Hello SixPrizes UG!
It’s been a while since my last UG article and the reason for this was that I was at Worlds. You have probably read my Worlds experience, so you know that my Worlds record was subpar. After Worlds, I suffered from the worst jet lag of my life, which lasted 6 days. Thankfully I was able to get the UG spot for the end of the month, so I didn’t have to write this article while still suffering from the jet lag.
Since you can read my Worlds experience, I won’t bother talking about that in this article. It’s another season with another format and the only direction is forward. At the moment, the format seems very promising and more skill-intensive than the past two Worlds formats, so I’m very excited by the upcoming season.
To be completely honest, I’m not yet functioning at 100%, but I’m functioning well enough to be able to test the new format. Before Worlds, I only played the new format with the most obvious metagame decks that everyone could netdeck from Japan. However, as I have been able to test more, I’ve been able to come up with rogue decks as well. In this article, I’ll reveal some of the most promising ones.
But first I’ll analyze how the rotation has affected deck building and what cards are necessary when building a deck for the BLW-on format. I’ll also take an in-depth look at what factors into consistency in this format. And at the end, I’ll list my favorite 3 Pokémon of Dragons Exalted, reveal a rogue-ish deck for each of them, and take a quick look at the Battle Roads metagame.
The UG writers have done an incredible job covering the new format, and for a moment I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything new since most of the most important decks of the new format have already been discussed. Nevertheless, I hope I came with something useful, so I hope you enjoy the article!
pokemon-paradijs.comI’m pretty sure that this is obvious to everyone, but I’m still surprised that it hasn’t been discussed much in previous UG articles since it makes all the difference compared to the last format. Before I started play testing the new format, I was comfortable with the loss of Junk Arm. I thought that it would decrease the amount of free prizes since you can’t use Catcher that many times, and you need more draw to your deck since you can’t Junk Arm Random Receiver when your hand is “dead.” However, the more I tested, the more I understood just how greatly the loss of Junk Arm affected the game.
In the beginning I was convinced that the loss of Junk Arm was only a good thing, but in the first game when I drew an opening hand with 3 Catchers and Juniper, I had to reconsider my opinion. The Juniper was my only draw card in hand and if I used it, I discarded 3 Catchers. It would mean goodbye for any kind of game control in the late game and goodbye for easy prizes. In fact, I could’ve just scooped the game since without Catchers (while your opponent has Catchers) it’s almost impossible to win.
The other option was not to use the Juniper and just draw and pass and hope to draw something decent or an N to shuffle the Catchers back to the deck. That would’ve lead to huge prize deficit, letting my opponent to set up and gain the board control, so it was as bad of an option as using the Juniper.
With Junk Arm available, I could’ve just used the Juniper, managed my resources well in the late game, and use Junk Arms only for Catchers. The combination of Juniper and no Junk Arm can be deadly. However, I’ll discuss more about Juniper later on.
As mentioned earlier, the great thing about Junk Arm was that you could take Pokégear 3.0 or Random Receiver back with it. Even though Junk Arm decreased the amount needed to manage your deck’s resources, it also gave the decks a boost of consistency, which just isn’t there anymore. In my opinion, the loss of Junk Arm isn’t totally a good thing, because it makes decks less consistent and therefore decks less versatile. A lack of consistency hurts creativity.
The Lack of Search Engines and Starters
Thanks to the rotation, we lost 3 important cards for a deck’s consistency:
At the moment, there are two cards that can be credited as “starters” even though neither of them really fulfills the purpose of a “starter.” These two cards are:
The problem with these two starters is that they can’t help you if you have a “dead” hand. Dead hand meaning a hand with no Supporters or any search Items. All Emolga can do is fill your bench with Basics ready to be KO’d by your opponent’s attacker and Sableye is good at Confusing when it comes to a dead hand. So, in fact, these two cards are completely useless if you have a crappy hand.
If we take a look back at the seasons before BLW-on, we notice one similarity between these seasons. Either the format had a decent starter, a decent search engine, and/or a decent support Pokémon. Here’s a look at these cards of the last 9 seasons:
- 2003-2004: Dunsparce SS, Delcatty RS, Oracle, Jirachi HL
- 2004-2005: Dunsparce SS, Jirachi HL, Jirachi DX, Magmar RR, Magcargo DX, Pidgeot RG
- 2005-2006: Jirachi HL, Jirachi DX, Magmar RR, Magcargo DX, Pidgeot RG
- 2006-2007: Holon’s Castform, Holon Engine, Magcargo DX, Nidoqueen d
- 2007-2008: Claydol GE, Gardevoir SW, Chatot MD
- 2008-2009: Claydol GE, Gardevoir SW, Uxie LA, Uxie LV.X, Chatot MD
- 2009-2010: Uxie LA, Uxie LV.X, Spiritomb AR, Chatot MD
- 2010-2011 (Worlds format): Cleffa HS, Junk Arm + Pokégear 3.0
- 2011-2012: Smeargle UD, Random Receiver + Junk Arm, Cleffa HS, Virizion NVI
pokemon-paradijs.comThere are many players who say that the 2006-2007 season was one of the best ones in the Pokémon TCG history and one of the main reasons for this was the Holon Engine – a draw engine that could be applied into ANY deck thus enabling the most versatile format in the Pokémon TCG history.
The problem with the current format is that we don’t have anything like Holon Engine. In fact, we wouldn’t need Holon Engine if we had any supporting Pokémon like Uxie, Claydol, or Pidgeot. To make things even worse, we don’t even have decent starters in the current format that could match the greatness of Cleffa (which isn’t even a very good starter due its low HP).
I make it sound like the rotation to the current format was a bad thing. Why is that? The reason was mentioned earlier on in this article – the lack of consistency hurts creativity. Since the current format doesn’t have any good starters, search engines, or supporting Pokémon, we will probably end up with a very stale format. Of course my assumption may be wrong, but that’s how I feel at the moment.
To make the metagame as healthy as ever, we would need back cards like Claydol that could be used in any deck. Any deck was consistent with Claydol and even though some may think that having a card that is a “must” in every deck is bad for the game, it really isn’t. As something like Claydol becomes a must in every deck, it also creates a niche for Power-locking decks at the same time that take the advantage of the decks’ Claydol-reliability thus creating anti-metagame decks.
