Hello everyone! Now that the Pokemon TCG World Championships in Yokohama have concluded, there is a bit of down time in the competitive scene until the new season starts in September. With the release of Obsidian Flames, we will be playing with a new set to start the season, but without the traditional rotation that usually comes after Worlds. It seems rotation will now be relegated to the middle of the season like it was last time, so the format is similar to how it was for Worlds 2023.
Today I’ll be discussing the state of the meta, taking into account the recent World Championships, Obsidian Flames, and online events. Hopefully this article will lay the groundwork to help you start preparing and gathering knowledge for the start of the next season!
Unfortunately, my Worlds run was subpar to say the least. My group decided to play Fusion Mew VMAX, with a deck list that was only one card off from the one I posted in my last article! The only change was a last minute swap from the fourth Nest Ball for a second Feather Ball. Azul actually made Top 4 with the list, proving that it was good enough to do well at the most prestigious tournament. Personally, I had some poor luck but I also made several game-losing mistakes, which was a bit embarrassing and disappointing. I do think our list was the correct play for the tournament, and with some better plays, I could have also made Top 8. Azul ended up losing a close mirror match in Top 4. Our list’s superior consistency should give us the advantage, but Vance, the winner of the tournament, had Oricorio, which is a strong tech in the mirror match. Considering both of these things, it should be close to a 50-50 matchup.
Overall, Mew VMAX was the best performing deck at Worlds. Many top players correctly identified it as the best deck, and it ended up with three total top 8 spots, while also winning the tournament. In second place we had an innovative Gardevoir ex list from Tord Reklev, who most consider to be the best player in the World. Tord played several cards that were considered to be unusual up until that point, including Mirage Step Kirlia, Lost Vacuum, and a second copy of Reversal Energy. Rounding out Top 8 were three Lost Zone decks, with two of them being Giratina VSTAR. Giratina has recently seen a meteoric rise in popularity, with many top players debating how good it actually is. Its performance at Worlds proves that the deck is the real deal, though I don’t think I would ever play it myself.
In Top 16, we saw some more variety in decks. Cyrus sadly bubbled out of Top 8 with a neat Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR deck. We also saw Lugia VSTAR, Chien-Pao ex, and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX in the Top 16. However, Top 16 only required a score of 5-2-1, which any deck is capable of. Nonetheless, it is good to see some diversity for which decks are viable at the highest level.
My first thought with regards to Mew VMAX is that Charizard ex would kill the deck. Mew got to its high point at Worlds, and even managed to overcome numerous counters such as Drapion V, Spiritomb, and Path to the Peak. But Charizard would be the one to put Mew down for good.
My opinion has changed slightly. Mew VMAX is just too good of a deck, and will still see a decent amount of competitive play. However, it’s true that Charizard ex is a poor matchup for it. If Charizard manages to set up, I would say that it is almost unwinnable for Mew. Depending on how popular Charizard becomes, Mew can simply take the bad matchup and continue its dominance against the rest of the format. I would personally avoid playing Mew for the first tournament or two, and if Charizard does not dominate, I would consider picking it back up.
Alternatively, there are a couple things Mew VMAX can try to do to beat Charizard ex. Charizard is a bit weak against early-game disruption. A good ol-fashioned Judge + Path to the Peak play on turn 1 should have a decent success rate. If Mew can take a few Prize cards to start the game, it may be able to get far enough ahead. The problem is that Charizard is such a hard counter. It can effortlessly one-shot Mew VMAX, and its enormous HP stat makes it difficult to KO in return. Mew should try to put a few Fusion Strike Energy on the board so that it can deliver a big Melodious Echo to OHKO Charizard. With four Fusion Strike Energy in play and two copies of Power Tablet, Meloetta can get the job done and only offers one Prize in return. If Charizard sets up fast enough though, it just doesn’t matter.
There have been talks of teching Accelgor into Mew VMAX as a Charizard ex counter. Like Meloetta, Accelgor needs two Power Tablets to KO, but only needs one Fusion Strike Energy. At the very least, Accelgor is an interesting option. If I were to recommend playing Mew into a Charizard meta right now, I would play the Worlds list with just three changes. Cut Eiscue, Choice Belt, and some random other card like Feather Ball for Accelgor, Shelmet, and Box of Disaster. Both Accelgor and Box of Disaster offer ways to dispose of Charizard in one shot. However, not having Eiscue may feel bad sometimes. If Charizard or Gardevoir ex players neglect to go for Manaphy, you will miss the option of being able to punish them with Eiscue. You can still use Boss's Orders though, and I don’t think I can justify having both Eiscue and Accelgor in the deck.
