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Darin O'Meara

Shrine Ticks and Spell Tags - Malamar/Shrine for Worlds and Post-Rotation

Darin goes over his one-prize Malamar/Shrine of Punishment Variant, its matchups, and how it holds up in the meta.

07/30/2019 by Darin O'Meara


What’s up 60cards? My name is Darin O’Meara and I’ve got a fresh article for you. For a quick introduction to myself, I’m a player in Boston, Mass who claimed a t16 slot during Q1 this year, where I then choked Day 2 first seed at OCIC. But hey, it happens. Outside of that I’ve been fairly consistent all year, missing points at only one regional in my past 2 seasons and finishing out the 2019 season with over 850 points. Last season I slowed down my play due to financial strains and Collegiate Rocket League, but this season I'm going full throttle and attending all four ICs and as many Regionals as possible as I push for a full cycle of Top 16s. Outside of Pokemon I play Weiss Schwarz, soccer, tennis, drums, and a lot of Rocket League.

But you’re not here for all of that, you’re here for this busted deck: Malamar/Shrine. Ever since OCIC I’ve been hooked on Malamar, constantly trying to make it work in whatever meta it comes into. Not to mention, I played Buzz/Shrine for almost the entire first half of last season, so Shrine of Punishment has a special place in my heart as well. Put the two together, and you have a deck that fares pretty well in this tag team format.

I’m not gonna lie, I was initially VERY critical of Malamar post-rotation (sorry Jesse), but Malamar has a lot going for it right now. With the new rotation, we don’t have the most reliable search. Therefore, decks that have targeted search (such as Mysterious Treasure or Electromagnetic Radar) instantly get a leg up over other things that rely solely on cards like Pokemon Communication. The most common build I’ve seen popping up has been Giratina & Garchomp-GX (TinaChomp) in combination with Mewtwo & Mew-GX (MewMew), and while this is certainly powerful, I just don’t like leaving my game up to three prizers. Therefore, I decided to take another route, one which aims to win the prize trade and finish it off with a big final blow.

The List/Game Plan

Pokemon - 16

4x Inkay FLI

4x Malamar FLI

2x Giratina LOT

2x Jirachi TEU

1x Mimikyu SM99

1x Ditto Prism Star LOT

1x Mew UNB

1x Espeon & Deoxys Tag Team-GX UMI

Trainers - 31

4x Lillie

4x Cynthia

2x Erika's Hospitality

4x Pokemon Communication

4x Mysterious Treasure

4x Spell Tag

3x Acro Bike

2x Escape Board

2x Switch

1x Friend Ball

1x Reset Stamp UMI

2x Viridian Forest

2x Shrine of Punishment

Energy - 9

9x Psychic Energy

Your general game plan with this deck through most of your matchups will be to establish 2-3 Malamars and get Giratina swinging as soon as possible. With nine draw supporters, nine search cards, three Acro Bikes, and two Jirachis, you will most likely be able to get two Inkays and a Ditto or three Inkays down on turn one. Past that, you have two Escape Boards and two Switch that can get your Giratina ready. Having a one-prizer capable of swinging for 130 on turn two will put you in a great position for the rest of the game. In addition, since Field Blower and Guzma are out of format, it will be very hard for your opponents to play around your Spell Tag, letting you drop more damage on board and setting up math later on in the game. Let’s take a look at some of the card counts:

Card Explanations

4 Inkay, 4 Malamar, 1 Ditto

Your standard 5-4 Malamar line makes sure you get Malamars out as soon as possible and as efficiently as possible. Starting Inkay isn’t much of a problem either, as it retreats for only one energy, has Hypnosis, and can easily be moved with an Escape Board or Switch. Make sure to use early game Pokemon Communications to grab Ditto instead of Inkay (in most cases), as Inkay can always be grabbed with Treasure while Ditto can’t.

2 Giratina LOT

Giratina is your deck’s main attacker. Without Rescue Stretcher in format, having a recyclable attacker gives the deck a distinct advantage over others that have no Pokemon recovery outside of Brock’s Grit. In addition, with its ability, you can spread more damage on board and set up more numbers, and can serve as a free discard on things like Mysterious Treasure. Look for the plays in which you need both Giratina and Inkays or Malamars, as grabbing Giratina first lets you use Mysterious Treasure for essentially free since Giratina can just come back from the discard. As for its attack, Shadow Impact, you’ll usually find yourself putting the 40 damage on Giratina, as you don’t really mind it going down. Although, in some situations, you may want to poke a bench sitter if your opponent doesn’t have a direct one shot on Giratina.

