In Good Spirits — ADP / Spiritomb for the Rebel Clash Format

Hello, readers! By the time you’re reading this, Rebel Clash should be available on TCGO and, while there’s still a big online tournament in the pre-Rebel Clash format, it’s fair to say that most people are giving their attention to the new cards and what they’ll do to the format. Last time, I wrote about what I think will change as a whole, and I gave initial lists for Blacephalon and Dragapult VMAX, two decks which should do very well in the format. I concluded by saying that Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Spiritomb might be the way to go to break the format, and today, I’m coming back to that deck.

In case you missed it, ADP / Spiritomb is an archetype that appeared right at the end of the Sword & Shield format; While it might not be a totally new idea, it had no success or hype until two-time Worlds finalist Ross Cawthon made Top 4 with it at a recent unofficial tournament. In this article, I’ll explain why the deck is good, why it worked pre-Rebel Clash but also, more importantly, how Rebel Clash fixes the deck’s shortcomings and could make it into a legitimate tier 1 deck.

Introduction to ADP / Spiritomb

Let’s start by explaining the point of the deck. Altered Creation GX is an attack that completely changes the course of the game. We saw in the past that Prize races, for example, could be turned around: instead of Keldeo-GX trading 2HKOs with Giratina (a bad trade since it’s a two-Prize Pokémon while Giratina is a one-Prize Pokémon), Keldeo-GX OHKOs Giratina for two Prizes, and suddenly the Prize trade is completely in its favor.

So far, ADP’s main partners have been two-Prize Pokémon: Keldeo-GX and Zacian V However, if it could be paired with a one-Prize attacker, Altered Creation GX would be even more impactful. By using one-Prize atackers, the game lasts longer, which means we can use more Altered Creation-powered attacks. To put it another way, after ADP uses Altered Creation GX and is KO’d, we can only lose Zacian V before the game is over, but we can lose two one-Prize Pokémon. That’s one extra turn, which means one extra attack, which often means two Prizes (even on a one-Prize Pokémon). This simple math is why Tapu Fini has risen up in popularity in ADP / Zacian V: Blacephalon may have a plan to KO ADP for four Prizes (with Beast Bringer) then finish the game by Knocking Out Zacian V, but by bringing Tapu Fini before Zacian V, they have to take an extra turn Knocking Out a one-Prizer, while Tapu Fini takes two Prizes in one attack. (Of course, factors like Cramorant V sniping Dedenne-GX, the absence of Beast Bringer, the possibility of an early KO on Jirachi, etc., all change the course of the game as well.)

Out of all one-Prize attackers, Spiritomb combines with ADP the best, for two reasons. The first reason is its damage output: we’ve known for a while that with five damage counters on it and a Hustle Belt, Spiritomb deals 220 damage. With Altered Creation GX, that goes up to 250 damage, enough to KO a Zacian V with Metal Frying Pan or a Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, for example. But there’s more! With a Big Charm attached instead of the Hustle Belt, Spiritomb can hold up to eight damage counters, so its damage output actually reaches 280 damage after the GX attack. That’s enough to KO any Tag Team Pokémon that sees play. The second reason is that the cards have a similar tempo. Spiritomb needs time to get damage counters on itself, so you can’t play it as aggressively as you’d play Zapdos, to compare it to another one-Prize, one-Energy attacker. However, since ADP needs to take the first few turns off anyway, you can use these turns to damage Spiritomb without sacrificing anything.

ADP / Spiritomb has a favorable Blacephalon matchup because, once ADP is gone, Blacephalon can’t trade Prizes advantagerously, so it either needs to have a very fast start (and take a KO on ADP with Beast Bringer before the opponent can take their first Prize) or for the ADP / Spiritomb player to Bench Dedenne-GX and give it a two-Prize target. It also does well against mill, the bogeyman of the format, as long as it can get Altered Creation off (easy if you go first, harder if you go second and your opponent’s decklist includes cards like Crushing Hammer and Team Yell Grunt). A cute trick to know is that if you’re locked by Mareep + Slumbering Forest, you can KO your Active Spiritomb with its own Ability in order to send another one. You can also use this trick to make room for Phione on your Bench.

If this deck is so effective, you may ask, why was it virtually unknown until two weeks ago? I think the answer lies in the fact that this deck didn’t exist in the Japanese metagame, not because they didn’t think of it, but because Rainbow Energy, a core card for this deck, is out of their Standard format. Since Western players often use Japanese results for their initial impression of a format, this deck didn’t get on anyone’s radar. (This is not to say that we mindlessly copy Japanese decks; actually, the differences between our Standard formats is something I was interested in when I first started playtesting for the Oceania International Championship. This is why I focused so much on Rainbow Mewtwo: since the deck used several cards unavailable to Japanese players, it could be a top tier deck and still be undiscovered.)

The Original List

Let’s first look at Ross Cawthon’s list and break it down.

