I could not find a single reference to the Ocarina of Time’s infamous Water Temple in any of the publications on this fine site and I am disappointed in the Pokémon TCG community! I am happy to right this wrong in today’s article, which will continue the discussion on Omastar that I started back in April’s article: Stone Temple Piloting. That article provides some arguments and evidence in support of combining Omastar with Pokémon Research Lab and Stonjourner VMAX. I concluded that article with a look ahead to Rebel Clash where I wrote favorably about combining Malamar VMAX with Omastar (spoiler alert: that combination did not work so well).
Today’s article provides a brief note on where I left Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX, an update on Omastar in the time of Rebel Clash, some background on the deck I used last weekend to advance to Top 64 in the North American Players Cup, and another look ahead to Omastar in the time of Darkness Ablaze and rotation.
I played Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX in the second of the Limitless Qualifiers, which was the last event before the release of Rebel Clash. I ended up at 5-5 before dropping the event. My losses were 2 Malamar variants, 1 Rillaboom, 1 Blacephalon, and 1 ADPZ. The first three losses were largely unavoidable—I had taken Mallow & Lana out of my list in exchange for Crushing Hammers. Mallow & Lana was a considerable help against many Malamar variants. Rillaboom is an auto-loss due to Grass Weakness. The losses to Blacephalon and ADPZ can mostly be chalked up to big deltas in the quality of our opening hands (theirs were much better). The sting of this type of loss is a bit more painful in events that are not best-of-three. I did appreciate the speed of these Swiss rounds, however.
I had many concerns about Stonjourner VMAX’s chances against Dragapult VMAX—chief among them were Dragapult VMAX’s Resistance to Fighting and its speed. I knew that Rebel Clash would bring a threat to Stonjourner VMAX, but also some potential opportunities for Omastar to shine in new ways.
Omastar in the Time of Rebel Clash
I am still getting a feel for the best way to grow my physical and virtual collections. For Rebel Clash, I bought two booster boxes and about 30 Rebel Clash packs using the in-game PTCGO currency. As you might have guessed from my last article, I immediately traded for Malamar Vs and VMAXs with the code cards I pulled from the boxes. My 30 Rebel Clash packs yielded quite a few Inteleon V and VMAX. I do not remember the exact count of each card, but I do remember raising my eyebrows after the third or fourth pull.
Anyway, I went straight to the ladder after accumulating the cards for a Malamar VMAX rendition of the Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX build. My first disappointment came when I realized Drag Off had changed for the worse since the days of Regigigas DP40. If you want to do damage with Drag Off now, you must switch the opponent’s Active Pokémon with a Benched Pokémon. This may not sound too bad in theory, but I can assure you that practice proves otherwise.
I also realized that Malamar V is too vulnerable to 1-shot knockouts to safely use Drag Off. This led me to add Memory Energy to the deck, so I could use Drag Off with Malamar VMAX (credit goes to Joshua Yehl for this idea). This would have solved a key problem if I could reliably draw into Memory Energy on the second or third turn of the game. Alas, that proved too difficult. Also, Special Energy denial has surged in popularity.
Finally, while Max Jammer is an incredibly powerful attack, Malamar VMAX lacks a second attack. Again, this may not sound too bad in theory, but it is in practice. Stone Gift is a key addition for Stonjourner VMAX. This attack provides an efficient option for a semi-productive turn when your turn begins with a bare VMAX.
Inteleon VMAX Cards…All Those
I had all those Inteleon VMAX cards and I had just learned the value of 1-Energy VMAX attacks, so I assembled an Inteleon VMAX version of Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX. The initial results were certainly more positive than what the water gave me with Malamar VMAX, but they were not great. Looking back upon my testing notes, this was because I hadn’t made all the appropriate card conversions when switching from Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX to Omastar/Inteleon VMAX. The format was brand new, so I did not know which tech cards to include. The two decks also play differently and it is now clear to me that I did not pick up on these differences when I first started testing Omastar/Inteleon VMAX.
