You’ll notice I don’t go over every possible matchup; this is because I took a deeper look into a lot of the deck building strategies after the new set, as well as how these new cards affect specific matchups.
I hope you gain some perspective from my in-depth look at the new set, Plasma Storm. Enjoy!
Specifically, here are the topics I’ll be covering as they appear in the article:
- Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym
- Darkrai / Sableye + Plasma Storm
- Landorus / Terrakion + Plasma Storm
- Why It’s Still Good
- The Problem
- The Fix/The Math
- The List
- Scramble Switch
- Filling a Demand
- Practical Application
- Blastoise + Plasma Storm
- Kyurem EX/Energy Tricks
- Why No Lasers or Virbanks
- The Argument for One
- The List
BulbapediaWell this seems to be the card everyone is getting excited over from the new set, Plasma Storm. This card boasts one of the most format defining effects ever seen in the game. This card will definitely make a big difference in how decks are built, and how the game is played entirely.
By threatening a 30 damage poison swing over 2 turns, (assuming no Virbank) Hypnotoxic Laser will force each player to retreat almost every turn or risk possibly being effectively 1HKO’d by poison. The best part is, that even if it’s not a 1HKO, this card can still bring about 2HKOs much more easily.
For this reason, non-Pokémon-EX should see a rise in playability. Giving these underpowered Pokémon loads of extra damage in the form a Trainer will give them a chance to keep up with the damage output of some of the stronger EX’s even.
This is not to say, however, that cards like Bouffalant DEX and Terrakion NVI are not already great attackers, but the fact that they can potentially now swing for 150 and 120 respectively make them all the more attractive.
The next, more obvious way of thinking about the application of Hypnotoxic Laser, is how it relates to the heavy hitters in the present format. Standalone EX attackers like Darkrai, Tornadus, and Landorus now have a way to supplement their damage outputs.
In the cases of Tornadus and Landorus, their strong energy to damage ratio is what keeps them competitive, and now they have a way to reach the kinds of high numbers Darkrai, Terrakion, and Bouffalant can.
While these features are nice for the quick damage outputs of Blow Through and Hammerhead, the big question is, how does this extra damage apply to the heavy hitters? Well, here is where you will begin to see some of the obvious tier one combos with Hypnotoxic Laser.
A real advantage this card can provide is not only dealing big one shots, but also cleaning up damage already on the table. With cards like Darkrai and Landorus so prominent in the game right now, that extra 30 damage being put on the bench can sometimes be difficult to clean up without overshooting it and effectively wasting the damage.
Virbank City Gym is the card that makes Hypnotoxic Laser the format defining card that it is. Cranking Poison up to 30 damage, from 10, is an enormous damage swing when compounded over just a turn or two.
I’d like to emphasize, though, that while Virbank is a very integral part as to why Hypnotoxic Laser is so potent, using the Laser by itself is not always in vain. At worst, it provides a Weakness-neutral PlusPower, (which is still effective in the Mewtwo war) and at its best can become 30 threatening 50 additional damage. All of this while adding the slim possibility of sleep becoming a factor.
So now that I’ve laid out the basic theory behind why Hypnotoxic Laser is game changing, I’d like to explore a few specific examples to further explain the intricacies of the card. The first topic to be visited will be Darkrai, and then will shift in the direction of Fighting intensive decks as well as how other new Trainers will impact the game.
Darkrai / Sableye + Plasma Storm
Darkrai decks now have a huge range of damage they can hit. Start with the base 90/30, add the Laser, the Gym, and a Dark Claw, and all of a sudden your three energy attack is now hitting for 140/30 AND that will kick up to 170 if they do not have the means to move their active.
For some reason it seems as though this extra 30 damage from Poison was made specifically for Darkrai to hit magic numbers. In this next portion I’ll explore an example of Plasma Storm’s impact on Darkrai in the coming months.
One rule of thumb, though, which should be applied across every matchup, is to keep in mind that Sableye is the only non-Pokémon-EX in the straight Darkrai deck, and therefore, benching two will be a very easy way for an opponent to get around Knocking Out three Darkrai.
In almost every situation be sure to keep your opponent on an odd number of Prizes in order to ensure that they need to go through three Darkrai to win the game. Catcher makes it far too easy to KO two Sableye then end the game after only two Darkrai.
This is not to say that it is never correct to bench a second or even third Sableye, but make sure when you do, that it’s pivotal to winning the game, and understand the consequences it may entail.
