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Kevin Clemente

Item Lock is Back! Agro Vikavolt for POG

Arguably the most exciting thing to come out of Darkness Ablaze is the return of a hard item lock to the format. Vikavolt V offers a unique "new" feature to the game that we have not had since well before I, and probably a lot of you, started playing. Not only is the power of item lock intriguing but the inexperience of the player base playing under item lock is interesting and worth investigating

08/21/2020 by Kevin Clemente

As of writing this, and you reading it, POG is only a few days away and hopefully your testing is going well and by this time you either have your decision or have your choices narrowed down to a few. For myself? I feel confident that a Zacian variant, Vikavolt or Decidueye is what I will sleeve up. Technically PikaRom with Vikavolt is in consideration but that is more of a panic pick if everything else feels bad. The Day 1 meta is shaping up to be pretty obvious, lots of ADPZ(~20%), quite a bit of Vikavolt(~10%), I am assuming some Baby Blacephalon, Eternatus Vmax, Centiskortch Vmax and LucMetal will take up a significant amount of the rest of the meta. There will be quite a bit of random decks out there that people have been testing and I am highly encouraging of that.


This format feels like it will not be anywhere near solved as we have an interesting card pool and the most obvious combo is Electrode GX with the new Vmax Pokemon. I am assuming we will see some cute things come out of the tournament and I wish I were the type of played to come up with those choices, but I am not. Instead I have been focusing on established archetypes and attempting to fit them into the new meta or build up a clearly good and strong archetype. That is what I’ve done with Vikavolt, having tested the three major variants and coming up with this one as my favorite. 


Why this variant


I put in about 25 games with Mareep Vikavolt and 10 games with Tag Call Vikavolt. Both of which did have positive records but I was consistently finding myself not using the “extra” pieces. The Mareep package in Vikavolt is fine, it offers an amazing comeback potential when you get behind, especially against big Vmax Pokemon and is probably the most effective way to beat ADPZ. With that said, it was not always needed and often was just wasted deck space. In the end the “sleep” package took up about as much space as the Jirachi package does and the Jirachi package is always useful compared to the sleep package which was used in less than 1 in 5 games.


The Tag Call version, largely relying on Guzma Hala, has seen a lot of success in Japan and has been getting quite a bit of hype here as well. I completely understand the reasoning behind the Tag Call version and I loved using Tag Calls in PikaRom during the UPR-RCL format but there is a big difference between the builds as you can use Tag Call to search out your main attackers in PikaRom but not in Vikavolt. Having energy search was nice and the added consistency for turn 1 as well but I have been finding with Vikavolt the turn 1 Item Lock doesn’t win you games, it is the mid-late game actions that win you the game, making the Tag Call variant weaker in my testing.

Decklist


Counts


Pokemon


4 Vikavolt V


Vikavolt is our primary attacker and being a two prize Pokemon we expect to use three of them per game. I don’t anticipate playing less than four ever being correct. Vika is surprisingly versatile with its Paralyzing Bolt attack preventing your opponent from playing items and the powerful Super Zap Cannon doing 190 damage for three energy. Vikavolt offers something that the Pokemon people compared it to, Seismitoad EX, did not have which is a powerful attack. This versatility is what I love about the card.


1 Absol


The Absol is important as a comeback mechanic. You want to be the one setting the pace in the game no matter what deck you’re playing but with a control deck like this it is even more important. If you fall behind you can use Boss’s Orders to bring up a Pokemon with a large retreat cost and use Paralyzing Bolt to stall your opponent while you set-up a stronger board and get some free prizes as they often cannot move it under item lock with the added retreat from Absol. In matches where we are controlling the tempo early, Absol is unnecessary but against Jirachi based decks and games where we have slower starts than our opponents the Absol is incredibly valuable.


4 Jirachi


We want to start Jirachi, with Vikavolt as the second-best starter. Maximizing Jirachi ensures we can find them early. With the two escape boards and Bird Keepers as well Jirach gets extra value for us.


