Hey everyone,

It’s been a while since the last article in this series, but I think it’s a great time to bring it back! Brilliant Stars is a very exciting expansion—it marks the start of a new block of cards and introduces the new VSTAR mechanic. It is also the newest expansion before our currently scheduled return to in-person tournaments!

Personally, I’m happy about the shift from VMAX to VSTAR. While 3-prize Pokémon do have some interesting aspects to them, VMAX Pokémon overall were rather unexciting. I was a big fan of the GX mechanic during the Sun & Moon era, so the concept of VSTAR Powers sounds great to me.

As usual, I’ll start with a list of honorable mentions—cards that are good, but didn’t quite make it into my top 10.

Honorable Mentions

Torterra is a good single-prize attacker, with fantastic support from its prevolution Grotle, and the already existing Cherrim. In theory, it can reach up to 300 damage with its Evopress attack, but since we don’t have access to a Pokémon like Meganium to immediately replace evolved Pokémon that are knocked out, it’s realistically going to be attacking for 250 base damage most of the time. In a metagame dominated by Pokémon VMAX, this isn’t ideal, but as we move more towards Pokémon VSTAR, I think Torterra could start to become a serious deck.

Pachirisu is another noteworthy single-prize attacker, thanks to Honchkrow V. With enough tool cards in play, Pachirisu can knock out any Pokémon in one hit, and with Flaafy or Exp Share to help with Energy, it shouldn’t be difficult to keep attacking. Having to bench multiple two-prize Pokémon isn’t ideal for a single-prize attacker, but a combination of Cape of Toughness and Big Charm can make Honchkrow V quite resilient. It will require a lot of set up, and might be difficult to fit into a decklist, but the concept is very powerful. One issue is that the rather popular Path to the Peak stops Honchkrow’s Ability, causing it to discard all but one tool. Still, at the very least it will be a very fun deck to play around with.

Shaymin VSTAR is the least impressive of the four VSTAR Pokémon in this set, but nevertheless a good card that could see play as a tech in various Grass decks. Its VSTAR Power is rather situational and matchup dependent, but the attack is really good. In a deck without 3-prize Pokémon, it should almost always be able to hit for 280 or more damage towards the end of the game, knocking out other VSTAR Pokémon and possibly even VMAX. Worth noting that the VSTAR Power synergizes quite nicely with the attack by protecting against strategies that try to set up multiple KOs at once.

Zamazenta V‘s Ability is very reminiscent of Zacian V, which we’ve seen used as a draw engine in many decks for the last two years. I don’t expect Zamazenta to be used much initially, but it’s the kind of card that should definitely find a place somewhere eventually. Its attack isn’t bad either, so Metal decks could benefit additionally from it.

It should also be noted that Brilliant Stars includes reprints of both Professor’s Research and Boss’s Orders. I didn’t put them on the list because they are already part of the format, but these prints have an updated regulation mark, which means it’ll keep them around for a few more years.

Top 10

10 – Bibarel & Liepard

To start off the top 10, let’s take a look at Bibarel and Liepard. Both are Stage 1 Pokémon with a card draw Ability, so I think it’s fair to group them together for the purposes of this list. Bibarel is the spiritual successor to Octillery, while Liepard will replace Cinccino once it leaves the format.

Bibarel is a bit stronger on its own, while Liepard shines when you set up multiple of them, so the choice between the two will depend on the deck’s overall design. If it just needs a bit of extra draw, a small Bibarel line might be a good inclusion, while Liepard is typically the kind of card you’d build your whole engine around. Bibarel in particular will become very relevant if we ever get back an effect like N or Reset Stamp.

One slightly unfortunate detail about both is that they have too much HP to work with Level Ball, making them more difficult to use in single-prize decks. Nevertheless, these are two great cards that I’m sure will be used in plenty of decks for the next few years.

9 – Lumineon V

Lumineon V is another great support Pokémon, and one I’d expect to be popular throughout its whole time in the Standard format. Those of you that have played the game for a while will remember its Ability from Jirachi-EX and Tapu Lele-GX. I don’t think Lumineon comes close to how good Tapu Lele was, which was a strong attacker in addition to the support role, but I expect it to become at least a 1-of in many decks, similar to how Jirachi was used.

Currently, Lumineon will compete for deck space with Crobat V. Both have their advantages, so I think we’ll see a combination of them in decks that inlude 2-prize support Pokémon. Once Crobat and Drizzile rotate out of the format, Lumineon will gain a lot of importance and might become the main consistency Pokémon of the format.