The Darkrai v. Blastoise Matchup
One of the biggest problems Darkrai decks faced through Cities and at Regionals was Blastoise. This is the only matchup I’ll cover for Darkrai because it is the one where the impact of the new cards is most apparent.
The first component of the matchup I’ll talk about is how important and efficient removing Blastoise is. Because Blastoise itself only has 140 HP, getting there with a Night Spear should be attainable, assuming a high Dark Claw count (which I recommend strongly).
With the speed and consistency of a Darkrai Sableye deck, being able to set that up in time for a T2-3 Night Spear may be a little difficult, but is definitely within reason. Even if everything doesn’t work out 100%, putting 30 damage on it will make it very easy to finish off on the following turn.
If there are signs that the game is getting out of hand fast, the backup plan is to start putting damage on Keldeos or anything with energy in order to flush out Max Potions prematurely. While early game is undeniably important, this matchup is won late game.
The next thing I’ll cover is dealing with the attackers. With Keldeo having only 170 HP, Darkrai now has a way to threaten a 1HKO coming back in between turns. While most would say Rush In should prevent this kind of exchange from going down, even if your opponent still has a Keldeo to spare, they still need to be able to retreat it, or give it enough energy to deal significant damage to a Darkrai.
Often times this may not be in the cards for the Blastoise deck because of N or the pressure being put forth by Darkrai’s speed. So, assume all of this were to work out for the Keldeo player, now the Keldeo they just put all that effort into is only going to be Knocked Out by the 30 snipe from a follow-up Darkrai.
The reason this can be expected is because of the Dark Patch energy acceleration which seems to be what keeps Darkrai in the top tier, as well as the strong emphasis that decks can now place on Darkrai because of its new-found ability to deal 1HKOs. You should definitely be prepared to see a lot of Darkrai intensive decks at States for this reason.
As far as Black Kyurem EX is concerned, this is going to be the biggest challenge the deck faces, but it is certainly conquerable. Looking at the math, Kyurem’s 180 hp removes Dark Claw from the equation all together. The way to take down this monster is in two hits, and by making good use of Enhanced Hammer.
As soon as this card hits the table it becomes an instant threat to take 2 Prizes and wipe away a clean Darkrai, which can devastate even the best Darkrai players. While it would seem intuitive to catcher up and weaken a benched Kyurem, this is not always the case. Max potion not only makes that a risky play, but one that does not pay off often.
This is also not to mention that Kyurem will not always be in play the turn before it actually attacks. By making them put resources into the Kyurem first, whether it be by tossing it a lightning or a prism, you are able to ensure they lose something if they are to Max potion.
Another way to handle the Kyurem/Max Potion problem is by hitting it for 30 twice, therefore putting it into 1HKO range for a Night Spear with Virbank. Often times they won’t be able to afford a Max Potion there because of the heavy damage being dealt up front.
One of the nuances of this matchup is the Stadium war, which is now winnable. Before Virbank, decks with Aspertia and Skyarrow could theoretically remove Tropical Beach from Blastoise’s arsenal, but unfortunately, many of the decks featuring these cards in high quantities probably weren’t good enough to beat Blastoise in the first place.
Now, even if Virbank isn’t played in the same or greater quantity as Beach is in Blastoise, the timing is the only thing that matters. The Darkrai player now has the option to use Virbank as a leverage point by which to shut Blastoise out of the game.
A well timed Virbank with an N can leave Blastoise with one card in hand and no way to recover (save that Juniper top deck which happens all too often).
Regardless, Virbank City Gym covers multiple purposes in this matchup, so next time you’re thinking of dumping your second Virbank for an Ultra Ball, keep in mind that it could be the game winning card for you in this matchup.
While this article is focused on the new cards and their affects on the game, it shouldn’t hurt to add a list I’ve been testing to maybe shed some light on what I’m referring to throughout the write up.
This is a very standard list as they should appear throughout the weeks leading up to States. There aren’t very many unique things about this list apart from the dowsing machine over computer search, but I’ll go into that a little later on when discussing the other trainers in the set.
I feel like a lot of these choices are very basic so instead of going into each card, I’ll discuss just the ACE SPEC choice and move on.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 41
Energy – 10
This card is the dark horse of the set. While it may not have been completely disregarded, from what I’ve heard, this card seems to be completely overshadowed by Computer Search. I’d like to clear the air and explain why maybe this Item Finder reincarnate deserves that coveted slot in your deck.
Before I get started though, I’d also like to admit that this card is definitely not better in every deck, but in certain settings this card can really shine.
