Anybody who has played Pokémon Cards in the last six months knows that Arceus, Dialga & Palkia Tag Team GX has been quite a powerful force in the metagame. It has more than a few of the qualities which typically reflect a strong Pokémon – high HP, a big attack which accelerates energy and a game-warping attack in ‘Altered Creation GX’. It is nothing new to say that there’s a lot of disdain for the card – Facebook and Twitter have seen a deluge of complaints and tales of woe at the sheer strength of the card.
A single, strong Pokémon is not anything new, though we haven’t seen player’s become so fed up with a particular card’s strength to begin hosting player-run tournaments with the card banned (Though it should be considered that with no official tournaments – it has opened the floor to these player-run tournaments to be a much more frequent occurrence).
There is plenty of literature on the internet (and sentiments shared on social media) which delve into why it is ‘overpowered’ and although I fear I may be repeating much of what has been said already – I will try to posit some of my own thoughts on the card and why it has managed to generate such anguish in Standard format. I want to present this case study as while the format itself looks okay with a diverse set of decks out there this card has and still continues to draw the ire of players worldwide.
First we should dive into the aspects of the card which make it strong. I’ve chosen to take a ‘Pros & Cons’ approach to keep things as succinct as possible.
280 HP Pros: Resilient to most attacks, allowing it to live as long as even VMAX Pokémon. Cons: Being lower than 300 means certain match-ups do have a way in to reasonably knock it out in a timely fashion such as Blacephalon or Lapras VMAX.
Ultimate Ray Pros: Only 3 energy required, and typically won’t use the attack until after you’ve used Altered Creation GX. 150 damage which increases to 180 after Altered Creation GX is used is more than enough to knock out ‘Single Prize’ attacking decks or to deal a good amount of damage to an opposing Pokémon, setting up a KO to be taken with its common partners in Zacian V and Zamazenta V (which deal more damage and lose less prizes). The energy acceleration is phenomenal, allowing you to search for and attach 3 from your deck to your Pokémon in any way you like which opens the floor to including tech attackers such as Duraludon as required, allowing deck builders to pivot with their lists to deal with different metagames and threats. Cons: The multiple types of energy is something of weakness for the attack cost, affecting deck building to accommodate for it.
Altered Creation GX Pros: Increases your damage output and increases the amount of prizes you take by one, effectively accelerating the game. Only requiring two energy for the extra prize effect means it is possible to use the attack going second if you combo Metal Saucer and Energy Switch. Cons: Consumes 1 turn of the game to commit to this attack – however this is paid back by reducing the number of KOs required to win the game
Other Pros and Cons Pros: The Fairy-type weakness is not exploitable by any current, relevant threats in the metagame and no further Fairy types are to be introduced to the game following changes announced at the outset of the Sword and Shield block. Cons: High retreat cost at three needs to be managed with switching effects. There’s also no resistance to take advantage of. Dragon typing is not particularly relevant at this stage with few interactions to consider remaining in format. Being a ‘Tag Team’ Pokémon, Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX concedes 3 prizes when knocked out.
What makes it ‘so’ good and thus disliked by the player base?
Certainly many of these effects have been present in the game from time to time. Best in format decks which feature strong attacks, fast attacks, powerful abilities or effects which change the way an opposing deck has to play (such as perpetual Item lock or stall/mill strategies).
In a nutshell, the problem I see inherent with Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX is that there is a lack of weaknesses to prey upon it. Strong decks of the past always seemed to carry a weakness.
Some examples of other powerful decks and their weak points:
Gothitelle/Accelgor was a fragile lock which could be overcome by teching double Keldeo EX or Virizion EX (A minimal investment to overcome this matchup)
Turbo Lugia EX required 4 energy and needed Deoxys EX to look for Knock Outs (After using Altered Creation GX, you no longer need to do more than have attackers ready)
Seismitoad EX was capped with its damage output (This made way for strategies like Raichu/Crobat/Skyfield to hold up against it)
Night March was susceptible to damage spread strategies and Item Lock (Although Night March could also guard itself to a degree against these strategies, their defensive mechanisms could be dismantled or played around)
Even without an ability to lock out, an enabling bench-sitter to take out or some other puzzle piece to disrupt, one of the overarching principles of balance in the Pokémon Card games present since the early 2000’s has been related to the scaling of card strength to the prizes they concede when Knocked Out. That way, you could seek to build decks with attacking options which can exploit the number of prizes given versus the value you can get from them when you attack.
