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 reallygreat cards and then a lot of chaff. However with the 2 recent regionals it’s time for Speculation & Conjecture time!
The Ultra Prism Champ
The 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-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.
Metal – 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.
Garchomp / 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/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.
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.
Aka ‘Brokenvoir’ – Gardevoir with Max Potions. For some reason this has fallen out of favour despite no actual prevalence of metal in the format. However it does suffer from a lack of consistency, and an inability to hit for big numbers (Zoroark’s or Golisopod’s 210, even Buzzwole’s 190) without investing a lot of energy.
On the plus side it can have Gallade which greatly helps against the aforementioned Zoroarks and generally works by having a more efficient Energy:Damage ratio (1 energy for 30 damage is good, 1 energy for 30 damage + 30 for each of your opponents energy is much better). Additionally Gardevoir is resistant to Dark making Zoroark need a 3 hit KO without a Choice Band. There’s a lot of psychic tech too though which hurts Gallade
I find that the deck can stall out if you loose an overinvested Gardevoir and then fail to recover due to the lack of energy. It is not a deck I would like to play against, and due to the lack of meta prevalence, I’ve not really played against it a lot except at Bournemouth’s League Challenge.
I want to like Superfly. 30+30 to the bench for is pretty strong, but the requirement for anything else hinders reliable escalation. I don’t know if it needs mixing with Po Town, Tapu Koko Promo and Espeon-EX to run in a separate kind of spread deck, rather than the current partnership with Midnight Lycanroc-GX. Online and further afield some strong players do highly rate this deck but I’m not those players and I cannot necessarily replicate their success with this deck in a different meta.
Accordingly, I am going to test it out in the next few weeks and I really, really want it to work – I’m just not sure what to couple it with – Lycanroc is a liability to Golisopod and the deck rarely hits for max damage even when Bloodthirsty Eyes pulls in a victim to get those OHKOs. Garbotoxin might help shut down opponents, and Espeon-EX starts making it into a spread deck. Zoroark might make it a more efficient version of Pawpatrol (Fly-snapper?) although the energy types don’t really synergise.
3) Tapu Bulu-GX
My Po Town amigo Michael Feeney put me onto this deck well before Christmas and I have been trading for the parts to give myself the option. This has been around since the last rotation thanks to Vikavolt and is consistently able to hit for 120 base +60 (Discard Energy) +30 (Choice Band) +20 (Prof. Kukui) knocking out any format-relevant threat.
Having been beaten by it at Reading in round 4 and having faced against it early in the meta (Cat plays this deck) I know how vicious it can be. However it does suffer from bricking like any comb0-based deck, affectionately termed ‘Bulu hands’. The key with Michael’s variant is to improve consistency by having multiple outs via Skyla et al.
However I’m still not sure that anything is more consistent than TordPod (Zoroark / Golisopod with loads of trade and setup cards)
This deck rarely hits for more than 120 , but is extremely consistent and requires only 1 attachment to do 120 damage. 4 Brigette, 4 Puzzle of Time and lots of Trade abilities makes the deck highly efficient. A couple of hammers can hinder Paw-patrol or Buzzroc variants. The low energy investment allows for the option of Max Potions and techs like Mewtwo – as used by Joe Bernard (Omnipoke) to win both Cardiff and Reading League Cups.
With the exception of Bulu and Volcanion, every standard deck runs DCE, fighting decks have strong energy. Some run only DCE. To this end Xurkitree and Stardust Jirachi can cause severe problems. Couple with the fact that every deck except Greninja uses either EX or GX Pokémon too, baby Hoopa can indefinitely wall. Combine with hammers, team flare grunts, and other trolling cards, there’s probably a very Yoshi style deck that could do well if piloted by a capable player.
A part of me would like to make this deck but I don’t feel that I have the time needed to learn (or contempt for my fellow players) to play this deck well!
Unless something really goes crazy I’m probably going to look at TordPod or Bulu. Grass is a good matchup in terms of type advantage, although each has weakness (Pod to volcanion, Vikavolt and Zoroark to fighting). I need a deck that can carry most of the weight since I cannot rely on statistical outcome of things like elixirs or even finding energy.
I love the release of new sets. It really gets my creativity flowing. So many new decks to try! What’s more, with Burning Shadows releasing this week (August 4th) we are only three weeks away from Worlds! Everybody breathe. So, what can we expect from the next set?
There are some great new Pokémon coming out of Burning Shadows. For the collectors out there, get your hands on Charizard Rainbow Rare and get it PSA graded as quickly as you can.
For the players, here’s a break down of my favourite Pokémon from the next set.
