This Article is Cursed

“Optimal ADPZ” and Galarian Cursola V for Players Cup II, How to Test Properly (the Spreadsheet Testing Method), and Notes on Building Rogues
AKA revenge of the ecosystem.

Hey everyone! Today is a big day for me. Back around the 2016 World Championships, when I was just learning about the competitive side of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, I can remember scrolling through old SixPrizes articles late into the night trying to learn as much about the game as I could. Now, four years later, I’m writing my first article for SixPrizes Underground. Whew!

As is usual when I write about this game, I want to make sure I offer something valuable to any player, something that has applications beyond just the decklists and metagame specific to this article. With that in mind, I’ll be using this article to cover two decks for the Players Cup II (one rogue, one very vanilla), but also to talk more broadly about two topics I get a lot of questions about: how to get the most from your testing, and how to construct a rogue deck from scratch.

Legal this Friday.

The Players Cup is an interesting tournament to prepare for because of its multiple phases—you need to make it through 50 three-round best-of-one events with enough “tournament rep” before you can get to something that more closely resembles the tournaments we’re used to. And with Champion’s Path’s legality date approaching (October 9, this Friday), we’ll soon have a new format to adjust to for the end of the qualification period.

I have two major thoughts about the best way to approach the qualification period:

  1. First, I’m trying to get through all 50 of my events before Champion’s Path becomes legal, so that I don’t have to adjust to new cards and a possibly altered metagame midway through.
  2. Second, I’m not bothering to bring any spicy rogue decks to these events. Best-of-one necessitates consistency, especially in this format, with Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX, Marnie, and Crushing Hammer everywhere one looks.

Basically, my plan is to breeze through my 50 events with a tier one deck, allowing myself more time to test with Champion’s Path cards and possibly develop a meta-breaking deck for the Top 256 phase.

“Optimal ADPZ”

“My, what teeth you have in this metagame…”

Perhaps to the chagrin of those who’ve seen my rants against it on social media, the deck I’ve been using for most (although not all) of my qualifying events is none other than Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX/Zacian V. This is simply because I believe there’s no good reason to not play the deck: Altered Creation-GX is a truly game-breaking effect, and ADPZ has the potential to win just about any game it’s in. It can instantly capitalize on opponents’ misplays and can completely seal up a game if your opponent has even a single turn of poor draws or misses one card for a combo.

Despite near-universal agreement that ADPZ is tier one, if not BDIF, in this format, there have been some disagreements on how to properly build it. Recently, lists with Clay have been gaining some traction, but I hate the Clay build because it is even more linear than a regular ADPZ list—in the words of my teammate Brit Pybas, your entire game plan is “sequencing against yourself and crossing your fingers.” I want my ADPZ list to be consistent, but also have some level of flexibility for dealing with specific matchups and recovering from poor starts.

We’ve also seen some debate over which coin-flip card (if any) to play in ADPZ, between Pokémon Catcher, Turbo Patch, and Crushing Hammer. I’ve opted to include Crushing Hammer in my current list, for this reason: I believe it is the only one of the three “flip” cards that cannot be reasonably replicated by a card or combination of cards that is already played in ADPZ.

What do I mean by that? First, Pokémon Catcher already exists in ADPZ in the form of Boss’s Orders. Yes, I understand that Catcher (A) gives you additional outs to drawing a gust card and (B) can be played together with a Professor’s Research or Marnie to let you draw and gust simultaneously. However, you should not need to use more than two gust effects in almost every game you play with ADPZ. Thus, I think the consistency boost from Catcher is marginal; the deck has enough thinning power and Ability draw to find Boss’s Orders when needed. (As you’ll see below, my list does play one Great Catcher as a fifth gust out.) Turbo Patch, for its part, provides a potential response to Energy denial in opposing decks, and can help you recover from a missed attachment—but this ability, too, already exists to an extent in ADPZ, in the form of the Metal Saucer/Energy Switch combo.

