Alternative Methods, Part 1: Limited Situations

With Worlds over, and an upcoming competitive lull until Fall Battle Roads, I’ve decided to take the time to write about other interesting subjects in the world of Pokémon. The Pokémon TCG is a game with a lot of options and ways to play it, and just like the video games, it generally gets played only one way by the top players – the standard, competitive, metagame format.

As much as this is a competitive site, there is more to Pokémon than Modified. For my next few articles, I’m going to cover some alternative ways to play Pokémon, and likely some the SixPrizes readers have never seen.

For the first article, I’m going to cover limited formats – draft, sealed deck, and the different ways you can play the game with your limited decks. I will also cover some good options for draft sets, as well as discuss the randomness of Mutant Draft. Beforehand, a few terms.

When bombs are too good, Limited formats become unplayable.

Bomb: A card that when played, immediately puts the player in a game winning position. In a 4-Prize game (most Limited formats only play 40 card decks and 4 Prizes), these are most decent Stage 2s, above average Stage 1s, and big basics like Reshiram and Zekrom.

Staple: A card, generally a common (sometimes an uncommon) that defines a set’s Limited play because it is powerful enough to be played seriously.

The best example is Hitmonlee from Undaunted and Call of Legends; as a common, they came up often, and their high HP for a basic, and cheap, decent attacks let them swarm the board much in the way Hitmonchan did during the Base Set days.

Fool’s Gold: A card that is either valuable for constructed play, appears flashy and theoretically effective, or both, but is a mediocre to terrible pick in Limited.

One of the better examples is Yanmega Prime, whose Poké-Body will rarely see play in Limited, and its relatively expensive attacks will prove difficult to use effectively. Most Stage 2s, while they appear to be bombs, are fool’s gold as they will rarely hit the board.

Colour: Pokémon type – mostly a throwback to Magic, it’s commonly used in terms like “on-colour”, referring to a card that fits the types you’re currently drafting.

Sealed Deck
In Sealed, this is probably better than what she's cheering about.

Anyone who has attended a Pokémon prerelease in the history of the game has played sealed. It is a simple format, where players get around 60 cards in sealed packs, and have to build a 40-card deck from the cards they pull and an unlimited amount of basic energy.

Matches are (usually) 4 Prize games, and it’s best played in Swiss or Round-Robin formats. Sealed Deck has the least strategy of any mainstream limited format, as your card pool cannot change in any way from random packs – there’s no exchange of cards at all.

Because you’re at the whim of the packs, the best sets to draft in Sealed are generally the smallest ones you can find, with at least a decent number of playable commons and uncommons, and few game-breaking splashable rares. The upcoming set Emerging Powers will be at least a decent set for Sealed, and likely the best we’ve had in a while.

Black & White was likely one of the worst Sealed sets in the history of Pokémon, due to the easily pulled (due to having both normal and full art versions) Reshiram and Zekrom. These kind of cards are bad for Sealed, because typically the player who pulls one of these has a large advantage, and the player who pulls multiples outright wins.

Another key component of a good Sealed set is the Trainer and Supporter base. Because Trainers and Supporters are typically commons and uncommons, every player will likely get a good base if the set has a good number of them available.

This fact makes Unleashed a reasonably good set to play, because it has three draw Supporters, along with Interviewer’s Questions and Judge, and only a 96-card count – everyone will have good engines to back up their decks.

This partially makes the fact that there are only 3 playable uncommon Pokémon and at most 5 playable commons less of a problem. I will cover sets in more detail later, but these two key points should be considered.

Strategy in Sealed is simple: Build the most consistent deck out of what you have. Keep to as few energy types as possible, and as many weakness-covering Pokémon types as possible, especially to deal with the big “bombs” of the set.

A good example would be in Call of Legends, while playing Flaafy without Ampharos is not usually a good idea (especially with Jolteon in the uncommon slot, but assume you have none), it offers a playable Gyarados counter, being able to 2HKO the beast, as well as snipe Magikarps.

Playing Seviper or Pidgeotto offers an uncommon counter to the often incredible swarms of Hitmonlee (I’ve seen an active Hitmonlee with 5 Hitmonlee on the bench) that characterize drafting Call of Legends, and so on. Choosing your techs comes down to knowing the common plays of the set in any Limited format, but most importantly in Sealed, where everyone’s deck will be more random, teched-out, and full of surprises.

