Welcome back to the newest entry in our top 10 series! This article is a bit later than usual because I was busy with traveling for Regionals the past few weeks, but now that the Brilliant Stars format is officially done, it’s time to look at Astral Radiance! This set will be used for the upcoming North American International Championships, and the format could even stay the same for the World Championships, so it’s a very important one.
Having looked at all the cards I don’t think Astral Radiance will be one of those sets that completely change the metagame, but it does definitely add a few very strong new decks, and gives additional options to existing ones. Without further ado, let’s first look at some notable cards that didn’t make the list, and then move on to my top 10!
There’s quite a few interesting utility Trainer cards and Pokémon in this set, so I’ll quickly go through the most important ones.
- Gutsy Pickaxe is a one of the rarely seen Fighting type Energy acceleration cards, but a bit of an awkward one since it realistically has to be used in combination with another card like Oranguru.
- Trekking Shoes is similar to Acro Bike, although I think it’s a bit weaker for most use cases. Still, it’s a good card to play when not being sure what to do with the last few spots in a decklist. I’d expect it to see frequent play immediately after the next two rotations, when most decks lose many of their better consistency cards.
- Hisuian Heavy Ball should be a cool card for Inteleon decks to retrieve prizes Sobbles or some of their many 1-of Pokémon. It’s also probably going to be a staple inclusion in GLC decks!
- Temple of Sinnoh is a disruptive stadium card that can shut down cards like Rapid Strike Energy, Fusion Strike Energy and Double Turbo Energy. I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as popular as Path to the Peak, but it will definitely have its uses.
- Supereffective Glasses could be a cool tech card in certain decks, and among other uses, allows Galarian Moltres to knock out Mew VMAX with only 2 prizes taken.
- Mightyena is a hard-counter to Mew VMAX, so a very interesting card as long as that continues to be one of the most played decks. Due to being close to useless against pretty much everything else we might not see it outside of Zoroark decks though.
- Radiant Hawlucha is another card that helps against Mew, while also having uses against the other remaining VMAX decks. I think we’ll see it being played in Ice Rider Calyrex decks, and it might also make its way into some of the various Galarian Moltres decks.
- Radiant Heatran is a really strong attacker for Fire decks, although Fire will probably be in a difficult position due to the power of Water cards from Astral Radiance.
- Diancie is a very interesting card that protects Benched Pokémon from Boss’s Orders. Not sure what deck would benefit from it the most, but I’m sure we’ll see it used at some point.
Lastly, I’d like to mention the new Regigigas. The card is good and we have already seen the Regi deck have success in initial Astral Radiance tournaments. Getting the 6 Regis in play isn’t particularly difficult and can usually be achieved by turn 3 at the latest, and after that it’s really hard to stop the deck. If you play a deck that’s either a VMAX or has Weakness to one of the other Regis, it’s going to be very difficult to win, which is why Regigigas will be a very solid 1-prizer deck. However, I don’t think it will ever become one of the best decks. One reason for that is its linearity, due to the restriction on the Ability there’s simply not much you can do differently with the deck, so matchups that don’t fold to the basic Regi strategy will be difficult to deal with. We could also see Avery gain more popularity again, like it did during the Brilliant Stars format, which seems like a problem for the Regis.
10 – Miltank
Abilities that stop damage from certain Rule Box Pokémon have historically always been good, especially when on a Basic Pokémon. Miltank’s attack is reasonably good as well, and its Colorless typing makes it possible to put into any deck. This card’s existence will make it more difficult to play decks that rely exclusively on Pokémon V for attacking, like many Arceus / Bibarel or Whimsicott decks currently do. It could also be a boost for Control decks, which had to use Altaria in its place until now.
The one big issue for Miltank is of course the prevalence of the Inteleon engine. Even decks that don’t usually play Water Energy can easily put in one of them to attack with Inteleon, so Miltank alone won’t be able to survive in the current metagame. Still, I’d expect it to find a place in multiple different decks, and be something you have to look out for when building lists!
One thing to note is that Miltank is only protected from specifically Pokémon V. If they continue to be printed next year, in Scarlet & Violet sets, Miltank could have a great future ahead, but if the Rule Box mechanic changes, we probably won’t see it around for much longer.
9 – Starmie V
Astral Radiance contains a lot of great Water type support, and one of them is Starmie V. The Swift attack isn’t anything special, although potentially useful against the aforementioned Miltank, but Energy Spiral is quite crazy! In fact, that effect has been an GX attack before, and is comparable to Lucario’s VSTAR Power. There are multiple decks that usually have a lot of Energy in play, most notable Arceus VSTAR variants, so Starmie in combination with a Melony should be able to pick up a lot of KOs out of nowhere! Even if the opponent plays around Starmie by not attaching 3 Energies with Trinity Nova, that’s already an impact that Starmie had on the game.
On top of that all, Starmie also has a free retreat cost, which is one of the best qualities one can ask for in a Pokémon.
