Hello PokeBeach readers! Isaiah here, happily bringing you yet another article!
This week has been a big week for the Pokemon Trading Card Game! Notably, the Players Cup 25th Anniversary Invitational was streamed, with Alex Schemanske taking down the tournament once again with his Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX / Inteleon deck, which I covered in my previous article. Funny enough, Alex’s list is identical to the list he played for the Players Cup IV Global Finals, as he completely forgot to change any cards (or even the deck entirely!).
Through his run, Alex was even able to take down Azul Garcia Griego’s Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX deck in the second set of Grand Finals to grab the win in the end, however, this would not be the only Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX that Alex would have to overcome. In order to become the ultimate champion of the tournament, Alex had to take down the legendary Tsuguyoshi Yamato in a final boss battle, which he would ultimately end up losing. With that said, it was quite a remarkable performance for the Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX deck.
Also coming out of the Players Cup 25th Anniversary Invitational was the inclusion of Cobalion-GX in Inteleon-based decks. Notably, Natalie Millar and Henry Brand both used this card to great success, each winning multiple games thanks to the powerful Iron Rule GX attack. As we enter the final weeks of the card’s legality in Standard, I expect it to make a massive explosion in the format.
Lastly, and probably the most relevant to this article, is the fact that (unofficial) Evolving Skies Prerelease events have started up! I personally was able to go to one and got some unique cards, and the event as a whole was a blast! Of course, one of the set’s main attractions is the plethora of Pokemon V and Pokemon VMAX for each of the evolutions of Eevee. Notably, Umbreon VMAX is expected to shake up the format with its Ability that draws a perfect parallel to Luxray GL LV.X‘s Bright Look. Of course, we cannot talk about Evolving Skies without acknowledging the other ace of the set, Rayquaza VMAX! Hopefully, by the time the next set drops, official Prerelease events will be back up and running!
The Potential of Rayquaza VMAX
To put it simply, Rayquaza VMAX is incredibly powerful, boasting a non-existent damage cap that can easily reach insane numbers without too much of a commitment. Notably, only four Energy are needed to take a one-hit Knock Out on any VMAX in the format (except any with HP buffs from various effects). As if that was not enough, Rayquaza VMAX also has its incredible Azure Pulse Ability, allowing you to dig through your deck to find combo pieces that you need or even to refill your hand after it is wiped.
At this point, you already know that the topic of today’s article is going to be Rayquaza VMAX, but we will be focusing on two different variants, one with Flaaffy and one with Victini VMAX, built in the Team Up to Evolving Skies format. There are quite a few online events that will be played in this format’s brief existence, so let us start by taking a look at one of the potential top decks: Rayquaza VMAX / Flaaffy!
Rayquaza VMAX / Flaaffy
Upon the reveal of Evolving Skies, the first cards that jumped out at most players were the glaringly obvious synergy between Rayquaza VMAX and Flaaffy, drawing the direct parallel to Rayquaza-EX / Eelektrik strategies from 2012 through 2014. Being one of the most iconic decks from the late Black and White Block, people naturally flocked to the idea of experiencing this deck in their own way in 2021. Many people, myself included, sort of wrote off the Flaaffy build of Rayquaza VMAX, acknowledging the power of the combo, but expressing concerns of its feasibility, noting the natural issue of several Stage 1 Pokemon. Upon some deeper diving, I, along with many others, realized that things were much more realistic than we thought thanks to Rose acting as an extra boost of Energy acceleration for times where only one or two Flaaffy hit the board.
With this in mind, the next problem became making the deck consistent, which obviously is going to require a ton of search cards. Recently, I saw a list for the Sword and Shield to Evolving Skies format posted by Andrew Mahone that was running super well. Naturally, I used it for inspiration to put together this decklist, taking many of Mahone’s ideas and applying them to the Team Up format instead.
Here is my list for Rayquaza VMAX / Flaaffy:
Rayquaza VMAX Line
As the attacker of the deck and its main draw engine, it only makes sense that we play a thick line of Rayquaza VMAX. I have already talked a bit about the power level of Rayquaza VMAX, with its ability to take one-hit Knock Outs on any Pokemon VMAX with enough Energy, but I do not think I have talked enough about the strengths of the Max Burst attack as a whole. Sure, taking one-hit Knock Outs is good, it always has been, but unlike its previous Dragon Burst counterparts, Max Burst says “discard any amount of … Energy” rather than “discard all … Energy”. This change allows you to put together interesting two-hit Knock Outs while saving some Energy in the process.
In rare cases, doing this can actually save an Energy too. For example, going 100 (one Lightning Energy) + 180 (two Lightning Energy) scores a Knock Out on many relevant Tag Team Pokemon-GX, such as Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX.
This math can also apply when we consider Rayquaza V‘s surprisingly good attack, Spiral Burst. Acting as a weaker version of Max Burst, you can discard only two Energy in order to do 180 damage. If you were able to do this early, you could do an interesting play where on the second turn you Spiral Burst for 180 into an Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX, and then on turn three you can evolve, attach, and Max Burst for 100, taking a perfect Knock Out.
Flaaffy Line and One Mew
The true heart and soul of the Rayquaza VMAX / Flaaffy deck, Flaaffy’s Dynamotor Ability is a critical part of making this deck what it is. The consistent stream of Energy throughout a game onto your attackers as they are constantly discarded by Max Burst, Azure Pulse, and other methods is always extremely powerful, but when one Flaaffy translates to 80 damage, these Flaaffy become absolute powerhouses. Naturally, we play four Flaaffy and four Mareep (chosen for Growl and 70 HP) in order to make sure we have multiple in play all of the time. One of the biggest problems for the strategy of having a bunch of 90 HP Stage 1s on your Bench is always going to be spread attacks like Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX‘s G-Max Rapid Flow, so we must include a copy of Mew in order to make sure that they are protected for when we need them the most.
Tapu Koko Prism Star
As if four Flaaffy was not enough! Just for good measure, we include on copy of Tapu Koko Prism Star as an extra form of Dynamotor that can be slammed down at any time. The value of this varies pretty consistently, but you can usually use it to at least reach for the big 340 attack on a Pokemon VMAX, or in some cases, it can even be used to put Energy on two different Rayquaza VMAX, which can do a lot of making the deck’s damage ceiling go even higher than before.
At long last, Rose finally finds a strong place in the Standard Format. Rose is a naturally incredible card thanks to its ability to recover Energy (it can get back a mix of types!) and also power up the attack on Rayquaza VMAX as needed. Even better, though, Rose’s main drawback is, of course, the fact that you must discard your entire hand to use it. However, aside from the pain of discarding valuable resources, Rose’s primary drawback is essentially removed thanks to Azure Pulse being able to refill your hand immediately, even if it will only have three cards (but you can Azure Pulse more than once if need be!). With this all in mind, we still only include two copies of Rose because, while the card is insane, it is not always a necessity.
Three Air Balloon and Three Switch
A while back, I gave this split a try in a decklist for Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX and I fell in love almost immediately. The ability to have so many pivots on their own is incredibly nice, but being able to go Retreat with Air Balloon, use up to three Dynamotor, and Switch to have a fully loaded up Rayquaza VMAX out of nowhere seems super appealing, and the three Air Balloon plus three Switch split makes plenty of space for options like this while also leaving the option to get out of problematic situations if necessary.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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