ZanreoGroaning to my monitor, I watch how the same few actions repeat themselves over and over on PlayTCG. How do I win this game? Even though the game is as slow as it gets, my attention is still not wavering. I want to play this one out, because it’s different from most other games. With a grin on my face, I take another sip of my drink and type: “Catcher Vileplume, Blue Flare KO”.
Since Hawaii is just a little too far out of my budget’s reach, I will be sitting at home cheering for our National Champion and hopefully following The Top Cut‘s coverage. This means my season is done, and even though technically we still live in the HGSS-on era, I thought it would be appropriate to write the curtain call for a card that has been in the format since August 2010, almost two years. I’m talking about Vileplume from Undaunted.
Even though I did not play in any real tournaments back when this card was released, I was following the game fairly closely and played against friends online using Redshark (really wish this program caught on a little more, but that’s another story for another day). This card got a fair amount of hype, and not just because the Undaunted set was overall pretty mediocre. Pretty much every type of card has a limit attached to it.
Basic Pokémon can’t be played when your Bench is full. Evolved Pokémon can’t be played without their matching Basic, and unless you happen to have Rare Candy or Broken Time-Space on hand you’ll have to wait a turn to use them. You only have one manual Energy attachment every turn. You can’t play more than one Supporter or even one Stadium per turn.
But Trainers… those can pretty much be spammed from the moment you get them, and for that reason we usually have a soft ceiling for every card type in our decks, except for Trainers.
But with a powerful Trainer lock from Vileplume, that changes entirely. Suddenly those infinitely useable cards can become dead in an instant. Not only will you not be able to use their amazing effects, but they also occupy space in your hand and deck, which can be a bad thing for several reasons.
Now a Trainer lock (nowadays technically a Trainer-Item lock, but we’re still living in the past here) was not entirely new. Manectric ex DX, for example, did it before. Spiritomb AR does it in the format we are currently discussing. But Vileplume is a different beast: he can do it from the bench, where it’s a lot harder to KO, and in addition it has a whopping 120 HP.
Conveniently, evolution to the bench is accelerated by the aforementioned Spiritomb AR, which means we are looking at a very consistent turn 1 Trainer lock that can last the rest of the game!
The hype train does not end there. Even though Trainer lock is extremely game changing, you need some kind of offense in order to actually win the game. Will-o’-the-wisp and Dazzling Pollen are not going to do the job for you. The best partner for this thing would turn out to be Gengar SF, one of the most versatile and frustrating cards ever printed.
Pokemon ParadijsThe synergy between Allergy Flower and Poltergeist is obvious: you lock your opponent out of playing Trainers, and then you use all the Trainer cards in their hand to inflict enormous damage. As an additional bonus, Gastly SF’s Trick Gas actually shuts down Trainers as well, which makes your turn 1 Trainer lock even more consistent as you will almost always be able to get a Gastly or Spiritomb Active by the end of your first turn.
As the season went on, the game plans of Vileplume decks evolved from the basic concept described above. Vilegar stayed a potent threat and was a contender for BDIF, but Poltergeist was not the mainstay anymore. While the deck was very consistent, players often found ways to play around Poltergeist by playing techs that discarded from their hand (such as Regice LA, which could also force Spiritomb out of the Active position), and instead Vileplume/Gengar decks were built more with Shadow Room and Fainting Spell in mind.
For example, there were a lot of 70 HP Pokémon with Poké-Powers being played such as Azelf LA and Uxie LA. These are 10 short of being KO’d by Shadow Room, so Vilegar decks started playing Crobat G to add that final damage counter.
A clever man threw Blaziken FB in his Vilegar deck along with Rainbow Energy, which gave the deck the option to drag up heavy benched Pokémon with Luring Flame, while simultaneously having the option to attach Rainbow Energy to Gengar SF to make it harder for the opponent to avoid Fainting Spell through the use of Crobat G or poison damage. Other types of Vileplume decks also surfaced, such as Machamp Prime/Vileplume.
