Main Course Calamari

All About Malamar (List, Matchups, Techs) for Knoxville, Cups, and Challenges
Squid stew, coming right up!

Hello again readers, I’m back with my thoughts on the meta after playing in Atlantic City and some League Cups. I didn’t do great in Atlantic City, finishing 5-1-3 in Top 128. I played Malamar, which could explain my tie rate, and I don’t regret it. Michael Catron played the exact same 60 as me, and he made Top 8 with it.

My matchups that day were far from normal, and I’m going to attribute the fact that I didn’t make Day 2 to the notions that I wasn’t playing the deck perfectly and I didn’t hit that many good matchups. However, I personally believe that Malamar has a strong chance to do very well in Knoxville this weekend.

Atlantic City Analysis


The biggest surprise coming out of Atlantic City was the failure of ReshiZard—in any form—to make Top 8 (or even Top 16). Almost nobody could have seen this coming because of how inherently powerful the deck is. I suspect that the lack of a Top 8 spot can be attributed to the fact that very few notable players actually played the deck, with most of the “top” players opting to play PikaRom and Mew Box instead. Both of these decks have legitimate shots at beating ReshiZard, so that decision made sense. ReshiZard’s numbers will probably start to decline, but I seriously doubt it will ever go away.


The next thing I want everyone to take away from Atlantic City is that GardEon is a very good deck and has a strong place in the meta going forward. GardEon has good matchups against pretty much every deck that isn’t ReshiZard, and that means that going forward it is a very real threat to win.

Mew Box + PikaRom

Finally, Mew Box and PikaRom both saw success this weekend. One of those is a surprise, and the other is not. We all knew and acknowledged that Mew Box was a very good deck, but PikaRom generally saw a lot of dismissal before Atlantic City happened. I still don’t like the deck, and I don’t believe that I have dropped a series against PikaRom all season.

Main Course: Malamar

I don’t think it’s even possible to deny right now. Malamar is the best deck for Best of 1 tournaments. But does this translate over well enough to Best of 3 for it to stay relevant on a Regional scale? I think it does, and that’s why I think it’s one of the best plays for Knoxville. That is, assuming you’re going to play it well. I’m going to be honest here. Malamar is one of the most skill-intensive decks in the game right now, and is incredibly draining to play 9 rounds with, let alone 14 or 15.

The List

Pokémon (21)

4 Inkay FLI

4 Malamar FLI

3 Jirachi TEU

2 Giratina LOT

2 Mew UNB

2 Espurr UNB

1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX

1 Giratina p

1 Ditto p

1 Latios-GX UNM

Trainer (31)

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie


4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Pokémon Communication

3 Acro Bike

2 Switch


4 Spell Tag

2 Escape Board


3 Viridian Forest

1 Shrine of Punishment

Energy (8)

7 P

1 Recycle


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 21

* 4 Inkay FLI 50
* 4 Malamar FLI 51
* 3 Jirachi TEU 99
* 2 Giratina LOT 97
* 2 Mew UNB 76
* 2 Espurr UNB 79
* 1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX UNM 72
* 1 Giratina p UPR 58
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 1 Latios-GX UNM 243

##Trainer Cards - 31

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Cynthia UPR 119
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 4 Pokémon Communication BLW 99
* 3 Acro Bike PRC 122
* 2 Switch SUM 132
* 4 Spell Tag LOT 190
* 2 Escape Board UPR 122
* 3 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Shrine of Punishment CES 143

##Energy - 8

* 7 P Energy Energy 5
* 1 Recycle Energy UNM 212

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: ******

Michael and I developed the list that we played in Atlantic City over a few weeks with input from some of our teammates. Almost all of the list belongs to Michael, but I get to claim credit for the Giratina p and the 2 Shrine of Punishment that we played. The above list is what I would be playing if Knoxville was tomorrow.

Card Choices

2 Mew UNB

I cannot even begin to count the number of PikaRom players that have said, “Two Mew?” and proceeded to check my discard pile to make sure I hadn’t palmed the card. Mew is actually one of the best cards in the deck and is the reason our list is so good. Mew has an attack that does snipe damage, which can be used to set up a Cross Division-GX or Espurr KO. Pair Mew with a Spell Tag, and you have a Pokémon that most decks will have to deal with, and 7 damage counters placed wherever you want them.