Yes people, the hype is real. We’ve been play-testing Golisopod and it has the makings of a brilliant card. Turn 1 120 damage for one Energy, thank you very much! With Forest and the Ability on this set’s Wimpod, that is easily achievable. Better hope the opponent has something on the Bench. Paired up with Golisopod (GUR 9/145) and Lurantis-GX (SM15/149) /Lurantis Promo if you’re in the mood; this thing is vicious. A real Grass toolbox Pokémon.
Probably not what you were expecting me to start with. However, this is an interesting play. I don’t think there will be decks built around Araquanid obviously , but I can easily see this included in grass decks. Maybe not Decidueye/Vileplume as there isn’t a lot of space there already! But for any deck playing Forest of Giant Plants, Araquanid with a DCE turn one stops your opponent from being able to attach Energy from the hand to their Active Pokémon for a turn. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part as I love that little spider!
Now, I’m not a Volcanion player. But the word on the grape-vine is that Burning Shadows Ho-oh is going to be a nifty addition to Volcanion decks. Whilst its Phoenix Burn attack requires an additional fire energy compared to Volcanion’s Volcanic Heat attack, you’re doing 180 base damage instead of Volcanion’s 130. Ho-oh is blocked from using that attack again next turn but has two other usable attacks compared to Volcanion, who can’t attack at all after using Volcanic Heat. With Volcanion’s Ability boosting Ho-oh’s attack by 30 per fire Energy discarded, Ho-oh should have no problem one hit KOing anything it comes up against.
Tapu Fini is not the most groundbreaking of Pokémon in this set. However, it has two interesting attacks. Hydro Shot will do 120 damage to ANY Pokémon at the cost of discarding two Energy attached to it. Normally that would be horrible but now we have Aqua Patch to put those energy right back on, and Fisherman to get them out of the discard pile too.
It’s GX Attack, Tapu Storm GX, shuffle the opponent’s Active and all cards attached to it into their deck. You don’t get a prize for doing so, but it’s an excellent stall technique. I’m pretty sure that Tapu Fini will see some amount of play in decks such as Lapras-GX, and Alolan Ninetales-GX.
Before rotation last year, Joe played Genesect-EX/Bronzong. Necrozma is a better Genesect. It’s Ability makes it immune to damage from Colourless Pokémon. So long Drampa-GX and Tauros-GX!
It’s first attack requires three colourless energy to do the following: Discard all Psychic Energy attached to this Pokémon; this attack does 60 more damage for each Psychic Energy discarded in this way.
Yes, that’s a bit of set up. Guess what? Metagross-GX attaches Psychic and/or Steel Energy from the discard pile to the Active. Boom! You have the makings of a targeted, modular attack whose damage output you control. But even more excitingly – Necrozma’s GX attack does 100 damage to all of your opponent’s GXs and EXs, ignoring all effects on them including Weakness and Resistance. Now THAT’s a brilliant early-game attack.
This really is a card to watch out for in Burning Shadows. Players in Japan, who received this set long before we did, love it. Gardevoir-GX came first in the Japanese National Championships (remember that their blocks are different to ours, so all cards from XY-on are currently legal in Japan). Easy to set up with Diancie from the same set (or Wally, or evosoda), Gardevoir-GX has an amazing Ability that lets you attach extra Energy every turn. Good news, as her first attack is a copy of Mega Mewtwo’s “Psychic Infinity”. 30x the Energy attached to bothActive Pokémon. If MMewtwo and the similar Yveltal-EX decks are anything to go by, this is going to be meta-defining. The existence of Metagross-GX, which Gardevoir will be weak to, may hold the deck back slightly, but Gardevoir should have speed on its side against most other decks.
This card is going to see play at Worlds. It’s a horrifying combination Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX. Noivern’s first attack, for a Double Dragon Energy (or one Dark Energy, one Colourless) does 50 damage and stops the opponent from playing item cards from their hand during the next turn. Its second attack does 120 damage for a Double Dragon and an Energy of your choice (or one Psychic, one Dark, one Colourless) and stops your opponent from playing Special Energy cards from their hand during their next turn. The GX attack is a little lacklustre, doing 50 damage to all the opponent’s Pokémon but even so my goodness is this a powerful control card. After rotation we lose Double Dragon Energy in Standard but who knows! A reprint may be in the near future.
Cards that I almost like (but not quite)
I love what the Alolan region has done to Ninetales. And the Burning Shadows Ninetales is not awful – just kind of meh. Like Plasma Blast Suicune before it, this Ninetales is immune to EX (and now GX) Pokémon thanks to its Ability. This may see some use in Ninetales-GX decks to wall opponent EX/GXs.
Also like Suicune it’s only attack requires a Water Energy and two Colourless to do Aurora Beam, this time for 80 damage instead of 70, but aside from the ability the attack is lacklustre.
