Like clockwork, we are given a brand new set of Pokémon cards four times a year. These sets can be either a “block”, being very similar in concept (Platinum through Supreme Victors, Plasma Storm through Plasma Blast, etc.), or introduce new concepts altogether (HeartGold & SoulSilver, Next Destinies, XY, etc.). This steady introduction of cards keeps the game exciting, challenging players to be constantly innovating new concepts and decks to play competitively. I will be touching upon the various aspects of how these releases affect the Pokémon community, both positively and negatively. In the end, I would like for all of you to learn how to appropriately react, respond, and adapt to the release of a new set.
Table of Contents
- Initial Hype
- Recognizing Potential
- Admitting Defeat
- My Top 10 Cards in Furious Fists
It’s one thing to have a new set released four times a year; it’s another that we can readily see what these cards will do months in advance. This leads to premature excitement, also known as “hype”. It can come in many forms, but what I am referring to mostly in when a community of players comes to the general consensus over a card’s perceived superior playability.
Before a single tournament has even taken place with new cards (Japan included), players will drastically hype up specific cards in the set as soon as the English translations are released. It is of course easy to immediately recognize the strength of certain Pokémon such as Mewtwo-EX or Pyroar XY, and thusly they receive the most initial praise. I’d say you’d be hard pressed not to find somebody before the release of every set boasting that a certain card is the “best” or “game changing” despite never having played a single game with it. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just making note that sometimes it can get a little carried away.
Thinking in this manner is in my opinion detrimental to ones overall success in competitive play. Their mind becomes clouded with the idea that one deck will reign supreme, giving no thought to any other options whatsoever. Suddenly when in practice their favorite new card and hastily created decklist is deemed inadequate or obsolete, they’re lost and confused. Poor performances lead to falsely placed accusations on anything possible: bad luck, the format, judges, 50+3, etc., when in reality it is because the player did not mentally prepare for everything the new set had to offer, both in creating new decks and improving the old.
The problem rests in how we as a community often resort to extremes when regarding certain cards. “This card is too good, it ruins the format. I quit.” or “This is going to be the best deck in format!” are two phrases that I hear way too often. Truthfully, you know nothing. Neither do I. Nobody knows exactly how something will influence the format until it actually does. The best route to take when you have thoughts like these is to slow down, gather your thoughts, and really think about what you’re saying. It’s never as bad as you think; there’s always an answer. The trick is to learn what that answer is. Pyroar was a card hyped for a long time to be way too good. Garbodor and Raichu disagreed, and the format persevered (see Brandon Salazar vs. Michael Pramawat).
To be fair, I cannot sit here and claim I never get excited about new cards. In the back of my head I am always imagining how certain cards may influence the current format, making imaginary decklists that are never finished and disappear within hours. The difference is, I rarely make my opinions known publicly until I have sufficient evidence (unless it’s glaringly obvious how good or bad a card is, and I mean GLARINGLY obvious). I will also never make a list with cards from an unreleased set if there are still tournaments to compete in beforehand. That is a practice I feel you should all get into. I saw a few people playing Seismitoad-EX and Lucario-EX decks before Nationals this year. Shame on you. Focus on doing well in the current format before trying to get some sort of “advantage” on the next.
Certain Pokémon that are released in a new set are strong enough to perform optimally in a deck strictly focused around their attack (or sometimes their Ability). These are the most obvious to recognize. Stormfront was a great example of this, introducing Gyarados, Gengar, and Machamp. All of these Pokémon became the focal point of brand new decks using an existing support system of Supporters and Items. This is perfectly healthy, and I always welcome this warmly.
In recent times Pokémon has started to support specific types within certain sets, such as Dark Explorers for Darkness, Flashfire for Fire, and Furious Fists for Fighting. It’s very easy for some players to get caught in a trap where they want to include every card imaginable in their new deck. “4-4 M Lucario-EX, 4-1-4 Machamp FFI, 4 Strong Energy, 4 Focus Sash, 4 Fighting Sta…” Stop. This will never work, and I know from past experience.
Remember that your list will always only be able to fit 60 cards, and remember that a vast majority of those cards (even in a Lucario-EX deck) will not be from the latest set. There are already too many good cards that you need to be playing. Slow down, be reasonable, and try not to fear a card or deck’s looming hype.
