Hello again, everyone!
It has been quite a while since I have written for SixPrizes [from the Editor: his last article was published just over four years ago, in Dec ’14], but I am glad to have the opportunity to be back!
Since this is my first article here in quite a long time, I’d like to start with a brief introduction of myself. I have been playing the Pokémon TCG since its debut in 1998. Some of my notable accomplishments include:
- World Championships Competitor 2004–11
- Finalist, 2004 World Championships
- 2007 United States National Champion
- 2002 Professor Champion
- 2× Regional Champion
- Being A Pretty Swell Guy
[Editor again: Also see Chris’ “Meet the Staff” interview from years ago to learn even more Fun Facts about Fulop.]
I took a hiatus from the game after the 2011 World Championships to focus on playing Magic: The Gathering, managing to qualify for their Pro Tour, before eventually settling in on playing both games simultaneously. This made it pretty difficult to attend enough events over the span of a season to get my Worlds invite each year, but this year I’ve focused on Pokémon exclusively and currently sit at 222 Championship Points, despite only attending events within driving distance. All of these points have been earned by playing various builds of Malamar, an archetype I feel extremely comfortable with.
The OG: Roanoke’s Ultra Necrozma (SUM–LOT)
I finished in the Top 64 of Roanoke Regionals with a pretty unique take on an Ultra Necrozma/Malamar deck that has since spawned a very unusual direction for me to take the archetype. For reference, this is the list I piloted at the event:
Pokémon – 19
1 Ditto p
Trainers – 28
Energy – 13
This deck has a lot of options available to it, but the main thing that stood out from playing the deck is just how strong Ultra Necrozma’s Sky-Scorching Light-GX attack was. Traditionally, Ultra Necrozma builds of Malamar focused on just 1-shotting opposing Pokémon. That isn’t exactly a bad plan, as Ultra Necrozma is extremely efficient at doing that, but I think its GX attack has been criminally underappreciated. Under normal conditions, placing 6 damage counters on your opponent’s entire field is strong, but when most of your attacks result in 1HKOs, it isn’t particularly meaningful.
With a bit of support though, the attack can really be backbreaking in a lot of matchups. While Lost Thunder’s Giratina is primarily played in Malamar decks as a recurring source of 130 damage on a non-GX attacker, its Ability Distortion Door is often overlooked. In a deck that mainly deals in 1HKOs, it is easy to see why the spreading of a pair of damage counters isn’t going to change the dynamic of how the deck plays, but it certainly can. These damage counters help to hang 70-HP Pokémon to Sky-Scorching Light. While generally this meant Marshadow and Jumpluff, it is important to note that Jirachi TEU, a card which will see a tremendous amount of play, also has 70 HP.
Picking on 70-HP Pokémon is just the start of the game plan, though, as if you make Giratina the primary attacker in the deck, you get to pile up the damage with Distortion Door every turn as it comes back. It isn’t difficult to take your KO with Giratina each turn while setting up multiple Benched Pokémon to hang to Sky-Scorching Light during the endgame. Ultra Necrozma is traditionally quite poor against a deck such as Granbull, especially if it falls behind or if they play Bodybuilding Dumbbells to keep Granbull out of 1HKO range for Giratina. With this spread plan, you can actually end up hanging multiple Magcargo or even Oranguru over the course of a game to Sky-Scorching Light, allowing you to jump ahead in a Prize exchange that is otherwise unfavorable. This sort of plan is also extremely effective against all Malamar variants, as you can end up taking out all of their 90-HP Malamars.
To take this game plan even further, I ran a Tapu Koko. This card is nice in that it offers the deck a free retreater, which helps both with openings but also with benching and re-promoting Ultra Necrozma after using Switch or Guzma. More importantly, in games where you do choose to focus on leveraging Sky-Scorching Light, you can use Flying Flip to really spew damage onto the field. You can use Rescue Stretcher to pull off multiple Flips to really accelerate the spread. On top of this, you can often Guzma up support Pokémon and buy a turn of life for Tapu Koko as certain decks will primarily rely on their own Guzma to bench their heavier Pokémon, thus safely tucking your Koko on the Bench.