8 – Whimsicott VSTAR

As someone who has played almost exclusively Giratina-EX decks back in 2015/16, Whimsicott VSTAR brings back a lot of memories. Blocking Special Energy is very strong, both back then and today. The most popular decks at the moment like Mew, Jolteon and Rapid Strike Urshifu barely play any Basic Energies. With Brilliant Stars and the introduction of Double Turbo Energy (see below), Special Energy usage will probably be even higher.

Whimsicott can be the focus of its own deck, making use of said Double Turbo Energy itself to attack on the second turn of the game, but it also combines well with existing Psychic types like Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX. A secondary focus might be necessary if there’s multiple popular Basic Energy decks that Whimsicott on its own would not be able to deal with. Shadow Rider Calyrex V in particular synergizes very nicely with it, by making it possible to block Special Energy from the very first turn.

Whimsicott’s VSTAR Power isn’t anything crazy, but a reliable way to target benched Pokémon is certainly useful, especially with the scalable damage output.

7 – Entei V & Raikou V

I’ve grouped these two Pokémon together because they’re essentially the same card, just with different typing. Suicune V, their Water type equivalent, has been very popular ever since it’s release half a year ago, so I’d expect Entei V and Raikou V to also find a place in the metagame. They could be used in a similar way like Suicune, as the center of their own deck, possibly in combination with the Inteleon engine, and can also be added into various Fire and Lightning decks. Maybe we’ll even see them together in the same deck, trying to cover different weaknesses, as has been seen before with Suicune and the Galarian Birds.

Entei in particular could be interesting because of its access to Magma Basin (see below), which is more flexible than relying on Melony like Suicune usually does. However, Melony does synergize well with the current playstyle of the Suicune Inteleon deck, so it wouldn’t be an easy 1 for 1 substitute and require more significant changes. When choosing Raikou, it’s possible to play the deck with Flaafy as Energy acceleration, which also comes with both advantages and disadvantages. I’m not sure which version I’d prefer, in the end it might just come down to the metagame and choosing the most appropriate type, but I’m sure we’ll see these two cards around in some way.

6 – Manaphy

Manaphy might be the card that players were most excited about when the set was revealed. Currently, the format has multiple incredibly strong bench targeting attackers in Urshifu VMAX and Jolteon VMAX, with no way to defend against them. Ever since the rotation of Mew, decks that rely on benched Pokémon with little HP, which is basically every single-prize deck, or deck with an Inteleon engine, have almost no way of beating either Urshifu or Jolteon. Now, those matchups will become interesting again, which I think is great.

I don’t think Manaphy will eliminate Jolteon or Urshifu from the metagame, but it’s certainly a relevant hit to their strength. Urshifu can still take out Manaphy with a combination of Quick Shooting and Yoga Loop, but Manaphy’s 10 extra HP compared to Mew will make that a bit more difficult than before.

5 – Charizard VSTAR & Magma Basin

The next two cards were clearly designed to be used together, so even though they are noteworthy on their own, I’ll be combining them into one spot on the list.

Magma Basin is an interesting new take on the Dark Patch mechanic we’ve seen used for multiple types throughout the years. Instead of an Item, the effect is now on a Stadium card. This has the advantage of being more consistent, since it can be played without any Energies in the discard pile, and then used at a later point in the turn. Being able to use the same card multiple turns in a row if the opponent doesn’t get rid of the Stadium is also nice. However, it lacks the explosiveness of the Item versions, since you can’t use multiple of them in the same turn.

The downside of putting two damage counters on the Pokémon that the Energy is attached to is turned into an upside by multiple of the Fire Pokémon in this set, most notably Charizard VSTAR. When Charizard has any damage counters on it, it can do 230 damage for 3 Energy, which is not bad, especially since it can be used as early as the second turn. Combined with a very respectable amount of HP for a 2-prize Pokémon, and a good VSTAR Power that allows it KO almost every Pokémon in the game, I think Charizard has potential.

Moltres is another great addition to a potential Fire deck, dealing 90 damage for 1 Energy. This combines really well with Charizard’s damage output to prepare or finish KOs while charging up our VSTAR.

4 – Double Turbo Energy

Double Colorless Energy is back! Well, not quite, the drawback of doing 20 less damage is relevant for sure, but Double Turbo Energy is still really good.

The card’s usefulness will depend a lot on how many Pokémon with a “Double Colorless” cost will be printed in the future. For most of the Sword & Shield era so far, CC costs have been most popular on single-prize Pokémon, which can be explained by the existence of Twin Energy. Those are the kind of decks that could benefit the most from Double Turbo Energy for now, since they can now play up to 8 attachments, instead of being limited to 4. I’m not sure how well positioned a deck like Mad Party currently is, but Double Turbo Energy could help it make a comeback.