2 Jirachi TEU

Jirachi is a bit tricky since it can’t be searched with Mysterious Treasure, but I assure you it’s still worth the spot. Pokemon Communication can still search it out alongside Friend Ball (more on that later). It nets you key pieces for setup like Mysterious Treasure and Viridian Forest while also serving as a great pivot with Escape Board when a Giratina gets knocked out.

1 Mew UNB

This is fairly straightforward, but Mew is here to prevent Pikachu & Zekrom-GX (PikaRom) from clearing the Malamars off your board. PikaRom will often aim to Custom Catcher up one Malamar, and then use Tag Bolt GX to knock out two Malamars, heavily crippling your setup in a format with no Rescue Stretcher. Mew helps prevent this, and can even set up a cheeky play or two with Psypower.

1 Mimikyu SM99

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Guardians Rising Mimikyu didn’t rotate. Having a two energy, one-prize attacker is huge in the situations where you just can’t get a Shadow Impact off. It happens, and with a one prizer deck, you don’t want to be missing attacks. Plus, Mimikyu can deal some huge damage against popular decks. If a Reshiram & Charizard-GX (ReshiZard) used Flare Strike, it can swing back for 230 with Copycat, knocking it out if Spell Tag damage is used on it. It can retaliate against PikaRoms for 150 and take return KOs on TinaChomps if Spell Tag damage is placed on it. Filch also makes Mimikyu a great starter. Overall, Mimikyu’s situational utility is just too good to ignore.

1 Espeon & Deoxys Tag Team-GX

I know this is supposed to be a Shrine deck, but this card is your main finisher and should not be overlooked. Think about it: for the entire game you’re Shadow Impacting, spreading damage with Spell Tags, watching your opponent move their damaged Pokemon to the bench. Espeon & Deoxys-GX (Espeon/Deoxys) doesn’t care where the Pokemon is, it just takes the knockout with Cross Division GX, which places 20 damage counters wherever you want on your opponent's board if six energy are attached. You’ll have to read the situation to tell the right time to put it down, as it will take two turns of Psychic Recharging to get Cross Division GX ready. You should save it for your last attack in most cases, as it can swing games out of nowhere, but is prone to taking ticks from your own Shrine of Punishment as well as getting one-shot by some of the bigger hitters in the format. Its other attack (10 + 30 for each Psychic Pokemon on your bench for Psychic DCE) can be handy in some situations, but most of the card’s use comes from its GX attack. The card’s powerful, and I would like two, but starting it is a huge concern.

4 Lillie, 4 Cynthia, 2 Erika’s Hospitality, 3 Acro Bike

Without the utility that Tapu Lele-GX and Marshadow once provided, and without the ability to run Dedenne-GX (the deck can’t afford a two prize bench sitter), the deck needs to be able to draw as much as possible. To facilitate this, we run 10 draw supporters and three Acro Bike. This deck can easily thin these when not needed anyway with Mysterious Treasure and Viridian Forest, and will usually ensure you get what you need early game.

4 Mysterious Treasure, 4 Pokemon Communication

These are your main search cards for the deck. Mysterious Treasure is some of the best targeted search in the game and also helps get Psychic Energy in the discard. Pokemon Communication may have a limitation in that you need another Pokemon in hand to play it, but with the advantage of being able to find Jirachi and Ditto. Having four of each makes sure you can get a lot of Inkays turn one, and a lot of Malamars turn two.

4 Spell Tag

Spell Tag is a lot better now that it once was. Without Field Blower and Guzma, playing around Spell Tag is a lot harder. Its uses are plentiful, as you can use it to take KOs on small Pokemon, set up numbers for Giratina or Mimikyu, or set up a huge endgame Cross Division GX. Most of the time, this will go on Giratina, but you may find it going on an Inkay early game when your opponent is likely going to knock it out. Where you place your Spell Tag damage can very well decide the game, so practice the deck and make sure you’re paying close attention to your Spell Tag drops.

