The Starter Wars: Musings on the Next Predicted Format (RR-on)

Alright, so I was sick when I wrote this, having some kind of virus that didn’t allow me to get a fever or sleep, and I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking about next format (really early, I know, but bear with me as the only major tournament I participate in is my local City Champs, which is poor metagame contest, and from there I look for the deck I’m going to play the next year).

Since there are only two sets to be released within the current format, the majority of the playable cards in these sets are known, and given that Play! Pokémon wants the new format to contain 9 playable sets when a new format starts (RR, SV, AR, HS, UL, UD, TM, CL, and BW make 9 sets), we can start predicting some strategies in the next format. I’ll start ranting now, as I normally start doing at 2 AM.

The Starter Wars

Something tells me that there will be a face-off between Spiritomb Arceus, Smeargle Undaunted, and Jirachi Rising Rivals in the coming format, and it is up to deck building and player-skill alike to determine which one of these will become the victor. I’ll list off the pros and cons of each, on their own and against each other, as I know them in my Theorymon play-style.



  • Trainer lock to slow down opponent
  • Synergy with Vileplume and the Stage 2 psychic from BW
  • Speedy evolution
  • Can put you behind in the prize race for use of Twins
  • Resists Smeargle, so there is very little chance of a Smeargle donk
  • Easier to obtain due to League release
  • Retreat Cost of one and no weakness


  • Trainer lock slows you down and gives Smeargle a benefit if you’re using a higher supporter count
  • Can put you behind a prize race
  • Damaging itself



  • Two supporters per turn!!!
  • 70 HP
  • Retreat Cost of one
  • Ability to donk with successful flips and expert belt


  • Possibilty of getting a bad supporter with a good hand (i.e. Judge) or hitting a Seeker with your Rare Candied Machamp (happened to me before)
  • Resisted by ghosts and Spiritomb
  • Dangerous weakness to fighting
  • Harder to get as it’s a holo rare



  • Two Supporters per turn!!!
  • Free Retreat Cost
  • Search for one card upon knockout
  • Ability to disrupt early on
  • Quick hand setup


  • Can only use the same Supporter twice
  • Can’t use what the second Supporter obtained until the next turn (which could be good unless your opponent uses Judge)
  • Fire weakness, which will probably be explained in a different article

The list is longer for Spiritomb, but that’s because of the amount of versatility it has. But the size isn’t what matters, it’s what plays better. Smeargle has the opportunity to outplay Spiritomb with a good hand coming from both players, with a supporter combo like Collector’s and Judge giving the Smeargle player a great start while disrupting the opponent.

But the power of Spiritomb’s trainer-locking with no Poké-Body counter could come out to benefit the Spiritomb player. I believe that this will be decided almost purely on decklist and, as always, a little bit of luck.

pokebeach.comHonestly though, I think Spiritomb gives more of an edge than Smeargle does in Stage 1 decks like Steelix Prime, Donphan Prime, and Scizor Prime, allowing the tanks to be set up quickly, preventing a snipe on the bench, and slowing your opponent down enough to build them up.

This could also work for Stage 2 decks like Gengar Prime (of course), Machamp Prime, Kingdra Prime, and Nidoking/Nidoqueen, but poses a threat to your Rare Candy (even though it looks like the errata will be changed) for the other unevolved benched Pokémon.

However, Machamp Prime actually gets around this with his Fighting Tag Poké-Power allowing a free retreat along with not wasting an energy drop on the Spiritomb.

Smeargle allows for a smoother set-up, but doesn’t speed up anything unless the player’s opponent has a good supporter in hand for the time being (which can be a Seeker early game or a Seeker late game; one can be good and the other is almost always good).

I have seen how well Smeargle can play in the game (especially with Unown Q. I will miss that card), but I have also seen the weakness of its power, and it’s not a pretty sight. Don’t get me wrong, Smeargle’s an amazing card and I love using it myself, but when we’re talking about consistent speed, I think Spiritomb takes the cake (even if Smeargle decorates it).

However, there is also the idea that if more people play Spiritomb, more people will increase their supporter counts, making Smeargle a more viable option. We may be hitting a point where both cards will benefit from the same modification made to one deck, if they don’t face each other.

Smeargle starters will want to reduce their own supporter count for when they face the starter mirror, while it doesn’t matter what the Spiritomb starters’ supporter counts are.

pokebeach.comJirachi is the contender that seems to be outside of the main battle during the current MD-on format, but the list for Jirachi shows its simplicity and amazingly awesome Poké-Power that can immediately bring your disadvantage of a prize loss to an advantage with the power of Twins.

This reminds me of Spiritomb, though the one distinct advantage over it is the free Retreat Cost. Because the donk is in the format, and even if we get the errata change for Rare Candy, the efficiency of a free Retreat Cost can make it easier for a person to perform a donk when the opportunity arrises.

However, my feelings on this are mixed on this, but I believe J-Wittz explained this best in his donk video.

