Editor's Note: Limitless TCG is the largest third-party organizer of Pokémon tournaments. Late yesterday, they announced that Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156) (ADP) will be temporarily banned from all Limitless Online Series Standard tournaments beginning in January 2021. ADP remains legal on the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online and in all Standard tournaments organized by The Pokémon Company International.  

After looking at some new cards from Vivid Voltage, I wanted to highlight another new product perfect for getting started in competitive play: the fall 2020 League Battle deck, featuring Zacian V (swsh1-138) and Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156) (more commonly known as ADP).

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The History of Competitive Premade Decks

We couldn't always get premade decks that were tournament-ready. The first competitive sealed decks were Battle Arena Decks: Mewtwo vs. Darkrai, which debuted in 2015. Unlike their 2014 precursor, which contained foil promos similar to that of a theme deck, these decks featured highly competitive non-promo EX cards. Both Mewtwo and Darkrai EX were heavily featured in tournament-winning decks during that time period. The Battle Arena decks also featured one or two copies of some of the popular trainer cards also commonly used.

However, though these decks featured some strong cards, they were still pretty weak in comparison to most custom builds. Most high-level players saw these products as an opportunity to stock up on playable cards at a very good price. This trend continued through 2017 with the final "VS" Battle Arena deck, featuring less competitive Pokémon in lieu of flashy alternate artwork trainers. Finally, after a brief hiatus in 2018, the Rayquaza GX and Ultra Necrozma GX battle decks were released. These new Battle Decks were sold separately for the first time and were even more competitively viable, faintly mimicking top-tier strategies in high-level tournament play. However, these too fell just short of their fullest potential.

This now brings us to 2020's League Battle decks, easily the best sealed Pokémon products ever released. I could definitely envision one of these winning at your local Pokémon League just straight out of the box. The newest League Battle deck, with Zacian V (swsh1-138), features the undisputed strongest strategy currently in the competitive scene. It's so good, many high-level players are calling for some of the cards to be banned.

How the Deck Works

Zacian V (swsh1-138) is probably the best card in the game right now. Energy acceleration, card draw, and damage output make up the trifecta of power when it comes to the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and the fact that one card combines all three of these is mind boggling. Couple this with support from powerful cards like Metal Saucer (swsh1-170) and ADP (who also utilizes metal energy to attack), and you can see why Zacian is the face of the Sword and Shield franchise.

In addition to being extremely powerful, I would say this deck has one of the most simple and straightforward strategies in Standard.

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156)

The main strategy of this deck is to unleash the full effect of ADP's Altered Creation GX attack as quickly as possible. This not only ups your damage output for the rest of the game, but by attacking with both water and metal energy (in perfect TAG Team fashion) you unlock the busted secondary effect of Altered Creation GX: taking additional prize cards. Since winning the game requires taking all six of your prize cards, the bonus you gain from Altered Creation can steal you a win extremely quickly and efficiently, usually in the form of KOing two weak support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) or Crobat V (swsh3-104).

You can often pull off Altered Creation on your first turn. First, use your once-per-turn attachment of energy to give ADP a water energy. Then use Metal Saucer (swsh1-170) to attach a metal energy to Zacian V (swsh1-138) or Jirachi (sm9-99) from the discard, and use Energy Switch (swsh1-162) to move the metal energy on to ADP and attack with it.

This sounds like a lot of work, but with Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia) (swsh1-178) discarding metal energy from your hand, Energy Spinner (sm10-170) and Viridian Forest (sm9-156) grabbing you the correct type of energy, and Jirachi (sm9-99) picking up additional trainer cards for you, this isn't an unheard-of sequence of events. Of course, it only works if you go second—the player who goes first can't attack or play a supporter card on their first turn. But if the stars align, this deck has all the tools to fire off Altered Creation as quickly as possible.

Following your Altered Creation, an Ultimate Ray attack on the next turn will hopefully:

  1. Earn you your first two or three prizes.
  2. Set up Zacian V (swsh1-138) to knock out another Pokémon on the following turn.

With Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) and Great Catcher (sm12-192) manipulating which of your opponent's Pokémon is receiving your attack and Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) adding additional damage counters with its ability, achieving knockouts should be fairly easy.

Since the core of the deck is so strong, upgrading it is mostly about improving its consistency even further.

The Cuts

These are the cards I'd remove from the deck to make room for our upgrades.

