By Stéphane Ivanoff, Contributing Writer
While the new Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion puts a lot of focus on the new Rapid Strike and Single Strike cards, it would be a mistake for any player to ignore the rest of the set. The two Urshifu VMAX may be the stars of the show, but in my opinion, Victini VMAX is just as good, if not better. Read on to find out why, then check out a sample deck toward the end.
Victini VMAX Overview
Even at first glance, Victini VMAX has a lot going for it: Its 310 HP may be a little lower than some of the other Pokémon VMAX, but it's still extremely solid. What's more important is its Max Victory attack. For only two Energy, Victini VMAX can do 220 damage to any Pokémon V (and that includes Pokémon VMAX). If you go first, you can attach two Fire Energy in the first two turns of the game, then Knock Out virtually any Pokémon V in the game before it can evolve into a Pokémon VMAX.
Victini VMAX is not the first Pokémon with this kind of destructive power: Eternatus VMAX's damage output is potentially higher for the same amount of Energy. However, in order to harness Eternatus VMAX's power, you need to fill your Bench with Darkness-type Pokémon, and you won't always have enough on Turn 2. Victini VMAX, however, doesn't have any such restriction, and if you play Boss's Orders, you can ensure that you can Knock Out your opponent's key Pokémon, even if it was on the Bench!
Attackers to Use with Victini VMAX
Of course, Victini VMAX only shines against Pokémon V. Against other Pokémon, it will do only 100 damage. That might be enough to Knock Out small Pokémon such as Jirachi or Cinccino, but many Pokémon won't be felled by Max Victory, including some single-Prize Pokémon such as Houndoom and Volcanion. More crucially, Max Victory won't take down any Pokémon-GX, including TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX. Against these Pokémon, Victini VMAX is at a significant disadvantage.
Thankfully, it's not alone! Victini VMAX uses Fire Energy, so it can benefit from one of the best Supporters in the game, Welder. And if you're playing Welder, there are plenty of other Pokémon you can include in your deck! Here are some other attackers.
Reshiram & Charizard-GX: This TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX has been paired with Welder since the two cards first appeared together in Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds, and it's easy to see why. Double Blaze-GX can do an incredible 200 damage as soon as Turn 1, and the TAG TEAM can then follow it up with a 230-damage Flare Strike. When you're looking for Fire-type attackers, this card is one of the first to come to mind.
Heatran-GX: Heatran-GX doesn't do as much damage as Reshiram & Charizard-GX, but it's more flexible and it only gives up two Prize cards when Knocked Out. With Steaming Stomp, it does 130 damage, which is enough to KO many smaller Pokémon. However, if you have enough Energy on board (and with Victini VMAX's high HP, the Energy will often stay in play for several turns), you can use them and Heatran-GX's Ability to pick up a massive KO with Hot Burn-GX to finish the game in an explosive fashion.
Mewtwo & Mew-GX: If you're using these first two Pokémon-GX attackers, you can also add Mewtwo & Mew-GX to your deck! Thanks to its Perfection Ability, Mewtwo & Mew-GX can use the attacks of both of the previous Pokémon to create a very flexible attacker. You can even include Charizard-GX in your deck and discard it as soon as possible so Mewtwo & Mew-GX can copy its strong Flare Blitz-GX attack. There's another reason to play Mewtwo & Mew-GX: to hit both Urshifu VMAX for Weakness!
Cramorant V: This is another Pokémon that's often been played in Welder decks. Unlike the previous Pokémon, Cramorant V can target the Bench. Spit Shot's 160 damage can be used to finish off a damaged Pokémon that retreated, or to KO a support Pokémon, such as Dedenne-GX, in a single hit.
Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX: Because Victini VMAX struggles with Pokémon-GX, Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX can also be added, since its Jumping Balloon attack will do heavy damage against decks full of them, such as Pikachu & Zekrom-GX.