I played the deck after Roanoke to Top 8 a Cup and score a few League Challenge finishes before hitting a pair of disappointing Cup whiffs. I went 4-1 at a Cup to take 5th place with a Top 4 cutoff, and then went 3-2 at another Cup losing in the final round to a dedicated spread Malamar list that was a really difficult matchup. This led me to try a different approach, focusing more on the things that I felt the deck was doing really well.
The Evolution of Malamar
While the release of Team Up renders the SUM–LOT format a bit of a lame duck, I want to discuss the evolution of this deck nonetheless. Let’s look at a generalization of the decks that were “Tier 1” prior to Team Up’s release.
What Was Tier 1
- Malamar variants
- Buzzwole variants
- Lost March
- Zoroark variants
Now admittedly this is the rough metagame seen at League Cups and League Challenges, which are Best of One. When looking at Regionals, things get murkier as various stall and mill decks which do not work in 30-minute games enter the equation.
Prior to the release of Lost Thunder, results from Japanese tournaments made the rounds and one of the decks that saw play was a Malamar variant running a full suite of Spell Tag. Spell Tag reads really well, and saw success in Japan, but it more or less never even made a dent in tournaments here. A big part of this felt like it was because there were two readily-defined builds of Malamar which most players opted for. First, the extremely streamlined Acro Bike/Escape Board build pioneered by Rukan Shao, and secondly a pretty straight forward Ultra Necrozma build. Neither of these really had the room to be adding a card like Spell Tag. While these decks are clearly really good, there was a lot of space to be explored using Spell Tag that I think went untested.
After getting thoroughly bashed by the Spread Malamar deck at a League Cup, I started to brainstorm. I really liked what Spread Malamar does as a deck, and I had been having a lot of success using that subgame out of Ultra Necrozma. I came to the realization that the best “Spread” deck in the format actually would be one using Ultra Necrozma. What if, rather than playing an Ultra Necrozma / Malamar deck which could shift into a Spread deck, I built a Spread deck that could shift into an Ultra Necrozma deck? This is what I came up with:
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 34
Energy – 12
4 Unit LPM
This deck kept an engine very similar to that in Rukan Shao’s “Gaskan” list, even going a step farther by adding an Oranguru to the mix since I am choosing not to run any Tapu Lele-GX to avoid using any Pokémon-GX in most games to open up the Shrine of Punishment option.
This deck’s main game plan is to just loop Giratina with Spell Tags all game, with the option to either transition into a late-game Sky-Scorching Light plan, or one where you just sweep with Photon Geyser if necessary.
Let’s take a look back at the eight archetypes I listed earlier as the de facto “decks to beat.”
Blacephalon: This matchup is a cakewalk, and also arguably the most popular deck as it is really straightforward to play and powerful. They really don’t beat you when you just spam Giratinas, as you can honestly win a lot of games by just trading Giratinas for Blacephalons/Naganadels straight up, but Spell Tag makes it so that you do “170” damage in a turn cycle, leaving a Blacephalon to hang to either Shrine Damage, or Distortion Door damage. With any sort of real start, this matchup is extremely difficult to lose, and a huge selling point for the deck.
Malamar: You are favored against pretty much every other Malamar build. Giratina is a great attacker, and not one other builds really have the ability to trump outright. These matchups almost always come down to a straight Prize race, and Spell Tag lets you jump ahead in Prizes. When you take into account the ability to pivot into Flying Flip/Sky-Scorching Light to REALLY go over the top in cheating Prizes, these matchups are all very lopsided as well. They can’t gain an edge on you with 1-Prize attackers, and Pokémon-GX get beat up on by Shrines and the fact that your Giratinas effectively do 170 damage, letting them compete with Pokémon-GX in this matchup too.
Generally, you can position the game where you inevitably hang all of their Malamars to a Sky-Scorching Light. They really can’t retaliate to this really well, either. If they try to bench and power up a GX to 1HKO you, you can get the jump on it. If they do not, they are locked out of doing so at all, as they lose their Malamars when you expose your Ultra Necrozma-GX, thus guaranteeing it survives an additional turn as they cannot get enough Energy on their cannon anymore.