When a format has its share of Power (Ability) using decks, it should also has its share of anti-Power (Ability) decks. When these two deck types are in balance, the format is versatile.
As we have been aware of the Japanese BLW-on metagame for a long while now, we know their three Tier 1 decks. The top tier decks are: Hydreigon/Darkrai EX, Garchomp/Altaria, and Eelektrik variants. The reason behind the success of these decks isn’t that these Pokémon have the best attacks or synergy, the reason for these decks success lies in their consistency. The decks just work very well. From this we get an awkward transition to the next topic.
Good Evolution Lines Matter!
BulbapediaIt’s been a while since the evolution lines really mattered. This is mostly due the fact that the Basics like Mewtwo EX and Darkrai EX have been in the leading roles in most decks. If you played evolving Pokémon, you just wanted to play the big HP ones. It really didn’t matter if they hit 10 damage for C or 50 damage for C since their only mission was to stay alive. However, as the rotation happened, things have changed radically. Now the evolution lines make all the difference between good and bad decks. In fact, I discussed the following topic in one of my ancient articles.
One of the top tier decks – Garchomp/Altaria – has a lot of similarities with the example Nidoqueen deck of the past article. As Yuta Komatsuda’s winning list has leaked to Internet and UG staff has done great job analyzing Garchomp, I don’t have any “new” kind of list to offer you. However, what I think is important in any Garchomp list is to play 4 Gabites. Without Gabite, the deck would be somewhere between Tier 2 and 3. Gabite alone makes the deck Tier 1, so I don’t really see a reason why you wouldn’t want to play 4 of them.
Gabite makes all the difference with Garchomp’s playability. That’s something you must remember while thinking of the other playable cards in the current format, because something that doesn’t seem that good may be a lot better than it first seems like thanks to its lower evolution forms. This was the case with Nidoqueen. It was a mediocre Pokémon in many ways, but thanks to it lower evolution forms, which made it the most consistent (and not Power-reliant) deck in the format, it was able to win the World Championships. It’s a perfect example of how an entire player base overlooked a very good deck just because they didn’t pay attention to the lower evolution forms of the main attacker.
When you first look at Garchomp, you see potential in it, so of course it’s not as easy to overlook Gabite as it was to overlook the Nidoran and Nidorina. Once you have recognized the importance of evolution forms in the current format, let’s take a look if the current card pool has any overlooked evolution forms. By searching the whole card pool, we can find these supporting lower Evolution forms.
- Solosis BLW
- Pansage EPO
- Pansear EPO
- Panpour EPO
- Shelmet NVI
- Karrablast NVI
- Trubbish NVI
- Elgyem NVI 55
- Foongus NXD
- Minccino NXD
- Zorua DEX
- Feebas DRX
- Gothita DRX
- Gabite DRX 89
- Rufflet DRX
- Litwick BLW Promo BW27
I hope I didn’t miss any. As we can see, there are surprisingly many number of lower Evolution forms that support your set up in one way or another. However, if take a closer look at these cards, none of them can match the consistency addition which Gabite gives to a Garchomp/Altaria deck. Let’s go through the cards one by one.
pokemon-paradijs.comFirst we have Solosis from Black & White. It has horrendous 30 HP and can search another Solosis with 1 P Energy. As long as we don’t have a decent Item locker and Mewtwo EX is still in the format, Reuniclus is completely unplayable. There is no point of discussing it further.
Then we have the monkeys from Emerging Powers. No matter how you want to look at the monkeys and their Stage 1 forms, they are completely unplayable. A one card Collect doesn’t really help as long as the Stage 1 forms are THAT unplayable.
At the moment you might think that I’m going to just bash every single evolution form of the format but Gabite, but that’s not the case! A dim light shines from Noble Victories. First, we have the dynamic duo – Karrablast and Shelmet. These both evolve to their Stage 1 forms with their “Mysterious Evolution” attack. Karrablast evolves to Escavalier for those who didn’t know it (I didn’t) and Shelmet evolves to a fearsome Accelgor.
Both Escavalier aren’t that awesome. The main problem with them is that they have low HP and even lower damage output. Evolving in T1 doesn’t really help you when you hit less than an Audino with a DCE.
When it comes to Shelmet, Mysterious Evolution really makes the new age Accelgor a lot better. The new age Accelgor differs from the old Accelgor because the old Accelgor only needed an Accelgor in the Lost Zone to atack with Mew Prime. However, with the new Accelgor, you need 1 Accelgor in play, so you can use Accelgor’s attack with Mew-EX. Mysterious Evolution is a perfect way to set up your Accelgor since Accelgor has a free retreat while Shelmet has a retreat of 3. Accelgor would be playable even without Mysterious Evolution Shelmet, but with it, Accelgor is even better!
Noble Victories seems to shine when it comes to the lower evolution forms since next in line is Trubbish, the Basic form of the only Ability-locker in the whole format. Trubbish’s attack puts a card from your discard pile to the top of your deck. When we think about Garbodor DRX builds, this little attack can be very useful from time to time.
Not only you can save Pokémon Tools from discard pile if you have Juniper’d them in the early game, you can also reuse that Juniper if you don’t happen to draw another Supporter from the Juniper. It’s a small Pokémon with an attack that feels meaningless, but in the end it can make all the difference in the world!
pokemon-paradijs.comLastly from Noble Victories there is Elgyem. Elgyem is attack-wise the most broken Basic Pokémon in the BLW-on format that evolves into something. Elgyem searches 2 Basic Pokémon onto your bench with a C Energy. That’s as good as Emolga! When it comes to Elgyem’s evolved versions, for now let’s just say that one my rogue decks in this article includes Elgyem. It’s that good.
Continuing to Next Destinies and Foongus. As we all know, Ninetales/Amoongus is already a well-known deck. We’ll see if it ever will be as popular as Flariados back in the days, but one thing is for sure – Foongus makes the deck more playable. With Find a Friend you’re able to search your deck for any Pokémon – if you flip heads. This would usually be more than great, but here comes the problem: Foongus only has 40 HP.
