The Odd Keystone — Investigating Spiritomb

Hey everyone! I am once again back with a Standard format article. As I typically do, I wanted to bring up some of the latest news and events from the overall Pokemon community, but unfortunately, nothing huge has come out lately. Probably the most notable thing is that a couple of online tournament series have started to ban Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX, which is a ban that I will elaborate on shortly.

There’s also the upcoming set Battle Styles, and the mechanic of incorporating the two styles of Urshifu in a way similar to the Team Magma and Team Aqua mechanic from the past.

Additionally, I was ecstatic to hear of the recently unveiled reprint of Exp. Share, as I have found myself especially missing the card over the past month or two.

With this all addressed, let’s discuss the elephant in the room that I mentioned earlier; the Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX ban in some online events.

Banning Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX

An ADP ban has been on people’s mind since its dominance with Zacian V in the Ultra Prism through Sword and Shield format early last year. Since then, the prospect of a ban has become an increasingly popular idea. Personally, I’m on the fence about the ban as while I see and agree with the logic, I think the secondary consequences of the ban would create some issues and uncover other problems in the format, such as a potential over-dominance of decks like Lucario and Melmetal-GX / Zacian V, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, and Eternatus VMAX, while not leaving much room for other new decks, aside from Mad Party. With this change (or lack thereof), the ban appears to me as unnecessary without a full rework of the format with several major bans alongside it.

With this being said, the argument itself must be addressed. As I mentioned above, the argument started during the dominance of ADP / Zacian V last year. At the time, the main focus was the deck’s gatekeeping nature. Prior to Sword and Shield, ADP was a strong but not oppressive deck, however, with the release of Sword and Shield the deck received an offensive powerhouse in the form of Zacian V. Immediately the deck dominated the format (although it did not win the deck’s first event, the Oceania International Championship) and people had to start working to find decks that beat it.  It seemed nearly unbeatable until Rebel Clash was able to push Pikachu and Zekrom-GX to the next level, and Dragapult VMAX proved itself to be a contender. Rebel Clash was not entirely a loss for ADP, as it also produced a card that has gone on to be pivotal to the deck’s future success; Boss's Orders.

Later, when Darkness Ablaze released and the format rotated to Team Up-on, ADP was given the opportunity to regain its stranglehold on the format, and that is what it did for the first few weeks. Once the format settled, ADP won significantly fewer online events, but its impact was (and is) still felt. Its inherent ability to take all six Prizes in four turns (or even three if you are fortunate enough to pull off a turn one Altered Creation GX) by Knocking Out the format’s critical support Pokemon (Dedenne-GX and Crobat V) has also produced disdain of the card and caused the argument for a ban to become more widespread than ever.

As of late, especially on social media, people have continued to use both of these arguments (with the gatekeeping side of things largely focusing on the oppression of single-Prize Pokemon) to make their case. Aside from a limited number of tournament organizers, the argument has largely fallen on deaf ears.

With this all being said, one side of the argument stuck with me; which single-Prize Pokemon attackers could do well in a format without ADP? While reading discussions about a ban for ADP, most arguments brought up any of three decks; Mad Party, Cinderace , and one of my main focuses today: Donphan / Spiritomb. Spiritomb, in particular, has always been a fascinating card to me as it has astoundingly high damage potential, which is exactly the opposite of what one would expect from a 60 HP Basic Pokemon. After seeing its success in the late stages of Ultra Prism to Rebel Clash, I jumped at the idea of making an aggressive Spiritomb deck in Expanded, but backed away from playing it too much due to the prevalence of Ultra Necrozma – one of the deck’s auto-losses – on Pokemon TCG Online’s Versus Ladder. Today, however, I decided I would give it a debut in my article.

Without further ado, I will start with Donphan / Spiritomb in the Standard format!

