Hello all PokeBeach readers! Here’s Gabriel again with another article, and this time, I’m going to talk a little about the new Obsidian Flames set; about some highlights of Worlds 2023, especially regarding the metagame; and, finally, about the lists for Giratina VSTAR / Lost Box and Dragonite V / Lost Box that I’m currently using.
Obsidian Flames Review
There are several Pokémon in Obsidian Flames that have competitive potential, but don’t seem to make much sense with what we have today. Toedscruel ex has a strong Ability that could see play depending on the metagame, while several Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon ex have offensive attack power, without the consistency to be applied competitively for now. In the Pokémon TCG, strength and consistency have to go hand-in-hand. There’s no point in using a 340-HP Pokémon ex that only offers two Prizes when Knocked Out if in practice you can’t evolve and attack quickly and effectively. Among all the new Pokémon in the set, two of them deserve to be highlighted because they manage to compensate for the inherent inconsistency of a Stage 2 Pokémon: Charizard ex and Pidgeot ex.
Pidgeot ex Is the MVP of the Set
Pidgeot ex, for me, is the best card in the set, and I see several decks being created with the help of its Ability. At first, its Ability Quick Search doesn’t seem so broken, since setting up a Stage 2 just to be able to search the deck for a card doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, as the turns go by, you start to realize how strong this Pokémon is, because throughout the game you can get four or five cards with it, which are always the exact cards you need on the exact turns you need them. The chances are very low to find the Boss's Orders you need to win from a one-card Iono hand, but with Pidgeot ex what would be only a 10% chance becomes 100%. I believe we will see a lot of Pidgeot ex in the format, and it is worth putting this Pokémon on your buy list.
Charizard ex Shows the Power Creep of the New Pokémon ex
Charizard ex is the other great highlight of Obsidian Flames, and for me it represents the emerging superiority of Pokémon ex over Pokémon VSTAR and VMAX. I know Pokémon ex have been around since Scarlet & Violet and some of them, like Gardevoir ex and Chien-Pao ex, are already doing well, but none of them are really different. Chien-Pao ex has the same characteristics as a Pokémon V, and Gardevoir ex has an incredible Ability, but a very reasonable attack that makes it depend on other Pokémon if it wants to do really good damage. Charizard ex has 330HP, a great attack, a great Weakness, and a great type for the format, which makes it one of the hardest Pokémon to stop. It is introducing a new era of the game, and this is exactly what power creep means. Pokémon VMAX have attributes similar to Charizard ex, but with the difference that one offers three Prizes on a Knock Out and the other only two. That’s why the Arceus VSTAR / Pidgeot ex / Charizard ex deck is so good, because the whole deck aims to bring this Pokémon to the field as fast as possible. Of course, there are cases in the metagame where Knocking Out a Charizard ex isn’t that impossible, like using Giratina’s VSTAR Power or attacking with Chien-Pao ex and discarding six Energy, but these are one-time plays from specific decks. Even then, it is difficult to deal with two Charizard ex in the same game.
Weak and Weird Trainers
The Supporters in the set have interesting effects, but without any practical application in the metagame. For a Supporter different from the usual ones (Iono, Boss’s Orders, and Professor's Research) to work, it needs to make sense and have a lot of strategic synergy. Elesa's Sparkle, for example, is a Supporter that is only good in Mew VMAX Fusion because the whole deck has ways to compensate for the lack of draw power. With that in mind, Obsidian Flames Supporters like Team Star Grunt and Ortega only make sense in a control deck that doesn’t even exist in the competitive environment, while Poppy and Geeta are interesting for Energy management and acceleration, but no deck needs or can use them.
The two new Stadiums in the set are just like the Supporters: they are cards with cool effects but without any practical application in the metagame. In Town Store I see a lot of potential for creating new strategies, especially as new good Pokémon Tools are created. It’s particularly interesting that this Stadium can search for Forest Seal Stone.
The collection has only one new Item — I believe this is the first time I have seen this happen. The Item is called Letter of Encouragement and also has no effective application in existing decks in the metagame. The same goes for the two new Pokemon Tools, though I think Vengeful Punch has more potential than Patrol Cap.
It’s been a while since a set this bad was released in the Pokémon TCG, because if you take all the latest sets, they all had a direct impact on the metagame with several different cards, be they Pokémon, Trainer or Special Energy. This time, though, I can highlight only two cards with immediate potential and they are both Pokémon cards, Charizard ex and Pidgeot ex. No Trainers have been highlighted, though it may be that in the future something will see play in one deck or another.
