Our experts assemble for a look at the top decks ahead of the long-awaited event.
After two long years, the International Championships are about to return. Players are gearing up to meet in Frankfurt, Germany, for the 2022 Europe International Championships (EUIC) on April 22–24. Along with a lot of excitement, there's plenty of intrigue surrounding the competition; new Pokémon TCG expansions and new players are certain to lead to plenty of surprises over the three-day event.
To give some insight into what we can expect when the cards get dealt, we've brought together our Power Rankings panelists to break down top decks. Unquestionably, the new Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars expansion has made a huge impact, but tried and tested decks are holding their ground, too. Get a closer look at the top decks to watch for!
The Fusion Strike deck Mew VMAX is considered by many to be the strongest deck in the current Standard format. Genesect V's Fusion Strike System Ability is possibly the most efficient way to draw cards in the game's history. This incredible Ability allows the player to draw through the entire deck every game, which often results in huge swing turns. These powerful turns are especially credited to Power Tablet and Meloetta's Melodious Echo attack.
This archetype has essentially everything you could ever look for in a deck: cost-efficient attackers, high damage output, snipe attacks, an attack that ignores all effects, attackers worth one, two, and three Prize cards, a way of removing damage from play, damage reduction, Energy acceleration, no Retreat-cost Pokémon, and finally, the draw Ability. Everything.
Since the Mew VMAX deck is just that powerful, the rest of the metagame is heavily centered around decks that can hold their own against it. The most successful ways of dealing with the deck so far have been by utilizing Path to the Peak to shut off Genesect V's Fusion Strike System, and by playing different kinds of Darkness-type Pokémon to take advantage of Mew VMAX's Weakness.
This deck continues to do well in tournaments even with the gigantic target it has on its back, which is a testament to its strength. There is no doubt this deck will remain on everyone's radar heading into the EUIC. —Tord Reklev
Arceus VSTAR is without doubt the highlight of the new Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars expansion. It combines massive HP, an amazing attack, and one of the best VSTAR Powers in the game into a card truly worthy of the most legendary of all Pokémon. There are many different ways to use Arceus VSTAR in a deck, but the most popular one is combining it with the Inteleon engine.
The result is one of the most flexible decks imaginable. Inteleon's Shady Dealings Ability, combined with the Arceus VSTAR's Starbirth Ability, lets players consistently execute almost any game plan they come up with, all while being backed up by Arceus VSTAR's high base power level.
The biggest open question when building this deck is how to deal with the Fusion Strike Mew VMAX deck. Many players are including a Darkness-type package around Galarian Moltres to pick up big Knock Outs toward the end of the game. Others are relying on Path to the Peak to slow down the opponent, with support from cards like Sidney. It is also possible to combine the two approaches!
No matter the matchup, expect Arceus VSTAR players to have a plan going into it, and enjoy watching their methodical gameplay. —Robin Schulz
Suicune V/Ludicolo sits in third place behind Mew VMAX and Arceus VSTAR, and naturally won't be as popular as those two decks. It does have potential, though; this archetype performed well until the Sword & Shield—Fusion Strike expansion was released. It was thought to be outdated with the advent of more powerful decks...until Daniel Lynch came up with a new decklist and took second place at Salt Lake City Regionals. Now, it looks like it once again has what it takes to compete at a high level.
Suicune V is a powerful, efficient attacker that benefits from Melony as an Energy accelerator. It can hit for up to 220 damage for 2 Energy, which is strong, but not strong enough to deal with Pokémon VMAX or VSTAR. That's where Ludicolo comes in. Its Enthusiastic Dance Ability can boost Suicune V's damage by 100 for a turn, letting it one-hit KO even the most powerful of foes.
With Drizzile and Inteleon's Shady Dealings Abilities, the deck can easily access key cards such as Rare Candy to evolve Lotad into Ludicolo, Echoing Horn to bring back easy targets from the discard pile (and to boost Blizzard Rondo's damage), and Cross Switcher to target an opponent's Benched Pokémon without having to play Boss's Orders.
Suicune V does have some issues, however. It relies on its support Abilities and can be hurt by Bench-disruption cards such as Collapsed Stadium, for example. However, like any Inteleon-based deck, it can find ways to tech against bad matchups or problematic cards, making it a deck to watch out for. —Stéphane Ivanoff
Given the enduring popularity of the Mew VMAX Fusion Strike deck and Arceus VSTAR variants, it's not a question of whether competitors at the 2022 EUIC will face these decks on the battlefield, but of how they will overcome them. The Gengar VMAX/Houndoom deck appears to have all the answers.
At the heart of the strategy for this deck is Houndoom's Single Strike Roar Ability, which has a game-changing effect. By using Single Strike Roar, players can quickly power up a variety of Single Strike Pokémon to attack.
The deck uses Gengar VMAX and damage modifiers like Choice Belt and Single Strike Energy to Knock Out Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX in one hit. Gengar VMAX is particularly threatening for the Fusion Strike deck because of the need to put multiple Genesect V into play, as well as Mew VMAX's Weakness to Darkness-type Pokémon. Houndoom, Morpeko, and Stonjourner ensure this Single Strike deck trades evenly or better against decks focused on single-Prize Pokémon, with the latter also capable of Knocking Out Arceus VSTAR in one hit!