Volcanion: Volcanion is not as dangerous as the other Pokémon, but it's incredibly useful! When playing a Victini VMAX deck, you usually prefer to go first so you can threaten your opponent's Pokémon with a Turn 2 Max Victory. Volcanion makes sure that if you lose the coin flip and have to go second, you'll still get a strong setup, thanks to its Flare Starter attack.
There's one more Fire-type Pokémon that will obviously be in any Victini VMAX deck: Victini V! The Sword & Shield—Battle Styles Victini V is decent, but the one from Sword & Shield is excellent—good enough that it was in Nico Alabas's International Championship-winning deck long before Victini VMAX was ever released. Victini V can use Spreading Flames to help get Energy in play on the first turn, and its Energy Burst attack is very good against decks that need a lot of Energy to function. When playing a Victini VMAX deck, you'll sometimes find that it's better not to evolve your Victini V, so keep that option in mind!
Support Cards for Victini VMAX
Victini VMAX is the newest addition to what has become a big family of Welder decks. These decks may vary quite a bit when it comes to the Pokémon they use, but they still share many similarities, so we can take inspiration from them when building a Victini VMAX deck.
First of all, in order to use Welder, you need Fire Energy cards in hand—two, ideally. There are several ways to achieve that, but the most efficient are Giant Hearth and Fire Crystal. Giant Hearth is a great way to make sure you find a couple of Fire Energy cards whenever you need them. It's also important to have Stadiums in your deck in order to counter opponents' disruptive Stadiums such as Power Plant. Not every Welder deck needs Fire Crystal, however. Victini VMAX doesn't need that many Energy over the course of a game, and it can recover Energy with the Spreading Flames attack if necessary.
Welder is a very powerful Supporter due to its Energy acceleration component, but as a draw card, it's pretty lackluster. While Victini VMAX doesn't need to play Welder as much as other Fire-type decks due to Max Victory's low Energy cost, the turns in which you don't play Welder will usually be used to play Boss's Orders to help pick off easy targets. Four Boss's Orders has become the standard in Victini VMAX decks because the power of a Turn 2 Boss's Orders + Max Victory combination to Knock Out your opponent's Pokémon V before it evolves is so devastating. Boss's Orders also makes sure Victini VMAX can hit a target for 220 damage, instead of the low 100 damage against non-Pokémon V.
The downside of this plan is that Boss's Orders doesn't draw cards either! This means we'll need to add draw effects that don't use up our Supporter for the turn: Dedenne-GX and Crobat V are great support Pokémon for that purpose. Oricorio-GX can also help: while it only draws 3 cards situationally, it can be put on your Bench in advance. If you're in the late part of a game and you expect your opponent to play Reset Stamp to put you at one or two cards in hand, you should play Oricorio-GX onto your Bench. This way, even if your opponent Knocks Out your Active Pokémon and plays Reset Stamp, you'll be able to get more cards; hopefully, that helps you get that winning Boss's Orders or Welder you need for the game! Kricketune V can play the same role.
When a deck relies on specific Supporters for its game plan (as opposed to relying on other cards and using Supporters to draw, as most decks do), it's recommended to have ways to search for these Supporters. Pokégear 3.0, while unreliable, is the best way to search for Supporters in the Standard format. In the mid- or late game, though, Eldegoss V becomes much better since it will always get the Supporter you need, and you can search for the Pokémon with Quick Ball.
Finally, let's not forget Item cards! Every deck needs Items to search for its Pokémon, and Victini VMAX is no exception. In addition to the ubiquitous Quick Ball, Pokémon Communication is needed since it can also search for Evolution cards like Victini VMAX. If you're running many Pokémon-GX, especially Mewtwo & Mew-GX, you'll also want Cherish Ball!
Victini VMAX Deck List
Now that we've seen what cards fit together the best, let's make a deck list! You don't have to fit every card mentioned above into the same deck, but there are options you can try out to improve the deck if you find that you're missing something. Here's what I'm currently playing:
4Boss’s Orders (Giovanni)
1Professor’s Research (Professor Juniper)