I decided to put Omastar on the shelf mid-May and move on to other things. I used Galarian Obstagoon to qualify for the Players Cup, ending up at 201st in North America. It is a great deck, but I quickly picked up on one key weakness and slowly picked up on another. The slow realization is that Obstagoon’s Dragapult VMAX matchup is way shakier than I originally thought. The winning strategy relies way too heavily on single copies of both Yveltal-GX and Sableye V. Prizing either is devastating to the odds of winning against Dragapult VMAX. Unfortunately, these cards are largely useless in most other matchups. In fact, I lose easier matchups simply because I occasionally open with one of these cards. The Dragapult VMAX matchup is still difficult even with these two cards at your disposal, because of the incredible early-game pressure that Dragapult VMAX often applies.
The other, sooner realization, of course, is that Galarian Obstagoon has a tough time fending off Evolution decks, Control decks, or almost anything that isn’t in the top tier. The conditions are right for anti-metagame counter decks (perhaps including Galarian Obstagoon itself), because the metagame has solidly coalesced around a handful of top tier decks. As such, I suspected there might be a shift toward a larger prevalence of counter decks. I did not think this boded well for Galarian Obstagoon—it is a counter deck that has difficulties with other counter decks and rogue decks.
I decided to revisit Omastar/Inteleon VMAX after June’s leaderboards were finalized. There is no way to win the PikaRom matchup, but many other matchups seemed favorable in theory (including decks below the top tier). Max Bullet is a fine second attack, but Hydro Snipe is the selling point of Inteleon VMAX in this build. Energy denial is particularly powerful under Fossil Bind. Hydro Snipe simultaneously weakens opposing Pokémon and “protects” Inteleon VMAX by denying Energy on threats. This primes the field for Max Bullet, which sweeps up after Hydro Snipe puts the opposing Pokémon in knockout range.
The combination of Hydro Snipe/Crushing Hammer frequently leaves the opposing field bereft of Energy. This makes it difficult for the opponent to respond to Max Bullet, but this is not always the case. Benched Pokémon, for example, are protected from the Energy denial effects of Hydro Snipe. There are ways to mitigate this, such as using Boss’s Orders on the Benched Pokémon that is being charged or sniping threats with Inteleon V when the opponent decides to forgo Energy attachments on their Active Pokémon. These contingency plans are not perfectly reliable, however, and it continued to show in the testing results. A string of tails on Crushing Hammer is also inevitable. The deck needed additional support for its Energy denial agenda.
The big breakthrough came when I somehow thought to try Wondrous Labyrinth p. This proved to be an excellent addition. A well-timed Wondrous Labyrinth can turn the tide in a hopeless looking game or prevent the opponent from launching a comeback when you are ahead. A Wondrous Labyrinth that sticks for one or more turns can essentially be considered a successfully executed Hydro Snipe (without the damage, of course) or Crushing Hammer on each of those turns. A Wondrous Labyrinth that never leaves the field or sticks for a long time (perhaps because the opponent does not play Stadiums or has burned through all of theirs) is often enough to straight out win a game.
Wondrous Labyrinth, along with a few other key conversions from the Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX base build were the critical changes that the deck needed. Here is the list:
9 W Energy
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 12
##Trainer Cards - 39
* 4 Crushing Hammer
* 2 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 4 Pokémon Research Lab UNM 205
* 2 Mallow & Lana CEC 231
* 2 Boss’s Orders RCL 154
* 3 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 2 Switch EVO 88
* 4 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 Wait and See Hammer LOT 192
* 1 Wondrous Labyrinth p TEU 158
* 2 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 4 Green’s Exploration UNB 175
* 4 Marnie SSH 169
* 2 Pokémon Communication BLW 99
* 2 Capacious Bucket RCL 156
##Energy - 9
* 9 W Energy SWSHEnergy 3
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=81977 ******
And here is my record from last weekend:
(Note: For curious minds, it appears that my Round 5 opponent is playing Malamar/Ultra Necrozma-GX.)
