You know, I’ve put a lot of thought into our current format, with the recent change to the rules and all. With League Challenges finally getting under way and City Championships right around the corner, the question has to be asked: How much have (and will) the changes to the rules altered the metagame?
With just a tiny peek into what might become of our game, it doesn’t look like an awful lot has changed. Empoleon DEX made a splash recently at a couple of tournaments in France, and I’ve seen Garchomp DRX 90/Altaria DRX pop up, but there’s still a consistent mix of decks that we saw at Fall Regionals.
I don’t have a massive amount of testing to back this claim up, but I really feel that players are missing out on some interesting plays given the pool of cards we have right now. Change can be a daunting thing, and the recent errata to Pokémon Catcher seems to have left some with a bit of shell shock. On the other hand, many players seem to be overextending in their testing, thinking that with the change in rules comes a completely wide open metagame.
I don’t know that either approach is really the right way to go, but I can definitely look at my past experience for some guidance. Having played this game since 2005, I have seen many different formats and metagames, and having Pokémon Catcher scaled back to the level of a Pokémon Reversal gives me the opportunity to help players new and old to the game digest the new rules properly.
My aim in this article is to help you, the competitive player, not get burned this season because of the new rules. Both the Catcher errata and change in first turn rules have pretty big ramifications to the game, whether you want to admit it or not. So be prepared! The lessons my article offers to you (specifically with regard to cards that require a coin flip) can be applied to more than just Pokémon Catcher.
Also, I lay out a pretty good list of cards that get better with the changes to the rules. Yes, most of us know about Empoleon DEX and Garchomp DRX 90/Altaria DRX, so rest assured I bring some pretty obscure cards to the fold for your consideration. My hope is that some of these “standouts” in the card pool can help you land a couple of good performances with a rogue deck that nobody saw coming.
Much like one of my previous articles, I will be supplying Underground subscribers with feedback on my testing with these ideas (mostly because I haven’t perfected them just yet), so be on the lookout for that! With that said, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- A Word about Trends in the Pokémon TCG
- My Experience with Pokémon Reversal
- Flips and Tips
- So When Should You Play Pokémon Reversal/Catcher?
- Change You Can Count On
- Standouts in the New Format (Rogue Builders Take Note!)
- Future Trends to Consider
A WORD ABOUT TRENDS IN THE POKEMON TCG
One of my favorite things to do in the Pokémon TCG is consider new cards or strategies and pass them through the stringent filter that is my own mental world — that is, I like to “theorymon.” The term “theorymon” is used to describe the mental exercise of logically deducing the worth of a card or strategy given the current format and metagame. In many cases, it appears as a “point/counterpoint” exercise aimed at eventually explaining why a card will or will not work.
In recent times, this has gained a negative connotation as people often theorymon with a lack of experience. The idea that seems so powerful in their minds is quickly abandoned by another player who knows very quickly how and why a certain strategy won’t fly. Recently, as an example, I pegged Yveltal EX as an extremely powerful card while at the same time quickly dismissed M Venusaur EX during a conversation I had with a friend. In my mind, certain patterns of effectiveness lined up with one card that didn’t for the other.
One of the things I have going for me is that personality-wise, I am an “INTP” (introverted-intuitive-thinking-perceiving). People say of INTP’s that the world inside their head is infinitely more interesting than the world outside, and yes, it’s true! You guys are all boring and I have all the solutions for the world in my noggin. I’m just kidding of course… though it is the “perceiving” part that helps me not make a rude statement like that.
Seriously, though, I like to think my intuition is worth something in this game. The “world inside my head” buzzes all the time with cards in the card pool and their interactions. I think on them, I deliberate, and I know there are many of you out there who do the same.
Recognizing trends in the Pokémon TCG can safeguard you from making really odd deck choices and being disappointed with a poor performance. It can also help you form a viable rogue deck that leads you to victory. For those who have their own personal universe going on upstairs, this stuff might seem basic. For those other personality types, you might want to buddy up with someone who simply cannot get this stuff out of their head.
(Note: This idea of taking advantage of your personality type with the Pokémon TCG is something I plan on entertaining with a future article).
