The Pokémon Company recently released the latest installment of the Pokémon Trading Card Game as part of the latest Sword & Shield line. It’s officially known as Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze, which is now available worldwide, with even more Galar Pokémon additions. Read on below to learn more:
Pokémon TCG Deck Strategy: Centiskorch VMAX
By Contributing Writer Ellis Longhurst
Since the release of the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze expansion, top Trainers from around the globe have sought to develop the best deck using the powerful new Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX featured there. Given the name of the expansion, it is no surprise that many Trainers set their focus on the new Darkness-type Pokémon Eternatus VMAX. Decks featuring this card quickly found their place at the top of online competitions. But the last word of the expansion might give a clue to the next up-and-coming deck. Hot on the proverbial heels of Eternatus VMAX is the Fire-type Pokémon Centiskorch VMAX. Read on to learn more about the strategy behind the Centiskorch VMAX deck and find out how you can use the Radiator Pokémon to set the darkness ablaze.
The Core of the Deck
Fire-type Pokémon are well-known for having attacks that can do huge amounts of damage to the opponent’s Active Pokémon—and Centiskorch VMAX is no exception. Its G-Max Centiferno attack does 40 damage plus an extra 40 for each Fire Energy attached to it. Provided with enough Fire Energy, Centiskorch VMAX can Knock Out any Pokémon in one hit!
Attacks that do more damage when additional Energy is attached to the attacking Pokémon are certainly not new to the game. Heatran-GX, Blacephalon-GX, and Magcargo-GX are all recent examples of Pokémon with attacks that operate this way. However, while many Pokémon suffer a penalty for using this kind of powerful attack, such as the requirement to discard their Energy, Centiskorch VMAX gains an advantage. If G-Max Centiferno does damage to your opponent’s Pokémon, you may choose to attach a Fire Energy from your discard pile to Centiskorch VMAX.
The most effective way to quickly attach Fire Energy to Centiskorch VMAX is by using the Welder Supporter card. Usually, players are permitted to attach only one Energy card to their Pokémon on their turn, but Welder attaches two more. This card has become a staple in many victorious decks of late—the winning decks from the 2019 Pokémon World Championships and the two most recent International Championships each included four Welder—the maximum number of copies. To make the best use of Welder, the Centiskorch VMAX deck includes cards such as Giant Hearth, Fire Crystal, and Energy Spinner, all of which put Energy cards into the hand.
To drive home just how important it is to get Energy onto Centiskorch VMAX, most variations of the deck also include Volcanion. This Pokémon’s Flare Starter attack is a great way to attach additional Fire Energy to Centiskorch VMAX, especially at the beginning of the game.
Now that we understand the core of the deck, take a look at this sample list inspired by Kashvinder Singh Mann’s creation.
The difference between victory and defeat for a Centiskorch VMAX deck often boils down to whether the player can draw a Welder when they need it. Remember, a deck can only contain up to four copies of Welder, so attaching two additional Fire Energy to your Centiskorch VMAX every turn is mostly limited by having one of these in your hand. The inclusion of Pokégear 3.0, Jirachi, and Eldegoss V make the task a little bit easier. These cards can either search for Welder in the top few cards of the deck or recover it from the discard pile.
When a deck relies on a linear strategy, it becomes vulnerable to being blocked—or countered—by an opponent’s strategy. Consequently, most players include a range of attackers in their deck so they have more than one strategic option.
With that in mind, a popular inclusion in the Centiskorch VMAX deck is Heatran-GX. This Pokémon’s Hot Burn-GX attack is similar to Centiskorch VMAX’s G-Max Centiferno, but with the caveat that it can be used only once. As a Basic Pokémon-GX, Heatran-GX requires no setup, gives up only two Prize cards when Knocked Out (as opposed to Centiskorch VMAX’s three), and can do damage to Zamazenta V, which has seen a surge in popularity as an effective counter to Eternatus VMAX. Victini V satisfies many of the same requirements and can also attach Fire Energy to Centiskorch VMAX through its Spreading Flames attack.