Even if you lack the ability to search it out, don’t be without an answer – with a 40 card deck and the slow pace of Sealed, you can often stall until you draw into one of your few search or draw cards, or the card you’re after.

Booster Draft
Better than every Prime in the block? BELIEVE IT.

“Booster Draft” is a format that really refers to any format where each player picks one card from a number of choices in turn, pulled from packs. For this article, however, Booster Draft will refer to the traditional draft format, where a number of players (typically 8) form a group, and each have about 60 cards in sealed packs.

Each player opens a pack, chooses a card, and passes the pack to the next player around the table, receiving a pack with one fewer card from the player to his other side. The process repeats until the packs are empty, and the direction reverses for the next pack.

Booster Draft, or “draft” as many players refer to it (as other draft formats are very rare in Pokémon, though I will cover some), is one of, if not the most strategic form of Limited. It offers the ability to tailor your deck not only to the set, but to what you discern your opponents are picking out of the packs you are being passed.

For example, in a Black & White draft, if a player passes you a bomb like Throh, that player has no intentions of playing Fighting, or took a Professor Juniper or full-art legend from the pack. Knowing what your opponents do in draft is important for two basic reasons: planning, and hate drafting.

Planning your deck is the most important part of knowing what to pick after the first pack or two goes around. The sooner your choose what the main focus (generally an energy type or two) of your deck will be, the easier it is to make useful picks for the deck.

On the opposite hand, do not make decisions based on bad cards. If you haven’t hit anything good yet, don’t act like you’re stuck in a type, even if you’re on your second or third pack. Here is a lengthy example, using several packs of HGSS:

First Pack: Slowking, Flaafy, Miltank, Bill, Jynx, Koffing, Sentret, Reverse Spinarak, Clefairy, Ledyba.

  • pokebeach.comThis is painless, pick the Bill; Supporters are second only to the best bombs.

Second Pack: Feraligatr Prime, Heracross, Wigglytuff, Phanpy, Pikachu, Slowpoke, Staryu, Reverse Staryu, Chansey.

  • Smells like Pokémon Collector or Professor Oak’s New Theory was your neighbour’s pick; here the pick is interesting. Taking Feraligatr gives you a decent bomb, but forces you into water very heavily if you want to make any use of it.
  • From your knowledge of the set, you know there are three Water bombs in the set (Gyarados, both Feraligatrs), and a whopping four playable uncommon waters: it’s a good type to draft. Wigglytuff is an amazing pick as well, being splashable and somewhat of a bomb.
  • Let’s assume you pick Feraligatr, as most players are going to overlook Wigglytuff. Personally, I would pick the Wigglytuff, regardless of bomb potential. It’s just too inconsistent.

Third Pack: Reverse Flaafy, Donphan, Paras, Sandshrew, Wooper, Koffing, Jynx.

  • Not a lot of help off of the Feraligatr pick; knowing your deck is going to be heavily Water based, and you will have to deal with Lightning and Grass weaknesses; pick Donphan. For FCC its “Rock Hurl” attack is reasonably splashable, and 100 HP for a Stage 1 in Limited is solid.
  • If you picked Wigglytuff instead, Donphan is still a good choice, but you are more free to pick the arguably better Flaafy for some sniping.

As you get further in the draft, pay more attention to your own types and those of your opponent over bombs coming in packs. Here is an example of a huge misplay I witnessed in a Black & White draft, on the first pick of the sixth pack:

First Pack: Emboar (Ability), Reverse Sawk, Krokorok, Switch, Audino, Lillipup, Klink, Patrat, Solosis, Purrloin.

Are you REALLY going to first-pick this over a Juniper? Shame on you.

The player snatched up the Emboar and passed the pack; since this was a friendly draft off of one of the guys’ boxes, the cards weren’t his to keep, so picking rares is silly. While he did have a couple of Tepigs and a Pignite (who doesn’t in BW draft, fire is too good), he was already fairly heavy into Fighting having picked up TWO Throhs and a 2-2 Krokorok line earlier.

While Fighting isn’t the play in BW draft, and Emboar is a huge bomb, he should have passed it for Sawk, unless he knew for a fact the player next in line was drafting Fire heavily (he wasn’t, he was pretty solidly in straight water in fact).

