Hello PTCGO Store readers! My name is Max Leedy and this is my first article on this site. I’m a competitive player from Oregon who has been playing the game for about 5 years, and I’ve been continuing to play in online tournaments throughout the pandemic.  
Last July, a specific tournament that really caught my eye was the POG Championship. It was a huge tournament with lots of community hype, exactly what I had been missing since the shutdown of official events, and I had plenty of time to test and cook up decks. Luckily enough, that same tournament is back and will be held in a brand new format. I’m here to give you a crash course in the format that POG will be held in to give you an edge going into this massive tournament. This new format is Team Up - Evolving Skies. I will be covering how it differs from the current standard, some new cards to look out for, and my favorite deck going into the new format.

Format Overview

Umbreon Vmax

The Evolving Skies expansion brings a powerful new array of cards into the equation, with a plethora of highly powerful attackers and interesting support pokemon being thrown into the mix. Right off the bat, cards like Rayquaza VMAX and Umbreon VMAX seem like they will be immediately making a splash in the format, which I think is valid based solely on their raw power. 
However, something interesting to note is that the new, obviously powerful cards from the set don’t seem to push other older pokemon online decks out of the meta quite like some of the recent standout cards in past sets have done. For example, in the Rebel Clash expansion, Dragapult VMAX was released and immediately became a major powerhouse (arguably BDIF). In the next set, Eternatus VMAX was released, pushing Dragapult completely out of the meta due to type advantage. Two sets later, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX was released and gave Eternatus a new threat to worry about. It doesn’t seem as if any of the brand new archetypes from Evolving Skies (I’ll refer to it as EVS from here on out) will immediately have such a brutal effect on any existing archetypes. This means that there are significantly more options than usual going into the POG Championships. There are so many decks to consider going into the tournament, from new flashy cards to old favorites, it’ll be difficult to figure out the best one. The dynamic of having tons of potential decks will heavily benefit those who are going to be testing extensively for this tournament, which is something to keep in mind when wondering how you are going to prepare. 

Altaria Zoroark

Another interesting aspect of the new format is that we are now amassing a considerable amount of powerful evolution support pokemon, including the new Umbreon VMAX and Altaria. While there are the obvious partners for these cards, (Umbreon VMAX with Eternatus VMAX and Altaria with the new Suicune V), they have the potential to be paired with other strong attackers. Old decks could realistically be played in completely different ways due to these powerful new cards. 
To combine both of my previous thoughts, there will be more decks than usual that are legitimately viable going into the new format, and many builds for each of those decks that could possibly be optimal. For example, take Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. Do you still play it with the Inteleon engine? What about Cinccino? What about playing Cinccino as well as a thin Altaria line? How many Medicham V should you play? You can go down this rabbit hole with basically any deck. When testing, consider picking one deck that you believe is solidly positioned going into TEU-EVS and testing that one deck until you have all those questions answered. Explore your deck as much as you can and find the best of the many options for it. This will give you a massive edge over the people who throw together a list a few days before the tournament and have barely scratched the surface of the potential and options of their deck.

Side note: Control has gained an option from the new set in the form of Zoroark. I definitely haven’t put sufficient time into this card, but if you're someone who is looking to build the new busted control deck, I would recommend that you start with Zoroark. I thought it would be worthwhile to mention it because I believe it has tons of potential in the right hands.
Basically, my main thoughts going into the format are:
  • Consider all decks when testing, new and old
  • Consider new engines for your deck of choice
  • Make sure that when testing, you’ve fully explored whatever deck it is that you’re playing, even if you have to stray away from the “regular” way to play it to fully delve into its possibilities

Rayquaza VMAX

Rayquaza Vmax

Personally, this is the deck that has really caught my eye, as it has with many other people. The card itself is undeniably powerful. With its uncapped damage output, powerful card-drawing ability, and lack of a certain x2 symbol in the bottom left corner that has caused problems for many pokemon online decks in the past (AKA weakness), I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who claims that this card isn’t objectively good. Another advantage is that its two energy requirements are lightning and fire, which are two of the most easily powered-up energy types in the game. モココ also happens to be released in the exact same set, which has perfect synergy with Rayquaza. However, this may not actually be the optimal way to play the deck, even though the combo between the two cards is extremely obvious (I’ll talk more about this later).


