With the Pokémon TCG soaring in popularity, its latest set release, Vivid Voltage, has appeared in the Twitch streams of some of the platform's most popular creators (and even begun to creep into the realms of mainstream celebrities!). Naturally, this fosters what will hopefully be a new era of both spectators and players within the Pokémon TCG. With the iconic Charizard and fresh faced Drednaw shining brightly in the Pokémon Company's preconstructed theme decks, it won't be long before the bubble surrounding what lies beyond finally bursts.

With that in mind, I've put together the following Cramorant/Barraskewda deck. It's a fun and affordable 60 card strategy to bridge the gap between pre-constructed and tournament level gameplay.

4 arrokuda (swsh4-41)
2 barraskewda (swsh4-42)
4 cramorant (swsh4-40)
4 jirachi (sm9-99)
1 phione (sm12-57)
1 Oricorio-GX (sm12-95)
1 Dedenne-GX (sm10-57)
Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia) (swsh1-201)
4 Marnie (swsh1-169)
3 Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-189)
2 Nessa (swsh4-196)
4 Quick Ball (swsh1-179)
4 Great Ball (swsh1-164)
4 Switch (swsh1-183)
4 Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165)
4 Ordinary Rod (swsh1-171)
2 Viridian Forest (sm9-156)
4 Twin Energy (swsh2-174)
4 Water Energy (base1-102)

If you've followed my work in the Pokémon TCG before, you may know how much I love to experiment with unique ideas, trying to bring them to life within the highest levels of competitive play. While not every idea is a winner, I have been fortunate enough to rack up some notable achievements using a variety of homebrew strategies. Most recently, this was in the form of a 15th (out of 640) place finish with Mew/Cramorant V.

When I saw a new cramorant (swsh4-40) card featured in Vivid Voltage, I couldn't help but hope to find a place for it in a new deck. After reading the text of the card, I noticed an uncanny similarity to one of my former creations, circa early 2019: Egg Splat. This deck, focused around Alolan Exeggutor, uses the attack "Egg Splat" to discard Exeggcute and deal 60 damage for each. Now as we round the corner of 2020, Cramorant seems like a potential reincarnation of this strategy for today's Standard Format.

Upon examining the new cramorant (swsh4-40) more closely, there are plenty of positives to consider right off the bat. Firstly, it has great synergy with Twin Energy (swsh2-174). While most high level decks require either multiple energy attachments or the assistance of energy acceleration cards like Metal Saucer or Welder in order to attack, Cramorant can use twin energy to take full advantage of the 1 energy attachment per turn rule. Secondly, the damage output is very high. Dishing out 240 damage is a huge deal, as this can KO all of the popular 1- and 2-prize Pokémon like the ever so popular Zacian V—and even some 3-prize Pokémon like Pikachu & Zekrom GX. Lastly, Cramorant is only worth 1 of your opponent's 6 prize cards, putting this powerful attacker at maximum efficiency in terms of both energy cost and prize value.

On the flip side, this idea does have a few admitted drawbacks. Firstly, because you are only allowed up to 4 copies of each card in your deck (other than basic energy), Twin energy only allows you to attack with 4 Cramorant over the course of the game. Secondly, after sending multiple arrokuda (swsh4-41) to the discard with each attack, they will need to be recovered constantly in order to continue attacking—and that's only if none of them manage to make their way into your prize cards. Lastly, in order for Cramorant to attack, each of the arrokuda (swsh4-41) you plan on using needs to occupy 1 of your 5 bench spaces, limiting the amount of other Pokémon you can have in play.

Keeping those pros and cons in mind, I've come to the conclusion that the best way to utilize Cramorant is in combination with barraskewda (swsh4-42), the evolved form of arrokuda (swsh4-41). Since Arrokuda is naturally in the deck, Barraskewda is a partner for Cramorant that can be easily splashed in without occupying too many of the 60 allotted slots within a Pokémon TCG deck.

Barraskewda's attack, Targeted Skewer, is great because it not only costs just 1 water energy, but also becomes more powerful based on the amount of damage already on the targeted Pokémon. This is good for cramorant (swsh4-40) because it allows for a perfect follow-up from a Continuous Gulp Missile that chose to spare some benched arrokuda (swsh4-41) in lieu of maximizing damage. This is great against VMAX Pokémon, as you can sacrifice 2 Arrokuda to do 120 damage, then follow up the next with a second attack for 240 by evolving a third Arrokuda and attacking with the now barraskewda (swsh4-42). This 360 damage combo will save you resources and put you in range to KO any VMAX Pokémon, since most can't be taken out with a single attack anyway.