2 Switch, 2 Escape Board

These make sure you get your turn two Shadow Impact off. They save you from having to attach to retreat your active, making it easier to get the energy needed onto Giratina. In addition, Escape Board makes Jirachi a pivot for when Giratina goes down, and Switch can be used in combination with Jirachi to get extra Stellar Wishes in.

1 Friend Ball

Call the police Darin’s running Friend Ball again. Friend Ball was one of the more interesting parts of my OCIC list and I still stand by it. Tons of decks this format are going to want to use Jirachi for consistency, and having a way to search one out that isn’t Pokemon Communication is huge. It is also a fantastic card to have in the mirror, netting you a free search, is great against Blowns since they run Naganadel, and other miscellaneous situations. The card’s just good as a ninth search option.

1 Reset Stamp

Reset Stamp is mostly here for the turn when you first bench Espeon/Deoxys. You don’t want your opponent to get the resources to Custom Catcher and knock it out, so if possible, Reset Stamp can mitigate that risk. Finding it isn’t super hard with Jirachi and proper deck thinning, so try to utilize this going into your Cross Division GX turn.

2 Viridian Forest, 2 Shrine of Punishment

Although we have Mysterious Treasure to discard energy, it just isn’t quite enough now that we don’t have Ultra Ball. Therefore, Viridian Forest is a must. Not only can it discard your energy, but it can find an energy on a turn you really need one, like when an Inkay is stuck active or when you just happen to be one shy. It’s good to have the option.
Shrine of Punishment, of course, stacks up damage on your opponent’s side of the field. Shrine ticks make those big HP tag teams a bit more manageable, and the card is fantastic in combination with Espeon/Deoxys. Since Espeon/Deoxys can place just the right number of counters on Pokemon to take KOs, each Shrine tick makes taking multiple KOs with Cross Division GX that much easier.

No Custom Catcher

That’s right, no Custom Catcher in this list. Reason being - there really isn’t anything you care about bringing up. If your opponent wants to save their damaged attacker and retreat it to the bench, it’s not a big deal. Giratina can just keep swinging in the active, and then Espeon/Deoxys will take care of whatever damaged Pokemon remain at the end of the game.

9 Psychic Energy

Eight Psychic had always been the right call in past since you’d be able to discard them easily, but now that they’re harder to get into the discard, we need to run more to make sure we take advantage of every situation where we could possibly pitch them. Having a Mysterious Treasure or Viridian out with no Psychic to discard, and then going into turn two with nothing to Psychic Recharge feels really bad. In addition, we play nine so that we can potentially have both a Giratina and an Espeon/Deoxys powered up at the same time should the situation arise where that becomes necessary.

Other Considerations

As for a couple other options that are viable, Zebstrika LOT and a third Switch come to mind. This deck can sometimes draw awkward hands, and Zebstrika helps mitigate that. Zebstrika provides the discard draw option that you’re missing without Dedenne-GX in the deck, helping to get energy discarded, set up more, or dig for a key card. In addition, since so many things are playing Dedenne-GX, it will usually be Friend Ball searchable. It has a lot of uses, but sacrificing a bench spot as well as your Ditto that could just as easily become a Malamar makes me apprehensive about its utility.

The third Switch is likely my 61st card in the list. Switch comes in handy early game most of the time so that you can get your turn two attack off, and adding a third one makes this easier. The only problem is, there isn’t much to cut. I could see a Spell Tag being cut, but you really want the max amount of them so you can get damage on board as soon as possible. I don’t like cutting other consistency cards much either since, in a new format, you want to be able to execute. If you can find the space for this, do it, but it’s risky to cut anything here in my opinion.

Hopefully you can see why this deck has potential. You can either win prize trades with Giratina all game, using Spell Tag and Shrine to assist that, or set up for a big Espeon/Deoxys turn. The deck very much has to react to the opponent’s play, as how they set up and what they play down has a huge influence on the route you will take. Most times you’ll want to set up KOs for late game with Espeon/Deoxys, but your opponent may play in a way that makes just rushing knockouts better. Having this versatility, alongside with its inherent consistency in Mysterious Treasure, makes it a huge threat. Let’s look at the matchups now:


