Dragapult VMAX – Rebel Clash
Date Reviewed: January 11, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Dragapult VMAX (SW – Rebel Clash 093/192, 197/192) was originally reviewed late last May, a few weeks after it released. It has the usual deal from being a Pokémon VMAX; incredibly high HP, potent effects, but it is worth three Prizes when KO’d. There are some pieces of VMAX support, but they’re not that great, while there are some solid Pokémon VMAX counters. Moreover, Pokémon VMAX are still Pokémon V, so all the stuff that is incompatible with or counters Pokémon V still apply here. It is also a Dynamax Pokémon but… that doesn’t actually mean anything in the TCG, at least, not yet. VMAX is also a Stage of evolution, essentially a Stage 1 that doesn’t count as a Stage 1; they only evolve from Basic Pokémon V, and aren’t too demanding in terms of waiting to evolve or overall resources invested.
Dragapult VMAX is a Psychic type, which used to give it access to stuff like Mysterious Treasure. I mean, that is still an option in Expanded, but that is no longer the case in Standard. At least there aren’t any relevant anti-[P] effects. The Psychic type also isn’t what it once was for exploiting Weakness, as SW-era TCG Psychic types based on VG Psychic types are no longer being printed as [P] Weak. Which makes sense from a game play perspective, but doesn’t help the type much. What does help the type is that a similar shift occurred with Resistance, so nothing from the current generation has been printed with Psychic Resistance. While that helps, not having as many chances to blast an opponent for double damage, and losing a fantastic piece of support were not kind to Psychic types in 2020.
Dragapult VMAX enjoys 320 HP; outside of exploiting Weakness, it is not an easy OHKO. Some decks may even find scoring a 2HKO a challenge. Darkness decks are most likely not among the one’s struggling, because [D] is Dragapult VMAX’s Weakness. When Dragapult VMAX released, this wasn’t too terrible a Weakness to have, but three months later we received SW – Darkness Ablaze. Not only did that have some decent, more or less general Darkness support, but it contained Eternatus VMAX, which would go on to become one of the best decks of 2020 in Standard. Dragapult VMAX does possess -30 [F] Resistance, which would be a lot more useful if any of the [F] decks I predicted would fill the power vacuum actually… had. The Retreat Cost of [C] is usually easy to pay, and recover from having paid; not a massive advantage, but still helpful.
Dragapult VMAX knows two attacks. First up is “Shred”, priced at [P]. Shred only does 60 damage, but it ignores all effects that alter damage on your opponent’s Active. [PP] covers the second attack, “Max Phantom”, doing 130 damage to your opponent’s Active and giving you five damage counters to distribute as you see fit among your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. 60 damage for one Energy is decent in isolation, but often too low in practice. Similarly, ignoring damage altering effects on your opponent’s Active sounds like a great deal, but is more niche than it sounds. Being an inexpensive attack is handy, but Max Phantom only requires one more [P] to use than Shred. Likewise, if damage is being reduced by 70 or less, then Max Phantom is still the better attack to use. Thanks to placing those damage counters, sometimes even when Max Phantom does nothing to the Active, it might be the better attack to use. Shred isn’t worthless, though, but you need situations where its 60 damage doesn’t just outperform Max Phantom, but does so while still being enough to matter. Oh, and don’t forget that Shred does not ignore Resistance!
As for the virtues and vices of Max Phantom itself, 130 for two Energy is decent, 130 plus five damage counters dolled out how you wish among your opponent’s Benched Pokémon is good. You can soften up future targets, so they’re more quickly KO’d while Active, or even overwhelm smaller Benched Pokémon. This wasn’t raw power, but with the right combos, it could overwhelm your opponent with damage counter placements on the Bench, while still scoring a solid 2HKO or 3HKO against your opponent’s Active. Which is what happened. At least, for the three or so months after SW – Rebel Clash becoming tournament legal, and SW – Darkness Ablaze joining the metagame. Once that happened, Dragapult VMAX decks stopped placing well at events. So the question is… why?
I don’t have a lot of experience with either deck, but Eternatus VMAX decks seemed almost build to hard-counter Dragapult VMAX decks. Not only do you have a massive attacker (340 HP being the current printed max), not only does it attack for two Energy (just as fast), but it does so by increasing the maximum size of its Bench, and then hitting for up to 270 damage. Even if you don’t max out your Bench with Eternatus VMAX, its “Dread End” can still score a OHKO with “just” six Pokémon on its Bench. While Eternatus VMAX potentially having a Bench full of things like Galarian Zigzagoon (Sword & Shield 117/202) could let the damage counters from Max Phantom score more OHKO, Eternatus VMAX decks typically run four Scoop Up Net, letting them bounce any non-GX/V Pokémon back into hand with relative ease. Oh, and a Dragapult VMAX did KO an Eternatus VMAX, its “Eternal Zone” Ability would be gone. Your opponent could then discard any badly injured Benched Pokémon, potentially denying Dragapult VMAX their damage-spread based kills.
What about Weakness counters? They didn’t work well enough. Dragapult VMAX has no [C] Energy costs in its attacks, so using Weakness Guard Energy meant turning Shred into a two Energy and Max Phantom into a three Energy attacks. Jirachi-GX… is a juicy little target in its own right. Plus, Jirachi-GX would be useless the rest of the time. SW – Darkness Ablaze also gave us Decidueye (SW – Darkness Ablaze 013/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH035). This might not make sense at first; Decidueye is famous for its “Deep Forest Camo” Ability, that prevents damage from the attacks of an opponent’s Pokémon V done to Decidueye. While that is an issue, you have Shred. So why is Decidueye important? It partnered with Galarian Obstagoon (Sword & Shield 119/202; SW – Vivid Voltage 198/185; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH059). Galarian Obstagoon couldn’t OHKO Dragapult, but it hit hard enough given that Decidueye/Galarian Obstagoon is normally a stalling, damage spreading deck.
Maybe Dragapult VMAX has a shot in Expanded, where it regains all the support it lost, including several cards I haven’t even mentioned yet, like Malamar (SM – Forbidden Light 51/131; SM – Black Star Promos SM117; Shiny Vault 18/SV94). It would even have access to tricks like Acerola and Max Potion, so that it could heal anytime it wasn’t OHKO’d. About that, though… Zoroark-GX used to be massive in Expanded. Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX is [D] Weak and was dominant, but it was also part of a pretty fast, vicious control deck. I don’t know if Dragapult VMAX would fair as well. Lastly, there is the Limited Format. Are you lucky enough to find a tournament, let alone a Limited Format tournament? Were you also lucky enough to pull both a Dragapult V and a Dragapult VMAX? Run them.
- Standard: 1/5
- Expanded: 1/5
- Limited: 4/5
I really hope I’m wrong here, but from what I can tell, Dragapult VMAX has gone from champ to chump. Eternatus VMAX isn’t even the best deck at the moment, or at least probably isn’t; that seems to belong to decks built Pikachu & Zekrom-GX or Zacian V. There are even a few other decks that rival Eternatus VMAX for third or four place… but it was still enough to crush Dragapult VMAX decks. Well, I might be underselling what they lost to rotation as well. No more Mysterious Treasure and no more Malamar for fast, reliable setups. For three months of 2020, though, Dragapult VMAX was amazing.
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