Bad Meta Forecast

I know this isn’t a news blog, but when I find that I’ve not got any major insights to offer or recent competitive goings on, I usually find that it’s about time to look forward and see what’s coming next. I tend to avoid ‘newsy’ stuff and predictions because i) other website do it better; ii) it’s a constant thing not a weekly thing; and iii) this isn’t a news site and I hate baseless speculation. (Also in pre-release 2 Buzzwole and 36 energy is broken apparently!)

Predicting the Usual Predictions

Prediction Pokémaniac
I predict… a NEW SET!

Also, as a rule I generally hate the ‘predictions discussion’ EG: “oh but in next block X will be good (and then I’ll beat you!)”. While these are popular online and at most casual meetups, I don’t think that I’m alone in this view.  Don’t get me wrong – looking to see what is coming is fun, even exciting and it can help inform you of what potential decks you might need to get components for via trades etc. My faith in humanity is that I have to believe that’s where these people are coming from, love of the game, just at a different angle.

Prediction Type Chart
My crude type chart. (Yellow = resistance)

It’s just that if you’re looking at building competitive decks, unless you literally have the cards in your deck sleeves ready to roll, it’s almost all hypotheticals so the speculation and predictions don’t really help develop the metagame.

An example is a statement such as: ‘In the next set Psychic will get a boost, therefore Buzzwole is dead LOL RIP, it’s not worth playing Buzzwole now’. When laid out like that it seems rather illogical. In the future the deck will be bad, therefore don’t play it now? I understand that if you don’t have the cards to make the deck it might not be worth trying to get them if you think the next set will render that deck useless. That’s sensible, but invalidating a proven archetype on baseless speculation is a little premature.

The Predictions Loop

While  I’m sure my Buzzwole deck will loose to a strong Psychic deck, the new stuff in Forbidden Light but it doesn’t worry me. Principally because the above belief is fundamentally wrong on many levels. Firstly Psychic might be a non-starter. Case in point you can still play a decent psychic deck and do well as of SM5, but people aren’t really. Unless the impact of the new cards has been tested (as opposed to just speculated about) we don’t know for certain.

Beast Ring TLATEFor example I also know that Fighting is getting a boost as are Ultra Beasts, that’s 2 distinct factors from the ‘Psychic boost’ factor. And so the Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock cycle continues. The reason simply is that until the meta gets settled, everything is conjecture and as a scientist person (though without the love of Magnemites), I generally believe that speculation doesn’t lead to productive predictions! A good example is the Magnemite + Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX deck which was overhyped but by the time it came to being played the reason for playing it (Gardevoir) was dying off. The deck suffers from consistency issues and the payoff – steel type damage and OHKOs, isn’t worth it compared to a similar deck in a different colour such as Vika-Bulu where the type sometimes is relevant in the meta.

Below I try to dissect the above statement about the Psychic buff. I believe that it is a more likely outcome (I’m not giving a guarantee!), but a bit more complicated. I’m going to assume that you’re an intelligent person, but as a species we tend to prefer, and therefore believe, simpler explanations. Couple this with the internet and we encounter trouble dissecting nuanced arguments.

I think this is a rational approach, but I know that I’m not in full control of all of the facts, and additionally there may be random confounding elements (such as all the top worlds players go crazy and use quad bidoof so it appears as if it is a good deck!) that cloud the ability to make predictions. So in case I’ve not made this clear – this isn’t science, but it helps to approach it logically and methodically when at least attempting to make basic predictions of the meta.

Ultra Beast Energy TLATESo let’s take the above predictions about Psychic becoming dominant due to Buzzwole and the new stuff from Forbidden Light. Let’s then look at the knock on effect: Say Psychic does do well,  initially religating Buzzwole to meme tier (RIP Superfly), then Dark stays popular since it resists Psychic giving it back an edge it didn’t have before, and in some cases has type advantage.

But then Fairy (which resists dark and loves all the energy that Psychic types need to attack) pops back. Steel still sucks so now Fairy just rampages all over the place like around SM3+. Consequently people play less psychic. In the two weeks of chaos Buzzwole players discover Beast Energy, Beast Ring, Beast Ball and Diancie Prism Star meaning that Superfly is back!!

