Top players are heading south to São Paulo, Brazil, for the 2023 Latin America Championships and the chance to win the first big title of the 2023 Championship Series season. It’s going to be an incredible test for both the competitors and the decks as Lugia VSTAR becomes tournament legal just as the first matches get underway.
Our Power Rankings panel of experts have gazed into the metaphorical crystal ball to see what decks they think will have the biggest impact in Brazil. Seeing which decks will come out on top might still be a bit hazy, but one thing is clear: you can watch a full weekend of the action on Twitch.tv/Pokemon from November 25–27!
Here’s something we’ve never had before in these Power Rankings: a consensus about the top deck. Even more remarkable: the first time it happens, the card is not yet legal for tournament play! Lugia VSTAR has more hype than any card I can remember, and, alongside Archeops, it looks poised to take the tournament world by storm. Summoning Star is the highlight of Lugia VSTAR’s arsenal. There’s no restriction on the Stage of the Colorless Pokémon that must be placed on your Bench, so the door is open to do almost anything. Archeops, though, is the obvious choice: Primal Turbo is an extraordinary Ability with the unparalleled power to let a deck simply do almost anything out of nowhere. It’s the kind of Ability that is normally kept away on an inaccessible Stage 2—which is exactly Archeops’s nature! It’s only through Lugia VSTAR that we’re going to see some seriously powerful stuff here.
Players have been testing out different partners for Lugia VSTAR, and with Aurora Energy, the possibilities are truly endless. Radiant Charizard is a popular early choice, as its low Energy requirement late in the game makes it a compelling finisher. Other Aurora Energy-fueled options like Yveltal and Raikou pack powerful punches into frail packages. Even simply attacking with Lugia VSTAR itself is an intriguing option—I’m really eager to see what players come up with.
Lugia VSTAR’s biggest vulnerability might be its reliance on a full Bench. Lugia VSTAR and two Archeops take up three roster spots, and it doesn’t take much more to reach a full field. Palkia VSTAR will appreciate the buffet of damage fuel available, and that matchup might be Lugia VSTAR’s biggest obstacle. Still, I’m with the rest of our panel in expecting big things. — Christopher Schemanske
The obvious counter deck that players might gravitate towards is Regigigas from Sword & Shield—Astral Radiance, in combination with its Regi friends. Don’t get me wrong—Regigigas is a strong deck on its own and has already proved it at multiple Regional Championships this season, but Lugia VSTAR’s presence might be what gives the deck the final push it needs to claim a big win.
As a deck that consists of exclusively single-Prize Pokémon, Regigigas is not overpowered by decks like Lugia VSTAR that have high damage potential—it’s designed to get Knocked Out every turn anyway. Its wide array of attacking options and types allows it to hit most other decks for weakness, creating favorable positions when up against multi-Prize Pokémon. Most importantly, Regieleki from Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies is excellent against Lugia VSTAR and Palkia VSTAR, while Regigigas itself can Knock Out Pokémon VMAX like Mew VMAX.
The Regigigas deck does have a few weaknesses that players could choose to exploit, like the Lost City Stadium card making it impossible to recover Knocked Out Pokémon. However, there’s little doubt that it is one of the best positioned since the launch of Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest, so expect to see a lot of them in Brazil! — Robin Schulz
Mew VMAX has been a top contender in the format for an entire year at this point, but the deck has undergone quite a lot of changes. It originally started out as a very aggressive deck, using Meloetta and Elesa’s Sparkle to do massive damage as early as the first turn of the game. Recently, players have removed Elesa’s Sparkle and Meloetta in favor of more disruptive options, like Marnie and Roxanne.
Currently, the deck is being kept in check by the newly released Drapion V. Despite that, Mew VMAX still finds tournament success, and ended up winning two recent events in Europe: the Bilbao Special Event and the Lille Regionals.
One of the main things the Mew VMAX deck was missing was a way to take advantage of a VSTAR Power. With the release of Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest, Mew VMAX now has access to Forest Seal Stone. This boost in consistency should not be underestimated and gives the deck a great new option. One of the best ways to combat the Mew VMAX deck, is bringing a Path to the Peak in play while disrupting the hand with a Marnie or Roxanne. Since Forest Seal Stone is not an Ability on the Pokémon itself, it actually bypasses Path to the Peak and thus can be used to get out of a sticky situation.
