Have you ever overheard players reminiscing about the skillfulness of past formats? (I know I have.) 2008 is likely one of the years that is brought up. This article will discuss the 2007-2008 season, including the development of the format and the decks that accompanied it. However, the majority of the focus will be on DP-MD, which was the Modified format for Nationals and Worlds in ’08.
Autumn Battle Roads
After the rotation in 2007, the format was wiped of many of its best decks and provided with its second legal Diamond & Pearl series set, Mysterious Treasures. While Lucario DP saw some play at both Nationals and Worlds before the new season began, Blissey MT was a card that stood out at this time because of its extremely high HP and unlimited damage cap. I personally had a lot of success running little besides a 4-4 Blissey line in my deck throughout Autumn Battle Roads. Blissey was a tank.
Not long after Blissey had seemingly taken over, the format was tossed on its head yet again after Secret Wonders debuted, this time by four powerhouse cards: Absol SW, Magmortar SW, Gardevoir SW, and Gallade SW. Each of these cards was capable of serious damage in one way or another.
Absol was an interesting card because it changed the way games started. Previously, many decks made use of a “starter” Pokémon to either get more Pokémon into play or a larger hand for the player. With Absol, players now had the option to attempt to slow the game down by depriving opponents with its Baleful Wind attack. No one liked losing their Supporters and other resources during the first few turns of the game.
This guy was a beast. With 110 HP and a Poké-Body that allowed you to heal 2 damage counters whenever you attached a R Energy card to it, you’d be satisfied with nearly any attack printed on this card. Luckily, its attacks were also amazing. Being able to do 20 times the number of R Energy attached to it, Magmortar was a force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, it had an attack that did 40 damage to the Active and 20 damage to 2 of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. And coincidentally this attack could be powered by a Scramble Energy, which was one of the most game-changing cards of the time.
The was a match made in heaven. When first released, what awed people initially was the fact that Gallade could 1HKO anything for 3 Energy. As the meta progressed, Gardevoir quickly moved into the limelight, proving to be its own double-threat with Telepass giving you an extra Supporter each turn and Psychic Lock shutting down every single Poké-Power in the game.
Combined with Absol, Magmortar was a pain to deal with, but nowhere near as threatening as Gardevoir and Gallade were combined with the Disaster Pokémon. Imagine your opponent being able to use Supporters that he or she ripped from your hand the turn before.
This was the first time we began to see the development of a very polarized format. If you weren’t playing Gardevoir/Gallade during Cities, you were definitely primarily concerned with beating it. However, the real bombshell of the season was released in the next set.
State and Regional Championships
When Great Encounters came out, everyone was excited for the release of Claydol GE that had long been anticipated as it was made available a set later than expected by many. However, it was given plenty of time to shine when it eventually came out. Almost every deck played it for a while. Gardevoir/Gallade became one of the most consistent decks ever, and every other creation that anyone came up with got faster as well if it could fit Claydol.
Another card that gets an honorable mention here is Togekiss GE, which upon evolving allowed a player to look at the top 10 cards of his or her deck and attach all of the basic Energy cards revealed to Pokémon in play. This was used in tandem with Magmortar SW to create a monster in terms of damage dealt. This and the other Magmortar variants were the big decks that best competed with Gardevoir/Gallade.
Another concept that started to become popular, however, was the idea of attempting to counter the two big decks. This typically entailed a lot of Cessation Crystal, a lack of reliance on Poké-Powers, and Psychic and/or Water attackers in order to most effectively deal with the biggest threats. These typically consisted of Stage 1 attackers like Banette SW and Gyarados MT. I recommend that anyone who is friends with Jimmy Ballard on Facebook to take a look at his gallery of decks from this year. He has a LOT of rogue decks that all were very effective.
National and World Championships
All in all, I could go into depth about each of these tournament series, but for the sake of your sanity, I must say that no competition is or was ever as fierce as Nationals and Worlds. Majestic Dawn was released in time for the two, and completely flipped the format on its head with 2-3 completely new decks, as well as tons of opportunity for rogue decks to remain relevant.
The Game Changers
At 130 HP, with an attack that can spread anywhere for 30 on 2 different Pokémon, as well as a hard-hitting backup attack, this card had it all. It was pretty clear from the moment its spoilers were out that this would be the basis of almost half the decks at Nationals and Worlds.
This card is packed with interesting attributes. Between a Poké-Body that spread 10 between turns to all opposing Pokémon with Poké-Powers, a spread attack, and an attack that did a decent amount of damage, Bronzong became a clear answer to Gardevoir and Gallade, as it could single-handedly change the possession of board control with just a Scramble Energy. This card was paired with Empoleon pretty quickly, as well as Ampharos SW.
