Unlikely Stars – Rogue Decks in the New Format

Welcome back! In my last couple of articles, I discussed how deckbuilding would change with Brilliant Stars. To recap, decks can now use a wider variety of options for their engines: instead of Inteleon everywhere, some decks will now choose to run Bibarel, or more Basic Pokémon such as Lumineon V along with Ultra Ball. I used two different Arceus VSTAR decks, Arceus VSTAR / Ice Rider and Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon, to showcase how two decks built around the same superstar card could still look, and play, very differently: Ice Rider can use any draw engine, whereas Duraludon eschews all of them to focus on Prize management. However, as important as Arceus VSTAR is, we only get a limited view of what deckbuilding looks like if we only look at decks that feature it. This is why today, I’ll look at how to build rogue decks without Arceus VSTAR, and even without any Pokémon V in it.



Single-Prize decks have gained a few precious options in Brilliant Stars. Manaphy is a card that the player base has been clamoring for for a while. In theory, I don’t think that a Bench Barrier Ability on a Basic Pokémon is a great thing: an easily-included, universal one-card tech that counters a whole category of decks (in this case, decks that hit the Bench) is, in my opinion, not the best design. However, I don’t deny that a card like this was sorely needed in the current metagame, because Pokémon like Jolteon VMAX and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX were, themselves, invalidating a whole category of decks. With Manaphy, decks that rely on smaller Pokémon can now fight against these titans.

Manaphy’s existence should be enough to turn most players away from Jolteon VMAX, so we run into a classic conundrum: should you play Manaphy? If Jolteon VMAX isn’t played, maybe Manaphy is not that needed anymore. But on the other hand, if no one plays Manaphy, then Jolteon VMAX could make a comeback. Since it’s the beginning of the format, I will play it safe and include Manaphy in all deck lists below, especially since I expect to still see Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX around since it can OHKO Arceus VSTAR. It’s possible that at some points in the months to come, it will be right to cut Manaphy, so keep an eye out for such opportunities.

Cynthia's Ambition (138/172)

Less talked about, but also very important, is Cynthia’s Ambition. A Supporter that provides best results after one of your Pokémon is KO’d is better in a single-Prize deck. If you’re attacking with 90 HP Pokémon, you can expect Cynthia’s Ambition to be playable every single turn after the second. What’s more, drawing until you have eight cards in hand is an effect that you want in, say, a Stage 2 deck. If your hand has a Rare Candy but no Stage 2 Pokémon (or the other way round), adding cards to your hand is better than getting a new hand with Bruno or Professor’s Research.

Single-Prize decks are very varied and can benefit from a variety of cards beyond these two, including Ultra Ball, Bibarel and Double Turbo Energy. But how good are they? Well, that depends on the deck.

The best one-Prize deck is undoubtedly Malamar. Alex Schemanske already covered this topic in the link above, and I recommend you read his analysis of the deck if you want to know more about it. Malamar is a legitimately powerful deck in the format to come, not a gimmick.

The second best one-Prize deck might be Durant, of all things. Apart from Malamar, the Japanese metagame seems to still favor V or VMAX decks, but some other archetypes pop up now and then, and Durant has made multiple appearances in top cut of City Leagues. I think it might actually have a niche in the format. However, I don’t want to talk about it today, because I think such a unique deck deserves a full article. I’ll try out the deck properly when Brilliant Stars is released, and if it performs well enough, I hope to write a full guide for you at some point.

Instead, the three decks I’ll mention today are purely rogue decks. You can make top cut at local events, or even win them, with these decks, but I wouldn’t recommend bringing them to a Regional Championship. If you are only looking for the strongest decks, I recommend reading the other articles I’ve linked so far (or just adding Ultra Ball in your Mew VMAX deck and call it a day). For once, I have other goals with this article.

First, I want to provide players who are more casual, and/or don’t care about Arceus VSTAR and other top-tier archetypes, with offbeat decks they can try out and have fun with. None of the decks below use any Pokémon V, so they should be more accessible to new players (or online-only players looking to try playing IRL as events resume).

Second, I want to show, once again, the variety of decks that are empowered by Brilliant Stars‘ new cards. The three decks I’ll discuss below all rely on a Fire-type main attacker and feature a Stage 2 (non-Inteleon) Pokémon. They could all exist before Brilliant Stars but gained a lot from it. Yet, as you’ll see, they use very different engines. This way, the rogue deckbuilders among you can see which options, and why, you can or should include in a single-Prize deck, and use that as inspiration.


