Leading the Charge

Zacian/ADP and Mew3/Malamar, My Early BDIFs of Sword & Shield Standard

Hello 6P! Welcome back to another article by yours truly! The Sword & Shield era for the TCG is finally upon us, and it brings a breath of fresh air to the Standard format. Every TAG TEAM set had a major impact in the metagame with super powerful Pokémon and their attacks. Sword & Shield’s impact is different in that it brings in a more balanced mechanic with Pokémon VMAX, while giving 2-Prize-worthy Pokémon a much needed boost in order to be able to compete with TAG TEAMs.

Not only that though, Sword & Shield will be known for the next few years as the set that completely changed the dynamic of Standard. The set’s Trainers will unarguably change the format in a big way, especially Professor’s Research and the insane draw power it provides. This card, combined with Dedenne-GX’s Ability, allows you to look at 14 cards in a single turn (draw for turn = 1, Research = 7, Dedechange = 6). Add Jirachi TEU’s Stellar Wish on top of that, or the new Cinccino SSH’s Make Do Ability, and you have card access that is comparable to Expanded. This means players will be hitting their outs more often than not, so our game plan to win any given game has to be flawless.

The new Pokémon V are a bit underwhelming as usual, with some exceptions of course, as is usual with the first set of a new block or generation. I bet you can’t name more than 2 GXs from Sun & Moon’s first TCG set. I definitely can’t. Heck, outside of Lillie, Vikavolt SUM, Alolan Muk SUM, and Tauros-GX, I can’t say much about the set. Sword & Shield will likely have something similar happen to it, but we will be playing Professor’s Research, Marnie, and Zacian V all the way until whatever Generation 9 is called.

And so, where does that leave us for OCIC 🇦🇺 happening next weekend? New sets always bring uncertainty, but as you may recall from my previous article, there are a few Japanese resources that I have found useful to base assumptions on, and I’m sure other top players find them useful as well.

Zacian/ADP

Now that I’ve had a more genuine chance to give a wide array of decks a try, I’m completely convinced that Zacian V is by far the best deck in the format. It can be paired up with Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX to become a huge offensive threat, or with Lucario & Melmetal-GX in order to become a tankier deck and try to win the battle of resources.

Both variants have impressed me so far, and I especially love having the Energy denial aspect in the deck, while also having an easier time 1HKOing things. Testing has led me to this list, which has been working out quite nicely:

Decklist

Pokémon (9)

3 Zacian V

2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX

2 Jirachi TEU

1 Absol TEU

1 Phione CEC

Trainer (39)

3 Marnie

3 Professor’s Research

2 Cynthia

1 Guzma & Hala

1 Mallow & Lana

 

4 Crushing Hammer

4 Metal Saucer

4 Pokémon Catcher DEX 111

4 Quick Ball

4 Switch

2 Tag Call

1 Energy Spinner

1 Great Catcher

1 Reset Stamp

 

2 Escape Board

 

2 Shrine of Punishment

Energy (12)

9 M

2 Aurora

1 W

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 9

* 3 Zacian V SSH 138
* 2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX CEC 156
* 2 Jirachi TEU 99
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Phione CEC 57

##Trainer Cards - 39

* 4 Crushing Hammer UPR 166
* 2 Escape Board UPR 167
* 1 Great Catcher CEC 264
* 4 Metal Saucer SSH 214
* 1 Energy Spinner UNB 170
* 1 Mallow & Lana CEC 231
* 4 Switch SUM 160
* 2 Shrine of Punishment CES 143
* 3 Marnie SSH 200
* 2 Tag Call CEC 270
* 4 Pokémon Catcher DEX 111
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 3 Professor’s Research SSH 201
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 216
* 1 Reset Stamp UNM 253
* 1 Guzma & Hala CEC 229

##Energy - 12

* 9 M Energy SUM 163
* 2 Aurora Energy SSH 186
* 1 W Energy CIN 124

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=79457 ******

Pokémon

I’ll be the first to say this is sort of a greedy list in a way, as with only 2 Jirachi, how can I expect to reliably start with it, right?

Well, that’s where Zacian’s Intrepid Sword Ability comes in. You’ll almost never get to attack on turn 1, especially with the new turn 1 rules of no Supporter allowed. But that extra draw 3, combined with the powerful reach of Professor’s Research, is more than enough to get you going early on. Jirachi is there more to act as a pivot the mid–late game, where you need to Switch out of ADP anyway to attack with Zacian V, or simply to reset Brave Blade and get another hit in. You might as well get an extra resource while you’re at it.

ADP is a natural partner to Zacian V, as it shares the M Energy requirement, while providing extra damage output for it with Altered Creation-GX+. The 30 extra damage, along with 230 from Brave Blade and 1 damage counter from Shrine, can 1HKO the other big TAG TEAM threats in the format, Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX, which both sit at 270 HP. You don’t even need the bonus Prize against them, but having a 1HKO against them as opposed to a 2HKO is great.