Now that we've covered the main strategy of the deck, it is important to highlight the purpose for some of the deck's remaining cards:

jirachi (sm9-99)

In the Pokémon TCG, Pokemon aren't just useful for dealing big damage. Oftentimes, drawing cards becomes the most important aspect of the game. Abilities that allow you to draw can be just as powerful as an attack. Because this deck requires so many different pieces to execute its strategy, you'll need to draw as many extra cards as possible. jirachi (sm9-99), Oricorio-GX (sm12-95), and Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) all have great abilities for gaining cards, and are often a staple in many top decks in competitive play.

With this deck specifically, managing your 5 benched spots can be really tough, so be sure to use these cards sparingly. While jirachi (sm9-99) can eventually come back to your hand with the use of scoop up net, there is no way to get a GX Pokémon to leave your field. Likewise, while Oricorio-GX (sm12-95) can use its ability throughout the course of the game, Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) is only able to Dedechange once when played from the hand. Timing these moves is crucial to your success, as each comes with the drawback of less room for the other crucial parts of your strategy. It doesn't hurt to remember that GX Pokémon are worth 2 prize cards and can allow your opponent to seal a win even faster.

phione (sm12-57)

While using various Pokémon abilities can be a great way to draw extra cards, there are plenty of other options to help boost your gameplay. phione (sm12-57) is a great addition to this deck. It can force your opponent's active Pokémon to retreat to the bench, oftentimes unwantedly. This is effective in not only slowing down your opponent while you get all of your pieces into play, but also when it comes to spreading damage around. While barraskewda (swsh4-42) can attack a Pokémon in either the active spot or the bench. cramorant (swsh4-40) is limited, like most other attackers, to only attacking the opponent's active Pokémon. And since Barraskewda is only effective against Pokémon that already have damage on them, you'll want Cramorant to place that initial damage on multiple Pokémon. With the use of Phione's Whirlpool Suction, that can be easily achieved by forcing your opponent to send their damaged Pokémon to the bench and giving Cramorant a fresh target to hit.

This deck, as I already mentioned, is extremely reliant on continuing to recycle Arrokuda to the discard. So, recovering them is probably the most critical part of your gameplan. Cards like Nessa (swsh4-157) and Ordinary Rod (swsh1-171) are the best tools at your disposal when it comes to doing this, so make sure you use them to their full potential! For example, it would be foolish to use Ordinary Rod to get back just one cramorant (swsh4-40) that has served its purpose, when at a later point you could eventually be getting back ammunition for your next attack in the form of 2 Arrokuda.

Switching a Cramorant to a Barraskewda can sometimes be very important when juggling which of the 2 to attack with. Multiple copies of Switch should allow you to do this when needed. However, both Switch (swsh1-183) and Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) serve the main purpose of allowing you to use Jirachi's Stellar Wish as many times as possible. Not only does Switch (swsh1-183) allow you to change which jirachi (sm9-99) occupies the active position, but Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) can both remove a Jirachi from the active spot AND reset its ability. Though each Jirachi can only use Stellar Wish once per turn, removing them from the field treats the Pokémon as if it were brand new, so you can play it once more and utilize Stellar Wish multiple times over.

The remaining cards in the deck should hopefully be pretty self explanatory. They allow you to dig through your deck and find the cards needed to get the game going. Since cramorant (swsh4-40) and barraskewda (swsh4-42) only occupy 4/60 of the cards in your deck each, cards like Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia) (swsh1-201) can help you further draw into your deck. Similarly, cards like Quick Ball (swsh1-179) can actually search out the specific Pokémon you are looking for—well, as long as it's a basic. These are 2 of the most popular cards played in almost every player's deck. However, they are just a few examples of how the remainder of your deck can help you get set up and start attacking.

I hope you're just as excited as I am to put these new Vivid Voltage cards to use in a fun and fresh deck! I think that cramorant (swsh4-40)/barraskewda (swsh4-42) is a great first step into the world of competitive Pokémon TCG, and while I don't expect to see it on the podium of any major tournaments just yet, it is certainly a strategy that can help you learn the fundamentals of the game, as well as one that can evolve over time.

As these strategies, like the Pokémon themselves, slowly start evolving, I hope that you continue along your path of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Who knows, maybe we'll even share the stage at an event in the not-so distant future!