I’m sure players will realize the potential of Mew VMAX heading into LAIC, and I think the deck can go all the way once again if not given enough respect. — Tord Reklev
The argument for Palkia VSTAR’s inclusion on this list of top decks is watertight. In combination with Inteleon and Radiant Greninja, Palkia VSTAR earned second place at the North America International Championships, and fourth place at the World Championships earlier this year. It has since continued to place highly at Regional Championships around the globe.
The anticipated rise of Lugia VSTAR and Lightning-type counter attackers has some Trainers wondering if the Palkia VSTAR deck will be made obsolete. However, the adaptability and consistency of the deck continues to put it in a good position to contest new and existing archetypes.
This deck typically includes Pokémon with a wide variety of attacks and Abilities, and Trainer cards with effects that are just as varied. They all can be accessed easily via Irida or the Shady Dealings Ability of Drizzile and Inteleon. This means that a Palkia VSTAR deck can launch explosive attacks or adopt a slow, controlled style of play as required in any given match. The versatility of the deck increases further with the addition of Serena from Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest.
The challenge for Trainers at the Latin America International Championships will be to determine which Trainer cards and backup attackers are priority inclusions in their Palkia VSTAR deck. The addition or removal of a single Fan of Waves or Temple of Sinnoh could mean the difference between victory and defeat by a Lugia VSTAR. — Ellis Longhurst
Giratina VSTAR, released in the Sword & Shield—Lost Origin expansion, quickly became one of the most powerful decks prior to Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest. Its strength lies in how well it can deal with a variety of Pokémon. Against one-Prize Pokémon, it can trade effectively using Cramorant and Sableye; against Pokémon VSTAR, Giratina VSTAR's Lost Impact deals 280 damage, which cleanly KOs any of them; and against Pokémon VMAX, Giratina VSTAR's Star Requiem lets it draw three Prize cards in one single attack. All of this is made possible by the Lost Zone engine—using Comfey and Colress's Experiment to send cards to the Lost Zone so that powerful payoff cards, such as Mirage Gate, can be used.
However, Giratina VSTAR is challenged by some new cards from Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest, such as Lugia VSTAR, whose versatility surpasses Giratina VSTAR's. Moreover, many Pokémon VSTAR (including Lugia VSTAR itself) can use the new V Guard Energy, which lets them take a hit from Lost Impact without being Knocked Out.
Nevertheless, Giratina VSTAR's popularity will surely take a hit as players turn toward Lugia VSTAR. It is still a powerful archetype, however, hence its inclusion in our Top Five. I believe that the deck will need to adapt from its pre-Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest form, and I expect most players to run multiple copies of Temple of Sinnoh, which is strong against V Guard Energy specifically, Lugia VSTAR in general, and even other decks such as Regigigas. — Stéphane Ivanoff
Tord Reklev: Undoubtedly everyone’s eyes will be on Lugia VSTAR heading into the Latin America International Championships. Off the bat, it looks like a deck that is strong enough to force the rest of the metagame to adapt immediately; otherwise, the other decks might not have a chance at success. I think we will see a lot of decks with cards specifically chosen to counter Lugia VSTAR, such as Temple of Sinnoh or maybe Dusknoir from Sword & Shield—Vivid Voltage. The deck looks extremely powerful, but there might be ways for players to take advantage of its predictable nature. I’m also very interested in which version of Mew VMAX will end up being the most popular. With Forest Seal Stone being a great late game option against Path to the Peak, it’s also a strong Turn-1 option that can enable more consistent attacks for Meloetta. This boost might be enough to make players favor the original Mew VMAX build with Meloetta over the disruptive approach.
The first event after the release of a new set is always exciting, but there is also a remarkable number of expansions legal in the standard format right now thanks to the delayed rotation. With so many cards available, I have no doubt that we will see interesting new decks and strategies unfold at this year’s Latin America International Championships!
