Icy Stars — A New Look at Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX

Hello everyone! Brilliant Stars will soon be here, online events with it should be starting soon, and with any luck, so will official events barring a last-minute Utah cancellation.

In my last article, I talked a lot about how Brilliant Stars will affect existing archetypes. The main conclusion there was that Mew VMAX decks would become a lot stronger, bench-damaging decks would become weaker, and the rest of the meta would warp around that shift. While we don’t have any results from Brilliant Stars events from this side of the world (at least, not at the time of my writing this), we do have some Japanese results to go off of thanks to their City League events.

While that format isn’t quite a one-to-one with our own due to the difficulty of acquiring certain cards (such as Rotom Phone), it is rather close, to the point that you can use it as a solid starting point for exploring the Brilliant Stars meta. Looking at those results, it is clear that Mew VMAX is a dominant deck as expected. Non-Pokemon V decks — Malamar in particular — have also been doing well, as have Single Strike decks (presumably due to their strong matchup against Fusion Strike decks). The rest of the format has been diverse, though those three archetypes seem to be more successful than the others. Aside from those three, there is one other deck which has been consistently finishing well: Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX. Were it not for this article title tipping you off, this may have come as a bit of a surprise, as Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX isn’t a Mew VMAX counter quite like Single Strike and Malamar decks are. In fact, in the pre-Brilliant Stars format, Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX has a pretty bad matchup against Mew VMAX decks, despite being teched heavily for it with Path to the Peak and Fan of Waves. With Mew VMAX gaining so much from Brilliant Stars, it is interesting that Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX might actually have a good matchup against it. What’s more, the Japanese lists haven’t been disruption focused like many of the current pre-Brilliant Stars Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX lists have been — in fact, many don’t seem specifically teched to beat Mew VMAX at all. How then has Ice Rider been able to be successful? 

The New Ice Rider

Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX isn’t a deck I went over in my last article, but it has gained quite a lot from Brilliant Stars. Like almost every other deck, Choice Belt is a great addition, particularly given the already high damage output from Max Lance. With Choice Belt, the maximum damage output from Max Lance increases to 280, which is awfully close to the OHKO range of other Pokemon VMAX. By combining the extra damage from Choice Belt and a Leon, you can pump that up to 310 — the exact damage needed to OHKO a Mew VMAX. Fusion Strike Energy prevents you from using your normal Quick Shooting strategy to augment your damage, and while you can get around that by using Fan of Waves, it can still be a bit dicey if your opponent can attach multiple Fusion Strike Energy to one Mew, not to mention that you can’t use Quick Shooting until turn three, at which point you may already be too far behind. The Choice Belt + Leon combo gets around that issue. Of course, you also will have Quick Shooting, so the damage output in this deck is suddenly a fairly large threat. Even tankier Pokemon VMAX like Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and Eternatus VMAX can find themselves on the receiving end of a OHKO once you add everything up! The extra damage from Choice Belt changes Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX from an efficient 2HKO oriented deck, to one that can focus on OHKOs, even while maintaining the same level of speed and consistency. 

If you want, you can simply take an existing Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX / Inteleon list, add in two or three Choice Belt and a Leon, and you’ll have a greatly improved deck compared to what you had before Brilliant Stars. However, while the resulting deck will be better against most Pokemon VMAX decks, it will still have a pretty tough matchup against Mew VMAX. The problem here is that Mew VMAX also benefits greatly from Choice Belt, and likewise has a much easier time getting OHKOs against Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX. The disruption aspect will give you a decent chance, but I’ve found that in general, if the Mew VMAX player can get a OHKO, they’ll tend to win the matchup. With Mew VMAX becoming such a central focus of the meta, I wouldn’t recommend playing a deck with a poor matchup against it, and since the existing Ice Rider lists don’t quite meet that standard, I can’t recommend sticking with them. That’s not to say they are a terrible play — realistically, you can do quite well with them, especially if you can get a bit lucky in the Mew VMAX matches — but there are better options. 

And with that, we’ve come to the end of this article! Just kidding, as this certainly isn’t the stopping point for Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX decks when it comes to Brilliant Stars! I mentioned before how some of the Japanese lists don’t actually play any specific anti-Mew VMAX techs, and that they don’t play the Path to the Peak and Fan of Waves that existing Ice Rider lists have used to slow Mew down. Instead, these decks take a bit of a different approach, both in terms of deck construction and strategy. Rather than disrupt, these lists double down on the speed and consistency aspect of Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX, but switch things up by introducing a new secondary attacker, one whose tankiness and lower Prize yield helps to turn the tide in the battle against other aggressive decks like Mew VMAX. The new Pokemon in question is Arceus VSTAR, and its inclusion gives an entirely new dimension to this archetype. 

