Pokémon TCG Triple Play: Charizard VSTAR Decks
Discover multiple ways to stoke the fires of this powerful Pokémon from Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars.
Once again, Charizard is ready to light up the Pokémon TCG. A huge Pokémon with massive HP and monstrous attacks, Charizard VSTAR can be quite the threat in battle. But as you’ll see in the latest Triple Play, getting the Energy needed to unleash its potential can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, our three experts are up to the task, with Robin Schulz and Christopher Schemanske illuminating the path for Standard format players, while Stéphane Ivanoff shows how to bring the heat in the Expanded format.
Charizard might be known more for its popularity with collectors than its competitive strength, but don’t underestimate its latest appearance in Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars! Charizard VSTAR is an excellent Pokémon that’s nearly comparable to a typical Pokémon VMAX despite giving up only two Prize cards when Knocked Out. 280 HP is a great number to have, Explosive Fire does enough damage to Knock Out regular Pokémon V, and the powerful Star Blaze VSTAR Power can Knock Out virtually any Pokémon in the game.
The challenge for this deck will be the high Energy cost of Charizard VSTAR’s attacks, but that’s where the new Stadium card Magma Basin comes into play. Not only does it give us an additional Energy attachment per turn, it also activates Explosive Fire’s extra damage. Drawing Magma Basin early and keeping it in play will be the key to winning games with this deck. It is by far the most important piece in finding success, and many of the other cards in the list are chosen specifically to work well in combination with it.
Another Pokémon that synergizes perfectly with Magma Basin is Moltres, and it happens to be a great partner for Charizard VSTAR, too! Even with access to an extra Energy attachment, it takes more than one turn to get Charizard VSTAR ready to attack. In the meanwhile, we can use Moltres to either take out low-HP Pokémon or set up bigger Knock Outs. Its 90 damage, plus 230 from Charizard VSTAR’s Explosive Fire attack, adds up to 320, which covers most of the Pokémon in the game.
Magma Basin only works with Benched Fire-type Pokémon, which is why the deck needs to include a lot of cards that allow us to switch in and out of the Active Spot. Air Balloon is perfect for this deck because all of our Pokémon have a Retreat Cost of 2 or less. I’ve also included two Switch for some extra mobility. With both Air Balloon and Switch in the deck, we should rarely have trouble using Magma Basin with the correct Pokémon.
Mew fits rather well into strategies that include a lot of switching options. We need a Pokémon to have in the Active Spot while attaching Energy to our attackers on the Bench, and Mew fulfils that role while providing a nice consistency boost with its Mysterious Tail Ability. It’s also the ideal Pokémon to open with at the start of the game. Mew might not be completely essential, which is why we see only two copies of it in the list, but it very much helps in smoothing out the deck’s consistency.
Rounding out our Pokémon lineup are two Crobat V and one Lumineon V. These are the two support Pokémon that can turn any “Ball” Item card into a fresh hand, making them immensely important for the deck to function consistently. In particular, Crobat V is great because it allows us to draw extra cards on top of using a Supporter for the turn, which makes it more likely to find the Magma Basin we need.
Since Magma Basin attaches Energy cards from the discard pile, our deck needs to be able to easily discard those Energy cards. Two great cards that allow us to do so—and also work perfectly with our support Pokémon lineup—are Ultra Ball and Quick Ball. Another option to discard cards is, of course, Professor’s Research, the best draw card in the deck.
Besides Professor’s Research, there are multiple good Supporter cards you could fit into the deck. I’ve decided to include Zinnia’s Resolve, which is yet another card that can get Fire Energy into the discard pile. Most decks at the moment like to have a lot of Pokémon in play, so Zinnia’s Resolve usually allows us to draw a nice number of cards. It’s also a Supporter card that doesn’t completely replace our hand, which is important when we have multiple copies of Magma Basin in hand that we want access to on future turns.
In addition, I play two Marnie, which is just a generically good draw Supporter that provides some hand disruption, an aspect that should not be underrated even if it isn’t part of the deck’s main strategy.