Unfortunately I’m not a seer, nor is anyone I’ve met to date, so until it hits and we’ve got a couple of tournaments we just don’t know. Our predictions are imperfect, so I would caution you against believing anyone who claims to know otherwise.

And there is the crux of this article: those 4 words are probably the scariest in the English language. If you said ‘Doctor will I recover from being Snorlaxed?’ and she said ‘we just don’t know’ that’s BAD. It’s fear inducing. The expert doesn’t know – PANIC! If she said ‘you’ll be dead tomorrow’ well it’s bad but at least you’ll know. Again it’s that in a game where we try to control and predict outcomes, unknowns are out of our control and thus ‘scary’. It’s the same with why I think meta-predictions aren’t fruitful.

Concluding Predictions

I don’t like attempting to give predictions about the impact of new sets because the reality is that no one person has all of the required information. As such I find predictions fun, but unhelpful at best. Some predictions may be insightful but on the whole I’d hold off until the set actually hits!

Finally to wrap up in future I want to do another ‘best in class’ check list such as the ‘Top 10 to watch‘ and an updated ‘Viable EX/GX‘ list. I also want to revisit my own predictions to see how accurate I’ve been (if at all!).

Meta Monday – Ultra Prism Decks

I have to admit, I’m not nearly as hyped about Ultra Prism as I think a lot of people have been. It’s a bit like Crimson Invasion – a few good cards, one or two really great cards and then a lot of chaff. However with the 2 recent regionals it’s time for Speculation & Conjecture time!

The Ultra Prism Champ

Weavile Ultra PrismThe stand out card, judging from recent tournaments, has really been….. Weavile!

 

Case in point Evil Admonition stands in good stead against the dearth of Tapu Lele-GX, Zoroark-GX and others. Even with Garbotoxin, Pokémon still have abilities (even if they don’t do anything) so Evil Admonition still works!

Being in-type with Zoroark-GX only helps and running Dark energy might even give Zoroark a chance for a GX attack.

However the weakness to Fighting is still a liability in a Buzzwole heavy meta. That being said, it didn’t feature heavily, was more of a tech option in a 2-1 or 2-2 line along with Zoroark.

Ultra Prism Damp Squibs

Glaceon Ultra PrismGlaceon-GX – Much hype surrounded this Eevolution because of it’s ability to lock down the abilities of your opponents GX/EX Pokémon.

However it must be active for the ability to function. Couple this with a lacklustre 90+30 attack for WCC and a mediocre GX attack leaves you wanting more. Finally add in the weakness to Metal, which is only going to get more popular, and you can probably realise that Glaceon-GX is okay, it’s just not great.

Obvious Ultra Prism Decks

So here’s the ‘new’ decks that have emerged with the release of Ultra Prism. However none have been seriously featured in the 2 tournaments. This could be due to players being unwilling to try untested decks, or the fact that actually none of these are strictly better than existing proven archetypes.

Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX Ultra PrismMetal – Metagross-GX or Magnezone + Solgaleo Prism Star + Dusk Mane Necrozma

The Metal acceleration deck is a pretty obvious play given the hype that metal has had in this set. Yet since each variant runs Stage 2 Pokémon you’ll need to dedicate about 12 slots to it before generating a way to retrieve/attach the energy.

Also Dusk Mane Necrozma is making people have conniptions about Fairies, however the 220 (+choice) or GX on a Dusk Mane would knock out a Gardevoir-GX even without weakness so it really little to no difference! There’s also very few Pokémon with more than 220 HP anyway so it does seem like a strong play irrespective of the format. It’s just that it needs the correct support.

Right now it stands as a clunkier, less reliable version of VikaBulu that hits Gardevoir for weakness – although Dusk Mane Necrozma would OHKO most things anyway. Like VikaBulu, highly vulnerable to disruption or ability lock. It will get better with SM6 where the Supporter ‘Lady’ will let you search out 4 energy so I would say sit on this for the moment.

Cynthia Ultra PrismGarchomp / Lucario – This is essentially a theme deck – ‘Cynthia’s Champion‘ – but up-rated to include the proper amount of trainers, energy and so on.

The fundamental strategy is to use Cynthia, enabling Garchomp to hit for 200 (+choice band) and using Lucario’s ability to search out cards to keep up the momentum. That being said, it again is a stage 2 deck, needs 2 energy attachments and you must use Cynthia which means no Guzma or N to mess with your opponents plans.

