Our panel of experts lay out which decks to watch for when the action begins in Melbourne.
There are a lot of questions heading into the Oceania Pokémon TCG International Championships, with the new Sword & Shield expansion bringing Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX cards into the fray, as well as rule changes that players will have to plan for. It'll be exciting to see how the events unfold in Australia throughout the three-day event.
Our expert panel of top players, judges, and broadcasters are keeping a close eye on these new developments, especially the turn-one Supporter rule and several really interesting new Trainer cards that are changing the shape of existing decks. Read on to see which decks are getting the most attention as competitors prepare for the latest International Championships.
As you watch the matches on Pokemon.com/Live from Thursday, February 20, through Saturday, February 22, keep these Power Rankings nearby as a handy guide to the action.
The stage is set for Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX and Zacian V to shine at the 2020 Oceania International Championships. This deck has been a candidate for the top deck in the format since it was played to early success at tournaments in Japan. It's easy to understand why—after using Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX's Altered Creation-GX attack, Trainers will often pick up an easy win by achieving just two Knock Outs with Zacian V. This new Pokémon V can be quickly powered up by its own Intrepid Sword Ability, the Metal Saucer Item card, and Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX's Ultimate Ray attack.
Given that this is a new archetype, Trainers are still determining which combination of cards will allow them to execute their strategy successfully in every game. Keep your eyes peeled for the wildly different Supporter cards, tech Pokémon, and Energy cards that may show up in the Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX and Zacian V decks at this event.
Mewtwo & Mew-GX has been without much doubt the single most successful deck of the season so far. Going into the Oceania International Championships, the deck is in a very interesting position. The popular Welder-based variant is still looking like a top contender, and in addition, a new variant that uses Malamar for Energy acceleration has been receiving a lot of attention.
The Fire-type version is generally quicker at doing a lot of damage, thanks to cards like Charizard-GX, while the Psychic-type version has a lot of unique tricks through cards like Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX or Gengar & Mimikyu-GX.
There has not been much of a consensus on which variant is the better one, so it's going to be interesting to see which one comes out on top in Melbourne! Either way, I would not be surprised to see Mewtwo & Mew-GX add another trophy to its impressive résumé.
The biggest twist in Oceania this year isn't the new expansion, but the new rules that come with it. Without Supporters on the first turn, players who go first can be attacked before playing their first Supporter—something a lot of decks will struggle with. Capitalizing on both sides of the coin flip is critical, and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is a fantastic example of a deck that does so. This deck's strategy is based on attaching Energy and not much else, so if the player goes first, the deck isn't too bothered by the Supporter restriction—especially with Dedenne-GX as an alternate means of drawing cards. Plus, most of its Basic Pokémon have high HP, meaning an opponent probably isn't going to overwhelm it on their first turn. On the other hand, when going second, the deck can blitz an opponent with high early damage incomparable to most others, facilitating a major offensive before an opponent can prepare.
Between the rule changes and the major benefits offered by Quick Ball, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX could be back in prime position. Zacian V, though, looms as a major issue; that matchup will be what decides whether Pikachu & Zekrom-GX flies high or disappoints.
Pokémon V and Pokémon-GX are core to the most threatening decks in the format. One of the best ways to counter them is to play a deck that uses single-Prize attackers that are able to deliver Knock Outs, so you trade two Prizes (or three, in the case of a TAG TEAM) for one. Currently, the best way to do so is to use Blacephalon, which can Knock Out anything as long as you have enough Energy in hand. With Fiery Flint and Fire Crystal, that's easier than it sounds, and thanks to Welder, you can power up Blacephalon in one turn!
So far, Blacephalon has been played either with Green's Exploration or with Pidgeotto, but thanks to Quick Ball, I expect to see the advent of a new variant, using Jirachi, Oricorio-GX and the new Lucky Egg to draw cards and ensure you can attack every turn.
Whenever a new expansion is released, the Standard format goes through a shake-up, and even more so when that expansion is the very first of a new series featuring entirely new Pokémon and mechanics. Historically, the game's top players have approached this challenge a few different ways: some try brewing entirely new decks; some add powerful new cards to existing archetypes to counter the expected metagame; and some choose to stick to strategies that have proven viable throughout the season, leaving experimentation to everyone else.