One problem with Magma Basin is that it’s very predictable. You get one extra Energy per turn, which is great—but if that’s all you’re using, it’s pretty easy for your opponent to know when you’re going to attack. That’s why we have one Raihan in the deck. With this secondary extra attachment, it’s possible to surprise the opponent with an unexpected Star Blaze, or alternatively, it’s a good way to regain tempo when falling behind a bit. Raihan is also the only card in the deck that can directly search for Magma Basin, which can be hard to find sometimes—even at four copies. Keep in mind: Lumineon V can search for Raihan in the right moment, so even though there’s only a single copy in the list, this Gym Leader isn’t as difficult to find as he might seem!
As you might have noticed, the deck includes a very high count of Boss’s Orders. We don’t necessarily need all of them in a game, but drawing one at the right moment can be the difference between a win or a loss, which is why I think playing four is justified. This deck has a very efficient damage output, provided you are targeting the right Pokémon. Moltres is excellent at dealing with small single-Prize Pokémon, while Charizard VSTAR can take out Pokémon V with Explosive Fire and Pokémon VMAX with Star Blaze. Ideally, it’s possible to win in just three attacks!
Lastly, we need to be playing a lot of Energy cards to efficiently use Magma Basin and power up all our attackers. With only one additional Energy per turn, it’s crucial to not miss our regular attachment. In addition to all the basic Fire Energy, Heat Fire Energy is a great card for this deck. Attaching it to a Charizard VSTAR will offset the disadvantage of putting 2 damage counters onto it with Magma Basin, getting it back up to 280 HP. It might not seem like much, but can make all the difference!
Overall, this is a pretty simple deck list, but has a lot of in-game options, making it enjoyable to play. It’s incredibly reliant on drawing the Magma Basin, which is a big downside, but when things go well, Charizard VSTAR is a powerhouse that is more than capable of keeping up with many of the game’s top decks!
Pokémon VSTAR are the exciting centerpiece of the new Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars expansion, and what might be most remarkable is that Charizard isn’t the center of attention for once! While Arceus VSTAR might be getting all the attention coming out of the set’s launch, Charizard VSTAR has its own flame to light. As is Charizard’s legacy in the Pokémon TCG, Charizard VSTAR is a bulky attacker that can pack quite a punch. All of the Pokémon VSTAR feature an unheard of amount of HP for a two-Prize Pokémon, and Charizard VSTAR is no exception with its 280 HP. This bulkiness is hard to argue with, which alone is enough to make any Pokémon VSTAR interesting to think about.
When thinking about building a deck, I always like to consider the weaknesses the strategy might face. Charizard VSTAR is immensely interesting for its high HP and high-damage attacks, but in order to use those attacks, it needs a lot of Energy. Like I’ve discussed in previous Triple Play articles, solving Energy acceleration is one of the most important parts of constructing a new deck. There are a few possible approaches to consider: First, we could pair Charizard VSTAR with cheaper attackers such as Moltres to buy time while attaching the needed Energy cards to come in and make quick work of opposing Pokémon with Explosive Fire. Alternatively, we could look for Trainer-based Energy acceleration to get things rolling, as has fueled so many successful decks in the past.
Unfortunately, the Standard format leaves us with Magma Basin as the only significant accelerant of Fire-type Energy, so we have to leave that to Stéphane’s exploration of Expanded, below. Robin’s deck explored the ancillary attacker route, so that leaves us with the last choice: Pokémon-based acceleration! In this case, we’re offered an assist from Coalossal, from back in Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash, which has some useful synergy with the aforementioned Magma Basin. Both fuel your Pokémon with Energy from the discard pile, which is really useful: you can count on getting Energy back when you discard it to pay for Ultra Ball, Quick Ball, or other draw cards. With 11 Energy cards in your deck to discard, getting them back into play when you need them is important. There’s a long tradition of cards designed to fetch Energy from the discard pile—Malamar from Sun & Moon—Forbidden Light and Eelektrik from Black & White—Noble Victories are just two popular examples that have been used to retrieve discarded Energy as fuel for the fire.
Let’s take a look at how Coalossal can help Charizard VSTAR rise to the occasion:
I’ve chosen to build the deck in a way that emphasizes the potential found in the Expanded format. As in Standard, we can use Quick Ball and Ultra Ball to search for our Pokémon, both the attackers and the support Pokémon. However, you’ll notice that I’ve included very few Supporters. This is common in Expanded because, with Battle Compressor, you can discard Supporters that you can then get back to hand thanks to VS Seeker. This way, it’s easier to play the exact Supporter needed for the situation, every single turn.