2 Espurr UNB

I personally think that 2 Espurr is incredibly strong and almost wish I had played the 2nd copy in Atlantic City. Mimikyu SM99 was actually useless, and that allowed me to find the extra space for Espurr. This is mostly relevant against PikaRom and Blacephalon, but can have fringe uses against GardEon if they don’t realize that you play 2 copies.

1 Latios-GX UNM

This is another card that we opted to not play to Atlantic City, but it has now made its way into our current list. Why is this? Well, we didn’t expect to see as much Mew Box as there was, and we also underestimated how difficult the matchup could end up being. At first glance, you could think that Latios is here for Tag Purge, but in reality it is here for Clear Vision-GX, which removes Cross Division-GX from play. There is also the fact that if played correctly, you can either force the GardEon matchup to be a tie, or simply deck your opponent out. I’ll get into that more later though.

1 Giratina p

This is a card that I feel was completely overlooked by everyone for so long. First, you have an Ability that can theoretically allow you to attack turn 2 with 0 Malamar in play. Next, you have an attack that does more that 130 damage, which is relevant against GardEon and any Eevee-GX that might see play. Finally, you have 160 HP, which is conveniently 10 more that GardEon can hit for without using a GX attack. All in all, it’s a pretty darn good card. I’ve heard that people are already cutting it from lists. I’m here to tell you that that’s an incredibly bad decision.

3 Acro Bike

I hate Acro Bike, and wish that it wasn’t necessary to play any of them in the deck. Unfortunately, it’s a necessity and we can’t get away with cutting more than 1 if we want the deck to keep functioning. We initially cut it for the 2nd Shrine, but it has since been cut again for the Latios-GX.

1 Shrine of Punishment

Initially, we played 2 copies of Shrine, but I have since cut down to 1. I know that Michael doesn’t agree with this change and has cut something else from the list for Latios-GX, but I decided to be greedy. In the two League Cups I won this weekend, I don’t think I ever really missed the Shrine, aside from two games, which I won anyway. The card is incredibly good against PikaRom, both because it’s a counter Stadium to Lysandre Labs, and because it can easily stick for multiple turns and allow you to stack damage up incredibly fast.

Potential Inclusions

I literally have a whole deck on PTCGO devoted to Malamar’s potential tech cards, but I’ll give you the highlights for today.

Alolan Ninetales TEU

I know that someone apparently beat me to the punch on this one, but I was heavily debating playing a copy in my list for Atlantic City. In hindsight, I may have won one more game, but I’m still okay with my decision to not play it. The theory is that if you play against GardEon, you set up the Alolan Ninetales with Ditto p, and draw/pass for a very long time. My next tech option actually allows for a better strategy with Alolan Ninetales.

Deoxys CES 69

This card is something that Michael and I talked about for quite a while, but finally dismissed in favor of Giratina p. In theory, you can KO a Vulpix TEU the turn that it is played down by using Spear Dive coupled with Distortion Door. In the end, we decided that we beat Ability ReshiZard often enough anyway, and opted to not play it. The card also combos well with Alolan Ninetales because it has a hit-and-switch attack that deals a whole 20 damage at a time. In theory, that could be enough to defeat GardEon without decking them out.

Slowking LOT

AKA, the generic and splash-able Ditto p tech that can deal with ReshiZard. Not much needs to be said about this thing.

Power Plant

Arguably, Power Plant makes the Mew Box matchup better. I disagree based on the fact that you are unable to search it out the exact turn that you’ll need it. However, there is definitely merit in playing it if you think the Mew Box matchup needs more help.

Cyrus p

On paper, this card sounds great, right? You can Cyrus p then hit them with 20 damage counters to completely ruin their board state. Unfortunately, in my testing, all that the card did was help my opponent remove the damage counters I’d spent all game placing. Obviously, there are times where the card is great, but those times are rare, and often feel like I would win anyway.


We spend the entire game placing damage counters, so logically moving them around has to be good, right? Not really. Grimsley is basically a crutch for those of us who have yet to master the concept of mapping out our Prize cards early into the game. There is also the fact that it isn’t searchable and is your Supporter card for the turn.

The Matchup Spread

PikaRom: 65/35

This matchup is incredibly favored for us when played correctly. It is vital that you conserve you Mews in this matchup because the first one is an easy Custom Catcher target, and that will eventually leave you open to Tag Bolt-GX if you don’t have the 2nd copy available. Very early into the game, you’ll need to determine how you’re winning the game. Will you be taking two TAG TEAM KOs, or will you be doing a 3-2-1 Prize breakdown? Whatever you end up doing, every damage counter matters. Placing damage counters incorrectly is what has given Malamar its bad reputation. Malamar demands near perfect play, and that can be taxing and/or difficult for almost everyone, myself included. Plan out whether Espurr or Espeoxys will be cleaning up the game for you, place damage counters in ways that you’re checkmating your opponent before they even know what’s happening.