I do think this list has some room for improvement. Cards I would like to test are Potion (why isn’t there a Great Potion for Pokémon VMAX?), Big Charm (Potion and Big Charm both help with Zacian V + Mallow & Lana math), Tool Scrapper, Galar Mine, and a 3rd Boss’s Orders.
Even though the deck plays a very high Supporter count, the deck still struggles with dead opening hands and post-Marnie/Reset Stamp hands. This is an inherent disadvantage of decks that do not play Jirachi TEU, Dedenne-GX or Eldegoss V. I hesitate to add more Supporters, because the deck also struggles with the other extreme of drawing into clumps of Supporter cards. Acro Bike could be worthy of consideration. Eldegoss V also has some potential, because it can be removed from play with Float Up. This is useful in the far too likely event that you open with Eldegoss V, need to use Green’s Exploration or need to reduce your board presence to reinstate Fossil Bind.
I will close this section out with a conclusion of the Boss’s Orders + Omastar discussion I started in my last article. I did not know if the release of Boss’s Orders would prove advantageous or disadvantageous to Omastar. Experience has demonstrated that the release of Boss’s Orders has generally benefited Omastar—especially when coupled with Energy denial and Bench hitting (i.e., Inteleon V’s Snipe Shot). This is largely due to the ability to “lock up” non-attacking Pokémon such as Oranguru SSH or Mewtwo UNB in the Active Spot. Single retreat-cost Pokémon such as Jirachi TEU, Dedenne-GX, or Galarian Zigzagoon SSH are sometimes just as useful in the Active Spot. This lock can allow you the time to safely power up multiple attackers, snipe Benched threats, run the opponent out of Energy, and/or deck them out.
Yes, I have lost games because the opponent had a well-timed Boss’s Orders (who hasn’t?), but I have won more because of this card.
Looking Ahead and Closing Thoughts
Omastar/Inteleon VMAX is almost entirely rotation proof—only losing Cynthia and Wait and See Hammer. There is no substitute for Wait and See Hammer, but this is only a minor loss. I so rarely have the opportunity to use Wait and See Hammer, to be honest. I generally have to pick other cards with the first turn Green’s Exploration.
The deck’s auto-loss, PikaRom, will lose a number of important cards. The format may slow down a tad (at least initially) with the loss of Escape Board. Both of these developments are great for Omastar/Inteleon VMAX. Yveltal-GX is another key loss that is highly favorable for VMAX decks. Yveltal-GX often provides a very efficient method for managing VMAX attackers. If not for its rotation, I think Eternatus VMAX would be far too powerful in Standard.
Speaking of Eternatus VMAX, Omastar seems like a powerful foil for a deck that depends on having a massive board presence. If Eternatus VMAX supplants Dragapult VMAX as the dominant force, then I will almost certainly dust off Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX.
Although this may be typical, I am disappointed to see that the Sword & Shield expansions seem to be moving on to what appears to be a new Fossil mechanic: Rare Fossil instead of Unidentified Fossil. Unfortunately, this likely means that Omastar won’t be getting any new Fossil friends post-rotation.
But what about other Pokémon VMAX? I have been pleased with both Stonjourner VMAX and Inteleon VMAX…does Darkness Ablaze bring Omastar another option for a VMAX partner? I think there is some potential in the new Scizor VMAX—perhaps with LucMetal-GX. Centiskorch VMAX also seems promising.
In any case, I believe Omastar/Inteleon VMAX and Omastar/Stonjourner VMAX will both be strong options going into the new format. I am sure more potential partners for Omastar will be released in future sets. Who knows what other kinds of Temple Piloting we will see in the 2020–2021 tournament season? If you know me, then you know my fingers are crossed for Forest Temple Piloting.
P.S. I know that it actually feels like we are living in the Water Temple most of these days. We are doing the same things over and over, getting nowhere, trying to stay above water, etc. I am confident we will make it through these difficult times. I hope that at some point in the future, when we look back on these days, we will discard this Water Temple perspective and come to view the struggles we are currently experiencing to be a Wondrous Labyrinth that led to better days. Positive reappraisal helps…I hope you use it and I hope you take care!