The Future is Now — A Look at Iron Valiant ex

Iron Valiant ex performed better than expected at LAIC. Stéphane explains how and why.

Stéphane Ivanoff24 Nov 2023

In the weeks leading to the Latin America International Championships (LAIC), I spent most of my time trying to craft the ideal Charizard ex decklist (the deck I ended up playing to an underwhelming, but overall decent, 6-3 record). Of course, I also tried out other decks, such as Gardevoir ex, Giratina VSTAR, and Roaring Moon ex, though they didn’t convince me. (I almost played Gardevoir ex because last-minute testing in Brazil seemed to indicate it was the best choice, but because I wasn’t confident in how to play the mirror match, I decided not to take the risk.)
A few days before leaving, though, I started giving a lot more attention to Iron Valiant ex. Results from City Leagues in Japan showed that Iron Valiant ex wasn’t super popular, but it was winning a lot compared to its general play rate. To me, this indicated that it could be a fantastic underrated deck. Also, as it became clear that Gardevoir ex was going to be a highly played deck, at least among top players, I felt like Iron Valiant ex could be the perfect choice for this event. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a decklist that I was happy with, and since I didn’t have a lot of experience with the deck, I felt like my last day of testing would be better spent playing more Charizard ex than trying to break Iron Valiant ex. Nevertheless, I felt like Iron Valiant ex would be a strong play, and the day before the event, I became convinced that Iron Valiant ex would make top 8.
In the end, I was right: Noah Sawyer ended up bringing the deck all the way to the finals, where he lost to Miraidon ex. This only makes sense, when you look at the most played decks in the event: Gardevoir ex, Charizard ex, Giratina VSTAR, Chien-Pao ex all play Basic Pokémon with 70 or fewer HP, which can easily be KO’d even on the first turn of the game by the combination of Iron Valiant ex’s Tachyon Bits and Medicham V’s Yoga Loop. And even if they manage to evolve, Technical Machine: Devolution can be used to KO these Pokémon by reverting them to their low-HP pre-evolutions after dealing enough damage.
I’m still unsure of the best way to build Iron Valiant ex, but I feel like all eyes are on the deck right now, so I think it’s the right time to write about it and try to give my point of view. In this article, I’ll talk about two ways you can play Iron Valiant ex: the Entei V variant, and another that is currently highly underrated in my opinion.

Iron Valiant ex / Entei V

If you’ve paid any attention to the metagame recently, you probably heard about this deck, as it’s the one that Noah Sawyer used to make the finals of LAIC. The synergy between Iron Valiant ex and Entei V might not be immediately apparent, but it becomes very clear once you play the deck. Entei V can deal a decent amount of damage to opposing Pokémon, but it can struggle against Pokémon with more HP, like Pokémon VSTAR and evolved Pokémon ex. Iron Valiant’s Tachyon Bits is very good to get rid of the latter before they evolve, and its damage also helps Entei V reach OHKOs on big Basic Pokémon. In addition, its Ability adds a little bit of draw power to the deck. More importantly, thanks to Magma Basin, Entei V can be powered up in a single turn, so it can attack as early as turn 1. The deck can also easily play Radiant Charizard as an additional attacker, mostly for the late game, although with Double Colorless Energy and Magma Basin, it can attack after the opponent has KO’d a single Entei V.

As you may expect from the previous paragraph, Iron Valiant ex / Entei V plays pretty differently depending on what you’re playing against. Against Evolution decks, you want at least three Iron Valiant ex in play as fast as possible, in order to put a lot of pressure on Charmander, Ralts, Frigibax, etc., before they evolve. Ideally, you want to use Yoga Loop on the first turn of the game to KO a small Pokémon, and follow that up with a KO on another Pokémon. Against decks with higher HP Pokémon like Miraidon ex, though, Iron Valiant ex is only a small part of the deck, and you can get by only having one in play, while you need to focus on chaining Entei V attacks.