Playing against spread versions of the deck is a bit tougher, as you are still kind of forced into using Giratina to attack and the 4 damage counters you are forced to eat every turn adds up, as they often get to use Shining Lugia instead. You offset this with Spell Tag damage, and the fact that you get to eventually have Sky-Scorching Light. Bench management by both players really factors into how that matchup plays out.
Buzzwole: Buzzwole, either of the GX or non-GX persuasion, is generally not very good against this deck. Giratina is just such a powerful card. It trumps Buzzwole-GX heavily, and you beat the Buzzwole/Lycanroc/Ninetales deck comfortably. Buzzshrine decks have seen a slight increase in play again, and those are favorable matchups too as Giratina trades well into all of their attackers, and even when you “fall behind” in the initial Prize exchange, it isn’t difficult to manufacture an additional Prize off of Spell Tag and Distortion Doors. On top of this, once set up, it is really difficult for this deck to miss a KO each turn, where as it is not unreasonable at all for the Shrine deck to stumble in this matchup. I generally don’t even bother to play around Weavile or Garbodor damage output, but you can in a lot of games as well.
Lost March: This matchup is more or less an auto-win, as their entire field gets blown up in one turn by Sky-Scorching Light. Even without that, Giratina, Spell Tag, and Flying Flip provide a nightmare for the deck. This may be the most lopsided matchup I have ever played in my 20-year history playing Pokémon, and I promise that is not hyperbole.
Granbull: Granbull was a matchup I always dreaded playing with Malamar as they could bully your Pokémon-GX, and played pretty competitively against your Giratina. With Spell Tag, the entire matchup changes, as you again get to “pick off” Benched Pokémon over the span of a long game. I know not all builds even ran Dumbbell, but the card gives Malamar decks absolute fits if they do run it. Bringing Giratina’s damage output up to 170 in a turn cycle with Tag offsets that though. They have to get Magcargo and Oranguru out, and those will hang to Sky-Scorching Light most games. This matchup is also really, really favorable.
(Yes, I intentionally split the decks in a way that listed the lopsidedly favorable ones first, before talking about the more difficult ones.)
Decidueye / Ninetales / Zoroark: This is a deck that has historically preyed on Malamar decks. The deck has a ton of HP, and the combination of Alolan Ninetales-GX plus Feather Arrow from Decidueye makes it a nightmare to keep Malamars in play. They are soft to Chimecho’s Bell of Silence, but they usually run a copy of the Water-typed Alolan Ninetales-GX which they can get into play and break the lock. This is the deck’s worst matchup and it isn’t close.
Zoroark Variants: This is tough to discuss because there are so many different builds of the deck. That said, it can be kind of rough because they easily 1HKO a Giratina, and your “Spread” plan is hurt by the fact that they run Acerola and can generally heal past it pretty well. That said, they are generally pretty soft to Bell of Silence, and if you can set up before they get ahead at all, you can actually leverage Photon Geyser against them really well. Unlike the Decidueye matchup, your best draws, or games where you can slow them down with Bell of Silence are in your favor.
Gardevoir: This is another matchup where they run a bunch of high-HP Pokémon and healing, thus making it difficult. You can’t really rely on Ultra Necrozma as a primary attacker, as it is easily KO’d by Gardevoir, and their attackers are all comfortably outside of the range of Giratina’s damage output. They are very soft to Bell of Silence, and you really do want to time your Let Loose with breaking that lock to try and steal some extra time. They don’t run Stadiums, so sticking a Shrine of Punishment can go pretty far. Ideally you are able to take a Lele KO later on into the game. This is not a particularly good matchup, and probably your second worst one.
Evaluating these matchups lead me to come up with a pretty crazy idea…all three of the deck’s “Bad Matchups” had an extreme weakness to Bell of Silence…all of their Ability-less Pokémon have low HP…all of which are easily preyed on by Sky-Scorching Light…
If you could legitimately maintain Bell of Silence all game, keeping their fields unevolved, you could wipe all of their Pokémon out in one attack. Sky-Scorching Light requires a combined total remaining Prizes of six or less, so that means if you took 1 Prize and let them KO 5 Chimecho, you could pull it off. With Spell Tags, taking a Prize off of using only Bell of Silence is actually totally doable. In order to maintain Bell of Silence for an entire game, though, we would need to run more than a single copy!