Rayquaza will spend the vast majority of its life in a world without the Sun & Moon sets that we have currently, but it will still have access to them for POG, which is extremely key. While Rayquaza will undoubtedly be a solid deck come post-rotation, it will be on another level pre-rotation. The main contributor to this is the fact that Welder will still be legal. Welder fits right into this deck, accelerating energy to fuel Rayquaza’s damage at a rapid rate. Another thing to note is that Rose also fits perfectly into the deck, with the brutal “discard your hand” effect being counteracted by Rayquaza’s ability. Have you ever heard people playing Welder decks complain about whiffing Welder? Yeah, I thought so. What if you were able to basically have 8 Welders in your deck? With both Rose and Welder, I’m scared just thinking about how little “accelerate 2 energy” effects are going to be whiffed by Rayquaza players. 
Add all this to a base engine of Dedenne-GX, Crobat V, and Eldegoss V to supplement your draw power and supporter consistency, and Rayquaza may very well be one of the quickest and most powerful decks in the format.


With モココ being released in EVS as well and being such an obvious partner for Rayquaza, most people have immediately been building their Rayquaza lists with Flaaffy. However, I’m not so convinced that a heavy-Flaaffy build is the right way to go. 
Having all those stage 1s to set up causes a serious blow to the deck's consistency, and limits bench space for Crobats, Dedennes, Eldegosses, and more Rayquazas. With Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX seeming to be a powerhouse going into the new meta, utilizing lots of weak one-prize pokemon plays right into brutal G-Max Rapid Flows. This makes these one-prizers very risky and dangerous to rely on. Mew, which has been a savior to weak one-prizers in the past, might not be such a fail safe counter to G-Max Rapid Flow anymore. Inteleon’s Quick Shooting combined with Medicham V’s Yoga Loop is a new combo that the Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX deck is capable of pulling off, and it absolutely decimates Mew. 
All of these factors make me think that relying on just Welder, Rose, Tapu Koko Prism Star, and setting up a bunch of Rayquazas to spam the card drawing ability might be the way to go.

Things that could give Rayquaza trouble are any decks that slow the game down to a point where the Rayquaza player could run out of resources. With Rayquaza’s ability to discard cards rapidly and its attack tearing through energies, it's pretty tricky to mindfully manage your resources, however hard you might try. Examples of these types of decks that would be problematic are one-prize decks, Lucmetal, and control archetypes. There are plenty of techs that could be played to shore up these matchups, but on a fundamental level, these types of decks are naturally favored versus big, aggressive beat sticks like Rayquaza. 

Something interesting to note is that the decks that beat Rayquaza don’t do so by having an automatic advantage in the form of double damage, seeing as Rayquaza doesn’t have a weakness. The decks that beat Rayquaza do so because of their specific strategies, and the fact that those strategies are well-suited against Rayquaza’s gameplan. While this isn’t necessarily relevant to Rayquaza’s power, it shows that the game is potentially heading in a direction where a deck's playstyle gives it an advantage instead of cards simply hitting for weakness.

To recap everything I’ve talked about in regards to Rayquaza VMAX as an overall concept:

  • It’s a card that punishes other 3-prize pokemon by simply knocking them out quicker and more aggressively than they can knock Rayquaza out, and therefore out-trading them. This sounds weirdly simple, but that’s really what makes Rayquaza such a powerful card
  • There are different variants to explore with this deck that all have potential (Flaaffy and Straight Rayquaza come to mind)
  • Due to its fire and lightning energy requirements, Rayquaza can feasibly be paired up with a bunch of different tech attackers depending on what you expect to arrive at POG
  • This deck struggles with decks that slow the game down to a point where the Rayquaza player can run out of resources

The List

The lists I’ve been working on have mostly revolved around the non-Flaaffy version of the deck, seeing as I believe it has the most out-of-the-gates potential. You’ll notice that this first list isn’t complete. With Rayquaza, I’ve found that there is a surprising amount of room to play tricky techs and differing counts of cards, which is why I thought that it would be helpful to give a “skeleton” of the deck that only includes cards that I think are essential in a non-Flaaffy Rayquaza deck.