With rotation taking away the option of Full Retaliation Gyarados, TPCi have decided to print a slightly worse version. Burning Shadows’ Gyarados requires a DCE to do 50x the number of magikarp in your discard pile. I’m sure you can see the problem here. However, if you could pair it with something to tank whilst you Rescue Stretchered some Magikarp and Gyarados back you might be able to make this work? I guess? I’m not convinced that you could stream the attackers well enough, but I enjoyed the slightly Rambo style of previous Gyarados decks so if someone can make this work it’ll be fun if nothing else. As the damage is really limited by the number of Magikarp you can play, however, it’s unlikely to see the success of its former reincarnation.
I know they’re preparing for the 2018-2019 season when BKT Zoroark is rotated, but having tested Dusknoir I’m just not convinced that Zoroark’s replacement is going to be nearly as good. Dusknoir has HP that is somewhere between bad and average for a Stage 2 at 150HP.
It’s Ability, while not Stand In, is interesting (once per turn look at your opponent’s hand and place a Basic Pokémon there onto their Bench). Its Mind Jack attack is also 30 + 30 more for each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. However, it requires a Psychic Energy and a DCE to pull off as well as being, well, a Stage 2. Add to that a retreat of 3 and the loss (on rotation) of Sky Field and you’re just better off playing Zoroark.
Maybe I am missing something here, but Marshadow-GX just doesn’t quite do it for me. Marshadow’s attacks are ok but not the most special, and its HP is only 150. The important bit of Marshadow’s card is its Ability: this Pokémon can use the attacks of Basic Pokémon in your discard pile if you have the right energy. That means that this card is really versatile! I don’t think it will see tier 1 play – it’s let down by its HP and the move away from Basic Pokémon attackers – but there’s no denying that it’s a powerful card.
This card briefly reignited my interest in my first ever deck – Sceptile-EX. I wanted desperately the find some combination of Sceptile, Ariados and Seviper that would get me guaranteed 1HKOs, but then I remembered that even with Laserbank Sceptile just couldn’t do it.
Seviper might be an interesting inclusion in some Alolan Muk-GX/Salazzle deck, but for an additional 10 damage a turn I don’t think it would be worth it. Speaking of…
Alolan Muk got me really interested on first appearance. And there are probably ways and means of getting that 1HKO every turn but… it seems like a lot of setup. Muk’s attack basically does (for a Dark Energy and two Colourless): 10 + 70 more damage for each Special Condition affecting your opponent’s Active Pokémon. Now, paired with Salazzle you should be able to do 210 on a good day, and I’ll probably do a BDIF write up of the idea at some point soon, but it’s just too conditional for me. Experience has told me that decks like this struggle to do well. But then, who am I? I could be proven completely wrong.
I want to like this Darkrai, I do. Turbo Dark was my favourite deck for ages. But I just don’t see what the GX adds to the game. It resurrects itself complete with a Dark Energy which is good, but its main attack is 130 damage for two Dark and a Colourless, which is completely lacklustre. The GX move Knocks Out the opponent’s Active if they’re affected by a Special Condition. That’s cool, but conditional and obviously you can only use it once. I just don’t see the appeal of this Darkrai, but I hope I’m proven wrong.
And Finally… Trainers!
Unlike my much younger self who just liked collecting Pokémon for the Pokémon, Trainers are pretty much the most important part of a set for me now. Burning Shadows is bringing us some interesting additions and some reboots of old favourites. Let’s take a look!
Acerola is basically AZ. Put a Pokémon (with damage on it this time) and all cards attached to it into your hand. Awesome! In a game of high HP attackers, Acerola can rescue them from certain KO and let you replay them straight away. AZ was a popular card and Acerola will be too.
It’s ya boiiiii Guzma! I love this card. Everyone should love this card. Guzma is a better Lysandre – you can pull in any Pokémon from the Bench into your opponent’s Active spot and then you can switch your Pokémon for a fresh one. I’m probably going to be running three in every deck, especially after rotation.
Well, fire needed a boost apparently. Kiawe is an interesting card and I’m pretty sure more than a couple Volcanion players etc will be thinking about a Turn 1 Kiawe. As he attaches four Fire Energy from to one Pokémon and simultaneously ends your turn, I think this is a personal call and I’m not sure I’d run it personally, but in the right deck with the right circumstances it will be absolutely brutal.
I haven’t seen that much hype around Olivia, but I personally really like her. You can search your deck for any two Pokémon-GX and put them into your hand. Whether you need that Metagross-GX or that Tapu Bulu-GX, this is a good card.