Picking Stage 2s in booster draft is almost always a bad idea, unless the set offers considerable support for getting your bombs on the board, like HS-Unleashed. Picking bombs such as Emboar and Professor Juniper is a great way to open a draft, but in the last pack or two, consider strategy first.

A note on “pyramid” lines in draft (playing more basics than their evolutions): They are often a very good idea. Draw support is very limited, and anything that can help get evolutions going in an evolution-reliant deck is generally worth playing, including extra basics.

Obviously, you play all of the evolutions you can in the line you want to use, but there’s usually no harm in extra basics, unless they’re especially terrible (Solosis, Joltik). While in Emerging Powers there is the omnipotent power of Pokémon Catcher to make 4 of any basic you want to evolve a good idea, even in other sets there will be many times where an evolving basic will be used to attack, or be sacrificed. Having spares to be benched and evolved may save a game or two, and it’s usually not hard to find the card slot anyway.

A final note on draft picks and reading your opponents: In booster draft, don’t feel bad about hate drafting. If you have to decide between a mediocre card for your deck that you may or may not play, and a card you cannot use, but would be a whopping bomb for one of your neighbours, grab the bomb.

pokebeach.comThat could be justification for a pick like the Feraligatr Prime in the above HGSS example, and was the attempted justification in the Emboar vs Sawk decision above – though that decision was quite wrong.

Reading what your opponents are picking is key: good drafters don’t give too many tells, but knowing the set, and watching for which types are getting passed your way by which players, is a good example. See if you can read this one, from an EX Crystal Guardians draft:

Pick Four: Nuzleaf, Whismur, Treecko (delta), Squirtle, Spearow, Lotad

Pick Five: Wartortle (70HP, #42), Duskull, Meditite, Cacnea, Spearow

These two packs are showing a trend: your immediate feeder is definitely not drafting Water, and it’s unlikely after seeing Wartortle that any of the people on that side of you are, as the card is a solid uncommon, with single colour-cost attacks.

Obviously on-colour, evolving cards were picked instead, and it’s not a bad idea to pick the Wartortle in the second pack, as you may find yourself the only one drafting Water.

Setting up to be the only one drafting water, and knowing that at least one player to your left is trying to fight for fire cards, is a decent position to be in. A couple of packs later, passing in the opposite direction, you open:

Camerupt, Gulpin, Lairon, Squirtle, Spoink, Treecko, Energy Search, Wingull, Bulbasaur

Nothing great in Water – the Squirtle isn’t a bad pick, but if you still see yourself as the only one in Water, it or the Wingull will come back around. Pick the Camerupt, and steal a bomb away from one of your opponents who would thank you for the easy pick.

Theme Deck Limited

In Theme Deck Limited, players are given a theme deck of their choice from the set being released, and two booster packs from that set. There is little to say about this format, as the decks tend to play rock-paper-scissors with each other and have only a few good cards.

If there is a more powerful deck available, hopefully you can start with that. Beyond that, try to focus on adding consistency and removing the bad techs and pyramid lines. Add every Trainer and Supporter you can!

Honestly, I greatly dislike this format, and find it boring and quickly dominated by whoever opens a bomb relevant to the theme deck in question; for example, an ability Emboar in Red Frenzy, or a Steelix Prime in the Steel Sentinel deck.

Casual Limited

There are more Limited formats than just those played at prereleases. These more casual formats can be a lot of fun among friends, and a very fun alternative to just cracking packs the next time someone in your group buys a box!

Magic players are very fond of Limited play, and most of these formats come from that old granddaddy of trading card games.

Rochester Draft
If you just picked this over a Celebi Prime, you're sending strong signals.

Players each receive their usual 60 or so cards in sealed packs. For Pokémon, this is best played in pods of 6 players (and was better with 11 cards per pack). For 9-card pack sets, groups should be 5 players. The best explanation of how Rochester draft is played can be found here, as it first originated (as far as I know) in Magic.

The best advice I can give for Rochester draft, especially among a larger group, is avoid hate drafting (everyone will end up with bad decks as they fight for picks), and get into your types and evolution lines early.

While you can really not be faulted for drafting absolute bombs, it can be better to pick a mediocre card in your type then a good card that may anger one of your neighbours and cause him to hate-draft a needed evolution.

An example from my recent Base through Rocket cube draft involved two players going back and forth over Arcanines and Growlithes, trying to keep other players from drafting them. This caused one player to end up with a VERY poor deck, as he never really chose a Pokémon type, and another to lose a few key cards by antagonizing the other players and being counter-drafted himself.

