Hello! I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited back to write yet another article for SixPrizes Underground. I’m more than happy to again express and share opinions on the game that I care so deeply about. Since March and with the help of my friends, I have had enough success at other State and Regional Championships to secure a top spot in the North American rankings. Some may be questioning why I actively chased 500 Championship Points despite having an automatic invite from last year’s World Championships, and the answer is simple: I don’t play this game “just” to get a Worlds invitation. That’s never what it’s been about. I play in tournaments to win tournaments, and you should too! But enough of that, let’s talk about why you’re reading this.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Trading Card Game are the new mechanics brought along with each new block of sets. By “mechanics,” I mean Dark Pokémon (those affiliated with Team Rocket), Babies, ex, Delta Species, LV.X, Pokémon*, SP, LEGEND, Prime, EX, ACE SPEC, and so on. These are what keep the game exciting, always coming and going while providing us with a new unique way of playing with the same set of rules. As of the release of XY, the newest mechanic is of course Mega Pokémon.
At 2:42 in this video by GameTrailers.com, Kyle Bosman interviews me about how I felt Pokémon X and Y would influence my competitive play. During this time I expressed a lot of interest in how the concept of Mega Pokémon would be translated into the Trading Card Game. So appropriately, today I will be analyzing every conceivable topic related to Mega Pokémon as well as providing you with two decks that are almost entirely focused around them. As a whole, this article will largely look at their immediate impact on the format and what the future could possibly hold.
Table of Contents
Meet the Megas
The five Mega Pokémon available in the current format are Venusaur, Blastoise, Kangaskhan, Charizard X, and Charizard Y. They’re monstrous creatures with the highest amount of HP ever printed; even the likes of G Booster and Black Ballista aren’t enough to take them down in one blow. Each one has a single attack that is none too revolutionary or game changing (although both Charizard do boast an almost unnecessary 300 base damage). The biggest source of skepticism surrounding Mega Pokémon and their utility comes from the unique rule that once evolved, your turn immediately ends. You get to do nothing else except completely telegraph to your opponent what’s coming, potentially allowing them to get a free attack onto the Mega, diminishing their greatest advantage: extremely high HP.
Was this the ideal way of introducing Mega Pokémon into the Trading Card Game? I say probably not. The current rule is the result of needing to balance such high HP, but that’s another problem to begin with. In the video games, the Pokémon intended to become a Mega holds an item (such as Venusaurite or Kangaskhanite) and can actually Mega Evolve before attacking that turn. A concept similar to this would have been so easy to achieve with Pokémon Tools.
Additionally, I see no need for all Mega Pokémon to have to evolve from EXs. What if instead they evolved from regular Pokémon, had “pretty” high HP, and the evolution didn’t end your turn? I would have also liked to see some creative Abilities unique to the new Pokémon as opposed to just powerful attacks. Unfortunately, given that the first two sets were identical in how they handled Mega Pokémon, I anticipate no changes in the future.
All of that being said, there’s never any use complaining about what could have been. The best way to grow as a player is to accept the cards you’re dealt and adapt accordingly. Let’s take a closer look at those cards now.
Mega Venusaur & Mega Blastoise
After the release of XY, Venusaur and Blastoise were the only available Mega Pokémon to be played. Despite excellent sources of Energy acceleration for Grass- and Water-type Pokémon thanks to Virizion-EX and Blastoise respectively, these Pokémon did not make an impact during three weekends of State and Regional Championships. Why not?
In my opinion, their benefits failed to exceed their faults.
M-Venusaur falls too easily to Reshiram and Delphox, Pokémon that were seen in high numbers during these events. Not to mention, the main attraction of M-Venusaur’s Crisis Vine attack is auto-Paralysis and Poison, a staggeringly powerful effect when looked at objectively, but rendered irrelevant by the popularity of Virizion-EX and its Verdant Wind Ability.
M-Blastoise is a bit better, with a Lightning Weakness that’s none too disadvantageous and a strong attack that spreads a total of 180 damage across the opponent’s field. The problem? Keldeo-EX and Black Kyurem-EX PLS were still much better partners for Blastoise. There was no reason to change an already amazing deck, especially when you had to spend a turn not attacking or using Tropical Beach just so you could evolve into a Mega Pokémon.