In many formats past, when seeking to find an edge in deck building, you might often find yourself looking ‘tech’ Pokémon to help give you an advantage in the mirror or favourably trade against other top tier decks. In 2012 you often saw Terrakion NVI as an answer to Darkrai EX. In 2013, Blastoise decks played Black Kyurem BCR to favourably trade against Black Kyurem EX. In more recent times, Buzzwole FLI was a common staple as a source of big damage under the right conditions and a problem for opponents in that it is a single prize attacker. This format has the right tools to enable these kinds of tech attackers (Aurora Energy as well as many energy accelerating Pokémon) however ‘Altered Creation GX’, over the course of a game, makes up for any hurdles the opponent could present in the form of tech attackers.
You might think to take the “Prizes versus Value” strategy and look to build a single prize attacking deck which looks to exploit the more powerful VMAX decks, forcing them to ‘waste’ value as they expend big resources on attacking for less reward. It has been suggested that the secondary effect of Altered Creation GX of taking an extra prize is too powerful for “single prize” style decks to deal with. It’s in the name ‘Single Prize’ attacker – more often than not, it’s a crutch that allows these styles of decks keep up their beefier counterparts and Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX removes that saving grace as early as turn two of the game. While I agree that it does impact the viability of this style of deck, there are other times in the history of the game where this has been true as well (the era of Pokémon like Mega Manectric EX and Seismitoad EX stand out in my mind) for different reasons.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Arceus, Dialga & Palkia Tag Team GX and Altered Creation GX is simply that it can cause games to end very quickly and once the GX attack is used, the effect is applied for the rest of the game. There’s no Pokémon to target down, nor effect you can play to counter or remove Altered Creation GX (in standard format), it cannot be denied or removed.
The Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX player just needs to target down at minimum two GX Pokémon at that point to win and with the need to play Pokémon such as Dedenne GX and Crobat V in order to keep up in the current metagame, they each become easy targets for the Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX player via Boss’s Orders. Choosing not to run these Pokémon is a luxury available to very few, if any, decks in format and are generally needed to match the speed of Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX. Naturally these cards amplify the speed and consistency of the Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX player’s deck which gives it a significant edge over any which don’t.
For experienced, top level players this card is frustrating because as mentioned, it can cause games to end very quickly. A game which completes quickly is often a game which doesn’t feature many decisions for each player between its beginning and end. The longer a game goes, the more complex it can become with decisions having longer lasting effects and consequences which is where these competitive players can find their edge and turn losing games around. Against Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX, these opportunities become very limited to the point where they don’t have enough time to build an advantage or mount a comeback. It can be equally frustrating for newer or inexperienced players to lose to this strategy, although in my experience this can occur when faced with whichever deck is perceived as most popular at the time.
Hope for the future
While I have outlined a lot of what makes it powerful, you will notice that this article doesn’t discuss whether Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX is worthy of a ban in Standard format. Echoing the sentiments of other writers, I too don’t see it as particularly worthy of a ban – although I do think it’s an annoying Pokémon to have in Standard. At least it’s interesting to consider that the most popular deck with this card – Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX/Zacian V isn’t what you might consider a boring or lame strategy (as is often the case with stall/mill).
At least for the moment, there is a variety of decks out there including those which are finishing in the top 8 of larger online events. This diversity wouldn’t be possible without the presence of decks which can keep up with the speed of Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX/Zacian V. While these decks (like Centiskorch VMAX and Eternatus VMAX) each have weaknesses, they aren’t necessarily exploited by Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX/Zacian V.
Although Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX has been a frustrating force in the format for some, as more sets emerge and the card pool deepens, there is a fair likelihood that we will see more answers to present itself (even if a deeper card pool also provides Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX with options as well). Cards like Altaria (which can wall it) or the recently revealed Ditto VMAX (which can use it’s attacks against it) present versatile and splashable answers which may in time prove be enough to stand up to it.
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