Sights on the Future: Emerging Powers Analysis (Plus Worlds, Red Collection, and More!)

pokegym.netNow that the 2010-2011 Pokémon Tournament Season is in the books, it’s time to think about the future: how the past results of Worlds will influence it, how the most recent set will shape the metagame, and how some exciting new cards in the coming months will revolutionize HeartGold/SoulSilver-on.

Tying into each of those points, I will discuss the following: my Last Chance Qualifier experience; my insight gained from Worlds; my (very) thorough analysis of Emerging Powers; and some considerations for Noble Victories’ “N” and “Victini.”

This season, early preparation will be more important than ever before, especially due to the announcement of November Regionals. For that reason, it is every bit vital to analyze this set card-for-card, or else finding the perfect deck might not come as easily as it should.

We have a lot to cover, so let us skip formalities and head straight into the report.

Worlds Reflections

Worlds has come and gone, and although I did not make it into the main event, I was able to gain solid insight into the state of the game. First, I’ll discuss my Last Chance Qualifier experience, however short it may have been; then, I’ll get straight into my perceptions of the main event, and what we have in store for the future.

The Last Chance Qualifier

As you may remember from my last article, I was torn between Donphan/Zoroark/Dragons and Yanmega/Magnezone/Kingdra/Jirachi. By a narrow margin, I ultimately settled on the latter: despite the consistency and reliability of Donphan, I felt like it didn’t have nearly the ability to make come-from-behind wins that Primetime with Twins could.

Aside from that, I wasn’t totally convinced in Donphan’s Typhlosion matchup, or in the “surprise factor” of my Donphan list to really impact a first game the way that Jirachi can.

For reference, here is the list I used:

Pokémon – 21

4 Magnemite TM

1 Magneton TM
3 Magnezone Prime
4 Yanma TM
3 Yanmega Prime
2 Horsea UL
2 Kingdra Prime
1 Cleffa HS
1 Jirachi UL

Trainers – 28

4 Copycat

3 Pokémon Collector
2 Judge
2 Twins
4 Rare Candy
4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Communication
3 Pokémon Reversal
2 Switch

Energy – 11

5 L

4 P
1 Rainbow
1 W

Most of the tweaks in this list are either straightforward, or have been otherwise explained elsewhere. At this point in the game, if you’ve been reading all of the Underground articles, then only two nuances should leap out as “weird”:
“Sea” ya…

As for the Kingdra line, I concluded that the bigger count would make late-game Jirachi wins that much more effective, and that the majority of my stage one matchups featuring Donphan would vastly improve.

However, running most Vileplume variants in a 45 minute best-of-three tournament is suicidal, and since the Seadra had been relatively useless testing, I decided to cut it for space (for those who noticed, I dropped Pokégear 3.0 for the same reason).

2. I went down on Reversal specifically to include a higher Switch count. Despite the fact that my loss was ultimately caused by being unable to find a Pokémon Reversal in sudden death, I actually felt comfortable with this decision, as well as the extreme versatility of two Switch.

As one final note before we get into the report, let’s take a look at the Donphan list I would have used (which also happens to be close to what I used to beat Drew Holton in my HeyTrainer VS TopCut team challenge match).

Pokémon – 17

3 Phanpy HS

1 Phanpy CL

4 Donphan Prime
2 Zorua BLW
2 Zoroark BLW
1 Zekrom BLW
1 Reshiram BLW
1 Bouffalant BLW 91
1 Shaymin UL
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

4 Pokémon Communication
3 Professor Juniper
1 Copycat
4 Junk Arm
3 PlusPower
3 Pokémon Reversal
2 Defender
2 Switch
2 Pokémon Collector
1 Pokégear 3.0*

Energy – 14

8 F

4 Double Colorless
2 Rainbow

*Might have also been cut for a third Collector or ninth draw card.

One aspect of this list (two Pokémon Collector) may seem bizarre, but in a low-count Pokémon list such as Donphan, the need to get a huge “setup” onto your bench by the first turn is just not there: as long as you have the turn two Donphan and at least one Dragon to absorb damage, then your setup is acceptable for that phase in the game.