MY EXPERIENCE WITH POKEMON REVERSAL
In the time I have played the Pokémon TCG, Pokémon Reversal (the equivalent of today’s Pokémon Catcher) has contributed greatly to the success I have enjoyed. Before I get into my full-fledged thoughts about Pokémon Reversal and what it has to do with competitive players today, here’s a quick list of my successes where I played Pokémon Reversal in my deck:
City Championship Run During the ’05-’06 Season
During the season’s opening City Championship schedule, my brother and I wrecked many opponents with a MetaNite deck (Metagross DS/Dragonite DS) that ran no less than 3 Pokémon Reversal and at least 1 Pow! Hand Extension. In many cases, the single play of using a Reversal to bring up the opponent’s Pidgeot RG and Knock it Out led to my opponent conceding. Between my brother and me, we placed in the Top 2 at 7-8 City Championships.
Top 16/Top 32 at the 2006 World Championship
My brother and I played matching MetaNite lists for this tournament, cracking into top cuts fairly easily. In addition to this, most of the Japanese players attending this tournament used nearly the same list — including the Reversals!
Top 8 at the 2007 Southeast Regional Championship
Running a rogue Flygon ex LM/Delcatty PK deck, I was well on my way to Top 4 when I got stopped by a “Poké-mom” running the “Safeguard” Banette from Crystal Guardians (yes, I too know the pain so many of you faced when you lost to quad Sigilyph DRX decks). I used 4 Pokémon Reversal in this list.
2nd Place at the 2010 NC State Championship
I played a very odd choice at this tournament: Charizard AR/Typhlosion Prime/Ninetales HS. Much like Pidgeot RG before, the ability to use a Pokémon Reversal and bring up Claydol GE to Knock it Out was so powerful that many of my games hinged on that single play. I eventually lost in the Top 2 to my brother.
Top 8 at the 2011 NC State Championship
My brother had many fine finishes as well with Pokémon Reversal in his deck. We both recognized the power Pokémon Reversal had, and played it according to a number of factors. These will be outlined below, but just know that being able to bring up Pokémon from your opponent’s Bench has always been powerful, in flip form or otherwise.
FLIPS AND TIPS
Most recently, with the rules changes that scale Pokémon Catcher back to a coin flip, many players have discussed the merits of including Pokémon Catcher in their decklist. Some players have argued that the card is bad because it requires a coin flip.
The easy response to that, of course, is: If a card was printed that stated “Flip a coin. If heads, you win the game. If tails, wink at your opponent and they may draw a card,” would you run it? Of course you would! The advantages FAR outweigh the drawbacks. Games would all come down to players trying to flip heads on that card first, and the entire game would be left in jeopardy.
On the other hand, dissenters to this notion state that the card remains powerful, even with the coin flip. Being able to bring up a Benched Pokémon to either Knock it Out or buy yourself some time can be a game-changing play, these players will note. On the flip side of the hypothetical card effect above, I question a card like Night Teleporter, which does something pretty lame (in most cases) upon a heads flip.
Obviously, the reason to even flip a coin for a card rests in the outcome one may get. With Pokémon Catcher being scaled back the way it has, many players are wondering whether or not it’s even worth including at all. To answer this question, I want to take a look at why I played Pokémon Reversal in the past, as well as why it gave me the success it did. There’s a reason Pokémon Reversal led to success, and the answer might surprise you.
When I played Pokémon Reversal with MetaNite, I was largely capitalizing on the fact that many players at the time utilized Pidgeot RG to manage resources — that is, Pidgeot RG was the most common “support Pokémon” at the time. With a Lightning Weakness, Pidgeot RG could easily be 1HKO’d by Metagross DS (or even Dragonite DS in a pinch). The decision to run Pokémon Reversal here was dictated by the fact that just a single heads a game could provide me the opportunity to disrupt my opponent enormously and win the the game.
Years later, I would adopt the same card for the same purpose when Claydol GE became so popular. If everyone is enjoying the road, after all, why not Knock Out the bridge? The decision to play Pokémon Reversal rested on the fact that flipping even just one heads provided me with such an advantage that I could easily win games. I know players talk about the 50/50 chance of flipping heads, but when you can win games off a single heads flip, you’re looking at something different than a 50/50 chance. If landing just one heads out of four flips is worth it, then take the risk. You have a 93.75% chance of that happening! This, of course, is altered by things like when you draw into those cards and so on, but still.