Simply put, 40 HP is just too low. You don’t really want to attack with Foongus in your turn 1, unless you desperately need something from your deck. There are too many Pokémon in the current format that can just KO an active Foongus. And losing a Foongus in T1 will hurt a lot in the late game.
The other good Basic from Next Destinies is Minccino. Cinccino hits 100 with only a DCE if your bench is full, so having a Minccino with a Call for Family sounds more than great. And in fact, that’s exactly what it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cinccino made a comeback to the metagame along with the rotation. If it ever makes a comeback, Minccino will be will be a contributing factor to that since it combos directly with Cinccino’s attack.
From Dark Explorers we only have one Basic Pokémon, but it’s more than worth mentioning. Zorua is the only card in the whole format that evolves automatically without flipping. And what’s even better, you have 2 GOOD Zoroarks to choose from when evolving. I believe that thanks to Zorua, Zoroark/Dark stuff will see a lot more play than it did last season.
From Dragons Exalted we have of course the broken card named Gabite. The other UG writers and I have already discussed Gabite a lot, but I must still emphasize just how good it is. Thanks to its Ability, Garchomp/Altaria is usually hitting on T3 for 100-120 damage with only one energy. And most importantly this happens consistently. Nothing is more important than consistency right now since Battle Roads have no top cut – and you can’t afford to have a bad start. That’s one of the reasons why I believe Garchom/Altaria will be the most successful deck during Battle Roads.
BulbapediaFeebas is also making a comeback with a consistency attack. It really doesn’t matter, because this time Milotic is practically unplayable. There may be a time for Milotic to shine when the card pool gets bigger, but at the moment, there is no deck that needs Milotic.
Third, we have Rufflet. I needed to once again Google what it evolves to. However, Rufflet is more than decent starter, because with its attack you can search for two Fighting Resistant Pokémon from your deck. It’s good to notice that these Pokémon can be evolved Pokémon. Just like with Milotic, once the card pool gets bigger, Rufflet will surely be playable, but at the moment there really is no really good Fighting resistant Pokémon except Ho-Oh EX.
Last but not least, there is Gothita. Gothita has one of my favorite attacks in the whole game – Future Sight. The beauty of Future Sight is that it’s a consistency attack for you at the same time while it can disrupt your opponent. I’ll talk more about Gothita’s potential in the current format later on in this article, but for now let’s focus on Gothitas evolving forms.
Probably the best Gothitelle in the format is the only card in the format that is able to lock Items in a prudent manner. Gothitelle EPO 47 is of course weak to Mewtwo EX, which is never a good thing, but I can see Gothitelle/Gardevoir working in theory. I haven’t had yet time to test Gothitelle/Gardevoir enough to say if it’s a playable deck or not.
Right, there was one more card – Litwick the Promo. Chandelure is good and it’s also one of my favorite cards in the current format. Litwick with a Call for Family attack is more than I could hope for a good Stage 2 Pokémon like Chandelure. However, the fact is that even though Call For Family adds consistency, it really doesn’t help you through the dead hands. This is the issue with all of Call For Family Pokémon in the current format. Nowadays, you can’t even Call For Family for a starter like Cleffa or Smeargle, because there aren’t any!
Next, let’s move on to the real starters this format has to offer.
Starters and Supporting Pokémon
Starters and supporting Pokémon are the cornerstone of every single deck. Without them a deck doesn’t simply work (naturally I’ll prove this claim unfounded in just a moment). The current format has a pretty poor card pool when it comes to starters and supporting Pokémon, but thankfully there are still some playable ones.
BulbapediaEmolga is the most popular starter in the format at the moment, due the nature of Trainer pool we have access to at the moment. The format is full of Pokémon searching Items. So, all you need to do is to search the Basic Pokémon with Emolga and you’ll have a decent set up on T2 thanks to the huge Item engine in your deck. The best thing about Emolga is its free retreat. Free retreat has always been a thing that has made the difference with a good and mediocre starter. Even though Emolga’s attack isn’t mind-blowing, the free retreat it offers is something no deck wants to pass by.
Sableye is my favorite starter in this format even though it doesn’t save you from bad hands. The reason why I like Sableye is that it really sparks creativity. You can do atypical things with Sableye’s ability to reuse Item cards. The possibilities are almost limitless when you can reuse almost anything in your deck. Later on in this article, I’ll show you my current favorite deck that includes Sableye as the starter.
Minun and Plusle are probably the most interesting starters we have had in the format for a while. At the moment, I would say that they are underrated. However, I may be wrong. And that’s mainly because of Darkrai EX. Minun and Plusle both have only 60 HP and in order to get 8 cards with Plusle’s attack, you’ll need a Minun as well. So, in practice, it’s 2 free prizes for a Darkrai EX player.
There are ways to avoid this like attaching Eviolites to them, but I think that would defeat the purpose of starters. However, I think they have potential. One mustn’t forget that the Eelectrishower attack of Minun would be in any kind of format – whenever a starter is able to hit the bench, it’s always a potential addition to any deck.
Then there is Virizion. Virizion was used as a starter already in the HS-on format in some decks, so it really is good. The reason why Virizion is good even though it only draws 2 additional cards with its Dual Draw – attack, is its high HP. It’s the only starter in the current format that is never a cheap prize for your opponent. Without Energy attached to it, it’s almost as difficult for Mewtwo EX to KO as a Darkrai EX with 3 Energy. Thanks to the high HP, Virizion will probably see a lot of play in the early season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it played late in the season as well. It will never go out of the fashion.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe current format doesn’t really have that many Supporting Pokémon. The last format didn’t have that many Supporting Pokémon either, but one is enough. In the last format Smeargle fulfilled the spots of starters AND supporting Pokémon. You could use Portrait in T1, but you could also use Portrait to get back on track after a late game N.
The two supporting Pokémon… or in fact, only Musharna is a more traditional supporting Pokémon that sits on the bench and adds your decks consistency card by card. Musharna has the nearly same Ability as Uxie LV.X, but unfortunately Musharna hasn’t been given that good an attack. The format is still fairly fast and Musharna is in most decks more of an inconsistency factor than a consistency factor. It’s also good to remember that as long as Catcher is around, Musharna is too easy to be KO’d.
