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Sylveon VMAX, Umbreon VMAX, and Flareon VMAX Strategies from Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies
Evolve your game with diverse strategies for three different Eevee Evolutions, now as Pokémon VMAX.
One of the most exciting highlights of the new Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies expansion is the inclusion of all of Eevee’s Evolutions as both Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX. Not only is the whole family here, but they also have serious competitive potential.
So for this Triple Play, we’re shaking up the format a little—we tasked three brilliant deck builders with creating a deck from a different one of these Pokémon VMAX. The strength of Eevee’s evolved forms runs through them all, but each one has its own distinct strategic approaches. If you ever wanted to know just how diverse your approach to winning a Pokémon TCG match can be, look no further than these three fun decks.
I’ve centered my deck around the adorable and effective Sylveon VMAX, now a Psychic-type Pokémon (since Fairy types are currently absent from the game). This colorful deck can pack a serious punch, and it can exploit Weakness on multiple of the most popular Pokémon in the format, such as Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. Sylveon VMAX’s Max Harmony attack gets stronger for every different type of Pokémon on your Bench and maxes out at a solid 220 damage, which is enough to Knock Out most Pokémon V before they evolve. To reach this lofty total, the deck needs a colorful lineup of five different types of Pokémon on the Bench consistently.
The Perfect Sylveon VMAX Setup
The board state this deck aims for consists of: one Rayquaza VMAX, one Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, one Blaziken VMAX, one Octillery, and two Sylveon VMAX. Setting up two Sylveon VMAX does not reduce the damage output, as one of them needs to be in the Active Spot to use Max Harmony in the first place. Additionally, Zeraora V is an excellent attacker and does not share a type with anything else in the deck. You can use Zeraora V to replenish a Bench spot if needed after another Pokémon is Knocked Out. On the first turn of the game, you want to aim for at least a Sylveon V and a Remoraid in play. Thanks to Sylveon V’s Dream Gift Ability, you can pick up an Evolution Incense to evolve Remoraid into Octillery on the following turn.
Octillery Is the Key
You will notice that all the Pokémon in this list share a common factor: They are all Rapid Strike Pokémon. This means that Octillery and the Tower of Waters Stadium go from good cards to incredible cards. Thanks to Tower of Waters, every single Pokémon in the deck can now retreat for free, which gives you excellent mobility and attacking options throughout the game.
With the number of Rapid Strike cards featured in the deck, Octillery becomes by far the best support Pokémon. Octillery’s Rapid Strike Search Ability can search out any Pokémon in the deck, your Stadium, or an option of two different Energy cards. Korrina’s Focus is often included in decks featuring Octillery, but in this deck you have another option: Using Rapid Strike Search to help set up a Rayquaza VMAX will permanently give you access to draw power every turn. This can be crucial to help you dig for cards such as Boss’s Orders.
Using the Board
Having multiple different types of Pokémon on the field means that you will be more able to exploit the Weakness of your opponent’s Pokémon. Thanks to Tower of Waters, you can easily switch between your attackers as you see fit. Urshifu VMAX can do a solid 150 damage for just one Energy using its Gale Thrust attack. G-Max Rapid Flow also adds up nicely with a fully powered attack from Max Harmony to help you finish off a damaged Pokémon VMAX. Blaziken VMAX’s Max Blaze attack is fueled with just a single Rapid Strike Energy and can help charge up your other attackers. This attack is great to take down Pokémon that are weak to Fire types, like Zacian V, while simultaneously building a stronger board state. Use Quick Ball, Professor’s Research, or Rayquaza VMAX’s Azure Pulse Ability to discard Energy.
Rayquaza VMAX can technically meet its Energy requirements through Spiral Energy, but since it can only discard basic Energy to fuel its attack, your Energy will always be better spent elsewhere. Both Octillery and Rayquaza VMAX are used solely for their strong Abilities, and for providing additional damage for Sylveon VMAX’s Max Harmony attack.
Prize Trading with Ribbon Badge
In Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies, all the Eevee Evolutions have gotten their own special Pokémon Tool card that only works for them. Sylveon V and Sylveon VMAX can use the powerful new Ribbon Badge, which reduces the number of Prize cards taken when Knocking Out the Pokémon that has this Tool. A normal game would usually be finished whenever one player has Knocked Out two Pokémon VMAX, but using Ribbon Badge forces your opponent to Knock Out more of your Pokémon to win the game. Since the format is so fast paced, being able to deny Prize cards could give you a huge advantage when racing for victory. Optimally, you would want to force the opponent to Knock Out three of your Pokémon VMAX to win the game. Be sure to attach the Ribbon Badge to your Sylveon before it’s in danger of being Knocked Out.