Here is the Chimecho-heavy list:
Chimecho-Heavy List (SUM–LOT)
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
3 Unit LPM
Outside of needing two spots to add more Chimecho to the deck, acknowledging I NEEDED a Turn 1 Bell of Silence in three important matchups led me to adding the 3rd Escape Board to the deck to increase the odds of pulling that off. That said, I want to go over some of the “Problems” facing the Bell of Silence loop against the decks it is strong against!
I Got Problems
While Gardevoir doesn’t really have ANY way to beat this game plan, Decidueye runs the Water Alolan Ninetales-GX which can be searched for reliably with Vulpix and evolved. Still, it does 50 damage a turn, and that is slow, and they do not run any counter Stadiums, so once you find Shrine of Punishment, your clock against that Ninetales speeds up drastically. 50 damage still two-hits your Pokémon, so you have a lot of time. By not overfilling your Bench, you can force them to KO Spell Tagged Pokémon eventually too, increasing your KO rate. Their GX attack is a huge annoyance, too, but you generally do outrace this Ninetales especially if you find a Shrine at a reasonable point in time.
This is something that is true of all three of these “problem” decks, but much more so of Decidueye and Gardevoir than Zoroark, and that is that they are built to rely heavily on their Abilities to draw cards. They are also running very few Energy cards and a low raw draw-Supporter count. This means that while locked, they WILL stumble quite a bit. Using Guzma to “stall” and hang Pokémon Active works pretty well as they will often not have access to Energy cards. This actually mainly matters against the Decidueye deck, as buying time to find Shrine before they get Ninetales going against is important. These decks only have 4 DCE, and them not finding them is a real issue.
I’ve had pretty great success against Zoroark, too, with one condition. If they run Tapu Koko and can get it Active and attacking, it makes things really difficult. They run enough Acerola that the games go REALLY long, and you have to really manage how many Pokémon you have in play at any given time. If you can keep it at one Benched Pokémon and your Active, their Flying Flip isn’t very threatening. If you overextend early, though, it is a major problem. It is counter intuitive, but in many cases if you are “All In” on Chimecho, it is incorrect to use the time you are buying to just fully set up a field of Malamar and attackers. You do want to eventually turn the corner and do that, but only once the game is safely locked up.
There is a big issue with this plan too in Best of One…if the opponent just doesn’t attack, you more or less have to attack like 40+ times to win. You rely on them taking a lot of KOs trying to win as a majority of the Prizes taken toward Sky-Scorching Light. If the opponent wants to, it is not difficult for them to just force a draw against you if they pick up on what you are doing. You can kind of “abandon” the lock after going up a few Prizes hoping to just power out back to back Ultra Necrozma-GX for 4 Prizes, and that isn’t unreasonable, either, since you can break the lock with 3 Malamar in play. If they play way too passively, you can just switch gears earlier and try and win the game the normal way, ideally paired with a Let Loose to set them back farther.
Anyway, I want to discuss a few of the numbers in these lists.
Card Counts (in Both Lists)
4-3 Malamar FLI: I’ve played this “thinner” line in a lot of my Malamar lists, admittedly mainly in Ultra lists that run Beast Ring to help offset the slightly less reliable Malamar presence. Space is tight in this build, plus you are attacking primarily with Giratina opposed to Pokémon which keep purging their own Energy counts. This makes it harder for the opponent to justify hunting your Malamar down as it doesn’t disrupt your ability to attack. With 2 Rescue Stretcher, it is a totally acceptable count.
2 Giratina LOT: This is a card most lists run a lone copy of since it always comes back with its Ability. This deck is SO reliant on the card that you cannot afford to Prize it, so I’m just running two copies to avoid that. This isn’t free…this deck runs Escape Board as its switching option and only 3 Guzma with no Lele, so opening with it is really obnoxious.
