Hey guys, Dustin here with another exciting Standard deck profile from the UNDNTD team! This week I wanted to step off the beaten path of the usual metagame just a bit and explore one of my absolute favorite decks right now—Orbeetle VMAX. This giant hovering bug came onto the scene with the release of Vivid Voltage, piquing the interest of many top players due to its unique ability and inherent synergy with Snorlax (released in the same set). Quite quickly though, it started to fall out of favor. No one could crack the code—that is, no one knew how to best bolster the beetle.
Until recently! On January 22nd, 2016 World Champion Philip Schulz piloted his Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) deck to a T16 finish (final record 6-2) at a weekly online tournament with over 300 players. When someone with that kind of talent plays an unexpected deck, people take notice. His list, unlike some I've seen in the past, featured a heavy Tag Call (sm12-206) engine that took full advantage of Guzma & Hala (sm12-193) to establish the board position. The previously assumed count of 4 Snorlax (swsh4-131) had been reduced to 2, and there were other fun surprises like 3 Weakness Guard Energy (sm11-213), Wondrous Labyrinth ◇ (sm9-158), and [Munchlax](Munchlax (sm11-173)just to name a few.
Over the next few weeks and up until now, there was now a renewed surge of interest in the deck that led to a handful of Top 16, Top 8, and Top 4 performances in various online tournaments. Nothing game-breaking, but it was shown that Orbeetle can at least compete! And on February 8th, famed player Azul Garcia Griego (@Azul_GG) ranked the deck #10 in his standard format power rankings.
All that being said...what kind of deck is this, exactly? For those whose introduction to the Pokemon TCG was any time in the past year, it's nothing like anything you've ever played before. Orbeetle doesn't need to outspeed your opponent, attach multiple energy a turn with cards like Welder (sm10-189), or even utilize a GX attack. You really don't even attack until around Turn 3!
This deck plays much slower and more methodically. You spend a handful of turns setting up your board position, playing cards like Switch (sm1-132) and Bird Keeper (swsh3-159) to use an Eerie Beam or two, and finishing your turn with Snorlax's Gormandize to refresh your hand to a full seven cards. By slowly placing 1-3 damage counters on each of your opponent's Pokemon every turn, you begin to bring a lot of commonly played Pokemon into OHKO (or 2HKO) range with Orbeetle VMAX's inexpensive attack, G-Max Wave. And what's best of all is that you typically aren't putting yourself in the line of fire until the attack is doing 150-200 damage.
If you're the type of player who wants a game of Pokemon to last more than a few turns, this is the deck for you! The list I'm sharing today is my most recent iteration, but I will also be walking through cards I've gone back and forth with, cards I've seen other players use, and cards that maybe I'm a little crazy for thinking could be added. As of the writing of this article, I have accrued 45 tournament rep in just 16 tournaments in the Players Cup III Qualifiers.
2 Snorlax (swsh4-131)
1 Victini (sm12-30)
4 Orbeetle V (swsh4-20)
4 Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21)
1 Marshadow (sm10-81)
1 Mr. Mime (sm9-66)
2 Cynthia & Caitlin (sm12-189)
2 Mallow & Lana (sm12-198)
2 Reset Stamp (sm11-206)
4 Bird Keeper (swsh3-159)
3 Switch (sm1-132)
4 Quick Ball (swsh1-179)
2 Tool Scrapper (swsh2-168)
2 Turffield Stadium (swsh35-68)
1 Wondrous Labyrinth ◇ (sm9-158)
3 Lillie's Poké Doll (sm12-197)
2 Guzma & Hala (sm12-193)
2 Tag Call (sm12-206)
2 Marnie (swsh1-169)
2 U-Turn Board (sm11-211)
2 Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154)
3 Capture Energy (swsh2-171)
2 Grass Energy (xy12-91)
4 Aromatic Grass Energy (swsh4-162)
3 Weakness Guard Energy (sm11-213)
If you win the coin flip and you don't know what deck you're up against, it's best to choose to go first. Your immediate plan of action is to get at least one Orbeetle V (swsh4-20) in play (the more the merrier) with a Snorlax (swsh4-131) in the active position to use Gormandize. 4 Quick Ball (swsh1-179) and 3 Capture Energy (swsh2-171) shouldn't make this too difficult. It's okay if you need to manually retreat into the Snorlax (swsh4-131) (and thus lose your chance to use G-Max Wave on Turn 2), because as stated before—you're allowed to take a bit more time with this deck. I've found that most decks will just Crushing Hammer (bw2-92) that energy off anyway *wink*. Though if you do have a Switch (sm1-132) or U-Turn Board (sm11-211), even better! Just note that you may want to use Switch (sm1-132) on following turns to effortlessly pivot between multiple Eerie Beam abilities.