So first impressions were definitely not good. It’s also very important to note that the Pokémon-EX that evolve into these Megas are massively underwhelming. They’re examples of a reverse power creep, featuring no Abilities or notable attacks worth using whatsoever. An exciting new concept was more or less ruined by the rule that attempted to “balance” their strengths. What was to happen with Mega Pokémon from this point onward?
The latest set, XY: Flashfire, introduced Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Charizard X, and Mega Charizard Y into the mix. At first glance, they were easy to disregard. It felt the same as before: high HP Pokémon with interesting attacks and the same huge drawback of ending your turn when evolved into. What’s the difference? Primarily, their Energy requirements and the Pokémon-EX from which they evolve.
I cannot stress enough how convenient it is for M-Kangaskhan-EX to have a Colorless attack cost, and a low one at that! This means it can be splashed into any deck that gives it the best chance of doing what Mega Pokémon are meant to do: provide a hard-hitting threat that is nearly impossible to 1HKO (I will go into this further later).
Wham Bam Punch is certainly not the best attack in the format, but it’s not the worst either. Try comparing it to Tornadus-EX DEX’s Power Blast. For three C Energy, each can do 100 base damage. With Tornadus-EX, there is a 50% chance of no extra benefits and a 50% chance of discarding an Energy. With Kangaskhan, there is a 50% chance of doing an additional 30, a 25% chance of doing 30 more, and so on and so forth. However, you still do your 100 damage with no negative consequences if you flip tails right away.
Most notably, M-Kangaskhan-EX has 230 HP. Terrakion LTR, the previous public enemy number one for all Fighting-weak Pokémon-EX, can’t even 1HKO it with a Muscle Band. Not to mention Kangaskhan-EX itself draws three cards for one C Energy, an attack you may find yourself using frequently in those critical turns prior to Mega Evolving.
Mega Charizard X & Mega Charizard Y
In what seems like a desperate act of overcompensation for the underwhelming attacks on their predecessors, both of these Mega Pokémon flaunt 300 base damage for five Energy, two of which are Colorless. What’s exciting about this is that Flashfire gave us the new Supporter Blacksmith, allowing for Fire Energy acceleration outside of an attack or Ability (although at the expense of sacrificing the opportunity to play a draw Supporter in that same turn). Between Blacksmith and Double Colorless Energy, you could have five Energy attached to a Charizard-EX by turn two!
Which brings me to my next point: Charizard-EX itself, specifically the one with Combustion Blast; this Pokémon is by far the best EX that can evolve into a Mega Pokémon, and for this reason should not be ignored. Some may be aware of a deck that features a very quick draw engine focused on using Combustion Blast as soon as possible. Should M-Charizard-EX Y be included in such a deck? I say yes, but you can be the judge.
How about the attacks themselves? Crimson Dive does 50 damage to Charizard itself, and Wild Blaze forces you to discard the top five cards of your own deck. These are in my opinion small prices to pay for a guaranteed 1HKO on literally anything in the format. One may be inclined to play Hard Charm or Protection Cube in conjunction with Crimson Dive, but I suggest against it. Even after taking the 50 damage, M-Charizard-EX Y still has 180 HP remaining. That’s still huge! If timed correctly, you should be able to take your last 4 Prizes and win the game. Just be careful – this Pokémon’s Water Weakness makes Keldeo-EX a very unfriendly foe.
Next, there’s Wild Blaze. 300 damage can be achieved while you yourself remain poised with a full 230 HP, and a seldom seen Weakness. The only Pokémon M-Charizard-EX X should ever be afraid of are Rayquaza-EX, Xerneas-EX, and Xerneas XY with a Muscle Band. But what about all of those cards you discard? Quite simply, once you’ve taken 6 Prizes in three turns you won’t be too worried about anything else in your deck. One thing to note is that this attack requirement does feature a single Darkness Energy, making it difficult to use effectively in a strictly Fire-based deck.
Okay, so you know what all of the currently available Mega Pokémon can do. But they still have the same inconvenient ruling: your turn ends when you evolve into them. How are you to overcome this and at the same time make sure that once in play, their high HP remains a dominating factor?
Shielding, Energy manipulation, massive healing, and proper timing.
