Winning With the Little Guys — Another Look at Single-Prize Attackers in Standard

Hello everyone! We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming on Pokemon V and VMAX to bring you an article about Pokemon that only give up one Prize!

When Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX rotated out, I was hopeful that single-Prize decks might be able to make more of an impact, now that they wouldn’t have to deal with the oppressive threat of Altered Creation GX. Unfortunately, the Evolving Skies Standard format wasn’t all that conducive to single-Prize decks either. The big problem for single-Prize decks in 2022 has been Bench-damaging attacks, which tend to tear through them pretty effectively. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, Dragapult VMAX, and Jolteon VMAX have all dominated, taking up a large enough share of the meta to keep single-Prize decks from ever achieving a foothold. During the Evolving Skies format, those decks made up as much of a third of all the decks at any given event — not great when they’re your worst matchups!

Fast forward to today, however, and things have changed quite a bit. The emergence of Mew VMAX as the BDIF has shaken things up, and as a result, the Fusion Strike metagame is much more favorable to single-Prize decks. Not only do they tend to have a good matchup against Mew, they also benefit from Mew’s effects on the wider meta. Those Bench-damaging decks tend to have a poor matchup against Mew VMAX, so few players want to play them, and their meta share gets reduced. At the same time, the decks that can do well against Mew VMAX — Dark decks in particular — have seen their meta share rise, which further helps single-Prize decks since they match up well against those particular decks, too. The end result is that single-Prize decks are in a much stronger position than they were during the Evolving Skies format, and it has already begun to translate into stronger tournament results. Given that, I think it’s time to take another look at Standard’s single-Prize options! In this article, I’ll be taking a look at several different decks that I think have potential in this format. 

The Story of Malamar

Back in September, Grant and I wrote enthusiastically about a particular single-Prize deck that has seen a tremendous resurgence lately. That deck was Rapid Strike Malamar, and it is an excellent example of how the meta has changed to benefit single-Prize decks. It’s not terribly uncommon for a deck to get better after a new set release, but the interesting thing here is that the lists for these decks haven’t changed all that much — in fact, many of the Cinccino-based lists are within a few cards of the ones in the aforementioned articles. It would be one thing if the deck had gotten a ton of good cards from Fusion Strike, but as it turns out, the deck didn’t gain a single thing! The only thing that has changed is the metagame.

The key to Malamar’s resurgence is exactly what I’ve been talking about — Malamar has one of the best matchups of any deck against Mew VMAX, making it an excellent counter-meta pick. Yes, you’re still going to be in a lot of trouble if you run into Jolteon VMAX or Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, but that’s a much more manageable weakness when you aren’t running into those decks every three games. If you had played Malamar during those initial Evolving Skies days (before the meta got too bad for it), then you’ll be happy to know that the strategy for the deck is completely the same. If you aren’t as familiar with it, and want a more in-depth look at this deck, you should definitely check out those articles, as they go over many of the ins and outs of the archetype. You can find Grant’s article here, and mine here.

Malamar vs. Mew

I’m not going to go terribly in-depth on how to play Malamar, since we have the above articles, but I do want to give some advice regarding the Mew VMAX matchup. For the most part, you’ll want to treat it like your other VMAX matchups. Mew VMAX decks don’t have a lot of alternate attackers  at this point — most decks only run Mew, Genesect V, and Meloetta — so you don’t have to worry about any shenanigans in that regard. There are two ways they can make your job harder, though.

First, they can attack with Meloetta, so that you have to fight through a single-Prize Pokemon yourself. This effectively makes it so you need an additional attack to win. The other thing they can do is more technical: they can use a pair of Power Tablet to allow a Psychic Leap to OHKO a Malamar. This lets them get their Mew VMAX out of the way, forcing you to take a Knock Out on something else — perhaps another Meloetta. The possibility of that play also means that you can’t necessarily rely on being able to 2HKO a Mew VMAX. So, if you have the choice between missing a turn of attacks so that you can build up to a OHKO, or hitting them twice for a 2HKO, you should go with the first option. That choice is made easier by the fact that many current Mew VMAX lists don’t play Marnie, so it isn’t easy for them to punish that line of play. Mew VMAX is a strong deck, but aside from those two wrinkles, it’s a straightforward matchup.

If you’re looking for a single-Prize deck to play, it’s hard to do much better than Malamar right now. The deck has by far the best tournament results of any single-Prize deck, though to be fair it also has the highest meta share. It certainly isn’t the only option for those who want to shun multi-Prizers! The three decks below are all solid as well.

