Hey guys, I’m back from the hospital and on a bit of R&R but I figured I’d get one article out to keep myself busy. A reader (and newer player) asked me to do an article on the current format, and following TPCi’s announcement of an HGSS-on format come July 1st, this is the perfect time to do it.
Today I’ll review each set that is in the format for our newer players and readers and talk about which sets new players or even older ones should focus on if they want to get the good stuff for next season.
HGSS obviously is the start of the format and the opening set for the series, meaning it is the premier of Pokémon Legends and Primes. It also includes many important Trainers, Supporters, and Energy! This set features the return of Double Colorless Energy and also has Rainbow Energy.
For Legends, HGSS contains Ho-oh and Lugia, two relatively unexciting Pokémon for a several reasons: Ho-oh has been replaced by Rayquaza Deoxys Legend as the go-to Legend for fire decks and with Emboar around, his Poké-Body is completely useless, and Lugia is impossible to play without the help of a Rube-Goldberg machine and a lot of luck.
There is some value in HGSS’s Primes however, with the popular tank Donphan and the Reshiram fueling Typhlosion, both which are going to see a lot of play along with the slightly less popular (though we have high hopes) Feraligatr.
Other good Pokémon? Ninetales for draw power, Jumpluff (although some think his time has passed), Slowking (meh), and the extensive line of baby Pokémon, of which Cleffa will indubitably be the most important as his status as the default starting Pokémon for almost all decks of varying types and strategies.
Also go for HGSS if you’re looking to get your hands on some awesome trainers such as: Pokémon Collector, Pokémon Communication, Professor Oak’s New Theory, Copycat, Fisherman, and Professor Elm’s Training Method.
This will definitely be the best set for getting Trainers and Supporters, and is also good for trying to grab a DCE (though you might also want to go for the Pokémon League promos coming this summer), but the Pokémon leave a bit to be desired. The set also has 123 cards, making it that much harder to get your hands on a good one.
Unleashed is puny compared to HGSS, with only 95 cards in the set. However, this also means that it’s that much easier to pull what you need from a 10 card booster! The only question is: is it worth it? The answer quite simply is that although it isn’t the greatest set there are a lot of things I like about it.
For one, Unleashed features Dual Ball, a card growing in popularity for HGSS-on decks that want a little bit more speed in their deck in place of Pokémon Collector. Other trainers in the set worth grabbing are Judge, Engineer’s Adjustments, Rare Candy, Super Scoop Up, and PlusPower, although the last two were re-released with the Black and White set.
The legends aren’t all that great though: Entei Raikou legend just doesn’t do enough damage unless you use Thunder Fall, but most of the next format’s Pokémon won’t have Poké-Powers, a lot have Poké-Bodies or Abilities instead, and even back when Uxie/Azelf/EVERYTHING had Poké-Powers this was never used.
The other legend, Raikou Suicune Legend, is basically a bad Zekrom. What this set does have going for it is a decent line of Pokémon Prime, including Tyranitar, Kingdra, Crobat, Lanturn, and Steelix, all of which are topics of discussion at the moment, and while they likely won’t be Top Tier must-haves they will probably be of some importance going into the next season.
I absolutely hate this set. The Trainers are useless except for (maybe) Flower Shop Girl although nobody really used her before, and unless they have 1 space in their deck that needs filling, they likely won’t now.
The Pokémon are pretty bad here too, and what we are left with is pretty mediocre: Smeargle was a decent starter but in the next format, without Unown Q and with Juniper around, he’ll be a risky choice. Weavile might be okay for disruption, but is only as good as his power. Skarmory is pretty solid for Scizor or Steelix starts, although with fire being the dominant type next year they may be scarce.
Lastly we have Vileplume, a card that was growing in power and popularity last year as an anti-LuxChomp in VileGar decks. Nowadays he seems to mix best with Mismagius who shares the Poltergeist attack with Gengar SF, although he’s much less of a pain to KO and thus will probably never see the light of day.