4/3 Unit Energy LPM: I normally hate Unit Energy in Ultra Necrozma decks. I know lists had been using it paired with Altar of the Moone, but I honestly hate this. Any benefit from Altar of the Moone basically requires you to keep additional Energy in play. Even just using Unit Energy “left over” on an Ultra Necrozma to retreat it to repower it is building toward game states which already favor you is suspect. I’m not particularly interested in playing a card that is at its best when you are fortunate enough to have set up well enough to have extra Energy in play, or when your attackers are NOT dying. This is amplified by the fact that Unit Energy prevents you from running actual M Energy, which means you don’t get to play Beast Ring, a card I am traditionally very high on as it is at its best when you are NOT winning. As a “set-up” deck, I’d much rather run an insurance policy to strength struggling game states than try to snowball stronger ones, as the nature of the deck suggests you should win those types of set ups anyway.
That said, since the Ultra Necrozma presence in this deck is much smaller and the card is only being used later in the game usually, I don’t even want to run Beast Ring. With that being the case, I’d rather my M Energy also provide Psychic, even if they don’t work with Psychic Recharge.
2 Shrine of Punishment: Two feels really a really unusual number of this card to be playing, as it is the type of card that does get better the more copies you run. The more copies you have, the more likely it is that you stick one that doesn’t get countered back. I started at 3 copies of the card but had to trim one for space. Two is actually fine here though. Against Blacephalon and Malamar decks, you often are just using it as a “PlusPower” for 10 additional damage to get a key KO and any additional damage dealt by it is just added benefit. On top of this, two of the main decks it is good against, being Decidueye and Gardevoir, don’t actually run any Stadium cards and thus if you draw the first copy it is going to stick. The card is also pretty dead in a lot of matchups too, so not having dead-draws against certain decks is good.
Anyway: Team Up & Malamar!
Enough about the past though, I want to take this deck into the new frontier featuring Team Up. On one hand, I am less excited by the prospect of the “Chimecho gimmick” because it was really reactive to a very defined, particular metagame. I won’t say that this can’t be something to revisit, but I am much less interested in forcing it before the new metagame settles down some. Reactive game plans like this are much worse in open fields.
On the other hand, though, I feel like Spell Tag gets even better! The best card in this set, by far, is Jirachi TEU, and Spell Tag is great against that card! The more decks want to play Pokémon that easily hang to your spread plan, the more I want to play this deck.
One of the other hyped cards in the set is Zapdos TEU, a card which has been absolutely dominating the metagame in Japan. This card is really fast and with all of the Lightning support we’ve seen recently, its damage output is truly frightening. That said, I don’t think it lines up very well against Giratina, a card which can 1HKO it while still forcing Zapdos to have a bit of help to do the same back as the game progresses. Zapdos is going to be the quicker deck, likely to go up on Prizes early, but between them missing KOs as the game goes on, and this deck’s ability to leverage Spell Tag to jump Prizes, I think the matchup is very competitive.
On Writing About a New Format
One of the problems writing an article about a brand new format like this is that you aren’t entirely sure what decks actually will end up seeing play. I mean, I’m positive Zapdos decks will be good in some form, but it is difficult to know what builds will rise to the top. I’ve been pretty impressed by the decks pairing it with Jolteon-GX. I’ve also seen versions pairing it with Buzzwole, or other toolbox Basic attackers. All of these builds are going to pose slightly different challenges to build against, but the one common trait amongst all of these builds is that the deck is going to try to blitz you, and you NEED to be able to return pressure quickly.
One of the other cards out of this set that has garnered a lot of attention is Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. I feel like this card is not very good and that it requires way too much to go right for it to be competitive. I actually just don’t like the TAG TEAMs. Giving up 3 Prizes is a LOT. I’m a bit biased as a Malamar player, too, because it isn’t that difficult to 1HKO them, either.
One thing I do really like about a deck like Malamar is that it is a good choice to take into a fairly unknown metagame. The deck is just extremely powerful and proactive and has a damage output that is so high that it can have “game” against almost any sort of deck. These are the intangibles I want in a deck. Will any of these TAG TEAMs be any good? I’m not sure, but Malamar is a deck that matches up well against them. At the same time, it can compete against something on the other end of the spectrum, such as the hyper aggressive Zapdos decks.