Instead, be realistic when creating a new deck focused around a card from the latest set. Revise your list often, make sure you’re not sacrificing tried and true support for silly gimmicks, and set your expectations low. If you truly think that a certain Pokémon will be a strong contender in the format, then it will show in your testing. Recognize a cards potential to succeed, but don’t get upset when you place all of your passengers on the same hype train and they don’t all come back alive.
Improving Existing Decks and Cards
This is a concept a lot of inexperienced players tend to miss, or are at least a bit late on discovering. One of my favorite things to do when I first see the translations of a new set is to go through and meticulously read every card (even the evolving Basic and Stage 1 Pokémon) and try and find ways to use them in existing decks or in tandem with older cards that needed some additional support. I also like to keep certain cards in the back of my mind, noting how they may eventually become better after a rotation or some other deck disappears from the format.
Flashfire did a lot of good for the deck Flygon BCR/Accelgor DEX/Dusknoir BCR, and not many people realized how. For one, the Duskull FLF and Dusclops FLF suddenly became the superior options over their Boundaries Crossed counterparts. Why? Not just Revival, but they were given the added benefit of a Fighting Resistance. Considering the HP and Retreat Costs were identical, they immediately became the better play. Secondly, Sacred Ash became an obvious replacement for Super Rod given the deck’s basic Energy count of zero. Flashfire’s introduction of Charizard-EX and Pyroar were also able to scare enough Virizion/Genesect decks away, which is a poor matchup for any Accelgor-based deck.
I would like to make note that this happens a LOT, with all kinds of existing decks. Be sure to always check the newly released Basic Pokémon to see if they’re better in any way! Minutia!
Other examples of this aforementioned technique are cards like Shaymin UL and Smeargle UD. At the time of their release, these cards were garbage. Both of them had average Poké-Powers that weren’t great in conjunction with the popular SP decks. If you benched a Shaymin and your opponent played a Power Spray, you were very much out of luck. I myself could be found trading them away for cards that were either immediately good (such as Vileplume UD) or cards that could be used in the existing popular decks.
Then what happened? The format was rotated to HS-on, Pokémon SP disappeared, and new decks were beginning to arise. After some time, people began to realize the incredible power of both Shaymin and Smeargle. In fact these cards dominated the 2011-12 format, with most every top-performing deck playing at least two of each. The 2012 World Championship Masters Finals ultimately came down to a second Shaymin being Prized, a card that two years prior had been stuffed deep within the abyss of a forgotten binder. I love you, Harrison.
Wait, I have another example! During the Triumphant prerelease EVERYONE was upset about how “worthless” most of the Prime Pokémon were. Magnezone, Yanmega, Electrode, Mew, and Celebi were all underwhelming at their time of release. Then suddenly, the format rotated prematurely before 2011 Nationals. The prices of Magnezone and Yanmega shot up to about $70 a piece. A few months later, Electrode, Mew, and Celebi became incredibly playable in their respective decks.
The point off all of this is that when a new set is released, don’t just look at the new exciting cards that everyone is talking about. Look a little deeper, look through your binder at cards that were released last year, and you may just find something even better.
Sometimes players (myself included) will try and give hype to cards that are not good in the slightest. This is a very interesting sort of hype, almost in desperation. Trying to be the first to revitalize the format, breaking free of conventional standards.
After the release of XY, I wanted so badly for Gourgeist to be good. I tried and I tried and I had no choice but to give up. It just could not consistently stand up against the likes of Yveltal-EX. Other cards I have seen with initial hype but never amounted to anything include Gengar Prime, Magnezone PLS 46, Shiftry FLF, and Milotic FLF. It’s best to just admit defeat and move on.
Just as those aforementioned cards failed to succeed on their own, I have also foolishly tried to counter popular Pokémon that received loads of hype with other cards that were quite simply not the answer. In order to take care of Pyroar, others and I tested with hard-counters like Abomasnow PLB and Froslass PLB. It turned out to be a major bust as those Pokémon were extremely useless in every other matchup. Raichu XY and Garbodor LTR are already the best responses to Intimidating Mane in decks that fear it the most. You think after nearly a decade of playing this game professionally I would have learned my lesson by now, but oh well.