Robin Schulz: It’s been a while since we had the International Championships on a new expansion’s first weekend of play, which is exciting! All the best players in the world will try to figure out the new format, and the results could be completely unpredictable. Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest initially appears to have fewer competitively relevant cards than, for example, Sword & Shield—Lost Origin, but the power level of those cards is high. Lugia VSTAR might just be the best deck of the whole Sword & Shield era, and will turn the format on its head. Some of the popular Pokémon VSTAR or VMAX decks might not be able to keep up as well as before, so other previously less popular decks with better answers to Lugia VSTAR could make a resurgence.
I am very curious to see what will happen in Brazil. It is very rare that a new deck gets as much attention as Lugia VSTAR has, before we’ve even seen it in action. Will it live up to all the hype? Or will everyone try to counter it, creating a favorable environment for older decks? We’ll find out soon! Personally, I would not bet against Lugia VSTAR.
Stéphane Ivanoff: It looks like more than ever, decks tend to be reliant on Special Energy. The top three decks in our rankings tend to play only Special Energy, as do some other archetypes that might appear in lower numbers, such as Zoroark or Cinccino Toolbox. Other decks may use powerful Special Energy cards alongside Basic Energy: Arceus VSTAR decks, for example, need Basic Energy but also play Double Turbo Energy and, more likely than not, V Guard Energy. Kyurem VMAX is often paired with Wash Energy to protect it against some powerful attacks (such as Giratina VSTAR’s Star Requiem).
This is the ideal time for crafty players to include anti-Special Energy cards in their decks. Depending on the archetype, Temple of Sinnoh or Yveltal could be strong additions, but I'm also interested in Duraludon VMAX's chances. It's not a definitive answer to the metagame, as even decks full of Special Energy tend to have an answer to Duraludon VMAX's Skyscraper Ability (such as Path to the Peak in Regigigas or Yveltal in Lugia VSTAR). That said, Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX has been a strong deck that has stayed under the radar. Will this be its time to shine, or will players be prepared for it?
Ellis Longhurst: Earning an international championship title is a big deal. The journey is challenging. The prizes are huge. The prestige is forever.
Competing at an International Championships often requires the investment of a significant amount of time preparing for and travelling to the event, and no one wants to return home empty-handed. It follows that aspiring champions will select a deck that is typically considered to have a favorable match-up against most other decks, can repeatedly execute a winning strategy, or has been played to great success at previous tournaments. That is, one of the five decks that we have discussed above.
However, there are intrepid Trainers whose bravery, ingenuity, and skill have taken them all the way to Championship Sunday with an unconventional deck. These are the storylines that excite and unite viewers. I’m waiting with bated breath to find out if a Lightning toolbox deck will shock the Lugia VSTAR and Palkia VSTAR players at the Latin America International Championships, or if a control deck takes the competition by surprise. Perhaps Forest Seal Stone and Earthen Seal Stone from Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest will provide Pokémon VMAX like Dragapult VMAX and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX with the second wind they need to return to the top tables of a tournament. Make sure you tune in to the stream to find out!
Christopher Schemanske: There are so many exciting dynamics surrounding the LAIC 2022 metagame! The sheer amount of excitement around Lugia VSTAR is something that I can’t remember a comparison for. Sure, there have been single cards that simply changed the game—Mewtwo-EX is the best example—but usually they fit into a variety of strategies and simply become an omnipresent part of the format. Arceus VSTAR, released earlier this year, might be the closest example, but I’m not sure folks were this ready to put a crown on Arceus that early. A whole new archetype, immediately the unanimous favorite? There’s a lot to live up to!
When picking a deck for LAIC, though, the Weakness shared by Lugia VSTAR and its primary foe, Palkia VSTAR, has caught my eye. Players have tried—and largely failed—to take advantage of Palkia VSTAR’s Lightning-type vulnerability throughout 2022, but with Lugia VSTAR adding a second point of interest, now could be the time. Regieleki VMAX might be the spark needed to send something like Vikavolt V to the next level. Players shouldn’t get so caught up in the Lightning-type battles that they forget about Mew VMAX, which might be poised to take the next step, either. LAIC is certainly going to be a fascinating watch!