31 août 2022
Elena (Gaia Storm)
Hello everyone! As many of you might know, the 2022 edition of the Pokémon World Championship was celebrated in London last week. I had the privilege to go there and play and it is very difficult to describe with words the electricity and passion that filled every corner of the event after so many years of not having in-life tournaments because of the COVID pandemic.
Thousands and thousands of people from all locations gathered in the capital of the UK for a full-packed 4 days experience of Pokémon battles. Since the Pokémon franchise is growing so much, we had a bunch of different official competitions going on at the same time: Videogame, Pokémon GO, Pokken Tournament, Pokémon Unite and, of course, Trading Card Game. Precisely, I am here today to talk about what happened in the last category and what ended up getting crowned as the best deck of the year. Let 's start!
No surprises: Palkia VSTAR shapes the metagame.
Something very important that I want to start with is that, unlike what happened in the previous editions of the World Championship, this time we could anticipate what the metagame was going to look like. Let me elaborate a little bit on this because it is a huge point. In the 2019 edition, for example, Worlds was the first time when a new format was officially available. In Pokémon, there is something called “rotation” that regulates the legality status of cards in Standard once a year. Said rotation happened just before Worlds 2019 and, as you can imagine, it caused a huge earthquake because players had to adapt decks to a never-seen-before metagame. No one knew exactly what was going to be played, no one knew how to effectively build the decks and, on top of that, it was very difficult to get cards from the latest expansion that had been released just a couple of weeks before.
I think I am speaking for all competitors when I say “Thanks Arceus that this time it was different!”. We didn’t have the rotation this time and there was no new set in the horizon. This meant we had plenty of data and experience with the Worlds format, which made it “easy” to make some predictions. This created a very different situation where the surprise factor had little to none impact and most players opted for consistency above all. And in fact, apart from some interesting builds that some top players decided to run, we saw no new decks.
What was clear is that everything was going to revolve around Palkia VSTAR. It is one of the best (if not THE best) deck in the entire format and had performed very consistently over the past couple of months. Also, it is by far one of the most popular decks in Japan so it was obvious that if you played the Pokémon Worlds this year, you had to be prepared to face Palkia multiple times during the tournament. And with that idea in mind, people made their picks. I would say that the highest percentage of players decided to play Palkia but others bet to go frontally against it. Now, deciding to go against just one single strategy is risky because, you know, what if you face something you weren't expecting? But I think that the number of Palkia decks was so considerable that it was worth going down that route.
So the question is… what can effectively counter Palkia? As you know, Pokémon is a game with a weakness mechanic: fire defeats grass, grass defeats water and water defeats fire and so on. Palkia happens to be weak to Lightning type cards so it was very interesting to see that many players opted to play decks with either a few -or a lot of- Lightning attackers to make sure they could win easily against Palkia. Some of the attackers that we saw throughout the tournament were Raikou, Vikavolt and Flying Pikachu.
There were some players that decided to go one step ahead and tech Jolteon with Memory Capsule, a card that can effectively shut down Palkia’s drawing engine. In fact, if you look at the lists that ended in positions #2 and #3 respectively, you will see that they run Pikachu VMAX AND Jolteon. I think these players decided they didn’t want to lose against Palkia no matter what and thought “better safe than sorry!”.
And even with all that hate, Palkia still got 4 spots in the top 8 and 7 in the top 16, something that speaks very highly about the consistency and power of the deck.
Flying Pikachu becomes the n1!
It is clear that there is no more iconic Pokémon in the world than Pikachu (well, perhaps Charizard?) but, traditionally, its TCG cards have not been very powerful, having more a collector value than a competitive one. If someone told me 6 months ago that Pikachu would be winning Worlds 2022 I would have been skeptical but hey, here we are! To be fair, Pikachu won paired with the almighty Arceys VSTAR, which is a card that had been dominating the format since it came out.
The strategy of the deck is pretty simple. Use Arceus in the first turns of the game to set up, power up Pikachu or Decidueye V (depending on what you are going against) and go from there. Decidueye is in the deck to counter other Arceus builds (Arceus is weak to Fighting) which are still pretty prevalent. Pikachu VMAX is, on its own, a very solid attacker against Palkia because it can of course KO it in one hit while its high HP makes it almost impossible for Palkia to return the KO. The advantage that Pikachu has compared to other Lightning-type cards is that it has more uses apart from being just a Palkia counter. It can block the attacks of basic Pokémon and completely shuts down strategies like Regigigas or Solrock/Lunatone.
Another interesting thing to highlight about this strategy is that is focusses a lot on disrupting the opponent. It runs 4 copies of Path to the Peak, which entirely blocks abilities from some of the most popular Pokémon in the format. When you pair this up with Marnie, you are forcing your opponent to get rid of their hands and be in a very difficult situation. And yes, in case you are wondering, having 4 cards is considered a low hand in Pokémon TCG.
Next stop: Yokohama 2023
One of the most anticipated moments of the closing ceremony was the reveal of the place where Pokémon Worlds 2023 would be held and I can tell you that the audience went absolutely crazy when they announced that Yokohama was the chosen city. It is very exciting to see that, after so many years, Japan is getting some love (practically all the previous World editions have been celebrated in the United States).
On the one hand, I think this is going to be an amazing opportunity for those that love the game and compete to get our Worlds invite but, on the other hand, I can imagine that it will discourage some players as the travel is a very expensive one and will be very difficult to afford.
For the time being, the 2023 has officially started and a new wave of Regionals have been announced in the official Pokémon web (I might write an article on how to qualify for Worlds). As such, Palkia VSTAR, Arceus, Pikachu and the rest of the decks that we’ve seen so far will still be dominating the upcoming tournaments, so make sure to take a look at the winning lists to be prepared for what is about to come. Thanks for reading!
Elena (Gaia Storm)
Elena has been playing Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2011 and has never stopped. With her partner, she runs Gaia Storm, one of the largest Pokémon TCG Youtube channels in the world. She has a problem remembering the names of all the Pokémon but tends to open the most broken Pokémon packs.