It's that last group of players who are most likely to bring a deck like Pidgeotto Control to the Oceania International Championships. Pidgeotto has been a viable contender ever since the deck debuted at last year's World Championships, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. The primary advantage of playing Pidgeotto into a relatively unknown field is that your game plan is more or less the same versus every opponent. Your plan is always to sculpt your hand using the Air Mail Ability, and then deplete your opponent of resources from all angles—cards in hand, Energy in play, and the card on top of their deck. In a world where lists are still being perfected and the format is far from solved, it can be incredibly beneficial to know exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it. The Pokémon on the other side of the table are going to be new and the deck lists are going to vary, but that game plan is going to remain the same, and it hasn't failed yet.
Ellis Longhurst: The 2020 Oceania International Championships will be the first Championship Series event where the Trainer who goes first will not be allowed to play a Supporter card on the first turn of the game. This rule change has wide-ranging implications.
Suddenly, Supporter cards like Lillie and Professor Elm's Lecture are less valuable inclusions in a deck. Trainers will now need to rely on other methods to draw cards and kick-start their strategy on the first turn. Expect to see an abundance of Pokémon with Abilities that allow Trainers to draw extra cards—for example, Zacian V, Jirachi, Oranguru, and Mismagius.
Some competitors may even choose to go second so they have the opportunity to play the first Supporter card of the game. The 2020 Oceania International Championships is set to be a very unusual tournament!
Robin Schulz: Zacian V is one of the strongest Pokémon we've seen in a while. It has an incredible attack that will make it the center of its own deck, but it will also be seen in many decks that don't even have Metal Energy, just to draw cards with its Intrepid Sword Ability. The other Pokémon V may not be getting as much attention, but there are a lot of interesting ones like Morpeko V or Lapras V and its VMAX form, so this new mechanic will definitely make an impact at the Oceania Internationals.
Between new Pokémon, powerful Trainer cards like Quick Ball and Professor's Research, and the improved first-turn rule, Sword & Shield will shake up the game in a big way, and I'm excited for the action in Australia.
Christopher Schemanske: Throughout the Oceania Internationals, I expect choosing to go first or second to be a major topic. It's going to be weird to consider going second after years of first being the clear favorite, but it's going to be even weirder playing a match where my opponent wants to go first and I want to go second. A coin flip with two happy players? Don't be surprised.
Stéphane Ivanoff: My favorite card by far in Sword & Shield is Cinccino. Its Make Do Ability, identical to Zoroark-GX's Trade (and Empoleon's Diving Draw before that), makes games more complex—since a player needs to know what they can and can't discard in each game—and makes deckbuilding more interesting by giving you room to include more one-off tech cards if you have more draw power. Unlike Zoroark-GX, Cinccino's damage output is too low to build a deck around it, but could it still see play as a support Pokémon? I'm confident it will, sooner or later. I hope I'll be the one to bring Cinccino to victory!
Kenny Wisdom: The best time to be a Pokémon TCG player is right now. A new expansion is out featuring all-new Pokémon, and we have a major tournament that coincides with that release. If you're playing in the Oceania Internationals, you're getting to be the first to play in a tournament of this level with these cards. And if you're watching from home, you're getting a viewing experience that is equally unique. No matter which side of the screen you're on, there's not much better than getting to experience such a high-level tournament and such a refreshing time for the game.
This tournament is going to have quite a hand in determining what the Standard format looks like for the next several months, so if I were you, I wouldn't miss a minute.
About the Panel
Stéphane Ivanoff is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. A longtime Pokémon fan, he has played the Pokémon TCG competitively since 2010 and is a former National Champion, seven-time Worlds competitor, and the 2018 and 2019 North America International Champion in the Masters Division. He studied mathematics and has a degree in probability and statistics, but he says that doesn't help his game as much as you'd think! You can follow him on Twitter @lubyllule.
Ellis Longhurst is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. She has been competing in high-level Pokémon TCG tournaments since 2006 and creating written content for the Pokémon community since 2011. Now she brings some Australian flavor to the Play! Pokémon commentary teams at the International and World Championships.
Christopher Schemanske is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He's been playing the Pokémon TCG since 2010, with a streak of Worlds invitations between 2012–2018. Nowadays, he enjoys splitting his Pokémon time between playing and being part of the awesome Professor staff teams at major events.
Robin Schulz is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He has been competing in Pokémon tournaments for 10 years and was the Pokémon TCG Masters Division World Champion in 2018. He spends a lot of time traveling and competing, and he rarely misses a big event. Aside from playing Pokémon, he attends university, where he is studying mathematics.
Kenny Wisdom is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. A longtime player of the Pokémon TCG, he claims to be the most prolific writer in the history of the game. These days you can find him on the desk as part of the commentary team covering Play! Pokémon events as well as on Twitter @kwisdumb.