Empoleon is a highly unusual Supporting Pokémon, because even though its Ability is a very good drawing Ability, you want to attack with it as well. It would be a waste not to attack with Empoleon since its attack is so good. And if you’re going to attack with it, you want to build the whole deck around it. As much as you wanted to use Empoleon only because of its Ability, its attack is too good for Empoleon just to sit on the bench. So, yeah, Empoleon really isn’t a supporting Pokémon; it’s just a very good card.
You may wonder why the word starters is in the quotation marks. The reason for this is that these cards aren’t really starters even though in most games, you use these cards in the early turns to draw cards – from prizes. Indeed, these are the cards that pretty much define the current format. These are also the cards, which (I think) aren’t good for the skill-level of the game.
However, you must adjust to the nature of the format and by playing these cards you have a chance of ending the game before it has even began or before your opponent has a chance to even set-up properly. Let’s take a look at the “starters” of this format.
BulbapediaFirst, we have Shiny Rayquaza. Thankfully it will be available as a normal version in the next set, because it’s such a good card. However, during Battle Roads, we’ll have to live with it being a super rare card.
I don’t really know what PCL has been thinking when creating Shiny Rayquaza. It’s a perfect card in the current format. It hits 40 with only one L Energy, thus being able to 1HKO some of the most common Basics in the current format like Tynamo, Deino, and Swablu. To make things better (or worse) it’s a Dragon type Pokémon, so against the best decks out there (Garchomp/Altaria and Darkrai EX/Hydreigon), it’s able to 1HKO even the Stage 1 forms of these Pokémon. One Shiny Rayquaza is easily able to take 2-3 Prizes in the 2-3 first turns against decks like Garchomp/Altaria.
The only drawback in Shiny Rayquaza’s attack is that it discards 2 top cards of your deck. The funniest thing about this drawback is that some decks can turn this drawback into an asset when setting up. A good example of this kind of deck is Eelektrik, which wants L Energy to the discard pile in the early game. Shiny Rayquaza can at the same time help get L Energy into your discard pile, all while giving you a prize lead. Later on, I’ll also show my vision of Shiny Rayquaza’s part in setting up the game.
Mewtwo EX is one of the most double-edged starters in the current format. Before, if you went first and both you and your opponent opened with Mewtwo EX, you really didn’t want to take the risk and attach a DCE to your Mewtwo EX since there was a possibility that they have a DCE and a PlusPower in their hand. However, in the current format PlusPower has seen a huge decrease in play. This makes Mewtwo EX one of the best “starters” in the current format.
It really doesn’t matter what your opponent has as their active Pokémon, you can always go aggro-Mewtwo ex if you have a DCE in your hand. If your opponent happens to have even a bit slow start, one Mewtwo EX is able to wreak a lot of havoc to your opponent’s set up. Not only is Mewtwo EX one of the best starters, it’s also one of the best late game attackers. Simply put, it’s the best attacker in the whole format.
BulbapediaMew-EX is one of my favorite starters in the game even though it’s a free prize for Mewtwo EX. Mew-EX is a great starter because it’s so versatile. Whenever you open with Mew-EX, you can always choose what your next attack is. Use an Ultra Ball and you have every single attack in your deck available for Mew-EX. Not to mention that you can also copy your opponent’s Mewtwo EX’s attack. Mew-EX is one of my favorite cards in Dark Exploreres and a deck revolving around it will be showed later on.
Since we don’t quite yet have Fast Ticket, Tornadus EX isn’t as good as it could be. However, it’s still one of the strongest openers in the whole format. It’s able to hit 60 on T1 and 100 on T2. There is no other Pokémon in the format which is able to reach that big amount of damages so quickly. The great thing about Tornadus EX is that just like Mewtwo EX, you can play it in any deck due its C Energy cost.
Thundurus attaches Energy from deck while Landorus takes Energy from the discard pile. Both of these cards are obviously good and are able to hit 80 on T2, but which of them is better one? It pretty much depends on the deck.
Thundurus was played in the mid-season of last season in Eelektrik decks. I’m expecting it making a huge comeback early this season because Junk Arm is no longer in the format. Thundurus is able to do 2 very important things for an Eelektrik deck – get a fast powerful attacker in the early game, and more importantly, get Energy to the discard pile.
With Junk Arm and Smeargle, it was very easy to get L Energy to discard pile in the early game, but in the current format, it isn’t easy at all. However, thanks to Thundurus, it’s easy once again. Thundurus will be a must addition for every single Eelektrik variant if you don’t want to rely on Shiny Rayquaza. I would suggest you rely on Thundurus in the early game because it’s more consistent.
What makes Landorus so great in the current format is the lack of Energy acceleration for Fighting type decks. Landorus is the only real way to attach more than one Energy for Fighting decks. Even though you may not always be able to get F Energy in to the discard pile in your first turn, it doesn’t diminish Landorus’ viability.
Whenever you are able to get the F Energy in the discard pile in T1, you’ll have a very strong T2 no matter what you’re facing. It’s also good to remember that since Fighting Type Pokémon don’t have Energy accelerators like Eelektrik, you need to play Exp. Shares with Landorus in order to harness its full potential for your deck.
Next in line are the draw Supporters. There aren’t many, and they aren’t very good. However, the card pool is the same for every player, so all you can do is to adjust and live with the fact that the current format has the poorest Supporters ever in Pokémon TCG history. The mix of the Supporters is also a bit strange since most of the draw Supporters in the current format have been considered bad in the past formats.
The funniest thing in this is that when we look at the translations of the upcoming sets, there aren’t any cards that would make things better any time soon.
First, there is Cheren. Cheren is as mediocre draw Supporter as any card can be. Cheren lets you draw 3 cards. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. From all of the draw Supporters in the current format, Cheren is probably the least liked by players. The reason is simple – all the other cards let you draw more than 3 cards (at least most of the time).
Cheren is never a bad choice as your decks draw Supporter, but don’t think that you can set up a Stage 2 deck with Cherens – it won’t happen. Cheren works the best in decks that need little resources to work and don’t want to discard any cards. The best decks to abuse Cheren so far are – in my opinion – Ninetales/Amoongus, quad anything decks, and Empoleon variants. These decks don’t need a lot of cards in order to set up and they don’t want to discard anything while setting up.
