The Return of Healing — Switching Up Standard with Cheryl

Hello everyone! I hope you all are as fired up for this new set as I am! Battle Styles is looking like a great set for playability; unlike Shining Fates that was more geared towards the collector, Battle Styles seems to have been made with the competitive player in mind. We’re getting two new keyword-based archetypes, as Rapid Strike and Single Strike Pokemon make their debut, as well as a litany of other playable Pokemon and Trainers. There are plenty of new competitive decks to build, as well as some nifty additions to existing ones.

While the new Pokemon are pretty sweet, the card I am most excited for is a Supporter. As you might have guessed from this article’s title, that Supporter is Cheryl. I believe it has the potential to have the greatest impact on our Standard meta out of any card in this set. The reason for this is that Cheryl represents the return of a different kind of deck strategy — healing-based — which does not currently exist in our Standard metagame (and hasn’t for some time now). While there have been a few tanking archetypes and a few stall ones, there haven’t been any successful healing decks since the 2019-2020 rotation. The biggest reason for this is the lack of effective healing cards themselves. Once Max Potion and Acerola left the format, there wasn’t any card remaining that you could build around as far as healing goes. Sure, Mallow and Lana was decent, but it wasn’t quite strong enough to be a centerpiece especially as the format pushed more toward OHKOs. Cheryl, in contrast, fully heals a Pokemon, which means that even in today’s high-damage metagame, tanky Pokemon VMAX can fully take advantage of their high HP. 

Cheryl decks don’t involve a tremendous switch-up in strategy — yes, you will still be KOing your opponent’s Active Spot Pokemon with a powerful damaging attack — but there is a major difference in that the goal of these decks isn’t to be aggressive and get KOs as fast as possible. Rather, the plan here is to win over time, by preventing your opponent’s KOs so that if you don’t quite have the damage output or speed that they have, you’ll still be able to emerge victorious. For players who prefer a less aggressive strategy than what you’ll find in many current Standard decks or simply want to try something different, these Cheryl decks are a great option.

Utilizing Cheryl

In theory, you can use Cheryl with any Evolution Pokemon. But realistically, the actual number of Pokemon that you can use Cheryl on in a competitive setting is pretty limited. First, the Pokemon in question needs to be able to survive most attacks without getting OHKO’d. Given the high damage output of cards in the current Standard metagame, this means that we are mostly limited to looking at Pokemon VMAX. While there are some non-Pokemon VMAX Evolutions that can survive in some circumstances, such as Decidueye or perhaps tanky Stage-2s like Blastoise-GX or Flygon-GX, most have been the victim of power creep to the point that they aren’t viable targets for Cheryl. Additionally, while the healing effect of Cheryl is excellent, the Energy-discarding downside isn’t as nice. Because of this downside, you can’t throw the card into any deck; rather, it takes some planning ahead to make sure that Cheryl is going to be worth the deck space. To have a successful Cheryl deck, you’ll need a tanky Pokemon VMAX capable of functioning given Cheryl’s Energy discard.

Option One: Single Energy Attack Cost

There are three main ways to get around the negative discarding effects of Cheryl. The first is to use an attacker that has an attack cost of a single Energy card. That way, even if you are discarding your Energy every turn, you can attach another one the following turn so you can attack again. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Pokemon VMAX that can attack for such a low Energy requirement. Even among those that do, most are basic, low damage attacks such as Dragapult VMAX’s Shred, or Inteleon VMAX’s Hydro Snipe. While you can theoretically expand this subset to include Pokemon that can utilize Triple Acceleration Energy, any deck that relies solely on it is likely to fall apart quickly, due to a lack of consistency — especially since you can’t use Cheryl and a draw Supporter in the same turn. The one Pokemon currently that I think can utilize Cheryl in this way is the new Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. Gale Thrust can hit for a solid 150 damage, which is enough to get consistent 2HKOs on non-Pokemon VMAX, and isn’t too far off from a 2HKO on a Pokemon VMAX. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX can also utilize Octillery — quite useful if you need to find a replacement Energy every turn. Furthermore, Cheryl fits in well with the deck’s existing strategy, since you’ll be discarding your Energy after using G-Max Rapid Flow anyway. With that said, I wouldn’t necessarily consider including Cheryl in an Urshifu VMAX deck to be built around Cheryl (so as to consider it a “Cheryl Deck”), more that Cheryl is a nice tech addition to those Urshifu VMAX decks. I would certainly play Cheryl in Urshifu VMAX, but doing so or adding more to make it a focal point, wouldn’t take any major changes from an already refined Urshifu VMAX list. For such a list, I would advise you to check out Gabriel Pino Semedo’s article about the two Urshifu VMAX decks! In the future, we might get more Pokemon VMAX that can use Cheryl in this way, but for now, it is probably best to move to another option.

