Hello PokeBeach readers! Isaiah here, and I am happy to be writing another article for you all! Last time I talked about the Radiant Charizard variant of the Lost Zone archetype and why I felt that it was in a great place in the current format, and as the Milwaukee Regionals have just concluded and we get closer to the Fresno Regional Championships, my position on this deck stays the same, with the deck being one of my main considerations for the Milwaukee Regional Championship due to its reliable and straightforward gameplans in most matchups, even if it’s not what I ended up playing.
Speaking of reliable and straightforward gameplans, there is no single deck in the format with a more stable gameplan than Arceus VSTAR decks. Back in the Silver Tempest format, Arceus VSTAR was struggling quite a bit to see reliable results. The deck was occasionally doing well, often with at least one in the Top Eight, but this was almost exclusively because of the pairing of Arceus VSTAR with Duraludon VMAX, which provided a formidable strategy against most of the decks in the format between its large amounts of HP to beat Lost Zone decks as well as the Skyscraper Ability to beat the infamous Lugia VSTAR. After rotation, however, Arceus VSTAR seems to be back to its old glory, having won both the Europe International Championship as well as the Portland Regional Championship, and the deck had additional spots in the Top Eight at both of these events as well as almost every major event that it has not won since rotation. With a remarkable surge in success, one has to wonder if the deck was pretty that bad before rotation or if it was just Lugia VSTAR’s obscene strength that kept it down. Additionally, it also begs the question; what could have possibly changed for Arceus VSTAR decks, so in order to best understand this, let’s take a look at what makes Arceus VSTAR tick in the current format.
What changed for Arceus VSTAR?
Since it came out, Arceus VSTAR has been one of the most dominant forces in the game, infamously winning every North American major from the day events came back in 2022 all the way through the North America International Championship, and the card even won the World Championship! This all is for a good reason, though. The card is objectively absurd, and there truly is not a better way of putting that.
It just does everything.
Trinity Nova does solid damage, doing enough to take a two-hit Knock Out on any of the Pokemon in the format, and is even capable of taking one-hit Knock Outs on Pokemon V with the help of Choice Belt. Thanks to Double Turbo Energy, Arceus VSTAR is also capable of attacking for just two attachments instead of needing three, meaning that you can start dishing out this type of damage on the second turn. Not just that, but in addition to the solid damage output, you also get to attach Energy from your deck to your Pokemon V in play, which can include the follow-up Arceus VSTAR if necessary, making an Arceus VSTAR deck almost entirely self-sufficient once they get up and running. Speaking of self-sufficiency, Arceus VSTAR’s VSTAR Power happens to be one of the most absurd Abilities ever printed on a Pokemon card. Starbirth basically just says “search your deck for a turn-two Trinity Nova,” which will typically set you on course for winning the game. The most absurd part, though, is when you draw into the cards to naturally use Trinity Nova on the second turn. It is in these cases where Starbirth is able to show how good it is. Now Starbirth is able to set up huge combos, missing pieces for a Judge plus Path to the Peak combo, or the pieces necessary to wall your opponent out of the game. Another surprisingly important aspect of Arceus VSTAR is Arceus V, as it gives Arceus VSTAR decks an incredible option for when they are forced to go second in the event that you draw into a Double Turbo Energy.
With the basics of Arceus VSTAR considered, we then have to look at potential partners. These can generally be split into two categories; The Path to the Peak decks, and the Counter Toolbox decks. Let’s start things off with the Path to the Peak decks.
Arceus VSTAR / Path to the Peak
In general, these decks are the more simple variety of the two. They are focused on the raw power of Arceus VSTAR and its potential partners, as well as the strength of the combination of Path to the Peak and Judge. The combination of Ability Lock and a disruption Supporter is one of the most blatant examples of a tried and true combo in the Pokemon TCG, with cases of them seeing play as far back as 2005 with Rocket's Admin.in Medicham ex decks. In the current Standard format, a surprisingly large amount of decks are heavily reliant on the Abilities of Pokemon with a Rule Box, such as Lugia VSTAR and its Summoning Star or Genesect V and its Fusion Strike System. Due to the format’s reliance on Abilities like these, Path to the Peak is able to completely cripple these strategies before they even have the chance to get moving, or if it fails to do that, it has a good chance to at least slow the opponent down, giving Arceus VSTAR decks the chance to get ahead. Due to the nature of Judge, which draws very few cards, and Path to the Peak, which locks you out of using some Abilities that help you draw after a Judge, the rest of these decks are typically super streamlined. More often than not, these decks are just the Arceus VSTAR line, the secondary attacker, and Bibarel as a form of card draw so that you can continue to find pieces you need without being forced to play a draw Supporter every turn.