At 150 HP it dies really easily though and then you have the problem of having to recycle a stage 2 Pokémon and recover the energy. Hopefully card advantage established by Lucario is so strong much advantage that they can keep sustaining indefinitely but the reality is that an unlucky set of prizes or not having puzzles of time or a special charge to get back energy can cause it to slip and fall hard.

Needless to say this didn’t make any top cuts because it just isn’t that good. The fighting version of Garchomp might make it a little better (Strong Energy, lack of Fairy weakness) but it will still suffer from being extremely obvious in it’s approach.

Empoleon Ultra Prism Empoleon/Zoroark – both exploit bench space to do damage.

Both Zoroark and Empoleon rely on the amount Pokémon in play to deal their damage. Zoroark-GX is 20x # of your Pokémon in play (so 6×20=120 without Sky Field) . Empoleon counts both your and your opponents benched Pokémon for a maximum of (20x(5+5)=200) 200 damage without Sky Field.

The main issue again is that Empoleon is a Stage 2, the weakness isn’t too big of a factor and 160HP is a fair amount for a non EX/GX Stage 2.

Empoleon is an interesting card, although might be better in Expanded via Archie’s Ace in the Hole and some Sky Field Shenanigans.

Other random decks might be Metagross with Dawn Wings Necrozma. Both of the Necrozma variants have great ‘catch up’ GX attacks with tie in with the cards like counter catcher and counter energy that are starting to see more play.

Concluding Thoughts on Ultra Prism

Recently, there’s been some Paw Patrols as well Zoroark with Gardevoir/Gallade doing the rounds but they’ve been played by some top players, in a developed meta. What’s been great in the SM4 Standard is that with each major competition the meta has evolved and changed but not massively. More recently we’ve had Buzzwole/Lycanroc, Buzzwole/Garbodor and Golisopod/Zoroark do quite well in Regionals.

Crimson Invasion and Ultra Prism honestly haven’t been the biggest sets in terms of shakeup. Aside from Tapu Lele-GX in SM2 and Gardevoir-GX in SM3, the biggest meta change has been Zoroark-GX in Shining Legends. In truth I wanted Ultra Prism to shake things up a bit more radically but I don’t feel that it really has. I am glad to see that the Prism Star mechanic will persist in the next set too unlike previous mechanics which only last for a set.

Buzzwole-GX
We still love you Superfly!

I still quite like Buzzwole and I think it is in a strong position despite not gaining much from Ultra Prism. It still punches face efficiently and you can get multiple KOs via the spread damage. The GX attack is also strong – it allows you to jump ahead quickly – 240 for 3 energy is good value.

Cynthia is also a good shout in a lot of decks instead of Sycamore, especially  for decks with Trade.  When you don’t necessarily want something now, but might want it later on it’s a better option than discarding. Games don’t really go on long enough to see much of Pal Pad although that might change if there’s going to be more 1-of Supporters as techs seeing play. Cynthia is a card that everyone will need a playset of so is probably the card of the set.

 

 

Warp Energy – Shining Legends

Warp Energy

All news about Shining Legends indicates that Warp Energy will see a reprint.

Warp Energy

Warp Energy is a special energy, so you can attach it like a normal energy card from your hand and it provides 1 colourless energy. However when you attach it to your active Pokémon you can then switch it out for one of your benched Pokémon!

As you can probably guess, this makes for a very interesting card! In essence it is a 2-for-1; it provides an energy but also functions like the ‘Switch‘ trainer card.

A major benefit is that it enables you to switch your Pokémon but isn’t an item – so doesn’t count against your for when Garbodor‘s Trashalanche is opposing you.

This is also a clever way of getting around any item lock type effects from Pokémon such as Siesmitoad-EX, Vileplume or Noivern-GX. Normally if you haven’t got the energy to retreat, being item locked means that you cannot attach a float stone to escape so you are stuck.

Item Lock

Combinations

We’re really looking forward to the arrival of the new sets – even this one new card really shakes ups the game and will provide loads of deckbuilding opportunities. The ability to switch Pokémon really helps out Golisopod-GX and similar pokemon that rely on being mobile.