The ability to search a card is an amazing part of Jirachi that is not to be overlooked (even though I obviously did). When facing a Spiritomb, it’s possible that you will not be taking the first prize, but you are able to search for any card you want to counter whatever Pokémon your opponent sends in as their next.

When facing something that Knocks Out your Jirachi for the first prize, you can search for Twins and double your searching power. It is just plain amazing what this card can do.

Impulse has told me to rank the starters, and here it comes:

1. Spiritomb AR
2. Jirachi RR
3. Smeargle UD

pokebeach.comThe reason for this listing is that Spiritomb gives evolution decks the ability to set up faster, even though it costs them their Trainers. The ability to also become the first person to use Twins is the other reason I believe that Spiritomb is superior to Jirachi.

However, Jirachi comes in as a close second with its double Supporter and the amazing ability to disrupt with two Team Rocket’s Trickery or two Cyrus’s Initiative on the first turn, or the plain old ability to use two Pokémon Collectors or two Professor Oak’s Visit. It can provide for a very good setup.

Smeargle is third on the list because, even though he has the ability to change the game in your favor, I have, and I know a lot of other have, experienced bad “Portrait”s as I have explained above.

The new cards that are entering the format are also a concern for this listing. With Pokémon Catcher (the new Gust of Wind), Professor Juniper (the new Professor Oak), Crush Hammer, Revive, and Energy Retrieval in the format, it becomes more beneficial to run Spiritomb, who counters all except Professor Juniper, because you do not want your opponent to play Pokémon Catcher on the basic that you are setting up and Knock it Out, bringing back a basic to the bench that you just Knocked Out, them discarding an energy from your Pokémon, and them returning two vital energies to their hand.

Smeargle really hurts if you have a playable hand that gets thrown out if you happen to hit Professor Juniper, and Jirachi is neutral on the subject.

In conclusion, I predict that Spiritomb will be the victor of this battle come next format, but don’t get overconfident and believe that it’s the only starter that will be played. Next format has many other threats that are not starters, so these choices will have to be carefully calculated when you’re building your deck for the next format.

Reader Interactions

15 replies

  1. Anonymous

    No love for skarmory UD? He’s gonna have his spot in a few decks, thanks to the whole “tank decks are more viable” thing.

    • Anonymous  → Anonymous

      Notice that I also did not put in Chamander AoA. I like Skarmory UD as a starter, but only for one deck. This article was meant to cover the starters that can fit into every deck.

      • Anonymous  → Anonymous

        To that, I ask you this. Stantler UL. Overlooked and useless in today’s format. What do you think about the next, where getting basics to the bench asap to be able to candy them is vital?

        • Anonymous  → Anonymous

          And to that I say, excuse me for overlooking it. I picked up the game when DP was released, so I always love effects or attacks that are free and I tend to favor looking at them. With the way the format seems to be slowing down, I do need to start looking towards better options. Thanks for that insight!

  2. Anonymous

    Me and my friends have been testing this format for a while because of how stale our current format is. In a format with no unown Q, the 1 retreat cost is actually more of a burden than a pro. Two other starters that we’ve tried are Aerodactyl GL (free retreat, 80 hp, one energy draws 2 cards), and Manaphy from unleashed (free retreat, one energy lets you shuffle your hand into your deck and draw 5). Pachirisu with greedy draw isn’t half bad, either!

    I can’t wait for the next format : D

    • Anonymous  → Anonymous

      Those accursed one retreats! And for this I was looking for the most consistent, and cheapest, starters, which follow trends that I see occurring in the format (including keeping the lock and preparing yourself the fastest). I overlooked draw, even though it is important throughout the game, I find keeping consistent set-up early in the game is more important than drawing early. However, my luck is why I follow that philosophy (I’ve run into energy droughts in a deck that runs 18 energy. Go figure.).

      Same here! It’s so hard for a rogue, even one that is very well built, to compete in this format and believe that next format will allow many more decks to flourish. I’m going to write an article about it sometime, but I want to wait until we see exactly what’s being released in out Black and White set before I make all of my “predictions” about what can happen.

  3. Derek Coontz

    I’ve been in the mind set that next format would be HG/SS on so I’ve been avoiding getting any cards predating that set.. I’m gonna be bumming if I picked Unleashed packs yesterday as prizes for the video game tourney over Rising Rivals for nothing. =o

    • DrMime  → Derek

      I think I agree–I know that TCPi said they wanted 9 sets per rotation, but I bet they’re also going to consider Japan’s meta, which has been HS-on for a little while now. My money’s on HS-on. (But I’ve been wrong before…)

  4. L M

    Well if the new rules come through where you immediately discard a Supporter than there with not be a Supporter in play for Jirachi to utilize :( However, Probopass becomes pro!

    • Anonymous  → L

      True, true. But, I don’t believe that Play! Pokemon will change the rules until they bring us into a HGSS-on format or something similar. However, if they do, I can’t wait to pull out my Probopass deck that I’ve been working on.

  5. stephen shirley

    nice article why don’t you do a recovery cards one like this

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