This card made the concept of an Eevee-based deck seem possible once again. With access to a very relevant bunch of types and Lake Boundary to get around the weird Weakness rules at the time (+10/20/30 instead of x2), another deck began to take form pretty quickly.
Cards such as Scizor MD and Toxicroak MD began to find their way into the many rogue decks mentioned before. Call Energy also became a staple in a lot of decks, as it added a level of consistency players have been craving ever since.
Now that all of the important cards released during the 2007-2008 season have been laid out on the table, it is time to go in depth and talk about some of the individual decks that rocked the show at the National and World Championships.
I figured it would be best to start with the deck that stayed on top the longest. This is the “Psychic Lock” list that Jason Klaczynski used to win the 2008 World Championship:
Pokémon – 21
4 Ralts SW
Trainers – 24
Energy – 15
As stated before, the deck was centered around disruption of the opponent’s field by preventing Poké-Powers and having the firepower in Gallade SW, Dusknoir DP, and Gardevoir LV.X to deal with most threats that weren’t as desperate to use Poké-Powers.
Backed by 4 Rare Candy, it is pretty clear that this setup was designed to get the desired Stage 2s out in every situation.
2-2 Claydol GE
Claydol was a draw engine used in almost any deck that wanted to set up more than a Stage 1 line. Even then, it was seen in decks like Eevees and Magmortar. All it did was place up to 2 cards under the deck and allow you to draw until you had 6. This was amazing as it let you play as much from your hand as possible before putting 1-2 more cards away and typically draw 4-5 extra cards per turn. It also usually prevented decking out.
1-0-1 Dusknoir DP
Dusknoir disrupted by activating when your opponent had more than 3 Benched Pokémon. It would completely shuffle one of them back into the deck. This constraint made it even harder for a lot of decks to deal with, when every card counted. It wasn’t fun to have to hold even more cards in your hand for no reason.
Chatot had a free attack that allowed you to shuffle your hand into your deck and draw until your hand size matched that of your opponent. It was like Spiritomb LTR, but its attack was free. What’s more is that it had free Retreat, making it useful for the rest of the game.
Jirachi ex had its own weaker version of Psychic Lock, but Jirachi came with no Psychic Weakness. This made it an amazing tech for the mirror match when it could attack for 1 Energy if your opponent had a Stage 2 or Pokémon ex out. Better yet, it allowed you to play into Scramble Energy quite nicely, even if you took the first Prize.
Each player shuffles his or her hand into his or her deck, and you and your opponent play a game of “Rock-Paper-Scissors.” If you win, use Psychic Lock and you win the game.
That’s how the card seemed to read when you could drop your opponent’s hand to 3 and then prevent him or her from using Claydol or any other method of setting up afterward. Many games were decided by this one card.
As will be seen in the Eevee deck, Lake Boundary returned all Weaknesses to x2 instead of what they were before, often +30 for Stage 2 Pokémon. This changed mirror matches between Gardevoir/Gallade decks drastically. It also allowed a Gardevoir to Psychic Lock a Bronzong for an easy KO a lot of the time.
This card was huge to all decks except those that sought to counter it. When behind, Scramble Energy provided 3 of any Energy type to any Evolved Pokémon it was attached to. This added a level of depth to the game that N can’t quite compare to, especially when people try to make plays based on the possibility of one player using it mid-to-late game.
This was one of the few differences between my decklist and the one Jason used to win in Masters that year. Instead of a F Energy, he opted for a Cyclone Energy, which allowed him to move an opponent’s Active Pokémon to the Bench and hit something else, while gaining an attachment. This effect was amplified when you consider Dusknoir and how your opponent was typically only willing to keep 3 Pokémon Benched at any time.
The arch-enemy of Gardevoir/Gallade, Empoleon/Bronzong deserves a mention. In hindsight, it amazes me that this deck did not take 1st. A different build of Empoleon won in Seniors, but it’s hardly fair to compare that result to Masters:
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 24
Energy – 16
Empoleon/Bronzong was a spread deck. It abused Scramble Energy like crazy by placing damage on everything while using Empoleon’s high HP and unpopular Weakness to weather the damage it took from things like Gardevoir. Bronzong did the same, taking advantage of all of the different Poké-Powers in play by the time it was Active. The best builds were also able to set up without the use of Claydol, treating it like more of a luxury and less of a necessity.