-1 Oranguru, -1 Jirachi

Oranguru (swsh1-148) is great here because it can fuel Zacian V (swsh1-138) Intrepid Sword ability by placing a metal energy on the top of your deck. However, you will never really need more than one of these. Some games you may not even use Intrepid Sword, and with Jirachi (sm9-99) and your supporter cards offering more powerful draw support, one is the perfect amount to splash in your deck. Similarly, with Jirachi, three copies is definitely enough gas to get you where you need to go.

-1 Galarian Meowth, -1 Galarian Perrserker

While Galarian Perrserker (swsh1-128) ability to increase your damage is strong, only having one of each of these cards, which need to be played one after the other, is just too volatile to actually warrant their use. Potentially if we had more copies of each this would be okay, but we can't afford the space in this deck. So, it is best to just remove them.

-1 Guzma & Hala, -1 Mallow & Lana, -1 Tag Call

Guzma & Hala (sm12-193)

Mallow & Lana (sm12-198)

While the Tag Call (sm12-206) engine is great for searching out ADP coupled with a supporter, The small amount of these cards once again hurts their viability. Prizing just one of these components weakens the remaining cards so heavily that it is much more worthwhile to invest in extra copies of your other important cards.

-1 Big Charm, -1 Aurora Energy

Without Guzma & Hala (sm12-193) to search up your special energy and tools, the odds of naturally drawing these cards at the proper time become very low. With Metal Saucer (swsh1-170), Viridian Forest (sm9-156), and Energy Spinner (sm10-170) only interacting with basic energy anyway, the inclusion of Aurora Energy (swsh1-186) was already kind of counterproductive.

-1 Ordinary Rod

This card is just okay in this deck. Recycling Pokémon and energy is a good effect. But with 10 basic energy and Metal Saucer (swsh1-170) already getting energy out of your discard, this card isn't very impactful.

The Upgrades

With space for 10 new cards, here are the best additions.

+1 Zacian V, +1 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX

Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156)

You'll normally want to have multiple copies of each card even if you do not use them all every game. You want to avoid the detriment of one copy being stuck in your prize cards, and also increase your odds of drawing into the card naturally. Because these two Pokémon are so integral in your strategy, an extra copy of each is a very important inclusion.

+2 Dedenne-GX, +1 Crobat V

Both Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) and Crobat V (swsh3-104) are present in almost every competitive TCG deck. This is because their ability to draw you more cards is so powerful, especially in a deck like this where you need to hit multiple cards in the correct order to execute your strategy effectively.

+2 Boss's Orders

This card is so integral to this deck you absolutely want the maximum number of copies. Winning the game requires taking effective knockouts and taking all six prize cards as efficiently as possible. The manipulation of your opponent's defense with Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) is simply the best way to do this. You want access to this card at every point in the game, and playing four maximizes those odds.

+1 Energy Spinner

Finding the right energy at the right time can sometimes be tough in this deck. With Jirachi (sm9-99) Stellar Wish ability only grabbing trainer cards, having an extra copy of this to hopefully search out one of your two Water Energy cards for ADP is important.

+1 Scoop Up Net

This card again is just one of those you need maximum copies of. Each Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) allows your non-GX/V Pokémon to reuse their abilities again. With Stellar Wish being so important for grabbing your trainer cards, utilizing it continuously with this card is so powerful. Not only that, but each Scoop Up Net can be an additional damage counter placed by Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117), or another supporter recycled by Mewtwo.

With the boring extra copies out of the way, there is one brand new inclusion that can really spice up your deck.

+1 Mawile-GX

Mawile-GX (sm11-141) is super cool in this deck. Not only is Mawile an alternative attacker, but its ability has such great synergy in this deck. A good opponent will likely limit which Pokémon they put in play so your road to victory is as awkward as possible. Mawile heavily punishes your opponents for playing too conservatively.

Not only does it force out your opponent doesn't want into play, but it can negate their abilities. Pokémon like Dedenne-GX (sm10-57), Crobat V (swsh3-104), and Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) only work if your opponent is the one who plays them from hand. By forcing these cards out with Mawile-GX (sm11-141) you can really stop your opponent from gaining momentum with their ability-based draw. Pretty great if you ask me.

With that, you have a highly competitive Pokémon TCG deck for quite the price! Try this out on the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online and watch as your win rate soars compared to using any other pre-constructed deck.

Until next time!