Hey guys, Alex Hill here. I’m a player from South-Central Michigan who has been playing the Pokémon TCG competitively for around 6 years. While I don’t have any significant accomplishments to boast (other than some Battle Roads and Cities wins), I have a lot of experience, knowledge, and a love for this game.
This article, like many recently, will be focusing on how to deal with the format we’ll be playing with for the next year. I’ve played a good deal of games under the new restrictions in the last month and I have to say, it’s the healthiest format we’ve had in years. However, if you try to play it the same way you played in the HS-on format, you’re going to run into problems. So, let’s jump right in.
5. Deck Building
The first problem you will run into is, logically, how you construct your deck. In the recent years, we have been able to tech a lot more than we will in BLW-on. Now, with the loss of Junk Arm, any Items that we need will have to be played in higher counts than we’re used to. This leads me to the main focus of deckbuilding – consistency.
In the past, we have been able to use up to 2-3 Supporters a turn through Sableye SF’s attack in the DP-on and MD-on eras, and Smeargle UD’s Portrait in the HS-on format. That allowed us to see a large number of cards each turn, and really search out what we need.
This extreme search lets us feel comfortable playing only 1 or 2-of a card that we might need, knowing that we could find it in our deck fairly easily. Once we use that card, we could easily get it back through Junk Arm, Revive, Super Rod + Energy Search, etc.
However, in the BLW-on format, this luxury is no longer available to us. We are limited to the cards we have in hand, and the 1 Supporter we get to use every turn, no more. We do have some good Pokémon search in the form of Ultra Ball and Level Ball, but we rely on simple draw to search out the other cards we need. Playing higher counts of cards that we need such as Rare Candy, Exp. Share, and Max Potion is absolutely essential if you hope to hit them off of an early game N or Professor Juniper.
Also, the starting hand is now incredibly important. If you don’t start with a Supporter in your first 7 cards, or draw one as you start your turn, you’re already at a huge disadvantage. No longer can you just Level Ball for a Smeargle, retreat, and use Portrait to get back into the game. You’re at the mercy of your topdecks, or you rely on your opponent to play N.
pokemon-paradijs.comAny smart player will note that his/her opponent did not play any Supporter on their last turn, and think, either they’re holding onto something important, or they’ve got a dead hand. They would then survey the field, make a logical guess, and either play or hold onto that N depending on what the situation called for.
This is why I believe that the days of 4-8 Supporter decks are over. Random Receiver is still in the format, and I believe it should still be played, but it is no longer the crutch it used to be. Playing a deck with 12-14 Supporters is encouraged, as any less will severely limit your chances of drawing one when you need one.
Also, a quick note about Random Receiver. Some people might disagree, but I think that most decks, especially those playing Professor Juniper (which, really, should be about 95% of them), should be using at least 2. Think about this very likely situation. You start with a hand of a basic, 2-3 Energy, a Juniper, an Item, and 1-2 other Supporters, say another Juniper and/or Bianca, both useless.
If one of those Supporters were a Random Receiver instead, you would then have a choice. If the other cards in your hand were incredibly important, you could use it and hope for an N. However, most likely, you would instead be able to discard that Random Receiver when you use Juniper for the turn and not lose one of your Supporters that you’ll want to draw into later in the game.
Also, you can use Random Reciever to get a Supporter and thin your deck when you shuffle your hand in with N hoping for a certain card.
pokemon-paradijs.comIn the BLW-on format, there are only 6 Supporters. 6. That’s nearly 1/4 the amount we had in HS-on. While at least 10 of those were completely irrelevant (Bill, Cheerleader’s Cheer, etc.), we still had a lot more options. Now, basically every deck has to use the same Supporters.
Of those 6, the only shuffle-draw option is N. For that reason alone, almost every deck will play at least 2-3, and most of those use 4. Each player will probably use 1-2 in the early game to get them going, but that leaves them with several to use in the late game.
At any time in the game, you should be expecting to play, planning for, and fearing an N. Fewer decks are able to “run off of the field” (or, work correctly and efficiently without requiring certain cards in hand), so using N in the late game will often cripple a deck and buy your opponent a turn or two, often enough to swing the game in their favor.
For this reason, smart use of Supporters is crucial. The more you have left in your deck when your opponent N’s you to 1, the more of a chance you have of drawing into one. Not only do you want more Supporters, but it really matters how many Supporters you have in relation to the amount of other cards you have in your deck.
In the previous format, we used Junk Arm to discard the useless cards we didn’t want to draw off of a late game N. These days, we have to play things a bit differently. Ultra Ball is a good option in the late game to get rid of these cards, effectively discarding 3 cards (Ultra Ball and 2 others, assuming you fail the search). You could even play down that Pokémon (think Emolga DRX, a free retreater) if it won’t come back to bite you when your opponent Catchers it for a cheap prize.
Using Professor Juniper to discard a hand of useless Heavy Balls or Pokémon Commuication instead of using Cheren or Bianca is another idea. Even using Switch into a free retreater, then retreating back to the desired Pokémon is a good way to get cards out of your hand and get the ratio of Supporters to useless cards into the positive figures.