So far, this philosophy has not proven itself wrong in any pre or post-Worlds testing, so I feel content with less than max Collector in a deck so focused on Donphan.

Anyway, enough with all that – let’s get on with things!

Round One: Versus Bye

Woohoo – a free win! It wasn’t that miraculous, though: out of the 620 or so players in the tournament, two-thirds received byes, so it wasn’t too surprising to receive one.

Round Two: Versus Mew Prime/Lostgar

Game One – Other than a whiffed energy attachment turn one, this was the perfect start for a tournament: turn two Magnezone, followed by a turn two Yanmega Prime with Insight activated. I quickly won this one, drawing a prize a turn.

Game Two – Unlike the first game, my setup was very slow, and I was forced to play around his fast turn one Mew Prime/P Energy/See Off for Gengar. Since my list does not run Sage’s Training, I was also placed in a catch 22: I had no shuffle draw available, and if I tried to fetch Cleffa for Eeeeeek, then I would either be forced into another unplayable hand, or open myself up for an unrecoverable Hurl into Darkness.

I know Lostgar too well to walk into this trap, so I did the most logical thing: attack with a bunch of puny basics! As bizarre as it sounds, this game plan actually works: you throw them entirely off of their game, thus forcing the opponent to Spooky Whirlpool into a newer, better hand (as opposed to doing it for them, which is what Cleffa amounts to).

Alternatively, encourage them to spread counters and activate your Twins. While that last point did not happen, he did end up using a disproportionate amount of resources to shake my utter lack of Pokémon, seeing no return on his investment.

So after a few turns of Reversal/Thundershock/Tri Attack shenanigans, I finally drew into a foolproof out for setting up Magnezone (a Pokémon to send away with Communication), and blew through his setup. Onto round three!

To the left of my match was a series between Chad Harris’ Typhlosion/Reshiram and Jeremy Jones’ Yanmega/Magnezone. Although I was unsure if I would be pairing off against either, I made mental notes of both their decks. Sure enough, I was up against Jeremy, and was glad I took glances at their games; I was up against mirror with Pachirisu.

Round Three – Versus Magnezone Prime/Yanmega Prime/Pachirisu

Game One – Like the first game in my last series, this was all sorts of uneventful: I had a great hand, some solid flips, and that was that.

Game Two – This game was almost the opposite affair, but fortunately, Twins made my come-from-behind much more attainable. However, he had fairly decisively board control, as well as a 2 Prize lead when I finally setup.

My window of opportunity for a comeback was still there: at a crucial point in the game, he was forced to match the size of my two-card hand for Insight, yet suffer having only one Magnezone Prime on his bench.

Thus, with a relatively well-setup board of my own at this point, I saw my opportunity to Reversal up the Magnezone, Lost Burn KO it, and then turn the game completely around from there. Furthermore, I still had most of my resources left at my disposal, as well as two Magnezone Prime in play…Given this, “how could I possibly whiff on this?” was the one thought constantly flowing through my mind.

Regrettably, my thoughts of comeback hope for just tempting fate: starting on my turn after his Insight/Linear attack to the two card hand, I drew, and then proceeded into a Reversal flurry…

Reversal #1: TAILS!

At this point, I then played a Junk Arm out of my hand to grab back the Pokémon Reversal I just played, and what should I get?

Reversal #2: TAILS!

Since I had no more playable cards in my hand at this point, I used Magnetic Draw to return back up to six, and I was greeted with – among other things – the same two cards I just played. So I made another attempt at it…

Reversal #3: TAILS!

…And another via Junk Arm

Reversal #4: TAILS!

pokegym.netAt this point, I take a deep breath, and tell myself the thing I always tell myself in play-testing Pokémon Reversals: “Johnny…This happens. The only time to start complaining is when you’re going 0/5 at critical junctures.” So I calmly laid down the energy I drew, used my second Magnetic Draw (no draw supporters in hand), and then used the Reversal I drew…

Reversal #5: TAILS!

And so with that, my “dramatic comeback” is squashed by my severe lack of skill with the coin. I still execute a KO without using Magnezone, and hope that he doesn’t set up anything else in his next turn…Sure enough, he Rare Candies his other Magnemite, and at that point I know that even with Jirachi, there’s no way I can pull off the win.

