Our panelists look at dependable decks and rising stars ahead of the Region Finals broadcast.
The Players Cup III Pokémon TCG Region Finals are shaping up to be very interesting for players and fans alike. Will venerable Pokémon-GX continue to dominate, or will upstart Pokémon VMAX win it all?
Fortunately, our Power Rankings panelists are here to discuss some of the decks to watch for when the matches stream April 10 and 11 on Twitch.tv/Pokemon!
The Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck took home first and second place at the previous Players Cup in the hands of Zach Lesage and Brent Tonisson. Can it match this performance this time again? We don't see why not! This deck has shown that it can beat all of the other decks in our Top 5. While it has some weak matchups, they are scarce and rarely seen, which makes it one of the safest choices for the third Players Cup.
For the most part, the deck hasn't changed, but Boltund V has solidified its role as a central piece thanks to both its Electrify attack, which is ideal on turn one, and its Bolt Storm attack, which offers high damage potential in the late game. This is why some players are playing it in higher counts than in the past. Apart from that, expect the usual mix of consistent damage from Pikachu & Zekrom-GX's Full Blitz, as well as disruption effects from the likes of Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX's Tandem Shock, Reset Stamp, and Crushing Hammer, which have all worked so well in the past. —Stéphane Ivanoff
Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX in combination with Zacian V (a deck commonly known as ADPZ) has been a mainstay in the competitive scene for a long time by now, but that doesn't mean it didn't have to face and adapt to new challenges over time.
The recent inclusion of Rusted Sword gives the deck the capability to reach the damage needed to Knock Out popular TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX like Mewtwo & Mew-GX or Reshiram & Charizard-GX, but Pokémon VMAX like Eternatus VMAX and Centiskorch VMAX are giving this deck a serious run for its money.
Players are continuously trying to find ways to deal with those matchups. One popular approach is to include defensive cards like Crushing Hammer, Big Charm, or Chaotic Swell in this otherwise very aggressive deck, in hopes of slowing down the opponent, while using the Altered Creation-GX attack.
I have no doubt that ADPZ will be one of the most played decks in the Players Cup, as it's a familiar and reliable deck that players like to go back to for the most important tournaments. It will be interesting to see whether it will continue to keep up with the metagame shifting more and more toward Pokémon VMAX, or if it will slowly trend downwards. —Robin Schulz
After it failed to impress at the Players Cup II Global Finals, you'd be forgiven for expecting Eternatus VMAX to be absent from the power rankings this time around. However, it's hard to argue against a Pokémon that can do 270 damage for a cost of only two Energy…and even on the first turn of attack!
The Eternatus VMAX deck has always employed a simple strategy—take Knock Outs as quickly as possible using Dread End. The complexity lies in the deckbuilding restrictions imposed by Eternatus VMAX's Eternal Zone Ability. When the pool of Pokémon to choose from is limited to one type, it can be difficult to adapt to meet the demands of the metagame.
Despite this, Trainers have found ways to breathe new life into the deck. Some Eternatus VMAX decks now include Weavile-GX, which can move Darkness Energy around using its Shadow Connection Ability. This means Energy attachments no longer need to be perfect to keep pace with or outpace the opponent. It also enables Trainers to include powerful Darkness-type attackers like Umbreon & Darkrai-GX and Mega Sableye & Tyranitar-GX. These Pokémon have attacks that could have a game-changing impact but are ordinarily too costly to invest in.
The inclusion of Pokémon-GX enables Eternatus VMAX to deal with Zamazenta V, and the inclusion of cards like Dangerous Drill and Yveltal give the deck a chance against the Decidueye + Galarian Obstagoon deck. Quite simply, Eternatus VMAX has never been in a better position to win a Players Cup. —Ellis Longhurst
Centiskorch VMAX is one of the more dynamic contenders to come from recent expansions, but only the latest example of a strong recent history of Fire-type success. We're pretty familiar with the strength of Welder at this point, after all. The Centiskorch VMAX deck lends itself well to the Players Cup format, where a set of mediocre matchups is often a better recipe for success than some really good matchups mixed with some really bad ones. We didn't see Centiskorch VMAX do particularly well during Players Cup II, though, so it has some ground to make up in proving itself.
Centiskorch VMAX lists can go a few different directions at this point: Cramorant V is a popular alternate attacker to continue preying on Dedenne-GX and other Bench-dwellers, while Reshiram & Charizard-GX continues its long legacy of serving as a useful pinch-attacker in these Welder decks. Silvally-GX, Victini V, and Heatran-GX are among the deck's other powerful options. If a Centiskorch VMAX player makes a deep run this weekend, the selection of tech Pokémon will be worth looking at as a model for moving forward.