1 Oricorio GX

 

I think this is the card I get asked about the most on stream but the Oricorio has been incredibly valuable for me. The draw three after getting KO’d is incredibly powerful, normally Oricorio isn’t played because it can be Great Catcher’d and because in decks with 3 prize Pokemon you only get to use it once or twice. Vikavolt gets to use Oricorio at least twice a game which allows for easier combo plays to be pulled off with cards like Electro Power and Boss’s Orders. Without our opponent being able to stamp us we are able to build a fairly large hand consistently.


1 Eldegoss V/1 Dedenne GX/1 Crobat V


So far all of these have been valuable for me in their own way. I would say the Crobat would be the first to get cut because of how aggressive the deck is but I like having 1 Crobat and 1 Dedenne right now. The only downside this currently serves is that they are easy targets for Mawile GX in ADPZ.
Trainers

Trainers


4 Turbo Patch


I feel like I am one of the few people still high on Turbo Patch but I love this card in any deck that can utilize it. It isn’t necessary to win but it can be a HUGE swing if you hit a heads on one or two in a game. The deck can work without them to fit in other cards but, despite being a flip, I have found the deck to be more consistent with them than without them.


2 Reset Stamp


I have seen lists running one Stamp and I am a fan of the second stamp to ensure we find it when we need it. The second one is cuttable but Stamp is such an important win condition to play for and running four Professor’s Research can often make the Stamp a causality in the early game.


2 Bird Keeper


I love this card so much in this format. This is inadvertently a counter to mirror match and Mareep decks but it is also just a nice extra option to build bigger hands, get off extra stellar wish and addition pivot pieces. I also really like Bird Keeper because you may be sitting on resources you cannot Research away but not want to Marnie your opponent who may not be doing much with a handful of items and Bird Keeper offers us the chance to increase our hand advantage, drawing three plus a stellar wish, to set-up big turns in the future.


3 Marnie


This one is a count I have gone back and forth on. I started with four Marnie with the obvious intention of trying to combo Item Lock with a dead hand as often as possible. I tried moving down to three and have yet to find any less consistency with it. If you would like to go for a more disruption heavy build then going up to four Marnie is definitely the way to go.


1 Cape of Toughness/1 Counter Gain


This count is up in the air currently. Counter Gain is nice as it essentially serves as another attachment for turn the majority of games while Cape of Toughness makes Vikavolt a 260 HP monster. Which one you play is dependent on the expected meta but right now I like the split as it offers you versatility. If you expect more straight Zacian decks (Not ADP Zacian) and Vikavolt mirrors then Cape of Toughness is pretty strong. Cape can also annoy Eternatus and Centiskortch a bit, though those decks are so aggressive they make the Counter Gain a strong choice as you can keep up with them.

 

Potential Techs

4th Marnie

Esentially this comes down to item lock+hand disruption is good. I have played with three and four and found three to be fine but going back up to four is not a bad idea.

Marshadow UNB

Marshadow is an option for a second stadium bump. I haven't found it to be necessary as we do not rely on Thunder Mountain as anything more than a nice card to play, unlike the Tag Call version. Still, adding one in if you expect a lot of decks to play Chaotic Swell is not a bad idea.

 

Mallow & Lana

A non-item based switch card is nice for the mirror and being able to heal chip damage can come in handy as well. The problem with Mallow & Lana is that in most match-ups the 120 heal doesn't fix any relevant math. This option is best if you expect a lot of mirror matches. 

 

Match-ups:


ADPZ: Even

 


ADPZ players will tell you they’re favored, Vikavolt players will tell you they’re favored and I am pretty sure the answer falls somewhere in the middle. An ADPZ list without switching supporters should be beatable for Vikavolt as it offers the ability to stall them out and win by deckout pretty frequently. With a switching out the game is much harder and an ADPZ deck that can get the turn 1 Altered Creation GX without expending too many resources is a tough hill to climb. Overall, the best way to approach this match-up is to keep item lock up pretty consistently early and before making plays ask yourself, “What is my opponent least likely to have a response for. This match-up, more than most, we are a disruptive deck.


