Giratina VSTAR caught my attention as soon as it was first revealed- with 280 HP and dealing 280 damage it was just too good to count out. Giratina also features a VSTAR Power that automatically knocks out anything, too, which further cements its status as a top card. (It also helps that Giratina is my absolute favourite Pokémon!)
Going into Toronto regionals, I knew Lugia VSTAR was going to be the dominant archetype due to its success at the Latin American Internationals. I was also expecting a lot of counters to Lugia. I tested Lugia going into Toronto Regionals and while it is a good deck, when I’m deciding which deck to play for a tournament I prefer anything that has the most 50/50 matchups across the field. I would rather have consistency than just one really solid matchup, some 50/50s, and a lot of bad matchups. I did not want to run into any of the counter control decks while playing Lugia and certainly did not want to play mirror matches all day, so I decided not to play Lugia.
Giratina VSTAR, however, was a deck that I tested thoroughly and figured out how to play as efficiently as possible across several matchups. The Lugia matchup never felt to be out of my favour- It felt like more of a 50/50, with whoever drew hotter taking the win. With some late-game Roxanne plays, I could squeak out a win even if I was behind on prizes. In this article, I’m going to go over the matchups that I played against in Toronto, how I felt about those matchups going into them, and my thought process as they flipped over those starting Pokémon.
Here's the list I used to make Top 64 at Toronto:
4 Comfey LOR
1 Lumineon V BRS
1 Drapion V LOR
1 Radiant Greninja ASR
1 Sableye LOR
1 Snorlax LOR
1 Cramorant LOR
1 Oranguru SWSH
3 Giratina V LOR
3 Giratina VSTAR LOR
4 Colress’s Experiment
1 Boss’s Orders
4 Battle VIP Pass
4 Mirage Gate
4 Scoop Up Net
2 Ordinary Rod
2 Escape Rope
1 Ultra Ball
1 Quick Ball
1 Lost Vacuum
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Air Balloon
1 Temple of Sinnoh
4 Psychic Energy
4 Grass Energy
3 Water Energy
1 Capture Energy
R1: Kyurem VMAX/Palkia VSTAR W 2-1 (1-0-0)
R2: Mew VMAX/Aerodactyl VSTAR W 2-0 (2-0-0)
R3: Miltank ASR/Mewtwo V-UNION/Snorlax VIV T 1-1 (2-0-1)
R4: Lugia VSTAR/Archeops/Yveltal/Radiant Charizard W 2-1 (3-0-1)
R5: Eternatus VMAX L 1-2 (3-1-1)
R6: Mew VMAX W 2-1 (4-1-1)
R7: Lugia VSTAR W 2-1 (5-1-1)
R8: Miltank ASR/Mewtwo V-UNION/Snorlax VIV W 2-0 (6-1-1)
R9: Galarian Weezing RBC W 2-0 (7-1-1)
R10: Regigigas W 2-0 (8-1-1)
R11: Mew VMAX W 2-1 (9-1-1)
R12: Lost Box L 0-2 (9-2-1)
R13: Lugia VSTAR/Espeon VMAX L 1-2 (9-3-1)
R14: Regigigas L 1-2 (9-4-1)
R15: Lugia VSTAR T 1-1 (9-4-2)
Kyurem VMAX/Palkia VSTAR:
Funnily enough, this was the matchup I tested the most against because Ana was convinced it was a solid play for Toronto. For this matchup, all you have to do is take a KO on a Palkia VSTAR by hitting with Cramorant one turn, then attacking with Snorlax the next turn into the same Palkia. On the turn you’re going to take a KO on the Palkia, be sure to bench 2 Giratina V, and not a turn before (unless you start one). This way it sets up somewhat of a checkmate scenario, where if they KO one of the Giratinas the next one is going to evolve and Star Requiem the Kyurem VMAX for 3 prizes. At this point, you try to set up another backup attacker, generally another Snorlax or Giratina to knock out Crobats, Orangurus, or a Radiant Greninja. Don’t discount Sableye in this matchup—if the cards fall in your favour to KO the Palkia then the Kyurem, you can utilize Lost Mine to clean up an Oranguru on the bench for the final prize without needing a Boss’s Orders.
Against Mew VMAX, you can be a little more cavalier with your playing. Depending on the build you’re playing against, you can line up your prizes by using Cramorant to KO a Meloetta, or set up numbers on a Mew VMAX to be KO’d by a Giratina. Drapion V is the star of the show in this matchup being able to jump in out of nowhere and take a clean 2- or 3-prize KO, shoring up the matchup favorably. Sableye is very useful in this matchup where you can use Lost Mine to put 1 damage counter on all of their benched Genesect Vs, and a few damage counters on each of their Mew in play. This ensures any of their Pokémon can be attacked for a KO in subsequent turns. Putting 1 damage counter on all of their Genesect Vs assures they can be easily KO’d by a Snorlax, which cannot be underrated.
Miltank/Mewtwo V-UNION Control.dec:
These matchups are incredibly favoured for Giratina players. The attack Shred on the Giratina V ensures you can leave a single Giratina V in the Active Spot to continuously KO any of their Pokémon that they send Active. If they get Mewtwo V-UNION online, Drapion V becomes the star of the show in yet another matchup that, on paper, wasn’t made for it. Throughout the game, you should stress saving Mirage Gates and holding them in your hand, as you do not want them accessed by your opponent playing Miss Fortune Sisters. As long as you are applying pressure with Giratina V, they do not usually have a chance to play a Supporter that does not draw them cards or help them recover resources. Keep in mind that while Oranguru is in this list to assist with Marnie and retaining resources you want to the top of your deck, it is best not to put your Mirage Gates back on top as an unfortunate Miss Fortune Sisters could land you in hot water.