What do I mean by this? Well, during the turn that you evolve into your Mega Pokémon, you cannot just allow your opponent to have a free turn to attack whoever they wish. The easiest answer is to evolve while on the Bench, but an even better strategy would be to leave a Pokémon with the Safeguard Ability such as Sigilyph or Suicune in the Active Spot. Although cards such as Pokémon Catcher, Escape Rope, and Lysandre can easily overcome this wall, this can still be an effective way to remain safe while you evolve into your Mega Pokémon. (Shout-out to Erik Nance for the terminology.)
Now let’s say you’ve evolved. What now? No doubt that a card such as Max Potion would be very good to use on a Mega Pokémon. Healing up to 220 damage with a single Item card is a great way to ensure that that Pokémon can continue attacking and taking several Prize cards. The only problem is that you also have to discard each Energy attached to that Pokémon.
Hmm, so maybe now one might consider Potion, Super Potion, or even Gold Potion. I’d say use none of those, and instead utilize Energy manipulation Abilities such as Hydreigon’s Dark Trance or Aromatisse’s Fairy Transfer to simply move the Energy off of your Mega Pokémon. Once the Max Potion is played, move them back and attack! These two Abilities have had a great number of successes since their release, and are thus very reliable in conjunction with these new powerful Pokémon.
Remember what I had said about M-Kangaskhan-EX’s greatest attribute being the Colorless attack costs? This is because you can now use Fairy Energy to pay for Wham Bam Punch and also move them around at your own will. The Mega Charizards’ attack costs are little trickier, but I suggest using M-Charizard-EX X with Hydreigon, paying for the Fire Energy costs with Blend GRPD and Rainbow Energy (so that they can still be moved with Dark Trance).
This is more or less an effective strategy to be used in all competitive play regardless of deck content, but it’s pretty important here. With Mega Pokémon being so slow to operate, there might not be any action on your end until several turns into the game. Always try and be conscious of your actions a few turns ahead. Keep your Mega as safe as possible, and don’t get discouraged if you fall a few Prizes behind. Plan the evolution appropriately, and when you’ve finally conceived of a game plan, begin attacking. Have all of your defensive strategies prepared, and you can count on winning the game very shortly afterward.
The follow decks are two examples that I have tested somewhat extensively, and I feel are two of the best ways to play Mega Pokémon in the current format. They take full advantage of each strategy listed above, and provide the player with a plethora of attacking options each turn of the game.
Instead of going into each and every card in the list, I will instead provide a brief explanation that touches on the most important strategies. Then, I will list a few cards that are adequate substitutions in each deck, to be changed at your own preference and desire. I will not, however, be listing any matchups. Not just because I haven’t tested all of them (oops), but also because you can learn so much by playing these decks yourself. Maybe even more than I would have said!
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
Energy – 12
This is an exciting variation on an old favorite (piloted best, in my opinion, by Celadon City Gym’s Colin Moll). There’s not much that this deck doesn’t have going for it: shielding, Energy manipulation, healing, free retreat, resource management, and massive amounts of damage output thanks to M-Charizard-EX. If anything were to try and utilize the unique rules of Mega Pokémon, this would definitely be my first choice. Shout-out to Travis Nunlist of Team Hovercats for introducing this deck concept to me.
The one glaring problem with this deck is that it is so incredibly slow. There’s so much you have to accomplish before anything cool happens. You need to evolve into Hydreigon, Mega Evolve, attach Five Energy, and all the while hope that too much isn’t being Knocked Out. I often wouldn’t be using Wild Blaze until turn six or so. However once I did, I often won in those next three turns. The trick is just to make sure that happens. Helpful tip: try and get as many important game-winning cards like Max Potion or Lysandre in your hand before possibly discarding them with Wild Blaze.
This card posses a very unique trait that may make it appealing to some players. Not only can it attack Pyroar by going through Intimidating Mane, but Pyroar also cannot return an attack! In testing, situations such as this didn’t present themselves as often as I thought they would. But if this is something that interests you, I suggest cutting the Sigilyph. One shield for another.