Po Town has a little space in my heart. Three damage counters on anything that is evolving is brutal in a meta defined by Evolution Pokémon. Many of the decks currently running Team Magma’s Secret Base will probably switch to Po Town after rotation, so this is definitely something to factor in to your equations!
Any Stage One gets +40HP? Sweet. This Tool card is going to see quite a bit of play, especially in Eeveelutions decks. However, I’m not sure it trumps Choice Band for most people so I imagine it won’t see as much play as it otherwise would. Dumbbells has the same problem as Fighting Fury Belt – it’s easily Field Blowered off. Still, a card that has great potential.
Burning Shadows Conclusion
This set is going to shake up the meta once again for Worlds! I don’t think we’ll see the chaos we did after the release of Guardians Rising, but get ready to see some big changes to the meta. I can’t wait!
Last Meta Monday, I talked about which decks made up the meta. Today I want to delve a bit deeper and discover which trainer cards the meta relies on. Using science (and magic) we will work out how to build a meta-worthy trainer line for your deck.
Broadly speaking, there are several categories of trainers which every deck needs to think about. Draw support is vital so that we can cycle through our deck and find the cards we need to win the game. Search effects let us look through our deck to pick out individual cards. Switch trainers keep our Pokémon moving (no one wants to get stuck in the Active spot!). Healing recovers the HP of our Pokémon. Disruption affects our opponent’s ability to play the game. Tech cards help to cover bad match ups.
Trainer Cards and the Meta
When you start playing the Pokémon TCG trainers can seem like the boring bit. You’re playing because you like Pokémon, right? But trainer cards are vital to the success or failure of your deck.
The number of trainer cards included in winning decks recently has certainly been affected by the release of the latest sets. At Anaheim, the first US Regionals after the release of Sun/Moon, people played on average 10 supporters and 24 item cards. At Salt Lake City and then Roanoke we saw the almost exactly same numbers. (11/12 supporters and 24 items).
After the release of Guardians Rising, we saw fewer items in play as people were afraid of the power of Trashalanche. At Seattle we saw on average 12 supporters and 20 items, and at Madison the average was 12 supporters and 19 items.
Using the law of averages, we came up with the following list:
4 Professor Sycamore 4 N. 1 Professor Kukui 2 Lysandre 1 Brigette 1 Hex Maniac
4 Ultra Ball 1 Level Ball 2 Choice Band/Fighting Fury Belt 2 Float Stone 7 Rescue Stretcher/Special Charge/Puzzle of Time/Revitalizer/VS Seeker etc 3 Team Magma’s Secret Base/Forest of Giant Plants/other Stadium 4 Trainer’s Mail/Rare Candy/Max Elixir/Acro Bike 2 Field Blower
7 Basic Energy 4 Special Energy
Now, this list hasn’t been play tested and has never won any events. I’m also not a statistician. But taking all the top eight results from Sun/Moon on, thanks to the Pokémon website we have worked out what an average winning list ‘should’ look like. So let’s break it down…
4 – 4- 1
Let’s go further. Draw support is probably the most important category of trainer in the game. Almost every deck is running seven draw supporters at minimum, with counts going as high as 10 – 1/6 of deck space.
With rotation around the corner, they are only set to get more important as we will be unable to recycle our supporters with VS Seeker. I fully expect counts to increase. However, let’s take a look at how many draw supporters decks in the current format are running.
There are two cards in particular that we need to look at.
Professor Sycamore allows us to discard our hand and draw seven new cards. This is an incredibly powerful trainer which decongests the deck of all those cards which we don’t need right now. Seven cards is also a large hand of cards which gives us a good chance of drawing the cards we’re looking for.
N is another incredibly powerful trainer card. It requires both players to shuffle their hands into their decks and then draw cards equal in number to their remaining prize cards. This has three main advantages. First, it is a guaranteed six new cards early game, a number not to be sniffed at. Second, it doesn’t make you discard your hand. This is really useful if there are cards you just can’t afford to throw away. Third, it is a brilliant way to disrupt your opponent if they have few prize cards remaining or if they have just searched out specific cards to use next turn.
The average count of these cards at Seattle and Madison Regionals was four Sycamore and three N. There were however variations including 4/2 and 4/4. At the North American Internationals the average count was 4 Sycamore and 4 N.
Another draw supporter which sees play is Professor Kukui. Professor Kukui featured in 50% of the top eight decks at North American Internationals. This versatile card allows you to draw two cards and inflict an extra 20 damage on your opponent. The top players usually only have one copy of Kukui in their deck.
2 -1 – 1
Ask a good player what other supporters they include in their deck and you can usually assume that they will say Lysandre. Lysandre allows you switch one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon into their Active spot so that you can attack it. This is great as it allows you to take easy Knock Outs on low HP or damaged Pokémon hiding at the back. It also allows you to stall for time by pulling in Pokémon with a high retreat cost (and preferably one with no chance of attacking!) This card has often made the difference between a win and a loss at high powered tournaments and continues to be an important card in the format.
