Pokémon TCG Deck Strategy: Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze Eternatus VMAX

Pokémon TCG Deck Strategy: Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze Eternatus VMAX


Let’s take a closer look at how this deck works and what we can expect from it in the next few months.

It probably
comes as no surprise that Eternatus VMAX is the deck’s
main attacker. Attaching Energy from your hand to another Pokémon is usually a
waste of time because no one else can attack for nearly as much damage. That
said, Eternatus V can help you
attach Energy to your other Pokémon when you need to. With that in mind, it’s
especially important to find an Eternatus V and an Energy card on your first
turn so you can attack with Dread End on your second. If you win the coin flip,
choose to go first so you can begin attacking with Eternatus VMAX as soon as
possible. When going second, you’ll want to attack with Power
Accelerator so you can put additional Energy into play.
This makes it easier to pivot away from Eternatus VMAX and attack with the tech
attackers if you have to: Sableye V and Hoopa.

Hoopa is used
to finish off any Pokémon that Dread End can’t Knock Out in a single hit.
Because the attack caps out at 270 damage, pings from Galarian Zigzagoon’s Headbutt
Tantrum aren’t enough to Knock Out Pokémon VMAX in one hit. Therefore, the best
strategy is to swing once with Eternatus VMAX and then pivot into Hoopa with Hiding Darkness Energy (since Dark City provides free retreat only for Basic Darkness-type Pokémon).
Sableye V is a two-Prize attacker that can power through Zamazenta V’s Dauntless Shield Ability. It capitalizes on
chip damage from Power Accelerator and Headbutt Tantrum. Plus, with its Lode
Search attack, Sableye V can also recover Trainer cards in a pinch. Galarian Slowbro V serves a special purpose
as an additional damage modifier if you think Hoopa’s damage won’t be quite
enough. If possible, pivot into it after a Pokémon is Knocked Out or on the
first turn of the game.

Crobat V
provides the necessary draw power to set up each turn. In virtually every other
deck, it would be a downside to have Crobat V sitting on the Bench, so we would
ordinarily include only one or two copies of it. However, since our damage is tied
to the number of Darkness-type Pokémon in play, four Crobat V is the clear choice.
You can use the Dark Asset Ability only once per turn, so be sure to maximize
the number of cards drawn. When given the opportunity, it’s best to put other
Darkness-type Pokémon on the Bench and save Crobat V to recover from Reset Stamp or Marnie.

As is the case
with most “hit hard and hit fast” decks, linearity is the name of the game.
It’s incredibly important to get up and running as soon as possible, which is clear
when you examine the deck list. Four Professor’s Research and four Marnie make
up the Supporter engine, plus two Pokégear 3.0. Professor’s Research is able to draw the most
cards, but Marnie is an essential tool in conserving key resources. You’ll
sometimes draw clunky hands with multiple copies of a single card. When that
happens, the ideal choice is to play Marnie; it’s even better if the opponent
has more than four cards in their hand.

The full allowance
of Boss’s Orders is warranted because you need to eliminate an opponent’s
threats before they develop. Boss’s Orders is also great for chasing Crobat V
or Dedenne-GX, either
of which provides two easy Prize cards to close out the game. Finally, Pokégear
3.0 reduces inconsistency by increasing the odds of getting a Supporter card.
There aren’t many standout Supporter cards after the format rotation, so Pokégear
3.0 is a solid choice. Moreover, Pokégear 3.0 can help to find a timely Boss’s
Orders.

For
consistency reasons, the deck runs plenty of Pokémon search cards: Quick Ball, Great Ball, and Pokémon Communication. Quick
Ball is the best search card, so that’s maxed out. Great Ball and Pokémon
Communication are slightly less effective, but still necessary for grabbing the
required numbers of Pokémon from the deck. Great Ball works when you need any Pokémon,
whereas Pokémon Communication is nice for grabbing the specific one you need.

Finally,
there’s the Energy. Eleven is a good number because it’s important to always
have one per turn. There’s also the chance of attaching an extra Energy when
attacking with Eternatus V going second. The example list plays one copy of Capture Energy because Dread
End’s attack cost is {D} {C}. Hiding Darkness Energy is good to attach to Eternatus VMAX because it
provides free retreat. Basic Darkness Energy is needed to play around Dangerous Drill and for use
with Power Accelerator.

There are a
number of other supporting players in this deck to make sure Eternatus VMAX can
do its thing, as well as to help you fend off other threats. One of these is Dangerous
Drill, an important tech card to slow down your opponent’s progress. Metal Goggles is a pesky Tool card in Lucario & Melmetal-GX / Zacian V
decks that must be removed; when combined with Full Metal Wall-GX, a
Zacian V with an attached Metal Goggles can’t be Knocked Out by Dread End in a
single hit. Dangerous Drill allows you to remove the Metal Goggles, which puts
Zacian V in range to be Knocked Out in a couple of different ways: a fully charged
Dread End will do the trick, of course, but even if you’re starting the turn
with two empty Bench spaces, you can play Galarian Zigzagoon for 10 damage
before swinging in for 210. In other matchups, Dangerous Drill removes Special
Energy cards. Almost all decks are running Special Energy, and setting the
opponent behind a turn can win games on the spot.