Here’s my current list, inspired by the one played by Noah Sawyer as well as by my friend Ithiel Arki’s ideas (he won two League Cups over the weekend with this deck):

4 Iron Valiant ex PAR 894 Professor’s Research PR-SW 1525 Basic {R} Energy
3 Entei V BRS 224 Colress’s Experiment LOR 1901 Jet Energy PAL 190
1 Squawkabilly ex PAL 2644 Switch SVI 1942 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151
1 Radiant Charizard CRZ 204 Switch Cart ASR 154
1 Medicham V EVS 834 Escape Rope BST 125
1 Cramorant LOR 504 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
3 Nest Ball SVI 181
3 Trekking Shoes ASR 156
1 Lost Vacuum LOR 162
1 Earthen Vessel PAR 163
2 Future Booster Energy Capsule PAR 164
2 Forest Seal Stone SIT 156
1 Technical Machine: Devolution PAR 177
4 Magma Basin BRS 144

The core of the deck is fairly simple: draw Supporters and as many switching Items as you can fit, plus core Tool cards in Future Booster Energy Capsule and Forest Seal Stone. Let me discuss some quick decisions in the deck:

3 Entei V: Many lists play four, but I think three copies is enough most of the time. You can definitely fit another copy in case of bad Prizes, but I think this deck can also just accept that it might lose some games to this kind of randomness, especially for best of three tournaments. Similarly, I don’t really like playing two Squawkabilly ex, although some players think it’s necessary.

Cramorant: This unusual attacker won’t often attack on turn 1 without the Comfey engine, but that’s fine. Its main purpose is to deal with Mimikyu in Snorlax Stall decks, so it doesn’t have to be ready to attack on turn 1, as long as it can do so fast enough, and with four Colress’s Experiment plus a Lost Vacuum, it will eventually be able to attack. Even if there’s a Big Charm on Mimikyu, Tachyon Bits will add the needed damage. Of course, Snorlax itself is hardly an issue, given how many switching cards this deck plays. Apart from this matchup, it’s also nice to have a one-Prize Pokémon other than Radiant Charizard to promote to the Active Spot on turn 1 against other fast decks, like Miraidon ex, as you don’t want an Iron Valiant ex or Entei V KO’d that early.

Lost Vacuum: In addition to making Cramorant easier to use if needed, Lost Vacuum is important to remove Tool cards such as Bravery Charm, Ancient Booster Energy Capsule, and even Luxurious Cape from low HP Pokémon.

3 Trekking Shoes: In my opinion, Iron Valiant ex’s greatest weakness is midgame Iono (especially when paired with Path to the Peak). It happens too often that the deck misses a key card (like Magma Basin) and becomes unable to attack as a result. If you watch the LAIC finals, you’ll also notice that Noah Sawyer whiffs an attack at several points in the game and that seals his doom. Trekking Shoes gives the deck a little bit more consistency to help prevent these kinds of situations.

1 Jet Energy: I’ve noticed that it wasn’t always easy to use Jet Energy in this deck, since it’s only good when used to bring Entei V Active, and you already need Magma Basin in play and Fire Energy in the discard for that. For example, if you have Jet Energy in hand and you still need to play Professor’s Research, you probably don’t want to play it. I also read that Grant Manley had a similar take on the card. That’s why I think that the deck may not be needed in the deck, but for the time being, I kept it as a 1-of.

Iron Valiant ex / Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX

There’s a second variant of Iron Valiant ex around, far less popular than Entei V: Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. This Pokémon has always worked well with Medicham V and Pokémon that can add damage counters to the opponent’s board (first Inteleon CRE, then Inteleon VMAX), so it’s little wonder that many players tried to make it work with Iron Valiant ex. This idea is not actually new, and has had moderate success in Japan and in online events. However, I think it was missing a key piece, that has breathed new life into the deck in Japan for a couple weeks: Radiant Charizard. This late-game attacker is actually able to KO high HP Pokémon, and provides the brute force that Urshifu VMAX sorely lacks. The reason why it works in this deck is twofold: first, unlike Inteleon VMAX, Iron Valiant ex can damage the opponent’s Active Pokémon, so you don’t need Radiant Alakazam to move damage counters all the time. Therefore, the Radiant spot in the deck is free. Second, unlike Inteleon VMAX, Iron Valiant ex doesn’t need to play any type of Basic Energy. While players have used Water Energy or Fighting Energy in this version in the past, there’s a better option: Luminous Energy. A lone Luminous Energy can power up Urshifu VMAX’s Gale Thrust and Urshifu V’s Strafe, but also, crucially, Radiant Charizard’s Combustion Blast. And Luminous Energy + Rapid Strike Energy can still be used for G-Max Rapid Flow.