Sylveon VMAX Energy Lineup
Luckily for this deck, all the attackers can use Colorless Energy, which makes Capture Energy an excellent addition to the list. After Pokémon Communication rotated out of the Standard format, most decks lost a valuable resource for finding Basic Pokémon early in the game. Capture Energy helps search out the extra Basic Pokémon you need.
Again, because all the Pokémon in the deck are Rapid Strike Pokémon, using four Rapid Strike Energy helps fuel the big attacks much faster. Sylveon VMAX, Urshifu VMAX, and Zeraora V will all be able to use their most powerful attacks with only two Energy attachments.
Spiral Energy gives the deck some cute tricks, as well. It allows you to use Blaziken VMAX’s Clutch attack, which can potentially trap your opponent’s Pokémon in the Active Spot to buy some time. Sylveon VMAX gets access to its Precious Touch attack as another way of accelerating Energy into play, and Zeraora V can use its Cross Fist attack. In addition, Spiral Energy prevents your Pokémon from being Paralyzed, which sometimes could spell trouble for a deck that relies on manually retreating Pokémon.
Sylveon VMAX is an interesting card that encourages thinking outside the box when constructing a deck, and I’m a huge fan of that. I enjoy how well all these Rapid Strike cards are in perfect harmony with each other, even across all their different types. If you are looking for a well-oiled machine, consider giving this deck a try!
In the Pokémon TCG, being able to pull one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon into the Active Spot, often called a Gust effect, is very strong. Being able to choose which Pokémon you attack means you can target a key support Pokémon on your opponent’s Bench to disrupt their strategy, or pull a Pokémon with low HP into the Active Spot in order to take easy Prize cards. The main Gust effect in the Standard format is Boss’s Orders, a Supporter that fits into pretty much every deck, but Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies introduces Umbreon VMAX, whose Dark Signal Ability allows you to bring up a Benched Pokémon when Umbreon V evolves into Umbreon VMAX.
We’ve seen similar Abilities on other Pokémon, and when they’re combined with a powerful attack, they’re usually the sign of a great Pokémon—players active in the Sun & Moon era probably remember Lycanroc-GX, for example. These Abilities are great because they allow a player to get a Gust effect without playing Boss’s Orders, which means they’re free to play another Supporter, such as Professor’s Research, in the same turn.
Umbreon VMAX’s Ability and Darkness type make it a great fit as a support Pokémon in an Eternatus VMAX deck. However, to use its full potential, we can also make it the star of its own deck! At first glance, Max Darkness doesn’t seem like a fantastic attack: 160 damage for three Energy doesn’t cut it in the era of Pokémon VMAX (although it’s exactly enough to KO the powerful Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX in one hit, due to Weakness). However, Umbreon VMAX is a Single Strike Pokémon! This means it is compatible with Houndoom, which can accelerate Single Strike Energy to Umbreon VMAX, in turn allowing it to hit for more damage.
Single Strike decks are usually not that subtle, at least in appearance. In my experience, the best way to build them is to go all-in on consistency. That’s why I included four copies each of Umbreon V, Umbreon VMAX, Houndour, and Houndoom. These Pokémon are the key to the deck, and we want to set them up as fast as possible, so let’s not cut corners here! In order to help find these Pokémon, we have the usual Quick Ball and Evolution Incense, as well as the fantastic Capture Energy, which won’t be an issue in the deck since Umbreon VMAX has two Colorless Energy in its attack cost. There’s another card in the deck that can search for all of these Pokémon, though: Piers.
Piers can search for any Darkness-type Pokémon and any Energy card. In this deck, it is surprisingly versatile! In the early game, you’ll probably get Houndoom with it if needed. But grabbing an Umbreon VMAX at any point in the game effectively turns Piers into a Boss’s Orders, as long as you have an Umbreon V in play to evolve. If your hand is getting low on cards, you could instead search for Crobat V to draw some. As for Special Energy: getting a Single Strike Energy out of the deck turns Piers into a damage booster, grabbing a Capture Energy allows you to search for one extra Pokémon, or you could search for a Hiding Darkness Energy instead if you want to retreat your Pokémon. Only a Single Strike deck could get that much use out of Piers. (It’s usually recommended that decks don’t go all-in on Special Energy; such decks could get in trouble against a Shadow Rider Calyrex V using Shadow Mist, for example. However, Houndoom lets you get Single Strike Energy directly out of the deck, so you’ll have no issue attacking even in that situation.)