Lysandre has been on average a two-of in every recent event. The card will rotate out at the end of this season. However, his replacement Guzma, is even more powerful! When you use Guzma you can switch your opponent’s Pokémon while also switching your Active Pokémon with one on your Bench. Great for saving your damaged Attacker and putting in a fresh Pokémon! With VS Seeker rotating out as well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Guzma becomes a 3-of or 4-of in every deck.
With the rise of Pokémon-GX we’ve also witnessed the rise of Brigette. With Brigette players can find three Basic Pokémon (or one Basic Pokémon-EX, almost a complete waste of a supporter!) and place them on the Bench.
There are two great things about this. Being able to place three Basics on the Bench is a massive boost to your ability to set up quickly while also removing the cards from the deck so you can draw more useful things. The other great thing is that as Brigette places the Pokémon straight from deck to Bench, this means that you avoid any negative impact of coming into play. For example, if the stadium Team Magma’s Secret Base is in play, you would put two damage counters on every Pokémon you play from your hand to the Bench. With Brigette, you are not playing from the hand so your Pokémon take no damage. Brigette is a one-of in almost 50% of top eight decks since Guardians Rising was released.
Hex Maniac is one of those cards that can get you out of a really tricky situation. The card turns off all Pokémon Abilities (both yours and your opponent’s) for a turn each. It buys you time. Item locked by Vileplume? Hex Maniac lets you play items. Can’t afford to take damage from your opponent’s Benched Decidueye-GX? Hex Maniac stops them from placing damage counters for a turn. Overall it is a really good utilty card made all the stronger by Tapu Lele-GX’s ability to find her. Hex Maniac spiked in Seattle where 88% of the top eight played her, but on average she is a one-of in around 30% of top eight decks since then have played the card. Although the most powerful card this trainer negates is rotating in Vileplume, I imagine we will see a two-of at least in post-rotation decks.
Great Balls of Fire
4 – 1
In every deck there are item cards dedicated to finding Pokémon. They are inescapably useful in a format that requires speed and consistency.
Ultra Ball is a four of in pretty much every deck. The card lets you find any Pokémon in your deck at the cost of discarding two cards from your hand. This means that not only can you pitch two cards you don’t really want to use but you can set up any Pokémon you need.
28% of other top eight decks since Sun & Moon released have featured other kinds of search balls. Any deck playing Decidueye-GX/Vileplume is running two to three Level Balls, and Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX also makes use of them. Level Balls let you find any Pokémon with an HP of 90 or less. GreninjaBREAK lists include up to four Dive Balls, which let you find any Water Pokémon. These items provide less versatility than Ultra Ball but are extremely useful in specific decks.
While not every deck needs search balls other than Ultra Ball, the average across the US Regionals since Sun/Moon and the three Internationals says that you’ll probably want one. Obviously it’s highly unlikely that you’ll just run a one count, but that’s statistics for you!
Don’t Be a Tool
2 – 2
Tools are an integral part of many strategies in the Pokémon TCG. These powerful Trainer cards attach to Pokémon in play to generate a specific effect.
Fighting Fury Belt
FFB gives Basic Pokémon an extra 40HP AND an extra 10 damage to their attacks. Choice Band lets any Pokémon it’s attached to hit for an extra 30 damage against EXs and GXs. These are obviously really strong cards that can completely swing matchups. FFB has declined slightly in popularity due to the proliferation of Field Blower, which can knock off any two of stadiums and tools. This could in theory allow a person to take all six prizes in one round. But it is still popular with decks that run entirely on Basics, such as Turbo Dark and Volcanion. Before the release on Guardians Rising, 45% of top eight decks were running Fighting Fury Belt.
Choice Band has seen immediate success since its release in Guardians Rising. 30 additional damage is a big deal, and there are no shortage of EX and GX decks around for you to reach that extra damage. Choice Band has probably stopped some people from running Fighting Fury Belt as it is often seen as the better choice. If FFB is Field Blowered off you probably haven’t benefitted from the extra HP yet, but Choice Band will do an extra 30 damage to EX/GXs every round that it is attached. If you aren’t running Fighting Fury Belt, the chances are you’re running Choice Band – or both! Since the release of Sun/Moon, 63% of decks run at least one of those choices, and since Guardians Rising 92% of decks are running them. Taking an average, most people are running two of these cards, though counts of three or four and extremely popular.