While Computer Search is preferable in Keldeo decks because of the importance of setting up, I believe decks that stay low to the ground and accomplish things fast should turn to the Machine as a resource management option.
As could be seen last season, managing Catchers and Dark Patches among other things was something that kept decks on par with each other, being equalized by Junk Arm. With Junk Arm missing, there was definitely a leaning curve for players of every caliber who now needed to learn how to manage resources effectively rather than play as they pleased, then fix it later on with junk arms.
While most people would try to look at this as a “5th” Patch or a “5th” Catcher, the truth of it is, is that it’s a “5th” or “6th” or even “7th” of ANY Trainer in the deck at a given point late game due to Sableye. Few people ever think, “Wow I should really add in that 2nd energy search” or “4 Dark Claw is too important to cut down to 3.”
The beauty of this card is that in those rough situations, where you’ve wasted all your Dark Claws, or you desperately need an energy, Dowsing Machine is there. Often times, in this deck, I constantly find myself Junk Hunting for Dowsing Machine, in part because it makes your opponent guess as to which cards you have in your hand, but also because so many things change on your opponents turn, you’ll never know what you may need on your following turn.
Early game this card isn’t dead weight either. The same way Junk Arm found a second purpose in discarding energies for Dark Patches, this card provides an alternative to ultra ball in the early game pursuit of filling your discard pile with dark energies.
An additional affect this card provides is bringing back Supporters. It functions the same way VS Seeker used to and can get you out of a hole just as well as it can get you the game winning Catcher.
This versatile card is definitely one to consider when building a deck that doesn’t need much to get going, but burns resources quickly.
Landorus / Terrakion + Plasma Storm
pokemon-paradijs.comThe next instance where the change in format is apparent is in the Fighting decks. Decks with Terrakion have always been popular because of their ability to 1HKO a Darkrai for two energy, and, because Terrakion is a non-EX, it’s very difficult for a Darkrai deck to deal with.
For these reasons, and the fact that it can also settle into a rhythm of 90 damage per turn after another energy, this card has been a staple in the format ever since Energymite Electrode was popular.
So now, add Landorus-EX to the equation and you’ve got two individually great attackers, both of which also happen to hit Darkrai for double damage.
From here, throwing things like Bouffalant, Mewtwo, or Tornadus into the mix seem to be the way to turn these two individually strong cards into a coherent deck. Having the Double Colorlesses also makes it such that Landorus can keep an energy around after a Land’s Judgment.
After taking that into consideration, it’s no surprise that decks like these will still be powerhouses as the format moves into a poison intensive structure.
So this begs the question: why does this deck gain an advantage from all the new Poison cards if it intends to one shot everything? The fact of the matter is, that while it is true that Terrakion and Landorus are meant to 1HKO Darkrais, while Mewtwo and Bouffalant are supposed to clean up the Blastoises, this isn’t always the case in practice.
Looking at some specific numbers, Darkrai being attacked by a Land’s Judgment will not be 1HKO’d unless the energies come off the Landorus. A lot of the time, this will be too big a price to pay for the Landorus player because now the Fighting player is dumping too many resources and energy drops into one Pokémon.
This means that after that Landorus gets damaged, a difficult decision arises as to whether or not it’s correct to continue attaching to attack, or just letting the Landorus go to waste after one attack.
Often times this point in the game is where the Fighting deck can lose to a well timed N from the Darkrai player, especially if the Darkrai player is able to take energy off the board via a knockout or an enhanced hammer.
Now though, Landorus decks have the option of keeping those important two energies on the Landorus and still getting the 1HKO through Hypnotoxic Laser.
Now the question is, well why is Hypnotoxic Laser better than PlusPower here? PlusPower bares the same results and less spots are devoted to PlusPowers than are to Lasers and Virbanks, so why should I take this route when there’s already a remedy that requires less space? Should I play a split? Well the answer is in the numbers.
So while in that situation, PlusPower is far more effective, let’s explore the other situations where a 30 extra damage is enough to warrant those four extra spots in your deck.
Landorus’s second attack is a perfect example of why 30 is that much better than 10. Any Pokémon with 170-180 HP without Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank would require a two shot.
These two cards make is so that whenever Landorus accumulates three energy, it records at least a 2 Prize swing in addition to any damage it can put down from hammerhead or smaller Land Judgments before being put within knockout range.
Bouffalant is another illustration of why the Laser is that much better than PlusPower. Putting an EX to 150 for two energy is unheard of for a non-EX attacker. Not to mention, that if that Pokémon is not able to retreat, they will be Knocked Out coming back to your turn, or will meet its demise on the bench from hammerhead.
