ffcompendium.comIn part 1-of my “Entering the Dragon’s Den” series, I covered the new cards that are being introduced into the format and how they may impact the format. With part 2 in the series, I want to take a look at some of the major changes that will be happening to the trading card game as a result of the rotation.
I think the best way to approach the rotation is to just be very open to change. This game is one that is constantly changing and evolving with every new set release, and each time a new set is released you’re forced to adapt to the changes of the game if you hope to do well while those who refuse to adapt to change and who also generally complain about the format struggle.
With this upcoming format, we have to deal with not only a new set being added with Dragons Exalted, but we also have to deal with five sets being rotated, which is a much larger change to the format than we usually have to adjust for. A lot of the cards that have become staples that we play with will be gone and that is going to force us to adjust to using new cards and new playstyles. Some cards will be able to be replaced by other, similar cards, but other cards won’t have a suitable replacement so we just need to get used to not having them here and not resort to finding vastly inferior replacements.
So that’s it for the introduction. Time to take a look at some of the major changes that will be taking place as we transition from HS-on to BLW-on.
The Supporter Shift in BLW-on
One of the biggest changes that players will be faced with after the rotation is a major change in the amount and different kinds of Supporter cards that we have available to use. We are losing a whopping 17 Supporters and being left with only six, of which only four are draw Supporters.
The two major Supporters that we are going to be losing from the previous format is Professor Oak’s New Theory and Twins. Professor Oak’s New Theory was probably the most heavily played Supporter from the previous format as it was a solid six card hand refresh that came with no drawbacks and which fit into almost any type of deck.
Twins was the ultimate comeback card, allowing you to get any two cards from your deck when your opponent was leading in the prize exchange. The loss of this card means that setup decks are going to have to depend on a setup engine more similar to the quicker decks in the format as they will no longer have access to any special supporters that help them get setup after they fall behind in the game.
That’s all of the looking back on supporters from the past set that I want to do, let’s move ahead with our set of supporters that are going to be our mainstays in BLW-on.
Cheren is the most vanilla Supporter that we will be using in the new format. The card allows you to draw three cards from your deck. Cheren is the new safe Supporter in the format, giving you a consistent effect with no drawbacks. Its effect is good at any point in the game, whether early or late in the game it’s still a good play.
What I’ve found in my testing is Cheren is best used in decks where it can serve as a combo completer, especially in the early game. Some notable decks that need this combo completion card are Emboar and Gothitelle. For example, in a Gothitelle deck, on turn 2, say I have a hand of Psychic Energy, Pokémon Communication, Rare Candy, Professor Juniper, and Cheren.
My goal is to get a Gothitelle this turn, I need to hit either a Gothitelle or any other Pokémon in order to do this on this turn, so Cheren makes a lot of sense to play in an effort to complete this combo.
This was one of the main Supporters used in the previous format and it will still find a place in most decks in the new format as well. With Junk Arm rotating out of the format though, this card now has a more serious potential to cause harm to you then it did in the past.
Previously, you could discard Pokémon Catchers or your lone Super Rod with reckless abandon in the early game with very little effect on you, as you would be able to get those cards back later in the game with Junk Arm. Now without Junk Arm in the format, those types of discards can really harm you later in the game as those are resources lost forever.
Still, even with this “new” downside to Professor Juniper, it is still my favorite Supporter card in the game and I expect it to be played as a four of in most competitive decks. Its effect of drawing seven cards after discarding your hands is still really strong. Playing Professor Juniper will give you a major speed advantage over players who choose not to play the card in their decks.
It took players a little while to warm up to using N heavily in their decks when it first came out in Noble Victories, but during State Championships and National Championships N was at the forefront of the format as one of the big three supporters along with Professor Oak’s New Theory and Professor Juniper. I think N will end up being maxed out in most decks in the new format.
N is definitely the most complicated Supporter card we have in our format. Its effect changes based on the game state – not only on the number of Prize cards each player has left, but also the number and kind of cards in your opponent’s hand. Because of this, players will have to know when to and when not to N, especially in the early and mid games. If you see your opponent has a dead hand, you probably shouldn’t play your own N as it will help your opponent get out of their dead hand.