In these builds, the supporting attacker also is typically a high-HP Pokemon that can do heavy amounts of damage in matchups where just using Arceus VSTAR is insufficient. At the 2022 North America International Championship as well as at the 2022 World Championship, the partner Pokemon was Flying Pikachu VMAX due to its ability to take a one-hit Knock Out on Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR while not being easily Knocked Out in return. This strategy has been consistently successful in some capacity for a large amount of the time that Arceus VSTAR has been legal, and is certainly not going away any time soon.
Most recently, though, the most popular Arceus VSTAR deck with Path to the Peak has been the variant that uses Giratina VSTAR. As a bulky attacker with no Weakness, we are already off to a great start, but with the attack Lost Impact, Giratina VSTAR is pretty much the best possible attacker for this strategy. The attacker is relatively low maintenance once the game gets rolling, it is capable of taking huge one-hit Knock Outs, and, again, the card is pretty bulky and typically can take a hit. This strategy has proven to be so successful that it won the Portland Regional Championship, cementing itself as one of the more powerful decks in the Standard format. With that in mind, how about we look at an Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR deck list so that we can get a better idea of what we are working with?
Arceus VSTAR / Giratina VSTAR Deck List
Key Card Inclusions
This specific card has a pretty brief explanation, but it is still important. In the current format, Bidoof from Crown Zenith is by far the best one. With just one Retreat Cost and the inability to be damaged while on the Bench, it doesn’t get much better than that. With that said, lately I have been wondering if this particular Bidoof is actually the best option. While the card has a ton of benefits, it is also only 60 HP. More often than not, this should not matter, but against Lost Zone, it comes up a fair amount. Lately, I have been playing a lot of SableZard, as my last article discussed, and more often than not, I end up winning the matchup by using Sableye to Knock Out Bidoof and Skwovet at the same time, or perhaps to set up a Knock Out on a different Pokemon later on. If you switch to the 70 HP Bidoof from Brilliant Stars, the math works out much less perfectly, but you also sacrifice some of the other benefits as a result. I do not know which one is the best option yet, but I felt that expressing my thoughts on the matter was absolutely worth it.
The inclusion of Cheren's Care is quite a contentious decision, as the card has its fair share of value in a lot of matchups, but in some matchups, the card is completely useless. In my opinion, this card is an auto-include, as it helps the Lost Zone matchup significantly, which can sometimes be one of this deck’s more challenging matchups.
In this particular list, I play two Choice Belt, as the card is by far the most generically useful damage modifier, but going forward, I may consider a Cleansing Gloves as a method of increasing the damage output against Gardevoir ex. While Gardevoir ex is not threatening a one-hit Knock Out, having the option to take an easier Knock Out is extremely valuable. Additionally, an infrequently relevant play that becomes possible with Cleansing Gloves is that you can put a Double Turbo Energy on Giratina VSTAR in order to deliberately be 20 short of Knocking Out a Gardevoir ex, making it impossible for them to accelerate Energy onto it. In some situations, this play can be game-winning as the opponent will no longer be able to supply the Energy to retreat Gardevoir ex.
Arceus VSTAR / Counters
Earlier, I mentioned that there is a second type of Arceus VSTAR that is popular — the Counter Toolbox style of decks. This build is far older than the Path to the Peak builds, dating back to early 2022 in the form of Arceus VSTAR / Inteleon / Galarian Moltres, which Ian Robb used to win the 2022 Indianapolis Regional Championship. In the early days, these types of decks were not super consistent, more focused on using Arceus VSTAR as the engine to make a somewhat inconsistent deck run smoother, but as time went on, things would shift. The first of the modern style of Arceus VSTAR Counter Box decks also emerged at the 2022 World Championship. Both of the finalist decks were Arceus VSTAR counter decks, focusing on Flying Pikachu VMAX for Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR, as I said previously, and Hisuian Decidueye VSTAR to beat other Arceus VSTAR decks. The combination of these two attackers proved to be enough to decimate the competition and paved the way for the modern Arceus VSTAR counter decks. Going forward, Arceus VSTAR counter decks shifted from being coherent strategies that were generally strong and accented by Arceus VSTAR to now they take on the role of being an amalgam of different attackers that are techs for specific matchups that would never work on their own, but Arceus VSTAR and its Starbirth acts as the glue that holds these decks together.
