Hey everyone! Continuing UNDNTD's series of Standard deck profiles, I'm here to present an overview of the Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) archetype. Last week, my teammate Le covered ADPZ, a deck pretty much unanimously agreed to be top-tier in the current Standard meta. Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) is a little more polarizing, with multiple top players refusing to give the deck "tier 1" status or even consider it much more than a pile of cards.
However, two rising stars in the online tournament scene—Kashvinder Singh Mann and Thomas Brophy—are set on proving some of the game's bigger names wrong. Their Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) list differs from the previous builds from some of the game's better-known players, but it has the results to back up Kash and Thomas's claims that it is a tier 1 deck. Both players have two event wins apiece with the list I'm about to share, plus countless other top cuts. I myself took their list to a Top 4 finish in a 200-player tournament with no previous practice games played, which is a testament to just how strong the list is!
3 Centiskorch V (swsh3-33)
3 Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34)
3 Jirachi (sm9-99)
2 Crobat V (swsh3-104)
2 Volcanion (xy11-25)
2 Dedenne-GX (sm10-57)
1 Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117)
1 Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20)
1 Eldegoss V (swsh35-5)
1 Giratina (sm11-86)
1 Phione (sm12-57)
4 Welder (sm10-189)
2 Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154)
1 Bird Keeper (swsh3-159)
4 Quick Ball (swsh1-179)
4 Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165)
4 Switch (swsh1-183)
3 Pokémon Communication (sm9-152)
2 Fire Crystal (sm10-173)
1 Great Catcher (sm12-192)
1 Reset Stamp (sm11-206)
3 Giant Hearth (sm11-197)
11 Fire Energy (base1-98)
Before I dive into what makes this specific list the best way to play Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34), let me provide a quick overview of the central cards in any Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) skeleton. The archetype fits into the category of "Welder deck," using the Supporter card Welder (sm10-189) as its primary means of both Energy acceleration and draw support. (One reason some top players are reluctant to acknowledge the power of Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) despite its results is the perceived inconsistency of Welder (sm10-189) decks relative to other archetypes. I'll explain how Kash and Thomas imbued their list with not just consistency, but flexibility to adapt in games where you don't draw as well as you planned.)
In addition to Welder (sm10-189), the other method of Energy acceleration in the deck is Volcanion (xy11-25). The deck would prefer to go second in most matchups so that Flare Starter can be used to full effect, charging up a Centiskorch V (swsh3-33) with three Fire Energy (base1-98). With a Welder (sm10-189) on either or both of the first two turns, plus your attachment for turn as well, a truly huge amount of Energy can be piled onto the board and allow Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) to one-shot Tag Team Pokémon as soon as it hits the board on turn 2.
However, don't assume the game is over if your opponent opts to go second. Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) can certainly win even when it can't use a turn 1 Welder (sm10-189) or use Flare Starter to full effect. The card selection Kash and Thomas included in their list gives it flexibility that I find lacking from the majority of other Standard decks right now, which is the main reason I enjoy this deck so much. Some of their smartest innovations which other lists were not playing are Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20), Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117), and Bird Keeper (swsh3-159), which I'll cover in detail.
The consistency engine in the list I'm covering is a Jirachi/Scoop Up Net/Switch engine, which is certainly nothing new, but differs from the simpler engine used in lists like Ahmed Ali's from the Players Cup II qualifiers, which used PokéGear 3.0 and multiple Eldegoss V (swsh2-19) to consistently find Welder (sm10-189). While I liked Ahmed's engine, the inclusion of Jirachi (sm9-99) provides more opportunities to dig for Trainers beyond just Welder (sm10-189), and Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) allows you to run a couple of important tech cards (Giratina (sm11-86) and Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117)) and opens up some interesting plays for the deck. Overall, I think this engine is the better way to build around Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34).
I'll break the rest of the article into two sections: the first explaining the general gameplan of the deck with a focus on the early setup, and the second explaining the card choices that Kash and Thomas used to improve upon earlier Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) lists, and how you can use them in specific matchups.