Dark City is
the Stadium card of choice; it creates immeasurable pivotability—the ease of
moving Pokémon to and from your Bench—throughout the game. Our list has four
copies to help get Dark City into play as soon as possible. In comparing
different pivot effects, Dark City makes more sense than Switch or Scoop Up Net because it’s a Stadium and will stay in play
turn after turn.

One possible revision
to our deck list would be to cut Dark City and a few other cards to add Black Market Prism Star and Switch. Viridian Forest is another playable Stadium because it reduces hand size
before using Dark Asset and ensures Energy attachments. However, Dark City halves
the deck space that would otherwise be allocated for Switch and Stadiums by
combining their effects into one card. In that sense, Dark City frees up one or
two deck slots to be allocated elsewhere for more impactful cards.

Eternatus VMAX
can easily deal with decks that aren’t able to disrupt its strategy. One
example of this is Centiskorch VMAX. It takes time for its damage to ramp up and doesn’t have a
way to easily Knock Out an Eternatus VMAX. After you’ve swung once with Dread
End, be sure to pivot into Hoopa to finish the work. If you can’t, don’t be
afraid to use Boss’s Orders to heavily damage another Centiskorch VMAX.
Delaying the Knock Out plays around Reset Stamp and uses damage more
efficiently. I mentioned earlier that it is usually advantageous to go first in
the game, but keep in mind that if your opponent is playing a version revolving
around Green’s Exploration, it’s
beneficial to choose to go second.

Another good
matchup is Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX / Zacian V. While the opponent has to waste two turns loading
up an Altered Creation-GX, you can begin attacking immediately. The best
way to win this matchup is to actively target your opponent’s loaded attackers
with Boss’s Orders. Zamazenta V can make this matchup slightly more
problematic, but still favorable.

The final
matchup to discuss is the mirror match. You can win in three attacks by
Knocking Out three Pokémon V, but the realistic outcome is four attacks. If
you’re able to use Boss’s Orders for two Prize cards rather than swinging into
an Eternatus VMAX, that’s usually the best play. Remember that it’s possible to
interweave Hoopa, a single-Prize attacker, to finish off a damaged Pokémon,
while keeping your multiple-Prize Pokémon out of harm’s reach.

Eternatus VMAX
can swing for plenty of damage, but some decks have ways around that damage.
The current biggest counter to Eternatus VMAX is Zamazenta V: Its Dauntless
Shield Ability prevents damage done to it by Pokémon VMAX, meaning that you’ll
have to attack with everything else in order to get through it. This is a major
problem because no other attacker in your deck does nearly as much damage. On
top of that, Zamazenta V is usually played alongside Lucario & Melmetal-GX
and Zacian V, so Full Metal Wall-GX reduces your damage output by 30—and
Metal Goggles, while manageable with Dangerous Drill, brings the total damage
reduction to 60. Your secondary attackers will struggle to accumulate a Knock
Out, especially through healing from Mallow & Lana.

As it stands,
there isn’t a solution to this issue. Spiritomb is one consideration, but it’s a fragile attacker and not
worth using in any other matchups. Even so, it would require multiple Spiritomb
to even have a chance of winning. Mallow & Lana is quick to stifle any
residual damage.

The good news
is that decks with only one copy of Zamazenta V, and those that don’t have as
many defensive cards, may be manageable with alternate attackers. It’s also
possible to take all six Prize cards with Boss’s Orders if given the
opportunity.

Another
difficult card to face is Inteleon VMAX because of its first attack, Hydro Snipe. When paired with Team Yell Grunt, your opponent
can force all the Energy attached to your Eternatus VMAX back into your hand,
preventing you from attacking. Your best course of action is to begin loading
up a backup Eternatus VMAX on the Bench. Even then, it’s difficult because
you’d need to attach a Hiding Darkness Energy to the Active Eternatus VMAX to
retreat it.

There’s a
solution to this: combine Turbo Patch, which can accelerate Energy from the discard pile onto one
of your Basic Pokémon, with Weavile-GX and its Shadow Connection Ability to move that Energy onto your
Active Eternatus VMAX. Keep in mind that this Ability can move only basic Darkness
Energy. While these options are clunky, they may be necessary if you expect
Inteleon VMAX at your next tournament.

In my opinion,
Eternatus VMAX is the strongest card to come out of the recent Sword &
Shield—Darkness Ablaze
expansion. Its powerful attacks and incredible draw
support make it a top contender in future tournaments. As more Darkness-type Pokémon
are released, Eternatus VMAX only gains more options for attackers and support Pokémon.
Give it a try, and best of luck at your next tournament!

For more competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game content, continue reading Pokemon.com/Strategy.

Xander Pero

Xander Pero is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He was an avid fan until discovering sanctioned tournaments in 2009. He formerly traveled often for the Top 16 circuit, but now spends his time focusing on university, where he studies industrial engineering. You can find him at various tournaments, as well as on Twitter at @xanderpero.



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