It’s fair to say that Cheren is the worst draw Supporter in the current format. Most Tier 1 decks don’t want to play it since most Tier 1 decks are able to discard cards from their hands and most of them rely on discarding cards.
Bianca is a card that you can debate over forever. Is it really worth playing? In my experience – just like with girls in real life – I’ve experienced more frustrating and awkward moments with Bianca than happy moments. The awkwardness of Bianca comes from its effect, which lets you draw cards until you have 6 cards in your hand. In theory Bianca is the best card out there, you have a lot of Items in your deck, so you usually draw 4-5 cards with Bianca, right? Well, in theory yes, but in practice things don’t always go as smoothly as you would think.
The biggest problem I’m having with Bianca are the moments when your hand consists of these things: 2 something, 2 Supporters (including Bianca), and 2 Energy. If I have already attached Energy this turn, and even if the 2 somethings were Items that I can play (which they usually aren’t), I’m still left with a hand of 3-4 cards. In most scenarios Bianca draws me 3 cards – the very same amount of like Cheren. This happens very often especially in the early and mid-game.
In Item heavy and Ultra Ball heavy decks, Bianca is usually worth playing. However, what you must be aware of while playing Bianca is that sometimes it’s just better to draw those 3 cards and not use Ultra Ball to discard precious cards from your hand. I’m pretty sure that this kind of tunnel-vision will be very usual in the early season. People use and discard blindly everything from their hand just to draw more with Bianca. Even those precious Catchers. This kind of tunnel-vision play will cost you games because it leads to careless burning of resources.
Thankfully, Bianca is able to shine especially in the late game. Without her you would be screwed in late game if you’re left with Cheren and N. These guys don’t really help you to recover from a late game N. However, with Bianca you’re able to recover from late game N like nothing happened.
So, here’s the deal: is Bianca worth it? I would say yes, even though it’s frustrating from time to time. The harsh reality of the current format is that we have to settle with Bianca-like sub-par draw Supporters. Bianca is still one level better than Cheren in 80% of decks, so if you don’t like to play risky and run 4 Junipers, 4 N, and 4 Random Receiver, Bianca is a must addition to your deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe most ironic thing about N is that it was created as a disruptive Supporter. However, due the lack of draw Supporters in the current format, it has become the best (only) shuffle & draw card in the format. In the first few turns it’s as good as PONT in its times of glory! Most decks want to play 4 Ns due its greatness in the early game and its disruptiveness in the late game. N is often played every single turn from either player. This leads to very strange shifts in game-play.
Playing N may lead you to overthink – does your opponent have a good hand, or a bad hand? If you have no way of knowing this, don’t even try to read that from their face. Some players are open with their crappy hands (which they shouldn’t be when playing competitively) while the other players may bluff that they have crappy opening hands.
So, unless you have seen their hand, don’t waste time thinking if you want to play N or not, but just play it if you need to. If your opponent thanks you as soon as you play N, don’t get distracted. There is no way you would have known that they have a crappy hand and playing N wasn’t a misplay.
Since hands are shuffled back and forth to the deck all the time, it’s usually not even a problem if you happen to draw a crappy hand from N since your opponent may use an N in his/her next turn. This happened to me various times during my test games. I draw a crappy hand from my Supporter, but my opponent has no way of knowing that. Next turn he/she plays an N and I draw a better hand. My opponent let me back to the game, but he/she has no way of knowing it. All these things are out of one’s control and you must just accept the fact that N is a double-edged sword.
I think we already know how good N really is in the late game, especially when you’re in a prize deficit, so I don’t need to analyze Ns abuse in the late game.
The most important thing about N that you need to be aware of is that you want to play 4 of them. And most likely your opponent has 4 Ns in his/her deck as well. This is a very important thing to be aware of due the fact that Ns are played almost every turn. Usually you don’t have to panic whenever you draw a crappy hand; it’s very likely that your opponent will save you from your crappy hand without knowing it with his own N. It’s a must have card in every single deck.
If the other 3 draw Supporters in the format were questionable, Juniper is even more controversial. It is the most double-edged sword among draw Supporters. First of all, it’s the most efficient draw Supporter in the format. It lets you draw 7 new cards – something that even Bianca can’t do when you have an empty hand. However, at the same time you have to discard your old hand. As I mentioned earlier in this article, when you hit a pocket of Catchers at the same time when Juniper is the only draw Supporter in hand, you’re up for a very difficult decision. The cards you end up discarding with Juniper may cost you the game. It’s something you can’t take lightly.
Thankfully there are decks that can happily use Junipers. These decks run Sableye. Sableye is the Junk Arm of this format, which forgives no matter what you discard. With Super Rod, you can take back all the Pokémon you discarded and with Junk Hunt you are able to get all the Catchers, Switches, etc. you discarded with Juniper. It’s no wonder Darkrai/Hydreigon is a Tier 1 deck. It’s the only Stage 2 deck that is able to run Juniper without worries. The other Stage 2 decks must run Juniper because otherwise they won’t set up quickly enough, but Juniper is very risky for those decks.
Even though Juniper is the riskiest draw Supporter in the format, it’s in my opinion the best. I’m not the type that enjoys risky draw cards, but the fact is that Juniper is the key to set up quickly enough in the current metagame. The format is still fairly fast and even though you may burn through your resources with Juniper, you may still have some resources left in your deck when the game ends. In the end, Mewtwo EX wars don’t require too many resources, but they require that you hit the cards you need at the right moment.
Juniper is the best draw Supporter in the current format. Even though your deck is very delicate with its resources, I highly recommend trying Juniper in it. You should try every deck with 4 Juniper and if you feel that 4 Junipers is too much, you should lower the amount, but never get rid of all the Junipers. It’s too good not to be played.
pokemon-paradijs.comEven though Random Receiver isn’t a Supporter, it’s worth mentioning here. Obviously Random Receiver isn’t as good as in the past format since you can’t Junk Arm a Random Receiver any more. However, there are uses for Random Receiver in the current format as well. I’ll later on show a decklist that runs Random Receiver in a creative way, but for now let’s concentrate on Random Receiver working as a draw Supporter.