Since there is too much time left in the match to justify dragging it out to assure a first-to-1-Prize-in-game-three scenario, yet too little to safely assure that I actually get to go first in the third game, I promptly scoop after this.

Game Three –

[Note – I don’t recall this match as well now, so there may be some inaccuracies here.]

I open up to a decent, yet awkward opening hand…No energy for the first turn, yet a lone Magnemite with a Magnezone, and…Several unplayable evolutions. This energy drought continues into the second turn, and I’m stuck with multiple useless, unplayable evolutions.

Eventually I get out of my rut and begin to set up a bench, but when I do, he’s already up a prize, and at this point, I know that I have no realistic chance of winning in sudden death plus three unless I catch him on a vulnerable juncture with no draw or KO potential.

clipartmojo.comFortunately, his board approaching time-plus-three mirrors what he had at that oh-so painful moment in game two, with the only difference being that if I hit a Reversal heads, it would assure me the timed win as opposed to the in-fact win.

So time is called on his turn, in which he Knocks Out my damaged Yanmega, the vanguard to my Magnezone play for the win, and his third prize drawn to my two. I then Judge his decently-sized hand, and make a single Reversal attempt on the lonely, super-energized Magnezone…Again hitting tails. I then make a desperate Magnetic Draw, get ANOTHER attempt to Reversal, and…Tails again!

For this reason, I am forced to make an undesirable KO with Jirachi’s Time Hollow just to stay even in prizes. His turn, he scores a knockout, and then on my final turn, I try one last futile attempt at just getting a Pokémon Reversal. Unfortunately, I fail to draw into it with shuffle draw or Magnetic Draw, and –with a guaranteed response KO from him on the next turn – see my fate sealed.

Thus ends my Grinder run, as well as my perfect attendance streak at the Pokémon TCG World Championships. Although I felt defeated by the coin in the end, I also respected the fact that my opponent did what he needed to, and capitalized on this strange twist of fate to win a nail-biter series.

So after shaking my head about the poor flips, I shook his hand, wished him luck in the series, and took the long walk out of the playing area.

“…Mighty Casey has struck out.”

The Impact of Worlds

Despite my “strike out” in the Last Chance Qualifier, I still had a great time at Worlds. More importantly, my loss here has reinvigorated my competitive spirit, and makes me want to make 2011-2012 my best season ever. Part of achieving that goal is figuring out what this event’s results mean for next season, so before we segway into new set analysis, let’s consider three major points about the World Championship’s impact:

Point 1: Many of your easiest games throughout Battle Roads will be Emboar/Magnezone copycats.

pokegym.netThere is much to be said about the man who piloted Emboar/Magnezone to a win at Worlds; but, there is a much greater unsung story regarding the countless number of players who will futilely copy his list hoping for an easy win.

As I mentioned way back during “From Fool to World,” it isn’t enough to copy a World-class list and expect results – you need the know-how to pilot the deck, as well as the intuition to tweak it properly for new metagames. This is something that the average copycat player lacks.

Despite that, nothing will stop the horde from marching on…And little will stop you from beating them. Just expect to play this matchup at least once a tournament for the time being, and – more importantly – run a deck that at least goes 50/50 with the average Emboar/Magnezone player.

Point 2: You have not seen the last of Ross’s Pichu/Twins/Vileplume/Reuniclus setup.

In the week and a half since Worlds concluded, I’ve seen no less than three different decklists utilizing this engine (Machamp, Beartic, Wailord). I expect this to continue for a long time, and wouldn’t be surprised if it maintained at least some niche following for the entirety of 2011-2012.

Point 3: The metagame indeed came full circle, but don’t expect it to stay that way for long!

Between Gothitelle, Vileplume, and Beartic, the newly-revived Emboar has many threats on its plate, and could collapse under the weight of an unfriendly metagame. However, all of those decks could still be beaten comfortably by the right Emboar list (say, a less Item-reliant build), and they all arguably have matchup issues when faced against a solid Primetime list.

Additionally, Donphan is hungry for a big win after its Worlds flop, and Pokémon Catcher is its easiest way of achieving that.