Ability ReshiZard: 55/45

This matchup will almost always be determined in the first few turns. Basically, will your opponent be able to run away with the game before you can set up? Your first few turns are almost always the same for most matchups. You find Inkays, attach an Energy to an attacker, and then start attacking as fast as possible. However, there are a number of matchups where leading with Mew is optimal because you can set up KOs that won’t be taken until the last turn of the game. Placing 3 damage counters onto a Vulpix leaves it vulnerable to a Spell Tag if they don’t find a Ninetales that turn, and if they do, you can easily Espurr KO it the next turn after placing 1 more damage counter. You and your opponent will likely trade attackers for a few turns until they whiff a Welder, or you do a fancy Cross Division-GX play and win the game.

GardEon: 45/55

Initially, this matchup seems awful. However, between lists cutting down to as low as 2 healing cards, and with the recent addition of Latios-GX, the matchup is now very winnable. It’s still not the matchup that we want to see across from us, but I wouldn’t complain too much anymore. The strategy here is pretty simple. Clear Vision-GX on your first possible turn and then go to Tag Purge or some other attacker the next turn. Once you’ve locked their GX attack, Giratina p will be able to tank a hit, which is incredibly annoying for GardEon. Between Spell Tags, less healing, and no Sanctuary-GX, the matchup is straightforward enough. Usually, I’ll spend my first few attackers KOing a GardEon, and the Spell Tags targeting another one. The Benched GardEon is vulnerable to Espurr, so that’s an easy 3 Prize cards. Now, your opponent will likely think it’s safe to retreat the heavily damaged GardEon and KO your Espurr. At this point, you drop the 2nd Espurr and snipe the damaged GardEon for the win.

Blacephalon/Naganadel: 65/35

This matchup is incredibly straightforward and very favored unless you have a slow start. As long as you’re not giving up more than 3 Prizes before you take your first, you should be winning every game. If you do fall behind by 4, then it is theoretically possible to win the game with a Cross Division-GX. Lead your Giratina with Spell Tags attached and trade evenly for a while. at some point you’ll be able to win through sheer damage output, or steal a Dedenne-GX KO with Espurr to win faster. Shrine is incredibly powerful in this matchup and should be used to KO a Blacephalon-GX that you couldn’t without it.

Mew Box: 50/50

This matchup is actually quite similar to GardEon except, instead of healing, they get through with pure tackiness and extreme damage output. Your goal should be to Clear Vision-GX on your first attacking turn in an effort to prevent your field being wiped by EspEoxys. If you succeed, then the matchup is quite straightforward. KO two TAG TEAMs through whatever means necessary and you should be able to outpace your opponent pretty easily.

Final Thoughts

I’ve procrastinated writing this article to the point where I’m incredibly drained both mentally and physically, but I think I did a pretty well with this one. I can’t wait to play in another Regional this weekend, and I hope I’m able to pull out a solid finish this time.

Malamar is my top pick right now because I’m extremely comfortable with it and I think I finally know how to play it somewhat well. I’m still very scared to play it into Best of 3 again, but I have nothing else to play and that means it’s squid time for me. For anyone playing in Best-of-1 League Cups or Challenges these next few weeks, if you’re not playing GardEon or Malamar, I think you’re doing it wrong.

I’ll see some of you this weekend in Knoxville. I wish everyone luck in their respective events, and I hope to have a favorable tournament report in my next article.

As always, feel free to message me with any questions that you might have about anything related to Pokémon. I also now offer coaching! Either email me ( or PM me if interested.

Until the next one.

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Reader Interactions

5 replies

  1. Emery Taylor

    fantastic article, Alex. Fun to get some insight on the deck as whole, coming from a FILTHY Pika player. See ya in Richmond.


  2. Edwin Kan

    Is the count of 2 switch 2 escape boards too low? Feels like often there will be times where you just can’t retreat/pivot

    • Alex Schemanske  → Edwin

      There’s an argument for a third switch, but we’ve found ourselves not really needing it. A third Malamar basically serves as a pivot because you’ll have an extra energy to retreat with every turn. And once you have a board, it’s not going away for the most part.

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