There are two directions I’ve been exploring for the deck. One is the continued evolution of a Spell Tag Ultra Necrozma build, while the other is a more traditional Ultra Necrozma build, which I also think is strongly positioned.
Cards of Interest
There are some cards out of Team Up that I think are important to discuss for the deck first, though.
Jirachi is absurd. It is great to see another new draw engine printed that helps give decks that are not able to run Zoroark or Alolan Ninetales (and to a lesser extent Swampert and Magcargo, although Swampert is usually just the “end game” of the Ninetales engine) some support. Jirachi is different because it is stronger in more aggressive decks.
The natural pairing with Jirachi is Escape Board, as not only does it give it a free Retreat Cost but it lets it retreat even after using its Ability and putting itself to sleep. Since many Malamar builds already ran Escape Board, Jirachi is a natural fit into the deck.
My first thought process is that the Jirachi gimmick is going to take up space and that these slots are going to end up coming from either the Supporter count or from Acro Bikes. Since I am focusing on Ultra Necrozma builds in general, I’m particularly interested in upgrading the Acro Bikes since I feel like the deck already struggles with having a ton of specific resources it really does not want to have to discard. Cutting Supporters is interesting because on one hand, Jirachi does give you extra digging each turn, but at the same time, you still need a high density of cards to “hit” and I expect you want a reasonably high Supporter count to hit into.
I also want to talk about how Jirachi influences Marshadow. Jirachi makes Let Loose weaker, as more decks will now have on board “outs” to dead hands. That said, it pairs well-ish WITH Jirachi in that you can Let Loose and then use Jirachi to dig toward more cards. I feel like Malamar, a deck that previously really liked having access to Marshadow, is going to have to pick one or the other now, because the Bench space is too valuable to the deck to be trying to use both. I think that Jirachi is just too strong to overlook for the deck.
This is the card I’ve always wanted for Malamar! Not only does this card help you find Energy (something I’ve found the deck often struggles with) it gives the deck an additional discard outlet. Not only does this help put P Energy into your discard, but you can also use it to pitch cards stuck in your hand to draw more off a Lillie, or to reduce your hand size to play Erika’s Hospitality. In GX-heavy builds, this gives you a counter Stadium to answer Shrine of Punishment. This card covers so many roles for a Malamar deck. Energy Spinner (or whatever it would have gotten translated to) got omitted from the set, but I don’t even care as I am just thrilled we got this card. I like 2–3 of them in any build.
I’m not sure how much play this card will see simply because it is so bad on the first turn of the game. Decks only have so much space to devote to draw Supporters, and allocating one of them that is only good in the mid to late game is tough. On one hand, previously, I would have loved to had a 9th Supporter to play beyond 4 Cynthia and 4 Lillie, but now we have Jirachi too, and I’m no longer sure I’d want more than 8 Supporters.
New List #1: Tame Upgrade (SUM–TEU)
Here are the two lists I have been testing so far:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
This deck is running the “traditional” Ultra Necrozma-GX, Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, Marshadow-GX, Tapu Lele-GX package. It uses Giratina as your only non-GX attacker. A pair of Jirachi provide the deck with stability and a nice all-game engine.
Most of the Trainers are nothing new. I kept the standard Supporter count, even though I’d like a 4th Guzma as I think it works really well with Jirachi. I’m also running a pretty hefty Tool presence, with 3 Escape Board and a Choice Band. One Adventure Bag complements these. Outside of being a 4th Escape Board, it lets you more reliably grab Choice Band. Between the Choice Band, one Bag to get it, and the Beast Energy, this deck has three outs to letting Ultra Necrozma-GX cover 210 damage for only 3 Energy.
Since the deck has multiple Pokémon with more than a 1 Retreat Cost, and since it works so well with Jirachi, I am also running 2 Switch in addition to the Escape Board package. It seems excessive but it really isn’t. It just makes the deck run a lot smoother. Jirachi changes how the deck plays quite a bit.