A New Partner

One of the more awkward things about playing Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX is the fact that when playing it, you necessarily have to attack with a Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX in order to do an adequate amount of damage. If you’re equally trading OHKOs or 2HKOs, this means that there won’t be any point where you can reliably force your opponent to take more than two Knock Outs, or make up any ground if you happen to fall behind. In some pre-Brilliant Stars lists, this issue was addressed by including Suicune V. Suicune V is somewhat squishy though if you don’t add Cape of Toughness along with it, and its damage output, while high, isn’t high enough to reliably OHKO other Pokemon V early on, though Choice Belt does help in that regard. In contrast, Arceus VSTAR is among the tankiest two-Prize Pokemon out there, which gives it a ton of utility when fighting a Prize race against other Pokemon V. Even with Choice Belt, Arceus VSTAR cannot be OHKO’d by Zacian V or Suicune V, and it is out of the KO range of even many Pokemon VMAX. The best example is against Mew VMAX, where they’ll need to have both a Choice Belt and two Power Tablet to OHKO Arceus VSTAR with anything other than a four-Fusion Energy Melodious Echo. Arceus VSTAR’s damage output is strong too, as it can OHKO many Pokemon V with a Choice Belt attached, even if it also has a damage reducing effect from using Double Turbo Energy.

This build of Ice Rider takes a more aggressive path to victory, as you’ll see below, so having a tanky two-Prize Pokemon like Arceus VSTAR can help to turn the tide in what might otherwise be a losing 2HKO exchange. More importantly, by using Arceus VSTAR, you can increase the number of Knock Outs that your opponent needs to take by one, since they can’t win by KOing an Arceus VSTAR and a Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX like they could if they KO two Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX. If you can make them miss a OHKO on the Arceus VSTAR — which tends to happen a lot — then you’ll be at an even bigger advantage. From there, you also get to add in the incredible consistency boost that you get from having Arceus VSTAR’s Starbirth Ability once a game, which can all but guarantee that you’ll have the resources you need to get a turn-two Knock Out. From those two aspects alone, Arceus VSTAR can completely turn around what may have otherwise been tricky matchups. Last but not least, you have the Energy acceleration from Arceus VSTAR’s Trinity Nova attack, which is the final piece that allows this aggressive Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX deck to consistently win games. 

At first glance, the Energy acceleration from Trinity Nova may not seem like the most helpful thing, since Max Lance only needs two Energy, and Melony already gives us some Energy acceleration. However, in the context of an aggressive Ice Rider deck, the extra three Energy from Trinity Nova can be critical. When you have those extra Energy attachments, you won’t be as reliant on Melony to attack, which means that you can use Boss's Orders or Leon instead. As such, you’ll be able to truly take advantage of the Choice Belt + Leon combo to get those OHKOs. Trinity Nova also makes it easier to continually attack without using Melony even when you’re discarding two Energy per attack. So, if you need to, you can win by using Leon twice in a row, or Boss’s Orders twice in a row. Those kinds of scenarios come up quite often, so it’s nice to be able to actually take advantage of them. In fact, many games with this deck will be won by those exact lines of play, to the point that the strategy probably wouldn’t work without that Energy acceleration.

From the other direction, Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX makes a good partner for Arceus VSTAR thanks to its efficient damage output and good typing. The Water-type is a naturally strong type for Arceus VSTAR because of the extra acceleration from Melony, which gives you the ability to power up an Arceus VSTAR in a single turn if needed. This means that you can get off a turn two attack even if you get unlucky and you miss a first-turn Energy attachment, or if your opponent has a fast start and can KO a benched Arceus V with an attached Energy. Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX also has an advantage in that it doesn’t actually need Trinity Nova in order to power up; that is, you can use it without using Arceus VSTAR first if you need to. This is definitely an important aspect against matchups where Arceus VSTAR isn’t as useful, and it also means that this deck is far more consistent than it would be if you needed to use Arceus VSTAR as your first attacker in every game. 

The New Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX / Arceus VSTAR Deck List

Before I go any further into the strategy of this deck, let me share with you my Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX / Arceus VSTAR list. This list is adapted from many of the Japanese City League lists that I have seen going around, with some refinements made to improve the deck following my own testing with it. Here’s the list:

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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