In that draft, I avoided politics – seeing the fight over Fire, I made what looked like a lot of silly picks, and finished the draft with a 4-3-2 line of Nidoking and 3 Hitmonchans, along with a decent brace of Energy Removals.

While I had to give up a few good picks to avoid fights, most of them were irrelevant (I did make a split on Venomoths with another player, but neither of us even played them) – the point was, no one was going to pick a Nidorino to get at me.

I could even work players around the corner, knowing that a fourth picked Pokémon Breeder with a Nidoran or Nidorino in the pile won’t cost me the card. They knew I was in Grass, they knew I was feeding them their choice picks, and they didn’t want to signal that they were coming after me. This gets me to another point: signaling types and switching.

pokebeach.comThe first time you make a heavily coloured pick (for example Nidoking, with its triple-grass costed attack), your neighbours will treat you as if you’re going to primarily pick from that type, usually with good reason: it’s a strong signal.

In Pokémon Rochester, players will often try to “hide” their draft plan until a significant bomb comes up, by drafting Colourless Pokémon, Trainers, Special Energy, and mediocre Pokémon, sending weak signals. Players like these will often end up in a war with someone, as they will be scrambling to line their deck up once they choose their type.

Here is an example pack from EX Dragon:

Ninjask, Magneton, Reverse Vibrava, Spoink, Numel, Geodude, Magnemite, Mareep, Corphish

Let’s assume this is about twenty packs in, so more than halfway through. Of the five drafters, one has been drafting nothing but colourless dragons, Trainers, and bad cards with weakly typed attacks. You’ve been drafting as much Water as you can, because it helps to counter the dragons in the set, and have managed to pick up a 3-1 Graveler line to help deal with Magnetons and Flaafys.

Another player is swarming Camerupts, the fourth is in Lightning almost exclusively, and the last has been trying to draft a mixture of Grass and Water. Clearly, no one is going to pick the Spoink.

At this point the “dragon drafter” has a mix of commons, and a couple of Dragonair. He knows Water is a good play against him, and third-picks the Magneton, knowing he’ll likely see a Magnemite or two.

The Lightning player is unhappy – the first two players would not pick the Magneton despite its colourless attack to avoid having their useful picks scooped out from under them. Now the Lightning player will pick Magnemites and evolution cards in general higher, as a hate response to the player who should have signaled a type earlier.

Cube Draft

pokebeach.comAnother Magic: The Gathering format, Cube Draft became popular after the Magic Invitational, and is a wonderful introduction to Golden Age (Baset Set through Rocket) play. It is an excellent way to play any old format in Limited without having to source old packs.

Cube Draft involves having a “cube” (generally a box) of cards from a specific format, shuffled shuffled into a pack-like distribution (1 rare, 2-3 uncommons, 6-7 commons, 1 reverse), or just randomly shuffled, and drafted. Cube Draft is generally best done in the Rochester format, unless pre-made packs are randomized before the draft, so that players have relatively equal access to the most powerful cards.

Decks are then built with the drafted cards and unlimited Basic Energy (though only those allowed by the format: remember, basic Darkness and Metal were only introduced in Diamond & Pearl and may not be allowed). Games then proceed in a typical 4-Prize Limited format, or 6-Prize if more cards are drafted and 60-card decks built (though I find this less fun).

I personally am working on a Golden Age cube – it’s still in development, but it’s mostly finished at this point, with cards from Base Set through Rocket.

Booster War

pokebeach.comBooster War is a silly format, played with a single booster pack and an unlimited amount of basic energy. It can be used in place of Rock, Paper, Scissors to settle disputes, or as a cheap gambling game where the winner takes the loser’s pack.

Players must build a deck with every card from the booster pack, and as much or as little energy as is desired, just as in Sealed Deck. Players then play a 3 Prize game, with the following additional rule: a player may, during his turn, play an evolution card to the bench if a number of turns has passed equal to the stage of the evolution card.

A Basic Pokémon may be evolved into a Stage 2 Pokémon if the Basic has been in play for two turns, effectively allowing for an invisible Stage 1. It is usually better to have Pokémon in play, however, simply because energy cards can be attached to those Pokémon.