Header - Charizard

Charizard (025/185)

Charizard VIV has always been a card with potential. It can hit for up to 300 damage, or 330 if you play Leon (which obviously has to be included in the deck). This means it can OHKO most Pokémon VMAX. With Choice Belt, this damage output gets even higher. No, we don’t really need to be able to deal more than 330 damage (except against Eternatus VMAX), but having more damage boosts means that even if a Leon is Prized, you can still deal heavy damage. For example, with three Leon in the discard and a Choice Belt, Charizard deals 280 damage and OHKOs Arceus VSTAR. If you play a Leon on that turn, you reach 310, which deals with Mew VMAX.

Magma Basin (144/172)

Choice Belt is far from the only card from Brilliant Stars that improves Charizard. Cynthia’s Ambition and Manaphy are important additions too, and Ultra Ball can search for your Pokémon (mostly Charizard) and discard Leon from your hand, but I think the main new card that makes the deck effective is Magma Basin. Charizard has been lacking in Energy acceleration ever since Welder rotated, and Magma Basin is exactly what it needs: a consistent source of Energy acceleration. Between Ultra Ball, Quick Ball and Charizard’s Battle Sense, you can get Energy in your discard early, so you shouldn’t have trouble powering up multiple attackers at the same time.

Altaria (106/203)

There are multiple ways to play Charizard. Mew, Bibarel and Cinccino are all viable engines in my opinion. However, I’d like to feature a unique partner instead: Altaria EVS. With its Tempting Tune Ability, you can put a Supporter on top of your deck. For example, you can put a Leon on top of your deck, then use Battle Sense and discard it, while drawing another card. If you need to play another Supporter, such as Raihan, you can instead put it on top of your deck and draw it with Oranguru. As a bonus, Altaria can be searched with Level Ball, and it has free retreat so you can send it Active when your Charizard gets Knocked Out, which is important if you don’t have any Energy in play. Magma Basin only attaches Energy to the Bench, so this way, you can use it to power up a new Charizard.


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

##Pokémon - 18

* 1 Oranguru SSH 148
* 2 Snorlax VIV 131
* 2 Swablu CPA 48
* 2 Altaria EVS 106
* 4 Charmander VIV 23
* 2 Charmeleon VIV 24
* 4 Charizard VIV 25
* 1 Manaphy (BRS)

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 4 Leon VIV 154
* 1 Raihan EVS 152
* 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 4 Cynthia's Ambition (BRS)
* 4 Rare Candy SSH 180
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 4 Ultra Ball (BRS)
* 3 Level Ball BST 129
* 3 Ordinary Rod SSH 171
* 1 Pal Pad SSH 172
* 1 Scoop Up Net RCL 165
* 2 Choice Belt (BRS)
* 3 Magma Basin (BRS)

##Energy - 7

* 7 Fire Energy SWSHEnergy 2

Total Cards - 60

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


Even though this deck plays neither Crobat V nor Lumineon V, it should still set up pretty well. Snorlax is a great card for single-Prize decks, since you can search for it with Quick Ball or Ultra Ball in order to draw cards in the early game. Then, when it gets Knocked Out, you can use Cynthia’s Ambition or Raihan to draw cards or get a specific card you need (such as Rare Candy). It’s often right to search for Snorlax on the first turn and manually retreat to it.

Once you have at least one Charizard in play, Battle Sense lets you draw more cards, which helps to keep setting up, which is why Bibarel or Cinccino aren’t needed, per se.

Charizard’s Battle Sense is great when you discard Leon, but sometimes you’ll have to choose between cards you want to keep, and end up discarding important cards. This is why this deck includes three Ordinary Rod and a Pal Pad: to put back Charizard pieces or important Supporters in the deck when needed. However, in order to fit them, I had to cut some cards that would have been nice: a fourth Level Ball, fourth Magma Basin or second Scoop Up Net would give the deck a bit more consistency. Moltres would also be a decent secondary attacker in this deck.


Header - Salazzle

Double Turbo Energy (151/172)

Salazzle sits square in the category of decks that are made viable because Double Turbo Energy provides a second “Double Colorless Energy-like” card. This category also includes decks such as Mad Party and Durant. However, it benefits almost as much from the printing of Choice Belt.

Here’s the basic gist: if the opponent is affected by three status conditions, it deals 270 damage for the cost of a Twin Energy. When you evolve Metapod into Butterfree, you can make the opponent’s Active Pokémon Burned, Poisoned and Confused. This deals a total of 300 damage when you count the 10 damage from Poison and the 20 damage from Burn. Of course, this is slightly lower than what is needed to KO a Pokémon VMAX, but Choice Belt fills that gap.