The night before this tournament, I ended up cutting Path to the Peak from the list in favour of Temple of Sinnoh. If I were to play the tournament again, I would play Path to the Peak. This card would also offer an easy late game solution to their Mewtwo V-UNION, where you can simply use it to shut off their Ability that prevents effects of opponent’s attacks, allowing you to use Star Requiem to KO their Mewtwo swiftly.
Playing this matchup is one of the more difficult ones. You must play every turn perfectly, because one slip-up can result in a loss for you. I lost the first game against Lugia, because I forgot to use Primate Wisdom to put a Colress’s Experiment to the top of the deck. There is so much maintenance during each of your turns that these small details can easily be missed. My opponent Marnie’d me, and I was put out of the game. This matchup really involves the most thinking and “big brain playing” where you have to time everything right. You want to go for a turn 1 Cramorant into their starting Lugia. Then try to KO it with a Snorlax the following turn. The easy thing to remember is that 95% of Lugia lists have no way to remove damage from the board, except on their Lumineon V by way of the Aqua Return attack. So once you damage a Lugia, that damage is usually on there to stay, giving you a route to be able to clean it up later for prizes. Utilizing the strategy of benching two Giratina as soon as you attack with Snorlax for the KO will ensure you will set up multiple attackers that they cannot deal with. This scenario is, again, where I wish I had Path to the Peak instead of Temple of Sinnoh. While Temple of Sinnoh can sometimes lock a game from Lugia, Path to the Peak+Roxanne is much more devastating, as it prevents Radiant Charizard from attacking, and prevents the opponent from just using a Lumineon V to search for a supporter or Crobat V to draw more cards. Going forward, I firmly believe that Path to the Peak is the strongest stadium to play in a Lugia-heavy meta. The inclusion of Espeon VMAX in some lists is also more of an argument for Path to the Peak to remain in the list going forward. Espeon VMAX prevents easy Star Requiems and Sableyes from using their Lost Mine attack due to its ability preventing effects of attacks.
This matchup was incredibly straightforward. Galarian Weezing versus any other Lost Box-style deck is an autoloss, however, Giratina pulls all the weight in this matchup as you can constantly use Abyss Seeking to put cards into the Lost Zone. Galarian Weezing’s Severe Poison attack does not apply enough pressure quick enough, and your switch cards and constant Mirage Gates overwhelm your opponent quickly. You can also send up Oranguru, Radiant Greninja, Snorlax, or any other one-prize attacker to be sacrificed while you set up your board. From there with your 3 energy recovery cards and Mirage Gate, their Crushing Hammers and Yell Horns are nothing more than an inconvenience. Going into the matchup, I was initially anxious, as I had lost to an Eternatus VMAX earlier in the day who also utilized Galarian Weezing to lock me out of the game. The only difference here is that the only Pokémon to apply pressure is Galarian Weezing, whereas Eternatus VMAX can one-shot Giratina VSTARs incredibly easily
This matchup was incredibly difficult to navigate and I still do not believe I played the matchup perfectly at all. This is yet another matchup where I felt I really needed Path to the Peak, because Path can effectively shut down the whole deck for at least a turn, as long as they do not get Galarian Weezing online too early. Not being focused on Galarian Weezing means that this deck does not reliably get Galarian Weezing into the Active Spot as consistently as they might like in the matchup, which ideally gives you time to set up and start swinging.
This matchup is not simple, but, it’s also not the most difficult to navigate. The good thing that Giratina has going for it is that it has no weaknesses to any types. Therefore, Regi decks taking advantage of different weaknesses to overcome matchups is not an option. While Giratina’s Shred is the staple attack of the matchup, Snorlax can also get in there and take a few prizes to offset the prize trade. Typically getting through multiple Giratina is very difficult for Regigigas decks to pull off and you end up taking the first prize before they do. From there the prize trade continues to accelerate in your favour.
The one matchup that I have usually found to be mostly easy to navigate was Lost Box. They suffer from the same problem that Regigigas decks have in that Giratina can usually take 1 to 3 KOs before they can catch up to that prize trade favourably, as they do not deal a lot of damage. Keeping your Bench trimmed of Comfey’s usually ends up in your benefit, and I will usually only have a Comfey benched so I can pivot after my Active Pokémon goes down. Unfortunately, the draws in the match I played during day 2 were absolutely horrendous, but that is just how it is sometimes! It’s important to remember that no matter how much you tune your deck, sometimes your deck can just fizzle, and that’s okay! Don’t let yourself get flustered because of these instances and just brush yourself off and get ready for the next match!
After the tournament, I still feel like Giratina VSTAR was the best call for Toronto Regionals. I had some unfortunate luck in the last few rounds in day 2, but that’s the way the game goes. I feel like I played those games solidly, but the win was just not in the cards for those rounds. Going forward, I will be testing more extensively with different techs/lists, and will probably continue to include just Path to the Peak as the stadium of choice. I never felt like any other stadium was really worth the slot in the deck, and Path has too much utility that can’t be overlooked. The one Energy Recycler was MVP for most of the tournament and let you be a little more bold with your use of Concealed Cards with Radiant Greninja and using Energy cards to discard off Quick Ball/Ultra Ball. The next tournament I am planning to attend will be Orlando, which will have a new set legal. The fate of Giratina in that meta is yet to be seen, but it will certainly be on the top of my list of decks to test!