However, the card also has its problems, mainly being that it’s a rather low HP 2-prize Pokémon, that’s only really useful against certain decks, so it might not make its way into all Water decks. I think it will fit the best in the Frosmoth box deck we’ve seen a bit in the Brilliant Stars format, since it naturally plays Cape of Toughness to boost Starmie’s HP, and could use some more help in the Arceus matchup.
8 – Gardenia’s Vigor
Gardenia’s Vigor is a card that’s very reminiscent of Welder which was arguably one of the best Supporter cards of all time, winning the World Championships and two International Championships in its very short time in competitive tournament play (due to the 19/20 season’s early end). Gardenia isn’t quite as good as Welder, due to only drawing 2 cards and not being able to attach to the Active Pokémon, but it’s still a good card without any restrictions on what kind of Pokémon to attach to.
Another new card from Astral Radiance that is designed to work with Gardenia is Hisuian Lilligant VSTAR. It has a very nice VSTAR Power, and an attack with a solid damage output, so I could see it being a fine deck, although probably not overly strong. Zarude V is another potentially good partner. Besides Grass Pokémon, Gardenia can of course also be used with Colorless attackers like Arceus, although currently Melony is probably a better card there.
Overall the use cases for Gardenia’s Vigor seem rather limited at the moment, but it’s nevertheless a great card, and one that automatically makes any upcoming Grass or Colorless attacking Pokémon more interesting to look at.
7 – Darkrai VSTAR
Darkrai EX decks were some of my favorites of all time, so I’m quite excited to see Darkrai back in action. There is a lot of Darkness Energy acceleration in the format, so getting enough Energy into play to KO other VSTAR Pokémon in one attack should be possible relatively fast. Galarian Moltres V can get an additional Energy per turn, Galarian Moltres can add 2 at once, and of course there’s the reprint of Dark Patch that I’ll mention further up the list! Combine that all with Darkrai’s VSTAR Power, and I think we have a good deck!
Despite all the support, I think there are a few problems that might make it difficult for Darkrai to become as successful as its prior incarnation, at least initially. I don’t think it’s a deck that will be able to use the Inteleon engine, so it will always have the consistency and flexibility disadvantage against those. Also being a 2-prize Pokémon that deals a lot of damage isn’t as impressive as it used to be, with many decks having equally strong 1-prizers like Galarian Moltres or Meloetta. Other 2-prize decks will for the most part be able to trade 2-for-2 with Darkrai, which makes it a race for which deck can take the first big KO, which might not favor the Darkrai deck that needs a decent amount of set-up.
Still, I would not underestimate a card with near unlimited damage potential and very good typing! I think Darkrai will start out as a good but not top tier deck, with some potential for more in the future.
6 – Hisuian Samurott VSTAR
The second big new Darkness Pokémon in this set is also looking quite promising! Hisuian Samurott VSTAR can do 220 damage for just two Energy, which is very efficient. It does require prior damage on the Defending Pokémon, but with Galarian Zigzagoon, Inteleon and its own VSTAR Power, that is not much of a problem. Thanks to all these damage effects and Choice Belt, it should even be possible to consistently knock out opposing VSTAR Pokémon.
In addition, being a Darkness Pokémon comes with the built-in type advantage against Mew VMAX, although one has to include ways to bypass the Fusion Strike Energy protection.
I’m not sure if there are enough reasons to play Samurott over Arceus, a question that many VSTAR Pokémon are falling victim to, but it does have its advantages. Another interesting use case for Samurott could be in a Rapid Strike deck with Urshifu and Medicham. Merciless Blade can finish knock outs on Pokémon that were hit by a G-Max Rapid Flow, and the VSTAR Power makes it very easy to set up Yoga Loop plays.
5 – Irida
Irida is a Water type version of Korrina, a supporter that has seen a lot of play throughout the years, in both Standard and Expanded. The effect might not seem very impressive compared to a Professor’s Research, but as we’ve seen with the Inteleon engine, searching cards instead of drawing can be quite good. In fact, I think Irida will work very well alongside the Inteleon line, which is the main reason I rate it this highly!
On the first turn, Irida can probably get whatever you are missing to use Keep Calling, and later on she can find Drizzile and Inteleon, giving you access to whatever cards you want from the deck. Inteleon decks do want to make use of a lot of other situational Supporter cards, and they don’t necessarily need more search power, so I don’t think Irida will be an automatic inclusion, but it’s certainly a great option for players that want to perfect their deck’s consistency.
Besides the obvious use with Inteleon, Irida is also just a solid card for Water decks in general, so I think we’ll see it around in various decks even after the Inteleon line rotates out of the format.
4 – Radiant Greninja
Astral Radiance introduces the new Radiant mechanic, and Greninja will probably be the most used one of the first 3 Radiant Pokémon. Any deck that benefits from getting Energy into the discard pile will want to include a Greninja just for its Ability, which might not be all decks, but definitely quite a few.