The gameplan for Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) changes somewhat drastically depending on whether you go first or second. As previously mentioned, going second allows you to leverage Volcanion (xy11-25) to full effect, attaching three Energy with Flare Starter; you are also able to use Welder (sm10-189). Your priority on this turn needs to be finding a Volcanion (xy11-25) and a Centiskorch V (swsh3-33) (which you will be attaching to with Flare Starter in almost all matchups), plus a way to bring Volcanion (xy11-25) into the Active Spot if you did not start it.
You might have to start making microdecisions that affect this turn as soon as you draw your opening hand. For example, I have had some hands where I will opt to start with Giratina (sm11-86) or Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) even if I have a "better" Pokémon (such as Centiskorch V (swsh3-33)) in hand. Why? I can move those single-Prize Pokémon with either Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) or Switch (swsh1-183) to pivot into Volcanion (xy11-25), while I could only use Switch (swsh1-183) to move the Centiskorch V (swsh3-33), so I'm improving my odds of successfully pulling off Flare Starter.
Don't be afraid to get pretty aggressive on this opening turn, discarding resources with Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) if that's what you need to do to find some part of your combo. The resources lost will almost always be compensated for by the fact that few decks can deal with a six-Energy Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) staring them down on turn 2.
If you go first (which you are often forced into in tournament matches, when your opponent wins the flip and knows what deck you're playing), your gameplan changes significantly because you can no longer use Flare Starter for its extra effect. Your typical goal should simply be to find a Centiskorch V (swsh3-33) and attach an Energy to it, and stabilize your board to prepare for a turn 1 popoff from the opponent. This could involve finding a second Centiskorch V (swsh3-33) if there's a chance of your first one taking damage next turn (for example from a turn 1 Full Blitz, Spit Shot, or something else), or finding a Jirachi (sm9-99) to place on the Bench if you expect your Active Pokémon to be Knocked Out and think you'll need to dig for a lot more resources on turn 2.
Regardless of whether you went first or second, your next goal should be to establish Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) and start dealing damage as quickly as possible. If you went second, used Flare Starter, and found a Welder (sm10-189) (and probably also a Giant Hearth) at some point, it is entirely possible to Knock Out a Tag Team Pokémon in one hit if you can bring Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) to the Active Spot. However, even a Knock Out on a support Pokémon such as Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) is very strong at this point, since very few decks will be returning the Knock Out on Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) and you can set up to Knock Out a Tag Team, or even a VMAX, on your third turn.
Your Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) will likely go down at some point, so around turn 3 is where you want to start establishing a second attacker on the Bench so you can close out the game. This is typically a second Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) but depending on your draws you may find it easier or necessary to set up your Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20). Be careful to play around a late-game Reset Stamp from certain decks, which could derail your plans very quickly if you don't have that second attacker ready.
While counts such as the 2 Volcanion (xy11-25), 3 Jirachi (sm9-99), and 3-3 VMAX line, and the counts of many the Trainer cards, were settled on by Kash and Thomas after extensive testing, their presence in the deck is fairly self-explanatory. Some of the cards in this list, on the other hand, may require a little more explanation. Let's take a look at Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20), Phione (sm12-57), Giratina (sm11-86), Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117), and Bird Keeper (swsh3-159).
Reshiram & Charizard-GX
Originally, Kash and Thomas followed the blueprint of previous Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) lists and played a Heatran-GX (sm11-25) in this slot. The night before I first played this deck in a tournament (when I made my Top 4 run with no testing), Thomas messaged me to suggest that I change the Heatran-GX (sm11-25) to Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20) ("ReshiZard"), in an attempt to help with the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX (sm9-33) ("PikaRom") matchup.
The reasoning is that ReshiZard can use Double Blaze GX to Knock Out a Boltund V (swsh2-67) immediately after Boltund V (swsh2-67) uses Electrify (or even before it attacks at all, if you are going second). Because PikaRom's best plan of attack is typically to start off a game with Electrify, this is a very strong play against it, if you can pull it off! You could follow up next turn with an Energy attachment plus Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) onto a support Pokémon, or even simply Knock Out an Active PikaRom with a ping from Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) (explained below). After that, as long as you were able to Bench a Centiskorch V (swsh3-33) and hopefully get an Energy or two onto it, it would be quite difficult for PikaRom to come back.