Salazzle (028/163)

If Salazzle has a Double Turbo Energy, its damaged is reduced by 20. That means 280 damage without a Choice Belt (which is conveniently the key number to hit to OHKO Arceus VSTAR), and 310 with one, which deals with Mew VMAX, among others. If you need to OHKO a bigger Pokémon VMAX, such as Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX or Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, even with a Double Turbo Energy, you can add one or two pings of Galarian Zigzagoon.

Caterpie (001/192)Metapod (002/192)Butterfree (003/264)

Having to evolve into a Stage 2 Pokémon every time you attack would normally be far too clunky to discuss. However, what makes this deck click is that Caterpie and Metapod both have the Adaptive Evolution Ability, letting you evolve them on the turn you play them. Therefore, a single Scoop Up Net lets you take back a Butterfree in hand, then play it back completely, in one turn. Scoop Up Net also synergizes with the Galarian Zigzagoon mentioned above.

Here’s what the deck looks like:


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

##Pokémon - 23

* 1 Galarian Zigzagoon SSH 117
* 1 Yveltal CEL 19
* 4 Salandit BST 27
* 4 Salazzle BST 28
* 3 Caterpie RCL 1
* 2 Metapod RCL 2
* 3 Butterfree FST 3
* 2 Bidoof (BRS)
* 2 Bibarel (BRS)
* 1 Manaphy (BRS)

##Trainer Cards - 30

* 3 Cynthia's Ambition (BRS)
* 3 Marnie SSH 169
* 1 Professor's Research SHF 60
* 1 Bruno BST 121
* 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 2 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Ultra Ball (BRS)
* 4 Level Ball BST 129
* 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 2 Choice Belt (BRS)
* 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165
* 3 Rescue Carrier EVS 154
* 1 Turffield Stadium RCL 170
* 1 Fan of Waves BST 127

##Energy - 7

* 4 Twin Energy RCL 174
* 3 Double Turbo Energy (BRS)

Total Cards - 60

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


Salazzle and Butterfree both take a lot of space in the deck (and to a lesser extent on the Bench), so it’s hard to fit an Inteleon or Cinccino line in here, even though they would work well with Level Ball. Instead, I chose the low-maintenance Bibarel that can provide value over the course of a game. The longer a game goes, the more a card like Bibarel has time to provide value, so it’s a good fit in a deck with only one-Prize Pokémon.

In order to fit Bibarel, I had to tweak the Item line a little. Level Ball is a no-brainer in a deck whose main attacker has 90 HP. Without Bibarel, the deck could simply play four Quick Ball and two Evolution Incense (and a Turffield Stadium) to search all its cards. However, with Bibarel, some Ultra Ball are better, both to search for Bibarel, and to discard cards in order to use its Ability. This is why I chose a 2-2 split of Quick Ball and Ultra Ball, along with Evolution Incense. I don’t think it would be right to cut the Evolution Incenses for Ultra Balls (or Quick Balls) because you don’t have that many cards that you can afford to discard.

The 3-2-3 line of Butterfree probably looks strange, since this deck doesn’t play Rare Candy. I actually got this cut from a deck list that made top four at a City League in Japan. Metapod can be searched more easily than Butterfree (because of Level Ball), and it can be recovered by Rescue Carrier, so you can afford to play one fewer than Butterfree. You could even consider a 2-2-3 line, for the same reason!

As for the Supporters, Cynthia’s Ambition is once again an important card, although instead of running four, I chose to play a Bruno. Unlike in the Charizard deck, there’s no combination of cards (such as Charizard + Rare Candy) that you need to have in hand at the same time, so shuffling your hand and drawing a new one has benefits over simply adding cards to your hand. Sometimes, your hand is full of cards you can’t play (Supporters, extra Energy, etc.), so Bruno is better than Cynthia.

Yveltal (019/025)

Mew VMAX is a big threat to this deck. Fusion Energy protects Fusion Pokémon from Butterfree’s Ability, and if you can’t use the Ability, Salazzle won’t deal any damage. This is where Celebrations Yveltal comes in: it can discard up to three Fusion Strike Energy from your opponent’s board. You can then use Fan of Waves to deal with the rest. Even with this, the matchup is still tough. You could replace a Rescue Carrier with an Ordinary Rod to potentially get Yveltal back and remove even more Energy with Cry of Destruction, since it’s so key in this matchup.

