Zi Xing’s Musings 2: Time to Punish the Shrine

Written by Chiew Zi Xing

In recent tournaments all over the world, Shrine decks have been performing very well, even taking about half the spots of Top 32 at the recent Santa Catarina, Brazil Regional Championship. Despite there being many different variants, ranging from Malamar to Tapu Koko/Weavile and Buzzwole/Garbodor, there has never been one like this: Metal Box Shrine.

 

ZI Xing's Musings 2

Pokémon (9)
2 Registeel CIN
1 Registeel CES
1 Heatran UPR
1 Heatran CES
1 Celesteela CES
1 Kartana CES
1 Dusk Mane Necrozma PR
1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers (39)
4 Cynthia
4 Tate & Liza
2 Judge
4 Guzma
3 Nest Ball
3 Ultra Ball
4 Acro Bike
3 Metal Frying Pan
2 Choice Band
3 Rescue Stretcher
2 Pal Pad
1 Energy Recycler
4 Shrine of Punishment

12 Metal Energy

How It Works

This deck is a toolbox deck, where each Pokémon is designated specific roles to work together and counter any given situation with unrivalled efficiency. Therefore, separate explanations for each card will be provided here, before the ways to play specific matchups are discussed in detail.

Registeel (Crimson Invasion)
This card’s main purpose is to reliably charge your Benched Pokémon with Energy, while being fairly tanky and doing chip damage to set up Shrine of Punishment numbers, due to the fact that there are often times where you must rely on an attacker like Heatran (Ultra Prism) or Registeel (Celestial Storm) to get ahead in the game. However, players must not be blind to its second attack, which deals 90 damage for 3 Energy – not ideal but situationally decent.

Registeel (Celestial Storm)
With an extremely useful ability, this Pokémon deals a respectable amount of damage to many popular Pokémon (Zoroark GX, Malamar, Lycanroc GX, etc). However, it does require a rather inconvenient amount of Energy: A problem mitigated by the other Registeel and Heatran (Celestial Storm). This card is rarely played out, but the times when you would want it are either when you need a sustainable attacker, or when you intend to get Heatran (Ultra Prism), but do not want it to get damaged by an opposing Tapu Koko’s Flying Flip. Remember to make sure that the Pokémon you intend to hit with Registeel (Celestial Storm) has an Ability (so that it does the full 120).

Heatran (Ultra Prism)
Probably the most underrated card in the whole format. Heatran (Ultra Prism) has both versatility and power. The combination of Guard Press with Metal Frying Pan practically wins you games (more on that later) and allows you to keep Heatran alive to build up on Energy to transition into a big Boiling Impact. Even a Tapu Bulu GX would be unable to OHKO you even when they discard all their Energy for Nature’s Judgement when you have both the effect of Guard Press and Metal Frying Pan. Watch out for anytime you would want a huge Boiling Impact to strike your opponents and that you can set it up without Heatran dying, or just when your opponents damage output is limited and you want to drag the game with Guard Press to attach more Energy around your board – that’s when you would play Heatran out.

Heatran (Celestial Storm)
This Heatran serves a different purpose to the other one. With its Steelworks Attack, it covers up all of Registeel’s (Crimson Invasion) weaknesses when it comes to Energy acceleration – it takes Energy from the Deck instead of the Discard Pile, and carries with it the potential of attaching more than just one Energy. At the beginning of the game, if you feel you need Registeel (Crimson Invasion) for Energy acceleration, but can foresee difficulty in bringing the Energy to the Discard Pile first, Heatran (Celestial Storm) is the clear option. In the mid to late game stage, you might combine Heatran (Celestial Storm) with an Energy Recycler to try and rapidly load up another Pokémon that would need many Energy cards to function, like Heatran (Ultra Prism) or Registeel (Celestial Storm).

Celesteela (Celestial Storm)
While this should not be your central strategy – If you can control the game and make your opponent play into Celesteela or play into its 6 prizes Attack condition (then deny the KO for your opponent with some tanky Pokémon with Metal Frying Pan attached), Celesteela gives you a huge lead, especially against decks that play GX Pokémon.

You can still win games if you fail to utilise Celesteela’s strict Attack condition. Keep an open mind about loading Energy onto Celesteela with Heatran (Celestial Storm) or even Registeel (Crimson Invasion) to use its attack for 5 Energy. 140HP Pokémon doing 160 each turn is a significant threat to any and every deck in the format and Metal Frying Pan only makes things worse for your opponent.

Kartana (Celestial Storm)
Although this may sound like a joke – when you have a board full of tanky Pokémon, and you Bench Kartana, your opponents may be pressured to respond by taking a KO somewhere on the board (this is often difficult), and Kartana becomes a threat (assuming you attach an Energy to it), forcing your opponent to divert their attention from the actual threat, such as a Heatran (Ultra Prism) with 2 Energy. Moreover, Kartana has the lowest retreat cost in the whole deck, so even if you attached an Energy to it in the early-game and did not manage to use Divine Paper, you can still rely on it as a pivot for Guzma plays or just when you promote a new Active Pokémon. Take note, however, that you shouldn’t use Kartana too aggressively or depend on it, as you will usually be caught out without enough Energy on the board and with your opponent fully set up.

Dusk Mane Necrozma (Promo)
One Energy for 60 damage on any of your opponent’s GX Pokémon is perfect: This card will set up numbers for your other Pokémon and Shrine of Punishment. The versatility that such strong and efficient sniping provides is endless and thus will not be discussed here in further detail. Never forget its second attack, which has huge potential in critical moments.

