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

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

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
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

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!

Stéphane Ivanoff

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

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

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

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

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. He’s also a Pokémon TCG streamer.

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