PlusPower, although more space efficient, comes up short once again. The magic numbers continue on like that in so many scenarios it would be difficult to explain every single one. The Laser belongs in every single deck save Blastoise, but I’ll go into to that a little later.
The following is a standard Fighting deck which may help explain some of the points I brought up. Something to keep in mind is that in the situations where this deck cannot hit for Weakness, it can sometimes fall behind very quickly. For this reason, Hypnotoxic Laser is not only needed in this deck, but it raises this deck to a tier it has never been at before.
If you did not think it was good previously, I’d suggest taking another look at it because I’m sure you’ll see a great improvement in how it functions at the moments when usually it would fall short.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
pokegym.netThe impact Plasma Storm has on this deck, apart from the Poison cards, is Scramble Switch. While Computer Search has seemed to be the ACE SPEC of choice until now, it seems that this ACE SPEC could give it a run for its money in this deck.
When you look at the flaws in this deck, the two big things that come up are its matchup with Blastoise (because of Landorus’s weakness) and energy acceleration and conservation.
There are very few in-game tactics that can be used to keep energy on the table apart from making prudent decisions while attaching, and trying to avoid retreating and inconvenient max potions.
That being said, Energy Switch and Switch are cards that save energy before a Max Potion, and avoid paying a hefty Retreat Cost respectively. Scramble Switch happens to do both of those things at an even more efficient level.
Providing a Switch when needed, while also allowing the option to move multiple energy is why this card is so crucial to this deck’s success. Any Landorus player will tell you that there come points in the game where they feel like they’re stuck because they simply don’t have enough energy to accomplish anything significant on their turn.
Despite the fact that Scramble Switch does not put energy onto the table, something this deck struggles with, it does keep them around longer though. This can be huge for a couple reasons.
The first is that once a heavy hitter like Landorus gets damaged, especially out of the blue, often times having a back up attacker is difficult to access. This card literally creates the backup attacker, provided you have the attacking Pokémon itself in your hand or on your bench.
Not only that, but because this card makes such efficient use of the energy on the field, it opens you up to a perfect Max Potion which can be a game ender in some cases. This card is one of the most versatile cards to be printed in a long time because it provides two distinct effects that coincide with improving on the weaknesses of this deck and many others.
Hopefully, with this card in your repertoire, instead of finding yourself in that one-turn rut of draw, attach, and pass, you’ll find yourself making a game changing and unexpected play to seal the game.
Blastoise + Plasma Storm
tumblr.comThe final example I’ll explore is Blastoise/Keldeo as it moves through Plasma Storm. This deck emerged as the “BDIF” for Regionals. It was no secret that getting one Stage Two out wasn’t as difficult as everyone made it out to be, not to mention that Squirtle’s Ability helped out a little bit.
The kicker was that even after Blastoise hit the table, all you needed was energy and Keldeo to win the game. Keldeo doubling as a Switch made this deck too attractive to pass up. So now, how does this deck stack up against all the new decks featuring Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym?
Well, while every other deck gained some interesting Trainers, this deck acquired a heavy hitter instead. Black Kyurem EX is a card Blastoise can use to pick up 1-shots turn after turn. While it does require a Lightning Energy, it’s justified because of how energy efficient it is when compared to Keldeo.
Because Kyurem does involve that Lightning Energy you can be sure to see Blastoise players trying to add some extra tricks to their lists.
Don’t find it surprising to begin to see Blastoise decks playing Prisms with additional attackers like V-create Victini. This way, not only are they adding a game ending attacker, but they’re fixing their Sigilpyh and Klinklang matchups at the same time.
There are few ways for decks to handle a 180 HP Pokémon with a Dragon weakness, especially when it can be powered up the same turn it comes into play. In game, you could be in a great position, but all it takes is a Candy, Blastoise, Kyurem EX, and energies to clear off your active and threaten two consecutive turns of KOs.
The only way you’ll really have the ability to deal a 1HKO back is if you are playing Eels, in which case this card doesn’t need to see the field unless it’s ending the game. This deck saw a lot of success in Japan and I’m sure its success will carry over into the metagame of the United States.
Earlier I mentioned that this deck doesn’t need Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. Well, after I made all those points about why these cards are game changing, why shouldn’t I include at least a few copies of these cards? Well the answer is very simple: space.
Before Regionals, when every Blastoise player was considering how to make their deck have a favorable mirror match, most people came to the conclusion that less was more. By taking out all the techs and extra Trainers, they made room for only the necessities in an attempt to achieve their one goal of getting out a T2 Blastoise and attacking with Keldeo every turn for huge damage.