Emerging Powers Analysis

Hopefully you’ve gained some useful information from my Worlds experience…But if you’re anything like me, then you want to be done with the old season, and move simply move on. Let’s do that by analyzing several of the best new cards from our Emerging Powers expansion.

Truth be told, this section of the article has been in the works for several weeks: I cut it at the last second from “Eleventh Hour” and “Grinding the Grinder” because it realistically made little sense – and even less synergy – to chuck it in with something much more relevant at the moment.

First, let’s consider the “lost” cards of Black and White…

On the Cutting Room Floor: Black and White’s Rejects in Emerging Powers

The Black and White released in the United States was a fine set, but the truth is that Japan’s Black Collection and White Collection had a far more comprehensive pool of cards than what we saw in April. In fact, many of these featured in our English set, Emerging Powers, and will result in a much more complete metagame than what we had for Worlds.

Below you will find text for what I consider the most interesting “cut” cards that made it into Emerging Powers, as well as my thoughts about each. Some even have some decklists to tinker with, as well as updates to old builds!

At first glance, this has the hallmarks of a poor card: low damage potential, energy-inefficienct attacks, a bad weakness, unnecessary floppiness, and no ability to build up some strategic advantage. However, I focus your attention on this card for one simple reason: Nurturing, the “Darkness Grace” of the new format.

I don’t expect this to be a fantastic card, but realistically, this card is the only Darkness Grace replacement we’ve got. However, HGSS-on sorely lacks in evolution fetchers, so I could see Leavanny serving some solid niche purposes as both a consistency crutch and a wall. I’m looking at you, Tyranitar/Serperior/Kingdra…Or maybe as its own deck?

Like Leavanny, Basculin has nothing Earth-shattering about it; however, it’s a particularly lethal Donphan killer. Flail is a poor substitute for a Reshiram or Zekrom Outrage, but ¾ of the time, Final Gambit will get you the easy ‘Phan and Reshiram kills via water and DCE. For this reason, I am seriously considering a Basculin tech for my Donphan/Zoroark/Dragons list.

Other than the Retreat Cost, there’s a lot to love about this card. First off, it has 130 HP, outdoing just about every other stage one attacker in the format. Second, and perhaps more importantly, its Sheer Cold provides an effective lockdown on many of this format’s best attackers, such as Magnezone Prime.

I’m not too sure how I’d want to play this card yet, but Vileplume is an obvious combination that comes to mind, so here’s a sample of what that might look like.

Pokémon – 16

4 Cubchoo EPO 28

4 Beartic EPO 30
3 Oddish UD
1 Gloom UD
3 Vileplume UD
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 16

4 Rare Candy

4 Pokémon Communication
4 Sage’s Training
4 Pokémon Collector

Energy – 16

10 W

4 Double Colorless
2 Rescue

Open spots – 12

Just because Gothitelle (discussed below) is in the format does not mean Vileplume is a useless card; on the contrary, it works well in all of the “Ross variants” still, and for the purposes of this deck, maintains a reliable Sheer Cold lock.

I feel that a large Vileplume line and maximum Sage’s Training ought to make pulling this off relatively easy, but I should alert you to the troubles Yanmega Prime brings: it has a free attack coupled with free retreat, so Sheer Cold locking is very difficult; and past that, Target Attack makes sticking a Vileplume nightmarish.

Fortunately, we have twelve spots left in our skeleton, meaning that there is more than enough space to account for Yanmega. One solution is to run your energy lineup differently and include 1-2 Jirachi Unleashed, so as to devolve Yanmega Primes in the late game for easy prizes.

Another possibility is to run the “Ross engine,” which could not only make dealing with Yanmega easier in the long-term, but protect you from a potential Jirachi of their own. For now, though, it’s safe to say that our ultimate challenge in fleshing out this skeleton is the Yanmega matchup.

Back in the day, Energy Removal 2 allowed for several cool denial tactics, made evacuating high-retreat actives difficult, and sniping a very effective strategy. I don’t doubt Crush Hammer’s ability to do the same in this format, so running 2-4 of these could do some massive damage.