Pokemon (15)

2x Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX (COE #156)4x Spiritomb (UNB #112)4x Jirachi (TEU #99)3x Jynx (UNM #76)1x Phione (COE #57)1x Dedenne-GX (UNB #57)

Trainers (35)

4x Professor's Research (SSH #178)2x Marnie (SSH #169)1x Cynthia and Caitlin (COE #189)4x Quick Ball (SSH #179)4x Acro Bike (PRC #122)4x Switch (SSH #183)4x Pokémon Catcher (SSH #175)2x Tag Call (COE #206)2x Big Charm (SSH #158)2x Hustle Belt (CES #134)1x Escape Board (ULP #122)1x Great Catcher (COE #192)4x Shrine of Punishment (CES #143)

Energy (10)

4x Rainbow Energy (CES #151)4x Aurora Energy (SSH #186)1x Metal Energy (DP #130)1x Water Energy (DP #125)

I’ll only mention the non-obvious choices.

3 Jynx

Jynx is a nice card to have in this deck because it helps to power up Spiritomb by taking damage counters from ADP (either from opponents’ attacks or from Shrine of Punishment). With even one Jynx in play, it’s possible to put three damage counters in one turn on a fresh new Spiritomb (with Building Spite and Rainbow Energy). This is the point at which Hustle Belt activates, meaning Spiritomb goes up to 190 damage (with Altered Creation), enough to KO Dedenne-GX, for example.

1 Phione, 0 Absol

Bench management is an important part of ADP / Spiritomb. It’s not especially hard to do in game, but you have to build your deck for it. Spiritomb doesn’t do enough damage when it first comes into play (even though I just wrote that it can deal 190 damage, that’s not enough for many Tag Team or V Pokémon), so you need to start stockpiling damage before attacking, which means you need to dedicate at least two Bench spots to Spiritomb. On top of that, you want one Jynx, and one or two Jirachi. Add the spot for ADP and the Dedenne-GX you might need, and there’s not a lot of space left for techs, which is why this deck can’t very well use Absol, or Mimikyu, or Oranguru from Sword and Shield for that matter. Phione is still important for the mill matchup and it leaves the Bench after being used, so it fits in the deck, though.

2 Marnie, 1 Cynthia & Caitlin, no Guzma & Hala

In addition to Professor's Research, this deck needs some Supporters. Marnie is an all-around effective card and Cynthia and Caitlin can be grabbed by Tag Call. You might be surprised by the lack of Guzma and Hala, though. Honestly, having tried the deck both with and without it, I much prefer having the option to play it. I assume the idea behind excluding it is that the deck already plays so many Guzma & Hala targets that you’ll find what you want without having to play a search card. However, there are times when you need that second Energy for Altered Creation GX and it’s much safer to simply search it from your deck than having to Professor’s Research or Marnie for it. (Not to mention it lets you keep Catchers in your hand instead of discarding them!)

4 Pokémon Catcher, 0 Custom Catcher

ADP / Zacian V decks almost universally play Custom Catcher, even though some may add Pokémon Catcher as well. Why does ADP / Spiritomb not make the same choice? This is because the deck doesn’t have the same ability to get multiple Catchers in hand. ADP / Zacian V has two things going for it: Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword, which gives you more cards to work with in the early game, and Oranguru’s Primate Wisdom, which is extremely good to save a Custom Catcher before using Professor’s Research, Marnie, or Dedechange. Since ADP / Spiritomb can’t really use Zacian V and has no space on its Bench for Oranguru, it would rather use Pokémon Catcher, riskier as it might be.

4 Acro Bike

ADP / Spiritomb needs a bit more draw than ADP / Zacian V, since it wants multiple Spiritomb in play on turn 1 if possible, as well as Special Energy which can’t be searched by Energy Search. This is why Acro Bike, which provides early game draw power, fits well in the deck. (It’s also another reason why Custom Catcher isn’t great here.)

4 Shrine of Punishment

It’s become unusual to run four copies of a Stadium card. However, this card is pretty important to get ahead of some damage thresholds. For example, to OHKO a Mewtwo and Mew-GX with a Hustle Belt Spiritomb (or a Big Charm Mewtwo & Mew-GX with a Big Charm Spiritomb), you need two additional damage counters. With four copies of Shrine, you maximise your odds of having it in play on turn 1 where it can start putting damage counters on your opponent’s board. The four copies also help to stick a Stadium in play even through Chaotic Swell: many ADP Zacian lists, for example, play one Chaotic Swell and one Shrine, so you can use a Shrine to remove their Swell and the next one should stay throughout the rest of the game.

4 Rainbow Energy, 4 Aurora Energy, 2 basic Energy

This deck needs three different types of Energy, which is why having access to both Rainbow Energy and Aurora Energy is necessary. (This deck wouldn’t have worked before Aurora Energy.) The downside to this is that Ultimate Ray’s Energy acceleration is kind of useless in this deck… but you don’t need acceleration for a one-Energy attacker, so that works out fine. I thought about including a Darkness Energy so that I could Ultimate Ray an Energy to Spiritomb, but removing the Water or Metal Energy for that would be a bad idea: the most important thing in the first two turns is to get Energy on ADP to use Altered Creation GX.

How Rebel Clash Breaks This Deck

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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