As always, the card will continue to serve as a comeback card, sticking your opponent with smaller and smaller hands as they take prizes throughout the game.
Most players have probably seen the other three supporters played against them competitively, but most players probably haven’t seen Bianca used against them in competitive play. Bianca allows you draw cards until you have six cards in your hand.
Bianca is a card that is going to be good in some decks and game situations, but terrible in others. The card has a lot of upside, allowing you to draw up to six cards, which is tied with an early game N for the second most cards you can draw off of your Supporters. It has the downside of drawing you only 1-2 cards, and possibly none if you have a hand you can’t work below six cards, giving you an essentially low impact or unusable supporter in these situations.
Decks that are able to make the best use of Bianca are decks that are able to play down their hands consistently every single turn. Cards that help you do this are Ultra Ball, Level Ball, Heavy Ball, PlusPower, Crushing Hammer, and any Pokémon Tool card.
In most decks in the previous format, Random Receiver was played as at least a 1-of. This was because it allowed you to grab a Supporter in any game situation as long as you had a Junk Arm in your hand after you’ve played your Random Receiver. Now with Junk Arm rotating out of the format, I would expect most players to play less Random Receiver in the new format as having another copy of a Supporter in your deck is generally better than a card that can fetch you a Supporter, as playing more of the latter than the former could lead you to running out of Supporters.
I do see Random Receiver being played in two situations however.
2. In decks in which you already maxed out all of the supporters you want to play, but want to boost the deck’s consistency by devoting more spots to Supporter based cards. For example, Accelgor DEX decks will only want to play Bianca, Cheren, and Professor Juniper, and not N, so if they want to devote more cards to Supporters, Random Receiver would be the play in that deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comA lot of the commentary for Random Receiver also applies for Xtransceiver. You play the card either with Sableye or in decks where you want to boost the number of cards devoted to Supporter consistency, but want to avoid playing a certain Supporter.
Xtransceiver allows you to flip a coin and if heads, search your deck for any Supporter card. The positives of Xtransceiver is that it gives you the versatility to grab the supporter that you need for a specific situation. The downside of course is that the effect is dependent on a coin flip.
This isn’t a card that I would play in any of my decks. I think Random Receiver is the better play for boosting consistency as it actually ensures that you get a Supporter, while a tails could make Xtransceiver useless.
Recapping Draw Support
What I have found in my testing is that while the number of draw supporters we have is small, they are more than sufficient to form the backbone of pretty much every type of deck in the format. There have been three main insights I’ve gained on the support system of the BLW-on format.
1. You can sit on your Supporters again.
With Smeargle UD rotating out of the format you no longer have to fear being stuck with a powerful Supporter in your hand that your opponent can use Portrait and use the effect of. I think most people know that horrible feeling of using N to put their opponent to a small hand size, Knocking Out an EX, and then drawing a Professor Juniper or Professor Oak’s New Theory off of your Prize cards that allows your opponent to use Portrait to get themselves out of their bad hand.
In the new format you won’t be punished for having Supporters in your hand and as a result can more deliberately choose when you want to use your Supporter cards.
2. These Supporters are not one size fits all.
Each deck is different and each deck is going to need their own special blend of these four Supporter cards and the two Supporter-Item cards to build the consistency backbone of their deck. Professor Juniper, N, and Bianca might be the right blend for one deck, but Professor Juniper, Cheren, Bianca, and Random Receiver could be the right blend for a different deck.
Don’t try to jam the same Supporter line into every deck. You need to do a bit of play testing to see which Supporters are working for you and which ones aren’t until you find the correct recipe for your deck.
3. There are less Supporter droughts.
We are moving out of the shuffle draw format brought on by Professor Oak’s New Theory’s position as the dominant supporter of the previous format and into a new format that favors straight draw Supporter cards. In a shuffle draw format, more resources are conserved, meaning you are competing with more different cards when trying to find a Supporter card as you keep more cards in your deck.
A straight draw heavy format thins your deck out more, making it easier to find your Supporter cards as there will be less other resources in your deck that you have the potential to draw.
That’s enough for all the Supporter cards that get to sit at the popular table, but there are also two other unpopular Supporters that have made no stamp on competitive play and are unlikely to make any mark on the competitive environment in the near future.
