Zacian V (Sword & Shield Promos)
Zacian V (Sword & Shield Promos)

Zacian V – Sword & Shield Promos

Date Reviewed:  December 29, 2020

Ratings Summary:
Standard: 5.00
Expanded: 4.00
Limited: 5.00

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below:

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Our 4th-Place finisher is Zacian V (Sword & Shield 138/202, 195/202, 211/202; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH018, SWSH076).  It was our 9th-Place finisher for Sword & Shield when we first reviewed it, so how did it climb so high now?  Let’s run through its stats and effects again, with the gift of hindsight.  To begin with, let us talk about what it means to be a Pokémon V.  Zacian V gives up an extra Prize when KO’d, can’t make use of support like Scoop Up Net, and has to deal with anti-V effects like the damage preventing “Deep Forest Camo” Ability of Decidueye (SW – Darkness Ablaze 013/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH035).  Looking at baseline versions of Zacian and what they have, it is obvious Zacian V received a massive HP, quite probable its effects are far better than it would have been allowed, and maybe even some of its stats (like typing) are the best option available.

What has changed since the beginning of the year is we didn’t get some of the anti-Pokémon V effects I was expecting.  It may sound silly, but I legitimately expected a modern counterpart to Silver Bangle or Choice Band by now, anti-EX and anti-EX/GX Tools, respectively.  Some of the anti-V effects that do exist have proven quite good (Decidueye), but as of yet we haven’t seen the kind of generic counters that, sooner or later, popped up for past multi-Prize mechanics.  The only place where Pokémon V seem to have it as bad or worse than past multi-Prize mechanics is being excluded from certain pieces of support, not that I’m complaining because I agree with Scoop Up Net and Twin Energy not working with Pokémon V.

Getting back to Zacian V specifically, it is a Metal type at a time when it is great to be one!  It isn’t too handy for exploiting Weakness, but neither does it crash into a lot of Resistance.  Anti-Metal effects are obscure and Expanded only… but the real story is the type-support.  Not only did we receive good Metal support near the end of the SM-era, and then received even more throughout this year (the start of the SW-era)!  Metal types have become experts at stacking defensive buffs, including combining not only multiple forms of damage reduction, but having tricks to nullify their own Weakness, ignore Pokémon-based effects that place damage counters on them, and maybe some I am forgetting.  On top of that, they received Metal Saucer, giving them improved offensive capabilities… to the point that there are many pieces of [M] type support the other types only wish they had, but which competitive Metal decks don’t even bother running!

Being a Basic Pokémon was and still is the best, for the usual reasons: minimum effort to run, minimum time and effort to hit the field, a few bits of support, and a natural synergy with miscellaneous card effects and game mechanics.  There are anti-Basic effects, and being able to serve as your opening Active can be both good and bad, but it is still the overall best Stage to be.  They aren’t as dominant as when the year began, however; Pokémon VMAX asserted themselves, and we even have had some solid Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon join in on the fun, but while technically bad for Basics, I’m rather glad this mild metagame shift occurred.  Zacian V’s 220 HP has remained a good, solid amount for Basic Pokémon V.  Even before its defensive effects, Zacian V has a good chance of surviving a hit, and after them, Zacian V can be tricky to OHKO.  It is also 90 to 110 HP more than baseline Zacian, for what that is worth.

Fire Weakness was dangerous when Zacian V first released, and is dangerous now, but there was a stretch in the middle of 2020 where its influence had somewhat waned.  Unfortunately for Fire and fortunately for Metal types, they had Metal Frying Pan and now have Coating [M] Energy, so this Weakness was and is nowhere near as dangerous as it ought to have been.  Zacian V’s -30 Grass Resistance actually has come in handy over the course of the year.  If you check older reviews, you’ll see me predicting big things for various Grass types… but only Decidueye has delivered.  Zacian V cannot touch Decidueye, but between the -30 from Resistance and the other defensive bonuses that Metal decks typically run, Decidueye eye can often barely or not at all damage Zacian V.  For what should be a bad match-up, that is actually a good deal.  The card’s Retreat Cost of [CC] has proven adequate; less would be better, more would be worse, and while it is nice Air Balloon can zero it out, you’re usually going to want a different Tool on Zacian V.