The lesson to be learned here is that the immediate uses of a good card can sometimes be only the tip of the iceberg. Even though Vileplume is, by nature, very restrictive, players have always been able to find creative ways to take advantage of it.
One last historical note on Vileplume during this era: it was not as invincible once set up as it is now, or has been for a while. Luxray GL LV.X’s Bright Look existed to drag it up, and perhaps even allowed someone to one-shot the Vileplume using Uxie LV.X’s Zen Blade. Blaziken FB’s Luring Flame has been mentioned, and is a huge reason why Warp Energy was so popular in Vileplume decks.
Pokemon ParadijsDialga G LV.X’s Time Crystal shut off Vileplume’s Poké-Body entirely, but at the same time played a dangerous game by being on the field because a Gengar LV.X could appear and use Level Down to shuffle the Dialga G LV.X back in.
But then Spiritomb AR and Gastly SF rotated, eliminating the reliable possibility for a turn 1 Trainer lock. Luxray GL LV.X and Dialga G LV.X left as well, which turned Vileplume into a whole different kind of beast. Also important to note is that the only remaining legal Oddish only had 40 HP, over the 50 HP the SF ones offered.
Each time the metagame changed between when the story started and where we are now, Vileplume got a decline in usage through the changes, only to flourish again once somebody figured out how to use it. It confirms the notion that the first decks in a format to be figured out are the aggressive decks, before decks more aimed at control can be built properly.
The nature of a Vileplume set-up changed a lot. Whereas before, having Trainers locked for the entire game (barring a hard counter such as Time Crystal) was more norm than exception, now the match-up between a Vileplume and non-Vileplume deck became a race. The non-Vileplume deck tries to get rid of as many Trainers as possible before the Vileplume trainer can put the flower on the table.
And generally, once Vileplume hits the table, it stays there. Vileplume decks become known for pretty much always running four Twins, and simply benching multiple Oddish at a time to make it hard for Catcher and Yanmega to prevent Vileplume from hitting the field.
Speed decks are faced with a choice: take prizes as quickly as possible and hope the Vileplume player is not holding onto Twins, or start by setting up a board properly to deny Twins, and hoping the Vileplume does not come into play without Twins.
Pokemon ParadijsI’m sure most of you are familiar with what Vileplume decks rose and fell throughout the HGSS-on era, so I’ll only briefly list them. Most if not all of these were secret decks until the day of the big tournaments. It started with the Mew/Vileplume/Muk UD shenanigans around US Nationals 2011, then The Truth (Vileplume/Reuniclus BLW/Tropical Beach/high-HP Pokémon) at Worlds.
Cities saw the rise of Chandelure NVI/Vileplume, and some minor appearances of Vileplume in Fighting decks (with Landorus NVI, Terrakion NVI, and/or Machamp Prime) to counteract the many Lightning decks, as well as with Vanilluxe NVI and Fliptini. Once Next Destinies and Mewtwo EX hit the tables, Vileplume was considered done for, but it did end up making a name for itself when paired with Lilligant EPO and Shaymin EX for a bit, and also with Mew, Vanilluxe, Unfezant BLW and Fliptini.
Dark Explorers and Darkrai EX would finish off Vileplume for good, but the set actually brought it Accelgor DEX, the various Darkrai/Vileplume/Energy Shift decks (Klinklang BLW/Meganium Prime/Mismagius UL), and the revival of the traditional Stage 2 Vanilluxe.
A Rare Candy into Vileplume pretty much changes the rules of the game in the current format. Or rather, I actually think it brings the game closer to the rules as they are written. Currently, the most prolific Trainers are used to make bending or breaking rules easier.
You can’t attack or retreat when paralyzed? Not if you play Switch. You can’t attack your opponent’s bench without a sniping attack? Not if you play Pokémon Catcher. Only one Energy attachment per turn? Not if you use Trainers to get out a quick Energy accelerator such as Eelektrik. Need to evolve twice to become a Stage 2? Not with Rare Candy.