So you see, I have already turned this dull “50/50” thing into something completely different. If I were to implement a rule based off this alone, it would be what I said above: “If landing just a single heads out of four flips is worth this, then take the risk.”
Years ago, there was a deck I used with great success featuring Flareon ex/Ariados UF, known as Flariados. While the deck certainly had speed to its name, it also carried a lot of coin flips. Burn flips, sleep flips, Energy Removal 2 flips… the deck was sure to wear out nearly any competitive player’s thumb. I once had a friend ask me why I stuck with such a “flippy” deck, and I offered the response that in the end, there are so many flips that things average out. What I found, however, were critical moments in the game where I gained an enormous advantage if the flip went my way.
Once again, the rule stands true: If the strength of a coin flip going your way even just a few times during a game is worth it, then consider taking that risk. With our earlier example of the “heads I win, tails I wink” card, we would be looking at a card that states “Flip 2 coins. If both are heads, you win the game. If either is tails, wink at your opponent and they may draw a card.” Would you play this card? I would venture to say that everyone would include at least 4 copies in their deck. The chance of succeeding is 1 in 4, but look at the payout!
SO WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSIDER A CARD LIKE POKEMON REVERSAL/CATCHER?
I don’t want to belabor readers with the math behind this concept — mostly because it gets pretty dry and causes even my head to spin. Let’s consider, though, a couple of examples to highlight the moments when running a card like Pokémon Reversal/Catcher is worth it.
In the first example, the best deck in the format is Eeveelutions/Pidgeot. Pidgeot is normally put into the deck as a 2-1-2 line, and its sole purpose is to use its Poké-Power to search the deck for more cards. Other popular decks use Pidgeot, and many decks also rely on Mew ex LM, a Basic Pokémon with low HP that has an impeccably good Poké-Body. You happen to be playing a deck that can easily KO either Pidgeot or Mew ex.
With these considerations, you almost certainly want to utilize something like Pokémon Reversal/Catcher. The benefits here are HUGE. Knocking Out a single Pidgeot can nearly seal the game right then and there, and you can also depend on nabbing 2 Prize cards late game because of Mew ex. The strengths of landing a single heads are overwhelming.
For the second example, the best deck in the format is Big Basics. It utilizes Mewtwo EX, Landorus-EX, and Garbodor DRX to shut off every Pokémon’s Ability. Garbodor DRX normally sits on the Bench, but it can be countered by playing Tool Scrapper. Support Pokémon aren’t really a part of the game, and you are playing a deck that cannot OKHO either Mewtwo EX or Landorus-EX. Also, Max Potion is a popular card, capable of wiping away damage done with ease.
With these considerations, you have to hit at least two heads on Pokémon Catcher for it to be worth it. Think about it — if you hit just one heads out of four, you’re looking at some underwhelming results; you might not even take a Prize card! Since I want to be surer than what a 50/50 chance offers me, I would recommend going with Tool Scrapper and tighten up the list with those 4 spots for Pokémon Catcher.
I hope you understand by now what I am driving at. Essentially, the strength of Pokémon Catcher is not dependent on simply what’s printed on the card (this isn’t a “heads you win” automatically type thing). The strength of this card, instead, is determined largely by the format in which it exists, and the situations that occur because of that format. If Bench-sitters are really powerful and popular, then Catcher is most certainly a consideration. If not, then why care?
In large part, I’m attempting to bend this idea that a card is bad simply because you have to flip for it. To go back to Night Teleporter — what if there was a Stadium card that stated you could declare yourself the winner of the game if you only had 1 card in hand (and hand sizes just happened to be larger than that in most cases)? People would have flocked to that card, even with its flip.
Also, I want to draw your attention to the two examples provided, because in many ways they are both very true. When I played Pokémon Reversal in the past (or other cards that required a flip), I did it because there was an inherent strength that was game-changing even if I flipped heads just once a game. In many cases, I would KO a Pidgeot RG and the game effectively fell into my hands, or I would nab the last 2 Prize cards I needed by 1HKOing a Benched Pokémon-ex.
