The Unstoppable Arceus — An Overview of Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR

Hello everyone! We’ve just had another exciting weekend of Pokemon, with multiple Regional Championships further showing the development of our post-rotation format. In addition, our first post-pandemic season of Cups and Challenges is underway, finally giving us a full slate of tournaments after a few years of limitations.

At the Regional events this weekend, two of the four — Singapore and Portland — were won by Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR decks. So far, three of the five major post-rotation tournaments — Singapore, Portland, and the EUIC — have been won by Arceus VSTAR, despite the fact that Arceus hasn’t seen nearly as much play as decks like Gardevoir ex, Lost Box, and Lugia VSTAR. At Portland this weekend, Arceus wasn’t even one of the top five decks in terms of meta share. So how has this deck been able to perform so far above expectations?

Since it came out, Arceus VSTAR has been a remarkably versatile card. Star Birth gives a burst of consistency to any deck that doesn’t need to use some other VSTAR Power, while Trinity Nova provides incredible Energy acceleration, as well as a solid amount of damage. With the Colorless Energy requirement of Trinity Nova, you can play it with pretty much anything, which means that if there’s any card that’s particularly excellent against the meta, Arceus can be an easily included engine to allow it to be usable. There are a lot of VSTARs and VMAXs that are solid, but can struggle with getting enough Energy to be effective. Trinity Nova tends to solve that problem entirely.

At the EUIC, this Energy acceleration was used to power up strong anti-meta cards in Duraludon VMAX and Alolan Vulpix VSTAR, cards which could wall off entire decks single-handedly. This method works extremely well in some formats, particularly if the top decks can be exploited by the conditions of those anti-meta Pokemon. When Lugia VSTAR decks can’t damage Duraludon VMAX, for instance, or Gardevoir decks can’t hit through Snow Mirage, these kinds of Arceus decks can turn those matchups into near-autowins.

If you have a deck that can automatically defeat the meta’s top decks, then you have a deck that can see incredible success — as these Arceus decks did at the EUIC. For such a deck to work, however, the environment has to be right. You have to have a solid understanding of the meta, the top meta decks have to have those weaknesses to take advantage of, and the other players need to not tech to solve those weaknesses. After the success of Duraludon VMAX and Alolan Vulpix VSTAR at the EUIC, that last criterion is a bit trickier to find, since players of decks that can’t hit around those Pokemon know that they need to have a tech to solve that problem, or they’ll lose to anyone copying the EUIC strategy. That isn’t to say it can’t still work — several players this weekend did have strong performances with lists similar to Alex Schemanske’s — but it is more difficult.

What’s interesting about the winning lists from this weekend is that they took nearly the opposite approach with their Arceus decks. That is, rather than focus on anti-meta Pokemon, these Arceus decks simply aimed to power up an extremely strong Pokemon — Giratina VSTAR — and beat the opponent with superior damage output. The Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR build isn’t nearly as meta-dependent, nor is it easy to tech against, since Giratina’s strategy of “hit hard” works pretty much the same way against any opponent. That isn’t to say that Giratina VSTAR doesn’t have good matchups — it certainly does — but rather, that there isn’t any simple way for an opponent to change their deck around to beat it.

So, unlike the Duraludon VMAX / Alolan Vulpix VSTAR approach, there won’t be an immediate decline in meta outlook for Giratina VSTAR, even though it just won two Regionals. This makes it an extremely intriguing play for this format, especially in tournaments where you might not know how exactly the meta will look. At League Cups, the meta can swing wildly by area; some might be a fairly standard representation of what you might see at a large tournament like a Regional Championship, whereas others are completely off the wall. If you travel for a Cup, or haven’t been familiar with what the local players have been playing, or are in one of those crazy areas where you don’t know what to expect week to week, then it can be nice to have a solid deck that isn’t dependent on encountering a particular meta. Going forward, I would expect Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR to continue to be a strong play, one which you’ll definitely want in your arsenal of decks.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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