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Themed Thursday: Mach Strike

Welcome to our very first Themed Thursday! This is a series of articles dedicated to the Theme format, where we discuss and analyze all of the Theme Decks in Pokémon every Thursday! That’s right, all of them!* From your favorite powerhouses to the worst of the worst in Base HeartGold & SoulSilver, we’ll discuss what cards are good, how to effectively pilot the deck, and how to beat it. We even end with how to upgrade the deck to play in competitive formats!

For those of you that don’t play Pokémon TCG Online, the Theme format is a simple format for players to pick a Theme Deck and play against each other, both decks unchanged. It’s great for newer players that don’t have a collection to build a deck yet, are bored of Standard or Expanded, or just to enjoy a deck with their favorite Pokémon! Theme is also great for getting rewards from the Versus Ladder and Tournaments to get locked packs to open and unlocked packs to trade off and further boost their collection.

*That can be used on Pokémon TCG Online, since the only Theme Decks legal for the format reach back to Base HeartGold & SoulSilver.

Today, we’ll be analyzing Mach Strike! Mach Strike is one of the two decks that came with Ultra Prism, and started a revolutionary change in the power level of the newer Theme Decks, bringing newer players ever so close to the speed of decks in Standard. It is also considered to be one of the easiest Theme Decks to learn how to play, and can even work as a budget Standard deck! Here is the decklist:

Why is Mach Strike so good?

Mach Strike has a speed unlike any other Theme Deck thanks to the powerful search and draw effects that are scattered in the deck. Generally, Theme Decks before Mach Strike come chock-full of filler Pokémon, which really slows down your deck. But, in Mach Strike, nearly every card you draw, including the filler Pokémon, can be a new opportunity to attack your opponent! On top of this, Mach Strike has a relatively simple gameplan that any new player can pick up and instantly recognize.

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The biggest card to watch out for is probably the first card you play, Gible UPR 96. Gible, for just one Fighting Energy, let’s you evolve to Gabite UPR 98 immediately thanks to Ascension. That’s really powerful! If you go second, you can even evolve on your first turn! On top of that, Gabite can evolve straight into Garchomp UPR 99 with its own Ascension! A free evolution that you don’t even have to try to get is one of the greatest strengths of Mach Strike.

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Garchomp’s second attack, Royal Blades, can also one shot anything in the Theme Deck format if you play Cynthia! And, with the help of Lucario UPR 67, you can keep searching up one of your two Cynthia’s or Pal Pad to bring Cynthia back into your deck whenever you need it.

On top of that, Cynthia and the other 5 Supporter cards all draw you cards! This is huge, since the last two Theme Decks in Crimson Invasion only had 6 Supporter Cards that were...subpar. Cynthia is amazing, not only because she powers up your Garchomp, she draws you a fresh hand of 6 cards!

Playing Mach Strike

Mach Strike is a pretty straight forward deck. Evolve Gible to Gabite, then to Garchomp, get Lucario and one shot everything in your path. As stated earlier, this is one of Mach Strike's strengths, and is the Theme Deck I recommend to all new and returning players.

You want to use Nest Ball early on and prioritize one Riolu and at least one other Gible to the Bench. You want to try to get the Garchomp/Lucario engine running as fast as possible, so you need to have Riolu ready to evolve on your next turn and set up your backup Garchomp just in case your main one goes down! Also, if you don't need to attach an Energy to your main Garchomp to KO with Royal Blades, consider throwing Energy onto a backup Garchomp or attacker to set up for the future.

Some players might not know what to do if they don’t get Garchomp. It’s pretty scary if you can’t use your main attacker! So, what other cards do we have?

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Gumshoos UPR 113 is our main secondary attacker. Identify usually hits for 100 (or 120 with Professor Kukui) for only two Energy, which is pretty powerful. Identify also lets you look at your opponent’s hand, so you can find what your opponent is up to. Hippowdon UPR 69 isn’t bad, either! It’s an Energy sink for sure, but Dust Cannon usually hits for at least 110, enough to two shot most Pokémon.

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Type: Null UPR 115 isn't the greatest backup attacker in the world, but it does fine if you need that extra push on your opponent. However, if you don't need to play Type: Null, I recommend keeping it in your hand to free up your Bench of cards that you don't need to win.

Tips & Tricks

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  • A huge overlooked aspect of Garchomp is that it has a Retreat Cost of 0. You can pull off some pretty fancy combat tricks if you Retreat first, then use Escape Rope to snipe something on the Bench. Pretty handy!
  • Big Malasada is a card that I really want as a Secret Rare just because of how glorious the art is, but that's not what we're here for. In Mach Strike, Big Malasada can get you out of pretty sticky situations, especially against decks like Lost Thunder's Ampharos LOT 78's Unseen Flash Ability. Don't forget that you can even search it up with Lucario!

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  • Spiritomb UPR 53 is also one of the better cards in the deck. If you can’t safely attack the 110+ HP Pokémon in front of you, you can use Spiritomb to grab Cynthia back to your hand and retaliate with Royal Blades at full force.
  • If you’re bricking (which happens a lot in Theme Decks, so don’t worry if it happens!), Solrock BUS 69 is a fantastic card to help you draw your win conditions. It has a pretty weak damaging attack, so normally you wouldn’t deal damage, but drawing an extra two cards a turn is pretty sweet.
  • Don’t be afraid to use Cynthia if your hand is clogged up! If you keep saving Cynthia for Royal Blades and not using it when your hand is dead, you’re probably losing even harder than if you haven’t used Cynthia. And, worst case scenario, Spiritomb and Pal Pad can bring Cynthia back from the Discard Pile and into you hand or deck.

