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Rayquaza VMAX Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies Deck Strategy: Charge Ahead with Flaaffy
An electrifying deck from the new expansion combines massive power with crafty techniques.
By Andrew Mahone, Contributing Writer
Absent from the Pokémon TCG since the Sun & Moon—Cosmic Eclipse expansion, Dragon-type Pokémon have made a triumphant return to the game in Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies and are ready to wreak havoc on the battlefield. Rayquaza, one of the most fabled Dragon types, is the centerpiece of a new archetype, Rayquaza VMAX / Flaaffy, a deck that has the firepower to deliver one-hit Knock Outs to any Pokémon that dares to stand in its path. Wielding this new Dragon-type deck can be tricky business, but with the right preparation and strategy, you’ll be taming dragons like Raihan himself! Let’s begin by taking a look at the core Pokémon that make this deck work, starting with the star of the show, Rayquaza VMAX!
Rayquaza VMAX: The Star
Simply put, Rayquaza VMAX is a beast. It’s a Rapid Strike Pokémon with a towering 320 HP and a manageable Retreat Cost of 2, and like all Dragon-type Pokémon from Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies, Rayquaza VMAX has no Weakness. Just 10 HP shy of Duraludon VMAX, Rayquaza VMAX is the second-largest Pokémon without a Weakness, making it exceptionally difficult to Knock Out. Rayquaza VMAX also has a powerful attack, Max Burst, and an excellent Ability, Azure Pulse.
Let’s start with its attack. For one Fire and one Lightning Energy, Max Burst does 20 damage plus 80 more for each basic Fire Energy or for each basic Lightning Energy you discard from Rayquaza VMAX. But you can only discard one type of Energy at a time—you cannot choose both. In this deck, you will be discarding Lightning Energy from Rayquaza to perform massive Max Burst attacks. With a Fire Energy and four Lightning Energy attached, Max Burst can do a whopping 340 damage, enough to Knock Out any Pokémon VMAX in one shot. Max Burst is an expensive attack, but this deck is designed to load enough Energy onto Rayquaza VMAX so that you can stream powerful Max Burst attacks turn after turn!
Rayquaza VMAX also has an amazing Ability, Azure Pulse, which allows you to discard your hand and draw 3 cards once during your turn. This Ability might sound destructive, but learning to embrace Azure Pulse will allow you to unlock this deck’s full potential. You can use Azure Pulse once per turn for each Rayquaza VMAX you have in play, so if you have three Rayquaza VMAX, you can discard your hand and draw three cards three times, allowing you to see nine cards—all without playing a Supporter! Now that’s some draw power! Rayquaza VMAX’s Azure Pulse Ability also pairs perfectly with Flaaffy, who is the primary Energy accelerator in this list.
Flaaffy Provides a Spark in Support
Flaaffy is shockingly well suited as a support Pokémon for Rayquaza VMAX. It’s a 90-HP Stage 1 Pokémon with an incredible Ability, Dynamotor. Dynamotor allows you to attach a Lightning Energy from your discard pile to 1 of your Benched Pokémon once during your turn. So if you have three Flaaffy in play, that means you can accelerate 3 Energy from the discard pile to a Benched Pokémon every turn! It’s easy to see how Dynamotor pairs perfectly with Azure Pulse—use Azure Pulse to get Energy into the discard pile for Flaaffy to accelerate into play!
Since Flaaffy and Mareep both have 90 HP or less, Flaaffy can also be searched out easily via Level Ball, making it super easy to get into play. Flaaffy is such an essential part of this deck because it both accelerates Energy and recovers Energy from the discard pile at the same time. Who would have thought that the cuddly Wool Pokémon would make a perfect partner for the Legendary Pokémon Rayquaza?
Kricketune V, the Perfect Pivot
In almost every game, you will want to set up two Rayquaza VMAX and three Flaaffy, which only leaves room for one more Pokémon on your Bench. The perfect Pokémon to fill the last spot on the field is Kricketune V. Its Exciting Stage Ability allows you to draw until you have 3 cards in hand once during your turn. If Kricketune V is in the Active Spot, you can draw until you have 4 cards instead.
Kricketune V pairs really well with Rayquaza VMAX, because Rayquaza VMAX discards your hand and draws 3 cards with Azure Pulse. With only 3 cards in hand after an Azure Pulse, it is really easy to pare your hand down to draw additional cards with Exciting Stage.
Exciting Stage also works best when Kricketune V is in the Active Spot, making Kricketune V an amazing pivot for this deck: equipped with an Air Balloon, Kricketune V has free retreat, allowing it to be switched in and out of the Active Spot easily. Pivot cards are essential in decks that play Flaaffy since Flaaffy’s Dynamotor Ability can only attach Energy to your Benched Pokémon. With an ideal board setup, you’ll be able to promote Kricketune V with an Air Balloon whenever a Pokémon gets Knocked Out, use Exciting Stage to draw cards and Dynamotor to recharge your Bench, then retreat into a new attacker to respond!
Look, No Hand!
With both Rayquaza VMAX and Kricketune V to draw cards, this deck can take full advantage of Supporter cards that don’t draw cards, like Rose and Peony. Both of these Supporters come with the same drawback when you play them—they require that you discard your hand. But since you’ll have Azure Pulse and Exciting Stage to draw cards afterward, discarding your hand isn’t really a drawback at all. On the contrary, if you do discard your hand with Rose or Peony, it can help get Lightning Energy into the discard pile for Flaaffy!