By the time you can play a Supporter, you will hopefully be playing Guzma & Hala (sm12-193) to grab Turffield Stadium (swsh35-68), Centiskorch VMAX (swsh3-34) or Blacephalon, you'll want to prioritize attaching Weakness Guard Energy (sm11-213) so their KOs don't come as easily. And as a general rule, it's best to attach U-Turn Board (sm11-211) and your energy to separate Orbeetles. If you don't have Guzma & Hala (sm12-193), no sweat. Just keep on at it until you have 2-3 Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) in play, one of which ready to attack as soon as it's safe or makes sense to do so.
Helpful tip when playing against fire decks! When calculating what your opponent might do on their next turn, remember that if they choose to Boss's Orders up a benched Pokemon, they can no longer use Welder. And vise-versa. Seems obvious, but it may save you!
Here's another very critical aspect of piloting this deck: what you choose to promote to active when your Pokemon is KO'd. Let's walk through an example of an ideal situation that will help you understand what's possible:
Say you have a Snorlax (swsh4-131) active, 1 Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) ready to attack, 2 Orbeetle V (swsh4-20) on the bench with no energy (1 has a U-Turn Board (sm11-211) attached), a Turffield Stadium (swsh35-68) in play, and a Bird Keeper](Bird Keeper (swsh3-159)) in hand. Snorlax (swsh4-131) gets knocked out, and it's your turn now. What's the best line of play from here?
The answer is to promote the regular Orbeetle V (swsh4-20) without the tool. After you draw for turn, use the stadium to search for a VMAX, evolve, and Eerie Beam. Then, Bird Keeper](Bird Keeper (swsh3-159)) into the other Orbeetle with the tool on the off-chance you draw a third VMAX from those 3 cards. If so—nice! Eerie Beam! If not, no sweat. In either case, you then retreat for turn into the final Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21). Don't forget to Eerie Beam with him too, and then attack.
Now obviously these situations may vary, but it's critical to always think through your turn before promoting a new Pokemon into the active spot. The attacking VMAX should be the last one to come active—it's the same reason you should be attaching U-Turn Board (sm11-211) and your energies onto separate Orbeetle whenever possible.
I thought it'd be fun to showcase how many abilities and attacks lead to KOs against the standard metagame's most common Pokemon. This way you can better visualize your game plan against those decks! Assume that all Pokemon listed have just enough energy attached to attack unless noted otherwise.
(For all of these, "X Eerie Beam" simply means X damage counters.)
5 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (200 - 30 resistance) = KO
Pikachu & Zekrom GX
4 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (200) = KO
5 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (150) = KO
4 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (150) + G-Max Wave (150) = KO
(with 3 Energy): 1 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (200) = KO
Unsuspecting players may use Volcanion's Flare Starter on their first turn to put a ton of energy onto their benched Centiskorch V (swsh3-33). Sometimes you might get lucky enough on your second turn to Boss it up for a quick OHKO!
(with 3 Energy): G-Max Wave (200) + G-Max Wave (200) = KO
This is a weird one. Just know that players will usually not attach more than 3 energy, because that's all they need to 2HKO an Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) with Weakness Guard Energy (sm11-213) attached. I've found that Eerie Beam plays less of a role, and you're probably going to have to attack twice no matter what.
(with 6 energy): G-Max Wave (350) = KO
Or hey—maybe they wanted to OHKO you without weakness! Luckily, if they attach the amount they need to do that, we can return it right back.
Mewtwo & Mew GX
7 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (200) = KO
2 Eerie Beam + G-Max Wave (250) = KO
Alternatively, it's pretty common to just attack twice into Mewtwo. You'll nearly always achieve the 2HKO.