Overall, it’s important to remember that Mew VMAX was the best deck for the Worlds format, and the only change for it is the introduction of Charizard ex. Mew is still a ridiculously strong deck, so just a little bit of Charizard shouldn’t discourage Mew decks from being played.
Gardevoir ex is in a similar position as Mew. It remains a strong deck that people will play, but it’s very weak against Charizard ex. Even though Gardevoir ex only gives up two Prize cards as opposed to three from Mew VMAX, it’s incredibly difficult to beat Charizard. If Charizard sets up well, Gardevoir has to do awkward plays with Shining Arcana and Reversal Energy to try to win the Prize trade. A second copy of Reversal Energy is more important now, and most lists should be playing it. If Gardevoir is able to pull ahead with plays like Turn 2 Cresselia, it can also win that way. I don’t have a lot to say about Gardevoir at the moment.
This card is looking to be well-positioned going into the next format, and it also seems to be incredibly popular. The reason for this is because Giratina VSTAR is the only top tier deck from the previous format that also matches up well against Charizard ex. Basically, Giratina is strictly better than it was before Obsidian Flames. At Worlds, most Giratina players played Spiritomb as their tech for Mew VMAX. However, in my testing, Mew was still favored against Giratina even with Spiritomb. Michael Pramawat made Top 4 at Worlds, and he used Choice Belt instead. I think Choice Belt is a lot better than Spiritomb, and it has some other uses as well (such as against V Guard Energy). That said, if you’re only trying to counter Mew with that slot, Drapion V is much more effective. Drapion can be a liability in other matchups, and it is not as flexible as Choice Belt, so I would say that Choice Belt is better overall.
Some people are trying to play Grass-type Pokemon in Giratina VSTAR because they easily fit into the deck and counter Charizard ex. However, this is not necessary because Giratina is strong against Charizard anyway. Giratina usually wins the Prize trade against Charizard because it can use Star Requiem for an easy two Prizes, along with Boss’s Orders plus Lost Impact for another easy two Prize cards. Charizard cannot even KO Giratina VSTAR until the late-game. Furthermore, Giratina can disrupt Charizard with Path to the Peak, so the matchup is quite a struggle for Charizard. Grass-type Pokemon are quite bad right now, and they aren’t very useful in other situations, so I would not include them in Giratina decks.
With all of this discussion around Charizard ex, I don’t mean to over hype the deck. It is just the only change to the existing format, so it’s really the only relevant talking point. The rest of the new set seems irrelevant to me. Only time will tell how relevant Charizard ex ends up being. For now though, it is worth preparing for Charizard.
Giratina VSTAR, on the other hand, will most likely be the most popular deck for the start of this new format. Although results from online tournaments don’t always reflect the metagame for the competitive circuit, I believe that Giratina will retain its correlation. At the moment, Charizard is seeing some artificial inflation in numbers for the online metagame just because it is the new deck. We saw the same thing happen with Chien-Pao ex when it was new, and Miraidon ex before that.
The rest of the meta decks, such as Lost Box, Chien-Pao ex, Arceus VSTAR, Lugia VSTAR, etc., will continue seeing middling amounts of play. Every so often at a Regional Championships, a deck will perform very well proportionately to its meta share. For example, a five percent deck will flood the top tables and end up with three spots in the Top 16. We saw this with Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX / Umbreon VMAX at Hartford Regionals. The same happened at Worlds Day 1, where Mew was less than 8% of the meta and completely dominated, having the highest conversion rate to Day 2. I think Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR will replicate this feat at some point in the Obsidian Flames format. Palkia is a strong deck that is relatively underplayed at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it populate the top tables and have some strong finishes.
Charizard ex is the new kid on the block. It’s good, but not broken. Its struggle against Giratina VSTAR is its biggest hurdle. Charizard will land solidly in Tier 2, and will see middling play for as long as Giratina is popular. When Giratina becomes less popular, or when Charizard players figure out some technology to handle the matchup, Charizard may see an increase in play. Charizard has pretty good matchups aside from that, and is an insane card overall. I would be happy to play Charizard for the first Regional Championships. I’ve tested Charizard. I like the list that I have currently, but it is still in development. Here is where I am at:
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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