– Sword & Shield
February 11, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Zacian V (Sword & Shield 138/202, 195/202, 211/202) is our pick as the 9th best card of Sword & Shield. As a Pokémon V, it’s worth an extra Prize when KO’d, has higher HP score than its (currently) theoretical non-V counterpart, and likely will have better effects as well. Currently, Pokémon V have no support but they do have one counter, Boltund (Sword & Shield 075/202). Future counters, as well as cards with beneficial effects that exclude Pokémon V, are already confirmed thanks to Japanese releases. While Pokémon V don’t benefit from Pokémon-GX support, they also don’t have to worry about Pokémon-GX counters, and can make use of supporting effects worded to not work with Pokémon-GX.
Zacian V has [M] Typing, which is fantastic due to the combination of SM-era and new Shield & Sword-era Type support. Being a Basic Pokémon makes Zacian V fast and space efficient: still as good as it gets. The card’s 220 HP is very good but also typical of Basic Pokémon V (as opposed to VMAX). As more Sword & Shield cards release, expect it to behave more like 180 or 190 does at present. [R] Weakness is dangerous, though not as bad now as it was when Reshiram & Charizard-GX decks were dominant. [G] Resistance could be handy; there are actually some promising new Pokémon of this Type in the latest set. The Retreat Cost of [CC] is low enough to pay, but high enough you may want to consider alternatives to manually retreating at full price.
Zacian V’s “Intrepid Sword” Ability lets you look at the top three cards of your deck; any [M] Energy among those cards can be attached to itself, while anything you can’t attach goes to your hand. This Ability also automatically ends your turn. There’s no way to avoid that drawback, but you can lessen the sting. If you’re going first, you don’t get to attack anyway and now you don’t get a Supporter, so an Ability that functions a bit like an inverted Welder (always draw three cards, but zero to three Energy attached) is most welcome. On other turns, you can either send up something durable that can survive or something expendable so it doesn’t matter it won’t survive. On top of that, you might be able to combine with Ability have another effect that lets you fake having attacked… so long as that effect does not also end your turn; you can’t layer such effects together!
Brave Blade requires [MMM] to use and does 230 damage, but places an effect on itself stating it can’t attack during your next turn. That’s a pricey Energy cost, but Intrepid Sword and the new Metal Saucer makes it reasonable. 230 damage is very good. Most single-Prize Pokémon can’t survive it, barring protective effects and other defensive buffs. Many 2-Prize Pokémon are in OHKO range as well, including nearly all Basic Pokémon-GX sans TAG TEAM Pokémon. Not being able to attack the next turn functionally halves this card’s damage output… good thing Benching and re-promoting Zacian V removes that effect. You could also use something like Channeler, or if you have the Energy acceleration, a bounce effect.
Zacian V is the face of the new metagame. At least, that is what Japanese tournament results demonstrate. It is possible that this is just a phase, one we’ll skip because a lot of players decide to gun for Zacian V. At this point in our card pool, though, Zacian V has a lot going for it. I already mentioned Metal Saucer, but another likely inclusion is Metal Saucer; not only will it let Zacian V soak 30 damage, but it cancels out its [R] Weakness. With it, Zacian V is on par with the smaller (and Tool-less) TAG TEAM Pokémon in terms of durability, but if Zacian V is KO’d, it is still only worth two Prizes (instead of three). While impressive, actual TAG TEAM Pokémon deal with each other all the time, so and while you’ve got the Prize advantage, they tend to have at least a little bit better of an offense.
Enter Lucario & Melmetal-GX or Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX. You’re not running those two TAG TEAM Pokémon together, but picking one and trying to open with its GX-attack. Lucario & Melmetal-GX can use “Full Metal Wall-GX” so that all of your [M] Type Pokémon take 30 less damage, with a secondary effect of discarding all Energy attached to your opponent’s Active. Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX can use “Altered Creation-GX” to permanently boost the damage your Pokémon’s attacks do by 30, with a secondary effect of taking an extra Prize when you KO an opponent’s Pokémon via attack damage. While the secondary effect is more impressive for Altered Creation-GX, Metal Saucer makes it much easier to get both effects from Full Metal Wall-GX.