Absol and Phione are great tech cards. It is expected for Jirachi to be even more popular than before, hence Absol’s Dark Ambition will put a dent in their plans and force heavy counts of Switches to be played, rather than just Escape Board.

Phione, on the other hand, can be just as effective as a Gust effect if Whirlpool Suction is timed well. It’s especially effective when combined with ADP’s Altered Creation-GX+, as your opponent will have to reconsider what they bring up, as single-Prize Pokémon are worth 2 Prizes now. Phione also acts as a soft counter to Galarian Obstagoon SSH, by being able to bypass Obstruct’s effect. Phione and average Pokémon Catcher flips have been quite effective at not auto-losing to the deck otherwise.

Trainer

What used to be 4-of staples in many decks, Lillie and Cynthia are no longer seen here which is what I was speaking of earlier regarding the power of the new Supporters. Professor’s Research and Marnie are a much more powerful combination than their predecessors, and while it might hurt to discard resources with Professor’s Research, it’s important to focus on what you’re looking for when using it, rather than what you are losing. Cynthia provides different options than those two, but I could be easily convinced to simply run 0 Cynthia and maximize the Professor’s Research and Marnie counts.

Guzma & Hala is a staple with ADP, as it provides a much needed Aurora Energy to cover the W Energy cost in its attack, while Mallow & Lana provides an extra Switch effect plus healing in order to deny your opponent any possible Prizes.

With the extra discarding effects, though, come new options such as Pokémon Catcher. If we assume that we flip heads once out of every 2 Pokémon Catcher played, then the card is just as effective as Custom Catcher, where you need 2 cards for one Gust effect. However, Lillie and Cynthia made it more likely that you’d get both cards in a single hand at once. Now with Professor’s Research, if you discard one, it’s gone forever. That is why Pokémon Catcher is superior in a build like this one; you can play 2 cards for the same average Gust effect, but at different times.

Of course, there will be games where you flip 1 or 0 heads, but there will also be games where you flip 3 or 4 to compensate. The possibility of playing them at separate times, without needing another one, makes me think it’s worth it.

Going with the flippy theme of this list (“Flippy Zacian” for a deck name anyone?), I have included 4 Crushing Hammer. I don’t use them to try and deny my opponent’s Energy and completely run them over by ruining their setup. I do, however, play them in order to hopefully flip 1 or 2 heads within a game and target the right Energy at the right time, where it will change the tide of a game I might not have won otherwise. Basically, the deck can afford to play it (because of the thin Pokémon line), so why not? I don’t rely on them to win, unlike decks like Pidgeotto Control or the new Cinccino Mill deck.

If you want to reduce the variance of the deck, you could easily replace the Crushing Hammers with an extra Shrine of Punishment and 3 Metal Frying Pan. That might be better overall, especially if Lucky Egg Blacephalon or other Fire decks try and take over the Metal-based metagame. But for now, the Crushing Hammers have been doing their job well: setting my opponent behind a turn and snowballing the advantage from there.

The rest of the Trainers are resources to be used at the right times, like Metal Saucer for Energy acceleration, Great Catcher for a non-variance-related Catcher effect, Reset Stamp for a more direct attack at your opponent’s hand than Marnie, Energy Spinner as a searchable Energy from Stellar Wish, and Escape Boards and Switches for the continuous flow of the deck.

Energy

Energy-wise, a healthy Metal count in order to be able to attach Energy every turn and utilize Metal Saucer, along with Aurora and Water to cover ADP’s Altered Creation-GX+ and Ultimate Ray attack costs.


This deck is a force to be reckoned with, and I’d expect it to be the most popular deck at OCIC and any Cups or Challenges you play at once Sword & Shield is legal on February 21.

Mew3/Malamar

The other deck that I have been really liking and exploring is Mew3/Malamar. Even though I had a Quarter 1 filled with sour experiences by playing Mewtwo & Mew-GX over and over, we need to be objective when choosing a deck and I think this is just as powerful as any Zacian V deck you might run into.