Crushing Hammer offers a unique dimension to ADPZ that Pokémon Catcher and Turbo Patch just don’t share. The only analog to Crushing Hammer in Standard right now is Team Yell Grunt, but a control-based Supporter has little synergy with ADPZ, a deck that aims to set up quickly and take 6 Prizes in just a few turns. An Item-based disruption card like Crushing Hammer provides disruption while not interfering with your goal of playing draw Supporters to win quickly. Playing four Crushing Hammer yields an expected value of two Energy discards per game if you consistently draw all four, which is frequently pretty good in a game with the core rule that you get to attach one Energy per turn. Also, as I explained on Twitter, the fact that Altered Creation-GX speeds up games actually makes Crushing Hammer stronger, because an opponent has that much less time to recover from an Energy discard. Even one Hammer heads can totally lock up a game in this format.

So: Hammer time it is, for my coin-flip card of choice. What does the rest of my list look like?

Pokémon (11)

3 Zacian V

2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX

2 Crobat V

2 Dedenne-GX

1 Duraludon RCL

1 Mawile-GX

Trainer (39)

4 Boss’s Orders

4 Professor’s Research

2 Marnie


4 Crushing Hammer

4 Energy Switch

4 Metal Saucer

4 Quick Ball

4 Switch

2 Cherish Ball

2 Energy Spinner

1 Great Catcher

1 Tool Scrapper


2 Air Balloon


1 Chaotic Swell

Energy (10)

8 M

2 W


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 11

* 3 Zacian V SSH 138
* 2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX CEC 156
* 2 Crobat V DAA 182
* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Duraludon RCL 138
* 1 Mawile-GX UNM 141

##Trainer Cards - 39

* 1 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 4 Boss’s Orders RCL 154
* 2 Cherish Ball UNM 191
* 2 Marnie SSH 169
* 4 Metal Saucer SSH 170
* 4 Crushing Hammer SSH 159
* 2 Energy Spinner UNB 170
* 4 Energy Switch CES 129
* 1 Chaotic Swell CEC 187
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 1 Tool Scrapper RCL 208
* 4 Professor’s Research SSH 178
* 4 Switch SSH 183

##Energy - 10

* 8 M Energy SMEnergy 17
* 2 W Energy SMEnergy 12

Total Cards - 60

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

I’ve aimed mostly for consistency, but did include a few techs with uses in multiple matchups: Duraludon RCL, Chaotic Swell, and Tool Scrapper. I also opt to play two Marnie, a card many players have been cutting (simply running four Boss and four Research as the Supporter line). I’ll explain the reasoning for each of these.

2 Marnie

I think the disruptive power of Marnie is actually pretty undervalued in this format. As I mentioned in the Crushing Hammer discussion, ADP can “break” disruptive Trainer cards because Altered Creation-GX gives opponents fewer turns to recover from them. Thus, an early-game Marnie can be extremely powerful. Also, I usually hate playing a deck without at least one copy of a shuffle–draw Supporter. Marnie can give you the ability to hit the reset button on bad hands—a syndrome not even ADPZ is immune from—without discarding pieces you might need later. Marnie would be even stronger if Eldegoss V was in the deck, but I’ve never found myself using Eldegoss in enough games to justify keeping it in the list.

1 Duraludon RCL

I added this tech to swing the matchup against Decidueye DAA/Galarian Obstagoon SSH from very poor to quite favorable, after seeing the success of DeciGoon in the Hegster tournaments and hearing some prominent players call it “the play” for Players Cup II grinding. The idea is to use Power Beam, which deals 140 damage after Altered Creation-GX, to 1-shot a Decidueye, then tank a hit with the 130 HP and Grass Resistance and follow with another 1HKO. Be careful not to play down Duraludon before the turn you will attack with it, if at all possible. Benching it early lets the DeciGoon player stack damage on it with Splitting Arrow snipe damage and Galarian Zigzagoon pings, which may not give you the survivability to take two KOs with it—which can lose you games.

Duraludon has other uses, though, so I might keep it even if I didn’t expect a ton of DeciGoon in the metagame. Metal Sharpener offers a “chip damage” attack that the deck otherwise lacks, which I’ve found relevant in some games against Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Garchomp & Giratina-GX decks, since my list does not have a way to reach for the 270 HP 1-shot. The same attack can also be useful if you run into any Control decks, which are starting to reappear in Standard once again.