Another thing I love about this deck is that there's a lot of wiggle room for tech cards that can adapt to a metagame, or even just whatever you're feeling like on a particular day. For this article, I'm going to go over the cards that are less than obvious, or just deserve some explanation as to why they're so useful.
I included 4 of these because…ha ha, just kidding! I said less than obvious. Let's move on.
Scoop Up (base4-107) block! What a game changer this ability is for the deck. Many decks play 4 Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) to pick up Pokemon with low amounts of HP and will be knocked out over the course of the game after 6+ Eerie Beams. Not only does this ensure that you can score those easy prizes given enough turns, but it also cripples your opponents set-up and chances of winning. Decks like Blacephalon need to cycle through multiple Jirachi (sm9-99) to establish their board position; Mr. Mime (sm9-66) limits them to just their 4 Switch (sm1-132). Eternatus VMAX (swsh3-117) can OHKO an Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) with 4 Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117); Mr. Mime (sm9-66) makes sure the same one isn't used twice. Fire decks may play a single copy of Giratina (sm11-86) to remove your Weakness Guard Energy (sm11-213); Mr. Mime (sm9-66) says "Hey pal, just one and you're done" (once is still pretty scary though, be careful!).
Marshadow (UNB 81)
After many games of playtesting, it became clear that Turffield Stadium (swsh35-68) is the most reliable way of setting up multiple VMAX. That's a big problem when a lot of popular standard decks play Chaotic Swell (sm12-187). Resetting Hole gets rid of it for you, allowing you to maintain tempo.
Okay, this one I'm proud of, I haven't seen anyone else play it, but I just know I'm onto something. The main reason is simple: When Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156) uses Ultimate Ray for 180 (GX boosted), and you follow up by using Mallow & Lana (sm12-198) for full effect, an Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) is left with 250HP remaining. That's enough for a GX boosted Brave Blade to simply finish the KO and take 4 prize cards. But if you throw a Victory Heal into the mix, you're instead left with 270HP remaining. They'll come up 10 damage short, a huge momentum swing! Cards like Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117), Leon (swsh4-195), or Vitality Band (swsh1-185) can easily negate this, but the vast majority of ADPZ decks do not play these cards.
There are too many other small examples to list, but healing 20 damage per turn is nothing to ignore—especially for a deck that spends a lot of time on the bench hiding behind Snorlax (swsh4-131) or Dolls!
2 Tool Scrapper
Not an uncommon card to find in standard decks, but I wanted to talk about how important they are for one particular matchup—LucMetal (Lucario & Melmetal-GX (smp-SM192)) Zacian. Not only is the damage from G-Max Wave now reduced by 60 after their GX attack and Zacian V's resistance, but an attached Metal Goggles (sm9-148) would reduce the damage even further AND prevent Eerie Beam from placing damage counters. Not good. With two copies of Tool Scrapper (swsh2-168), you have the capability to remove all 4 of their tools from play and give yourself a fighting chance.
Aside from the usual targets like Air Balloon (swsh1-156) and Big Charm (swsh1-158), another neat trick you can do is to remove your own U-Turn Board (sm11-211) (which then comes to your hand instead of the discard pile) and attach it to a different Orbeetle, perhaps allowing you to get off an additional Eerie Beam.
The addition of this card is really quite clever. Not only can you disrupt your opponent's tempo by forcing them to attach an additional energy in order to attack, but it also makes G-Max Wave do 50 more damage, which results in a KO you wouldn't otherwise reach! Playing this in tandem with a Reset Stamp (sm11-206) to 1-3 cards could make them miss their attack altogether, giving you more time to spread damage counters around. Just be careful—your attacks will cost one more energy as well!
4 Aromatic Energy
So these may seem obvious in that they're just Grass Energy (xy12-91) that can be searched with Guzma & Hala (sm12-193), but they're impact actually reaches a little further. Pikarom decks love to attack with Raichu & Alolan Raichu GX's Tandem Shock, paralyzing you in hopes that you miss a turn of attacking and they can swing the game into their favor. Aromatic Grass Energy (swsh4-162) prevents that entirely. Even if it's not attached at first, it will cure any special condition when it's attached.