The third most popular tool card is Float Stone. This tool gives the Pokémon that it is attached to free retreat, meaning it won’t get stuck in the Active spot if it is damaged or unable to attack. With a lot of Pokémon having retreats costing two or even three energy to retreat, this is an important possibility. Decks also run very small counts of energy and often can’t afford to make the attachment to retreat. Float Stone is so important that since the release of Sun/Moon, 89% of top eights have run it, most running two copies.
Spirit Fingers Links
Normally, when a Pokémon-EX evolves to a Mega Pokémon-EX, your turn ends. However, with the nifty attachment of a Spirit Link, you can keep on going without needing to end your turn. Brilliant, eh? Every deck running Megs is running Spirit Links – usually the same number of Links as Megas. However, in recent times Megas have been disappearing from the meta. Mega Mewtwo-EX is weak to trashalanche Garbodor and just can’t keep pace with it. Mega Rayquaza-EX is extremely vulnerable to its Sky Field being Field Blowered away, or being KOd by Zoroark. With no new EXs being printed (at least for the time being) it looks like Mega Evolution Pokémon have had their day.
There are inevitably going to be times where you are down on your luck in Pokémon. Your main attacker has been knocked out, your energy has been removed to the Discard pile, the two cards you really need are no longer in the deck. When that happens, you need a trainer that will help you recover. For this reason, you’ll find on average three recovery trainer cards in top eight decks.
There are several popular trainer cards that act as recovery items. They are:
Rescue Stretcher – pull Pokémon back from the Discard pile to hand or deck
Super Rod – shuffle a mixture three Pokémon and/or Energy from the Discard pile into your deck
Revitalizer – take two Grass Pokémon from the Discard pile and put them into your hand
Special Charge – shuffle two Special Energy back into your deck
Energy Recycler – shuffle five Basic Energy cards back into your deck
Mega Turbo – attach a Basic Energy from your discard pile to your Mega Evolution Pokémon
Aqua Patch – attach a Basic Water Energy from your discard pile to your Benched Water Pokémon
EXP. Share – (tool card) attach an energy to this Pokémon from another Pokémon when that one is KOd.
Puzzle of Time – if you play two at once you can take any two cards from your Discard pile into your hand.
As you can see, there are a whole range of really useful trainer cards here. As you can only have four of any Pokémon in your deck, you need to be able to recycle them. There are lots of trainers on this list that let you do that. The one seeing the most play at the moment is Rescue Stretcher. When you’re in a pinch, Rescue Stretcher lets you pull one Pokemon from the Discard pile into your hand so that you can play it immediately. When you have a little more time, Rescue Stretcher lets you shuffle three Pokemon from your Discard pile into your deck. You can also use the Supporters Karen or Brock’s Grit, who also recycles energy.
Getting energy back from the Discard pile is also really important. While you can run as much energy as you like, it takes up precious deck space and so most decks run the minimum they can afford. This means that, if you take an average across all Internationals and US Regionals, top decks are running seven Basic Energy and 3 or 4 Special Energy. This isn’t actually the case for many decks, but somewhere between four and eight appears to be normal. Decks which do damage based on the amount of energy they have, or which need to continuously cycle energy, tend to run 12 energy. With these relatively low counts, it is important to have cards which can pull your energy back from the Discard pile. Alongside items like Special Charge, Super Rod, Aqua Patch and the rest you can also use Supporters to recycle energy such as Fisherman, who puts four Basic energy from Discard pile to hand or Brock’s Grit to shuffle some back into your deck.
Recycling Other Cards
VS Seeker is probably the single most versatile card in the Standard format. VS Seeker lets us take Supporters from the discard pile so that we can play them again. Recently there has been some move to playing three VS Seeker rather than four, but on average people still play four. With the set list of the next set having been posted, we know that VS Seeker will be missing from the Standard format at least until October. Every deck is therefore going to have to adjust their supporter lines. Stay tuned on how this actually happens!
VS Seeker was first printed in the Fire Red/Leaf Green era so I am absolutely sure we will see a reprint in the near future.
The other card that lets us recycle cards which are not Pokémon or Energy is Puzzle of Time. If you play one Puzzle of Time, you can look at the top four cards of your deck and reorder them as you wish. But if you play two Puzzle of Time together you can take any two cards from your Discard pile to your hand. This is pretty much the only way in Standard to recycle item cards (although Eco Arm can pull back Tools) or stadiums and that makes it really powerful, though not easy to pull off.
Rocking the Stadium
Stadiums are a trainer you play which stays in play until replaced or Discarded and which affect both you and your opponent. There are some great Stadiums out there, and some really brilliant strategies people have employed using them.