The release of a new set’s English translations is extremely exciting, but never let it get the best of you. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong. Overcome and adapt, never complain. It will get you nowhere in this game.
MY TOP 10 CARDS IN FURIOUS FISTS
It seems almost counterproductive to write an entire article about not hyping cards too much before their release, and then give you a list of my favorites. I guess what is important to take away from this is that I have given the cards in Furious Fists very little thought. Almost all of my time and energy is being placed into practicing for the World Championships. That being said, I have of course read each and every card in the set over and over and thus have some fun ideas. I bet I’m wrong on a lot of them!
10. Noivern // Spoiler
This Pokémon’s Ability was featured before on Cinccino LTR, and it saw no play. I think this was mainly because of the attack Echoed Voice, despite its easy cost of CCC. Noivern’s attack is much better in my opinion, but harder to power up. Could it be worth it? I hope so, dang.
9. Mienshao // Spoiler
Hit-and-run attacks (leading somewhere other than the Bench) have always been an interesting concept. Shuppet PL had some success with a very similar attack, but that’s mainly because it was a Basic. Can Mienshao perform well with all of the cards that benefit Fighting Pokémon? It’s worth trying.
8. Gothitelle // Spoiler
I would only play this Gothitelle as a single copy if I was already playing a Gothitelle LTR deck. I’m just curious as to what you could achieve with this very unique Ability. Probably nothing too special.
Potential partners: Training Center, any other Stadium
7. Dragonite-EX // Spoiler
It’s the return of Legendary Ascent! Surprising your opponents is always a plus, especially when it’s with a huge 180 HP EX doing 80-120 damage. I’m excited to see what comes of this card.
180 damage for GGC on a Pokémon with 220 HP is nuts. If you can find a way to keep the damage output high, you will win a lot of games.
5. Blaziken // Spoiler
Back in 2005, Blaziken ex MA was a dominating force that many decks feared. Today, a non-EX Blaziken can do 50 more damage for the same attack cost. 150 damage anywhere is scary good. It’s just too bad that Torchic is Weak to Seismitoad, which also shuts off Rare Candy.
This Stadium is just good; a great option for any deck needing to have an edge in the format against Basic Pokémon-EX. Think of your favorite Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokémon. Now think of it with +30 HP. Just be sure that your deck doesn’t already require other Stadiums to function properly.
Potential partners: Good Stage 1 Pokémon, good Stage 2 Pokémon
3. Dedenne // Spoiler
This little guy is only good because it provides us with not just one, but two good reasons to include him in your deck. The exciting attack is Energy Short, which can easily take down an opposing Yveltal-EX for C. And by easily, I mean they need three Energy attached and you need a Silver Bangle or a Muscle Band with a Hypnotoxic Laser perhaps. The point is you can do a lot of damage out of nowhere to most Pokémon in any deck that plays Energy (hint: all decks).
But this card would be unplayable if it weren’t also for the Call for Family attack it also graces. It’s good early and late game!
Potential partners: Basic Pokémon, basic Energy
2. Landorus // Spoiler
Imagine an Yveltal XY that can place any type of Energy onto any Pokémon on your Bench. Considering this Pokémon is a Fighting type, you could potentially be doing 90 damage to an EX for F while accelerating at the same time (Strong Energy + Silver Bangle + Fighting Stadium). That’s really good.
1. Politoed // Spoiler
HAVE YOU READ THIS CARD? It’s so beautiful. Consider this my hype. Ignore ALL C Energy requirements for the entire evolution line. So not only does Poliwrath slam in 90 total damage for zero Energy, but Poliwhirl can do up to 100 damage (for zero Energy), and even Poliwag can do 20 damage + Confusion + locking the Active (for absolutely zero Energy). I don’t think you guys know how good that is. You don’t even have to evolve to annoy your opponent.
I understand the evolution line may be hard to consistently get out, I understand the Politoed may be Knocked Out and ruin my strategy for a few turns, I know. But I am absolutely going to try and make this card work.
Potential partners: Poliwrath, Poliwhirl, Poliwag, me
That’s all I have now for you guys, thanks for listening to me ramble! I hope that if anything, you’ve learned something. I hope to see some of you in Washington, D.C. this August!
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