Another Ghost Story — Two takes on Dragapult VMAX

Dragapult’s evolutionary line has, in my opinion, one of the coolest Pokémon designs in Pokémon Sword & Shield, so I’m glad that it gets some love from the TCG designers as well. By now, it’s no secret that Dragapult VMAX is a top tier deck. Results from early online events, as well as my own personal testing and that of many other top players, have confirmed what Japanese tournaments seemed to indicate: that is, Dragapult VMAX is a tier 1 deck, that can hold its own against other top decks (especially Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V, the best deck of the last format).

What remains to be seen is what is the best list for the deck. This isn’t an easy question to answer, especially since players are already using all sorts of counters to Dragapult VMAX. Darkness-type Pokémon should be strong against Dragapult VMAX, but we haven’t seen many of them in the metagame yet. However, there are two other ways players are adapting against the big spooky dragon.

Different Approaches to the Deck

First, some players are using Energy denial. I’ve seen Crushing Hammer even in some Pikachu and Zekrom-GX lists, where you wouldn’t expect them. Team Yell Grunt is also found in several decks. The idea is that Dragapult VMAX doesn’t play any Energy acceleration, so if you can remove an Energy from their board (especially on the first turn), you can delay Max Phantom by one turn.

Second, since Dragapult VMAX’s damage output is low compared to other top decks, with no OHKO potential on any big Pokémon (except those who are Psychic-weak), players are trying to deny Knock-Outs. Scoop Up Net can be used to pick up a Jirachi or a similar Pokémon that’s been damaged to prevent it from being finished off by Max Phantom’s additional damage counters. On bigger targets, Mallow and Lana can remove almost all the damage dealt by Dragapult VMAX in one turn. Some players are going even further and adding Super Scoop Up in their lists (the first time I lost a Dragapult VMAX mirror match because my opponent flipped heads to get their Dragapult VMAX with thirty damage counters back in their hand, I conceded on the spot)!

Although these are all weaknesses of Dragapult VMAX, if we know that they’re being targeted, we can try to patch them. I’ve already talked a bit about the deck in a previous article (and I recommend you read it first if you haven’t done so yet), but now that we’re seeing what anti-Dragapult VMAX strategies look like, I’ve updated the deck to include counters to these strategies. In this article, I’ll give an updated list with some unusual techs, and explain how they work to improve the deck.

For those of you who are bored of the same usual few decks, though, I have an alternate take on Dragapult VMAX that you might like. Remember how every big Pokémon in the Tag Team era has been paired with Green's Exploration? As it turns out, Dragapult VMAX doesn’t have an Ability either.

While I don’t think Dragapult VMAX / Green’s Exploration is as strong as the main variant of the deck, it has some advantages over it, and it’s also a lot of fun to play. Green’s Exploration was declared dead because of the new first turn rule (admittedly, I was one of the first people to do so), but we saw that in the Sword & Shield format, that card still found some success coupled with Reshiram and Charizard-GX (something I’ll take partial credit for). If it could work then, I see no reason it can’t work now!

Let’s start with the Ability variant of the deck. With no further delay, here is my current decklist for the deck:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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