As I mentioned earlier, Volcanion is considered to be an important support Pokémon in the Centiskorch VMAX deck. However, it also becomes an important attacking option against decks that run Pokémon that only give up one Prize card when Knocked Out. In fact, Volcanion becomes the only attacking option against the new Decidueye from Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze!
A single deck may not have enough space to run every powerful Fire-type attacker, but Ninetales V certainly makes a case to be on your short list. This Pokémon is particularly useful against the Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX with Zacian V deck. By copying Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX’s Ultimate Ray attack using the Nine-Tailed Shapeshifter attack, Ninetales V can simultaneously apply pressure to the opponent and load Energy onto Centiskorch VMAX.
Surprisingly, the most problematic opponent that Centiskorch VMAX decks have faced so far is a Metal-type Pokémon: Bronzong. This Pokémon’s Heatproof Ability renders it immune to damage done by attacks from the opponent’s Fire-type Pokémon. When your deck is only comprised of Fire-type Pokémon, Bronzong becomes an impenetrable wall. The card was popularized by 2020 Players Cup Finalists Jack Millar and Matthew Burris, the latter of whom used it to great success against Marco Cifuentes. To deal with Bronzong, Centiskorch VMAX decks now include a Colorless-type attacker: Cramorant V. Its Spit Shot attack can Knock Out a Bronzong in one hit, and also allows for easy Knock Outs on any Benched Dedenne-GX.
One of the toughest and most common matchups for the Centiskorch VMAX deck in the current metagame is Eternatus VMAX. The deck is designed to apply pressure and do 270 damage as early as the second turn of the game. By contrast, even with the help of Dedenne-GX and Crobat V to find Welder, Centiskorch VMAX often needs a few turns to warm up to that level of damage.
Spreading your Energy attachments across two Centiskorch VMAX is very important when you’re facing an Eternatus VMAX across the battlefield. It allows you to pivot between two attackers, and reduces the net loss of Fire Energy from the battlefield when one of your Centiskorch VMAX is Knocked Out, thereby retaining the option to dish out an unexpected and devastating Knock Out with Heatran-GX.
New Deck Variations
Centiskorch VMAX decks that include Green’s Exploration are rising in popularity and may provide the answer to the problem of Eternatus VMAX. This variation of the deck includes Centiskorch VMAX, Volcanion, and Welder, but it does not include many of the other Pokémon previously discussed. Without access to Crobat V’s Dark Asset Ability or Dedenne-GX’s Dedechange Ability to draw additional cards, players may feel like they are left with very few options. In fact, the opposite is true. The inclusion of Green’s Exploration and the removal of Pokémon with Abilities mean that this deck has a way to search for, and space to include, a variety of potentially game-changing Item cards and Tool cards.
For example, the Centiskorch VMAX with Green’s Exploration deck that Dan Hugar played in the 2020 Players Cup included a Wondrous Labyrinth to try to prevent Eternatus VMAX from being able to attack. Other players have explored ways to disrupt their opponent using Green’s Exploration in combination with Giant Bomb, Reset Stamp, or Tool Scrapper.
Given the importance this deck places on Welder, it may seem counterintuitive to also design a strategy around Green’s Exploration. However, having access to Green’s Exploration to search for Welder and one other Trainer card improves the consistency of the deck. It is much easier to execute a strategy when you have control over the cards that you will have access to each turn.
There is a precedent for this combination of Supporter cards. Last year, one of the two dominant versions of the Reshiram & Charizard-GX deck included Green’s Exploration, Welder, and many of the same Item cards as this version of the Centiskorch VMAX deck. Blaine Hill even used Reshiram & Charizard-GX to place 3rd at the 2019 World Championships.
Centiskorch VMAX is one of the most exciting Pokémon from the Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze expansion, and it continues to strengthen as players continue to find ways to unlock its potential. The challenge for players is to discover the 60-card combination that will enable Centiskorch VMAX to shine through the Darkness.
For more competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game content, continue reading Pokemon.com/Strategy.
Ellis Longhurst is a contributing writer covering Play! Pokémon events for Pokemon.com. She has been competing in high-level Pokémon TCG tournaments since 2006, and creating written content for the Pokémon community since 2011. Ellis now brings an Australian flavour to the Play! Pokémon broadcasting and stream teams at the International and World Championship competitions.