Aggro Altered Creation — Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX’s Warping of the Meta

Recently, several Pokemon TCG organizers grouped together to hold an online tournament. It is a two-day event held as a replacement of sorts for the Pokemon World Championships, on the weekend it was supposed to take place (22-23 August). This tournament will use the Ultra Prism to Darkness Ablaze (UPR-DAA) format, which differs from the current UPR-RCL format and the post-rotation TEU-DAA format.

I appreciated last year’s change when rotation happened before Worlds, making the 2019 World Championships format in August last year the same as the post-rotation format played from the following September to November. In my opinion, this is good for two reasons. For players, this means that the time they spend preparing for the most prestigious event of the year isn’t wasted, since the decks they tested and prepared for are playable for more than one weekend. For spectators watching the stream, this means that the decks they see on display at Worlds can be used in the coming months, instead of the format being a novelty to be abandoned afterward. Therefore, they have an incentive to watch Worlds in order to get an understanding of the format they want to play afterwards.

Because of this, you might expect me to dislike that this online tournament uses the same ephemeral format, but I’m fine with it given the current situation. Since it’s an unofficial event with less prestige (and fewer prizes) on the line, there isn’t the same pressure to do well there compared to Worlds. I’m of course preparing for the event, but not as much as I would have if it had been the official World Championships instead. If there is a stream for the event, it won’t get as much viewers as the official Worlds stream would have so the argument above in regard to spectators doesn’t work either. In addition, while it’s true that time spent on the UPR-DAA format is time not spent on exploring the post-rotation meta, there are no official competitions in sight in that format either. Again, I will continue to play in online events post-rotation (as will many other competitive players), so that format does matter. But I’m fine not touching it before the online tournament. It’s not like there will be Regional Championships one or two weeks later for which I need a solid deck.

There is one reason why I like the UPR-DAA format. I tend to like end-of-season formats more than early-season ones. The card pool is wider so decks are more powerful, and I prefer clashes between high-powered decks where everyone has a lot of options at their disposal. Although some decks might be close to degenerate.

For now I’m focusing on UPR-DAA. This format has been played a little bit in Japan (with the usual caveat being their Standard format is missing a few cards compared to ours, including Rainbow Energy and Lusamine). While big, official competitions did stop, there are local store events and a few invitational tournaments featuring pro players and non-Pokemon personalities. It’s not enough to paint a clear picture of the metagame but it does offer us glimpses of what it can be.

In this article, I want to summarize my current research into this format, and explain how the release of Crobat V may lead to Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX‘s rise in popularity and how to counter it.

Crobat V’s Impact

Darkness Ablaze brings many powerful cards. Vikavolt V could be a spiritual successor to Seismitoad-EX, Centiskorch VMAX is at the center of a new, powerful Welder-based archetype, and Bird Keeper offers a new draw Supporter that doubles as a switch effect to replace Tate and Liza. Eternatus VMAX has the most HP seen on a Pokemon, deals up to 270 damage for two Energy, and has an Ability that makes utility Pokemon such as Galarian Zigzagoon and Absol easier to use. It might have the biggest impact on the format and some expect it to be the best deck of the format. However, if we’re talking about widespread use, the card that is most likely to see play in a high number of archetypes is Crobat V. It’s Shaymin-EX, except you can only use its Ability once per turn. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that most decks will play it.

What’s interesting is that while you can’t use Crobat V’s Ability twice in a turn, you can play one Crobat V and one Dedenne-GX in one turn. While you would expect Dedenne-GX and Crobat V to compete for slots in a deck at first glance, they’re better when used together. If you want to draw a bunch of cards and play your Supporter for the turn, the best you can do (with Basic Pokemon; excluding a Cinccino engine or something similar) is to use both Crobat V and Dedenne-GX, allowing you to draw up to 12 extra cards. That takes space on the Bench so it’s not like you can do this every turn, but if you need to dig for something on one turn — whether that’s a turn 1 attack or a late-game Boss's Orders for the win — you have the means to do so. It’s easy to see how a deck like Pikachu and Zekrom-GX could combine Dedenne-GX and Crobat V to achieve a turn 1 Full Blitz, for example.