Battle Compressor can also discard Fire Energy to get back with Magma Basin, and Exeggcute, whose Propagation Ability gets itself out of the discard pile and is quite handy to get an extra card in hand to pay for the discard costs of some of our Item cards. When you use Propagation, Exeggcute comes back to your hand—which resets the Ability. Even after it’s discarded again, the game state forgets that you’ve used Propagation this turn, and you can use it again. If you have a Quick Ball, Ultra Ball, and Computer Search in hand, the same Exeggcute can be discarded for all three of them in the same turn!
Charizard VSTAR is a very efficient attacker. Its Explosive Fire attack can Knock Out any Pokémon V as long as Charizard VSTAR has damage on it, and Star Blaze can take down any TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX, as well as most Pokémon VMAX (including Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX, one of the best attackers in the format). However, other Pokémon can also be added to cover other situations. In addition to Charizard VSTAR, I’ve included two other Fire-type attackers: Moltres and Blacephalon-GX. Moltres is a good one-Prize attacker to use against low-HP Pokémon, whereas Blacephalon-GX has two purposes: its Burst-GX attack gets you a Prize card and can be used either on the first turn or at the end of a game to close it out, while Mind Blown can turn all the Energy put in play by Welder and Magma Basin into damage to Knock Out even the bulkiest of Pokémon.
Experienced readers will notice that this deck features plenty of classic Trainer cards used in many Expanded decks. In addition to Quick Ball and Ultra Ball, I’ve included Float Stone, which is the best way to retreat a Pokémon, N, which can turn games around against faster opponents by disrupting their hand, and Computer Search, the best ACE SPEC card in the format. Note that Dowsing Machine or Scramble Switch could be played instead—but, of course, only one ACE SPEC card in the deck at a time.
However, the Expanded format also has powerful support cards specifically made for the Fire-type emphasis, and the deck list above takes advantage of them. Fiery Flint and Fire Crystal let you get Fire Energy in hand, which can be used for Welder, while Heat Factory Prism Star turns Fire Energy in hand into draw power. Finally, Blacksmith can be regarded as a weaker Welder, since it doesn’t draw any cards. However, because it attaches Energy from the discard pile and not from hand, it has more direct synergy with Battle Compressor and can be played even when you have a low card count—for example, after an opponent plays N in the late game.
Of course, the Expanded format has such a wide card pool that it is hard to choose 60 cards to play. There are many other cards that could fit into the deck. To give only a few examples: Clefairy‘s Fairy typing and Metronome attack makes it a great asset against some fearsome cards, such as the dreaded Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX; Sudowoodo is an excellent support Pokémon against decks that rely on Sky Field, which are fairly common in Expanded; and Field Blower can be used to counter opposing Stadiums such as Chaotic Swell as well as Pokémon Tools.
It’s not easy to build a deck in Expanded because you have to think about the wide range of existing strategies and how to counter them. And due to the huge card pool, there are many options that you might not think of at first.
That said, there’s no use overthinking it. While there are many intricacies you can learn about, players most often find success by starting with a simple, powerful plan. Energy acceleration is a great example of such a plan, Welder and Magma Basin are great Energy accelerators, and Charizard VSTAR is a very good attacker, so play these cards together and you have a solid deck!
For more Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis, be sure to check Pokemon.com/Strategy.
About the Writers
Robin Schulz is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He has been competing in Pokémon tournaments for 10 years and was the Pokémon TCG Masters Division World Champion in 2018. He spends a lot of time traveling and competing, and he rarely misses a big event. Aside from playing Pokémon, he attends university, where he is studying mathematics.
Christopher Schemanske is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He’s been playing the Pokémon TCG since 2010, with a streak of Worlds invitations between 2012–2018. Nowadays, he enjoys splitting his Pokémon time between playing and being part of the awesome Professor staff teams at major events.
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.
Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars
Overflowing with light, Arceus VSTAR descends from on high to share its celestial powers with other Pokémon V. Discover glimmering constellations and start your journey toward stellar greatness in the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars expansion!
- Over 170 cards
- 4 brand-new Pokémon VSTAR
- 20 powerful Pokémon V and 3 enormous Pokémon VMAX
- 30 cards with special art in the Trainer Gallery subset
- More than 20 Trainer cards and a new Special Energy card