Alternate Strikers with Umbreon VMAX
Not all the Pokémon in the deck are Darkness types, though. I also included a single copy of Single Strike Urshifu V, which is a great attacker that can also be powered up by Houndoom. Impact Blow can do 220 damage on turn two thanks to two Single Strike Energy, and Urshifu V’s typing also comes in handy against Fighting-weak Pokémon such as Eternatus VMAX.
Urshifu V can also be used against Pokémon that are immune to Pokémon VMAX, such as Zamazenta V. Don’t forget about Umbreon V in this situation, either! Since Houndoom damages the Pokémon it attaches Energy to, Umbreon V’s Moonlight Blade will do at least 160 damage, so it’s a viable attacker on its own.
Remember, though, that you don’t always have to attack your opponent’s Active Pokémon. Thanks to Dark Signal and the actual copies of Boss’s Orders in the deck, it’s easy to target Benched Pokémon. Umbreon VMAX will never hit hard enough to KO another Pokémon VMAX in one attack (unless it hits for Weakness), but you can Knock Out three Pokémon V to win the game: either the unevolved forms of your opponent’s Pokémon VMAX, or support Pokémon such as Crobat V and Eldegoss V. The deck list above is built to help achieve this goal. Are the Pokémon V on your opponent’s Bench out of reach of your damage? Karen’s Conviction can help! No Pokémon V on their Bench? Use Echoing Horn to bring one back from the discard pile! No Gust effect available? Use Escape Rope to force your opponent to switch to an easier target, even if you can’t choose which one. The key to this deck is to have a plan to take all six Prizes, and that plan often entails ignoring the biggest threat to go after easier ones instead.
While this deck is fairly streamlined, and therefore easy to play, I think there’s something to be said for how the various cards in the deck synergize and achieve multiple goals in ways that aren’t obvious at first glance.
For example, Tower of Darkness seems to be a simple Stadium that provides a bit more draw power by discarding redundant cards. However, you can also use it to discard a Single Strike Energy, which you can then shuffle back into your deck with Urn of Vitality, before attaching it with Houndoom.
Hiding Darkness Energy makes it easier to retreat your Pokémon since all of them except one are Darkness types, but it’s also useful tech against Leafeon VMAX‘s Grass Knot (which would otherwise do considerable damage to Umbreon VMAX due to its Weakness) since it removes Umbreon VMAX’s Retreat Cost.
Escape Rope moves both Pokémon around, but if you only want to use it to make your opponent switch their Active Pokémon, that will often work, since you’ll usually have a Pokémon with free retreat to pivot to (thanks to Hiding Darkness Energy). On the other hand, if all you want is a Switch, you can also use Dark Signal after using Escape Rope so that no matter which Pokémon your opponent chose, the one that ends up Active is the one you want to attack.
When playing Umbreon VMAX, be on the lookout for these sorts of subtle interactions. And if you don’t want to build a whole deck around it, feel free to add a smaller Umbreon VMAX line in your Single Strike Urshifu VMAX or Eternatus VMAX deck. The Moonlight Pokémon is both a strong attacker and a fantastic support Pokémon, and in my opinion, that makes it the best out of all the Eevee family Pokémon VMAX!
Flareon VMAX is distinct in that its attack steers the direction of how the entire deck list should be built. What way is that? With lots of Energy cards, of course! Max Detonate discards the top five cards of your deck and does 100 damage for each Energy card in those five cards. With a maximum damage cap of 500, you won’t need to worry about doing enough damage when the cards are in your favor. It need not be said, but there’s a decent amount of luck involved with Max Detonate. While the damage cap of 500 looks incredibly appealing, it’s much more likely that you’ll only hit two or three Energy cards, and sometimes even zero!
One essential partner is Oranguru from Sword & Shield. With its Primate Wisdom Ability, you can put a Fire Energy on top of the deck, guaranteeing at least one Energy card from Max Detonate. And then to reach 200 damage, you need only one Energy card in the next four cards. With an average of 200 damage per attack, you’ll be trading equally with most other Pokémon VMAX decks in the Standard format. In the rare event that you Knock Out a Pokémon VMAX in one hit, then victory is almost guaranteed.
Fire-type decks lost a few key cards with the recent format rotation, namely Welder and Giant Hearth. Without those cards, we need a new way to power up Flareon VMAX’s three-Energy attack. Here’s where Houndoom comes into play. Because Flareon VMAX is a Single Strike Pokémon, it can make use of Single Strike Energy, and therefore Houndoom’s Ability, Single Strike Roar. You can also play Elemental Badge, which reduces the cost of Max Detonate by one Colorless Energy. You still need at least one Fire Energy attached, though.
Here’s a sample deck list for Flareon VMAX.