This means the format will skew towards aggressive strategies. One-Prize decks that try to avoid playing cards like Dedenne-GX or Crobat V could be at a disadvantage since they can’t use this new power. Pokemon-GX, Tag Team Pokemon-GX and Pokemon VMAX decks are the ones who will benefit the most from Crobat V. The format should get faster, as it was during Shaymin-EX’s peak. Shaymin-EX’s usage only dropped when there was a way to punish decks that went too fast — like Trashalanche Garbodor. Right now, there isn’t anything to strongly deter players from using Dedenne-GX and Crobat V’s Abilities to their full extent.

Draw Abilities go hand in hand with utility Supporters. If you can draw cards with Pokemon, then you can use a non-draw Supporter. You can use a draw-based Pokemon Ability in order to draw into that Supporter. The main utility Supporter in this format is Boss’s Orders, with Mallow and Lana a distant second. In other words, Crobat V’s existence makes Boss’s Orders better. Hoping that your opponent won’t draw into the Boss’s Orders they need to win the game, even after a Reset Stamp is much less reliable when they can draw up to 12 cards without using a Supporter. Plus, Crobat V is immune to Power Plant, unlike Dedenne-GX.

To sum it up, we’re expecting most players to have multiple of these two-Prize Pokemon on their Bench (Eternatus VMAX doesn’t play Dedenne-GX since it’s not Darkness-type, but it will have multiple Crobat V on the Bench). What is the best way to benefit from this newfound strategy? Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX! After Altered Creation GX, Ultimate Ray deals 180 damage, enough to KO Dedenne-GX or Crobat V to take three Prizes. Repeat that and you’ve won the game, regardless of whatever the opponent has. One could argue that you don’t need Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX — instead of Altered Creation GX and two Ultimate Ray attacks, you could KO three two-Prize Pokemon in the same number of turns. However, Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX is much more reliable as it only requires the opponent to Bench two targets instead of three. Second, you only need to use two Gust effects (Boss’s Orders or Great Catcher in Dedenne-GX’s case) instead of three. Third, you’re less vulnerable to Reset Stamp as you’re only going down to three Prizes left instead of two.

There are two other reasons why Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX benefits from Crobat V. The first is that Crobat V makes Boss’s Orders better. Boss’s Orders is an excellent card in any Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX deck because it needs to take less KOs to win the game than other decks. For example, against Mill that will never Bench more than one two-Prize Pokemon (usually Zacian V), you only need to use three Boss’s Orders at most. Each of them allow you to disregard Lillie's Poké Doll and target a Cinccino or another Pokemon on the Bench. A non-Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX deck would need to play the same Supporter five times (including once on Zacian V) to achieve the same effect.

The second reason is that it’s much easier for Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX to use Altered Creation GX on the first turn. In the current format, pretty much everyone who plays Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V uses multiple Energy Switch and Boss’s Orders to try to achieve a turn 1 Altered Creation GX. But Order Pad is very unreliable so this can go wrong. With the addition of Crobat V, the deck gains more draw power to make the turn 1 Altered Creation GX more frequent. Sure, drawing a lot of cards means discarding a lot of cards as well whether that’s with Acro Bike, Dedechange, or something else. But the deck’s game plan is to win very fast (turn 3 is realistic) so it doesn’t matter.

So far, I’ve only talked about Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX and not about any potential partner(s). This was intentional in order to emphasize how much this card by itself can wrap up the format. That said, it should still be played with Zacian V for multiple reasons. First, to achieve a turn 1 Altered Creation GX the easiest way is to get two Energy cards on Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX with Metal Saucer and Energy Switch, so you need to play Metal-type Pokemon. Zacian V tends to be self-sufficient. You only need one in board to deal heavy damage at most — unlike Spiritomb which has a higher damage ceiling, but needs Special Energy, a Tool, multiple copies of itself and Jynx — all things that are hard to manage when you want to focus on speed. Zacian V “only” deals 260 damage after Altered Creation GX, but that’s enough to KO a Vikavolt V with Toughness Cape attached.

Finally, Zacian V’s Ability is very good especially on turn 1. I won’t mention it too much here because I focus on the deck going second (which is what you’ll want to do in the mirror match and against most non-Pokemon VMAX decks like Vikavolt V).

The Fastest List

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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