While this Single Strike deck has many strengths, its Fighting-type weakness puts it in a precarious position. Fellow Power Rankings panelist Robin Schulz recently won the Liverpool Regional Championships with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX/Inteleon, which has generated hype for (and a renewed interest in) Fighting-type decks. If Gengar VMAX can ghost around the Gale Thrust, it should be a contender for a Top 8 finish. —Ellis Longhurst
All of the other decks in these Power Rankings have one commonality: Pokémon V run the show. Malamar bucks that trend, as it doesn't play a single Pokémon V. That changes a game's dynamics a bit—Malamar plays at a much slower tempo, which means that the opponent must attack at least six times to win the game! That gives you a bit more time to set up and still mount a comeback (especially since Malamar can take a game-swinging, one-hit, three-Prize-card Knock Out in one attack!). It checks so many boxes: limitless damage, no need for Energy acceleration, and yields only one Prize card. Malamar would be unstoppable if it could execute its strategy every game!
So, why isn't it number one? It's partially because of the inherent problems that come when playing so many Pokémon cards in a deck. Finding Supporters can be difficult, and chaining everything you need to consistently hit for high damage requires a lot of coordination. Most turns require draining your hand to only one or two cards at most, which can make it challenging to keep Malamar in play.
A key question: should you go with Cinccino or Inteleon as a partner? Inteleon is probably strategically superior, but definitely more complicated to play. In a 50-minute, best-of-three tournament—and with Malamar being innately slower because of its Single Prize nature—that's no small consideration. I'd lean toward Inteleon, especially after it came oh-so-close to winning Liverpool's Regional, but I wouldn't rule out the Cinccino route. —Christopher Schemanske
Christopher Schemanske: I remember being on a train to Malmö, Sweden, in 2020 for Europe's last Regional Championships event when the news broke that the European Championships would be canceled. Of course, none of us knew then quite what was coming, but what was clear was how much the European Championships mean to so many Pokémon players and Professors. It's usually my favorite non-Worlds event of the competitive season, so I'm excited that it gets to be the first International Championships event of this shortened 2022 Championships Series.
By the time play begins in Frankfurt, we'll have had exactly one Regional Championships in each of the four Play! Pokémon regions. Oftentimes, International Championships are characterized by the release of a new expansion, which means the format is a bit hard to predict. This time around, we'll be playing a format that has some history. I believe that usually makes it easier to choose what deck to play, but harder to nail down the exact 60 cards. The question of the tournament in my mind: to play the new Manaphy or not to play Manaphy? Jolteon VMAX and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX are pressuring Benches everywhere. Given recent results, my vote is that Manaphy is worth a spot in most decks.
Ellis Longhurst: The 2022 European International Championships is sure to be a delight for Pokémon TCG competitors and spectators. Historically, this event has attracted seasoned veterans from across Europe and beyond. You can expect to see a variety of different regionally influenced decks and top-tier strategies on display. Competitors may even be inspired to bring a totally unexpected deck to the battlefield after the success Sander Wojcik had with his take on Zoroark Control at the recent Liverpool Regional Championships.
This event is also an opportunity to welcome new Trainers to Pokémon TCG competitions. Many of these players may have only ever competed digitally via the Pokémon TCG Online—it will be exciting to find out if they have what it takes to triumph at the top tables.
Stéphane Ivanoff: In my opinion, the Standard format hasn't been this good in years. What makes it so enjoyable is the variety of decks right now that rely on very different engines. Mew VMAX has Genesect V's Fusion Strike System, an incredibly efficient draw Ability, but which forces the deck to be built (almost) without non-Fusion Strike Pokémon. It's also vulnerable to the Path to the Peak Stadium. Other decks, including Arceus VSTAR may use Drizzile and Inteleon to search specific cards at the right time, or Bibarel which takes up much fewer slots in a deck, but isn't generally as reliable. There are even more ways to build a deck, such as with Cinccino, Mew from the Celebrations expansion, or just a high amount of Supporter cards. Basic support Pokémon such as Crobat V and Lumineon V, which would have been mandatory in every deck a few years ago, are now just one option among many.
Similarly, many decks don't have to rely on Professor's Research and Marnie as their Supporters anymore, and they can enjoy cards that are better suited to their needs. Indeed, there are number of decks that wouldn't function without Melony, Cynthia's Ambition, or Klara.
This is great news for deckbuilders who have more opportunities to create new, innovative decks, but also for spectators who get to see a wide variety of strategies and techs. Which unusual card do you think will shine at EUIC? My money's on Avery!
Robin Schulz: Three of our top five decks, as well as many other great decks in the format, are using the “Inteleon engine” around Drizzile, Inteleon, and Scoop Up Net. It is arguably one of the strongest consistency engines we've ever had in the game, allowing players to pick up the exact cards they need in any given situation. It is not without weaknesses, however! Since these decks play a very low amount of draw Supporter cards, they don't usually do much if their Sobble and Drizzile get knocked out early. The card that excels at picking off small Pokémon from the Bench is Jolteon VMAX with its Max Thunder Rumbling attack, so we could very well see it make a surprise appearance at the top tables.
Another way to counter Inteleon engines is to play multiple Marnie. These decks require planning ahead to accumulate resources in your hand, so putting all those Marnie cards back to the bottom of the deck is a big annoyance.
Interestingly, Jolteon VMAX isn't the only Jolteon that means trouble for Inteleon players! Jolteon is an even more direct counter and could be seen as a tech in some more unusual decks.
Tord Reklev: Being the first international tournament after the two-year break will make this year's EUIC extra special. It will bring fans and friends from around the world that have probably not seen each other for a long time together again. Making new memories and bonds while sharing the love for the game is truly what these International Championships are about. I cannot wait for the fierce competition, but even more so, I think it will be an emotional time for a lot of players as they reunite with friends from faraway.