The following decklist (or others very close to it) has won several City Leagues in Japan. I present it without any modifications for now, as I’m still trying to master the deck:

4 Iron Valiant ex PAR 894 Professor’s Research PR-SW 1523 Luminous Energy PAL 191
2 Rapid Strike Urshifu V BST 874 Iono PAL 2544 Rapid Strike Energy BST 140
3 Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX BST 883 Colress’s Experiment LOR 190
2 Medicham V EVS 834 Switch Cart ASR 154
2 Squawkabilly ex PAL 2644 Switch SVI 194
1 Drapion V LOR 1184 Escape Rope BST 125
1 Radiant Charizard CRZ 204 Battle VIP Pass FST 225
3 Ultra Ball BRS 150
2 Lost Vacuum LOR 162
2 Future Booster Energy Capsule PAR 164
2 Forest Seal Stone SIT 156
2 Town Store OBF 196

As you can see, there’s a number of differences with the Entei V list above. Since you don’t need Magma Basin to attack, the Stadium slot can be used for Town Store, which increases the deck’s consistency by giving it access to two important Tool cards. You also don’t need to play as many Energy or Earthen Vessel. Instead, the deck plays more draw Supporters, including four copies of Iono. It also plays two Medicham V and two Squawkabilly ex (although I think one might be enough).

The key difference, in my opinion, is that this deck doesn’t need to take KOs at the same rhythm as the Entei V variant. It can focus on spreading damage and then take multiple KOs in a single turn (or two in a row) with Yoga Loop and G-Max Rapid Flow. Against Charizard ex, for example, you can avoid taking KOs for some time, which prevents Charizard ex from dealing enough damage to OHKO your Pokémon. Since you can delay taking KOs, Iono is better because you can draw more cards for a longer time. Similarly, Counter Catcher is a better gust option than Boss’s Orders in this deck.

Why play this list over the Entei V variant? I think one strong argument is given by which deck just won LAIC. You can expect Miraidon ex to be popular after it won the first major competition with Paradox Rift, and it can be a troublesome matchup for Iron Valiant ex / Entei V. However, Urshifu VMAX is of course excellent against Miraidon ex and makes the matchup very favorable. Some of Urshifu VMAX’s worst enemies, like Lugia VSTAR and Mew VMAX, are also less popular these days, which is good news for this variant of the deck.
More generally, by using Urshifu VMAX, many decks will be forced to bench Manaphy (neither Gardevoir nor Charizard want to deal with a turn 2 G-Max Rapid Flow, for example). However, Iron Valiant ex and Medicham V can deal with Manaphy, putting the opponent in a complicated situation.

With all that being said, the Gardevoir ex matchup remains complicated if they can withstand your initial assault, since Gardevoir ex deals very well with Urshifu VMAX. Radiant Charizard can KO Gardevoir ex in the late game, so it’s not like you lose if Gardevoir ex sets up, but be aware that playing this deck perfectly requires training and precise thinking.


Iron Valiant ex may not have been the most hyped card from Paradox Rift (it’s not even the most hyped Future Paradox Pokémon!), but it became clear this weekend that it is a card to be respected. Time will tell if it can keep a tier 1 spot or if decks will adapt to it; at the very least, I expect a rise of Jirachi, especially in Gardevoir ex decks (I’m surprised how many of them didn’t choose to run it in São Paulo), which can slow down Iron Valiant by limiting their use of Yoga Loop. It might also be time for decks like Roaring Moon ex and Mew VMAX to shine, and these decks can be difficult for Iron Valiant ex. Nevertheless, being a deck that has a favorable matchup against Gardevoir ex, Iron Valiant ex will surely find its time to shine in this format!

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