To reiterate, Warp Energy enables you to switch Pokémon without using a Supporter (such as Olympia or Guzma) or an item (such as Switch or Super-Scoop-Up). By combining it with Guzma you can switch both yours and your opponents’ Pokémon and then switch your old active Pokemon back in! In a format without Lysandre this could be really useful!


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What Deck To Play?

What deck should you play?

Considerations

There’s many different factors to consider when choosing a deck to play in any format. In many ways the Expanded format is less subject to the whims of the local metagame. Today we’ll look at the following considerations which are worth taking into account when deciding which particular deck you should play.

  • Metagame
  • Playstyle
  • Flexibility
  • Expense

Metagame

Generally the first factor to consider in Standard format, the metagame is an important but not as an important factor in Expanded. In Standard a weaker, clever, anti-meta deck with a really good player can dominate (Audino-EX 2016 anyone?). In Expanded such a deck would get crushed as the power level of each deck is simply much superior.

This isn’t to say that a careful analysis of the metagame and running a good choice isn’t worthy of consideration, simply that it’s less of a factor in Expanded where the format is more mature and the metagame changes more slowly.

For example if no one is running fighting, and there’s a lot of Yveltal then Raikou/Eels is a pretty good choice. However even if there’s not a lot of Yveltal, this doesn’t invalidate Raikou/Eels by any means.

PlaystyleJunk Hunt Sableye

Generally we play games for fun – weather that’s fun from winning, socialising, creating or simply playing. The only factor your deck doesn’t influence is the social side. (I’m reliably informed that everyone will hate me for playing Junk Hunt Sableye!)

Some decks win by taking 6 prizes faster than the opponent, some by decking out the opponent, others by limiting their options. A key factor in deciding what deck to play in expanded is looking at how the deck will play out.

Flexibility

Taking the previous two factors into account, can the deck deal with a variety of threats and matchups? If you have a deck that randomly wins 50% of the time but almost automatically looses the other 50% you may need to reconsider how it works. Unless of course you are happy with the 50% win rate!

Some decks can only be played in a very specific way (Junk Hunt Sableye for example!) whereas others are more flexible. Some decks are more of an archetype (Turbo Darkrai for example), which adhere to a set core of cards that work together but are less fussy about some of the other Pokémon and Trainers in the deck.

Almost every deck will have variations. People constantly make little changes to even the top decks in all formats because only by trying out new things can we overcome new obstacles.

ExpenseTropical Beach Promo

Unfortunately for most of us money makes the world go around! Consequently some decks are more expensive than others to construct. They may require a lot of hard to find EX/GX or cards that only appeared in limited releases such as promos. The textbook example is Tropical Beach – a promo card that was only distributed at Worlds events. There is a Groudon-EX that requires FOUR!

A good tool for comparing deck prices is the Pokemon Goldfish website. Don’t be put off by some of the high prices for some decks. You may be able to substitute trainers for a functional reprint, or a similar effect.

Lele-GX. While Lele is more expensive (making Jirachi cheaper!) it is also easier to get hold of as it is in a widely printed set in the standard format. Shaymin has dropped dramatically in price due to imminent rotation.

A main attractor for expanded is that it is arguably cheaper in the long run. You may only need a couple of cards from each new set to stay ‘up to date’. Your deck is unlikely to be rendered obsolete by any one (or two or three..) sets. Cards are still relatively easy to acquire and not as expensive as the legacy format which tends to be more ‘solved’ (IE there are only a limited number of viable decks).

While worlds and many of the top tournaments are in Standard format, expanded is a great way to play the game casually or for leagues as it allows a lot more freedom – 99% of the time, a Standard deck will be legal in the Expanded format – notable exceptions being Archeops, Forest of Giant plants and Lysandres Trump Card. (Which we covered here)

Our local League plays Expanded except for special events. Whereas the next town over is Standard all the way. If you’re looking to upgrade from casual Pokémon TCG but aren’t sure about committing to the time/cost of Standard you could do a lot worse than try Expanded. It is not the flashiest of formats but it can teach you a lot about the game and is a lot more tactical and fun due to less reliance on judging the metagame.

Still Can’t Decide?

If you’re still not sure on what deck to even consider you could do a lot worse than trying this handy flowchart:

Expanded Deck Flowchart