Option Two: Energy Acceleration

The second option for using Cheryl is to use Energy acceleration to replenish the discarded Energy every turn. This strategy utilizes a partner Pokemon such as Frosmoth, Coalossal, Hydreigon, or Rillaboom, in conjunction with a Pokemon VMAX that can attack with those related Energy requirements. An example of a deck using this strategy is the Rillaboom / Dhelmise VMAX deck that I posted in my last article. Other potential Pokemon VMAX / Energy accelerator combos that can use this strategy include Coalossal / Urshifu VMAX, Coalossal / Cinderace VMAX, Frosmoth / Inteleon VMAX, Frosmoth / Blastoise VMAX, and Rillaboom / Flapple VMAX. For Pokemon VMAX that accelerate Energy themselves, such as Alcremie VMAX or Blastoise VMAX, you might not need a partner Pokemon, but it does help for the earlier stages of the game. The biggest issue here is that you need to find the partner Pokemon in order to use the strategy well; given that most Energy accelerators are currently Stage-2s, that can be a major detriment. Given the current heavy counts of hand disruption (especially Marnie), getting a Stage-2 reliably into play can be quite difficult. If going this route, the one Pokemon I would recommend using is Frosmoth; as a Stage-1, it isn’t too tough to find it and there are some nice Pokemon VMAX that you can use with it. Even in the case of Frosmoth however, there can be some consistency issues, as there are with current Frosmoth decks. Given that, I’ll be jumping ahead again to option three — the most successful one in my testing.

Option Three: Move Your Energy

Finally, there is the third option, which is to move any attached Energy off of your Pokemon VMAX before using Cheryl, then move it back afterward to attack. To do so, you need a Pokemon that is capable of such an effect, such as Weavile-GX. Conveniently, we get another Pokemon with this kind of Ability in Battle Styles: Bronzong. Even between only those two Pokemon, there are plenty of options for building an Energy movement Cheryl deck — see below!

This kind of strategy has traditionally been quite powerful — John Roberts famously used the same concept to win US Nationals by combining Klinklang and Max Potion, for instance — so there is plenty of precedence for this deck to be successful. Of the three strategies here, it is also the one that has done the best in my testing so far. Bronzong, in particular, has incredible potential — the lists I have below have been on par with any top-tier deck in the current Standard format. 

Weavile-GX or Bronzong?

As much as I love Weavile-GX (thanks to my past history with the card), Bronzong is definitely the better choice for a Cheryl deck. That isn’t to say you can’t use Weavile-GX, just that Bronzong is likely to be better. Bronzong has a major advantage over Weavile-GX in that it only gives up one Prize, and so it won’t be as easy to play around by using Boss's Orders. In addition, Metal-type is far better positioned than Darkness-type is, especially with Metal Saucer and Zacian V in the format. Thanks to those two, a Bronzong deck has a ton of built-in Energy acceleration, not to mention that Zacian V is still an incredible attacker! Since Bronzong can move around non-Basic Metal Energy, you can also theoretically play it with Aurora Energy and a variety of attackers of different types, unlike Weavile-GX which is mostly limited to only Darkness-types. This can be a nice way to shore up some Weaknesses; for example, you could opt to include Milotic V in a deck where Copperajah VMAX is your main attacker, to give you a better chance against Fire decks. Some Bronzong decks in Japan have even ignored the Pokemon VMAX / Cheryl combo in favor of simply using a rainbow assortment of Basic Pokemon attackers to guarantee an attack against the opponent’s Weakness. These Bronzong Box decks are quite strong as well (I’ll be talking about Bronzong Box in my next article). While we might not be using Bronzong for quite that purpose, the potential of shoring up Weakness is nonetheless a mark in its favor. If I were to use Weavile-GX, it would be as an addition to Eternatus VMAX so that you could use Cheryl effectively in that deck. Eternatus VMAX / Weavile-GX might be a strong variant of that deck going forward, though it does remain to be seen if it is actually stronger than the existing versions of Eternatus VMAX. While you could use it with Pokemon VMAX such as Crobat VMAX, Malamar VMAX, Grimmsnarl VMAX, or any of the Colorless-type Pokemon VMAX, the lack of Energy acceleration would end up holding back those decks compared to their Metal-type counterparts.