Decklist

Pokémon (19)

2 Inkay FLI

3 Malamar FLI

1 Naganadel-GX UNM

1 Ditto p

2 Mewtwo & Mew-GX

2 Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX

1 Gengar & Mimikyu-GX

1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX

1 Dragonite-GX UNM

1 Indeedee V

1 Latios-GX UNM

2 Dedenne-GX

1 Phione CEC

Trainer (31)

4 Marnie

4 Professor’s Research

1 Mallow & Lana

 

4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Quick Ball

4 Switch

3 Cherish Ball

2 Great Catcher

 

2 Air Balloon

 

3 Chaotic Swell

Energy (10)

10 P

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 19

* 2 Inkay FLI 50
* 3 Malamar FLI 51
* 1 Naganadel-GX UNM 160
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 2 Mewtwo & Mew-GX UNM 71
* 2 Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX PR-SM 217
* 1 Gengar & Mimikyu-GX TEU 53
* 1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX CEC 165
* 1 Dragonite-GX UNM 152
* 1 Indeedee V SSH 91
* 1 Latios-GX UNM 78
* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Phione CEC 57

##Trainer Cards - 31

* 2 Great Catcher CEC 264
* 1 Mallow & Lana CEC 231
* 4 Switch SUM 160
* 4 Marnie SSH 200
* 3 Chaotic Swell CEC 187
* 4 Professor’s Research SSH 201
* 3 Cherish Ball UNM 250
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 145
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 216
* 2 Air Balloon SSH 213

##Energy - 10

* 10 P Energy SUM 162

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=79457 ******

Pokémon

This list is almost identical to the one from the Champions League Aichi tournament; I can’t take credit for the concept at all. I’ve been loving playing with this deck as it flows so nicely. I’ve always believed that the more options you have within any given turn, the more likely it is you will win, and that is exactly what Perfection on Mewtwo & Mew-GX provides for you. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, the less options you have, your chances of success go down significantly, which is where Marnie + Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX’s Night Watch attack is a pretty devastating combination for any deck, no matter what they’re playing. But the most devastating combination of all is using Horror House-GX going second. That means your opponent so far has had one turn of no Supporters, and one turn of no cards at all. That is pretty brutal if you ask me and the reason why I’m choosing to go second every single time.

The rest of the Pokémon offer utility, such as Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX and Dragonite-GX which provide big, powerful attacks to 1HKO opponent’s Pokémon, while Naganadel-GX’s Venom Shot allows for sniping threats on the Bench.

Indeedee V is another inclusion that offers good versatility in the mirror as a 2-Prizer that isn’t Weak to Psychic, while also providing the possibility to return 1HKO a Lapras VMAX if they powered up with 6 total W Energy to 1HKO a TAG TEAM.

The combination of Mew3 and Malamar is so powerful that it might have been an underappreciated deck in the UPR–CEC metagame, yet someone (Pedro Pertusi) has taken notice and gotten 2nd place with it at the latest Regional in Brazil.

Trainer

Consistency is king, and the only card that has a single is Mallow & Lana, but if you count it as a Switch effect, it’s kind of not a single. Professor’s Research and Marnie are fantastic; Marnie + Night Watch can be game-winning all on its own. With Mysterious Treasure, Quick Ball, and Professor’s Research, we don’t struggle to discard Energy anymore and thus Viridian Forest is replaced by Chaotic Swell in order to protect from Shrine of Punishment and Power Plant. The latter should see a decline in play, but Shrine is still very much a threat to Mewtwo & Mew-GX, especially paired with Mimikyu CEC 97.

Air Balloon and Switch provide mobility to the deck to be able to use Psychic Recharge to its maximum potential, and are especially important to get back-to-back Venom Shots or Sky Judgements. The ghost of Malamar past would’ve given anything to have access to so much draw power and direct Pokémon search, rather than having to settle for Pokémon Communication.

Energy

A healthy amount of Energy is necessary to have attachments every other turn, especially with the thinner Malamar line than we are used to. But thanks to Psychic Recharge, you don’t need 12–14 to be able to attach or find one every single turn.

Early UPR–SSH Impressions

The format is still going to develop, and as usual, OCIC will make a huge mark on what to expect at North American tournaments. Whether it’s small Challenges and Cups or Mississauga Regionals 🇨🇦, OCIC is the tournament to be on the lookout for.

Over the internet talk, especially on Twitter, there’s been quite a bit of hype for the Cinccino Mill deck that Alex talked about in his article. It did really well this past weekend at an unofficial event held by Full Grip Games, from which they published the Top 8 lists here.

Ever since then, I’ve seen plenty of Twitter posts regarding Bellelba & Brycen-Man and Lillie’s Poké Doll and whether they should exist in the same format, especially one without guaranteed Gust effects like we had before with Guzma or even Lysandre. I’ve never been a fan of Mill/Control decks myself, as they make the game become one-sided and they don’t let one player play or do anything. Yet, I can’t fault anyone for playing to win and if those decks are the best options, I’ll consider them myself too.

Conclusion

And that will conclude my article for today! There’s still lots to learn about the new Sword & Shield cards, and I will continue to test for the upcoming tournaments and Challenges (since I’m hoping to be done with Cups for the season). I will be traveling to Costa Rica 🇨🇷 this weekend though for a Special Event, to hopefully round out my Travel Award for EUIC 🇩🇪. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next month!


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