Given that this list plays six Special Energy that can provide Grass, you will almost certainly be preventing all Special Conditions with the help of Verdant Wind. There’s no doubt that Poison (especially in conjunction with Virbank City Gym) can cripple the Dark Trance/Max Potion strategy that makes M-Charizard-EX X so powerful. After all, you’ll accumulate an additional six damage counters before your next turn if the Poison isn’t removed.
The reason Virizion-EX isn’t in my list? Bench space. I would always need other Pokémon in play to give myself the best chance of winning, Virizion-EX hardly ever being one of them. I’ll personally take the burden of Special Conditions, but this card is definitely not a bad addition.
The choice of ACE SPEC always comes down to preference, but I highly suggest making it either Dowsing Machine or Computer Search. While Computer Search can allow you to strike earlier, grabbing directly from your deck a key card in setting up, the late game benefits of Dowsing Machine such as reusing a discarded Max Potion or Lysandre have proven to be more successful to me.
With playing so many different Pokémon and so few basic Energy, this seems like the more likely play above Super Rod (and it might be). However because this list only plays two Dark Patch, I have instead opted for variance above quantity. The last thing I want to do is run out of Energy, as this deck functions so much better if you are attaching one each turn.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
Aromatisse became popular immediately after the release of XY, borrowing the same techniques and strategies as Hydreigon. Thus, for all of the same reasons as before, this type of deck is perfect for utilizing the strengths of Mega Pokémon. The difference with Aromatisse and Fairy Energy is that you sacrifice certain benefits such as Junk Hunt and the ability to 1HKO with Wild Blaze for early Energy acceleration and an overall quicker deck. Thanks to Geomancy, Aromatisse being a Stage 1, and M-Kangaskhan-EX only attacking for 3 Energy, the deck can be fully operational as quickly as turn three.
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been covered, the deck finds success in being able to adapt to many situations before finally confiding in the strength of a Mega Pokémon to finish the job. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this deck at the higher tables during US Nationals.
These two cards could be included for all the same reasons listed above, although if you do chose to play one or both of these be sure to increase the amount of Rainbow Energy in your list.
If Wham Bam Punch only doing 100 damage 50% of the time isn’t enough to satisfy your fancy, you may consider adding a Victini for the use of Victory Star. With a Muscle Band and two consecutive heads, M-Kangaskhan-EX can do 180 damage and Knock Out any opposing Pokémon-EX. In my opinion though, Victini is hardly worth the Bench space.
Not much to say except that it is a useful Pokémon that can take advantage of the Fairy Energy already in play. The attacks aren’t amazing, but aren’t terrible either.
I chose to instead include Carbink in this spot, but for very similar reasons. M-Kangashan-EX fails to land a guaranteed 1HKO, and that may be a problem if you need to win in a hurry. With either Yveltal-EX or Carbink, you can move every single Energy in play to them and do massive amounts of damage for your last 2 Prizes. Each one has their own benefits, the choice just comes down to preference.
The best way to take advantage of Energy manipulation is the ability to retreat for free at will. In Hydreigon, Darkrai-EX is the obvious choice because each Energy can provide Darkness. In Aromatisse, Fairy Garden acts as a pseudo-Dark Cloak that doesn’t take up a Bench space and can be satisfied by most all Energy in this list. The downside of course being that it can be replaced by your opponent. If this worries you, Darkrai-EX may be for you. Just be sure to play a few more Rainbow Energy if possible.
A great lesson to learn is that when faced with adversity, find a way to overcome and succeed. Mega Pokémon were immediately seen as unplayable burdens on the format, and properly ignored. Though when more are introduced, it is important to reevaluate their strengths instead of grouping them with past failure. By doing so, you may come to find new advantages that present themselves and lead to new, exciting decks with great potential for success.
Mega Pokémon are a concept we should expect to see for at least the next year or two. By learning how to play them now, you are broadening your knowledge and setting yourself up to be ready for whatever the future brings. Becoming familiar with certain strategies will over time allow them to operate intuitively in your mind.
I hope this article was useful to you and inspires you to become a better player in some way. In the future I hope to see Mega Pokémon being played in ways that even I thought weren’t possible, because it means that people are thinking for themselves and actively experimenting with new and unique ways to play Pokémon. Don’t let first impressions fool you, and form your own opinions before disregarding a new concept entirely. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in Indianapolis!
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