When One Beats Three — Single-Prizers in a VMAX Metagame

When One Beats Three — Single-Prizers in a VMAX Metagame

So, obviously, you’ve heard that three-Prize Pokemon are dominating the game. The game was all about TAG TEAMs for a while and now it’s all about Pokemon VMAX: Rapid Strike Urshifu, Shadow Rider Calyrex, Ice Rider Calyrex, Eternatus, etc. However, every time big, multi-Prize Pokemon have dominated the game, decks based on one-Prize attackers have emerged as a counterpower. Think back about the Standard format following the release of Sword & Shield: ADPZ was the number one deck, but Blacephalon was one of the only decks with a positive matchup against it. The question I want to answer in this article is the following: what good single-Prize decks are in this format and what is their place in the metagame?

Let me define my topic more precisely. By single-Prize decks, I mean those that use a single-Prize Pokemon as their main attacker and that try to win the Prize race; usually, that means accepting they’ll lose a Pokemon every turn, but still getting KOs fast enough to draw six Prizes before the opponent, by getting 2HKOs or even OHKOs on Pokemon that are worth more Prizes. Think Night March, which set the example of what it is to be a single-Prize deck in a format centered around bigger Pokemon. So, for example, I will not be talking about Decidueye in this article; while it uses one-Prize Pokemon, it doesn’t try to win the Prize race so much as wall the opponent. I won’t talk about Control either; many Control lists use one-Prize Pokemon, such as Cinccino and Excadrill, they don’t aim to take Prizes at all.

Using this definition there are four main one-Prize decks in the format: Spiritomb, Mad Party, Malamar and Blacephalon. I know that Blacephalon tends to use multi-Prize attackers as well and it sometimes goes by other names, but since it has the Night March-like quality of being able to OHKO any Pokemon in the right circumstances, it fits the purposes of this article.

In my opinion, Malamar is the best of these four decks. It’s also the newest one, whereas the other ones haven’t really changed since before Chilling Reign, so it’s the one I’ll focus most of this article on. I believe that many players have misconceptions about Malamar (I used to have them as well) and I want to clear them up. Hopefully by the end of this article you’re as convinced as I am that it is a strong deck, one worth playing in tournaments!


Arguably the oldest of the decks featured in this article, Blacephalon is still a great choice, especially since Welder decks are on the decline, so people don’t expect them as much. A perfect example of how this benefits Blacephalon is the LMZ matchup: it was always better than 50-50, but nowadays, many LMZ players are cutting Coating Energy as they go back to a Professor’s Research-based build and without the Weakness cancelation effect, the matchup is close to an auto-win for Blacephalon.

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