Some variants of Booster War do not shuffle decks, but instead let players stack their decks in the order they so choose for the opening of the game. Effects that shuffle the deck afterward will still shuffle it.

I personally find this method more strategic, and can add more player skill to a game. Playing the pack completely blind with six Energy cards that count as energy of every type is also a possible variant.

Mutant Draft
I look so innocent... until evolve into GARCHOMP LV.X!!!

Mutant Draft is a draft format (usually booster draft, but can be played as Rochester Draft as well) where players draft six packs from different sets. Generally, these are handed out randomly, and not all players get packs of the same sets.

To account for the fact that complete Pokémon lines will not be available, evolutions can occur (in addition to the normal way) by type. A Pokémon may evolve into any Pokémon of the next stage that shares a type with the evolving Pokémon.

For example, Cleffa from Neo can evolve into Tauros from Base Set, which evolves into Blissey EX, which evolves into Flygon SF, and levels up into Garchomp LV.X. Regardless of stage, it is generally accepted with Pokémon LV.X that either they cannot evolve further, or that if they evolve, the lower-stage LV.X card has no further effect unless the Pokémon devolves.

Mutant Draft is very random; strategy for it comes down to staying in a single type, and picking all the playable evolutions from that type that you can get. Decks with multiple types are usually inferior, though, trying to play off-colour bombs is never a bad idea. Dual typed Pokémon can always be used to bridge gaps.

Limited Set Reviews

I promised at the start of this article that I would cover good sets for Limited play, and I intend to give the most in-depth review possible. For this article, I will cover every contemporary set from HeartGold & SoulSilver onward, as well as giving my top five limited sets of all time. I will primarily be focusing on draft when reviewing these sets, but I will mention significant changes for sealed deck.

HeartGold & SoulSilver

Bombs: Donphan Prime, Blissey Prime, Gyarados, both Feraligatr, both Typhlosion, Meganium (holo), Professor Oak’s New Theory, Pokémon Collector

Staples: Flaafy, Wigglytuff, Jynx.

Rating: 2/5

It’s a huge set with a lot of bad cards, and a focus on evolutions. Decks will be bad and inconsistent, especially in Sealed, where the set is almost unplayable. A solid base of Trainers and Supporters is a big help, but complete evolution lines are hard to come by. Consider Rochester, or get silly with Booster War if you have a box to open.

HS Unleashed

Fool's Gold in any other set, Unleashed has the Supporters to make this a huge bomb.

Bombs: Kingdra, Crobat, Steelix, Metagross, Magmortar, Blastoise, Lanturn, Roserade, Tyranitar…

Staples: Supporters, Stantler, Tropius, Roselia

Rating: 4/5

This is the opposite of HS: word to your moms, we came to drop bombs. Huge cards like Crobat, Kingdra, Tyranitar, and even Lanturn, Ursaring, and Floatzel are made playable by a 96 card set with 13 ultra rares, and 13 Trainers and Supporters out of 28 uncommons, giving most players 5-6 playable setup cards.

In addition, Stantler and Tropius help set up the bench, matching your basics to evolution cards in hand. Almost all of the commons either evolve or help set up, making it a great set for drafts.

Because of its reliance on evolution lines, sealed is questionable, and will be almost devoid of skill as the player that hits the 4-3-2 line of a big attacker will win.

HS Undaunted

Bombs: Espeon, Muk, Honchkrow (Blindside), Skarmory

Staples: HITMONLEE! Oh, and Eevees.

Rating: 3/5

Mukpokebeach.comThis set is really about the powerful commons, much the opposite of the last two. Hitmonlee and Sneasel are two of the best common attackers in the entire game of Pokémon, and Mawile, Murkrow, and Scyther are all solid as well.

Even Slugma, if heavy into Fire, can power itself up and start hitting for 40. None of the bombs in the set really split swarms open, and NOTHING playable above the rare slot resists Fighting, so there’s often a lot of reason to pick a Hitmonlee over anything other than a Supporter.

It is a decent set for Sealed as well (probably the best in the block), because the inconsistency of sealed cuts down on the spam: in league drafts with poor players, I have seen people get decks with over ten Hitmonlees. Nothing survives that.

Eeveelutions is a great option to stem the tide, but energy inconsistency could spell doom. Flareon is your best friend, and avoid Jolteon to keep weakness from killing you. I give it a 3/5 because while common-dominant, there are a lot of alternate strategies.