The Pokemon VMAX Combinations

One of the best parts about Bronzong is that it has a ton of potential Pokemon VMAX partners. Even after we narrow down to only Metal-type and Colorless-type Pokemon VMAX (and ignore Aurora Energy focused Bronzong / Pokemon VMAX decks), we still have 11 different Pokemon VMAX to choose from. If you do consider Pokemon VMAXs which only have one non-Colorless attack requirement, that number jumps to 14. While you can theoretically pair Bronzong with any Pokemon VMAX by using multiple Aurora Energy, you’re realistically going to run into issues with consistency and Energy disruption once you have more than one non-Metal Energy or Colorless Energy requirement, hence the omission of those other Pokemon VMAXs. Here is the list of those 14 Pokemon VMAXs for reference:

Metal-type Pokemon VMAX

Colorless-type Pokemon VMAX

Pokemon VMAX that can be used by adding Aurora Energy

As you can see, there are quite a few options! For more fun, you don’t have to stick with just one Pokemon VMAX — you can play multiple! The advantage here is that you can diversify your Weaknesses so that you aren’t necessarily doomed if you run into a particular matchup. Multiple Pokemon VMAX also gives you more strategic options in a game, which can be a huge benefit. For example, you could choose to add in Corviknight VMAX to your Cramorant VMAX deck, so that you have both a non-variance option against Pokemon-GX / Pokemon V decks, as well as a potential OHKO option against Pokemon VMAX decks. You could combine Copperajah VMAX and Salamence VMAX to diversify Weakness, and to give the Copperajah VMAX deck a spread option. You could add Orbeetle VMAX to give an otherwise linear deck some spread damage. You can also do what I’ve done in one of the below lists, and add in Togekiss VMAX to give your deck more consistency. Between single-Pokemon VMAX decks and the two-Pokemon VMAX combinations, there are a total of 105 different deck options using the Pokemon above — not bad for one concept!

There is a slight downside here, in that combining two Pokemon VMAX takes slightly more deck space and is slightly less consistent. However, I’ve found that since your goal in a Cheryl deck is to prevent your Pokemon VMAX from getting KO’d, you don’t need a terribly thick line of that Pokemon VMAX; there are quite a few times where you won’t use more than one. 

Now, I have not personally tested all 105 of these Bronzong / Cheryl decks, nor do I think that it is necessary to (though that isn’t to say that you can’t!). Rather, there are a few of these Pokemon VMAX combinations that you can eliminate, as they are decisively weaker. Right away, I would avoid choosing Scizor VMAX, Eevee VMAX, Ditto VMAX, or Snorlax VMAX as my main attacker, as their damage output is considerably lower and they don’t have any positive attributes to make up for that at the moment. Even eliminating those four, we still have 55 potential combinations, so let’s narrow it down a bit further.

From here, we can divide the Pokemon based on whether or not they are best as support, or as main attackers. Meowth VMAX, Togekiss VMAX, and Aegislash VMAX all fit the former category, so we can eliminate them as single-VMAX decks, as well as any combinations of them. Victini VMAX is somewhat questionable as a main attacker too, since its damage output is both lower than the others and is conditional, so it can fit into that category as well.

The other six — Copperajah VMAX, Corviknight VMAX, Salamence VMAX, Cramorant VMAX, Flapple VMAX, and Orbeetle VMAX — all have at least an argument for being the best main attacker in a Bronzong / Cheryl deck, and I think you could reasonably build a deck around each one of them. When looking at combinations, while you can pair two main attackers, you ideally don’t want to do so unless the two have different Weaknesses — otherwise, you aren’t gaining much by pairing them. For example, I wouldn’t want to play a Corviknight VMAX / Copperajah VMAX deck since both are weak to Fire-types. You don’t necessarily have to hold fast to that rule when making an attacker-support Pokemon VMAX combination — Cramorant VMAX and Togekiss VMAX can go well together, for instance. The other exception here is that Corviknight VMAX and Orbeetle VMAX do pair well together, as there is synergy between Corviknight VMAX’s required switching and Orbeetle VMAX’s Ability. 

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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