It took me six paragraphs to get to Zacian V’s Ability, “Intrepid Sword.”  This Ability ends your turn when used, so it is definitely “once-per-turn”.  Intrepid Sword lets you look at the top three cards of your deck; [M] Energy you find there can be attached to Zacian V, while anything else is added to your hand.  That’s right, either you’re drawing up to three cards, or you’re attaching up to three Metal Energy cards.  Basic Metal Energy cards, as nothing else counts as [M] while in your deck.  Even with Intrepid Sword ending your turn, it has still proven so good I almost wonder if it is broken.  This Ability not only makes Zacian V good in Metal decks, it almost makes it good in non-Metal decks!  If your deck runs no Metal Energy, Intrepid Sword effectively becomes “draw three cards”.  Especially Turn 1, the overall first turn of the game, when you cannot use a Supporter or attack, that’s a good deal.  Just not quite good enough to justify every deck running a Zacian V.

Zacian V only knows one attack, Brave Blade.  For [MMM] it allows Zacian V to do 230 damage, but places an effect on itself that prevents it from attacking the next turn.  230 is enough to OHKO most Pokémon before protective effects or Resistance.  Not just most single-Prize Pokémon, but most Pokémon in general.  Outside of those with miscellaneous defensive buffs, only TAG TEAM Pokémon and Pokémon VMAX (as a class) reliably survive.  The rest of the exceptions are the biggest Basic Pokémon V, the biggest non-TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX (Basic, Stage 1, or Stage 2), and biggest Pokémon-EX (Wailord-EX and about eight Mega Evolutions)… and most of the exceptions are still only surviving with 10 or 20 HP.

[MMM] is expensive, but even before considering external combos, Zacian V has Intrepid Sword, and 230 damage is worth that much Energy.  When you start including stuff like Metal Saucer, it becomes manageable, though still not inexpensive.  Not being able to attack the next turn is bad, essentially halving your damage output and making everything I just said seem pointless… except decks have been working around such restrictions with ease for the last 10 or so years, maybe longer.  Especially with the Energy acceleration available, using Switch to bring up a different attacker, maybe even a second, prepped Zacian V is a proven tactic.  So is using the do-si-do approach, bringing up something with a free retreat, or using a second switching effect.

Zacian V decks fall into four major variants:

  • Combo Zacian
  • Zacian ADP
  • Zacian Lucario & Melmetal
  • Straight Zacian

Combo Zacian is probably the one used the least, and you could argue that it isn’t so much a Zacian V variant as a Jirachi {*}, Mr. Mime (Detective Pikachu 11/18), and Oranguru (Sword & Shield 148/202; SW – Vivid Voltage 199/185) variant.  Except I don’t know if any other deck using this combo ever made good.  Jirachi {*}’s “Wish Upon A Star” Ability can only be used if you take it as a face-down Prize card and your Bench isn’t full; you then Bench it instead of putting it into your hand and take another Prize card.  The goal here is to use Oranguru’s “Primate Wisdom” to swap Jirachi {*} from your hand with the top card of your deck, then Bench Mr. Mime and use its “Pantomine” Ability to then swap the top card of your deck (Jirachi {*}) with one of your facedown Prize cards.  Ideally, Zacian V then OHKO’s a two-Prize Pokémon, but ends up taking three Prizes thanks to Jirachi {*}.  Switch (to Bench Zacian V, resetting Brave Blade’s effect), and Scoop Up Net (to bounce Jirachi {*} and Mr. Mime) then let you try to use the combo again.  Of course, there is a lot that can go wrong, and more to the deck to deal with those issues, but you get the main idea.

Zacian ADP probably needs no explanation, but I’m giving one anyway.  Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX has the arguably broken GX-attack “Altered Creation”.  For just [M], for the rest of the game, when any of your Pokémon attack, they’ll do an extra 30 damage to your opponent’s Active.  I mean whatever is Active, not just the Active when Altered Creation was used.  If that wasn’t enough, if you have [MW] attached, then Altered Creation also has you take an extra Prize whenever the damage from one of your Pokémon’s attacks KO’s one of your opponent’s Active Pokémon.  Again, any of your Pokémon, for the rest of the game, against anything in your opponent’s Active Spot.  Brave Blade becomes even better at taking OHKOs, Zacian V ties or wins when it comes to “trading” Prizes, and Arceus & Dialga & Palkai-GX’s regular attack, “Ultimate Ray” is pricey ([WMC]) but does 150 while attaching three basic Energy from your deck, making it a great alternate attacker that preps more more attackers!  Its only real drawback, I think, is that getting the Energy onto Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX in the first place, for either of its attacks, is challenging Turn 2.