Matchups

Being a toolbox deck means that knowing the specific methods to defeat your opponent in each and every matchup is crucial. Here are some detailed explanations to a few matchups:

Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine of Punishment
Possibly one of your best matchups in the format. Heatran’s (Ultra Prism) Guard Press with Metal Frying Pan makes it nearly invincible against opposing Buzzwole and even Garbodor if you can limit your items played. This tactic forces your opponent to load up 3 Energy cards on their Buzzwole in an effort to do damage, and clever use of Kartana or just a Boiling Impact could easily remove that Buzzwole from the board. If the Guard Press combo is reused, you can even end up at a point where your opponent runs so low on Energy that they struggle to find any, or just run out entirely. Keep in mind that you will be playing an extremely slow paced game and that you will be punished for too much aggression, as the deck would struggle to keep up, Energy-wise. Near auto-win, if played correctly.

Buzzwole/Weavile/Shrine of Punishment

Similar to Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine of Punishment, but instead of managing items, you should avoid playing any Pokémon with an Ability down, which should be fairly simple. Consider saving Tate & Liza if you expect Icy Wind plays from your opponent, trying to stop the Guard Press lock. Another great matchup.

Malamar/Shining Lugia/Shrine of Punishment
Limit the Pokémon you play down early on, as Tapu Koko can punish you for that. Although Shining Lugia hits for 130 damage, you can still slow down the game with Metal Frying Pan and a Guard Press from Heatran (Ultra Prism). Take it slowly, as speeding up will result in the deck running out of steam and failing to have enough Energy cards to take enough KOs. A negative matchup, but still winnable, especially with the help of Kartana and Celesteela.

Zoroark GX variants
Keep in mind that Zoroark GX decks usually include cards that heal their Pokémon (Acerola, Max Potion), so never be too greedy, and secure KOs when you have the chance to do so. Killing a Zoroark GX and playing Judge on the same turn should give you a decent chance that they fail to Acerola a damaged Pokémon or hit huge combos. Dusk Mane Necrozma is unrealistically powerful in this matchup, and benching it at almost any point means another threat the opponent is required to attend to. Although you do not want to go too aggressive in this matchup, you don’t want to be too slow either, as it would allow the opponent to extend their lead too far, since Devoured Field and Professor Kukui enable them to hit necessary numbers. An even matchup, as they need pretty intense combos that a Judge and a KO on a Zoroark GX would prevent them from hitting.

Vikavolt/Rayquaza GX (VikaRay)
Shrine of Punishment should dish out a lot of damage, and Dusk Mane Necrozma helps finish off Rayquaza GX with sustained damage. Early Guard Press plays may result in the Rayquaza GX player struggling to OHKO the Heatran (Ultra Prism), thus allowing you to secure two prizes with a Boiling Impact on the next turn. It is a matchup where you play according to your draws and your opponent’s board state. Don’t go for Vikavolt, because it has 150HP and a resistance to Metal types. A favoured matchup, where Rayquaza GX struggles, as they are restricted to only taking one prize per attack, while you can do so much more.

Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX
Although this deck has limited popularity elsewhere, its presence still exists in Malaysia. This matchup is similar to the Vikavolt/Rayquaza GX matchup, the only difference being that they have limited damage, so Heatran (Ultra Prism) plays have guaranteed success; and you have another win condition – milling out your opponent’s Energy by using Guzma on Vikavolt while sniping with Dusk Mane Necrozma, forcing either:

  1. A Guzma in reply – which is ineffective as it prevents the VikaBulu player from eliminating the Dusk Mane Necrozma
  2. A Retreat for 3 Energy, which can leave the VikaBulu player with not enough Energy to attack.

Additionally, Tapu Bulu GX needs to discard Energy to KO most of your deck, unless they unleash their GX attack. Watch out, however, for Dhelmise (Celestial Storm), which must be dealt with using Heatran’s (Ultra Prism) Boiling Impact, as well as your opponent’s Tapu Koko, due to the fact that the spread damage can be painful. However, Tapu Koko can be countered by refraining from Benching Pokémon unless absolutely necessary, and if your opponent dedicates Energy to it, that would make it easier to mill their Energy. Another favourable matchup.

Possible Changes

There are few possible changes for this list. For Pokémon, a Heatran UPR and/or Dusk Mane Necrozma (SM107) could be considered, but due to personal preference, I have included the third Rescue Stretcher, as it gives more versatility. 

A 13th Metal Energy might be viable, but you may result in clogged hands that make Oranguru (Sun & Moon) redundant. With Energy Recycler, this current count should be sufficient. 

Conclusion

Metal Box Shrine is definitely a powerful option for any event if you expect large quantities of Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine of Punishment, Buzzwole/Weavile/Shrine of Punishment, or Vikavolt/Rayquaza GX. However, if the popularity of Buzzwole/Shrine of Punishments variants decreases, it lacks reason to select this deck over others. 

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article has opened your mind to an entirely new and interesting way to beat other Shrine decks while still holding decent matchups against other archetypes in format.


Zi Xing is a Malaysian Senior Division player with a decorated background, winning the 2017 Malaysia Regional Championships & 2017 Singapore Special Event. This season, he reached an impressive Top 8 finish in Sydney (as the first seed) and winning the 2018 Philippines Special Event. He also finished runners-up in this year’s Thailand and Singapore Special Events.

 

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