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Analysis: Malamar In Standard

Malamar FLI 51

With the release of the theme deck Laser Focus making building Malamar decks easier than ever before there's no surprise that people expected Malamar decks to come out in massive force at the Worlds 2019. However the highest placing Malamar deck was piloted by Keito Uchida and only placed 24th with the remaining Malamar decks in day two all falling under the Top 25. The DC Open showed a little more hope for Malamar but it was only in Flight 2. 

So what gives? What is stopping Malamar from finding success in the current standard format and how can we try to make it better? Let's start by giving a brief explanation of how the deck works for those who may be newer to the game. Malamar decks are meant to accelerate Energy using its ability Psychic RechargeOnce during your turn (before your attack), you may attach a [P] Energy card from your discard pile to 1 of your Benched Pokémon.

So the premise is to get out several Malamar, have some Energy in the discard, and power up your main attackers. Once the attacker is knocked out, rinse and repeat with those Energies trying to snag the knockout. There's plenty of attackers that can be boosted to deal solid damage this way, the most popular of which are Giratina LOT 97, Ultra Necrozma-GX, and the recently released Garchomp & Giratina-GX.

Now that we've got some of the basics out of the way, let's talk shop on the deck. What made it so hard for the deck to be as dominant on the biggest stage of them all? 

Consistency Issues

Nest Ball SUM 123 Ultra Ball SUM 135

What do the two cards above have in common? They are no longer available for Malamar decks due to the rotation. Mysterious Treasure may be incredibly helpful for the deck but standing tall on its own simply isn't enough. The deck could attempt something like Professor Elm's Lecture to get out its Inkay and maybe an attacker to evolve or attack with Ultra Beasts so that Ultra Space could come into play but it still just stops how fast the deck could build up compared to its former glory. 

Counter Play

Hoopa UNM 140 Lysandre Labs FLI 111

A lot of players expected Malamar at the big event so they came ready to counter it. Unfortunately for Malamar decks it was easier than ever to have a card ready to stop them. Hoopa from Unified Minds has the perfect typing, attack, and attack cost to be thrown into almost any deck as a solid Malamar counter. This is all due to its attack Evil Admonition:

[C] Evil Admonition: 10+
This attack does 20 more damage for each of your opponent’s Pokémon that has an Ability.

Since you have to rely on Malamar to get your Energy out, this attack can power up decently. With a resistance against Psychic attacks as well it's going to be harder to knock out. Another counter came in the form of Lysandre Labs. Many played it to counter any Shedinja LOT 95 in control decks but it's also very useful to stop Malamar decks using Spell Tag to help deal a bit of extra damage. Speaking of damage...

Damage Output

Giratina LOT 97Ultra Necrozma-GX FLI 95

Spell Tag was more important than many people realized in this deck. Giratina's Shadow Impact only deals 130 damage, so even with two hits you can't knock out Reshiram & Charizard-GX. With no more Choice Band it was more vital than ever before to get that extra damage on for the two hit knock out with Spell Tag. Without it, you're still trading about three prizes for three, not to mention when the opponent starts healing with Great Potion. Even against Blacephalon-GX this extra damage could sometimes manage a kill with only one attacker which was incredibly helpful. If the opponent has blocked off Spell Tag however, you're stuck.

This becomes an issue as well with just how much HP most of the main attackers in the format seem to have. Most Pokemon can knock out the main attackers of this deck in a single hit, while it may take multiple to knock the opponent out. It's easy to start getting ahead on prizes this way and see Malamar decks unable to make the comeback. Ultra Necrozma-GX has the capability to try and one shot some of these huge attackers but is finicky as it requires the Metal Energy to attack. Viridian Forest can help get it quickly, but even then you need to manage four Energy to knock out the biggest Pokemon in one hit. That means at least three Malamar and an Energy card in hand. It's not impossible, but it's certainly a lot harder.

The Ditto

Ditto DET 17

No, of course, we don't literally mean Ditto here, we mean the Malamar vs Malamar matchup. Reports from people playing it at the event showed that often matches were resulting in a tie. With a Swiss format, a tie match isn't what you're hoping for in the slightest. It can literally be a death sentence for you placing high at an event early on. When playing against the deck, especially if you're running the same attackers, it's going to be a coin flip of who can get set up faster to win, which is great if you're lucky but not otherwise. With so many Malamar decks hitting the world stage it severely hurt those that were playing.

So what happens if you're not facing the ditto? You might still tie or just plain lose due to time. The deck itself is simply time consuming. Setting up can take a while, then you have to take the actions to recharge every turn, place damage with Spell Tag, maybe even going for Jirachi and Stellar Wish. The point being that if you lose game one you may have a hard time bringing it back for a game two victory, let alone winning game three simply because your deck is a bit slower to play. So you end up with a loss or at best a tie, which as previously stated isn't doing you any favors. 

Look, it's best to be honest about the deck. As it stands unless players get creative and make serious adjustments, Malamar decks are simply not top tier decks. They are simply too slow to set up and keep up properly. Does this mean they're doomed? Not necessarily. That line above is the line drawn for negativity; it's time to get positive! We've been hunting through to find some potential options to spice up this deck. We can't promise that these are going to be amazing, some are purely experimental, but we're hoping this at least gives people some new ideas to try and maybe one of them will end up being what this deck needs.

Faster Setup

Exeggutor UNM 74Professor Elm's Lecture LOT 188Blue's Tactics UNM 188

So Exeggcute UNM 73 is not only a Psychic type for easy Mysterious Treasure search but also has low enough HP for Professor Elm's Lecture. Good thing Inkay FLI 50 also fits that bill! You can get even more creative for getting your bench stacked up quickly as well with this in mind. Maybe you use Dunsparce CES 110 or go for Mesprit UNM 84 to try and help prevent bricking when setting up. Perhaps you try using Emolga TEU 46 alongside Pokemon Communication to help get the cards you need to evolve with a bit faster as well. 

Now onto the attack, while Full Clean does force you to discard your hand it does manage a one-hit knockout against Blacephalon-GX which is nice. Plus if you use Blue's Tactics you can get your hand size back up very quickly. It's a solid way to get rolling through your deck so you have the cards you need to attack faster. Overall these ideas are here to try and help fix the slowness of setup for these decks, so give it your consideration!

New Attackers

Naganadel-GX UNM 160 Rotom FLI 40Mewtwo DET 12

Put aside those common staples and go for something a little more outside of the box! There's plenty of Pokemon you can set up with Malamar, but we're going to list a few of them here for you to consider that we think offer at least a little more spice to the deck in some way. Let's give them a look!

Power Up Something Else
Dewgong UNB 45Slowking LOT 55Noivern FLI 101

Look we'd be here all day listing other Pokemon you could attempt to power up using Malamar. Perhaps the future of Malamar decks doesn't come from keeping them purely Psychic types, perhaps there's other weird and wacky options out there!

On that note, we want to know your ideas for Malamar decks attackers that aren't Psychic! Tell us in the comments below so we can get a cool discussion going. Have other thoughts on Malamar decks? Why not head over to Twitter and tell me directly, I'm @LiteralGrill! We hope this article helped anyone looking to build a Malamar deck or learn how to take them down. Until next time, stay lit trainers!

- Linnea 'LiteralGrill' Capps

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