Twilight Masquerade — Set Overview

It saddens me to say that the extra short Temporal Forces format is now over. In my opinion, this was one of the few fun and deeply interesting formats in recent memory. The Twilight Masquerade format is in full swing, and the North America International Championships is just around the corner. It feels like this season has just started, yet we’re almost done! The new set is quite good, without a doubt. If you didn’t like the Temporal Forces format, Twilight Masquerade is sure to shake things up. As far as Japan’s results, we have one Champions League and several City Leagues’ worth of data to look at, and one thing is apparent above all else: Dragapult ex is a menace. I’ll start by discussing this card, as it is very meta-warping and the rest of the set overview will revolve around it.

Dragapult ex

Dragapult ex is extremely powerful for a few reasons. First, it’s difficult to take out. It has 320 HP, the Tera Bench protection, and most importantly, no Weakness. Think Charizard ex in terms of bulk. This thing is quite the tank, and is relatively unsusceptible to counters. How do you even counter this thing? Its second attack has a somewhat awkward Energy cost for a Psychic Energy and a Fire Energy, but deals a solid 200 damage while spreading six damage counters to your opponent’s Pokemon on the Bench in any way you like. The spread effect is nasty, and it’s what makes this card really crazy. Not only does it bypass Jirachi and Manaphy, but it effectively functions as a damage modifier. You might be thinking that most Pokemon ex can tank a Phantom Dive for 200, but thanks to the spread damage, two Phantom Dives along with a Boss's Orders play can take out two Pokemon in the 210-260 damage range, effectively one-shotting them both. Furthermore, the spread damage is easily capable of gunning down many small Pokemon, gatekeeping a whole genre of evolution-based decks from ever setting up.

That’s not even to mention the Stage 1 of the deck: Drakloak. Drakloak has a draw Ability identical to Pidgeotto‘s Air Mail from Team Up. This is unnecessarily strong for how good the Dragapult ex deck is, and adds an additional level of consistency to an already powerful deck. Personally, I think Dragapult is a bit too strong and that it’s incredibly toxic. Dragapult’s spread damage and difficulty to counter will most likely lead to an overcentralized metagame with most decks simply being gatekept by Dragapult. This is a complete 180 from the rich and diverse Temporal Forces format, and it’s as if TPCi did not learn their lesson whatsoever with Dragapult VMAX. I also think the deck is too simplistic, removing a key element of skill from most games. The Dragapult player sometimes just needs to set up multiple Dragapult and then it doesn’t matter how skilled they are.

There are a few interesting things about Dragapult. First, there are several different ways you can play it. My personal favorite is the build with Arven, Technical Machine: Evolution, and Xatu. This deck is built just like Charizard ex / Pidgeot ex and has a very intuitive and integrated consistency engine. Xatu is the glue that makes the deck run smoothly, providing a little bit of extra draw and Energy acceleration, which is exactly what the deck needs. This build is probably the most neutrally strong, consistent, and basic way to play the deck. Alternatively, there’s also a Lost Zone version of the deck, using the well-established Lost Zone engine and simply cramming a few Dragapult lines into it. This build is the most versatile, using Mirage Gate to power Dragapult while also giving you access to other strong attackers such as Sableye and Cramorant. There’s really no limit to what you can do with Mirage Gate decks, leaving some room for creativity. Finally, you can pair Dragapult with Charizard ex. This build sacrifices some consistency for the option of having Charizard, and we all know how good that card is. Charizard gives Dragapult some Energy acceleration while also giving you a nuke option. After your opponent has taken a few Prize cards, Charizard provides a level of raw power that Dragapult would not otherwise have. This effectively covers Dragapult’s weaknesses, allowing you to KO things that would otherwise match up well against Dragapult, such as tanky Pokemon.

If you could say the Dragapult deck has any weaknesses, it could be that it’s a bit slow, or that most of the Pokemon besides Dragapult itself have very low HP. Therefore, fast decks that can take multiple Prize cards (think Iron Hands ex or Radiant Greninja ) have a decent shot of speed blitzing Dragapult out of the game. With an ideal start utilizing Rare Candy or Technical Machine: Evolution, Dragapult can theoretically get going by turn 2. However, even in the versions that play those cards, this isn’t realistically happening most of the time. Even if Dragapult is set up on turn 2, it typically has to forego setting up multiple Drakloak, meaning the deck would be very fragile, much like a Charizard deck without Pidgeot in play. With Drakloak’s low HP of 90, the deck could be susceptible to Technical Machine: Devolution plays as well. Unfortunately, the deck most likely to be able to pull off spread plus Devolution plays is, of course, Dragapult itself.

The Japanese meta has notably shifted in response to Dragapult. In general, you will see a lot of Dragapult or decks that can beat it. As such, we are seeing a resurgence of decks like Miraidon ex, Lugia VSTAR, and Gardevoir ex. Miraidon’s speed and access to Iron Hands is as powerful as ever. Lugia packs Mist Energy  to defend against spread damage as well as Cinccino , one of the few attackers in the game that can easily one-shot Dragapult. Gardevoir can easily heal off spread damage with Cresselia and the new Munkidori. It has the option of sniping low-HP Pokemon off the Bench or one-shotting Dragapult with Drifloon. Temporal Forces powerhouses like Charizard ex and Chien-Pao ex have taken a backseat as their weakness to Dragapult is nothing short of crippling. Now let’s look at the rest of the set.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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