Cilan allows you to search your deck for three Basic Energy cards and put them into your hand. The card’s most obvious use is in decks that can attach unlimited or multiple Energy from the hand. It’s secondary purpose would be to search out tech Energy cards from your deck. The most obvious partners for this card will be Emboar BLW, the new Blastoise card we should get in November, and Terrakion-EX.
This actually isn’t a completely terrible card, and I know that from first hand experience. A deck I tested out prior to State Championships was Emboar BLW/Vileplume UD/Reshiram-EX/Mewtwo EX/Coballion NVI. Cilan was great in this deck as it could help me search out both Metal and Fire Energy, allowing me to setup an Energy Press in one turn, and it would be enough for me to setup a Reshiram-EX for a Brave Fire attack in one turn as long as I had another Basic Energy or a Double Colorless Energy in hand to attach for the turn.
If decks based on attaching multiple energies from the hand get popular, Cilan could see some fringe play.
Hooligans Jim & Cas however is unlikely to see much competitive play. The card allows you to flip a coin and if heads, randomly pick three cards from your opponent’s hand and they shuffle those back into their deck. This card is bad for two reasons: First, it is dependent on a coin flip, so if you flip tails, you just wasted your Supporter for the turn. Secondly, even when you do flip heads, you might not even be hurting your opponent at all if you select unimportant cards from their hand to shuffle back in.
The Return of Setup Pokémon
We actually did have one setup Pokémon that received a bit of play in the previous format in Pichu HS, so for players that used Pichu, the concept of using a Pokémon to setup your bench with other Pokémon in the early game will be familiar.
There are three main contenders for this role heading forward into the new format: Elgyem NVI 55, Lapras NXD, and Emolga from Dragons Exalted. All of these cards allow you to search your deck for two Pokémon and play them onto your bench with attacks that cost a single Energy.
Elgyem would be a poor play as it has a Psychic Weakness and only 60 HP, making it vulnerable to Mewtwo EX donks. Lapras is limited to only being played in water decks as its attack costs W, which leads to Emolga being the universal setup Pokémon for the format.
Emolga is a Basic Lightning type Pokémon that has 70 HP, a Lightning weakness, a Fighting resistance, and a free Retreat Cost. Its Call for Family attack allows players to search their decks for two Basic Pokémon and place them onto their bench.
Emolga’s 70 HP leaves little threat of it being donked. Its only real donk threat is Tornadus EX using Blow Through with a PlusPower. That requires a four card combination of Tornadus EX, Double Colorless Energy, Skyarrow Bridge, and PlusPower, which doesn’t make it all that likely for Emolga to be donked.
Even in water decks, I would prefer playing Emolga over Lapras. Emolga’s free retreat allows you to retreat to an attacker quickly on the second turn of the game, while Lapras could get stuck in the Active spot with its two Retreat Cost.
In decks that I play Emolga in, I typically play four copies of the card. If you’re playing Emolga, the card is your preferred starter, so I think it’s best to do what you can to maximize your probability of starting with the card.
pokemon-paradijs.comWhat seems to be everyone else’s most hated card (but not my own), Junk Arm, will be rotating out of the format, which will have some major implications on how we play the game. Junk Arm is a card that allows players to discard two cards from their hand and then put an Item card from their discard pile into their hand. The card allowed players to potentially play the same Item card eight times in one game, which is something that most players found broken.
Not having Junk Arm available makes resource management much more important than it was in the previous format. Last format you could feel at ease discarding a couple of Pokémon Catcher or your lone Super Rod on a first turn Professor Juniper, as you knew you could rely on Junk Arm to still have suitable counts of those cards available to you throughout the game. This format, once those resources are in the discard pile, they will be gone for the rest of the game in most decks.
Another implication of Junk Arm rotating is its effect on the inclusion of 1-of techs in decks. In the past format, we could discard our 1-of techs early in the game and then use them with Junk Arm later in the game when they were needed, or allowed us to use techs for certain matchups up to five times in one game.
There are quite a few different cards in the format that have effects similar to Junk Arm in that they allow you to retrieve Trainer cards from your discard pile.