Notable VMAX Pokémon that could benefit from Double Turbo Energy are Mew VMAX and possibly Togekiss VMAX. I think we’ll see a lot of use for it with VSTAR Pokémon, since those are the ones designed with this card in mind. Personally, I think having this concept of a “4-of Basic Energy” makes sense. An attack like Mad Party might be too strong with a 1 Energy cost, but too weak to be worth 2 attachments, so cards like DCE, DTE or Twin Energy provide a nice middle ground for game balance questions like that.

Tip: You can use our card database to look up all cards that could benefit from DTE, for example with the following search: attack>=cc format:standard.

3 – Choice Belt

Choice Belt is another pseudo-reprint. Choice Band was a widely popular card during the Sun & Moon era, with most decks during the time including multiple copies of it. It was probably a top 5 most used cards at any tournament during its time in Standard format.

Since then, HP numbers have become bigger, so the +30 boost is not as crazy as it used to be. However, it’s still a fantastic card that will be seen in a lot of decks. It could be a bit more deck specific than Choice Band was, but there will definitely be many situations where the 30 damage is the difference between a KO or not. Definitely pick up 4 of this card if you’re planning to compete in tournaments in the future!

As a side note, Choice Belt is yet another card from this set that will help single-prize decks become a bit more relevant again. Not only does it help them reach higher damage numbers against Pokémon V, it also makes all other decks that play it slightly worse against non-Vs by being a useless card in the matchup.

2 – Ultra Ball

Even players that just recently joined the game might have already heard of Ultra Ball. A format staple for most of the past 10 years, and now returning after a more than 2 year abstinence from the format. There’s not much to say about this card, it’s simply a really good Pokémon search Item. Unlike cards like Quick Ball or Level Ball, it doesn’t have any restrictions on what Pokémon it can search for, but it requires to discard two cards.

Depending on the deck, the discard effect can be beneficial, but for some it is a real drawback. Fusion Strike decks will love the addition of Ultra Ball to clean up clunky hands and draw more with Genesect’s Fusion Strike System. On the other hand, decks around the Inteleon engine typically value every card in their hand, so they will probably continue to instead rely on cards like Evolution Incense and the aformentioned Quick Ball and Level Ball.

Since we do currently have a lot of alternatives, Ultra Ball will be most important for decks that do have some discard synergies. However, unless we get further search cards in the next two expansions, things will look differently after rotation, and Ultra Ball might become an almost automatic 4-of inclusion in every deck, like it was at some points in the past.

1 – Arceus VSTAR

If we’re looking at just a card’s representation in tournament’s, Ultra Ball will probably be the #1. However, when rating the cards in a set, I think it’s more fair to look at how they will impact the metagame. Staple trainer cards for the most part help out all the decks, so their effect is rather neutral.

Arceus VSTAR is a card that I think could shape the game in a way that not many cards before it did. In a way, it reminds me of Zoroark-GX. It’s a card that’s clearly good, but doesn’t have a particular obvious use case. It’s possible to play just Arceus on its own, but that’s probably not ideal. Instead, the way the card is designed, you can combine it with pretty much any Pokémon in the format.

The gameplan of most Arceus decks will be to use its Trinity Nova attack on the second turn of the game, which should not be difficult thanks to its amazing VSTAR Power and Double Turbo Energy. After that, with the extra energy the attack provides, you can do whatever you’d like. Maybe charge up a big attack from Rayquaza VMAX or Raichu V? Or combine it with Darkness Pokémon like Moltres V to counter Mew VMAX decks? Maybe play a Pokémon with an otherwise awkward Energy cost, like Duraludon VMAX? There truly are a lot of options when deciding how to utilize Brilliant Star’s cover Pokémon.

Besides Double Turbo Energy, the set includes another useful support card in Cheren’s Care. It’s a functional reprint of Acerola restricted to Colorless Pokémon, which makes it an amazing healing card for any Arceus deck. Also, don’t forget that Dunsparce exists, making Arceus’ Fighting weakness easy to deal with.


I’m very optimistic about Brilliant Stars. The VSTAR mechanic looks fun, and the set includes a good mix of relevant reprints and interesting new cards. I’m excited to try out all the new decks and prepare for upcoming Regional Championships!

If you got any questions or remarks about this article, just let me know. I hope I’ll manage to write more regularly for the site again, so until next time!