This way of running Supporters has its pros and cons. In the early game this is a superior way of running Supporters because Ns and Junipers are the most powerful draw cards in the format, but as the game gets longer, this Supporter engine gets a lot worse. This is mainly due the fact that after you have drawn 2 Prizes, N isn’t a draw card any longer; it’s just filler in your deck. After you have drawn 4 Prizes, you do nothing with Ns.
In a perfect world, you want to use Ns in the early game while reserving Junipers for the late game, but since you only run 12 “Supporters,” there are times when you’re forced to use Juniper. The most awkward situation you’ll come up with this engine is when you have Juniper and a Random Receiver in your hand.
Picture a scenario when you have a good hand you don’t want to discard. You want to use the Random Receiver to get N. However, there’s a possibility that you’ll hit another Juniper with it. After that you’re forced to discard your good hand and burn 2 Junipers! And it may get even more awkward with 1 Juniper and 2 Random Receivers. If you hit with the first Random Receiver into a Juniper, you want to take the risk of using the 2nd Random Receiver.
Odds are on your side for getting an N, right? Well, even though the odds aren’t against you, the luck may be. And if you happen to hit the 3rd Juniper with the Random Receiver – well you can kiss the game goodbye. You won’t be able to stay in the game with Ns only, if you are forced to discard 3 Junipers at the same time. There’s some food for thought.
Also, there is Xtransceiver, but I think it isn’t worth discussing, because you can’t rely on flips when it comes to consistency cards like supporters. Since we don’t anymore have tech supporters like Seeker and Black Belt, there is absolutely no point of playing the card.
Resource Management Matters!
pokemon-paradijs.comI already discussed this topic in the Junk Arm part, but I feel like I need to discuss resource management more. After all, resource management isn’t only using your Catchers and Switches correctly – it’s managing all your resources correctly. As I mentioned earlier, most decks want to run Junipers. This by itself makes resource management difficult when playing most decks.
Resource management matters, but the fact is that there are handicaps for this. The best handicap for a player who doesn’t want to spend his time thinking how to play his/her Junipers is to play a deck with Sableye. I believe that this is one of the reasons that will affect Hydreigon/Darkrai’s success a lot in the early season – it’s one of the easiest decks to play because Sableye is a very forgiving card.
However, this doesn’t mean that the decks with Sableye are somehow a “noobs” choice. Not at all; the simple fact just is that when you have a deck with limited resources vs. a deck that has unlimited resources, the deck with unlimited resources always has the edge in a long run.
Juniper isn’t the only card that you have to be careful with. From the popular cards there are 3 that pop into my head when the discussion is about resource management without Sableye. These 3 cards are:
Ultra Ball is the best and most dangerous Pokémon searching Item in the current format. While it can search for any Pokémon, it can discard for example the Darkness or L Energy you need for Dark Patch or Dynamotor. However, when you don’t have that god hand with 2 Basic Darkness or 2 L Energy, Ultra Ball can get very dangerous. The worst thing about Ultra Ball is the situations when you must play it, but there aren’t any cards you want to discard.
pokemon-paradijs.comIn these situations you must weight carefully the pros and cons of discarding each card. Analyze the matchup, check if you have any of the cards you’re going to discard in the discard pile (you should’ve done this in the first turn you have an access to your deck) and make the final decision based on facts you know, not on assumptions like “well my both Mewtwo EXs can’t be prized.” They just may be.
With Switch and Catcher things have changed radically compared to the past format. In the past format, you wanted to play 1 Switch and 1 Catcher as soon as possible, because in the late game you needed to have access to these cards with Junk Arm. However, this isn’t the case anymore. Now you only have the amount of Catchers and Switches available as you have those cards in your deck. Correct use of Catchers was important in the past format, but now it’s vital if you want to get any Championship Points.
You can’t just burn Catchers for fun – every Catcher you play has to have a meaning behind them. If not, you’ll run out of Catchers before your opponent uses his/her first Catcher. Catchers are the key to easy prizes and as everyone knows – easy prizes has always been the key to victory. When playing a Catcher, you should always have one goal in mind – taking a Prize card. If you don’t KO the Pokémon you Catchered, it’s usually just one wasted Catcher.
What I enjoy in the new format is that Switches aren’t taken for granted anymore. This opens a chance for stalling strategies, which I enjoy a lot. In fact, one of this entries decks I’m going to introduce later on takes an advantage of the limited amount of Switches the opponent has. Of course some decks still run the damned Darkrai EX, which gives a free retreat to everything, but thankfully drawing D Energy isn’t taken for granted anymore either.
Since you don’t have unlimited Switches anymore, you must be careful while playing Switches. Of course this only applies to decks like Eelektrik variants that have “big” retreat Pokémon like Eelektrik, but still it’s one more aspect to the game with some decks.
The Format is Faster (Slower) Than Ever
This argument is valid and invalid at the same time. Since the draw Supporters are worse than ever, some decks are very slow. However, these decks are too slow to be competitive. At the same time there are decks that can’t play Juniper and are slow and there are decks that can play Juniper and can hit T1 40-60 and more in the upcoming turns. The lack of draw Supporters creates an imbalance to the format.
While some set up decks need a few turns to be able to set up properly, Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX is as lethal in the early game as before. Mewtwo EX can come swinging prizes in the early game while Darkrai EX takes care of the rest in the late game. Same with other “starters” I mentioned in this article.
These all cards can get very aggressive in the early game and the pressure is sometimes too much for a Stage 2 deck to handle. However, if Stage 2 decks are able to handle the early rush from the main “starters” in the format, they’ll have a decent chance of winning the game.
Later on I’ll take a quick look at my top tier decks for Battle Roads and while these decks include both – slow and fast decks – the main thing about them is consistency. If the decks are slow, they need to have a decent buffer against the “starters” in the early game. If they are fast decks, they need to have enough firepower to stand against the Stage 2 decks.
Since the early aggression is so usual in the current format, you can’t really any bad opening hands. Especially if you want any CPs from Battle Roads. One Shiny Rayquaza is able to tear down your Garchomp/Altaria’s crappy hand. Shiny Rayquaza takes easily 6 Prizes in 6 turns against Garchomp/Altaria if you aren’t able to draw into any Supporters. The format is the most unforgiving format for bad starts ever, so I highly recommend you building your deck as consistent as possible to avoid frustrating losses in the first few turns.