The first two cards, Trubbish NVI and Durant from Dragons Exalted allow you to place a card from your discard pile on top of your deck for an attack cost of C. I don’t think either of these cards are worth playing as the card from your discard pile would be your single draw card for the turn too.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe next card is Excadrill DEX, whose attack Dig Uppercut does 50 damage and allows you to place any card from your discard pile into your hand for FF. This is certainly a cool card, but it only can be played in fighting based decks because of its energy requirements and 50 damage from a Stage 1 Pokémon is underwhelming, especially as the format moves away from Fighting weak Pokémon.
Sableye DEX is the strongest Pokémon replacement for the card with its attack, Junk Hunt, which allows a player to put any two Item cards from their discard pile into their hand. The attack costs D, which means the attack can only be used in decks that play either Darkness, Prism, or Blend Energy.
I think Sableye is a really good card, but I think players who expect to use Sableye as a Junk Arm replacement are going to be in for a rude awakening come the start of tournament play. Once the game gets into a developed state, using Junk Hunt for your turn is going to usually be giving your opponent a free prize while simultaneously not putting any damage on your opponent’s Pokémon. Additionally, Junk Hunts can be disrupted by smart N management by the opposing player.
I think the best way to use Sableye is to aide in your setup in the early game or in an attempt to make clutch plays during critical game points. You simply can’t be using Junk Hunt over and over again throughout the game as a Junk Arm replacement as you will be giving your opponent free prizes and not putting any damage on their Pokémon.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe last possible Junk Arm replacement is an Item card, Recycle. The card allows you to flip a coin and if heads place an Item card from your discard pile on top of your deck. Recycle is a card that I thought was a bit of a joke for a Junk Arm replacement heading into the format, but after messing around with the card a bit, it’s actually not horrible.
This card has a 50 percent probability of working on any given use, which gives you the following probabilities over the course of an entire game for the card working x number of times if you play all four copies of the card in a game.
0 = 6.25 percent
1 = 25 percent
2 = 37.5 percent
3 = 25 percent
4 = 6.25 percent
Restructuring that data, that gives you the following probability of flipping at least the following number of heads:
1 = 93.75 percent
2 = 68.75 percent
3 = 31.25 percent
4 = 6.25 percent
As you can see, in a majority of your games, you will be getting to use the effect of Recycle at least two times in the game.
You can actually use Recycle very similarly to how we play Junk Arm in the current format if you have the card in hand at the start of your turn. Three of our four draw supporters (Professor Juniper, Bianca, and Cheren) are all straight draw supporters, which means if you play Recycle before you use your Supporter for the turn you can get that Item back the very same turn.
Overall, I’ve found the best way to approach the loss of Junk Arm is to just play thick lines of the Item cards I want in my deck and manage my resources more wisely than I did last format. I think both Sableye and Recycle are good enough to warrant consideration of play, with Sableye being a definite play in dark decks, but I think just playing more wisely and putting together more consistent deck lists is going to be the best way to get by without Junk Arm.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is something that most players are probably used to doing by now, as this was the status quo for most non-Item lock decks in both the Next Destinies and Dark Explorers formats. As of right now we don’t have any Pokémon search Supporters like we had last format in Pokémon Collector, Professor Elm’s Training Method, and Twins, which means you are going to have to depend on Item cards and Pokémon to search the Pokémon out of your deck.
Outside of setup Pokémon like Emolga, I don’t see Pokémon based search being widely played outside of specific decks (Such as Gabite in Garchomp/Altaria). One of the reasons for this is that you need to depend on the Item cards to search out a card like Venusaur, so why use Items to search out a Pokémon to search out Pokémon, when you can just search out the original Pokémon that you want with the Item cards?
The only major ball that we’re losing as a result of rotation is Dual Ball, which allowed you to flip two coins and search out a Basic Pokémon for each heads flipped. I am really happy that Dual Ball won’t be one of the main cards we depend on for search anymore, as I really don’t like flip cards for important utilities like this and all the balls we will be left with give some certainty… for the most part.
Poké Ball and Great Ball of course don’t bring certainty in grabbing you a Pokémon. With Poké Ball, you have to flip a coin, and if heads you can search your deck for a Pokémon card. With Great Ball, you look at the top 7 cards from your deck and you may choose one Pokémon card in those top seven cards. These cards aren’t very good and shouldn’t be part of anyone’s ball engine.
