Change is Here — Battle Styles in Standard Format and a Look at Spiritomb

Hello everyone! Like many of you, I am excited about having a new set with interesting cards that seem to be shaking things up. The last Standard format had been quite stagnant and it was starting to get old, which is why I was mostly playing and writing about Expanded. Now that Battle Styles has been out for a little over a week, it’s time to dig in and start to figure out the format. Today I want to brief you on the changes that the Standard format has gone through, looking at both old and new decks. Additionally, I’ll spend some time to go over an interesting Spiritomb deck that recently won a major event. I’ve been playing a little bit of Spiritomb lately and it is certainly worth talking about.

Last Format’s Decks

Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V (ADPZ)

This deck is still the powerhouse it was and there isn’t much in the new set that affects it. However, since there are new decks introduced into the format, the volume of Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V that we see in events may be diluted slightly. This logic can be applied to any other deck as well.

Many ADPZ lists are including Empoleon V, but I don’t think this addition is all that strong or necessary. Some ADPZ lists play Bronzong, but this too seems unnecessary to me. ADPZ has no trouble powering up its Metal-type attackers without Bronzong, and an unnecessary Stage-1 evolution line brings down ADPZ’s already-shaky consistency. ADPZ may include some copies of Escape Rope, as it can be better than Switch. Although this applies to other decks that previously played Switch, it’s more relevant for ADPZ because ADPZ focuses more on sniping down the Bench rather than hitting into the Active Spot.

Pikachu and Zekrom-GX

This deck got a little bit worse due to the existence of Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, but Pikachu and Zekrom-GX as a whole seems to be doing alright. This deck is now forced to play two copies of Mewtwo and Mew-GX to deal with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, but that’s not a huge deal since the deck did this previously.

One interesting inclusion that I saw in a Pikachu and Zekrom-GX list from a recent event is Zamazenta V as a way to deal with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. You can use Eldegoss V‘s Float Up or Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX‘s Lightning Ride GX to pivot into Zamazenta V as a wall. This can also help against any other Pokemon VMAX. This strategy is rather easily dismantled by Boss's Orders or Escape Rope, so it doesn’t seem too reliable. That said, it can be a strong one-time play combined with a late-game Reset Stamp for getting some free damage in.

I think Pikachu and Zekrom-GX should be playing Mew to deal with G-Max Rapid Flow, but only some lists are doing this now. Overall, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX is still fine, but it is certainly not as great as it was.

Eternatus VMAX

This deck has the same issue as Pikachu and Zekrom-GX – being weak against Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. And unlike Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, Eternatus VMAX doesn’t have the option to play Mew to counter G-Max Rapid Flow. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX has many ways of tearing through the Darkness-type Pokemon in Eternatus VMAX decks. Weakness Guard Energy is not particularly helpful for a few reasons. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX doesn’t OHKO Eternatus VMAX anyway, and it has no trouble using Boss’s Orders and Escape Rope to pick off all the Darkness-types on the Bench.

Although Battle Styles introduced a problem for Eternatus VMAX in Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, it also introduced a card to help Eternatus VMAX with it’s biggest issue. Exp. Share helps Eternatus VMAX combat Crushing Hammer to a certain extent, though it obviously doesn’t help against a turn 1 Crushing Hammer that can delay a Dread End by an entire turn. Thanks to Exp. Share though, Eternatus doesn’t have to worry about Crushing Hammer too much past the first turn or two of the game.

Blacephalon

These decks got worse now that Mew is more widespread. Many decks now easily include Mew to counter G-Max Rapid Flow from Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, and Blacephalon is collateral damage because this neutralizes Cramorant V. Blacephalon still works and it’s still ok, it’s just that this small change in the meta makes the deck a little worse than it used to be. As far as the lists go, not much has changed. This deck may play Escape Rope now, but it certainly won’t be playing two Cramorant V anymore.

Centiskorch VMAX

This deck suffers similarly from the Cramorant V nerf. Additionally, Centiskorch VMAX may see less play because it now has to compete with Victini VMAX as another viable Fire-type Pokemon VMAX deck. Centiskorch VMAX doesn’t lose too much overall though. It’s still seeing play and doing alright.

Lucario and Melmetal-GX / Zacian V

This deck both loses and gains with the new set. Fire-type decks are on the rise, partly due to Victini VMAX. This is an unfortunate development for Lucario and Melmetal-GX decks. Even with Coating Metal Energy and Zamazenta V, Fire-types are still a tough matchup. However, Lucario and Melmetal-GX does great against Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, which has become popular. Zamazenta V’s invincibility against Pokemon VMAX is huge in that matchup, and its Assault Tackle gets rid of Rapid Strike Energy. All of this, combined with Mallow and Lana, makes it so that Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX has absolutely no chance at all in this matchup.

Overall, I don’t think any of these decks will disappear completely. They all still work, though most of them have been nerfed in some way. I think we will see a little less of each deck due to new decks being introduced, which dilutes the meta share of everything else. Of all of these decks, I think ADPZ gets the best deal. It doesn’t gain much but it doesn’t lose anything either. If you’re looking to play something familiar, I recommend ADPZ.

New Decks

Victini VMAX

At first glance, I was unimpressed with Victini VMAX. However, it’s basically a Welder deck that doesn’t rely on Welder. This means it’s more consistent than our previous Welder decks and more terrifying. This deck can reliably put up a Victini VMAX swinging for tons of damage on turn 2. Welder simply supplements the deck and gives it access to a bunch of great Fire-types like Reshiram and Charizard-GX, Heatran-GX, etc. Both the original Victini V and new Battle Styles Victini V are strong on their own too! Victini VMAX has a hard damage cap, which is where Centiskorch VMAX outperforms it, but the other attackers in the deck can make up for this. Additionally, the deck can more reliably use Boss’s Orders to snipe around Pokemon VMAX if it wants, as it’s less reliant on Welder. Victini VMAX has already been seeing a lot of play, so it’s something we need to get used to.

Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX

The other incredible Pokemon VMAX out of Battle Styles is Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. This card is being played similarly to how Zapdos decks used to: Using Jirachi and lots of switching and gusting effects. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX is slightly held back in that every deck is now teching Mew, which is an easy, one-card inclusion that nullifies G-Max Rapid Strike. Even considering that however, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX is seeing lots of play both by itself and with Dragapult VMAX as a partner. I prefer the solo-Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX build, but Dragapult VMAX does have its merits. Dragapult VMAX covers Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX’s Fighting-type well and it gets rid of an opposing Mew quite easily. The trade off is a sharp increase in the deck’s overall clunkiness.

Spiritomb

The combination of Spiritomb and Spikemuth has been seen before, but it’s never been a big thing. However, Spiritomb has new life in the current format thanks to two powerful reprinted cards in Battle Styles: Level Ball and Escape Rope. Spiritomb just won a large online event, and it’s a deck that I have been playing a bit with recently. I want to go into it a bit more in-depth for this article.


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