This set’s Primes are pretty bad too, but at least they lumped them all in one set so you know which one to stay away from. The Eevee-lutions just lack any kind of power or promise, Slowking is basically a poor man’s Uxie LV.X but basically shoots you in the foot by giving your opponent the ability to choose which card you get AND look at part of your deck, Raichu is a slower Zekrom, and the others are just bad.
The set does have some AWESOME legends, from the popular Rayquaza Deoxys Legend to the milling madness that is Kyogre Groudon Legend. This set also features special metal and special dark energies. Still, buy online or trade for the energies or legends, because they’re harder to get from the packs, and what you will likely be left with is garbage.
This set is a little better than the last one, although the Pokémon still aren’t all that great, the best probably being Machamp (as a tech with the Prime) who you could get more easily from one of the Triumphant theme decks, Spiritomb, and Ditto, who are only marginally useful for LostGar decks.
However, if it’s a LostGar deck you’re looking for, then this is your set: Triumphant features both Gengar and Mew Primes, both of which are staples in any LostGar deck!
The other Primes aren’t half bad either: Machamp is going to be a BEAST in the next format when combined with Donphan, Celebi could be an interesting starter for any grass decks that may pop up here and there, Absol is a decent tech against LostGar, and Magnezone is going to be awesome either as a tech in ZPS (Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin) or in the much-touted Magneboar deck featuring Emboar as an energy accelerator.
Additionally we have Yanmega Prime, a topic of much discussion but with an uncertain future. Mostly he is talked about as a tech to Donphan or an addition to disrupt decks that run Judge, although how well he performs in these capacities will have to be seen in practice, especially since 70 damage just isn’t a lot anymore.
Forget the Triumphant Legends, they’re bad. What is awesome however is the Trainers that you can find in these packs, most notably Junk Arm but including Twins and Seeker (two other staples in LostGar decks). Lastly we have Rescue energy, a card that may not see as much play as it used to (especially in Gyrados) with BTS gone, but will still have a place in some decks.
As I alluded to above, Call of Legends is basically a bunch of reprints from the HGSS block and some shiny pretty legends. Unfortunately these legends are terrible, with attacks costing four or more energy doing way too little damage, high Retreat Costs, and low HP.
However, this is a good place to get some stuff if you don’t already have it, since CoL smashes in a bunch of useful reprints in the same set: Smeargle, Skarmory, Ninetales, Cleffa, and also has a few good items for Lost Zone decks: Mr. Mime, Mime Jr., and Lost World.
The set also includes Special Dark and Metal energies, as well as reprints of Oak, Elm, Copycat, and Dual Ball. Like Unleashed there is only 95 cards in the set, so if you’re looking for something that’s in a larger set and want an easier time getting it, go for CoL.
Additionally you can find Pachirisu in CoL for all your ZPS needs, but otherwise you may want to avoid this lackluster agglomeration of reprints.
Black and White is the first set in the BW block, and introduces a lot of changes to the game, including changing Pokémon powers and bodies to Pokémon Abilities (poor Umbreon). Additionally, we have our first ever FULL ART cards, Zekrom and Reshiram.
The Trainers and Supporters aren’t anything that isn’t already in another available set, but they are solid in their own respect: Pokémon Communication, Super Scoop Up, PlusPower, and a new Supporter that mimics the base set Professor Oak, allowing you to nuke your hand to draw 7 cards.
Another great card is Revive, which allows you to take a basic from the discard and put it on your bench (great since Pokémon Rescue is gone now), allowing you to grab a Cleffa, Reshiram, Zekrom, or Mew.
This set features a lot of interesting Unova Pokémon as well, some of them better than others. Some of the better ones include: Zoroark, Mandibuzz, Reshiram, Serperior, Emboar, and Samurott (make sure you get the Ability ones for these three), and Cinccino. Overall, I think this set is solid and I would definitely point newer players toward Black and White (especially for the code cards!).
6. HS – Undaunted
5. Call of Legends
4. HS – Triumphant
3. HS – Unleashed
2. HeartGold & SoulSilver
1. Black & White
I know this article isn’t as controversial or exciting as many others out there, and I promise I’ll do something soon for everyone else, but I thought I’d do something more tailored to the newer or inexperienced player for now. As always, thanks for reading!