My Favorite Trio from Dragons Exalted
Finally, back to decks and decklists. My favorite 3 cards from Dragons Exalted can be surprising for many of you, but I’m sure everyone knows which card is the number one. Anyway, let’s get it on.
As you may know, I have always had a soft spot for alternative ways to win games. So, it’s not a big surprise that Aggron made to the list. Let’s take a look at the list.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 33
Energy – 9
BulbapediaThe list combines a lot of things I’ve discussed in this article. It’s a Stage 2 deck that uses Juniper as the main draw Supporter. It’s able to do it because it runs 4 Sableyes. At the same time it has unlimited resources.
The deck’s strategy is to deck your opponent out with Aggron while disrupting it with Catchers and Hammers at the same time. I think the working mechanic of the deck is pretty familiar to everyone who is familiar with Hammertime. So far I love the deck and the only problem I’m having with it is whether I should concentrate more on disruption or on Aggron’s Ability.
If I cut all the disruption cards from the deck, I can get a very smooth flow of Toppling Winds, but my Sableyes will get KO’d more often. However, if I concentrate more on disruption, I can’t keep the flow of Toppling Winds as steady as with a “straight” Aggron list.
The decklist isn’t even near perfect yet because I haven’t yet played 100 test games with it, but I’ll keep on play testing this deck because I love the idea. Once I’m confident with the decklist, I’ll surely play it in Battle Roads/City Championships. I’m already looking forward to it.
You heard me right – Baltoy. One of my favorite starters of all time is Absol SW and even though Baltoy doesn’t match the greatness of Absol, it’s still a decent disrupter.
Pokémon – 18
2 Gothita DRX
Trainers – 30
Energy – 12
BulbapediaThis deck needs a bit more explaining. The strategy is to attack with Reverse Spin as soon as possible (either with Baltoy or with Mew-EX). In the following turn you want to use Hooligans and pray for the heads (why doesn’t this format have any non-flippy disrupters) and finish the deal with Beheyeem. If you happen to hit tails with Hooligans, you should still have Mew-EX to attack with Brain Control and take care of the draw Supporters of your opponent.
One of the most important things in this deck is Gothita because it has Future Sight. With the combination of Brain Control/Hooligans and Future Sight, you’re able to lock your opponent completely. The brilliance of this deck is that Future Sight works in both ways. If I have already locked my opponent, I can Future Sight myself to get my game going. Finally there is something good in not having any good starters in the current format!
This deck also runs 4 Random Receiver because I need to hit Hooligans as soon as possible. With 4 Hooligans and 4 Random Receiver, it’s very likely that I’ll hit for Hooligans in the first two turns. Without Random Receiver, this deck wouldn’t be possible.
There are also two strange things in the deck – Energy Search and Energy Switch. Energy Search is here because I need to hit the Energy in the first turn in order to secure a T2 Reverse Spin. Since the deck doesn’t have that many drawing Supporters, I want to use Energy Search instead of Basic Energy since it increases my chances to draw something good from my deck with the card for my card.
The same goes with Energy Switch, it’s there to secure the T2 Reverse Spin, even if I’m not able to open with Baltoy or Mew-EX in the first turn. I don’t yet know if Energy Switch is absolutely necessary, but so far it has worked well.
Just like with Aggron, this deck is only in the development stage and I’m sure that the perfected version will have different Trainer and Pokémon lines. One thing that has been floating around my head is the use of Catchers and snipers like Zapdos NXD since all I need to do is lockdown my opponent’s active Pokémon in a way that makes it useless. It really isn’t a problem if an Eelektrik deck has a perfect set up as long as I can drag Eelektrik as an active Pokémon and won’t give the deck any Energy/Switches to retreat the Eelektrik. The possibilities are unlimited thanks to Mew-EX’s versatility, and not so surprisingly that’s the next topic!
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Mew-EX is the number one favorite of mine in the Dragons Exalted. It’s as versatile as its Ability says it is, thus giving unlimited options for a deck building lover like me. Here’s my current favorite Mew-EX variant at the moment.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 31
Energy – 15
BulbapediaThis deck’s goals aren’t obvious, but here’s the main strategy in a nutshell. Usually you want to open with Mew-EX or Shiny Rayquaza. Start hitting with Shiny Rayquaza’s Dragon Pulse either with Mew-EX or Shiny Rayquaza while discarding all of your deck’s stuff with it. At the same time you’ll want to use Junipers and Ultra Balls to get Ho-Oh EXs and Energy to the discard pile.
The deck’s beauty in my opinion is in the aggressive set up. Even though it’s very aggressive and aims at taking early game prizes, all the aggressiveness has a purpose for later game. With Ho-Oh Rebirthing from discard pile, you are able to keep the easy prizes going while setting up the very heavy hitters. Mew-EX also works very well with Ho-Oh EX because you can tech anything to this deck. With Mew-EX’s attack you are able to move the Energy Ho-Oh EX has retrieved from the discard pile to any other of your Pokémon. In this deck you do most of the attacking with Mew-EX, Ho-Oh EX, or Darkrai EX, but as I said, the possibilities are limitless.
I think this deck is the new Six Corners. Any players can take the concept and use it to build a deck for their own liking with the attackers they want to use. It’s also very easy to modify as an anti-metagame deck since it can use any kind of attackers. I’m more than certain that this kind of concept will be around until the very end of this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these kinds of decks to be popular already in the Battle Roads since the concept is a very fun and an efficient one.
Battle Roads Top Tier
If you are after CPs from Battle Roads, there are 4 “safe” decks that are developed enough to make the undefeated record a reality. Most of these decks are developed enough because we can look at the example lists of these decks from Japan. However, as soon as the format becomes more familiar to players, new decks will soon rise to the top tier. However, at the moment, the four Tier 1 decks (and the best plays for Battle Roads if you haven’t tested your own rogue decks) are the following.
pokemon-paradijs.comJust like in last format, Eelektrik variants are very versatile. Anything that is able to attack with Colorless or L Energy can be teched into Eelektrik decks. The reason why Eelektrik variants are top tier decks is that they can abuse almost every “starter” of the format. Mewtwo EX is a must have in Eelektrik deck, but you must also remember that Eelektrik can run Thundurus, Tornadus EX, and even Shiny Rayquaza as a starter.