The three main balls at our disposal are Level Ball, which gets you a Pokémon with 90 HP or less, Heavy Ball, which gets you a Pokémon with a 3 Retreat Cost or greater, and Ultra Ball, which lets you discard two cards from your hand and then search your deck for any Pokémon card.
When working on your ball engine to setup your deck just look at the HP of your Pokémon and their Retreat Costs and that should give you all the information you need to know on which balls to use. Ultra Ball is a solid decision regardless of what deck you’re playing as it will be able to get you any Pokémon, regardless of their stats.
Finally, we will also see a return of Pokémon Communication to widespread competitive play. The reason for this is that evolution decks are making a comeback which leads to players playing more Pokémon cards in their decks which makes it more likely for a player to have a Pokémon in hand alongside Pokémon Communication to make use of it.
Pokémon Communication actually pairs really well with the ball engine in that you can use a ball in combination with Pokémon Communication to search out any Pokémon from your deck. One common example I have for this is in a Gothitelle deck I’ve been testing, which uses Level Ball to search out Gothita and Gothorita. I can use the Level Ball to get one of those Pokémon and then use a Pokémon Communication to get a Gothitelle.
If you don’t already have play sets of all of these cards make sure to get them soon. These four cards are going to be at the forefront of Pokémon search in the new format.
No More Mass Energy Movement For All Decks
pokemon-paradijs.comIn the rotation we will also be losing Shaymin UL, whose Celebration Wind Poké-Body allows you to move any Energy you have attached to your Pokémon to your other Pokémon in any way you like. Shaymin was very widely played in the top-decks toward the end of last format and the card gave you a large sense of uncertainty as you never knew when your opponent would be able to use Shaymin to move around the Energy on their board.
Without Shaymin in the format, the state of the Energy on your opponent’s field is much more certain. Your opponent will no longer be able to power up another EX Pokémon in one turn by using Celebration Wind and then healing the damaged EX with a Super Scoop Up or Max Potion. Your opponent can no longer use a bench Energy accelerator like Eelektrik NVI followed by a Celebration Wind to power up an attacker in the Active spot, or move Energy up to a Pokémon without any Energy attached with a high Retreat Cost that you used Pokémon Catcher on in an attempt to stall.
In short, players will no longer be able to power up attackers who previously had no energy on them in any deck. Now only decks with Energy trans Abilities or Energy acceleration will be able to power up attackers out of nowhere. The difference between these types of decks for instantly powering up an attacker and Shaymin UL, is that these types of decks require a setup, while Shaymin UL was a tech choice that could be used as a surprise.
The best replacement for Shaymin UL is going to be Pokémon with energy trans Abilities. The two in the current format are Klinklang BLW and Hydreigon, which will be released in Dragons Exalted. Both of these are Stage 2 Pokémon, so you will have some forewarning that energy movement is something that will happen in the game.
Additionally, these cards have restrictions on what type of Energy they can move. Klinklang can only move Metal and Hydreigon can only move Dark Energy, so these aren’t cards that you can just tech in with any energy type.
The other possible Shaymin replacement is an Item card called Energy Switch, which allows you to move one Basic Energy card from one of your Pokémon to another.
Energy Switch is inferior to Shaymin in three ways: 1. It only moves one Energy at a time. 2. You have to play multiple copies of Energy Switch if you want to move multiple Energy or consistently be able to move Energy as part of your game plan. 3. Energy Switch cannot be searched out of your deck with another Item card as Shaymin could be.
The New Faces of Trainer Lock
pokemon-paradijs.comTrainer lock will be taking on quite a different look and role in the new format, as Vileplume UD rotates out of the format. Vileplume UD had a Poké-Body that blocked either player from playing Trainer-Item cards.