HS Triumphant

Bombs: Basic Primes, Magnezone, Twins

Staples: Volbeat and Illumise

Rating: 1/5

Like the Hitmonlee deck in the set before, now it rains fireflies. Unlike Undaunted, however, Volbeat and Illumise are an unstoppable force if a player gets a decent draft of them. There is only one Fire common, Ponyta, and even Magmar in the Uncommon slot only boasts 30 damage for THREE ENERGY.

There is really nothing in the set that can take down these two basic commons, except for persistent hate drafting. The rest of the format, however, is very slow, and overall I find it a mediocre set. A lot of people are buying boxes of Triumphant, though – I recommend Booster War or Sealed to get the most fun out of them.

Call of Legends
A lifesaver against armies of HItmonlee.

Bombs: Espeon, Gyarados, Ninetales, Typhlosion, Feraligatr, Tangrowth

Staples: HITMONLEE! Possibly also Eevees.

Rating: 3/5

It’s a larger set, but it has a very low ratio of commons, meaning Hitmonlee takes center stage, with only half the Eevee count to stand up to it.

A great Trainer and Supporter base makes this probably one of the best sets for Sealed, but if I was drafting this set, I would do nothing but pick Dual Balls and Hitmonlees all day, minimizing open slots as best I can and filling everything up with Fighting Energy.

The set just has too many rares, giving you the easy opportunity to open as many as four or five Hitmonlee even in Sealed!

Black and White

Bombs: Reshiram, Zekrom, Zoroark

Staples: Pokémon Communication, Professor Juniper, Simisear, Simipour, Krokorok

Rating: 1/5

pokebeach.comA set I very much dislike, due to the 130 HP basics occupying both the holo and secret rare categories. They appear VERY often, and dominate the board compared to every other Pokémon in the set, outclassing even most of the Stage 2 cards!

This is one of the worst sets to play in Sealed that has ever been printed, and even in Draft the dominance of the dragons outstrips everything else. At least in the last sets the broken basics were commons – now it comes down to luck of the draw.

One solution I have seen in Rochester and Sealed is to have a “rare pile” to replace these offenders when they come out of a pack, effectively banning them from play. In this case, the set goes up to 3/5.

Aron Figaro’s All-Time Limited Top 5

#5: EX Team Rocket Returns: Much for the same reason Crystal Guardians gets a spot, so TRR does – consistency. With a lot of Dark Pokémon using Dark and Rocket Energy, some playable basics, and thick evolution lines, EX TRR is a great set for draft.

For Sealed its Supporter count makes it questionable, but still a very playable set. It’s also full of charm and character – everyone loves Team Rocket, which makes it a great choice for a convention or other event’s draft.

#4: HS Unleashed: For the reasons I discussed above, HS Unleashed deserves serious props – it’s also the only set from the HGSS block to be featured here. It doesn’t get the 5/5 the other sets here would, but it offers exposure to the HS-on, evolution-oriented metagame in Limited, in a way that could only be competed with by EX Team Rocket Returns.

#3: EX Crystal Guardians: It’s 100 card set with 17 TSS in it, which says a lot – among them include Bill’s Maintenance, Castaway, Celio’s Network, Dual Ball, Poké Ball, Poké Nav, and Warp Point. Mysterious Shard is also nice to keep some of the more overpowered EX in the set like Groudon from becoming instant wins.

This definitely gets my nod from the latter half of EX block. Multiples of a lot of evolving Stage 1s also helps. A runner up here was EX Delta Species for all of the same reasons, plus the Clay Ditto mechanic.

#2: Base Set and Base Set 2: 26 Trainers? HEAVEN! Machop, Onix, Rattata, Staryu, and Charmander are all playable basics, and Raticate, Arcanine, Farfetch’d, Jynx, Charmeleon, Machoke, and Kadabra are amazing uncommons. There are also Trainers in every rarity slot, rather than only uncommon – making booster drafts of Base Set incredibly strategic, rather than devolving into “pick the lone Supporter”.

Rising Rivals
Warning: Contains Fun, Draft at Own Risk

#1: Rising Rivals: Oh my lord – Houndoom 4? Flareon 4? Forretress G? Splashable SP rares, and an almost complete focus on Basic Pokémon? YES! This is THE best Limited set in Pokémon, because players just have so many options, and can play almost anything they pull in Sealed.