I’ve also frequently sent up Duraludon to attack with Power Beam to force my opponent into an unfavorable Prize trade in matchups where I cannot 1-shot the main attacker, such as Inteleon VMAX or Centiskorch VMAX; for example, in combination with a Marnie when the opponent has 2 Prizes remaining. And Duraludon can be used to out-trade single-Prize decks such as Blacephalon and Mad Party.

1 Tool Scrapper

This tech is primarily for the Lucario & Melmetal-GX/Zacian V matchup, which is very unfavorable without Scrapper. (Metal Goggles takes opposing Zacian V out of 1HKO range for your own Zacian V, which is hugely important.) Brit has actually been running two Scrapper in ADPZ for several of his Players Cup II events for this reason. Scrapper has also been good against Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, which is starting to play Big Charm and/or Cape of Toughness to take its attackers out of Zacian V’s 1HKO range, and against a variety of decks to remove Air Balloon and take away your opponent’s pivot option after you take a KO.

I think Scrapper is one of the best cards you can add right now if you ever feel like you have a “59-card list.” It is almost always a burnable card and it provides some degree of value in pretty much every matchup. (I felt the same way about Field Blower back when it was Standard-legal and played at least one in pretty much all my lists, irrespective of metagame.)

1 Chaotic Swell

I think playing ADPZ without at least one Stadium is a mistake, since you will likely run into Prism Star Stadiums that can massively disrupt your game plan (Wondrous Labyrinth p in Centiskorch VMAX and Black Market p in Eternatus VMAX). I was originally playing Viridian Forest, but Brit told me to replace it with Chaotic Swell because Viridian Forest’s marginal consistency boost is often not worth the consistency boost it gives your opponent, a statement I agree with after testing. Chaotic Swell also provides strong disruption against Welder decks that frequently rely on Giant Hearth to set up.

I’m quite happy with the rest of the list, and I don’t think much else in there is unusual. I think Eldegoss V is probably the best card I don’t play. As I said, I’ve never found it that valuable, but I wouldn’t fight anyone over adding it. I would encourage players not to go lower on counts of the pivot cards (4 Switch, 2 Air Balloon). The power of almost always having a pivot option when you need one, especially to switch into ADP for Altered Creation-GX at the start of the game, cannot be overstated.

I mentioned earlier that after I burn through my 50 events on the back of ADPZ, my goal is to use the next several weeks to heavily test a variety of archetypes, mess around with the new Champion’s Path cards, and see if there is a format-breaking rogue deck I want to play for Top 256. In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss my personal favorite rogue I’ve been starting to work on, and share my tips for constructing rogue decks as well as my personal testing method.

Galarian Cursola V/Arctozolt/Sableye V

“Go on. Attach an Energy. I dare you.”

So far, my favorite card from Champion’s Path is without a doubt Galarian Cursola V. I love cards that punish opponents for trying to play the game fairly, and Cursola is a good example: most decks need to attach Energy to win, and if you can punish them for doing that, you can gain an advantage. It’s a cool card…but is it any good?

One of my foremost beliefs about PTCG is that I play the game to have fun, but I have the most fun when I’m winning. If I’m going to play a rogue deck (with the intention of performing well), I need to have a specific, valid reason why I’m opting to play that rogue over an established top-tier deck. There are three main reasons I would consider valid when deciding in favor of playing a rogue:

  1. There is an established BDIF in the format and the rogue has a strong matchup against the BDIF while not sacrificing too many other losses across the metagame.
  2. The rogue has an extremely strong expected matchup spread (essentially, it “breaks the meta”).
  3. The rogue involves an element of surprise that will catch many players off guard and force suboptimal play.

If you are testing a rogue deck and it has a poor overall matchup spread, cannot beat a clear BDIF, or does not at least have the option to shore up poor matchups by forcing suboptimal plays, the unfortunate truth is that it is probably time to return those cards to the binder. This is one of the hardest things to learn as a developing player, because there truly is no better feeling in this game than winning with a deck you built from scratch. But recognizing when the best course of action is simply to play a meta deck is an important step to becoming a stronger player.