Beating Mach Strike

Not much can beat Mach Strike in a fair fight. One of the reasons why is because Garchomp UPR 99’s Weakness is Fairy! Right now, there are no good Fairy theme decks that pose a threat against Garchomp, so other theme decks have to hit the full damage instead of attacking for Weakness to one shot Garchomp. Mach Strike is also more consistent than other Theme Decks, since you can very realistically start attacking with Royal Blades on turn 3 every game.

Mach Strike suffers from a few big problems, though. For one, if you run out of Gible, Gabite, or Garchomp, your damage output will decrease significantly, and you will have to rely on Pokémon like Gumshoos or Hippowdon to attack. Another problem is Royal Blades’ Energy cost. Three attachments is pretty painful, especially if your Garchomp gets knocked out part of the way through, and you might have a rougher time against decks that only need two Energy to attack. Finally, Mach Strike’s game plan is very linear. Decks with utility Supporter cards like Leaf Charge or Blazing Volcano can catch Mach Strike off guard.

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Speaking of Blazing Volcano, Blazing Volcano is a huge threat that stands in Mach Strike’s way thanks to Entei LOT 47’s powerful Eruption dealing similar damage to Royal Blades and Magcargo CES 24 searching up cards without the need for Garchomp. Blazing Volcano also has more utility Supporter cards, notably Guzma, to mess up with Mach Strike’s plans. Houndoom LOT 46 can even get the cards it needs thanks to Nasty Plot to speed up the deck’s gameplan. Plus, Entei is a Basic Pokémon, which means it sets up much faster than Garchomp! However, the matchup is actually more even than you think, as Entei and Houndoom (a Stage 1 card) need a bit more time to set up than Mach Strike. Blazing Volcano’s odd Grass Energy inclusions also slow it down a bit. In addition, one shoting Garchomp is slightly more luck based, as both players need to discard Energy or the Blazing Volcano player has to use Professor Kukui to knockout Garchomp in one hit.

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Imperial Command, Mach Strike’s Ultra Prism sibling, shares a similar damage output if both Benches are full. In addition, Empoleon UPR 34 only needs two attachments, which allows for more comebacks if one of the Empoleon gets knocked out. Fortunately, Empoleon takes a lot longer to set up due to the lack of reliable searching power compared to Mach Strike, making early game bricks more common. But if you let it set up to the point where Total Command one shots Garchomps, there is almost no chance that Mach Strike can come back.

Playing Mach Strike in Standard

Mashing two Mach Strike decks together is one of the earliest ways to start building up a decent Standard Deck. Two Mach Strike decks give you four copies of Cynthia, which is vital to any Standard deck you'll want to build in the future! Garchomp is also very self-sufficient, not relying on Tapu Lele-GX to search up Supporter cards as much as other decks thanks to Lucario. Purely by putting two Mach Strike decks together without adding any other cards from any other sources, I came up with this:

No fillers allowed! We’re going full Garchomp, no other attackers! Now, with 13 drawing Supporters, our deck is now much more consistent than the original Mach Strike deck. Cynthia away to your heart’s content!

We're going to keep the Energy count a bit higher than most competitive decks. I chose 14 Energy because we need Gible and Gabite to evolve as soon as possible, so we need to consistently draw Fighting Energy early to start evolving them early.

Two copies of Lucario UPR 67 feels so much better than the previous one copy. Now, you can Bench two Riolu UPR 66 and evolve them both to search two cards per turn! More Nest Ball and Timer Ball help out our deck a lot by thinning out cards that we don’t need and helps us set up our future attackers.

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What if you wanted to upgrade the deck even further than just two Mach Strike decks? If you have 4 Double Colorless Energy, replace 4 Fighting Energy with them! They allow Garchomp to attack with only two Energy cards attached, rather than three. A turn faster than your opponent is huge! Choice Band is also a fantastic card that lets your Garchomp hit for 130 to get that little extra push you need without burning Cynthia. Lillie, Tate & Liza, and Guzma are also great Supporter cards to consider for your deck. 

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If you prefer, you can also switch over to Forbidden Light's version of Gible, Gabite, and Garchomp. The main difference is that these are Fighting Type instead of Dragon Type! There are a ton of strong Pokémon that have a Fighting Weakness, like Zeraora-GX, Zoroark-GX, or even Oranguru SUM 113, that you can one shot with Royal Blades without using Cynthia. You can even utilize Brooklet Hill for the Fighting Type Gible, and use it to knock out your opponent's Stadium cards! The downside is that these versions have Grass Weaknesses, which is an increasingly popular type with the brand new Grovyle LOT 21 and Sceptile-GX.

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Ditto Prism Star LOT 154 is great too! It can’t use Ascension turn 1, but Ditto opens up huge options by allowing you the choice to evolve into Gabite or Lucario, whenever you need it. Ultra Ball should be considered as well, since you need to search up Lucario when you have Garchomp out, or Garchomp when you have Lucario out without having to rely on Timer Ball's coin flip. Finally, Lucario-GX PR-SM SM100 lets your Riolu evolve into a monstrous attacker! Sure, it doesn’t search up cards, but it’s a fine backup attacker just in case you need it. You can also use your GX attack of the game on Cantankerous Beatdown GX for a massive counter attack!

And that’s it for the first ever Themed Thursday! What do you like about Mach Strike? What do you absolutely despise about it? What Theme Deck would you like to see me cover in the future? Is there anything that I missed covering that you would like to see? Leave a comment down below or let me know at my Twitter @adischordintime! Don't forget to tune in next week for another Themed Thursday featuring Blazing Volcano!

~ Kobe "Dischord" Phan

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