In Draft, decks just get tighter and more consistent, and almost every evolution in the deck is rock solid. It is almost impossible to name a bad Limited card in Rising Rivals, and even the Supporters, though relatively few, are good. Oh, and like Platinum, overstocked boxes can be pretty cheap.

If you notice, I tend to really like sets with a lot of Supporters, evolutions in the uncommon slot, and playable common basics. This tends to make for the best decks, and the most dynamic play, instead of back and forth 10 damage attacks until someone draws into the one rare they need to set up. The quality of a limited event is based entirely on the quality of the sets involved.

I also have to give some props to runners-up: EX Fire Red & Leaf Green, EX Delta Species, EX Team Aqua vs Team Magma, both Gym sets, and Neo Genesis. Most sets are fairly playable in Limited, and players need only give the game a chance.

Worst of the Worst

I’d also like to mention some of the sets that really aren’t worth drafting.

Supreme Victors
They put all the fun in the Rising Rivals boxes.

Supreme Victors: The days of the playable common Pokémon SP are over – and this set is HUGE at 153 cards. While there are quite a few playable Supporters, uncommons, and rares, the evolutions will be inconsistent at best and SP cards are few and far between.

EX Dragon: Incomplete evolution lines are everywhere, along with very poor type balance, and the even the Stage 1 dragons are game winning bombs because of resistance.

Jungle, Fossil, and Team Rocket: These sets, when taken for constructed play, are generally looked at as “part of Base Set”. In Limited, none of these sets have enough Trainers to really be playable, and the size of the set and no doubles in the Pokémon lines makes things even worse.

This guy is a key to any good toolbox.

The Future

I really hope this article adds some draft opportunities to your local league or playgroup. While my competitive interest is still strong, I’m going to try to spend more time working on the niche articles that the other writers on SixPrizes rarely find time for. Limited, Unlimited, alternate gametypes like Doubles, and new rules you can bring to league and add some spice to your game.

I’m also going to be adding a draft section to the end of every article, called “What’s the Pick”, where you guys can debate what the best pick in a given draft situation is down in the comments. I’ll bring in my answer with the following article.

Up next, however, I’m going to revisit the toolbox and talk about how best to run a tech-heavy deck in a HGSS-on format.

Reader Interactions

8 replies

  1. Anonymous

    Nice article. I always love it when 6P articles have some variety.

  2. Daniel Middleton

    This article was a really good read! Since we’re hitting that ‘lull’ you mentioned at the beginning paired with the awfulness that is my drafting ability, I found this an interesting article.

    Good job :)

    • Edgar F  → Daniel

      We should see about getting some online draft stuff together. I know Apprentice USED to support pretty decent pooling, does anything do it and keep up with the Pokemon sets of today?

      I plan on keeping the variety going – I’m feeling VERY uninspired as far as competitive goes right now, so I’m going to just keep going with crazy stuff.

      Arceus isn’t a BAD set to draft, it’s just really one dimensional. It’s Wormadam or Wormadam or someone gets lucky and gets a bomb that beats Wormadam. :p

  3. Adam Capriola

    Superb article! My friends and I drafted Arceus at Nats and it was a pretty decent set! You’ve got the fossil that evolves when you attach an energy to it, plus the Wormadams are fairly easy to pull. Not a lot of Trainers/Supporters though.

  4. draconash

    Let me start by saying very nice article. It’s pretty obvious you know what you’re talking about, which, in my opinion, adds a lot to an article. It has very solid tips, and the minimal number of typos makes this a very easy read. This article is also a very welcome change to the usual articles, and it’s one of those I actually read word-for-word. Getting a like from me.

  5. beyblade1410

    Good article, I think it was cool to learn about all the different drafts you can do, I’m doing an emerging powers draft after battle roads with some friends.

  6. tim h

    With all due respect, I stopped reading when you said Yanmega prime was bad in limited.

    In the nicest way – You’re wrong; It’s the best card in limited. There is almost no way for them to clear their hand size fast enough; and you get a benefit of a prize. Lastly, you can simply attach energy to yanmega and attack normally. And, Triumphant has very playable basic grass types (see: Illumise and Volbeat; 30 for 1 energy first turn).

    If I had a pack of every single card from triumphant, and had to choose one to draft, I would choose Yanmega.

  7. SuperJamieQ .

    I love the Booster War one. Defenitly gonna do that once…

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