3-3 Bronzong MD
This seems to be the only card that needs explaining at this point. Especially with the 1 Moonlight Stadium and 2 Warp Point (the Escape Rope of the past), Bronzong could be brought up simply to use its Poké-Body to add damage to the field before Empoleon was brought out, allowing for the spread to build quickly. It could also hold its own with Scramble Energy to deal real damage or extra spread with Pain Amplifier, its amazing free attack.
This is a deck that won Seniors division at US Nationals. Its versatility should have given it more success that it got, but Gardevoir/Gallade players were usually able to outplay it and Empoleon wasn’t easy either. It also seemed to lose a lot of its luster when faced with Crystal Beach and attackers that weren’t Weak to the types it best covered:
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 24
Energy – 15
This deck was basically a slightly more versatile attempt to counter the metagame. It abused Lake Boundary and a wide palette of colors to try and beat Gardevoir and Empoleon while holding onto its other matchups.
With its Poké-Power, it was able to allow for an extra attachment each turn. Combined with the acceleration of Special Energy, this meant that it could keep the deck pumping out attackers regardless of requirement. Leafeon was considered central to the deck, but it saw the least attacking against the big archetypes.
Jolteon was used to zap Empoleon easily and efficiently. One Jolteon could deal with 1-3 Empoleon by itself, thanks to Lake Boundary.
While being able to add 20 to the HP of all of your other Eevee-Evolved Pokémon, it was also a way to deal with a Gardevoir. Employing the Jirachi strategy to take out a Gardevoir while also activating Scramble Energy, you were able to follow up with Espeon to KO the next threat.
The reason your opponent would struggle if using Magmortar or Gardevoir/Gallade is because your Pokémon had no Weakness if you played this deck. Additionally, it gave free Retreat to each Eeveelution. Definitely a staple card in the deck.
The key to this guy was that it healed 30 from each of your Pokémon with its first attack. By allowing multiple different attackers to take a hit and rotate, using this attack would achieve a similar result to those the one Max Potion gets today. This really hurt Empoleon.
This guy had the ability to provide two of any Energy by returning one that is already attached to the Pokémon you are putting him on. Being able to both have a searchable Energy as well as be able to control what is on which Pokémon made this card excellent. The worst part was starting with it, as it was useless after Delta Pokémon became less prevalent.
Overall, this was a cool deck in theory but somehow lacked the ability to properly execute.
One of the less popular decks, Torterra took a spot in top 4 at US Nationals with Colin Moll as its pilot. A very tanky deck, it appeared to have fallen off by Worlds when so many decks ran Cessation Crystal to try and lock other decks as well:
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 27
Energy – 13
The synergy in this deck was clear: Sceptile made each G Energy worth twice as much, and Torterra abused the fact. Torterra did not hit too hard; in fact, it only did 60 for 4 Energy (granted, the healing effect was nice). Slowing each KO down with Leaf Storm, Torterra could extend games with a heads on Super Scoop Up.
This deck also had its own comeback card with Torterra LV.X, which allowed you to bring any Pokémon you desired Active when behind on Prizes. It also had a powerful attack that helped with the deck’s damage output issue.
Finally, we have the deck that represented all others of its kind. Blissey, like the other Stage 2 decks, ran heavy counts of Crystal Beach and Cessation Crystal to take advantage of the heavy use of Scramble Energy, Double Rainbow Energy, and Poké-Powers. By not needing them and having a lot of HP, Blissey usually was able to out-speed and out-tank other decks, landing it at 2nd place at the World Championships:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 36
Energy – 14
4 Holon FF
Most of the cards here are obvious in both effect and function. Energy Removal 2 further drove home the concept of abusing decks reliant of Special Energies, slowing them down at every possible chance. Holon Energy FF removed both Blissey’s Weakness and Resistance it may counter, primarily that of Dusknoir DP.
There were many different builds to the Stage 1 deck. While this was the most successful, the other common attackers were Toxicroak MD, Electrode SW, Banette SW, and Scizor MD. Juniors was won, for example, by Toxicroak and Scizor. There were also a plethora of other decks used at Worlds, but it would take forever to talk about all of them.
I hope you enjoyed your peek into the past. For those of you who were around back then, I apologize for not being able to talk about everything! There is so much history to the game’s format, and just picking up a World Championship deck at Target will give you a glimpse of that.
While I was a Senior during the time this format was played, I still remember it fondly. It was one of my best, both in performance and fun. There was so much to consider within the game, and much less of the “Rock-Paper-Scissors” format we deal with today.
As always, feel free to message me with any questions! I look forward to writing for you all in Underground next month.