PikaRom - 60/40

You just win the prize trade against Pikarom. Shadow Impact can one shot any Zapdos they bring up, and once those are gone, they’re forced to use PikaRom to power up their bigger threats. Once that happens, you can start poking all of their attackers and either knocking them out or preparing them for Espeon/Deoxys. You can usually take a big end game turn against PikaRom with Espeon/Deoxys by taking out a heavily damaged PikaRom alongside another small Pokemon or alongside another damaged Pokemon. However, you might not even need the additional knockout after taking Zapdos KOs. Make sure you get Mew down so they can’t take a Malamar double KO, and make sure you Reset Stamp them when you’re getting Espeon/Deoxys ready to prevent them from taking it out in one hit, which with Electropower and Custom Catcher, alongside Dedenne-GX to find the pieces, is very possible. With a Reset Stamp, those chances are minimal.

Green’s ReshiZard - 50/50

This is a matchup I’m still a little uncertain on, only because of how much healing they play. These builds are often running Mixed Herbs alongside the new Great Potion. However, bait them into taking a huge knockout on a Spell Tagged Pokemon, and you can return OHKO with Mimikyu. Espeon/Deoxys can help finish off a Reshizard if they decide to retreat it to the bench, but will easily get returned with a Flare Strike. This can be a good opportunity for your Mimikyu play if you manage to get a Spell Tag on your Tag Team, but I wouldn’t bank on this strategy always, as ReshiZard has an easier time finding their Custom Catchers than other decks due to Green’s Exploration. Reset Stamp also works dividends in this matchup since ReshiZard isn’t thinning much, and can often swing games right back into your favor. Putting early pressure on is important, as they’ll have to spend early turns Welder-ing or using Volcanion, so take advantage while you can.

Malamar/TinaChomp - 70/30 if no Espeon/Deoxys, 35/65 if so

This matchup is a 50/50 if they do not play Espeon/Deoxys themselves. If they do, you most likely lose. No Custom Catcher means no way to deny their Cross Division GX, which will very easily KO three Malamars. Meanwhile, they can deny it themselves if they run Custom Catcher. Going first makes the game possible though, as you can rush your own Cross Division GX before they can manage theirs and steal the game. On the flipside, if there is no Espeon/Deoxys, this matchup becomes very favorable. Spell Tags and Espeon/Deoxys make this matchup fairly easy, as a well timed Reset Stamp into Cross Division GX can wipe their board out. Overall, this matchup is very fluid depending on the list each player is playing.

Blowns - 80/20

Blowns has always been favorable for Malamar; they just can’t deal with high HP one-prizers. Now that we even have Spell Tag and Espeon/Deoxys to potentially skip Beast Ring turns, it gets even harder for Blowns. Shadow Impacts, Shrine ticks, and Spell Tag damage should make this matchup fairly easy, especially when the opposition needs to Lost Zone three energy every time they want to KO a Giratina (so long as you don’t ping yourself with Shadow Impact).

Others - 50/50 to Favorable

I obviously can’t cover everything that’s going to show up at Worlds/the Open because I don’t have that information. I can, however, tell you that everything else is not nearly as consistent as Malamar or any of the aforementioned decks. Pure consistency wins events, and that is reflected in Malamar’s matchups.

General Thoughts on Post Rotation

Like I’ve mentioned several times already, consistency is what is most important in a new format. Decks that can execute their strategy every time with ease are automatically going to have the edge against spicy stuff that needs a lot to get going. That being said, the safest, most consistent play is very obviously PikaRom. The deck has Electromagnetic Radar, Dedenne-GX, and loads of tools at its disposal that make the deck super consistent and powerful. Therefore, it is my #1 deck to look out for. Outside of this, I think ReshiZard with heavy healing is powerful as well, since it has Green’s Exploration access, can deny two-shots with healing, and can take huge knockouts even without Choice Band with the use of Koga’s Trap or Shrine of Punishment. Blowns is another very solid choice due to Ultra Space and its ability to also utilize Mysterious Treasure effectively, but the new Tapu Fini is concerning. If players don’t respect Blowns and decide against Fini, I believe Blowns can easily take the format by storm.

Outside of these, I think Shedinja still has a very good chance and should be respected, Dark Box can be a huge threat with the right list, while other rogues could potentially have a shot as well given the right list and pilot. A lot of things have promise right now, and it’ll take a lot of trial and error to figure out what works and what just flat out doesn’t. Good luck at Worlds, the DC Open, and during the 2020 season!

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