That said, this card is better suited in some decks as opposed to others. Disruptive stage ones, for instance, can greatly abuse Crush Hammer, whereas clunky stage two decks aren’t going to have an easy time manipulating it at all.

Also, Hammer is more useful against certain decks – Typhlosion, capable of recovering its energy via Afterburner, will rebound quickly from this card, and often you’ll find your efforts to be wasted. Just keep that in mind!

Now we’re finally getting somewhere! Essentially, this card is a hyper-powered Vileplume with no drawback, and attacking capabilities to boot. Since this format is so item-oriented, being able to pull off a quick Magic Room can be deadly.

As for Mad Kinesis, it isn’t exactly the most cost-efficient attack in the game, nor is it the most powerful; still, the Psychic attachments can and will add up into a lethal late game.

Since my main goal lately has been conditioning myself to survive the grinder, I haven’t given 2011-2012 decklists much of my attention. Regardess, I couldn’t resist taking a shot at a Gothitelle lock deck, so here goes nothing…

Note 1: this is a largely-untested list, so be sure to edit to your own play-style/preferences!

Pokémon – 20

4 Gothita EPO 43

1 Gothorita EPO 45
1 Gothorita EPO 46
4 Gothitelle EPO 47
2 Solosis BLW
1 Duosion BLW
2 Reuniclus BLW
1 Zekrom BLW
1 Reshiram BLW
1 Sigilyph EPO 41
1 Jirachi UL
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 27

4 Rare Candy

4 Pokémon Communication
4 Cheren
4 Pokémon Collector
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Junk Arm
3 Twins
2 Professor Oak’s New Theory

Energy – 13

9 P

4 Double Colorless

The strategy of the deck isn’t too complex: get out a Gothitelle as quickly as you can to lock the opponent out of Items, and then swarm with 2-3 of them until you’ve either benched to win the game, or are in a position to draw your last couple of prizes with Jirachi’s Time Hollow.

pokegym.netSigilyph works wonders as a beefy basic, but its purpose in the equation is simply to help further along your Time Hollow strategy, as well as “segway” into a viable non-lock late game strategy (or an early rush against mirror).

As previously mentioned, this is a lock deck, so we’ll be running a respectable count of Pokémon Catchers to target major threats. Using them for lock-related purposes isn’t always the best move, though, so if you’re in a situation where the opponent is already set up, you can use the Catchers to sprinkle damage with Gothitelle attacks, and then orchestrate the above Jirachi play.

Finally, to give us maximum mileage out of a single Gothitelle at any one point, I run a 2-1-2 Reuniclus line. To accentuate the Damage Swap, I run one each of Reshiram and Zekrom, which covers the Donphan and Yanmega matchups nicely.

This isn’t anything new, since you’ve seen it in Ross’s deck, and may have even seen it in a recent thread revolving around Gothitelle. Furthermore, there are a lot of good points made in favor for the consistency of Magnezone, or for the reliability of a straight Gothitell build. Still, the versatility of this variant makes me feel very comfortable.

Weaknesses in the current build…

1. If the opponent sets up too well, then you can easily lose the game. This deck wants to be a disruption build, similar to the Power-locking Muk ex and Medicham ex decks from over six years ago. You’re putting all of your marbles into a solidified lock, but you could very easily spill these marbles the moment a challenger gets out Magnezone Prime (easier said than done when staring down Catcher, but it’s possible).

2. Tying into the first point, a fast attacker can wreak havoc on your board control. Even if you go first and have a second turn Magic Room activated, prominent attackers such as Yanmega and Donphan can both efficiently and effectively charge through your Gothitelles. Reshiram, Zekrom, and Reuniclus should help balance this some, but it is still a problem to keep in mind.

Things to consider for the deck…

Crush Hammer. Like I said earlier, this deck wants to be old-school disruption with a new look, and one card prominently featured in those decks was Energy Removal 2: the spiritual predecessor to Crush Hammer. I’ve explained my thoughts on Crush Hammer, so this should be sufficient.

Switch. As it stands, you have low odds of a Gothitelle attacking by turn two. While it is far from necessary to be aggressive by this point, in the event you want that option, then a couple Switches will save you time and energy.