With the format the way it was before our recent rules change, I would have never considered running Pokémon Catcher with a flip. With everyone running Switch cards, high HP EX cards, and no “support Pokémon,” there would have stood no reason to bank plays on a 50/50 chance of working. Obviously, the 100% success rate of pre-errata Pokémon Catcher made up for that discrepancy.
Moving forward, I’m terribly curious as to what changes we’ll see in the metagame, and whether or not those changes will encourage the flip. A more common inclusion of Jirachi-EX into decks, for instance, definitely stands as a good reason to run Catcher with the flip.
CHANGE YOU CAN COUNT ON
With the new way Pokémon Catcher fundamentally operates, there are changes both in how people play the game and how well a card will perform in the metagame. There’s also some exchange between the two. Ninetales DRX, for instance, might gain a lot of traction because of its Ability, but also because of a tendency from the player base to opt for Jirachi-EX for consistency.
First of all, let’s consider what the errata to Pokémon Catcher means for players. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume a few things, based off my own testing and some of the principles I outlined previously. With that in mind, here’s what I think we will see (at least until XY gets released in February):
Many players will back away from using Pokémon Catcher altogether off principle alone. The flip, they say, is the nail in the coffin. Depending on what they test with, their results may or may not back this up.
Players who test under certain circumstances will continue to use Pokémon Catcher, noting its maintained value. These circumstances are: 1. Using 4 Pokémon Catcher and 1 Dowsing Machine (five possible flips rather than four), 2. Using Sableye DEX for Junk Hunt, and 3. Testing against decks/opponents that are weak to an occasional heads with Catcher.
Many players are encouraged to take their testing to new places with the rules change, finally trying out those evolution decks that have always been on their radar but never in their deck box. Not only does this mean a more open metagame, even individual card choices for every deck are considered (Jirachi-EX, Electrode PLF, Dusknoir BCR).
Along with these considerations, I will continue to emphasize the “is it worth it?” principle from before, because this inevitably changes as players shift what they play. Looking at the metagame from Fall Regionals, for instance, Pokémon Catcher with a flip looks particularly bad. If everyone starts to depend on Electrode PLF and Jirachi-EX, however, Pokémon Catcher looks increasingly better. With everyone talking so much about the power of “Bench-sitters” (Pokémon that perform their function from the Bench), we might find ourselves in a position where Pokémon Catcher is an extremely powerful play!
The other caveat to all this shifting of the metagame’s tectonic plates is that certain cards instantly gain more power from the new rules. Considering the errata to Pokémon Catcher and the inability for the player going first on the first turn to attack, these are the categories of cards that become stronger:
“Bench-sitters”: There are many Pokémon that would love to stay on the Bench forever, and with a less effective Pokémon Catcher we might just see many of them come out to play.
“Active Achievers”: Many Pokémon work best when they’re in the Active Spot rather than the Bench. Where Bench-sitters don’t want to be brought up to the Active Spot, these Pokémon don’t want to be pushed away from it. They will be glad to stay active for as long as you let them.
Evolution Cards: With the exception of our soon-to-be-commonplace Mega Evolution cards, most Pokémon that evolve start out with significantly less HP than their evolved counterparts. No attacks for the player going first on the first turn means that a 40 HP Rattata has no fear of being KO’d on the first turn (and that you won’t lose before you get a turn). The Pokémon Catcher errata means that your opponent won’t “snipe” something off the moment you play it to the Bench — unless, of course, they play Catcher and land a heads.
“Two-Turn Threats”: In my last article, I explained how pre-errata Pokémon Catcher could also act as Crushing Hammer as well, since picking off a Pokémon that was just placed on the Bench and had an Energy card attached to it gets rid of both the Pokémon and the Energy attachment. “Two-Turn Threats” include any of those Pokémon that generally need a couple of turns to function. “Tool Drop” Trubbish is a great example of this.