To do this, players added in high numbers of Water Energy and maxed out on things like Rare Candy and Squirtle, and raised their counts on Heavy Ball, Ultra Ball, Level Ball, and Tropical Beach. Well, it’s no different now.
Virbank City Gym is out of the question immediately because of just how important Tropical Beach is. Without Beach you risk complete setup failure and that’s just not an option if you want to have a real chance at winning the game with Blastoise.
So that brings us to the question of Hypnotoxic Laser. Well, there are a lot of reasons for why this card doesn’t belong in this deck. Firstly, Kyurem and Keldeo are two of the biggest hitting attackers in the game, and both have the potential to deal 1HKOs.
Having additional damage really isn’t something the deck needs, and so for the same reason, you’ll never see any Blastoise players running PlusPower. That leads to the second point.
Because everyone gutted their deck for consistency leading up to Regionals, what would be the sense in going back and adding cards that make the deck less consistent? For these reasons, running a standard quantity of four Lasers in Blastoise is an unyielding venture and will be detrimental more often than not.
That being said, one could make the argument for playing one Laser as a tech. While Keldeo does deal huge damage most of the time, this does not mean that Keldeo will always have the means by which to throw seven energy down to get that 1HKO on a 180 HP EX.
Not only does having the one Laser change the number of energy needed from seven to five (when Virbank City Gym is in play), but the fact that it acts almost like 1½ energy will make it much easier to reach even numbers for KOs.
The second thing that supports the addition of Hypnotoxic Laser as a tech is that it is very accessible from the deck. Because most Blastoise lists play three to four Skyla, finding this card shouldn’t difficult when needed.
Finally, it’s obvious that energy conservation is huge in this deck and therefore, by providing the damage two energy would normally, this card helps save energy for late game.
The real downside to this card, apart from everything I’ve already mentioned, is that it only helps you if you’re losing the Stadium war and they’ve got Virbank out. Otherwise, this card is basically a PlusPower and will often go to waste.
Here’s how a modern Blastoise list might look with the new cards.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
Energy – 13
Colress is a card that I believe belongs in every single deck in the format. While I’d only recommend playing one, this card is too good to pass up on. As you can see, it’s found in each of these lists as a 1-of and it’s strictly because of its huge late game potential.
To me, this card seemed like it was overhyped when people first learned its effect, but now the raving has died down a little and people are starting to understand how situational this card is. While finding this in your opening hand can really put a damper on your game, late game this card can bring you back into an otherwise difficult game.
Playing Colress for 8-9 cards is an effect that’s been gone since the days of Copycat and Steven’s Advice. Before now, there haven’t been any affects in the game to inflate your hand to the point where your opponent has to assume you have every card you need.
That alone is what makes this card so great. It puts your opponent in a situation where they need to play as though you’ll have every response to anything they do, which often makes them make more conservative plays.
Usually, you won’t be bluffing, and you will have everything you need in your 10 card hand to pull anything off. But even in the cases where you draw 10 cards and miss the perfect hand, your opponent has no choice but to play as though you hit everything. This misdirection is what makes cards that inflate your hand so dangerous.
While this card does provide a pretty game changing mechanic, playing more than one is too risky for my taste. This helps the argument for Dowsing Machine however, because in some cases, you at least have the option to play a second Colress whether it be to draw into a low-outer, or to recover from a late game N.
Bicycle seems to be a card a lot of people are on the fence about. At first glance I thought this card would be an incredible addition to the format, with most decks playing at least one. I would soon learn though, through testing, that this card isn’t the card I thought it would be, and it definitely should not be played in a quantity higher than one.
More so than anything, this card’s inclusion is defined by the deck for which it is being considered. Decks that don’t play down the majority of their hand each turn, usually before a Juniper or N, should not include Bicycle.
A good way to determine whether or not this card fits into your deck is the Item count. Because Darkrai plays so many different Items, and can usually play out the majority of a given hand, Bicycle should at least be considered.
What I mean by this, is that after a turn of playing Dark Patches, Catchers, Lasers, and Ultra Balls, this card’s potential will be maximized. In a deck like Landorus, many of the Items in the deck are very situational, namely Switch, Max Potion, and Energy Switch, so therefore hand sizes will rarely be small.
Blastoise is a special case where I believe Bicycle is most easily justified. Because this deck can play out all the energy in a given hand, Bicycle will not only draw for relatively big numbers, but it will also potentially find more energy to dump before the turn’s Supporter drop.
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