We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Pokémon

Evolutions on the Rise

Lately, the Pokémon TCG has been dominated by decks revolving around hard-hitting Basic Pokémon. Cards like Darkrai-EX, Keldeo-EX, and Kyurem PLF are at the heart of the current metagame, making it difficult to successfully compete with decks focused on evolved Pokémon. The main problem facing these decks is the combination of speed, power, and utility that Pokémon-EX bring to the table – but that could change with the November 8th rule changes.

Thanks to these new rules, it’s much safer to run an evolution-based deck. With the improved likelihood of surviving Turn 1 and reduced reliability of Catcher, it will be harder to KO Pokémon before they evolve. This gives previously unplayable and often forgotten Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon of the past couple years the opportunity to shine.

Here’s a rundown of some of the evolved Pokémon that I think could make an impact in the NXD–LTR format.

Hydreigon DRX 97

It’s all about Prize denial.

Hydreigon’s Dark Trance ability made him a popular partner for Darkrai when he was first released, and he could easily make a comeback thanks to these changes. Hydreigon is a bulky benchwarmer with 150 HP, allowing it to take a beating even when Active.

It will be much harder for opponents to reliably KO a Hydreigon once it’s on the Bench thanks to Catcher’s new flip mechanic, Mr. Mime, and the deck’s tendency to run Max Potions – practically forcing opponents to 1HKO him (or any Pokémon in the deck) or risk the damage being healed away.

Klinklang PLS

Klinklang made a splash earlier this year when he was released. Combining Cobalion-EX, Cobalion NVI, and Klinklang BLW with this card created a hefty deck that could take a beating from almost anything. The loss of Klinklang BLW and Cobalion NVI after the rotation hit the deck very hard, making some people believe that it was gone for good.

However, Justin Crossley’s 5th place finish at the Fort Wayne Regionals has proven that there is still a place for the deck in the format. Plus, with the release of Legendary Treasures, Klinklang also sees the return of Cobalion NVI in the form of a reprint, giving the deck a much needed boost in damage output toward popular decks like Plasma and Blastoise.

With the arrival of Mega Pokémon in the next set, Klinklang gains yet another boost – defense against Mega Pokémon. Plasma Steel prevents Metal-type Pokémon being damaged by Pokémon-EX. If the recent reveal of Mega Venusaur is an indication, Mega Pokémon will count as Pokémon-EX – giving Klinklang an even bigger pool of cards that it defends against.

Blastoise BCR

We all know this powerhouse – with the change to Pokémon Catcher, opponents will have a much harder time KOing a Blastoise once it’s in play – plus there’s no way to KO those Squirtle on Turn 1 anymore. On top of that, almost every successful Blastoise deck runs Tropical Beach (sans Anthony Wilson’s Electrode style list), which also means that the “no Turn 1 attack” rule is purely beneficial for the big turtle.

Overall, Blastoise looks to gain the most out of these new rules compared to the rest of the top level decks, making it even more potent.

Garbodor DRX

Before November 8th, there were two ways to deal with Garbodor – KOing it or using Tool Scrapper to momentarily disable its Ability lock. KOing the stinker will be a lot tougher thanks to the Catcher change, and that’s bad news for decks like Blastoise and Klinklang that rely heavily on their Abilities.

Emboar LTR

Before Blastoise, there was Emboar.

Emboar is basically a Fire version of Blastoise BCR. When Rayquaza-EX was released, Emboar seemed like a great partner to the legendary dragon, but Eelektrik NVI ended up being an even better companion.

Rayquaza lost his best buddy with the NXD-on rotation, and the domination of Water types has hurt our fiery little pig. But the Catcher errata gives Bench-sitters a little more cushion, plus Rayquaza-EX works similarly to Black Kyurem-EX (scoring 1HKOs). The major thing stopping Emboar, in my opinion, is the lack of a good secondary attacker (like how Blastoise has Keldeo-EX).

The concept does receive a boost early next year in the form of Mega Pokémon. With the reveal of M Venusaur-EX, we know for a fact that Mega Pokémon will have over 200 HP. While Black Kyurem-EX and Genesect-EX with G Booster are able to 1HKO any Pokémon out right now, Mega Pokémon look to have around 230 HP. That higher HP total will save them from those 200 damage attacks, but Dragon Burst has no damage cap, giving Rayquaza the ability to 1HKO them.

Ninetales DRX

With the Catcher errata, Ninetales can serve as a useful tech card in any deck since it affords the user a “Catcher” effect without the coin flip. The downside to using Ninetales is that it will remain on your bench long after it’s played its part, taking up space that could be better used. However, if you find yourself with extra room on your Bench more often than not, then Ninetales might be something to consider adding to your deck.

Not only does Ninetales bring a great Ability to the table, but it can also double as an attacker – Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich has shown that Ninetales can pack a punch. With two Special Conditions afflicting an opponent (one of which is Poison), a Virbank City Gym in play, and a Silver Bangle attached, Ninetales can deal up to 180 damage – enough to Knock Out any Pokémon in the format.

Another plus for Ninetales-focused decks is that Genesect-EX will certainly see a rise in play thanks to the Catcher change. Ninetales could deal with Genesect and Virizion fairly easily with a decklist similar to the one Pooka uses, thanks to the Garbodor in the list. Garbodor would shut off Ninetales’ Ability as well though, so users of the deck would most likely not want to use Garbodor outside that matchup.