Based on early testing, I’m not going to say that Galarian Cursola V is a secret tier one deck, but I definitely believe it has the potential to perform very well with a well-constructed list in the right metagame. Cursola primarily fits with reason #3 above: opponents won’t know what’s in your deck and they won’t have a pre-formulated game plan for dealing with it, giving you more leverage to outplay them. While its matchup spread (reason #2) is not outstanding, I have beat ADPZ more than 50% of the time, and if ADPZ remains BDIF or at least tier one, reason #1 also becomes an argument in favor of playing Cursola.

Currently, I’m just focused on making a more consistent list, and seeing how the matchups hold up when the deck draws well in most games. If the deck can’t beat more than a few matchups without sacrificing a ton of consistency for techs, I’ll probably have to give it up. But the signs are promising so far. Here’s what I have currently:

Pokémon (17)

4 Galarian Cursola V

3 Arctozolt SWSH036

3 Sableye V

2 Crobat V

2 Galarian Zigzagoon SSH

1 Dedenne-GX

1 Mew UNB

1 Yveltal TEU

Trainer (33)

4 Marnie

4 Professor’s Research

3 Team Yell Grunt

2 Boss’s Orders


4 Crushing Hammer

4 Quick Ball

4 Rare Fossil

3 Switch

2 Reset Stamp

1 Tool Scrapper


2 Air Balloon

Energy (10)

4 Aurora

4 D

2 P


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 17

* 4 Galarian Cursola V CPA 21
* 3 Arctozolt PR-SW 36
* 3 Sableye V SSH 120
* 2 Crobat V DAA 182
* 2 Galarian Zigzagoon SSH 117
* 1 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Mew UNB 76
* 1 Yveltal TEU 95

##Trainer Cards - 33

* 4 Marnie SSH 169
* 2 Boss’s Orders RCL 154
* 2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 3 Team Yell Grunt SSH 184
* 2 Air Balloon SSH 156
* 4 Crushing Hammer SUM 115
* 1 Tool Scrapper RCL 208
* 4 Rare Fossil DAA 167
* 4 Professor’s Research SSH 178
* 3 Switch SSH 183

##Energy - 10

* 2 P Energy SWSHEnergy 5
* 4 D Energy SWSHEnergy 7
* 4 Aurora Energy SSH 186

Total Cards - 60

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

The deck is more consistent than you might think and has won me some exciting games, but I’m still looking for changes to take it to the next level. A primary weakness of the deck is the inability to power up a Sableye V in a single turn; this leaves a Sableye with an Energy attached vulnerable to a Boss’s Orders KO before you ever get any value from it. Adding Turbo Patch to the list would provide the Energy acceleration needed to attack with Sableye more quickly and more consistently. The issue is that the deck as I’ve currently designed it can’t really spare four slots (or even three, which could be sufficient) for Turbo Patch.

One possibility for working Turbo Patch into the deck involves cutting the Arctozolt line. Arctozolt has been extremely good in some of my games and completely unnecessary in others. Its presence almost auto-wins the Blacephalon and DeciGoon matchups, but cutting all three Arctozolt and all four Rare Fossil frees up seven spots for Turbo Patch and additional consistency, which is appealing.

However, another aspect of Arctozolt’s value comes in games where you are unable to consistently keep Galarian Cursola V in the Active Spot. For example, you may have promoted Sableye V to take a big KO, so on your opponent’s ensuing turn, they would not take any damage from Energy attachments, making it harder for you to find your next KO—unless you have an Arctozolt or two in play. If you cut the Arctozolt line, you likely need to add more ways to place damage on opposing Pokémon for when you don’t have an Active Cursola. I’ve considered (but not yet tested) Spikemuth and Scoop Up Net (to pair with Galarian Zigzagoon) for this purpose, but I don’t think they’d do enough. The more likely solution is to add a “chip attacker,” such as Hoopa UNM or Hoopa DAA, that you can use in the mid and late game to set up for a second Sableye V KO. (Yveltal and Mew in the list above function somewhat as chip attackers, but are in the deck more for the Energy discard and Bench protection effects respectively—the damage output can be useful, but doesn’t really match the needs I’m describing here.)