The moment popular stadiums since the release of Guardians Rising are Team Magma’s Secret Base, which puts two damage counters on any Basic Pokémon played from the hand onto the Bench; and Forest of Giant Plants, which allows Grass Pokémon to evolve the same turn they come into play. Both of these featured in six different decks out of the 24 top eight decks across three different events. Team Magma is primarily useful in decks that run Drampa-GX, who hits for extra damage is someone on their Bench has taken damage previously. Another deck that uses it is Full Retaliation Gyarados, which do damage based on the amount of damage on Benched Magikarp. Forest of Giant Plants is used mostly in Decidueye-GX/Vileplume decks to evolve turn one and get that item lock as quickly as possible.
Other stadiums of note recently have been Altar of the Moone, which lets Pokémon with any Psychic or Dark energy attached retreat for two energy less; Brooklet Hill which lets each player search for a Basic Water or Fighting Pokémon and place it on their Bench once per turn; Parallel City which has different effects depending on which way up it faces; and Rough Seas which heals Water and Electric Pokémon every turn.
Stadiums are obviously dependent upon both the rest of the meta and the type of deck you’re running – more so than most trainer cards. However, on average most decks play three copies of Stadiums.
Set Up and Acceleration
Before Guardians Rising came out, 100% of decks were running these Item cards. Nowadays, only 46% are running them, preferring a slower set up to avoid the mounting damage caused by Trashalanche Garbodor. However, they remain important to the meta. So which cards are we talking about?
Trainer’s Mail and Acro Bike give us the chance to find the cards we need. Max Elixir lets us get more than one energy attachment a turn so we can get energy out quicker. Rare Candy lets us skip an evolution step to go from Basic to Stage 2. These cards are obviously slightly more specialised to individual decks – for example, Turbo Dark needs Max Elixir and Metagross uses Rare Candy – but used correctly they can give players the edge they need. The average number of Acceleration trainers used per deck is four.
Denial’s Not Just a River in Egypt
Trainers that deny your opponent resources are not overly popular in the meta at the moment. There are plenty of options out there though. Supporters include Team Flare Grunt to discard energy; Team Rocket’s Handiwork to discard cards from your opponent’s deck and others. Items include Enhanced and Crushing Hammers to discard more energy from your opponent; Red Card to put your opponent down to four cards in hand and more.
However, there is one item card that towers over them all. Field Blower has featured in top eight decks a whopping 75% of times since its release in Guardians Rising. Most decks are running an average of two. Why? Because it has two fantastic effects. Field Blower lets you discard two of any Tool cards and Stadiums in play. Need to stop Garbotoxin from working? Blow off their Tool. Want to keep a big retreater stuck in the Active? Field blower off their Float Stone. In theory with Field Blower getting rid of Fighting Fury Belt, as mentioned elsewhere in the article, you could take all six prizes in the same turn.
Making Sense of the Numbers
Each deck is unique and requires a different set of Trainers, Energy and Pokémon. What we have provided here is just a starting point for those wishing to build a deck that should perform well. As NA Champion Tord Reklev said, consistency is key. With changes to Standard coming very soon, I think this is overall the most important thing we can remember. The list at the start of the article is probably not the most consistent list and that’s why nobody has ever won (as far as we know!) running this exact list. But it could be the start of something great and there’s only one way to find out!
Today we’re going to talk about how this year in Pokémon has unfolded. We’ve experienced the release of three sets so far this year, with one more to come. With Worlds just around the corner people wondering what deck they should play. There’s a lot of talk about the meta in Pokémon but which actually decks are actually “meta” at the moment?
So, let’s talk about Standard. Things have been evolving (see what we did there?) constantly over the season with each new set bringing change.
The Meta Before Sun/Moon
Yveltal/Garbodor (five top 8 places in Europe Internationals and 8% of top 8 decks in total US Regionals before SM)
Darkrai Builds (between a Turbo Dark list and Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX or Darkrai-EX/Garbodor, Darkrai dominated 15% of US Regionals top 8s despite not featuring in Europe Internationalss top 8)
Mega Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor (no top 8 in Europe Internationals but 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
Volcanion/Volcanion-EX (two top 8 places in Europe Internationalss and 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
GreninjaBREAK (one spot in Europe Internationalss top 8 and 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
Mega Gardevoir-EX (honestly this came out of nowhere in Dallas Regionals and got a win and 3 other spots in the top 8 there, but hasn’t featured much since)
Vespiquen/Zebstrika (three top 8 slots in Athens GA Regionals)
Mega Rayquaza-EX (three top 8 slots in Athens GA Regionals as well)
So a fairly even spread between a number of decks here. Dark is always a strong contender and there were no shortage of Darkrai and Yveltal decks. Dark decks placed at the four US Regionals held between the start of the season and the entry of Sun/Moon. Despite the prevalence of Garbotoxin Garbodor, Volcanion and Greninja saw play with their powerful abilities. Meanwhile in the shadows Vespiquen was once more on the rise.