Rose is a Supporter that lets you attach 2 Basic Energy from your discard pile to 1 of your Pokémon VMAX, and then discard your hand. It’s a great way to get Energy onto your Rayquaza VMAX and, importantly, one of the best ways to recover your Fire Energy, since Flaaffy only recovers Lightning. With Rose and Flaaffy together, it’s easy to get enough Energy onto Rayquaza VMAX to stream one-hit KOs. With three Flaaffy on board and Rose in hand, it’s possible to accelerate 5 Energy from your discard pile to a Rayquaza VMAX in a single turn, which is enough Energy to do 340 damage out of nowhere! Some opponents will make it their mission to target Flaaffy in an attempt to slow your strategy, so having Rose as an option to accelerate Energy without Flaaffy makes this deck much more versatile overall.
It’s only fitting that Rose’s younger brother, Peony, is also a strong Supporter that requires you to discard your hand. With Peony, you discard your hand first, then search your deck for any 2 Trainer cards and put them into your hand. Peony helps solve one of the biggest obstacles for Rayquaza VMAX: the Path to the Peak Stadium card. Path to the Peak removes the Abilities of all Pokémon with a Rule Box in play, which includes Rayquaza VMAX and Kricketune V. Even though my list plays three Stormy Mountains and a Crystal Cave, it’s still easy to get stuck by Path to the Peak. Instead of playing more than 4 Stadium cards, which would be a poor use of deck space, Peony gives you plenty of opportunities to search out your Stadium cards so you can continue drawing cards with Rayquaza VMAX and Kricketune V.
While Rose is a better Supporter toward the end of the match after most of your Energy is in the discard pile, Peony is strong at all points of the game. At the beginning of a match, Peony can be used to grab Level Ball and Stormy Mountains to search out Mareep and Rayquaza V. In the middle of the game, Peony can find Evolution Incense and Air Balloon to set up Rayquaza VMAX and establish a pivot. And in the final stages of the game, Peony can get Switch to move a Rayquaza VMAX to the Bench so it can be recharged with Flaaffy’s Dynamotor!
My goal when designing this deck is for it to operate as consistently as possible and do what Rayquaza VMAX does best: Knock Out big Pokémon! Rayquaza VMAX is in its element when it is paired up against other Pokémon VMAX that it can take down. Decks like Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX, Sylveon VMAX, Leafeon VMAX, and Eternatus VMAX that rely on big 3-Prize Pokémon are all good matchups for Rayquaza VMAX. Since Path to the Peak appears to be a big factor in the game right now, I want to make sure this build has plenty of ways to find counter-Stadiums so the deck can continue operating under pressure. This is why I am loving the Peony-heavy build right now! In an ideal game, you build up a couple of huge Rayquaza VMAX and Max Burst two of your opponent’s Pokémon VMAX to win with just two attacks!
Though Rayquaza VMAX can dish out absurd amounts of damage when all set up, the deck is not without weaknesses. The worst enemies of any Rayquaza VMAX build are Pokémon that target the Bench like Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and Jolteon VMAX. Both of these decks are capable of taking out your Flaaffy before you really get up and going, making them this deck’s most difficult matchups. With no Bench Barrier effect in the Standard format at the moment, your poor Flaaffy are quite exposed to spread strategies.
I also said previously that Rayquaza VMAX wants to be paired against big Pokémon VMAX so you can win with as few attacks as possible. If you find yourself up against single-Prize decks like Rapid Strike Malamar, you could be in for a bad time. Single-Prize decks can trade favorably with Rayquaza VMAX, as the Pokémon wastes a lot of Energy and resources when only taking one Prize card at a time. Fortunately, there are a couple additional options that you can consider for your very own Rayquaza VMAX deck that may be able to help.
Pokémon Support Options to Consider
Since Rayquaza VMAX is a Rapid Strike Pokémon, it can pair rather seamlessly with a couple of Rapid Strike Zeraora V to help with your single-Prize matchups. Zeraora V’s Cross Fist attack does 100 damage plus 160 damage to 1 of your ‘opponent’s Benched Pokémon if 1 of your other Rapid Strike Pokémon attacked the previous turn. Since there are no Bench Barrier effects in Standard right now, Zeraora V can easily wreak havoc on a board of Pokémon with low HP, and can hit Inteleon, a popular support Pokémon in the metagame, for Weakness.
In the current Standard format, Metal-type Pokémon are as popular as ever. Since this deck plays Fire Energy, it can accommodate Fire-type attackers like Ninetales V. For one Fire and two Colorless Energy, Ninetales V’s Nine-Tailed Shapeshifter attack copies 1 of the opponent’s Active Pokémon’s attacks. This is great for Knocking Out Zacian V with its own Brave Blade and Zamazenta V with its own Assault Tackle. If you’re lucky, you may also be able to copy Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX’s G-Max Rapid Flow attack to KO two of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. There’s nothing like giving your opponent a taste of their own medicine!
This deck makes me nostalgic, since my very first competitive Pokémon deck also featured a Pokémon with Dynamotor: Eelektrik from Black &White—Noble Victories shares the same Ability as Flaaffy and was released nearly 10 years ago! It’s crazy how time flies when you’re having fun building decks. It has been a lot of fun tweaking and perfecting my own build of Rayquaza VMAX, and I’m excited to see what players do to continue to evolve it.
Ber sure to keep checking Pokemon.com/Strategy for more Pokémon TCG analysis and strategy.
Andrew Mahone is a Professional Pokémon Trading Card Game player, cohost of Pokémon’s Top Deck Academy, and content creator from Tricky Gym on Twitch and YouTube. He is a five-time Pokémon TCG World Championship Competitor and 2015 St. Louis Regional Champion.