It is unproven yet, but there is also Galarian Perrserker (Sword & Shield 128/202, SS – Black Star Promos SWSH008). It is a Stage 1 [M] Type with an Ability that ups the damage from your [M] Type Pokémon’s attacks by 20, in a manner where multiple copies can stack. There is a Japanese promo version of Galarian Meowth that has an Ability which lets you discard two cards from hand to search your deck for a Galarian Perrserker. It still may not pan out, but it should make it easier for Zacian V to hit some key numbers, and that may be the only area where Zacian V is lacking.
I also have wondered if Zacian V might become the budget version (or Standard-legal) version of Tropical Beach. I may be stretching the term “budget” here, but in a deck that lacks any [M] Energy, Zacian V effectively draws three cards with Intrepid Sword, and then your turn ends. If you have five or more cards in hand, that is better draw than Tropical Beach. Even if you have fewer than four cards in hand, you trade your lone Stadium spot on the field for one of your five Bench spots, and both the searching and recycling of Pokémon is easier than doing the same for Stadium cards. This probably won’t every happen, but I thought I would put it out there, especially for stall/control decks that don’t often need to attack, but could use the additional draw.
We don’t have results for the Expanded Format for Sword & Shield-legal. If the other new cards and the new T1 rules don’t shake things up too much, I would think Zacian V decks should also prove worthwhile in this Format. If you pull a Zacian V at a Limited Format event, you should be able to run it solo. There’s a risk your opponent can overwhelm Zacian V’s 220 HP before you can take four Prizes, especially with Brave Blade being only every-other-turn due to its effect. As you won’t be able to attack anyway, you can just use Intrepid Sword as draw power on those turns. If you pull a Hyper Potion, excess Energy attachments can even be utilized. If it still sounds too risky… just run Zacian V in whatever other deck you build. Not running basic Metal Energy cards? Just use Intrepid Sword to draw on turns when you can’t attack well.
Zacian V was only my 8th-place pick, but it also is the best new Pokémon V. Its great performance relies heavily on support like Metal Saucer, and (so far) in improving two existing decks (see above). That would have been good enough in a lesser set, but Sword & Shield have about half a dozen cards that are going into most (if not every) competitive deck right now… and for all it has going for it, I don’t know if Zacian V will remain on top as we get more and more Pokémon V.
Details: The face of Pokémon Sword and the 9th best card of Sword & Shield, Zacian-V has a lot to live up to. Intrepid Sword is a very useful ability. It can act as energy acceleration and/or getting the top 3 cards from your deck if you didn’t get any Metal energies. This effect is so powerful that it immediately ends your turn, keeping it in check. This Pokémon can fit into any deck because of the ability. Even if you don’t get to attack or use Supporters on the first turn, the ability makes it inconsequential! You’ll have to have a full playset of those in a deck to improve the odds of starting with one!
Brave Blade is also a good attack, doing 230 damage for three Metal energies, the same thing Solgaleo-GX’s Sunsteel Strike would do, but this is an attack that printed on a basic Pokémon, not a Stage 2, so Zacian-V is already efficient in terms of deck space, and it doesn’t have to worry about anti-EX/GX effects at all. It can hit through Keldeo’s Pure Heart Ability with ease because it doesn’t care about that roadblock. With Lightning Pokemon from Sword & Shield no longer resist metal, 230 damage can hit a lot of things, even OHKOing them. It can OHKO almost all basic Pokemon-V/EX/GX that we’ve seen so far, but not V-Max and Tag Teams as their HP is beyond reach. Even if Zacian-V cannot attack on your next turn, you can reset the clause by switching this Pokémon from the Active into the Bench and then put it back to the Active. Dawn Wings Necrozma can bring itself into the Active via Invasion ability, and the new Air Balloon reduces the retreat cost by two, making Dawn Wings retreat for free! Rinse and repeat!!! Even better, Metal Saucer is an item based acceleration for Metal energies!