More often than not, these decks are based on attackers like Flying Pikachu VMAX, Alolan Vulpix VSTAR, Espeon VMAX, or Aerodactyl VSTAR. Each attacker is meant to fit a specific role to gatekeep the opponent from winning the game while you slowly are able to win the game with the attacker that fits the situation best. While these decks were pretty good during the Silver Tempest format, largely thanks to the strength of Aerodactyl VSTAR against Lugia VSTAR decks, during the new Scarlet and Violet format following the rotation Arceus VSTAR counter decks have started to make a massive resurgence. The first instance of this was at the Europe International Championship, which was won by Alex Schemanske and his Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX / Alolan Vulpix VSTAR deck, built to wall Lugia VSTAR, Gardevoir ex, and Lost Zone decks out of the game entirely due to the variety of attackers. This explosive finish paved the way to the next incarnation of the Arceus VSTAR counter deck, which has been tearing up events lately, Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX / Umbreon VMAX.
The combination of attacks in this deck is extremely unusual and quite fascinating. For the most part, the deck is almost identical to the idea of Alex Schemanske’s deck. Duraludon VMAX is mainly for Lugia VSTAR, as the deck has no great way to deal damage to it other than with Single Strike Urshifu VMAX. Thanks to Lost City, you are able to slowly get rid of all of the Lost Zone decks’ attackers by permanently removing them from play. Finally, with Umbreon VMAX, you are able to cover Gardevoir ex and Mew VMAX decks with the same attacker while also having access to a free Boss's Ordersstyle effect when you evolve thanks to Dark Signal. The deck has a pretty solid game plan against almost every major deck in the format, leaving many decks unable to beat it unless they play dedicated counters or they get a bit lucky to see you not properly set up. This deck has seen a remarkably consistent amount of success since its inception, constantly finding itself in the Top Eight of major events around the World, proving that the deck is here to stay for the upcoming major events.
Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX / Umbreon VMAX Deck List
Key Card Inclusions
One of my favorite Radiant Pokemon makes a remarkable appearance in the format but in a far more surprising position. In this deck, Radiant Alakazam finds a place as a unique universal answer to a lot of this deck’s problem matchups. Against Lost Zone, you are able to use Radiant Alakazam as a means of setting up the damage to Knock Out a Dragonite V which ordinarily can do a number on this deck if left unchecked. Additionally, Radiant Alakazam also acts as a way to take advantage of the damage the opponent puts into play with Dragon Gale by allowing you to slowly move the damage all onto the same Pokemon for a free Prize card. Additionally, Radiant Alakazam can be used to pick up some cheap Knock Outs against Gardevoir ex decks if they put too much damage onto a Pokemon in an effort to reach for a one-hit Knock Out.
The purpose of Umbreon VMAX is quite straightforward, acting as a way to answer many of the formats Pokemon that are weak to Darkness, however, Umbreon V and its Mean Look attack have some unique use cases. Most notably, an Umbreon V with a Double Turbo Energy does just ten damage while locking the defending Pokemon out of retreating. Interestingly, when combined with the aforementioned Radiant Alakazam, you can create an infinite retreat lock by endlessly moving that ten damage onto something else, either until you win the game by dealing damage or even just by running the opponent out of cards.
Single Strike Energy
This card is a universal answer to most of the issues that come with Umbreon VMAX’s damage output, which can typically run into issues reaching for Knock Outs if you have a Double Turbo Energy on it, as well as allowing Duraludon VMAX to reach up to 240, meaning that it can take an unassisted one-hit Knock Out on Dragonite V. Conveniently, the card also provides two of the types that the deck needs to play regardless, so it is able to easily be the fourth Darkness and third Fighting while only taking up the spot in the deck of one of the two cards.
When it comes to making a list of the most powerful cards in the game right now, you would be lying to yourself if you did not at least include Arceus VSTAR. The card quite literally does everything it could ever want, proving instant access to essential combo pieces as well as flooding the board with Energy all on one body. Whether it be Path to the Peak builds or the counter decks like the Duraludoon VMAX/ Umbreon VMAX deck, Arceus VSTAR has shown that it is a major meta threat and that it is here to stay as one of the most powerful decks in the current format, easily capable of producing a top finish for anyone that decides to pick it up.
With that, this article draws to a close. I hope that you enjoyed reading this article, as it is always a joy to write about one of my current favorite cards in Pokemon. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the Subscriber’s Hideout, on Twitter (@ICheville), or on Facebook (Zaya Lee).
Until next time!