Duraludon VMAX is another Pokémon that this deck can’t do anything to, currently. The easiest counter is Path to the Peak: you can use it to shut down Duraludon VMAX’s Ability, and hit it with Salazzle. However, playing it means cutting into the deck’s consistency a little.

All in all, Salazzle / Butterfree is a powerful concept, but it has trouble with some good decks, which holds it back.


Header - Cinderace

Cinderace (034/202)

Once again I find myself in the position of advocating for Cinderace. It’s a deck I have a strange fondness for, given that I have never actually played it in a tournament. And to be honest, unlike the previous two decks, I couldn’t track a good result for it at a Japanese event, so maybe I’m just overrating it. But it still feels much better to play than you’d expect!

Mew (011/025)

Cinderace is a Stage 2 that doesn’t have Energy issues because it just accelerates Energy to itself all the time. It’s dedicated engine isn’t Inteleon, Bibarel or Cinccino: it’s Mew. When Celebrations came out, I was excited that Mew had great synergy with Cinderace: you can send it when one of your Pokémon is KO’d, then retreat into Cinderace to use its Libero Ability. Mew is also of great help in a Stage 2 deck because it can find the Rare Candy the deck needs to work.

If you’d like to see how the deck works, you can watch this gameplay video I made back in November:

Cinderace had great potential, but like any single-Prize deck, it was very weak against Jolteon VMAX and similar Pokémon. However, now that it has Manaphy, it doesn’t have to fear these decks. It can also use both Bruno and Cynthia’s Ambition.

With Choice Belt, Cinderace, like Galarian Moltres V, can increase its damage from 190 to 220, making it much better against all sorts of Pokémon V. Magma Basin is also an option in this deck to get more Energy in play. It’s not absolutely necessary, but I think it can be useful so you don’t always have to rely on manually attaching Energy.

Here’s my updated Cinderace deck list:


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

##Pokémon - 15

* 1 Snorlax VIV 131
* 4 Scorbunny SSH 31
* 2 Raboot CRE 27
* 4 Cinderace SSH 34
* 3 Mew CEL 11
* 1 Manaphy (BRS)

##Trainer Cards - 39

* 3 Pokégear3.0 HS 96
* 1 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 3 Ordinary Rod SSH 171
* 4 Rare Candy SUM 129
* 2 Boss's Orders RCL 154
* 3 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Energy Search SSH 161
* 2 Bruno BST 121
* 3 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 3 Level Ball BST 129
* 1 Scoop Up Net RCL 165
* 2 Professor's Research SHF 60
* 4 Cynthia's Ambition (BRS) 
* 3 Ultra Ball (BRS)
* 2 Choice Belt (BRS)
* 1 Magma Basin (BRS)

##Energy - 6

* 2 Capture Energy RCL 171
* 4 Fire Energy Energy 2

Total Cards - 60

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


Since Mew can only draw Item cards, I’m playing some Pokégear so it can indirectly look for Supporters, and Energy Search so it can get Energy cards. I’m not sure about the perfect split of Ultra Ball, Quick Ball, Level Ball and Evolution Incense, and I’ll most likely have to tweak it after more testing, but these cards together (along with the Capture Energy) let you find any Pokémon you need, and Ultra Ball and Quick Ball’s discard is useful for multiple reasons: you can discard Fire Energy you’ve drawn into so they stay in the discard for Cinderace, and you can thin your hand so Cynthia’s Ambition is more effective.

Snorlax (131/185)

Snorlax is a good fit in this deck as it helps with the first few turns. You could also consider a small Bibarel line in this deck; however, it should be in addition to Mew, not instead of it.

Finally, note that unlike the previous deck, I choose to run two copies of Boss’s Orders in Cinderace. This is because Cinderace doesn’t have as high a damage ceiling as Charizard or Salazzle, so it won’t win by OHKOing every Pokémon. However, Cinderace doesn’t need much once it’s in play, so it can more easily afford to play Boss’s Orders, and the 190 or 220 damage it deals is great to KO any unevolved Pokémon V, including Bench sitters such as Lumineon V, Genesect V, Crobat V, etc. It’s easier for this deck to target a weak Pokémon to finish the game, especially because you can use Pokégear to dig for Boss’s Orders.


Header - Conclusion

Snorlax, Mew, Bibarel, Altaria, Cinccino, Inteleon, etc.: there’s a lot of one-Prize support Pokémon in the game! This is a great thing for deck variety. The three decks above are only examples of what this format offers to whose who enjoy rogue decks. Just like Arceus VSTAR decks, there’s a lot of options you can grab from, which bodes well for the format.

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