“Repeat Attackers”: Some cards require two successive attacks in order to reach their full potential. Cincinno LTR, for instance, hits 100 damage with Echoed Voice the second time it attacks with it. Pushing Cincinno to the Bench (through something like Pokémon Catcher) cancels out the extra damage. In my mind, Virizion LTR gains a lot from this change.
“Punch and Runners”: Some cards out there have attacks that send them to the Bench. These Pokémon benefit from the Bench for once being a safe haven. Additionally, strategies for these cards usually involve sending something active for a purpose, so the benefit here can be two-fold.
As we continue to move through the beginning phases of a game with the Pokémon Catcher errata (and the new first turn rules), I can guarantee you that these types of cards will come out from the shadows in which they’ve been hiding. It’s inevitable, since there’s so much pressure that can be placed on opponents who are Catcher’ing things up at half the frequency. If players do continue to play Pokémon Catcher, it remains to their advantage to play less aggressively than before. This all translates to OPPORTUNITY.
STANDOUTS IN THE NEW FORMAT (ROGUE BUILDERS TAKE NOTE!)
So what are these mysterious cards that gain so much with our recent rules change? Take note, because I’m going to go over some of the stronger — and lesser-known — ideas I’ve had as I’ve considered this beginning phase of the season. Many cards have been mentioned in other articles, so I’m going to leave them out for this discussion. Here they are, however, in case you forgot: Dusknoir BCR, Reuniclus DRX, Mr. Mime PLF, Electrode PLF, Klinklang PLS, Jirachi-EX, Empoleon DEX, Virizion-EX.
Alright, with that said, let’s look at some of the lesser-known standouts in today’s new format:
Originally, this card had limited success with 4 copies of Snorlax, a bunch of Trainers, and absolutely no Energy Cards. The reason it only featured 4 copies of Snorlax and Snorlax alone is that having any other Pokémon in play allowed an opponent a way out of Block, Snorlax’s Ability.
By simply using Pokémon Catcher to bring a different Pokémon up, the player could then retreat to safety. With Catcher hinging on a flip, Snorlax experiences a whole new world of viability.
Clearly a Bench-sitter of the best kind, Celebi-EX allows any Pokémon that has evolved to use attacks from its previous evolution (a Mega Evolution’s best friend, perhaps?). Previously, this card never saw play because it could easily be pulled up and KO’d in a heartbeat. Now, however, it might just receive a reprise.
These cards, for the most part, have seen limited success and really present in the metagame more as a “gimmick” than anything — that is, something that will work only until others catch on. In the past, decks tried to shield behind one of these cards, but this was hard to pull off since Catcher provided an easy way around. Now, however, it’s not completely off the mark to pair something like Suicune PLB with Ninjask DRX and shield, shield, shield. Speaking of Ninjask DRX…
I have had my eye on this combo ever since it came out. Having experienced firsthand the frustration of KOing Shedinjas (from EX: Deoxys) without taking Prize cards, I know how powerful an Ability like “Empty Shell” can be. I expect that to pop up some time as a deck that takes players completely off guard.
In my opinion, this card creeps back into the spotlight in a big way, as it once again provides players with a relatively easy way to handle Darkrai EX. Imagine how the pattern of play here has changed because of one single errata: playing a Terrakion LTR on the Bench against someone piloting Darkrai EX instantly creates a threat and forces the Darkrai EX player to focus all their attention on a card that won’t even give them 2 Prize cards.
The difference here is simple to understand, as without a guaranteed Catcher players can once again Retaliate and completely upset the opponent’s tempo.
Is there an opening in the format for this card? Time will tell, but for the first time ever Gardevoir NXD might not be in direct threat of getting obliterated by Mewtwo EX. Of course, Virizion-EX/Mewtwo EX has gained some ground on being an archetype, so we’ll see. What excites me about this card, though, is its synergy with so many cards.
This card is interesting because it falls into a class of Pokémon that are best played in high numbers. With a weakened Catcher, it’s much easier to build up a Bench, opening the doors for cards like Cherrim PLS, Blissey NXD, and Umbreon PLF to shine.
When this card was released, a small minority of players tried to get it to function. With pre-errata Pokémon Catcher, however, this was largely impossible. Imagine a mid to late-game N with Stoutland BCR Active! The question, of course, is how do you run it?