Additionally, Eternatus VMAX (swsh3-117) variants that play Galarian Slowbro V (swsh3-99) and Toxicroak (swsh1-124) can pretty easily OHKO your Orbeetle VMAX (swsh4-21) with Dread End by poisoning you and filling their bench with at least 2 Croak. Aromatic Grass Energy (swsh4-162) again says "NO!".
Remember that wiggle room I was talking about? Here are a couple more cards that I've seen other noted players include in their lists. If you'd like to make a swap yourself, considering cutting one tech Basic Pokemon for another. You could also remove one copy of Reset Stamp (sm11-206), Tool Scrapper (swsh2-168), or even a Grass Energy (xy12-91)! It's best to try out a lot of options and see what's best for your playstyle and metagame.
Munchlax (UNM 173) / Tyrogue (UNB 100)
I've lumped these two together because they're so similar. Both of them have 60HP, free retreat, and an ability with a 50/50 chance of success that will end your turn regardless. The one you select depends on whether you find more value in placing a card on top of your deck or placing 3 damage counters on an opposing Pokemon. Both are good, and it should be noted that Philip Schulz played one of each. Just remember that if you use either of these abilities you cannot Gormandize for the turn, so hide behind a Lillie's Poké Doll (sm12-197) instead.
Mimikyu (CEC 97)
I noticed a copy of this card in the list Azul played on his YouTube channel, so of course it deserves a mention. After just a single Eerie Beam, the Shadow Box ability prevents a handful of common Pokemon from using their own abilities—most notably, Mewtwo & Mew-GX (smp-SM191), Oricorio-GX (sm12-95), Heatran-GX (sm11-25), and Silvally-GX (sm12-184). Unfortunately, it will not prevent the use of abilities that trigger when a Pokemon comes into play, such as with [Dedenne-GX](Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) or Mawile-GX (sm11-141).
Buzzwole & Pheromosa GX
I'm pretty torn on whether or not this is a good addition to the deck. On one hand, it seems to make perfect sense: you can search for it with Tag Call (sm12-206), it uses Grass Energy (xy12-91), and the attacks contribute to the overall strategy by spreading damage or taking an extra prize card. However, in my experience, it just disrupts your tempo by introducing something else that needs an energy attachment, all the while being worth 3 prizes if your opponent scores a KO. I'm personally much happier attaching Capture Energy (swsh2-171) to an Orbeetle, setting up my board, and using Eerie Beams until I'm ready to attack.
Honestly? This boy is going into my deck right after I write this article. It really just seems too perfect. You're already using Bird Keeper](Bird Keeper (swsh3-159)) to set up and maneuver between your beetles, why not simply allow this Rowlet (swsh3-11) to Wind Shard for FREE thanks to its Sky Circus ability? That's a cool 60 damage on a benched Pokemon that will likely now be OHKO'd by your first G-Max Wave. Either that, or you can pick off any low-HP Pokemon that's already been bombarded by several Eerie Beams.
Dedenne GX / Crobat V / Eldegoss V
By now I'm sure you've noticed that this deck doesn't play any of these very common support Pokemon. Thanks to Snorlax (swsh4-131), you seldom need them. But if you find yourself struggling to establish a decent hand and you're tired of looking at those copies of Quick Ball that can't help you draw more cards, a single copy of your choice may be the answer. The drawback, of course, is that now your opponent has a much easier path to victory. Snorlax (swsh4-131) + 1 VMAX + [one of these] = 6 prizes, as opposed to them being forced to take essentially "7" prizes by KO'ing Snorlax (swsh4-131) and 2 VMAX.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this super unique deck! As I've already mentioned, it's certainly not the strongest contender to win a given tournament. But if you're looking to find some excitement and intrigue within the Pokemon TCG and you want to play a viable deck that isn't as mind-numbingly boring as ADPZ or Eternatus, Orbeetle is the bug for you.
If you have questions or want to discuss the deck further, I am always happy to chat on Twitter @multiplecats. Also be sure to check out our team page @UNDNTD to see how we're doing and what cool new thing we're up to. Thanks for reading!