Since its conception, Plasma has had nearly every tool possible at its disposal. The options for Plasma are virtually limitless, and this has contributed greatly to its success in events large and small since last May. A given Plasma list can be somewhat unpredictable because of its versatility.
With the current format, Plasma would be a great play – had Pokémon Catcher not been errata’d. Plasma also takes a tremendous blow from the new first turn rules. This presents the question of whether Plasma is worth playing at all or not now. There are three schools of thought on this issue, while I’ll explain below.
The First Mindset: “Plasma is done.”
Pokémon Catcher was the last piece of the puzzle for Plasma. Even as it stands now, it has the best non-EX attacker in the game in Kyurem PLF, Energy acceleration from Thundurus EX and Colress Machine, damage manipulation through Deoxys, and the ability to attack with any of the above on a whim.
However, the issue here is that the things that Plasma has going for it are nearly outweighed by the removal of the gusting ability that a consistent Catcher offered. How useful is this versatility if your opponent forces you to attack who they want you to attack?
A large part of Plasma’s success up to this point was its ability to quickly and efficiently power up a 1-Prize attacker and Catcher-KO your opponent’s threats. Not having Catcher means it is very easy for the opposition to stockpile attackers on the Bench and there is not much you can do about it. Often you will be forced to make the first move – and not on the target you want to make that move on.
Despite Plasma’s engine and variety of resources at its disposal, there are better decks to play at the moment that do not lose so much power from the lack of a reliable Catcher.
The Second Mindset: “Plasma must change.”
The synergy between Plasma cards, namely Kyurem, Thundurus, and Deoxys, has been so obvious from their release that it was seen by many as the only way to play it. This approach may still be effective even though it lost a ton of appeal because of the Catcher errata and no attacking on the first turn. Of course the first turn rules hurt, but half the time you will go second and be able to attack anyway.
So what can Plasma do to adapt to the current state of the game? It’s crazy to only consider one way of playing a deck that has so many resources at its disposal.
Lugia EX was initially thought to have taken a hit due to the loss of Catcher, but it is beginning to prove to be useful regardless. Against Empoleon, you only need 2 Deoxys down to 1HKO a penguin for 2 Prizes. Frozen City also aids Lugia, and many decks don’t play Stadiums at the moment to counter it.
Absol PLF has been included in many lists since its release and will probably continue to be used, especially as long as Empoleon is popular. Promo Landorus has seen some play, but is generally rarely seen because of the low amount of them in circulation and the realization that it really is not that good against Darkrai.
But these few cards are not the only options Plasma has. We’re going to have to think outside the box to make Plasma work again. Here are some ideas that could be played around with in this slower format…
When Tornadus EX was first translated, Windfall was hyped to be a really great move. In a way, we had Cleffa back, though this time it gives up 2 Prizes and doesn’t have an annoying Poké-Power that protects its sweet sleeping face.
Windfall can still find some utility in a Plasma deck now, since using Frost Spear on turn 1 is not absolutely imperative (or always possible). The ability to play out your hand and set up threats on the Bench while finishing out the turn by refreshing your hand again could prove to be strong.
Jet Blast is also not a terrible move, if you’re willing to spend Colress Machines on it.
Palkia EX + Safeguarders or Latias-EX
A few outlier decks have made use of Palkia’s Strafe along with Deoxys and a couple of annoying wall Pokémon recently. With errata’d Catcher, these Safeguard Pokémon will stay Active until you choose to retreat them, effectively forcing your opponent to change their attacker or pass without attacking you. The added plus of this is that Palkia generally doesn’t take damage because it is almost never Active after it attacks.
Heatran is an interesting card in this format, with the onset of a powerful Grass deck in Virizion/Genesect. Heatran can 1HKO both Genesect and Virizion with 3 Deoxys on the Bench for 3 Energy. Combined with a Tool Scrapper on a G Booster or using N, Heatran can change the tides of a game very quickly.
Against decks that are not weak to Fire, you probably are not going to go for getting this guy on your field. If you had to though, damage from Frozen City and Frost Spears can set up some decent damage dealing potential by using Dynamite Blast late game.
Snorlax was used sporadically when it was released, but was significantly less useful back then than it is now. No Catcher around means that barring a Red Signal or Escape Rope, your opponent’s Active will remain their Active until you say so. Snorlax can be incredibly annoying for Darkrai players, and catch unprepared players off guard. There is also a certain amount of potential with Palkia EX and Scramble Switch here.
Hypnotoxic Laser use has dropped off since the release of Virizion-EX, rendering it a dead card in that matchup. However, it can help alleviate some of the speed lost by Plasma’s inability to go first and get a Frost Spear fired off. If you go first, Virizion won’t have any Grass on the field, and you can get a quick 30 damage down. The amount of Lasers to play is debatable, since you would want it in a situation where you go first, but not necessarily late game. Its inclusion will be heavily meta-dependent.
The chance of discarding an Energy can be a powerful one, especially in the Virizion/Genesect matchup. If Virizion doesn’t get the first Emerald Slash off, you basically erase their previous turn by discarding the lone G Energy they have in play. Moltres also has the type advantage going for it in this matchup, though if you want to counter this purely from type effectiveness, use Heatran instead. Moltres can easily be powered up in a single turn with a Prism and Colress Machine, something that cannot be done with Heatran.
