Back from the Dead — Shadow Rider’s Return to Standard

Hello PokeBeach readers! Isaiah here, and I am happy to be bringing you another article! Last time, I talked about the newly popular Mewtwo V-UNION deck that took the North America International Championships by storm, and since then, the deck has consistently proved itself in the online tournament scene. In that article, I talked a bit about the Stadium card PokéStop being an extremely strong card in the Mewtwo V-UNION archetype, but that’s not the only strong card in Pokemon GO expansion. As of late, a resurgence of Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX has been seen in the online event series, and this is all thanks to the Pokemon GO expansion, but in order to properly understand why Pokemon GO was such a big deal, we must take a look at what went wrong for Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX.

What went wrong for Shadow Rider?

When Chilling Reign released last year, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX was one of the best decks in the format. Thanks to Gengar and Mimikyu-GX and Trevenant and Dusknoir-GX, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX decks were given excellent ways to buy time in the early part of the game while you are accumulating Psychic Energy for massive Max Geist attacks in the late game. This strategy proved to be incredibly effective, winning many online tournaments and putting up strong results in the Player’s Cup IV Global Finals.

Shortly before Evolving Skies released, a Promo Supporter card called Sabrina and Brycen was released. Initially, the card was designed to be a remake of the then-recently banned Bellelba and Brycen-Man in order to keep the spirit of the card in Standard format while making it significantly less powerful by completely changing its text. By a complete fluke, this promo releasing was a massive boost in consistency to a Weavile-GX Toolbox deck that had been floating around for a while. As a result, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX dropped off in play significantly until rotation. Once rotation happened, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX was given a brief breath of fresh air. The amount of decks with the Stadium card Path to the Peak floating around proved to be a major threat to the deck, in addition to the deck’s issues with Suicune V / Ludicolo. Nonetheless, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX perservered through the format, settling comfortably in the lower end of Tier 2.

However, once Fusion Strike rolled around, things got much worse for Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX. All of a sudden, Mew VMAX threatened a one-hit Knock Out on a Shadow Rider Calyrex V before you could even set up, and if that was not enough, there was a massive influx of Darkness-type attackers like Galarian Moltres V that, due to its shared Weakness with Mew VMAX, caused Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX to border on being unplayable. In Brilliant Stars this problem did not get much better due to the explosion of Galarian Moltres decks as well as the extremely popular Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon deck, which typically played multiple Path to the Peak Stadium cards.

At long last, one of Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX’s biggest issues would come to an end with Astral Radiance, thanks to the the emergence of Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR. The Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR deck takes an exceptional matchup against Mew VMAX thanks to the combination of Roxanne and Path to the Peak. Most of the time, this combo alone can completely shut down Mew VMAX on its own, essentially making it so the first half of the game barely matters. As such, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX has suddenly been given a small chance with one of its biggest threats gone, but a new issue emerged, which is the fact that the deck still struggled to trade favorably with Arceus VSTAR or Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR.

At long last, we have made it to Pokémon GO, which solved the deck’s issue of favorable trades in not one, but two different ways. The first and most popular of these ways was with Mewtwo VSTAR,  a powerful new Pokemon VSTAR that can take on the role of being the deck’s primary attacker to deal with threats while Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX offers support with Energy attachments, card draw, and as an extra attacker if needed. The other option is a bit less popular, but it uses the new Lunatone and Solrock as both a powerful form of Energy acceleration in addition to bringing some offensive power to the table in the form of a single Prize attacker. With that, let’s look at the Mewtwo VSTAR version first.

Shadow Rider with Mewtwo VSTAR

As some readers may remember, one of the most common partners for Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX when it was a strong deck in the past was Alcremie VMAX, which offered a way to take a one-hit Knock Out with a relatively low number of Energy in play while also not having the critical Darkness-type Weakness, forcing the opponent to use a Boss's Orders if they wanted to take advantage of Darkness-type Pokemon that their deck may include for the matchup. Mewtwo VSTAR is Alcremie VMAX’s spiritual successor, offering the possibility of more damage for less of an Energy commitment per turn, only requiring three and a Choice Belt to do 300 damage rather than needing five Energy. In addition, Mewtwo VSTAR is only worth two Prize cards, which is extremely significant if you want to optimize the number of Prize cards the opponent has to take.

With a Pokemon VSTAR in a Pokemon VMAX deck, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX is able to play similar to Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX and force the opponent to Knock Out one Pokemon VSTAR and two Pokemon VMAX. Alternatively, one could also go all-in with Mewtwo VSTAR and try to end the game as fast as possible by taking Knock Out after Knock Out. Regardless, the combination of two exceptionally strong Psychic-type attackers alongside the amazing draw support from Underworld Door proves to be an extremely strong pairing, easily capable of dismantling many of the format’s top decks.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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