Sage’s Training. My beta list of Gothitelle included four of these to achieve a more likely turn two , but I found that I was discarding too many important cards too often. I may move back to it, but for now, I’ll be sticking with Cheren.

Donphan ought to be very pleased that this card was cut from the international Black and White release; otherwise, Zekrom would have had the perfect counter to it! 110 HP on a basic is great, but it’s the entirety of this card that makes it so useful in that match: Hurricane, for instance, is almost always 2-shotting Donphan, and yet at the same time conserves attachments against _all_ matchups.

Even Energy Wheel, a normally uninteresting attack, has its uses in drawing Self-Generation Energy from Pachirisu. Thus, the combination of Pachi, Energy Wheel, and Hurricane can often lead to a soft charge-up of Zekrom, making this card a great overall play in the deck.

I won’t be a posting a list of Zekrom/Tornadus, but I will recommend that you try fitting a couple into one of the many Zekrom lists featured on SixPrizes Underground. Alternatively, you could make Tornadus itself the focus of the deck, and just run Zekrom as a side attacker!

Unlike Life Herb and Moomoo Milk, which rely on flips, and unlike the recently-rotated Poké-Healer+, which also relied on a great deal of conditionality to be good, Max Restore is the first great “guarantee” heal we’ve had in ages. However, the “discard all Energy” requirement makes this a better play in some decks before others.

Although you should keep yourself open to using it in just about anything, here are some of the best places to start when thinking about abusing Max Restore…

1. Decks with cheap attackers. Besides the relatively obvious option of Yanmega Prime, Max restore can aid Donphan, Gothitelle, and even Cincinno (occasionally).

2. Decks that can easily move around energy, via Poké-Powers (Shaymin), Abilities, or Energy Switch.

3. Decks that can recover from the discard. Typhlosion may again be the most logical choice here, but Steelix is also very good at abusing Max Restore, since it can quickly Energy Stream its special Metals back on. (Of course, this assumes that you could successfully get away with running Steelix in a metagame full of fire.)

Many of you old-school players should recognize this card instantly, since it is a verbatim reprint straight out of Fossil, one of the Pokémon TCG’s oldest sets. But whereas this card may be a classic, is it suitable for play in the modern era?

For the most part, I’d say yes. The flip is obnoxious, and I’d much rather not have to play this when another card would do a better job (e.g., Recycle versus Energy Retrieval or Revive), but for cards that are otherwise unrecoverable, like special energy, then Recycle can be clutch.

Furthermore, its versatility as a tech card is welcome to decks like Megazone, which have several crucial needs over the course of a single game. Given that Crush Hammer will greatly disrupt Megazone’s energy supply, I think a Recycle might just do something decent.

As a deck, Thunderus suffers from what I call “Zapdositis:” when a card has fantastic early game force, but an absolutely terrible late game presence. I draw this name from the “Zap-tur-dos” deck of 2004-2006, defined by a fast attack tempered with no late game options whatsoever.

I feel like I can most certainly diagnose Thundurus with a case of the ‘it is, especially since it is a spiritual reprint of Zap-turn-dos’s core components (one method to charge up, and another to attack for medium-level damage).

As a single tech or splash, Thundurus could be interesting in a lot of constructions – especially to cover ground that Zekrom and Tornadus can’t. This is where it is best utilized.

Wow, it seems like all of the beefy basics beyond Reshiram and Zekrom were saved for this set! While Sigilyph doesn’t have the stamina of the legendaries, its Reflect makes it a great tank against most cards not named Magnezone Prime. Beyond that, it is a fantastic sudden death attacker, and in tandem with Jirachi, it can lead to some great end-of-match plays.

This is a fun, albeit scary card for both players: for the user, you have several chancy flips to make on Powerful Slap; and for the opponent, you have to just sit and wait. This is especially rough during the first or second turns, when Audino could score an easy with a single Double Colorless.

For the time being, Audino as a focus in a deck is not worth it due to the variance on flips, but keep in mind that its potential damage output is unlimited; the more energy you have on it, the greater Audino’s outpit is.

Heal Pulse is really situational, and for the type of deck I’d see Audino in, I doubt you’d be using it too often. Just take note of it, and remember that healing may save your life against Target Attacks and Time Hollows.