Virizion LTR is an interesting card, in that it’s always seemed really good, but has rarely had a streak of wins sufficient to support this idea. Also, I’m not sure that Leaf Wallop has ever hit for 80 damage since using a Pokémon Catcher to push Virizion LTR to the Bench cancels out the potential extra damage on subsequent turns. With this format, however, I can see it possibly acting as a great Blastoise BCR counter.
Yep, “Fliptini” is still hanging around. For a good while, I didn’t even realize this card got a reprint and was sad because it’s a card that opens up so many possibilities in the game. Since I realized it’s still legal, I’m keeping my eye for its time to shine!
I added this one last minute after seeing Kyle Sucevich play with it on his stream recently. Interestingly enough, Crustle BCR/Reuniclus DRX is a deck idea I had for the Team Missingno. Invitational we recently held. This was before Virizion-EX existed, so I was much too afraid of Hypnotoxic Laser to play it, but nonetheless I thought the combo so good that I put the deck together and tested it extensively at one time.
Hopefully this will get you started with some interesting rogue decks. As I mentioned before, I will keep players updated in the Underground forum with some of my own testing results.
FUTURE TRENDS TO CONSIDER
Here’s my thought. As we move along this year and incorporate some of these XY cards into our metagame, I see Pokémon Catcher fading a bit, but still maintaining a niche in a couple of decks. Then, out of nowhere, you’ll probably see a deck do really well that uses 4 Pokémon Catcher with or without a Dowsing Machine. The prediction here is based on the few XY cards we’ve seen lately, including Delphox (one of the more reliable “support Pokémon” we’ve seen for some time).
Currently, I see many players sticking to the decks they had built coming out of Fall Regionals: Virizion-EX/Mewtwo EX, Darkrai EX/Sableye DEX (soon to get another partner in Yveltal-EX), Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem EX, and so on. As we move along, the rules changes will “decompress” the whole system, leaving room for those tier 2/3 Stage 2 decks to move in. Expect Empoleon DEX, Garchomp DRX 90/Altaria DRX, and Dusknoir BCR.
This pattern of Stage 2 decks gaining some traction in the metagame won’t change. While Venusaur EX/M Venusaur EX and Blastoise EX/M Blastoise EX were largely underwhelming (always happens with a new mechanic), the Stage 2 starters are all intriguing and powerful — yes, even Chesnaught! Moreover, they all seem ready to take advantage of the new rules: Delphox will be a popular support Pokémon (“Bench-sitter”), Greninja players will swarm like mad and try to get as many Greninja in play as fast as possible, and Chesnaught is best in the Active Spot. Additionally, the Aegislash that was recently revealed is not only a good Pokémon to shield with… it IS a shield.
I know this forecast assumes a lot, but at some point a player will pick up their 4 Pokémon Catcher and pair them with a Water Pokémon in order to keep Delphox at bay. When that happens, players will berate Pokémon Catcher, pointing out that you have to flip a coin for it. Tournament results won’t lie, however, and Catcher will find a comfortable, controlled spot in the game. My only hope is that we will never see Junk Arm again!
As the game moves forward, I expect that many players will start making plays that take advantage of the changes in the rules. Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX decks, for instance, have already been able to scale back the 4-1-4 Blastoise line with 3-4 Pokémon Catcher to a 3-1-3 (or 3-0-3) Blastoise line with no Pokémon Catcher. That’s a move that opens up 5-7 cards in the decklist!
What if, however, we take advantage of that change? What if that player faced an opponent using a Shedinja DRX/Ninjask DRX deck, and they were forced to amass tons of damage while they were forced to work around Suicune PLB or a stream of Shedinja DRX? This is an example of some of that change I think can take place.
Hopefully, this article has given you much to think about and test with. I personally think there are many weak spots in the metagame right now, and this is the most vulnerable one I could think of. With a weakened Pokémon Catcher and first turn rules that nearly eliminate first turn losses, I see this as the perfect opportunity to start thinking outside of the box.
If you liked this article, please be sure to “Like” it! It really does help me make decisions on future articles to write. And, of course, if you have a suggestion for an article, shoot me a message or post it in the Underground Forums.
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