Eternatus: Unfavored


This is a match-up that is decided very early. Can item lock prevent them from setting up? If yes, we can win the game. If no, then it escalated very quickly in their favor. If you are able to slow them down enough and take a few cheeky prizes before they can respond the win condition often becomes boss two Crobat in a row and KO them each with Super Zap Cannon.


Baby Blacephalon: Highly Favored


The only tricky thing here is when your opponent drops a Heatran GX or Dubwool V on you. You want to be prepared for this turn as you have to KO the threat ASAP so the turn you break item lock to deal with the threat you have to combo with a Marnie or Reset Stamp.


Centiskorch: Even


This is a match-up where you want to go 2nd to prevent them from getting the Flare Starter and preferably from even getting the Welder. This is where having both Crobat V and Dedenne GX come into play more than usual, we want to get the turn one Paralyzing Bolt in addition to a Marnie. This forces them to have so much in hand to get set-up and from my testing they have a tough time coming back from this play, especially if they are a non-Jirach build. The issue comes if your opponent can go 2nd and use Volcanion’s Flare starter to be able to get quite a few energy on board, making the cards they need to draw off of Marnie much less than had we gone 2nd.


Mirror: Favored


I believe this build is favored in the mirror because of cards like Bird Keeper and Oricorio GX. These allow us to get extra draw and have extra mobility. In the mirror, it comes down to how you play it more than so many other match-ups. I have played too many mirrors on the PTCGO ladder where my opponent exclusively uses Paralyzing Bolt while I am switching between Paralyzing Bolt and Super Zap Cannon to draw prizes and set back their board state. You have to constantly be asking yourself in this match-up, “If I do not item lock them, what is the worst they can do to me and how can I respond?”. Often the worst they can do it get a return KO on you which gives you items in return and, because of this builds powerful draw and Turbo Patch acceleration, means we will often have a response.


LucMetal: Unfavored


This match-up unfortunately comes down to their draws. If they are able to use Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword to accelerate energy early and can get down items like Metal Frying Pan before we item lock. If we are able to constantly disrupt their hand and lock up anything they bench that does not have energy then we can control the game.


Closing:


The match-up spread may not look overly appealing but to me that is the most appealing part of the deck. It has a chance against everything in the format, with no match-ups truly being heavily unfavored. Vikavolt feels like this format’s 50/50 deck and every game is winnable with the exception of your opponent having a truly amazing turn one. If you are going to play Vikavolt you do have to accept that you will probably lose a round or two because your opponent simply has a near perfect, explosive start with one of the big Vmax decks that are too much for us to come back from. On the flip side, you will also likely win 1-2 rounds because your opponent dead draws off of item lock early and you steam roll them.


Vikavolt is something I am strongly considering for POG, but I need to put in more games with the deck for sure. I have played a little over 50 games with Vikavolt across all variants and I still feel like I need a lot more work to feel fully confident with the deck. It can be hard to pilot at times and is certainly the deck that is most rewarding and punishing of each and every play you make. As always, I am open to any questions you may have on my Twitter, Discord or on my Twitch channel.

 

PTCGO Deck List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 14

* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Crobat V DAA 182
* 1 Eldegoss V RCL 176
* 1 Dedenne-GX UNB 195
* 1 Tapu Koko {*} TEU 51
* 4 Vikavolt V DAA 180
* 4 Jirachi TEU 99
* 1 Oricorio-GX CEC 95

##Trainer Cards - 34

* 4 Turbo Patch DAA 200
* 4 Switch HS 102
* 1 Thunder Mountain {*} LOT 191
* 1 Cape of Toughness DAA 160
* 2 Bird Keeper DAA 159
* 3 Marnie SSH 200
* 2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Boss's Orders RCL 189
* 2 Escape Board UPR 122
* 1 Counter Gain LOT 170
* 4 Professor's Research SSH 201
* 4 Electropower LOT 172

##Energy - 12

* 8 Lightning Energy HS 118
* 4 Speed Lightning Energy RCL 173

Total Cards - 60

****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******

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