This is one of the most vanilla Supporters imaginable, so you might be wondering: “Why did John select this card?”

To be blunt, our choice of draw cards is not that great at the moment. Sure, Professor Oak’s New Theory and Copycat give us some solid shuffle draw, but as far as “straight draw” (unconditional draw) goes, there are no overwhelmingly good options.

Aside from the newest releases, Emcee’s Chatter tries to be this card on a Flip; Engineer’s Adjustment tries to be better than this in exchange for an often-valuable Energy; and Cheerleader’s Cheer achieves this same effect by giving the opponent a free draw…Ouch!

Well, no more: if you don’t have any specialized needs and just want to draw cards, then Cheren should do the trick. Sage’s Training, a more conditional variant on straight draw, may be superior in some builds over this, but I think Cheren’s is a reasonably safe alternative in most decks.

Last but not least is the single greatest snub of all: Pokémon Catcher, also known as “Pokémon Reversal Heads,” “Gust of Wind,” and “Bright Look.” At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that Catcher is the best card in Emerging Powers, but what kind of an impact will it have?

1. Pokémon Catcher’s presence will upset the status quo, but not outright ruin setup decks. The panic I’ve seen circulating the message boards is that “Emboar/Magnezone is dead!” and “big setup decks will never work again!” Of course, neither of these comments are further from the truth: they just encourage players of said decks to start thinking outside the box, and playing more carefully. Thus, I see all of the big setup decks becoming much stronger as a result.

Now that people can no longer hide behind the Reversal coin flips…

2. Pokémon Catcher’s presence unambiguously demotes luck, and promotes skill. After suffering two of the worst dry spells I ever have with coin flips, I welcome any card that decreases variance. I see Catcher as killing two birds with one stone: it ends the uncertainty of Pokémon Reversal for the most part, yet also prevents players from being able to hide behind Sweet Sleeping Face for prolonged periods of time.

The last major obstacle left is the opening coin flip, which will be corrected over time by judicious card design.

3. Pokémon Catcher makes going first more important. Although guaranteed board control is always better for skill than random board control, the one downside to heads on Reversal is that turn two kills are going to be even worse to recover from. Thankfully, a rise in Twins usage may combat this.

English Exclusives in Emerging Powers

The lost cards of Black and White are what make this set great, but I would also like to briefly address some of the English-exclusive cards that came out, too. For the most part, they are not very playable, but some are more interesting than others. Listed below are my favorites:

Bone Rush is a “fun” attack, but my main reason for considering this new release is Dark Pulse, which is every bit capable of surprise knock-outs in emergency situations. This is particularly useful in Kingdra/Mandibuzz, which relies too much on basic sniping in lieu of actual knock-outs.

Although I feel this will not change the tier status of any deck featuring both Mandibuzzes, having the option to actually combat big attackers is very refreshing, and may lead to some fascinating late-game scenarios.

Anyone reading this card who is familiar with the metagame can see just how situational it is: it has virtually no potential to feature prominently in a deck, and its attacks aren’t even that great. However, the main reason why I like Cobalion is because it could be an immediate answer to Gothitelle and Beartic, seemingly being a tailor-made counter to both.

For Gothitelle, Metal Horns is effective at disrupting their lock over a long period of time, putting it in range for a Sacred Sword KO. Beyond that, it is space-efficient, and is an absolute tank, forcing the average Gothitelle opponent to drop at least five P Energy just to KO it! Even if the opponent plays Reshiram, you still force them to break the Magic Room lock – particularly useful for decks with a bad Gothitelle game.

As for Beartic? Just Sacred Sword; retreat; lather; rinse; and repeat.

For the record, I am not a big fan of this card, since the past two times its equivalent have been available (Ruby/Sapphire Professor Birch and Rising Rivals Volkner’s Philosophy), they both flopped competitively. Also keep in mind that this is a relatively valueless inclusion in Magnezone Prime decks, and is a terrible draw card against Vileplume…Have fun drawing one card due to a hand full of Items!

Despite my negativity about Bianca, the popularity of Judge is alone enough to consider playing it. When N comes out (discussed below), it may be an even better option – especially in Zekrom.