Vileplume was one of the strongest cards in the previous format and losing it from the format has a big impact on the types of decks we can play. Just to show how powerful Vileplume was, here is a list of some of the decks that made use of the card:
- The Truth (Vileplume UD/Reuniclus BLW) [2nd Place World Championship 2011, Fall Battle Roads, Fall Regional Championships, City Championships, and Spring Battle Roads]
- Mew Lock [Fall Battle Roads and Regional Championships]
- ChandyBeach (Chandelure NVI/Dodrio UD) [BDIF of City Championships]
- Vanilluxe NVI/Vileplume/Victini NVI 14 [City Championships, Spring Battle Roads, and National Championships]
- Donphan Prime/Machamp Prime/Vileplume [City Championships]
- Lilligant EPO [Spring Regional Championships]
- Mew Prime/Vanilluxe NVI [State Championships and Spring Regional Championships]
- Mismagius UL/Vileplume [Spring Battle Roads and National Championships]
- Klinklang BLW/Meganium Prime with Vileplume [Spring Battle Roads and National Championships]
- Accelgor DEX/Sunflora HS [Spring Battle Roads]
- Mew Prime/Accelgor DEX/Chandelure NVI [National Championships]
youtube.comAs you can see, Vileplume has been involved in a lot of decks this past season. It just wasn’t in a large number of decks, but it was in a lot of really good decks that have been some of the top tier decks of the formats they were good in.
Vileplume will be passing on the torch to Gothitelle EPO and Zebstrika NXD as those two become the remaining champions of trainer lock.
We will be moving from a format in which we had universal trainer lock to a format with restricted trainer lock. Vileplume’s trainer lock was universal, that is, once it was in play, the effect of its Poké-body was in play until it was removed from the field of play. Our remaining trainer lock options all have stipulations as to when their trainer lock works.
Gothitelle needs to be in the Active spot for its Magic Room Ability to be in effect. This limits the type of deck you can make as Gothitelle needs to be in the Active spot for you to make use of the Item lock, which for the most part will mean that you are forced to make a deck around Gothitelle as the main attacker if you want to keep the Item lock effective. There are some exceptions, such as Pokémon with Deck and Cover attacks and retreat to bench attacks that allow you to place Gothitelle back into the Active spot before your opponent’s turn.
Zebstrika needs to make use of its attack Disconnect in order to be in effect. The attack only does 40 damage (or 20 if your opponent has an Eviolite attached), which means you are going to be doing minimal damage to your opponent with a relatively fragile Pokémon (of only 90 HP) if you want to keep the trainer lock in effect.
pokemon-paradijs.comThere is something else that is very important about the new trainer lock and that is that the new trainer lock is one-sided. When using both Gothitelle and Zebstrika for trainer lock, only your opponent is under trainer lock which frees you to use trainers to further your setup once the lock is up, allowing trainer lock decks to setup quicker and more consistently than they did with Vileplume.
The types of archetypes that are going to be most effected by the loss of Vileplume is status lock decks. These decks relied on Vileplume to prevent their opponent from being able to use Switch to get their Pokémon inflicted by a Special Condition (usually Paralysis) from getting out of the Active spot. They also depended on Vileplume to protect their Victini NVI from Pokémon Catcher knock outs, as most of these decks had attacks that were dependent on coin flips.
In the new format, these decks won’t be able to use Item lock as part of their strategy, as Gothitelle needs to be in the Active spot and Zebstrika needs to use an attack for the trainer lock to be in effect which prevents you from attacking with a Pokémon like Vanilluxe or Lilligant and maintaining the lock for that turn. Without the extra support of Item lock, the power of these decks will be weakened as your opponent can use Switch to free themselves of the Special Condition and can use Pokémon Catcher to take knock outs on support Pokémon like Victini.
The lone exception to this rule is Accelgor decks, as Accelgor goes back in your deck after you attack with it, which allows you to promote Gothitelle to the Active spot before your opponent’s turn to lock your opponent’s Paralyzed Pokémon in the Active spot.
pokemon-paradijs.comThat’s all I have to write on the transition to the new format for now. This article wasn’t meant to be all encompassing, there are many more changes that we will see in this format compared to the last as a result of the rotation. In this article, I just wanted to look at some of the more major changes and their impact on the format, and I hope I’ve targeted the most important changes well enough to help you out in preparation for the new format.
I will be wrapping up this article series in the near future with part 3, in which I will take a look at ten BLW-on decks that you will likely see at Battle Roads.