It may be giving up two prizes if it’s knocked out, but Zacian-V does bring a lot to the table as a good opener that can get you stuff and a very good attacker. Limitless actually has decklists that uses Zacian V due to a recent Japanese tournament in Aichi. It suffers in Expanded due to ability lock. Even a lone Active Wobbuffet PHF during one game setup or Silent Lab can shut off Zacian’s ability before you even get a chance to use it.
Now we get to take a look at our first Pokemon-V that isn’t a promo card, Zacian-V! And it showcases a lot of the advantages to being a Pokemon-V, like having more base HP than a Basic EX/GX while still only costing 2 Prizes.
Zacian-V itself is a Basic Metal Pokemon-V, 220 HP, with a Fire Weakness, a Grass Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 2. Intrepid Sword lets you, effectively, draw 3 cards from your deck, with any Metal Energies you “draw” getting attached to Zacian-V. This helps fuel up Energy for Brave Blade, a 3-for-230 move that prevents Zacian-V from attacking during your next turn. Which isn’t a problem or conflict of interest with Intrepid Sword, since when you use that Ability, your turn ends anyway.
Despite not making it onto my list because of these harsh limitations, I can see why it would be looked on so keenly. There’s some good Metal support in the set, and we do have Lucario & Melmetal-GX in the format, which means you can even reduce the damage Zacian-V takes by 30 for the rest of the game, making him a lot bulkier and likelier to survive long enough for Intrepid Sword and Brave Blade to work with each other. Now I mentioned that Intrepid Sword effectively “draws” you 3 cards, but really it’s letting you reveal the top 3 cards of your deck, attach any Metal Energy to itself, and adding the rest to your hand. The main combo ends up looking like: Intrepid Sword to boost the power, Brave Blade to most likely KO something, then Intrepid Sword on the next door and Brave Blade after that to just go back and forth between drawing and dealing heavy damage.
Do I think this makes Zacian-V good? Not exactly. Most of the big attackers in most other decks tend to deal out more damage over the course of 2 turns. With Zacian-V’s restrictions, it’s better to say that he deals 2 turns worth of 115 damage (230 divided by 2) out over the course of 1 turn (the turn it uses Brave Blade), and 3-for-115 is…well, it’s not a great damage value. Yeah, I know it’s dishing it out all at once, and if it’s KOing something, that likely means there’s not gonna be another immediate problem in a lot of cases, but I’d just keep this in mind when we eventually get stronger Pokemon-V than Zacian-V – and believe me, we will. Heck, a lot of the other Pokemon-V in the set ended up being ranked highly by all of us one way or another, it just so happens that Zacian-V made it the furthest up on the list.
For now though, I can definitely see Zacian-V finding room in the off-meta Metal deck thanks to the Metal support in this set and Lucario & Melmetal-GX existing. Draw power is still good, even when it ends your turn, and heavy-hitting potential OHKO type of attacks always work out well, but don’t expect this card to have long-term staying power over the course of its lifespan in Standard.
Standard: 3.5/5 (definitely will find its place into Metal decks, but I doubt it’ll be strong enough to warrant major concern)
Expanded: 3/5 (again, great for its draw power, not so great for its drawbacks)
Limited: 5/5 (absolutely a beast here, definitely would recommend)
Arora Notealus: Zacian-V definitely looks impressive and bolsters some good power, but it’s marred by some massive drawbacks. You can work around the “can’t attack next turn” aspect of Brave Blade by just Switching Zacian-V about, and there are some good ways to make that happen so you can keep bashing your opponent. Intrepid Sword though will be effective more so for its drawing power than for seeking out the Metal Energy – it just happens that it works best in Metal decks in that case, but don’t think that Zacian-V won’t find its way into some other decks potentially because it can draw out all sorts of cards.
Next Time: First came the muscle, then came the choice, and now we’ve got…
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