Donphan / Spiritomb – Standard

A big factor in the value of a single-Prize deck in Standard is that it can efficiently take one-hit Knock Outs on most multi-Prize Pokemon, especially focusing on at least getting one-hit Knock Outs on Dedenne-GX and Crobat V. Oftentimes being able to hit one or more of the format’s most prevalent attackers for Weakness is ideal too. Funnily enough, Donphan excels at both of these tasks, with the ability to one-hit Knock Out Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, Dedenne-GX, and Crobat V. Spiritomb is a natural partner for Donphan, with an immediate benefit from the detrimental effect of Donphan’s Earthquake.

Deck List

Pokemon (18)

4x Donphan (VIV #87)4x Phanpy (VIV #86)4x Spiritomb (UNB #112)2x Jynx (UNM #76)1x Oricorio-GX (COE #95)1x Dedenne-GX (UNB #195)1x Crobat V (DAA #104)1x Mew (UNB #76)

Trainers (32)

4x Professor's Research (SSH #178)3x Boss's Orders (RCL #154)3x Marnie (SSH #169)4x Quick Ball (SSH #179)4x Cape of Toughness (DAA #160)3x Pokémon Communication (TEU #152)3x Switch (SSH #183)2x Great Catcher (COE #192)2x Air Balloon (SSH #156)1x Reset Stamp (UNM #206)1x Evolution Incense (SSH #163)2x Spikemuth (DAA #170)

Energy (10)

4x Aurora Energy (SSH #186)3x Fighting Energy (HS #120)3x Darkness Energy (HS #121)

Card Inclusions

Four Donphan and Four Phanpy

As always with main attackers, a 4-4 line here is absolutely critical. The value of a maxed-out line here is even further magnified as it’s an Evolution Pokemon, so you need to be able to find everything as fast as possible, and Donphan is also critical in powering up Spiritomb’s damage output. As I mentioned earlier, Donphan’s Fighting typing is also arguably the best offensive typing in the Pokemon TCG as of now, allowing for easy Knock Outs on the Pokemon I mentioned above. I don’t have it in this list at present, but you could also consider playing Vitality Band to reach for the one-hit Knock Out on Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX — I opted against it as the Pikachu and Zekrom-GX matchup is fine as is.

Four Spiritomb

Similar to the Donphan line, four Spiritomb is critical as they are needed to properly execute the deck’s strategy. Additionally, you want to get them out early to start ticking up damage counters via the effects of Building Spite and Donphan’s Earthquake. Realistically, you will never need four Spiritomb in a game, but as I said earlier, it is critical to find them early. Unfortunately, Eternatus VMAX has pretty much made every deck that has a Weakness to Dark-type Pokemon obsolete, so Spiritomb is unable to see the same benefits that Donphan does in that regard.

Two Jynx

Per the usual, Jynx finds its way into a Spiritomb deck. Needless to say, Jynx is extremely strong in this deck, possibly even more than it is in other Spiritomb builds. Using Building Spite and then moving the damage to another Spiritomb is as strong as always, but in this variant, you are also able to move extra Earthquake damage from something like a Dedenne-GX or Oricorio-GX that is sitting on your Bench to a Spiritomb. This allows you to rack up damage on multiple Spiritomb at a greatly accelerated rate, reaching the big numbers even faster than typical.

One Oricorio-GX, One Dedenne-GX, and One Crobat V

The riskiest thing you can do when playing a single-Prize deck is benching a multi-Prize Pokemon, but this deck often needs to. I opted for one Oricorio-GX, one Dedenne-GX, and one Crobat V in order to give the deck a little bit of extra draw support it needs on combo-heavy turns. I’m especially a fan of Oricorio-GX in all single-Prize decks because of the ability to use its Ability as many as five times per game.

Four Quick Ball, Three Pokemon Communication, and One Evolution Incense

I’ve seen a lot of lists play Great Ball as their secondary search option, but I’m not a particularly huge fan of using Great Ball in decks with fewer than 20 to 25 Pokemon, so I opted for three Pokémon Communication and one Evolution Incense as a safer option. This aside, the Item search in this deck is pretty basic and I feel confident that the count is correct.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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