Pokemon ParadijsWith Vileplume in play, these things do not happen. The game slows down, and countless plays that would be desperate gambles at best become viable, even for people playing against Vileplume. For instance, using Thunder Wave with Tynamo in a normal game is basically saying “I hope I flip heads, and you don’t have a Switch.” But with Vileplume in play, Switch is turned off, and this play is basically a 50% chance to buy yourself a turn and 10 damage.
Baby Pokémon are much safer under Trainer lock. Bench-sitters too: an elaborate combination such as Chandelure/Dodrio UD would not have been possible if Vileplume didn’t safeguard Dodrio. I generally find that in Vileplume games, the game becomes a lot more about what moves are made than non-Vileplume games. Most non-Vileplume decks are simple beatdowns, where Pokémon Catcher often lets you take six prizes in six turns, and it is almost impossible to lock the game up for yourself with proper board control. Whiffing a crucial Trainer is painfully common.
Vileplume decks, however, have their own consistent engine that rush decks have no room for (Twins), and beyond that Vileplume they just need Energy drops and their other Evolution plays, if any. Once you have a Vileplume out, you are generally in control of which things get KO’d in which order, especially if you have Darkrai EX’s Shadow Cloak available.
So again, even though Vileplume’s Allergy Flower reads as a very restrictive power, I feel it opens the game up for a lot more creativity, and I will definitely miss that. The last few days I’ve been toying around on PlayTCG with Mismagius/Vileplume/Terrakion/Darkrai EX, and almost every game I played was interesting in some way. If I had a good start, I would generally still have to work pretty hard to win, whereas with a speed deck, all I’d need to do is keep cycling through my deck to get new attackers, Energy and Trainers.
Pokemon ParadijsBut if I had a bad start, I also had a lot more options to come back, because Vileplume can (theoretically) have a bench full of damaged Pokémon and still be relatively OK. Bench space and Energy drops were also very determining in the ease of my games, and each games where I made a mistake on these, it was painfully noticeable.
Whereas with a deck such as Eelektrik, the only thing you really need to watch for with bench space is having enough Eelektriks and attackers, you only need about two of each at a time, and Energy is a breeze to move around.
If it had been me designing the game, I would actually not have felt Vileplume was great game design in MD-on. Vileplume is too slow to stop the most broken Trainers there (the ones in the Uxie donk decks), and I am quite fond of the SP engine as a consistency engine. Locking Trainers such as VS Seeker, Luxury Ball, and old Rare Candy is not really something I’d want to do.
Now for something more light-hearted, I’ll share with you some of my favourite (and less favourite) gameplay memories involving Vileplume.
At a Battle Road (HGSS-NXD), I’m playing Lilligant and my opponent opens with I believe Tornadus EPO. I Playgrounded a bunch of things into play, and strangely enough my opponent puts down a Jirachi CL along with like two Mewtwo. Turns out his deck is based around using Psydrive instead of X Ball. Because Jirachi is on the field, I figure I pretty much have to go through Gloom, but sadly I only play one and it happens to be prized too.
Pokemon ParadijsSo even though I get my Trainer lock up, he is able to break it with Jirachi, and he plays no less than three of them. I prepared for it by Twinsing for new Rare Candies at every opportunity, but there is just not much to do about it, especially when you factor in double tails. Even Shaymin EX the comeback machine would not save me here because of Psydrive. One of the more frustrating games in my recent memory.
On a fun game on PlayTCG, both my opponent and I happened to select a Raikou-EX-based Eelektrik build, only his has Vileplume, and mine has Trainers. Of course, the game devolves into Volt Bolts on each other’s Eelektriks until both our tigers are lying on the ground, panting, grasping for Energy while we are both at one or two prizes left.
The war is resolved by a Thunder Fang exchange, where the first one to have one of his Raikou at 100 HP or lower loses to the final Volt Bolt. Wait until your opponent flips tails, and then try to flip heads. It reminded me of the good old Digger card from the Team Rocket set.