I discussed Viridian Forest before, and am running a pair of them in here. I wouldn’t mind a third, but space is tight and the pair is sufficient. I’m also running a pair of Beast Ring. Like the Forest, I’d also like a third, as it just really does so much work in close or losing games. I’ve had to settle for two copies of the card in most lists previously, and with access to Jirachi now, the card should be even more reliable.
Finally, I have an interesting split on the “Ball” package in the deck. I’m running 4 Ultra Ball, only 3 Mysterious Treasure, and 2 Nest Ball. This is all due to working Jirachi into the deck. Mysterious Treasure can’t get a Jirachi. Ultra and Nest Ball can. With the presence of Viridian Forest, the deck has gained a few more discard outlets, so losing one in Mysterious Treasure feels fine. To offset having one less Mysterious Treasure (functionally one less Malamar out, as Nest Ball can grab everything else) and only having room for 1 Rescue Stretcher, I’m running the 4th Malamar in this build.
One popular card I am not running is the Ditto p. Clearly I’m not running any unusual “tech” Evolutions, but a lot of Malamar players will choose to run a Ditto anyway just to give them a functional 5-4 line. I think, due to Jirachi, I’d be more inclined to just add more Nest Ball to the deck than add the Ditto, even if I did have room for it.
I am also going to be completely transparent: There is a good chance there is a much more radical build for Malamar which incorporates a more gimmicked Jirachi engine. I haven’t found it yet. This is a fairly tame “upgraded” list that takes advantage of the new tools given to us in Team Up. I don’t want to undersell the deck, but I do want to make clear that this is a working build for a fairly unknown metagame, and that a card like Jirachi could open up an entirely new way of building decks that hasn’t been fully explored yet.
New List #2: Radical Rework (SUM–TEU)
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
4 Unit LPM
This deck got re-worked quite a bit. On one hand, the Chimecho gimmick is gone. It was great last format because the very fleshed-out metagame was weak to it. Now, who knows what will see play. Second, I cut Oranguru and Marshadow, as the addition of Jirachi competes with both of those. Oranguru is certainly overshadowed, and Marshadow just eats up an extra Bench space in a deck that will often not play super aggressively. If the Chimecho plan looks lucrative again, the value of Marshadow goes back up. Perhaps at that point it may even be better to run a Judge in the deck over it, as it doesn’t eat up the Bench spot. Without the extra Chimecho, I put the Tapu Koko back into the deck.
I mentioned how I wanted to put Viridian Forest into all of my Malamar lists, and I already made a liar of myself. Since this deck wants Shrine of Punishment still, there is a very real reason not to be playing Forest alongside it. Oddly, I do think the Shrines get weaker, as I think that decks are going to be incentivized to play more Stadium cards. There are so many powerful Prism Star Stadium cards now that you can’t just get away with ignoring them and letting decks sit with them in play all game. Because of this, MAYBE just playing 2 Shrine of Punishment isn’t good enough anymore. If that is the case, I have to choose between adding more of them, or accepting them as a casualty of the format and swapping them for Forests and the Units for Metals. If that switch is made, you can get away with only 3 M Energy, too.
I also want to add the 4th Guzma and/or a Switch to this deck to optimize the strength of Jirachi. Unlike the first list, you’ll notice I am running 4 Ultra Ball, 4 Mysterious Treasure, and the 2 Nest Ball. I still want the Nest Ball to help with getting Jirachi out, but I also kept the 4th Treasure since this list doesn’t get the added discard outlet in the pair of Viridian Forest.
Which of these decks seems better is going to depend heavily on how many high-HP threats will be in the format, as well as how much potential healing there is. If there are a lot of GX-based decks, I’ll be inclined to play the traditional Ultra Necrozma build. If there are more non-GX-based decks, I’ll happily sleeve up the latter deck.
In closing, I was a huge fan of Malamar decks prior to the release of Team Up, and with the printing of Jirachi, I feel like they got even better. There are so many different ways to build a Malamar deck, and this article has only really scratched the surface of that. It will be really interesting to see how the format plays out in the next few months, since I doubt I am the only one who feels like the Lost Thunder format has been more or less “solved” and grown stagnant.
Until next time!
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