A Change in the Winds
After Sun/Moon released we saw some changes start to creep in to the meta. Some good trainers came out of the set such as Professor Kukui – who combines both options from the earlier Giovanni’s Scheme – and Nest Ball to find Basics regardless of HP. We also saw reprints of various staples. Sun/Moon brings a lot of good utility Pokémon such as Vikavolt who takes your energy attachment for the turn up to three and Oranguru who acts as draw support to let you draw up to three cards once per turn.
With two International Championships and three US Regionals, here’s how the meta reacted to the release of SM:
The Meta After SM1 Release:
Decidueye-GX/Vileplume scored a whopping 50% of places in the two Internationals combined, and 17% of top 8s at the Regionals between the release of SM1 and that of SM2.
Turbo Dark ramped up its damage count to take 13% of places at the Internationals and 25% of Regionals, scoring at least one top 8 place in every event. Add in the Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX build and its total Regional top 8 count comes to 33%
Despite not scoring a single top 8 place at either International, Mega Mewtwo-EX took 21% of top 8 places in US Regionals.
Volcanion/Volcanion-EX scored 19% of top 8s in the two International Championships, and 8% of the Regionals top 8 places.
Vespiquen resurfaced as Vespiquen/Zoroark and took 8% of the Regionals top 8s, but none of the Internationals places.
As you can see, Turbo Dark and DeciduPlume really started to dominate the format. Despite the threat of Garbotoxin Ability lock, many of the above decks rely on Abilities. Perhaps people were so sure that Garbodor would turn up at the events that nobody actually bothered to run it.
A Champion Deck Rises?
Finally we come to the most recent and therefore most relevant part of the season, with the release of Guardians Rising and the chaos that ensued. The Guardians Rising expansion blew everything before it out of the water. The set featured the best consistency aid we’ve possibly ever seen in Tapu Lele-GX. What’s more, we gained brilliant attackers in the form of Trashalanche Garbodor, Drampa-GX, Turtonator-GX, Alolan Ninetales-GX and Metagross-GX. And the new trainer and Pokémon support is fantastic. We gained Aqua Patch, Brooklet Hill, Choice Band, Rescue Stretcher, the much needed Field Blower and Sylveon-GX, Machoke, Sudwoodo, Mimkyu, Sensu Oricorio (the Vespiquen Counter), and the list goes on.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how many useful cards are on that list. Trashalanche Garbodor changed the way we build decks overnight, with more of a focus on Supporters and a stream lined Item list. Turtonator gave a massive boost to Volcanion decks with it’s ability to Nitro-GX turn one. Drampa gives you a viable turn two 150 damage, and Field Blower took the wind out of Garbotoxin’s sails. Of course, as the season has gone on people have started running fewer Field Blowers, leading to a small resurgence of Garbotoxin especially in Transhalanche decks.
The Meta After the Release of SM2
Drampa-GX/Trashalanche Garbodor took the top spot in North American Internationals and 1 other place in the top 8 there, as well as 25% of top 8 positions in the 2 Regionals that have happened so far. With fantastic early and late game attackers, this is surely the deck to beat going into Liverpool Regionals and then Worlds.
Vespiquen/Zoroark has taken 19% of top 8 places in Regionals since the release of SM2, and although Vespiquen didn’t place in Internationals, ZoroarkBREAK did score a top 8 finish, showing that both of these attackers are to be feared. Vespiquen has been helped by the release of Tapu Lele-GX, Rescue Stretcher and Choice Band, and often makes use of the Ancient Origins Eeveelutions to hit for weakness on many of the other top decks. The big thing Vespiquen has to fear is Sensu Oricorio, which twists Vespiquen’s own strategy against it with its Supernatural Dance.
Looking to the Future
According to results, the rest of the field is wide open. There were seven different decks in the top 8 of the North American Internationals. There were 10 different decks spread across the two top 8 results of the US Regionals. Most decks in the meta seem to be running Drampa-GX. Zoroark features in three different builds – ZoroarkBREAK in the NA Internationals, Vespiquen/Zoroark in both Seattle and Madison, Zoroark/Drampa in Madison. The combination of Mind Jack and Stand In is certainly a powerful one. Most interesting of all is the notable lack of any form of Turbo Dark from the latest results. Perhaps with tool removal in Field Blower to blow off Fighting Fury Belts, Zoroark taking advantage of the large Bench Darkrai-EX often needs to set up quickly, Garbodor liking its high item count, and the Drampa Berserk, Turbo Dark has been out-turboed.
So, what to expect from the next set (Burning Shadows) and from Worlds? Well, for that we’ll have to wait and see!