The abuse of starters defines in the early season just how good the deck really is. Eelektrik variants can not only use them in the beginning game for attacking, but for setting up as well. As I discussed earlier, both Thundurus and Shiny Rayquaza help Eelektrik to get L Energy into the discard pile in early game while giving the deck a prize lead at the same time.
Eelektrik variants will be one of the most dominating decks in the early season, because they really haven’t lost anything from the last format aside from Smeargle. And thanks to the “starters” of this format, Eelektrik only gets better than before compared to the other decks of the format that have lost Smeargle. If you have a bad matchup against Eelektrik variants and want Championship Points, you should consider your deck choice again.
Hydreigon/Darkrai EX has been analyzed by the UG staff more than enough, so I won’t bother saying it all over again. However, once again, I must link the deck’s expected success to one of the main topics of this article – starters. Hydreigon/Darkrai EX uses Sableye as its starter. Thanks to Dark Patches and Max Potions, Hydreigon/Darkrai EX abuses Sableye better than any deck in the format (excluding AggroHammer). The unlimited resources, which Sableye gives to Hydreigon/Darkrai EX is the key factor in its success in the upcoming season.
Hydreigon/Darkrai EX will also be more than successful during Battle Roads and in the end, its key to success is the same as with Eelektrik – the decklist has already been developed to the tournament level. Eelektrik was an old deck which you needed only to change a few cards and with Hydreigon/Darkrai EX, you can just take the Japanese winning list and change it 1-3 cards, and everyone have a clear Tier 1 deck in their hands.
In the early season the most familiar decks will do well because it’s easier for the masses to play the already known and developed decks, but thankfully, as the season develops, so do the decks and the versatility of the metagame.
BulbapediaJust like Hydreigon-EX/Darkrai EX, Garchomp/Altaria is a deck developed by Japanese players and analyzed by UG writers. All we need to do is to take the list played by Yuta Komatsuda and we have a clear Tier 1 deck in our hands once again.
As I’ve discussed earlier, Garchomp/Altaria is so good because it has Gabite. This helps the deck to overcome even the most aggressive set up and when having a good opening hand, this deck can be very aggressive from T2 onwards as well. So far, Garchomp/Altaria has been one of my favorite decks of the current format due its straightforwardness. However, the straightforwardness isn’t the bad type of straightforwardness in my opinion. As the season goes on, I’m sure this deck will get better thanks to the increased versatility.
For now, I settle to say that this deck is – in my opinion – the best pick for Battle Roads. Why? Well, there’s one simple reason for that – it’s the most consistent deck in the format. And that’s all that matters in Battle Roads. In order to get any Battle Roads CPs, your deck has to be more than bullet-proof when it comes to consistency. And that’s exactly what Garchomp/Altaria offers. It’s not the BDIF, but it’s the most consistent deck and when considering a tournament deck, you must take all these things into consideration.
Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX
Last but not least, there is Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX, which dominated the Masters division of World Championships this year like no other deck has done before. To be honest, I was very surprised by the domination of the deck in the Worlds, because I didn’t feel like it was as good as it proved to be in the World Championships.
However, Worlds are over and it’s a new season for this deck as well. Surprisingly, this deck hasn’t been discussed as widely by the UG staff as the decks that have been doing in Japan. In my opinion, this deck is as strong as any of the decks mentioned above. All you need to change from the past formats deck is to switch Smeargles into Sableyes and Shaymins into Energy Switches and you have a tier1 deck in your hands once again.
In fact, now that I checked it again, there is no UG article yet, which has even discussed the BLW-on Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX. This obligates me to show you my current Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX list.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 37
Energy – 14
This list – once again – is based on a Japanese skeleton. However, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to change the HS-on Darkrai/Mewtwo into a BLW-on Darkrai/Mewtwo.
The only really interesting thing in this deck is the 2 Potions. Why Potions and not Eviolite? Because of Tool Scrapper. If your opponent happens to play Tool Scrapper and you run Eviolite, Tool Scrapper becomes a very powerful card, it’s two PlusPowers at the same time. However, if you run Potions instead of Eviolites, Tool Scrappers will be useless and at the same time your Potions will be useful. It’s all about predicting the metagame, and I believe Tool Scrapper will be fairly popular.
Just like with other decks, this deck’s greatness doesn’t come from the attackers, but from the starter it runs. Sableye makes the deck so much more powerful than it would be with i.e. Emolga or any other starter.
One thing that must be also pointed out when going to Battle Roads is that everyone will have an access to Darkrai EX and Mewtwo EX now thanks to the promo tins, which will be released mid-September. This will probably increase the popularity of Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX especially in the small tournaments like Battle Roads, now everyone has access to these cards – no matter how much you spend money on the game. I think this is only a positive thing.
It’s the beginning of the new season and I’m much more pumped up for the new season than last season. Naturally the Battle Roads part of the season will be a bit stale due the small card pool, but this is the case after every rotation. However, I hope that this article sparked a little hope that there’s a big niche for rogue decks in the early season as well.
If I have more time from university than last year, I’ll surely play test more during the whole season than last season and this means that the following season will be my most rogue-orientated season so far. At least that’s my goal. Even though the upcoming sets don’t bring any draw Supporters that would increase consistency of decks, they will bring a lot of new strategies and I really can’t wait to get my hands on the next two new sets.
That said, my blog will be hopefully also more rogue-orientated this season than last season (or that’s my goal at least). Of course, I won’t abandon metagame deck and their analysis completely since I still need to get that ranking invite (or 7th Nationals victory) and for that I’ll probably need a metagame decks. I’ll restart my blog 4th of September, so be sure to check it out and vote in the polls I’ve organized before restarting my blog!
It was a blast writing an article since I had a month’s break from my last UG article thanks to jet lag, so if you had as blast while reading the article, remember to “Like” the article! As always, I’m ready to engage a discussion on the forums, so feel free to comment or question anything! I more than happy to help you if you’re interested in playing the rogues I revealed in this article.
Thanks for reading!
– Esa Juntunen
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