Galarian Obstagoon

First up for the new decks, we have Galarian Obstagoon, a sleek new Stage 2 deck that, like Malamar, is excellent against Mew VMAX. Here’s the list:

Pokemon (21)

3x Galarian Obstagoon (SWSH8 #161)1x Galarian Obstagoon (SWSH1 #119)2x Galarian Linoone (SWSH8 #160)4x Galarian Zigzagoon (SWSH1 #117)2x Inteleon (SWSH6 #43)1x Inteleon (SWSH1 #58)4x Drizzile (SWSH1 #56)4x Sobble (SWSH6 #41)

Trainers (34)

3x Marnie (SWSH1 #169)2x Professor's Research (SWSH45 #60)3x Raihan (SWSH7 #152)2x Boss's Orders (SWSH45 #58)4x Quick Ball (SWSH1 #179)4x Level Ball (SWSH5 #129)4x Evolution Incense (SWSH1 #163)4x Rare Candy (SWSH1 #180)4x Scoop Up Net (SWSH2 #165)2x Ordinary Rod (SWSH1 #171)1x Energy Search (SWSH1 #161)1x Fan of Waves (SWSH5 #127)

Energy (5)

5x Darkness Energy (EVO #97)

If you’ve read my recent article about Sableye V, the concept here will seem awfully familiar! The strategy with this deck is to use a combination of Inteleon and Galarian Zigzagoon to put damage on your opponent’s Pokemon so that you can hit them for boosted damage with Merciless Strike. The one-for-150 attack is nice and efficient, especially when it comes with a ton of bonus damage from your Abilities. With that damage output, you should be able to 2HKO any VMAX, and while you can’t quite OHKO most Pokemon V, you should be able to get them close enough to take the Knock Out with your Abilities on the following turn. Galarian Obstagoon is also conveniently a Dark type, which theoretically makes it very strong against Mew VMAX if you can get around their Fusion Strike Energy. This list plays Fan of Waves to make sure that’s doable, and with the Drizzile engine, it’s also easy to find it when you need it. 

Like with Sableye, the early-game plan is to find as many Basics as you can, so that you can start evolving as soon as possible into your Obstagoon and Inteleon. Being able to use Shady Dealings to find Rare Candy makes it much easier to get your Galarian Obstagoon into play, so you should reliably be able to attack with it by turn two. As this is both a Stage 2 deck and a single-Prize deck, however, there can be some unique challenges when it comes to making sure you have an attacker every turn. While Galarian Obstagoon’s HP isn’t as small as most single-Prizers, it’s still low enough to get Knocked Out every turn in many matchups. This kind of comes with the territory for a single-Prize deck, as your strategy is to win by exploiting a favorable Prize trade, not withstand any attacks yourself. But, if you have to use five or six attackers to win (not uncommon), that means with this deck that you have to set up that many Stage 2s. That brings us to a pretty big problem: we can only play four Rare Candy! If we want to be able to attack with Obstagoon more than four times, that means we have to be able to evolve naturally via Galarian Linoone. So, when setting up, you are going to want to make sure to have three Galarian Zigzagoon in play, rather than only two. Don’t put down your fourth Sobble! The reasoning here is that by having three Zigzagoon, you can evolve one immediately via Rare Candy (so that you can attack on turn two), and evolve the other two into Linoone. If you do things the other way and only have two Zigzagoon in play, then you’re going to run into an issue getting a sixth Obstagoon into play. That’s because while you can evolve once via Linoone in that case, after that, you’ll have to evolve via Rare Candy if you want to keep attacking every turn. If you have two Zigzagoon on the bench, that gives you the opportunity to evolve into Linoone twice. Additionally, you don’t actually have to evolve them on that second turn in order to get the Linoone benefits, as you can do that later in the game if needed, since you have the “extra” Zigzagoon to evolve in that case. Once you have used both Linoone, then you can put down the fourth Sobble with no worries.

The other interesting thing you might notice about this deck is that it plays Raihan, despite the fact that Merciless Strike only requires one Energy. Raihan tends to be a great card in single-Prize decks because you’re getting Knocked Out nearly every turn, especially when you need multiple cards (Rare Candy and Evolution Pokemon) to replenish your attacker. Raihan takes care of our Energy requirement while also letting us search for whatever other piece we need to get our Obstagoon back into play. It isn’t quite as good as Rosa was, but it is a bit better than alternatives like Skyla. By playing Raihan, we can also cut down on our count of basic Energy, which helps us fit it in without impacting other consistency cards. Drizzile and Inteleon are nice, but their impact can be reduced later when you start running out of cards like Evolution Incense; Raihan is a nice supplement to Shady Dealings that can get you through in those scenarios.

The matchup spread for this deck ends up a lot like other single-Prize decks, in that it’s best against decks that give you more Prizes per Knock Out. Weakness gives it an excellent matchup against Mew VMAX as well, so that like Malamar, Obstagoon can be a great anti-Mew option. As an added bonus, this deck also an auto-win against Zacian V, so long as you can get your Obstruct Galarian Obstagoon into play and attacking. (Note that this doesn’t work against decks like Suicune V, however, as they can still damage you with their Inteleon.) It also tends to be slightly better than average against other single-Prize decks thanks to the bonus damage from Zigzagoon and Inteleon. The deck isn’t quite as consistent as Malamar, and it does have a lower damage cap, but it’s an all-around solid choice nonetheless. 

Single Strike Morpeko

Alright, so far, both of the decks we’ve looked at have been good plays against Mew VMAX. But let’s say you really don’t like Mew. Maybe the thought of playing against it at all makes you angry. Not only do you want a deck that auto-wins against Mew, you also want a Pokemon whose angry appearance matches your own deep-seated rage. If that oddly specific description fits you, then I imagine you were the inspiration for the new Morpeko card! This new Single Strike deck is fun; it’s explosive; and, yes, it beats Mew. Here’s the list:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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