Hello everyone! It’s great to have all of you here reading this article, especially after recent events. Before I get into the deck I’ve got for you, I want to briefly go over the early Chilling Reign Standard metagame, as there has been a bit of a shakeup from the Battle Styles meta we had before. While many existing archetypes have stuck around, several have gotten substantially stronger, and a few new archetypes have also joined the top ranks.
The most notable aspect of the new meta is the emergence of Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX as a top-tier deck. Though it’s still somewhat prohibitive cost-wise, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX has quickly become one of the most played decks in the format, even topping Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX’s meta share in some early events. The initial tournament results for the deck have also been stellar, including multiple major wins and Top Cut finishes. Plenty of people had optimistic opinions about Calyrex, but I’m not sure anyone had expected it to be so good right away! A few other Chilling Reign decks have also seen play, such as Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX and various Rapid Strike decks (Blaziken VMAX, Malamar), and while none have seen quite the level of dominance of Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX, they are nonetheless strong options. When it comes to playtesting for pre-rotation events, you will definitely want to be aware of these decks.
As one might expect, the meta has quickly adjusted to the dominance of Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX. Specifically, several counter decks have arisen, including ADP / Galarian Moltres V and some Weavile-GX decks, while the meta share of existing Darkness decks, such as Eternatus VMAX, has increased as well. As with previous set releases, we haven’t seen many decks drop out of the meta entirely, though most existing decks have had their share of it drop slightly as a result of the increased number of archetypes. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX has seen some major improvements, and non-Ability decks have gotten relatively stronger thanks to Path to the Peak, but there has been a clear drop in the number of Welder and Mewtwo and Mew-GX decks from before. While it’s still early in the Chilling Reign meta, these trends are worth keeping in mind.
It is into this environment that we will be introducing the deck in this article. Sandaconda VMAX isn’t a Shadow Rider counter deck — quite the opposite, given Calyrex’s Resistance to Fighting — but I’ve built it in such a way that Calyrex is not a matchup to be afraid of. While you don’t necessarily need to play a hard counter to Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX, you don’t want to play a deck that has a bad matchup against it either! Sandaconda also happens to be quite good against many of the Calyrex counter decks in turn, especially Eternatus VMAX, and it can hold its own against the rest of the format. As far as Chilling Reign archetypes go, Sandaconda VMAX is one of the most underrated, as it has, at least for me, proven strong enough to be considered part of the Standard top tier.
In contrast to Calyrex, Sandaconda VMAX is a decidedly unhyped card. It’s seeing very little play, and not much content has been made about it. On the one hand, this means Sandaconda is an inexpensive deck to build — you can currently pick up a 4-4 line for around $12 — and it won’t necessarily be something your opponents will have tested against. On the other hand, it can also give the impression that Sandaconda VMAX simply isn’t any good.
Having tried it out, that impression is not true. The strength of Sandaconda VMAX comes from its spread damage, its low attack cost, and the variety of Trainer cards you can use to take advantage of those strengths. On its own, Sand Pulse is lackluster, but with Telescopic Sight, its spread damage becomes a legitimate threat. At a rate of 60 damage per turn, you can quickly get your opponent’s Pokemon into OHKO range, or even win the game outright. Since Sand Pulse only requires one Fighting Energy, this also means that Sandaconda VMAX is a prime target for Cheryl, since you can simply re-attach an Energy and continue your spread assault.
Between those two Trainers alone, you have a deadly strategy. That is, if your opponent cannot OHKO your Sandaconda VMAX, it’s easy to spread an overwhelming amount of damage around their board before they can even take a single Knock Out. Winning 6-0 is not uncommon with this deck, even against hard-hitting opponents like Victini VMAX or Zacian V. And spread damage isn’t your only way to win — you can use also it to set up KOs on VMAXs or other tanky Pokemon. Against those kinds of decks, the spread damage is more important for softening up the opponent’s Pokemon than for taking Knock Outs and winning by itself. In those matchups, you can think of it along the lines of how Tapu Koko worked with Zoroark-GX or Tapu Bulu-GX, in that it helps you to set up multiple two-hit KOs on the board later in the game. There are a few ways to build around Sandaconda VMAX, but the approach I’ve had the most success with is to pair it with another spread-damage Pokemon: Quick Shooting Inteleon.
The Inteleon Engine
While Sandaconda VMAX’s spread damage is effective on its own, it’s the extra pecks from Quick Shooting that put this archetype over the edge. The extra 20 per turn helps to shore up damage on any obnoxious walls that Sandaconda might encounter, and if you can get multiple Inteleon into play, you can pull off a lot of Knock Outs that might otherwise be out of reach. Inteleon pairs perfectly with Sandaconda’s spread strategy, so it’s an incredible partner given what we are trying to accomplish.
In addition, the Inteleon line provides consistency thanks to Drizzile‘s Shady Dealings. This Ability helps you find Telescopic Sight, or any other Trainer card you might need for a given situation. Likewise, it allows you to play lower counts of those Trainer cards than you might otherwise need to. Because the Drizzile provides so much consistency on its own, it’s easy to put the Inteleon line into decks without hurting the consistency of the deck overall. In a deck like Sandaconda, where it’s especially necessary to find particular Trainers, Drizzile really shines!
In addition to Sandaconda, I’ve also taken to including Inteleon in Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and Dragapult VMAX decks, where it synergizes with their Bench-damaging attacks. I also use it in Malamar, where it provides extra damage and consistency while also searching out Rapid Strike cards, and in Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX, where it can help bump the damage up so Max Lance can KO Tag Teams. Basically anything with a bit of room, if it can take advantage of some extra damage pecks, can happily include Inteleon. Even if you don’t decide to play Sandaconda VMAX, I would still recommend picking up a line of this amazing support Pokemon to have ready to go.
Here is my list for Sandaconda VMAX / Inteleon:
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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