This brings me to my next point which is:
3. Playing Conservatively
Not only is it incredibly important to conserve your Supporters, but any card that is crucial to your deck’s strategy and ability to function in the late stages of the game. This could be anything from Pokémon Catcher and Max Potion, to Switch, Tool Scrapper, or even Energy cards. While I know I’ve said this a lot in this article, and many others have as well, the loss of Junk Arm is huge. It can be dealt with, it just requires a totally new mindset. Many games and decks can no longer afford to become “autopilot.” You have to make a concious effort to play conservatively, or you can and will struggle in the late game.
People will need to get used to the fact that they no longer should feel the need to HAVE to play a Supporter every turn. While it’s very often a good idea to play a card such as Cheren and see what you can get in your hand, questions should arise before you drop it. “How many cards are left in my deck, will this possibly leave me susceptible to decking out?” “Do I have enough Supporters left in my deck so I can effectively burn this one?” or even “Is there anything I need from the deck?” Several times, especially when you’re comfortably in the lead, playing a Supporter is a bad idea.
Going along with this, you really need to know the count of nearly every card in your deck. If you don’t know whether you play 3 or 4 Catcher, you notice you have 2 in your discard pile, and you’re counting on having one for your game winning play, you need to know if you can use the one you’re holding onto in your hand and be able to use one later.
Also, it is very helpful to know the likelihood of drawing a Catcher when you use a Supporter. That way, you can bank on having a Catcher after you use Juniper, or develop a backup plan before you even use your Supporter for the turn. If you don’t like your odds (which, most good Pokémon players won’t), playing the N in your hand to slow your opponent down might be a better play.
2. Expect the Unexpected
BulbapediaWhile expecting the unexpected makes the unexpected now expected, you really do need to be wary for anything in the current format. Especially for the Battle Roads season (and even more so if Championship Points are eliminated), players are willing to try out all kinds of different decks. The thing that makes these decks dangerous is practice time.
A player playing Amoonguss NXD/Ninetales DRX will spend a lot of time testing against the popular decks such as Hydreigon, Eels, and Garchomp. So will everyone else. Thusly, the rogue player will have lots of experience against the top decks, and possibly, know how to beat them. However, the player faced with a Vulpix and 2 Foongus on turn 1 will have little knowledge on the matchup, and that can easily get them into a sticky situation.
As the format is not yet fully developed, these rogue decks will be popping up a lot more frequently than they would around States time. Heck, without cold hard facts from our tournaments, they aren’t actually truly rogue. If you aren’t flexible or can’t react well to your opponent’s strategy, you could be in for some tough games. Even if your deck is favored over your opponent’s in theory, missing a Supporter for a turn, or having a starting hand without energy could be the difference between winning or losing.
And not only should you expect the lesser played decks, but there are many techs that should be considered. Imagine your dismay as your opponent uses Hooligans Jim & Cas, hits the heads, and shuffles the Pokémon Catcher you were expecting to win the game with on your next turn back into your deck. Now, if you have played conservatively, you’re in decent shape here, and your chances of drawing into a Supporter or a Catcher are fairly good.
Another scenario I’ve seen is an Accelgor DEX deck that actually ran Dark Patch, and attacked me with Darkrai EX. I had a fully powered Terrakion NVI on the bench and was easily able to counter it, but if I wasn’t prepared, I could have easily given up 2-3 Prizes while I scrambled to get an attacker ready to deal with that threat late in the game. In an undefined format, people are willing to try anything.
1. Know Your Format
Mark A. HicksLast but not least, you need to go into every game knowing that you’re not playing HS-on anymore. Every single Item in your deck is important, and you only can use each one once. For the most part (other than by use of Energy Switch or Hydreigon), every Energy on your field will stay attached to the Pokémon you attach it to. You can only use 1 Supporter per turn, and if you don’t have one in hand, you can’t just play the Random Receiver in your discard pile to get one. Very few decks will allow you to attach more than 1 Energy per turn. The list goes on and on.
If you don’t get yourself into the mindset of BLW-on, you’ll start to make plays that aren’t really feasible anymore. Drawing into a Catcher is not as easy as it was last format when you effectively had 7 when you needed them (if 1 was in your discard) instead of 3-4 now. The same thing goes for any number of gamewinning cards from Dark Patch to Tool Scrapper or even just Switch and Potion.
Thinking your way through a situation and knowing what your best options are will go a long way toward winning a game, and will leave you more prepared when and if you miss the 1 card you could have been looking for.
Also, you need to remember that your opponent is constrained by the restrictions of the new format as well. Bench-sitters should feel safer knowing the opponent no longer will have enough Catchers to take all 6 Prizes through use of them alone (for the most part). Surprise plays are less surprising, as mass Energy acceleration and movement have come to a near standstill, and most attacks/attackers require a turn or two of buildup before they are ready to be unleashed.
Well, that’s about all I have. I’ve tried adding more to this article, but anything else I have to say is mostly rambling. I’m sure I rambled a bit above, but thank you for at least entertaining my thoughts.
No matter what you play, or what happens with the Battle Roads structure, remember why you play the game. If you go to a tournament and don’t make any friends or have any fun, I can honestly say you’re doing it wrong. Sure, everyone likes to win. The rush you get from winning a single game, even if it’s between the two 1-4 players left in the tournament, is so great. However, if you have no one to celebrate your meaningless win with, what good is it?
Also, if you ever see me out and about, come and say hi! I’m rather friendly, and I’d love to meet you. I play at the weekly league here on the Michigan State campus, I attend most of the tournaments in the lower half of the state, or you can even e-mail me at email@example.com. Whatever works!