Zacian Lucario & Melmetal, or ZLM, is the defensive version of the deck.  Lucario & Melmetal-GX can use their “Full Metal Wall-GX” attack for [C] to reduce the damage your Metal Pokémon take from your opponent’s Pokémon’s attacks by 30 for the rest of the game.  For one more Energy, it also discards all Energy attached to your opponent’s Active.  Less impressive than Altered Creation, but far, far easier to pull off and pull off reliably the first turn you can attack.  -30 isn’t massive, but it stacks with all the other defensive tricks available to Metal types.  A Zacian V after Full Metal Wall-GX, sporting Metal Goggles and Coating [M] Energy takes 60 less damage (90 less from Grass types), has no Weakness, and your opponent’s Pokémon-based effects cannot place damage counters on it.  While still slamming stuff for 230 damage with Brave Blade.  What’s more is the deck includes Zamazenta V to wall against Pokémon VMAX and Bronzong (SM – Team UP 101/181) to wall against Fire types, both via the Abilities of those Pokémon.

Straight Zacian still has its tricks, it just eschews the deck-defining combos above.  Which leaves it more room for those smaller combos, and the general support to reliably pull off those combos.  You’re not hitting new damage highs with Altered Creation-GX into Brave Blade, but you do include Galarian Zigzagoon (Sword & Shield 117/202) to soften targets up or finish off those that barely survived last turn with its “Headbutt Tantrum”.  No “Full Metal Wall-GX”, but you still have Metal Goggles… or you would if that list wasn’t from when Metal Frying Pan was still legal.  Yes, like Combo Zacian, this one hasn’t seen the same success as Zacian ADP or ZLM.  It is still a good, solid deck and one you don’t usually like seeing opposite you in a tournament!

Zacian V variants weren’t always the deck to beat in 2020, but quite often they were.  The Players Cup 11 Global Finals saw one Zacian ADP deck in its top four, which might sound bad… but this was one of those times when it was the deck to beat.  So, even charging into a metagame built around thwarting it, it managed 4th-Place, ultimately losing out to two Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck (proving that archetype wasn’t dead), and a Blacephalon (SM – Unbroken Bonds 32/214) deck.  Unfortunately, I still don’t know a lot about the Expanded Format in 2020.  From what I can glean, it is in very good shape here.  I’m relying on the results from the Regional Championship held in Collinsville, IL, nearly a year ago (February of 2020).  A Zacian ADP deck finished in 9th-Place out of 640 Masters Division players, and several (but not all) of the decks that beat it lost key cards due to the bans.  Of course, this is also before any other SW-series sets had released, so it is quite possible something else filled the vacuum and Zacian V decks are worse off… but it is a safe bet they’re still competitive, and probably as good or better than they were before.

It isn’t too likely you’ll get to participate in a large, sanctioned, Limited Format event in general, let alone one using Sword & Shield packs, but if you do, Zacian V is a top pull.  Should you use it in a Mulligan build?  It is a bit scary to try, but Intrepid Sword will usually let you start attacking by your second turn, and even though Brave Blade is an every-other-turn attack, your 230 HP still gives you a good chance of taking four KOs before your HP is overwhelmed.  Really pushing Zacian V over the top, though, is that the fact that any deck, except maybe other Mulligan decks, will want Zacian V on their Bench.  Even though Zacian V probably will not show up early game in non-Mulligan builds, it is still a decent attacker (should you be running Metal Enegy), and a decent draw card for all those turns you either cannot attack, or can’t afford an attack worth using.


  • Standard: 5/5
  • Expanded: 4/5
  • Limited: 5/5

As a reminder, five-out-of-five cards are not perfect, they’re just among the best of the best.  Zacian V has proven itself throughout this year as being among the best of the best in Standard, and probably is in the Limited Format.  I had Zacian V as my 5th-Place pick, but as I stated yesterday, every card in our top five has a legitimate claim to the number one spot.  The metagame would have been different if Zacian V wasn’t around… but it wasn’t always the top deck.  It is even possible very little would have changed, because we do have additional, impressive Metal attackers that only were ignored because they weren’t quite as good as Zacian V.

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Vince had this at #5 on his personal Top 10 cards of 2020 list.

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