Dusknoir BCR

With Mr. Mime likely to become a staple in the Catcher-flipping NXD–LTR format, Benches will be hard to hurt. But with Dusknoir, no Bench is safe from sudden KOs. Dusknoir itself is also easier to get and keep in play thanks to the Catcher errata.

Reuniclus DRX

Could be good in the right biosphere.

This card could pair nicely with cards that heal spread damage like Champions Festival or Serperior DRX, since you could spread out the damage from an attack with Damage Swap and then heal a large portion of it.

Max Potion could also be used effectively with Reuniclus, allowing you to move up to 170 damage to a Pokémon-EX no Energy attached and wipe the damage away with no repercussions.

There are two major downsides to Reuniclus that will most likely keep him from seeing play – his measly 90 HP and this format’s tendency to go for 1HKOs. With only 90 HP, Reuniclus can easily be KO’d by any deck if it’s forced into the Active Spot.

To make matters worse, his Ability is useless in matches against decks that have the capacity to deliver 1HKOs. While Reuniclus’ Ability seems useful, I don’t really see it making a big mark unless it’s played in an area lacking decks like Blastoise and Virizion/Genesect/Mewtwo.

Chandelure PLF

Many decks focus on 1HKOs, making the 1 damage counter penalty from Flare Navigate minimal in context when you’re being hit for 180+ damage anyway. Andy Hahn wrote an Underground article in mid-August that actually included a deck focused around Chandelure.

I think that Chandelure’s unique Energy acceleration could be useful in the new, slower format since it can bring extra speed to the table. Unfortunately, it seems to require Tropical Beach to consistently set up, making it another costly rogue deck.


These are some of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon that could see a rise in play thanks to the new rules going into effect on Friday. Do you agree or disagree with any of the choices? Did I fail to mention a Pokémon who you think could make a mark on the new format? Let me know in the comments section below!

Reader Interactions

8 replies

  1. Bryan Ward

    I like to look at all the possibilities. Depending on what deck you’re using, Bronzong, Clefable, Roserade, Electrode, or Musharna could see some more play. Maybe people will even get Vileplume to work. If I had all the time in the world, I’d try all of them. But if you know me, you know I’ll be playing with Empoleon once again.

    • Joseph Lee  → Bryan

      Doubt Vileplume will work; it was always a flawed concept. We’ve been in a format where withOUT Weakness, most competitive decks score OHKOs or 2HKOs. With Weakness, competitive decks score OHKOs. If the x4 Weakness effect was on a Basic Pokémon or Stadium, then pumping up weaker hits could have been obscenely powerful or at least viable.

      Instead we have a Stage 2 deck that now only has to worry about Pokémon Catcher half as much (still not 100% convinced people won’t just deal with the coin flip, with top cut = most heads), but Vileplume decks are about Type matching… which is a lot harder without Catcher!

  2. Piplup_isPimp

    I don’t get why people think that just because the person who goes first can’t attack and pokemon catcher is errata’d the result is that more stage two decks will see play.

    I can picture the concept with Blastoise, but there’s no point in hyping other cards that weren’t being played as much to begin with.

    The fact of the matter is that big basic decks, like Darkrai, TDK, and VirGen, continue to exist and will continue to tear apart flimsy decks revolving around cards like Dusknoir and Klinklang regardless of the rule changes.

    And lets not forget this is still an OHKO format where a majority of decks rely on the power to OHKO all pokemon in general, such as VirGen and Blastoise, rendering decks like Hydreigon and Reunilcus useless still.

    Another thing, how come Chandelure PLF gets mentioned and not Empoleon DEX even though Emboar was mentioned in the same article on top of Empoleon just being a flat out better, more competitive option?

    • Greg Stempien  → Piplup_isPimp

      The reason Empoleon wasn’t included on this list was because I wanted to focus on bench-sitters who could see a rise in play. You’re right that Stage 2 Pokemon aren’t suddenly super viable, but what the changes do is give them more of a fighting chance against these bigger decks.

    • jet9855  → Piplup_isPimp

      I can see what you mean when you say big decks will still exist. I’ve already said to my friends that just because of the flip in the new catcher card doesn’t mean it will become useless. Crushing hammers has a flip factor and some decks use 4. But also don’t ignore if you get tails it was a dead card in your deck. I like evolution decks more then big basics, so naturally I hope these cards in this article do get a rise in play :) And for now we most assume that they will. I think evolution decks have a chance now with the rule change. I mean it seems to me the whole reason behind the first turn no attack rule is so that little 60hp stage one pokemon won’t get hit twice if they lose the coin flip. Now no matter what they only get hit once before having a chance to evolve. Even if evolution decks don’t become tier one now at least they might have a chance making good counter decks with the new nintails onko VirGen and terakion onko darkrai.

        • Piplup_isPimp  → Pierre

          Empoleon/Dusknoir has made its success based on its ability to take games in a single turn.

          We all remember how devastating GothGor was, and it too relied on this one-turn game-ending play with Dusknoir.

          The only difference between GothGor and Empire was that one had the ability to lock the opponents side of the field while the other has a better draw ability as well as quicker damage output (when compared to Accelgor).

          However, counters will soon arise should Empire’s popularity reach the same extreme as Gothitelle’s, and I’m fairly certain TDK will be one of those counters.

          Also, I can assure anyone who doubts this, that TDK will make a bigger dent in Empoleon’s prosperity than Keldeo or any other Accelgor counter did to Gothitelle.

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