With Empoleon’s recent success, Lightning attackers are going to become more and more useful. Thundurus offers this type advantage as well, but with a different effect and different utility against other decks.
Zapdos’ Agility, though based on a flip, can be incredibly annoying without the opponent having access to Catcher. With a couple of Deoxys down, Zapdos can start running through Empoleons while receiving no damage in return for Dusknoir to play around with.
Articuno has always sort of been in the back of peoples’ minds, though not necessarily for Plasma decks. Its Blizzard can get really interesting when coupled with Frozen City and Lugia EX. Multiple Blizzard splashes add up quickly, along with the extra 20 damage Frozen City can cause. The benefit of Blizzard is that it reduces the effectiveness of things like Max Potion, which can completely negate a Frost Spear snipe.
Froslass is an interesting card because it stops the opponent from attaching Special Energy on their turn if it’s your Active Pokémon. Before now, a quick Catcher opened up the opponent’s attachment again, but most things do not have a gusting option anymore. Hilariously enough, it also stops Genesect’s Red Signal.
As a tech, Froslass could completely shut down an opposing Plasma deck if you expect it to be popular in your area. Not to mention the spread damage from Blizzard along with the ability to use Bangle, and Deoxys boosting its base damage.
Genesect seems like a quick solution to Plasma’s Catcher dilemma. It gets a boost from Deoxys, offers the ability to catch things up, and can stack up snipe damage. However, it will take careful management of your Plasma Energies to make use of Red Signal while also keeping your Colress Machines alive.
Something interesting to note is that all of the Eeveelutions from Plasma Freeze are Plasma Pokémon. Among all of these, the only ones that have seen any play are Flareon and Leafeon, but the utility of any of them should not be dismissed.
Leafeon is a very effective attacker against many decks because it either discourages a full setup or it punishes things late game.
Umbreon could be interesting in that it gives everything on your field +20 HP. This can be painful for those using Dusknoir who calculate perfect damage to take knockouts on their following turn, only to have Dark Shade boost knock outs miserably out of range for them.
With Mr. Mime potentially being a huge problem for Kyurem, Espeon offers a way to snipe it for one Energy because Weakness is applied to the Bench with Shadow Ball.
The Third Mindset: “Plasma needs to find a Catcher replacement.”
Currently there are five ways to switch your opponent’s Active Pokémon with one on their Bench. The usefulness of any of these cards in Plasma is debatable, but if you are seriously trying to test Plasma, they all deserve a chance.
Of course, we can keep using Pokémon Catcher despite the errata. The argument I have heard advocating Catcher use now is that you still average two Catchers per game. There are two problems with this notion:
- Average does not mean guaranteed. Your ability to Catcher will be anywhere from 0-4 times in a game, and you don’t know when it will or will not work.
- The times when you flip tails means that it was a completely useless, space-taking card in your deck.
If you keep Catcher, you trade a less clunky list for a less consistent form of Catcher’s effect.
Genesect seems to make a lot of sense in Plasma to offer a gust effect, but along with it comes a severe stretch of resources. Plasma Energies offer a guaranteed Catcher, but for each one you use, you essentially disable a Colress Machine as well as eat your Energy attachment for the turn.
If you can find a balance between having a sufficient number of attackers and having the resources to actually use Red Signal when you want to, you are on the right track.
Ninetales is a really interesting card for Plasma. You are already using Bangle, you could choose to use Laser as well, and Ninetales gives us Bright Look.
There are a couple of downsides, including that Ninetales cannot attack with Prism Energy. The bigger problem, though, is that Ninetales also takes up valuable Bench space. For there to be room for 2-3 Deoxys and another attacker, your ability to even use these Bright Looks is going to take away from your setup and clutter your Bench. Then again, just like with anything, careful management can alleviate this problem.
Escape Rope is potentially the best solution here, as it takes the least amount of space in the deck and shares a similar effect. Even though you don’t get to choose who your opponent switches up, you can force their hand with smart playing. Cards like Absol PLF that naturally fit into Plasma make your opponent want to limit their Bench, and generally the less Pokémon they have on their Bench, the more effective Escape Rope becomes.
Dusknoir, while being an amazing card for the current format, would be incredibly hard to fit into Plasma aside from a skimpy 1-0-1/2 Rare Candy line. Despite that, Dusknoir and Frozen City together make for some interesting situations with the ability of Kyurem to snipe things with Frost Spear. Multiple knockouts in a single turn are now much more attainable and the loss of Catcher doesn’t sting quite so bad when you have a way to manipulate damage anyway.
Plasma can still be a threat in our current format. It has a favorable matchup against Empoleon and retains its favorable Prize trade with other decks. It has a huge support engine that is hard to deem “bad.”
The above options are not the only things to consider when building the deck, but should be taken as mere starting points to begin examining how to best approach the deck. There isn’t a black and white way to play the most versatile deck in the format, so keep an open mind and you may surprise yourself!
Tyler “THE Moonbeam”