Hey everyone, Isaiah back with yet another Standard format article! Not a lot has happened in the Pokemon TCG world since my last article, barring Japan’s announcement of the contents of their upcoming sets, both of which will be featured in June’s Chilling Reign outside of Japan. However, next week (April 26th) marks the start of everyone’s favorite quarterly event, the Players Cup! With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the meta is shaping up going into the fourth Players Cup.
A Look Toward Players Cup IV
I covered a lot of my thoughts on how to approach a Players Cup in an earlier article, Looking Forward, so in the interest of simplicity, here is a quick picture of how I would approach phase one, Tournament Keys.
Approaching Your Tournament Keys
I think the best way to approach your Tournament Keys is to play a deck that scores quick and easy wins while having few bad matchups — such as Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V. I also value consistency quite a bit for the Best-of-1 and Single Elimination structure of phase one, so I recommend minimizing techs, aside from things that may turn auto-losses into playable matchups, such as teching an Aegislash V into Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V to make the Decidueye matchup playable.
With this philosophy in mind, the next part of our approach is to take a look at what decks in the format fill this criteria the best. In order to do that, let’s take a look at the meta itself.
The Current Metagame
In my previous article, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” I spoke briefly about how the Battle Styles meta was shaping up, but this time around I intend to go a bit more in-depth. To start things off, here is an abridged unordered tier list, omitting a lot of the more obscure and/or fringe decks in the format:
- Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX
- Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V
- Eternatus VMAX
- Pikachu and Zekrom-GX
As you can see, I think the pool of Tier One decks is rather large right now — it’s made up of four whole decks! The first of these is Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, which draws a lot of strength from being a Fighting-type Pokemon in a format that not only houses the likes of Eternatus VMAX and Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, but also relies heavily on Dedenne-GX and Crobat V, making way for a lot of easy and cheap Knock Outs for the Rapid Strike Urshifu player.
Alongside Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, we also find the aforementioned Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V archetype. Being a dominant force since Zacian V’s release last February, it should come as no surprise that this deck is in my Tier One. In fact, if I was ordering that tier list, I probably would give Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V the number one spot, due to the deck’s inherent strength, its ability to “break” the rules of the game, and its lack of unfavorable matchups. Lately, while discussing deck matchups with friends, I’ve made frequent note of one thing: all the matchups for Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V are about 50-50; regardless of opponent, it can either win easily or lose just as hard, depending on how both players draw and play.
Next we have Eternatus VMAX and Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, two decks that were expected to completely fall off with the release of Battle Styles, but instead, both have managed to keep their place at the top of the format. Eternatus VMAX did partially live up to expectations, however, despite taking a near auto-loss to Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. The deck makes up for it by having strong matchups against most of the decks that can take down Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, especially with the help of Phoebe to allow Dread End to damage Zamazenta V. On the other hand, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX is able to maintain relevance with the help of Mewtwo and Mew-GX and its ability to hit many of the format’s most popular Fighting-types for Weakness. However, more importantly, it itself does not have Fighting-type Weakness, giving it a little extra leverage in the Fighting-type matchups.
In Tier Two, we find Victini VMAX, another emerging threat from Battle Styles. Victini VMAX easily takes advantage of the vast number of Pokemon V being used in Standard as the Sword & Shield block continues, and it’s also able to take advantage of the plethora of Fire-type tools in the Standard format, including Welder. In a similar vein, we also see Blacephalon. Blacephalon plays nearly identically to Victini VMAX when it comes to a lot of its partners, but instead of trying to take easy one-hit Knock Outs with Max Victory, Blacephalon takes advantage of the vast number of Tag Team Pokemon-GX and Pokemon VMAX with more resource-intensive, yet amazingly favorable Prize trades.
Lastly in Tier Two, there is the tried-and-true Lucario and Melmetal-GX / Zacian V. As usual, Lucario and Melmetal-GX proves to be a powerful threat due to the high amount of “perfect math” that can easily be offset by Full Metal Wall GX and Metal Goggles. In addition, Zamazenta V and its Dauntless Shield continues to be an annoyance to all of the VMAX decks of Standard, claiming plenty of easy victories if the opponent fails to properly prepare.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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