Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm is full of majestic and exciting cards, and no Pokémon embodies both “celestial” and “storm” quite like the Sky High Pokémon Rayquaza. Fittingly, the new Rayquaza-GX is one of the expansion’s most powerful cards. Its Dragon Break attack does 30 damage times the amount of basic Grass and basic Lightning Energy attached to all of your Pokémon, which can quickly result in one-hit Knock Outs. Expect to see Rayquaza-GX make its mark in the 2018 Pokémon World Championships and beyond.
If you’re looking to see this powerful Dragon-type Pokémon soar, we’ve got a double serving of strategy: one deck for the 2018 Standard format you’ll see this month at Worlds, and one adjusted for the upcoming 2019 Championship Series season. Find something sturdy to hold on to—some Stormy Winds are brewing.
World Champion Rayquaza?
Any deck centered around Rayquaza-GX must focus on getting enough basic Grass and basic Lightning Energy in play to score quick Knock Outs with the Dragon Break attack. Dragon Break’s damage is based on all the Energy you have in play, so powering up Benched Pokémon pumps it up, too.
Rayquaza-GX‘s risky Stormy Winds Ability helps facilitate this goal: when you play the Pokémononto your Bench, you may discard the top 3 cards of your deck and then attach a basic Energy card from your discard pile to Rayquaza-GX. You can’t do much to mitigate the risk of discarding important resources with this Ability, so you’ll have to weigh that against your need for Energy when considering whether to use this Ability.
2018 Standard Format
The 2018 Standard format we’ll see at the upcoming Pokémon World Championships, which allows cards from XY—BREAKthrough through Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm, features several efficient ways to get Rayquaza-GX ready to blow your foes away. The Max Elixir Trainer card can get the necessary Energy into play quickly, and it does so without using up your regular Energy attachment for the turn. In matches where you’re able to take some time to power up before pressing the attack, Latias Prism Star‘s Dreamy Mist attack is an incredible way to get a critical mass of Energy into play. Dreamy Mist can also recover Energy once your first Rayquaza-GX has been Knocked Out.
Rayquaza-GX has 180 HP, and while that might seem pretty respectable, there are a lot of Pokémon in this format that can still take it out in one hit—which spells trouble for a deck that needs to keep Energy in play to keep its damage output up. Enter Fighting Fury Belt! The extra 40 HP it provides can keep Rayquaza-GX going after a hefty attack, allowing it to strike again and—perhaps more importantly—making sure its attached Energy sticks around.
You should aim to get as many Rayquaza-GX as possible into play early in a match, and then distribute your Energy among them. Your goal is to keep a constant flow of Rayquaza-GX attacking each turn, with enough basic Energy in play to score Knock Outs. You’ll likely need to power up more than one Rayquaza-GX to win the match, so get as much Energy as you can into play without taking large risks.
This version of the deck uses Garbodor‘s Garbotoxin Ability to help deal with Ability-based strategies that Rayquaza-GX might otherwise struggle with. Garbotoxin can disable Hoopa‘s Scoundrel Guard, Malamar‘s Psychic Recharge, and Zoroark-GX‘s Trade. It might seem odd to pair Garbodor with a Pokémon that has an Ability, but that didn’t stop Stéphane Ivanoff from winning the North America International Championships with a similar combination. Few decks can hold up against the disruption of Garbotoxin combined with N, so why not give this strategy one more go before it rotates out of the Standard format?
Rayquaza-GX is expected to be one of the top decks at the World Championships, so make sure to tune in to Twitch.tv/Pokemon and Twitch.tv/PokemonTCG from August 24–26 to see it in action.
Storming into the Future
Maintaining a roster of Rayquaza-GX strong enough to Knock Out opposing Pokémon-GX is much more challenging in the 2019 Standard format players will face starting in September, as this format permits only expansions from the Sun & Moon Series. Importantly, Max Elixir is no longer available once XY—BREAKpoint rotates out, and 15 of the other 30 Trainer cards from the first list are gone, too!
The strategy for this version of the deck must change drastically without Max Elixir available. Rayquaza-GX isn’t very threatening without a means of getting extra Energy into play, so something must fill that void.
This deck’s solution is Vikavolt‘s Strong Charge Ability, which allows you to search your deck for one Grass and one Lightning Energy and attach them to any of your Pokémon immediately. Strong Charge is incredible if you can get it going—it provides almost all the Energy needed for Dragon Break, and it adds 60 damage to the attack’s potential. Plus, multiple Vikavolt can use this Ability in the same turn! Getting a Stage 2 Pokémon into play can be tricky, so the new deck includes Volkner to seek out an Item card and a Lightning Energy. This Gym Leader makes it easier to get Rare Candy and Ultra Ball into your hand at the same time so you can evolve Grubbin directly into Vikavolt.
Vikavolt’s Strong Charge requires Energy to be in the deck rather than the discard pile, so a little more support is required to make sure it doesn’t run out of steam. Energy Recycler is commonly included in Vikavolt decks to retrieve Energy, and Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm has brought back another old trick, too. It trades efficiency for flexibility—Energy Recycle System, which last appeared in EX Power Keepers more than 10 years ago, can only shuffle 3 Energy cards from your discard pile into your deck, while Energy Recycler gets 5. However, Energy Recycle System also gives you the option to put a single Energy card directly into your hand.
Trainer cards that were crucial in the first deck, like Professor Sycamore, N, and Float Stone, also need to be replaced. Switch is a relatively simple swap for Float Stone, but you’ll find that you’re now much more reliant on Guzma to help keep the right Pokémon Active on your side of the field. Two new Supporter cards from Sun & Moon—Celestial Storm stand in to fill the remaining gaps. Copycat can replace your hand with a new hand of equal size to your opponent’s, while Tate & Liza can get you a more reliable 5 cards (or, if you really need a Switch effect—even at the cost of using up your Supporter for the turn—they can do that instead).
These two radically different decks drive home how creatively players will need to think about the 2019 Standard format. We hope you enjoy your matches with Rayquaza-GX, and we look forward to seeing which strategies you come up with to replace those rotating out. Until next time, don’t forget to check back at Pokemon.com/Strategy for more Pokémon TCG and video game tips and tricks.