Greninja’s Ability is great, but its attack might be even better, at least in the current metagame. With support from Frosmoth or Palkia VSTAR, it’s possible to use it on the second turn of the game to knock out two low-HP Pokémon, which can completely take out an Inteleon engine, in addition to going ahead on prizes. Luckily there is Manaphy to defend against this, but the new Canceling Cologne in combination with Boss’s Orders makes it possible to get a double KO anyway. If Rapid Strike Urshifu wasn’t enough of a reason already, I think Greninja will make it so every deck with small Basic Pokémon will now have to include Manaphy, and even then, many games will be decided by an early Moonlight Shuriken.
3 – Dark Patch
This might be a bit of a risky pick, since I’m not sure if we’ll see Dark Patch featured in any of the best decks immediately, but I think it’s such a great card that it deserves one of the top spots! Energy acceleration as an Item is something almost any deck wishes to have, but in the end its viability depends on the available attackers that can make use of it. Fortunately for Dark Patch, Dark type has always been really good, and is still in a good spot due to Mew’s continued popularity.
The most obvious partner for Dark Patch is the earlier mentioned Darkrai VSTAR, which does more damage for each Energy in play and can even recycle Dark Patches with its VSTAR Power. Samurott VSTAR doesn’t need a lot of Energy to attack so probably won’t need Dark Patch, but I imagine we could still see it as a useful 1-of in a Samurott Inteleon deck.
A slightly older card that can utilize Dark Patch is Galarian Moltres V, which could now somewhat consistently attack on the first turn, knocking out other Pokémon V when combined with a Choice Belt! An even older, and potentially even stronger Dark Patch user is Malamar VMAX. We’ve already seen it becoming very popular towards the end of the Brilliant Stars format when combined with Arceus, but now it would be possible to play it on its own and start attacking with Max Jammer on the second turn! I’m not sure if that’s better than the Arceus version, but it does sound scary for a lot of decks.
2 – Roxanne
After almost a whole season without a proper comeback card in the format, we are finally getting Roxanne, a very strong late-game Supporter. Putting the opponent at two cards in hand is a powerful disruption effect, and unlike N, you always get to draw the full 6 cards yourself! In addition, unlike Ace Trainer, Roxanne can always be used when the opponent has taken at least 3 prizes, even if they are not actually ahead in prizes. However, the big downside is that the card is not usable at all in the early stages of the game, so you don’t want to play too many copies in your deck.
For Inteleon decks, that’s not a problem. They can simply include a single Roxanne, search for it at the right time, and even recover it with their Pal Pad in case a second one is needed. For other decks, it will be a bit more awkward to include Roxanne. If you play multiple, you hurt your early consistency, but if you only play one, you risk discarding it early, or not finding it at the correct time. Lumineon V can help with the second issue at least.
I think Roxanne will have a noticeable impact on the dynamics of the game. Decks that draw prizes without establishing a strong board will be very risky to play, and lists might have to adapt in some way. I think we will frequently see Mew in Inteleon decks, since simply benching it can bail you out of a Roxanne later on, and Bibarel might also gain even more popularity.
1 – Palkia VSTAR
No matter where you look, Palkia VSTAR is the most hyped card from Astral Radiance, and I think it makes perfect sense. It of course reminds everyone of Suicune V, which has already been a good deck for the whole season, but with 40 more damage and 70 more HP! Being a VSTAR that has to evolve and can’t use Ludicolo is a downside, but the extra stats are easily worth it. With a full Bench and a Choice Belt it already hits for 190, so just a couple of Benched Pokémon on the opponent’s side will lead to it knocking out any Basic Pokémon V. With a few more Benched Pokémon and support from Quick Shooting, even VSTARs are in range of a knockout.
Palkia’s attack is good, but as a VSTAR it also has its Power to talk about! Star Portal is a big upgrade over the Suicune version, which had issues finding time to use utility supporters like Boss’s Orders, due to the reliance on Melony. In a Palkia deck, you will rarely have to stress about finding Energies to attack, as the Ability pretty much sets you up for the rest of the game. In a format with presumably more hand disruption, that’s not to be underestimated!
Besides the obvious application of never whiffing Energy to attack, Star Portal also has great synergy with Radiant Greninja. A lot of decks rely on the Inteleon engine, and as long as the Palkia deck hasn’t used its VSTAR Power yet, it is always threatening to take out two Drizzile/Sobble at once, as early as turn two. This forces other decks to find their Manaphy immediately, and even if they do, that’s just more damage that Palkia is doing!
The deck has a lot of strengths, so many that we’re already seeing players experiment with Lightning type techs like Zeraora, trying to deal with it. I expect Palkia to establish itself as the third tier 1 deck besides Mew and Arceus, and for it to take a lot of top spots in upcoming tournaments!
As I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t think Astral Radiance will change the metagame in a drastic way. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because in my opinion the format has been quite enjoyable recently! We will definitely see a new top tier deck in Palkia, a few other somewhat strong decks like Samurott, and then a whole lot of tech Trainers and Pokémon to experiment with in existing decks. I’m looking forward to see what players come up with for the upcoming Regionals in Melbourne and Milwaukee, and of course NAIC right after, which I will also be attending myself!
Until next time!