It’s important to note that Max Detonate does additional damage for each Energy card—Special Energy included. Single Strike Energy can increase the damage output to match the crucial numbers of 320 and 340 to Knock Out a Pokémon VMAX in a single attack, or 220 to Knock Out most Pokémon V in a single attack. On the other hand, Capture Energy boosts consistency by providing more ways to find Basic Pokémon throughout the game. Heat Fire Energy could also be a worthwhile inclusion, but I’ve opted to forgo it to include more basic Energy for Volcarona V. Its attack, Surging Flames, only applies to basic Energy.
Volcarona V is a solid finishing attacker. Surging Flames requires only a single Fire Energy and can hit for up to 300 damage with 15 Fire Energy in the list. It’s unlikely that you’ll get all 15 Energy involved—one on Volcarona V, the other 14 in the discard pile—but 120 damage is enough to then clean up with Max Detonate afterward to Knock Out a fresh Pokémon V. In any case, it’s an additional option and synergizes greatly with the deckbuilding design of Flareon VMAX.
With 23 Energy cards, this list certainly has no shortage of Energy. Considering that we want to maximize the odds of scoring Knock Outs with Max Detonate, it makes perfect sense that over a third of the deck list is dedicated to our damage output. In that regard, most niceties that other decks can afford (situational tech cards, Stadiums), are not worth the deck space they occupy. The list contains a single copy of Energy Recycler to greatly increase the odds of discarding Energy cards with Max Detonate, especially near the end of the game. Hopefully you can avoid discarding Energy Recycler with Professor’s Research or Max Detonate before getting the chance to use it.
Standard Support for Flareon V Decks
Aside from Elemental Badge and Energy Recycler, the selection of Trainer cards matches most other decks in Standard. Professor’s Research and Marnie are the strongest Supporters in the format. Boss’s Orders is a way of picking up a Knock Out, which means that Volcarona V plus Boss’s Orders on a low-HP Pokémon is a reliable way to close out a game.
Quick Ball and Evolution Incense are the cookie-cutter Items to get much-desired Pokémon out of the deck. Combined with Capture Energy, there are plenty of ways to find Flareon V and Houndour on the first turn, meaning that a turn-two Max Detonate is extremely likely. All you need are two Energy attachments and one additional Energy, either accelerated with Houndoom or nullified by Elemental Badge.
Lastly, Air Balloon provides mobility for all lackluster starting Pokémon: anything except Flareon V.
Flareon V Tactical Suggestions
Going first is better than going second because the goal is to get Flareon VMAX into play as soon as possible. With a little help from Houndoom or Elemental Badge, you can strike first and start the game on good footing. If you are stuck going second, then it may be useful to attack with Flaming Breath in order to accelerate an Energy card from the deck. Be careful, though: your Flareon V is vulnerable—it could get Knocked Out and take all that Energy with it. Against aggressive decks, you may want to pass with a powered-up Flareon V on the Bench.
Considering that the deck’s only attackers are Fire-type Pokémon, any Water-based deck would be a bad matchup. For example, Suicune V, also from Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies, will be able to Knock Out Flareon VMAX for only two Energy and a combined seven Benched Pokémon. And unfortunately, right now there’s not much to be done to solve this inherent Weakness to Water-type Pokémon. One solution would be to include Pokémon that aren’t Fire types; however, due to the list construction, that would greatly weaken matchups against non-Water decks. The opportunity cost of tech cards is higher because our expected damage output with Max Detonate decreases with each Energy card we remove. In this case, it’s best to take the bad matchup and move on.
If you’re a fan of high-risk, high-reward decks, then give Flareon VMAX a try!
About the Writers
Tord Reklev is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He is a longtime player from Norway, playing the game since he was 6 years old. He is notable for being the only Masters Division player to win the North America, Europe, and Oceania Internationals, and he recently made Top 4 at the World Championships. Outside of the game, he is a student and enjoys playing tennis. You can find him at most big events, and can follow him on Twitter at @TordReklev.
Stéphane Ivanoff is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. A longtime Pokémon fan, he has played the Pokémon TCG competitively since 2010 and is a former National Champion, seven-time Worlds competitor, and the 2018 and 2019 North America International Champion in the Masters Division. He studied mathematics and has a degree in probability and statistics, but he says that doesn’t help his game as much as you’d think! You can follow him on Twitter @lubyllule.
Xander Pero is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He was an avid fan until discovering sanctioned tournaments in 2009. He formerly traveled often for the Top 16 circuit, but now spends his time focusing on university, where he studies industrial engineering. You can find him at various tournaments, as well as on Twitter at @xanderpero.