Tech Talk

A couple of other Pokémon that would be strong in the deck in specific metagames are Giratina UNM and Mimikyu CEC 97. Giratina has obvious synergy with Cursola and Arctozolt as an additional manner of Energy denial, and can be very oppressive when you can remove two Energy at once in tandem with a Crushing Hammer heads or Team Yell Grunt. Mimikyu would be great at shutting down Mewtwo & Mew-GX, but doesn’t have a ton of use elsewhere.


I already mentioned that DeciGoon and Blacephalon are favorable matchups; ADPZ and Eternatus VMAX seem about 50-50 depending on how hard they pop off and how much pressure you can apply. Centiskorch VMAX has been favorable because they take so much damage every time they use Welder (Arctozolt has definitely pulled its weight in that matchup). The most troublesome matchup among tier one decks so far has been Lucario & Melmetal-GX/Zacian V, and that’s pretty much solely because of Metal Goggles. I knew this would be an issue and did include a Tool Scrapper in my list for that reason, but I think you may actually need two copies of Tool Scrapper to reliably beat that deck.

Spreadsheet Testing

Every time I work on a new deck (and frequently when I test an existing archetype), I use a specific method I refer to as “spreadsheet testing.” I saw Xander Pero recently post his own spreadsheet testing format that closely resembles mine, so I know I’m not alone in this method, but testing groups I’ve been a part of in the past have found their testing regimes greatly altered by my introducing this to them.

“Spreadsheet testing” isn’t so much a spreadsheet as a table, with this basic format:


The goal of the table is to allow me to catalog information about my deck—what card choices were good, what card choices were bad, how I approached a particular matchup, what cards I wished I’d had, whether I bricked, and more—and directly correlate it with a win-loss record. Then, I can make changes to the list, whether they be a single-card swap or a massive overhaul of the engine, based on my record and notes. When I make these changes, I’ll start a new “section” of the table using a different-colored row. As an example, here are some early portions of my testing table for Galarian Cursola V:


Indeed, over time, the move to 4 D Energy/2 P Energy rather than 3/3 has proven to be much better, and the second Crobat V has done wonders for the deck’s consistency. Would I have picked up on those without spreadsheet testing? Possibly, but this method offers concrete, concise references for:

  1. a possible problem with the deck (“whiffed dark”)
  2. a possible solution (“an extra draw poke could be good”)
  3. a cut that could be made to add something that would improve the deck (“not sure 4 switch are needed”)
  4. a change in win % after I made list changes (I went from a 40% win rate to a 65% win rate, albeit with small sample sizes, after making two card changes).

This deck is still very much a work in progress and I am not intending to imply that I consider it a top pick for the Players Cup II, as things stand right now. The deck certainly has the potential to develop into a strong archetype, it just needs a lot of testing and tweaking, or maybe there is an alternate approach to the deck I haven’t discovered yet. More importantly for this article, Galarian Cursola V offers a brief case study for how I approach rogue deckbuilding and methodical testing, and maybe a starting point for your own home-brewing.

Final Thoughts

To those of you currently grinding through your tournament keys or preparing for the next phase in the Players Cup II: I wish you luck. Once again, I recommend my ADPZ list from this article as a quick and painless way to consistently earn tournament rep. (I am currently averaging 2.32 rep per event, putting me on pace for about 116 rep after 50 events.) If you want to use your brain a little more, give Danny Altavilla’s Lucario & Melmetal-GX/Zacian V list a shot; I think it has an excellent matchup spread. I also think Centiskorch VMAX is strong right now and recommend Kashvinder Singh Mann’s list.

If you have any further questions or comments about my lists, my thoughts on the format and the Players Cup, my deckbuilding strategies, or my testing methodology, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @twhitesell42. Sometimes talking about Pokémon is just as much fun for me as playing it.

Farewell for now…

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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