My PlayTCG opponent is playing Empoleon DEX/Terrakion NVI, and I’m using the Mismagius UL/Vileplume deck. Right away I’m actually quite scared, because I need a lot of Pokémon in play to do the job (which fuels Empoleon), and I also can’t really hit him for any better numbers than he can do for me. We both have unimpressive starts, where he gets his Energy drops and Exp. Shares but no evolutions, while I get some Energy (that gets Enhanced Hammered away) but the Vileplume takes forever.
He ends up getting three Energy on a Terrakion before I get my Vileplume up, Catchers my Darkrai EX and Land Crushes it. Now my other Darkrai EX is prized, and so are both my Pokémon Centers, which means I have to let my Active Pokémon die a lot. With some sacrifices, I end up getting out Vileplume, Mismagius, and some attacking power, but my Energy keeps getting destroyed because I can’t retreat my injured attackers and move their Energy to new ones.
Pokemon ParadijsHowever, my Shaymin EX makes a marvelous comeback, and I manage to have just enough Energy to seal the game. Darkrai EX was in my last two prizes.
From the same day (and thus with me using the same deck), I played two different Klinklang builds (one with Vileplume, and one without). Both of these were very very tense matches. The Vileplume build had Scizor Prime, or at least I think it did because I only ever got to see Scyther. That was really my saving grace, since I only play four Basic Energy (two Psychic two Dark), and in addition I started out quite a few prizes behind.
To be perfectly honest, these games are blending together a lot, but I remember winning at least one because my opponent missed the game-winning colored Energy off a Portraited Sage, while the other one was simply my opponent only having one Energy left in play.
These two games where both players shifted Actives, calculated what to heal with Pokémon Center, what to move Energy to, etc were some of the most interesting I played in my life, and I really wish I remembered how they went in detail. One huge factor in the games was that some of the Pokémon involved could deal bench damage (Darkrai EX, Kyogre EX, and Groudon EX), so long-term thinking was required.
The game I was talking about in the intro (Durant vs Mew/Vanilluxe/Vileplume) was one of the least eventful, but nonetheless intriguing games I have ever played. It was also one of the longest. It was actually a three-game series (I think it was best out of three too). My game plan in these games was to build a tank Durant with Eviolite and as many Special Metal Energies as possible, forcing Mew to try and flip double heads to even damage me, and if it did, not for a lot.
Pokemon ParadijsMy opponent also played Hypno HS, and decided her best bet was to only actively try for two heads (i.e. reflipping with one) if Sleep Pendulum worked. This meant that pretty much each of our turns played out the same way, with a very occasional N or PONT to prevent decking out.
I believe the very final game, she actually had to attack with Fliptini, but Fliptini only does 60 maximum and moves all its Energy to a Benched Pokémon, meaning it ends up stuck Active. It was so long and almost boring, but it was strangely exciting for me because I had pretty much never seen a situation like this.
My last and most favourite Vileplume memory was at the same Battle Roads as the first one I described, where my opponent was playing Vanilluxe NXD/Vileplume/Terrakion/Yanmega Priem. My Lilligant deck got destroyed Game 1 simply because Slippery Soles bypasses Paralysis, which also gave her a great deal of board control in combination with Linear Attack.
Game 2, however, I managed to turn things around by actually attacking with Vileplume’s Dazzling Pollen. On a heads flip, it OHKOs Terrakion, and it only needs one out of two heads over the course of two attacks to KO Yanmega.
This took the game to Sudden Death, where I managed to get out a turn 2 Lilligant + Victini while my opponent got Vanillish. Thankfully, I could N us both to one and keep Bemusing Aroma’ing her Terrakion until I won.
That concludes my most fond memories with Vileplume, but I’m sure there’s a few more I have forgotten. So thank you, Vileplume, for making games interesting. Some people might not care for you, but I can appreciate your smiling face.
I doubt Zebstrika NXD and Gothitelle EPO 47 will be able to live up to you, but I’ll be damned if I won’t try to make them work. The game needs effects like this to keep it from stagnating into autopilot. It is only when your options are most limited, that you appreciate the ones you have the most.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your favourite Plume Plays in the comments!