With that said, Welder is often a fickle form of draw power, and Centiskorch VMAX's eggs-in-one-basket attacking style isn't inherently great. If Centiskorch VMAX falls short again, it'll raise a lot of questions about what more can be done to make the deck succeed. —Christopher Schemanske
To me, Blacephalon is the deck that just won't quit. New expansions come out, metagames shift, but Blacephalon always seems to end up on top one way or another. This is largely due to the inherent power of all the Fire-type support in the format at the moment: Welder, Giant Hearth, and Fire Crystal are all great reasons to play with lots of Fire Energy in your deck, and as long as they're Standard-legal, I imagine we'll see some form of a Blacephalon/Welder toolbox deck at the forefront of the metagame.
Blacephalon decks have also included Reshiram & Charizard-GX and Victini V to great success for a while now, seen as a way to diversify your threats so you're not solely attacking with Blacephalon and Cramorant V. The innovation I'm most excited for, though, comes from the Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion: Victini VMAX. Being able to use Max Victory against Pokémon V in the early game while potentially using Spreading Flames to recover in the late game should give the Blacephalon/Welder toolbox deck yet another angle of attack, and one that I think will be good enough to keep it near the top of the metagame for yet another tournament series. —Kenny Wisdom
Stéphane Ivanoff: The ADPZ deck has been losing some of its popularity lately, and that is good news for rogue decks since they tend to have trouble dealing with the unique power of Altered Creation-GX. In particular, control decks, whose goal is to play slow to win the game by having the opponent run out of cards to draw rather than by taking Prize cards, benefit from seeing fewer Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX. Could it be time for them to shine?
If you're watching the stream, be on the lookout! Maybe you'll see some of these peculiar decks emerging to counter the expected metagame...or will ADPZ come back stronger than ever, armed with the powerful new Rusted Sword? Only time will tell!
Robin Schulz: The recently released Shining Fates expansion is very popular with collectors, but it does also contain some hidden gems for players to keep an eye on.
Cramorant VMAX and Crobat VMAX are particularly interesting because unlike other new Pokémon VMAX, they evolve from existing Pokémon V from past expansions. This is notable because Cramorant V and Crobat V are two of the best and most played Pokémon V to date! VMAX decks are typically very focused around the evolved version of their main Pokémon, but having very strong Basic versions that have uses on their own adds a very interesting dimension to these decks.
The Shining Fates expansion also includes some awesome new Amazing Pokémon that can be built around, so don't underestimate this expansion! There's more to this expansion than just Shiny Pokémon, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see it make an impact at the Players Cup.
Ellis Longhurst: There's a strong consensus among Trainers that one of the five decks in this edition of power rankings will earn the Players Cup III title. These decks dominated Players Cup I and Players Cup II, and they consistently place at the top of other Pokémon TCG Online tournaments.
Paradoxically, the expectation that these will be the only feasible contenders presents an opportunity for an unforeseen deck to cause an upset. For example, Trainers may design their deck to have a strong matchup against ADPZ but lack any ability to deal with rank outsiders like Coalossal VMAX.
Furthermore, the capabilities of each of these five decks are very well understood. This leaves them vulnerable to defeat by control and/or wall styles of decks.
The underdog story makes for compelling viewing, so I hope a completely unexpected deck progresses to the Players Cup III Global Finals!
Christopher Schemanske: So far in the first editions of Players Cup, the obvious “good” decks haven't seen the level of success we might have expected, but there haven't been too many surprises, either. As the first double-elimination Pokémon TCG events, some level of adjustment was probably to be expected, but I'm excited to see whether anyone has cooked up something new for the format this weekend. I wrote last time about TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX continuing to dominate, and they've shown no signs of letting up—but could this be the weekend things change?
Kenny Wisdom: This is for anyone participating in Players Cup III, or more broadly, any upcoming online tournaments: Use the nature of an online tournament to your advantage! I know we all miss traveling to these events and sitting across the table with real cards, but online events provide some positives of their own as well. Make your environment comfortable in whatever way you see fit, and remember that as long as you're keeping up with round timers, you can always take a small break to “disconnect” from the tournament a bit. High-level competition is mentally draining whether in person or online, so make sure you're taking care of yourself and giving yourself the best possible chance to succeed. Good luck!