Mew VMAX was the highlight of the 2023 World Championships, and I believe that the reason for this is because Day 2 players decided to bet on a metagame without Mew VMAX, or, if they had to face Mew VMAX, the idea was to win without needing a hard counter like Spiritomb or Drapion V. I confess that I would be one of the players who would play without these Pokémon and try to beat Mew only with the strength of the deck I was using, so it is to the credit of the players who chose Mew VMAX that they foresaw this thought.
Giratina / Lost Box was the meta call of Worlds for me, especially seeing the results of the North America International Championships (NAIC), but it’s a meta call that was so talked about, it was no longer a surprise when it appeared. And in fact things turned out very well for this deck, as its main strength is the ability to play well against all other decks in the metagame.
Gardevoir ex is a deck that has had little success at US Regionals and little popularity among top US players, but remains one of the decks of choice for players in the rest of the world. Players from Norway, Mexico, Australia, and Brazil all made Top 32 with this deck.
My last article on PokeBeach was about Origin Form Palkia VSTAR / Water Box, and this was the deck that was least talked about in the time since NAIC. However, in my testing, the deck was getting great results, which was why I decided to write about this deck on the eve of Worlds with the aim of alerting players to prepare a little better against this matchup. It was likely that Palkia / Water Box could feature prominently in Worlds, and indeed it did — Cyrus Davis piloted it to 9th place. It remains a great meta call both now and looking forward.
Chien-Pao ex has solidified itself as one of the best Tier One decks in the metagame, with a strong showing at Worlds (four Top 32 appearances). Decks that manage to use Iono or Roxanne with Path to the Peak are always a problem for it, as Chien-Pao ex / Baxcalibur is a deck that needs to find specific resources every turn to be able to attack, namely Superior Energy Retrieval, Super Rod, and cards to remove Stadiums from the field (PokéStop, Lost Vacuum).
No Arceus VSTAR decks appeared in the Top 32, which was a big surprise to me, as I expected this Pokémon to be a two-time World Champion. One of the main reasons why Arceus was not successful is its bad matchup against Giratina / Lost Box. Basically any Arceus deck has difficulty in this matchup, and considering that Giratina / Lost Box was one of the best meta calls for the tournament, many players chose not to try their luck.
Finally, the last major highlight of Worlds was the two appearances of Miraidon ex in the Top 32. Since Miraidon ex came out, the deck has had the reputation of being a Tier 2 deck at best, with few successful appearances at Regionals and International Championships. However, the Worlds metagame may reveal that Miraidon ex has room to succeed if faced with the right matchups. The list used by Sejun Park is pretty vanilla and I think it relies on good matchups; Gardevoir ex and Lost Box in particular are tough matchups to face. The list used by Andrew Mahone plays four copies of Path to the Peak, which makes these matchups much more favorable.
You can find almost all 2023 Worlds Top 32 Masters lists here.
My Lost Box Lists After Worlds
Giratina / Lost Box was the deck that I was testing the most before Worlds, and it was the deck I suggested to my friends and students for the competition. Since Worlds, it’s the deck I have been using in the League Challenges and League Cups of the new season. When participating in some competitions, I realized that the metagame here in my region was very focused on two decks, which are Gardevoir ex and Giratina / Lost Box, while Lugia VSTAR and Arceus VSTAR were almost not appearing at all. With that in mind, I decided to change decks, and trade Giratina / Lost Box for a much more accurate meta call for the metagame I’m experiencing, which is Dragonite / Lost Box.
With Dragonite / Lost Box I can have a good matchup against Giratina / Lost Box because I can generally play ten cards in the Lost Zone first and attack with Sableye, and the same move is also good against Gardevoir ex. The fact that it is possible to attack with Radiant Greninja on the first turn if the opponent doesn’t play Manaphy helps too. Arceus and Lugia are tougher matchups for Dragonite, but I wasn’t expecting to face many.
In today’s article I’m going to present the two Lost Box lists I’ve been using in my local tournaments. One of them is Giratina / Lost Box, which is good to use when you have no idea what metagame awaits you. The other list is Dragonite / Lost Box, for when you’re in a metagame more impacted by Worlds results, like in my region.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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