When the Brilliant Stars set was released with no less than four new powerful dragon Pokemons (Garchomp, Druddigon, Haxorus and Axew) I knew I had to make a dragon deck. One could say that the dragons were calling to me.
The card that really caught my attention was Axew. Being able to skip the middle evolution and jump straight to stage 2 is very powerful and makes Rare Candy a staple card. Having two ways to get a Haxorus into play like this made it feel safe to leave out the Fraxure from the list, essentially making Haxorus a stage 2 Pokemon that only takes up two card slots in your deck. Getting the 170 hp Haxorus into play on turn 1 (going second) is something few decks can respond to. But even in the late game Haxorus can come out of nowhere and serve as a tank for that one critical turn.
In the Brilliant Stars era of the game there was still some pieces of the puzzle missing. The deck needed a third basic attacker, but none of the options seemed like a good fit. Ultra Necrozma was tough to accommodate for with the attack preventing ability and incompatible energy requirements. Zygarde was very situational and Turtonator was simply not strong enough. Astral Radiance solved this issue with a Regidrago that not only does 160 damage, but also serves as a draw support Pokemon which was also missing from the dragon deck. Being able to refill your hand to 4 cards whenever you're running low on cards is very powerful and makes the deck brick far less. The dragon deck could not have asked for a more perfect card to be printed at this time.
One of the keys to dragon's success is the fact that the support Pokemons can be turned into powerful attackers. After helping set up the bench, Gabite turns into Garchomp which is one of the best GLC attackers at the moment. Being able to do 160 damage with a 160 hp Pokemon that can not be damaged for a turn can definitely turn games. Regidrago needs one more energy to attack, but can quickly be powered up with a Raihan or be set up in the background while Garchomp is in the active. Even Dragonite is able to do 120 damage if it finds itself alone on the board in a pinch. Because of this, the dragon deck can operate with a smaller bench than other types and is not hurt by cards like Avery and Parallel City. The need for fewer Pokemons also leaves more space for tech cards and consistency trainers in the deck.
Since the star of the deck is Haxorus, the goal was to make it as tanky as possible so it can get off multiple attacks before going down. For this we have Pot Helmet which reduces damage by 30 and Last Chance Potion which heals 120 damage from a Pokemon that has 30 HP or less remaining. When using Axew's Ultra Evolution attack to evolve Haxorus, Pot Helmet can make sure Haxorus survives even if the opponent has an attacker ready to go. Both Haxorus and Garchomp have quite high HP and when paired with Pot Helmet many opposing decks will find themselves just short of a knockout. A 120 HP heal that doesn't discard any energy can really surprise an unexpecting opponent and has won me some games where both decks have been down to the last few cards and competing for who can take the final knockout.
Perhaps the most powerful card in the dragon deck is the Double Dragon Energy. Being limited to only one copy, dragon trainers are always looking for ways to reuse it and Special Charge is a staple in every dragon deck. I have seen decks including coin flip based cards like Recycle and Cyllene to get one more shot at getting the Double Dragon Energy back and also tried them myself. In the end I settled for Roseanne's Backup, which is guaranteed to shuffle an energy back and at the same time returns several other valuable resources into the deck. Roseanne's Backup can be useful in any matchup, but especially against control decks, that attack your energy and other resources, it has proven to be a game winning card.
The inclusion of the Lost City stadium was also pivotal. At the time the main target was the Amazing Kyogre which was extremely powerful and popular in the GLC format before it eventually got banned. In a singleton format sending any piece of an evolution line is however game changing. For example sending Sobble to the lost zone makes the entire Shady Dealings line useless for the rest of the game. Almost every GLC deck has an evolution line that players want to use and re-use. Never underestimate a well-timed Lost City.
Crystal Cave was cut to make space for Lost City. Crystal Cave can certainly be valuable if you expect to play against a lot of spread decks. The optimal stadium line depends on the current meta. But one stadium that should never be cut is Stormy Mountains. It pairs perfectly with the Guzma & Hala supporter. Stormy Mountain allows you to bench any basic attacker you want while Guzma & Hala also gets the Double Dragon Energy to power it up and Float Stone to retreat your active Pokemon. When you already have basic Pokemons available you can instead select the Team Magma's Secret Base stadium to get damage onto your bench to make Drampa attack for the full effect. Guzma & Hala is a central strategy in the dragon deck and this is why Tag Call is played to help find it.
Hex Maniac is also a powerful card, but only when played at the right moment. Pairing a knockout with shutting off all your opponent's abilities the following turn can make it really hard for them to respond. Since the key is finding the card at the right time, it's a perfect fit for the dragon deck where Dragonite's Fast Call ability lets you search out any supporter from your deck. Without an ability like this, Hex Maniac is unfortunately likely to show up when you don't want to play it and be nowhere to be found when you do need it.
After winning three tournaments and securing me the title of CardBoard Warriors leaderboard champion 2022, the dragon deck has proven itself a force to be reckoned with and will always have a special place in my heart. Do you also feel the call of the dragon?