The Skeleton

4 Rayquaza VMAX EVS 111
4 Rayquaza V EVS 110
1 Crobat V DAA 104
1 Eldegoss V RCL 19
1 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
1 Tapu Koko {*} TEU 51
1 Marshadow UNB 81

4 Welder UNB 189
3 Rose DAA 168
4 Quick Ball SSH 179 
2 Evolution Incense SSH 163 
3 Pokémon Communication TEU 152
3 Air Balloon SSH 156 
4 Giant Hearth UNM 197

9 Fire Energy 
4 Lightning Energy 

Total Cards - 49

One of the first things that may jump out at you is that for a deck that tries to utilize basics with card drawing abilities, it sure doesn’t require very many. This is less because they aren’t important and more because I’ve been bouncing between 2 Eldegoss, 1 Dedenne, and 2 Dedenne, 1 Eldegoss. Both of these counts have felt fine, and I think it may just come down to preference in the end. The heavier Eldegoss count has the advantage of giving you more supporter outs, whereas the heavier Dedenne version helps with deeper digging at critical moments. Another weird part about this skeleton is the low counts of ball search. In my opinion, the deck should dedicate 4 more slots to pokemon search outs. The question is, which search cards are optimal? The options I’ve liked the most are either +4 Great Ball or +1 Pokemon Communication, +1 Evolution Incense, +2 Stormy Mountains. Again, this really comes down to preference.

As I’ve said before, there are plenty of “extra” cards that could help fill those remaining 11 slots. Cards like Heatran-GX, Vikavolt V, Volcanion (UNB), and possibly even a very thin モココ line (I’ve been hating on the card but still have to respect its power in the deck) all are strong options that fit well into a Rayquaza build. Currently, I don’t think there’s a correct answer to which of these is best, but depending on the meta, there might end up being one. Heatran would be a go-to if Lucmetal decks become something to worry about. Vikavolt could be a situational card for certain one-prize decks, as well as some control decks. Boss’s Orders, a card that seems like a staple, has strangely fallen into a more optional role in this deck due to a reliance on Welder/Rose. It could still definitely be a consideration in those final 11 spaces.

Cobalion Gx

A tech that I’ve liked a lot in testing has been Cobalion-GX. An issue I’ve had with Rayquaza is the fact that any turn when you whiff a OHKO feels somewhat like a turn wasted. Attempting to two-shot the opponent’s active on those turns is usually fruitless, seeing as it’s probable that you could reach the OHKO anyways on the following turn. Cobalion-GX’s Iron Rule GX attack basically acts as a failsafe on those turns where you whiff the crucial KO. It also pairs pretty well with Boss’s Orders in the deck. Usually, Boss is pretty awkward to use because on the same turn you play it, you usually need to accelerate energy with a different supporter. Cobalion lets you accelerate a bunch of energy, skip your opponent's next attack, then boss on the next turn. This plan doesn’t always work out, but Cobalion at least allows it to be a possibility.

My Current List

Pokémon - 16 

4 Rayquaza VMAX EVS 111
4 Rayquaza V EVS 110
1 Crobat V DAA 104
1 Volcanion UNB 25
1 Eldegoss V RCL 19
2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
1 Tapu Koko {*} TEU 51
1 Cobalion-GX TEU 106
1 Marshadow UNB 81

Trainer Cards - 30 

4 Welder UNB 189
3 Rose DAA 168
4 Quick Ball SSH 179 
3 Evolution Incense SSH 163 
4 Pokémon Communication TEU 152
3 Air Balloon SSH 156 
4 Giant Hearth UNM 197
2 Stormy Mountains EVS 161
1 Boss's Orders RCL 154
1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171 
1 Pal Pad SSH 172

Energy - 14 

10 Fire Energy SWSHEnergy 2
4 Lightning Energy SWSHEnergy 4

Total Cards - 60

This list utilizes the non-Great Ball route of pokemon search, as well as useful cards like Cobalion and Volcanion. Cards like Pal Pad and Ordinary Rod help counteract the brutal discarding effect of Rayquaza’s ability. Overall, this list copes solidly with Rayquaza’s built-in problems, while still retaining its incredible power and speed. Don’t be afraid to use my skeleton list and create the deck how you envision it! There are a bunch of options for the deck, and one of them might click with you more than my current build does.

Closing thoughts 

Overall, I’m pretty excited about TEU-EVS. There are so many Pokemon online decks with a ton of potential, and it seems like this might end up being a true deck builder’s format, which people always seem to enjoy. You can probably tell that POG is a tournament I’m truly ecstatic about, and I hope that my excitement about it rubs off on you. Hopefully, this overview has helped kickstart your winding journey of preparing for the tournament! Happy testing!