While I was skeptical of its value initially, Phione (sm12-57) is now one of my favorite cards in the deck! There are many scenarios where it proves useful, but perhaps the most common, and the one that best illustrates its value, is against ADPZ (Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156)/Zacian V (swsh1-138)), where it functions as a pseudo-Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) early in the game. If ADPZ wins the flip, they will almost certainly go second to prevent you from using Flare Starter to full effect. Thus, your turn 1 will revolve around finding a Centiskorch V (swsh3-33) and attaching an Energy to it. On turn 2, you can dig for Welder (sm10-189) and two more Energy, and a Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34). Then, you can use Phione (sm12-57) to force the opposing ADP out of the Active Spot. Anything your opponent sends up can then be one-shot by Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) (you'd need to attach a fourth Energy to one-shot Crobat V (swsh3-104), but that is very possible). You are now ahead in the Prize trade and your Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) cannot be Knocked Out next turn, so you can take at least two more Prizes on the next turn, set up a second attacker, and be in a position to easily close out the game! The same situation frequently applies in other matchups, such as against Mewtwo & Mew-GX (sm11-71) decks that had to Bench a support Pokémon or two early.
The release of Coating Metal Energy (swsh4-163) was a nice boost for Lucario & Melmetal-GX (sm10-120)/Zacian V (swsh1-138) (LucMetal) decks to help deal with Welder (sm10-189) decks. I have found that if you do not have an answer to Coating Metal Energy (swsh4-163), the LucMetal matchup actually becomes much less favorable than if you do, because you have much less margin for error in terms of misplays or poor draws, and it is much easier for LucMetal to run you out of resources. Giratina (sm11-86) is an easy-to-find solution to Coating Metal Energy (swsh4-163) (because of Quick Ball (swsh1-179)) that effectively turns your LucMetal matchup into a near-autowin, which is a nice thing to not have to worry about in tournaments. Giratina (sm11-86) has value in other matchups, such as removing Weakness Guard Energy against Decidueye so you can one-shot it with Volcanion (xy11-25), or removing the various Special Energy that some Eternatus VMAX (swsh3-117) lists play.
As mentioned above, one key use for Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) is to combine with the 230 damage from Flare Strike to one-shot a PikaRom. Its other main function in the deck is to deal with Blacephalon decks: it combines with the 110 damage from Volcanion's High-Heat Blast to one-shot a Blacephalon, making your Prize trade much more favorable. Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) is one of those cards that can have niche uses in tons of different unexpected scenarios, and I like that it gives this list some serious outplay potential.
At the time we introduced Bird Keeper (swsh3-159) into the deck, PikaRom was generally considered the top deck in the meta, and Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) often struggled to deal with its late-game combo of Reset Stamp with a Tandem Shock attack from Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX (sm11-54). Bird Keeper (swsh3-159) is a "fifth Switch" to negate the Paralysis effect, giving you higher odds to find an out off Stamp; it often pays to actually discard the Bird Keeper (swsh3-159) earlier so that Eldegoss V (swsh2-19) and Quick Ball (swsh1-179) can give you even more outs to the Switch (swsh1-183) effect. Some lists are playing Mallow & Lana (sm12-198) for the same purpose, but I still like Bird Keeper (swsh3-159) because it has more value in the early turns: if you can't find a Welder (sm10-189), Bird Keeper (swsh3-159) would at least draw you a few cards, so it is unequivocally better than Mallow & Lana (sm12-198) in the early parts of the game before your Pokémon have taken any damage.
This article should serve as a good overview of the card choices in this specific Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) list, which I think (after over a hundred tournament games played with it) is the optimal one for this format. It should also help explore the fundamentals of the deck, including your goals for setting up in the first two turns and then mapping your Prizes beyond that! I think this deck is very strong in most metagames and is a good play for pretty much any tournament right now, but it also takes a fair bit of skill to pilot optimally, including having familiarity with the intricacies of the list.
If you have questions or want to discuss the deck further, I am always happy to chat on Twitter @twhitesell42. As always, be sure to keep up with @UNDNTD as we continue our quest to be some of the Pokémon TCG's foremost competitive players and content creators. Thanks for reading!