Looking Further Ahead: Red Collection and Beyond

To round out this article, I will use my crystal ball to look into the longer-term future, and address two very important upcoming cards.

You Can’t Spell “Jackson” without “N!”

Going back to “Fool to World,” we find that this format is full of past repetitions. After reading the text of N, I am certain that you old-school players will agree 100% with this sentiment:


N – Supporter

Each player shuffles his or her hand into his or her deck. Then, each player draws a number of cards equal to the number of his or her remaining Prize cards.

You can only use 1 Supporter card during your turn.


See that? It’s the spiritual successor to the classic Rocket’s Admin. card, as well as a sign that research and development over at Pokémon Card Laboratory is interested in promoting come-from-behind wins. The impact of Admin in its time was massive, and I fully anticipate N to cause similar shockwaves.

I cannot say with much certainty what new decks N may encourage, but here is how I see it impacting the current archetypes:

  • Anything with Magnezone – becomes a much more attractive choice due to its built-in counter to one card hands.
  • Typhlosion/Reshiram – suffers some, but not horribly. Keep in mind that if Typhlosion is down to its last prize, then its deck is probably thin, amounting to a generally weak one-card N. However, don’t underestimate N’s ability to limit late game options!
  • Zekrom – suffers heavily. Bianca may help, but disruption hits Zekrom variants much harder than just about anything else in the format.
  • Donphan variants – suffer moderately, but not as much as Zekrom. Most stage one lists featuring it nowadays run high draw count, and have gone through this ordeal when countering Judge.
  • Yanmega variants (other than Yanmega/Magnezone) – affected slightly by the potential to ruin hand size matching for Insight.
  • Lock decks – become much more viable, especially if they run solid draw recovery of their own.



Victini – Fire – HP60
Basic Pokémon

Ability: Victory Star
You can use this when your Pokémon flip coins as part of an attack. Ignore all results of those coin flips and reflip from the beginning. You can’t use Victory Star more than 1 time during your turn even if you have multiple Victini in play.

RC Assist Power: 30 damage. Move all Energy attached to this Pokémon to 1 of your Benched Pokémon.

Weakness: Water (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 1


“Too long; didn’t read”? If so, then the gist is that every attack gets to re-flip if Victini is in play…


In a strange way, I like what Victini brings to the format. This may seem counter-intuitive to my earlier displeasure at all the failed coin flips during my Last Chance Qualifier match, but my supreme principle on this issue has to be this: the less random, the better. By getting to re-flip, every coin flip by its nature becomes more certain, and therefore less random.

Beyond this, several previously unplayable cards get to be looked in a WHOLE new light. So to round out this article, let me leave you with a small list of current cards that gain some respectable degree of playability once Victini arrives…

(And by a “small list,” I actually mean that it’s so long, you could almost consider it a Victini combo compendium.)



  • Politoed
  • Beedrill
  • Poliwrath
  • Primeape


  • Vileplume (yes, it actually does!)
  • Mawile


  • Grumpig (although conditional on how the card is actually translated: if Victini says “you” instead of “your Pokémon,” then this will not work)
  • Magmortar
  • Sharpedo
  • Marowak
  • Mew Prime

Call of Legends [disclaimer: many of these are being stretched]

  • Tangrowth

Black and White

  • Klinklang

Emerging Powers

  • Leavanny #8
  • Lilligant
  • Basculin
  • Audino

This is clearly not a list of every card improved by Victini, but I feel like this group should generally be viewed in a much more positive light than in the past. Special attention should be given to paralysis, which becomes a far more lethal status effect than ever before, and to hitters whose expected damage utility shoots through the roof thanks to Victini.


The future metagame is an uncertain thing, and is far from 100% predictable. But in spite of the field’s uncertainty, the loss of randomness, return of come-from-behind wins, and prospect of exciting rogue decks all combine to paint a very positive picture of the 2011-2012 modified tournament season.

Worlds was a seesaw, and the current field of decks may appear to follow suit. Nevertheless, a comfortable awareness of all threats, both current and imminent, should give Underground players a massive edge going into Fall Battle Roads and Regionals.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

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