Energy acceleration and card draw? A powerful attack that synergizes with it? It was clear to everyone, as soon as the card was revealed, that it was going to be a major force in the metagame. As Chilling Reign came closer to release, many players were hyping the Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX / Path to the Peak variant of the deck, which combined the Underworld Door engine to powerful disruption cards (see Isaiah Bradner’s take on the deck). However, the more direct variant, which feared, rather than embraced, Path to the Peak, was the one that caught my eye.
During the first week after Chilling Reign’s release, I spent a lot of time playtesting with friends in preparation for the Limitless Invitational. We tested several new archetypes and as you might have expected, Shadow Rider Calyrex (or 1Dark Pony as it’s sometimes called in the French-speaking community) impressed me. The deck was simply very consistent and strong. Eternatus VMAX was of course the main threat to it, hitting it for Weakness, but Galarian Zapdos V was effective in dealing with that issue. It wasn’t hard to find Aurora Energy at the right time, thanks to the draw power from Underworld Door.
I knew that people were going to be prepared for Shadow Rider. Nevertheless, I chose to play it in the Limitless Invitational because I didn’t see anything better. I ended up making Top 8, losing to Decidueye, which was almost impossible to beat if the opponent had a strong start. Shadow Rider Calyrex V’s Astral Barrage can attack Decidueye, but Decidueye players were prepared with two Big Parasol in their decklists, which made the matchup very rough.
Shadow Rider had a lot of success in some tournaments after that, especially the Sunday Open where it featured 12 times in the Top 16, an incredible feat. There was some fear that the deck was simply too strong, but as always, the metagame adapted. New decks came out that were designed to beat Shadow Rider. Galarian Moltres V proved to be an essential part of this adaptation, being a Darkness-type attacker and Energy accelerator that wasn’t afraid of Galarian Zapdos V. ADP / Zacian started playing Galarian Moltres V as another attacker, forming the new ADP / Birds archetype.
We also saw Dark Box finally rise to competitive status! Players have theorized about using Weavile-GX to support a plethora of Darkness-type attackers since its release in Unified Minds, but the concept never saw success outside of Expanded. Moltres, it seems, was what the deck needed to work. Dark Box doesn’t fear Galarian Zapdos V because, even though it uses Fighting-weak attackers like Umbreon & Darkrai-GX, it usually has no Pokemon V in play apart from Galarian Moltres V, so Zapdos needs three Energy to attack. Remember that Underworld Door only attaches Energy to Psychic Pokemon, so Zapdos is only usable when the opponent has three or more Pokemon V in play or maybe two in some cases.
Despite all this, Shadow Rider Calyrex remains strong. I recently played a non-official IRL event (like a League Cup), which I managed to win despite every other player playing a Darkness-type deck. Part of it was luck and my opponents’ unfamiliarity with the metagame, but I’m not the only player who managed to beat unfavorable matchups with this deck. The goal of this article is to lay down the deck’s inner workings and explain its tricks in order to help you become a better Shadow Rider player. Strap in!
First, the decklist: