Getting into the Spirit

The Tricks and Treats of Phantom Forces

Hey there again, SixPrizes readers! My favorite time of the year is finally almost here: Christmas! Ha, just kidding—it’s almost time for City Championships and marathons galore! I really love to run rogue decks, so Cities are always an exciting time, as the tournaments are small enough to be held frequently and have predictable metagames, but large enough to provide decent prize support and Championship Point payout. As Erik Nance pointed out, psychology is being less used in Pokémon at the moment, but I think it really starts to become more useful come metagaming during Cities and marathons in particular.

Phantom Forces was an amazing set in my eyes and gave us a ton of new toys to work with, so it’ll be neat seeing what exactly Cities are like. The format is really up in the air, as it usually is when a new set drops, but hopefully I can help clear some of the fog today by providing some of the decks that have been top performers in my testing.

Table of Contents

A Quick Note on Consistency

iris plb 101 art

A lot of people have been debating on this lately, so I just wanted to touch on the subject of consistency a bit.

Now, as I’ve been looking around the Pokémon Facebook groups, I’ve noticed people posting lists asking for help because their decks aren’t “consistent” enough. This is followed by people saying, “Well, just add more Supporters!”

First off, I want to reiterate that consistency does not directly translate into how many Supporter cards you play, although this certainly is a factor. Consistency of a deck is shown in how often that deck can accomplish what it is supposed to do. In other words, how many times does your deck actually “work”? If you want to look more in-depth into consistency, Brit Pybas does a great job at analyzing what it means to be “consistent” and the implications of it, so I highly recommend giving his article a read.

However, the reason for this section is to discuss the new card from Phantom Forces, VS Seeker. Now, this is another consistency card, and a versatile one at that, that gets thrown into our highly Supporter-based format. For one, this card alone now makes it possible to play a 1-of copy of a utility Supporter, such as Iris, AZ, Cassius, etc. One-of copies of Supporters have been excluded from most decks because they are too situational and hard to draw into at the right moments. But with VS Seeker back, we can now have access to multiple copies of Iris throughout the game despite only playing a single Iris in our list. The nice thing about this is that VS Seeker doesn’t just have to be Iris; it can be any Supporter that you need at that particular moment, as long as it’s in your discard pile.

So with that, I want to explain the effects of having different counts of VS Seeker in your decks because I think it is a major card from Phantom Forces that should have us rethinking Supporter counts in our decks.

1-2 Copies

Counts of VS Seeker this low make it a borderline tech card. It isn’t likely that you will draw into it very often and you aren’t all too able to search it out, except with a Supporter card, which doesn’t really help us in this case since you’ll have to wait another turn to play the Supporter that you got back with VS Seeker. For one copy, it still is nice knowing that you have VS Seeker in the deck for that extra hint of versatility, but in my opinion, it is too strong of a card to only play one.

Two counts of VS Seeker seems to be everyone’s go-to number for decks at the moment right now, and I think that is mainly due to Seismitoad-EX potentially making VS Seeker useless throughout the game. Still, two copies is a good number, but I think players are being a little too safe with such a good card.

3-4 Copies

Here, we start getting into riskier territory. 4 copies of VS Seeker means that you will be seeing it a lot throughout your game and potentially even in your opening hand. Now, this might not be the best route for this card in particular since on the first turn of the game, it is practically useless. Usually, there isn’t a Supporter card in the discard pile on the first turn (unless you play Battle Compressor), until you actually play one. 4 copies also gives you 4 dead cards against Seismitoad-EX. I would probably recommend 4 copies of VS Seeker in a speed type of deck that plays a large amount of Items and would probably lose to Seismitoad anyway, like Tool Drop.

As for 3 copies of the card, I think this is definitely a good number to play around with. Although you don’t want to see it in your opening hand like with 4 copies, VS Seeker still is a game-changing card, being able to grab a Lysandre when you need it or play extra N’s in a game to disrupt your opponent and allow you to mount a comeback.

Overall, I think players are leaning more toward the 2 count side for VS Seeker, but I encourage you to play around with different counts and see what you like best! I’m extremely interested in seeing where most of you stand on these counts, so here’s a little poll seeing what you guys think is the ideal count for VS Seeker:

How many VS Seeker?

Gimmick Decks… Right?

Almost every expansion seems to release a group of cards that are immediately labeled by players as a “gimmicky,” meaning a deck formed around these cards sounds good in theory but in actuality probably doesn’t hold up in competitive play. That group of cards for Phantom Forces is hands down the Night March trio.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

My friend, Zander Bennett, had really been hyping the deck with Night Marchers ever since Phantom Forces had been released, and I do have to say that since testing it, I have been pleasantly surprised. Originally, the list had Mew-EX, but since I really didn’t like the thought of giving up 2 Prizes for a 120 HP Pokémon-EX, we decided to try out a Flareon PLF line instead. Flareon has great type coverage, especially in the upcoming meta where both Metal decks and Virizion/Genesect deck have big problems against Fire.

Pokémon – 20

4 Joltik PHF

4 Pumpkaboo PHF

4 Lampent PHF

4 Eevee FFI

3 Flareon PLF

1 Leafeon PLF

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

2 Lysandre


4 Battle Compressor

4 Ultra Ball

3 Bicycle

3 VS Seeker

2 Muscle Band

2 Silver Bangle

1 Switch

1 Computer Search

Energy – 8

4 R

4 Double Colorless

Now, this is the deck that I have been testing the least out of these three decks that I’ll be talking about today, but I’ve learned a few things about it in that time:

1. This deck has a hard time against Seismitoad, but it doesn’t auto-lose to it.

This is more of a speedy version of the deck that I have going on here, and in turn, it does play a higher count of Item cards. However, this doesn’t mean that you automatically lose to Seismitoad-EX. If you can drop your Silver Bangles and Muscle Bands early on, it’ll make it extremely easy for Leafeon to start sweeping through the Toads. After Leafeon goes down, hopefully that will have bought you enough time to use your Professor Junipers to discard any Night March Pokémon that you are able to draw into. I would even consider playing 2 Leafeon if you really want to win the Seismitoad matchup, but for this list, I didn’t want to worry about that all too much.

2. This deck can plow through some main archetypes if it gets the right setup.

I know a lot of players have been calling this deck the “New Round,” which played off of Meloetta-EX and Seismitoad LTR, but after testing, this deck can function a lot better than the typical Round deck. Since it plays mainly all Basics (at least to attack with Night March), there isn’t the hassle of having to get a Stage 2 Pokémon up every time that you want to hit for big amounts of damage. There is a nice balance with Flareon in that, with 4 Battle Compressor, Pumpkaboo and even Joltik can hit hard in the early turns, but as the speed starts to wind down, Flareon can come in and hit for huge numbers as well in the late game.

With an emphasis on speed but also coverage for the late game, this deck can actually deal with a good amount of the current archetypes. Whether this is a gimmick or not, I definitely think that people should not count out the Night Marchers and friends heading into City Championships.

Do you think Night March is viable?

Garbage Patrol

It’s time to talk about one of my favorite decks of the past that is back with a vengeance. Even with the existence of Startling Megaphone, I think Tool Drop still has some viability in this brand new format, so here’s the current list that I’ve been working with:

Pokémon – 12

4 Trubbish PLS 65

2 Sigilyph PLB

2 Voltorb XY

2 Electrode PLF

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 43

4 Professor Juniper

1 N

1 Colress

1 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card


4 Bicycle

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

1 Town Map


4 Float Stone

4 Silver Bangle

4 Muscle Band

3 Head Ringer

2 Hard Charm

1 Life Dew


4 Dimension Valley

Energy – 5

5 P

Like I said before, Tool Drop gets a good amount of new cards to utilize with Phantom Forces. The Psychic-type support in the set is the first obvious benefit to Tool Drop, but there are few other helpful cards, so let’s take a look at all of them:

4 Dimension Valley

The major Psychic-type support of the set comes in the form of Dimension Valley, which for those of you that don’t know, lowers the Attack cost of all Psychic Pokémon by 1 C Energy. So, what does this mean for Tool Drop? This means that Trubbish can Tool Drop for just a single P Energy, basically replacing what Exp. Share was used for.

3 Head Ringer

head-ringer-phantom-forces-phf-97 (1)
A real headache for the opposition.

The next card coming out of Phantom Forces that could make Tool Drop viable again is Head Ringer. The major characteristic of this card is that it is a Pokémon Tool that is attached to your opponent’s Pokémon and therefore cannot be removed by a Startling Megaphone!

Back in the Plasma Blast days, a way for the opponent to lessen Tool Drop’s power was to keep as many Pokémon Tools off of their Pokémon as physically possible. Now, they can either put a Tool on one of their Pokémon-EX or else the Tool Drop player will do it for you. This provides even more ways to get Tools into play and disrupt your opponent at the same time. Head Ringer can be a real nuisance if they don’t play Tool Retriever or Xerosic, but honestly, if they play Xerosic, I’m fine with them using their Supporter for the turn to get a measly Tool off their side of the field.

This also mitigates the effectiveness of Garbodor LTR against the deck. Normally, Garbodor would be an auto-loss for the old Tool Drop. Sigilyph’s Toolbox would be shut down, limiting the amount of Tools in play, and Virizion’s Verdant Wind would be turned off so Lasers could stop Exp. Share from going off. Now, even if a Garbodor is in play, all you have to do is stick 1 Head Ringer on your opponent’s side of the field. Then, if you have Tools on all 6 of your Pokémon and one of those is a Silver Bangle or Muscle Band on Trubbish, you can hit for a nice 180-190 damage (6 Tools + 1 Head Ringer + Tool on Garbodor + Silver Bangle damage), without even needing Sigilyph’s Ability. Overall, this is another amazing addition along with Dimension Valley to resurrect Tool Drop.

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card, 4 VS Seeker

First off, I just want to say two things: I am ecstatic that VS Seeker was reprinted, but I’m not happy at all that Lysandre’s Trump Card was printed. While Trump Card is a cool idea, I’m really not a big fan of it mainly because it completely destroys the concept of thinning your deck and managing resources. This is one thing that really distinguishes a good player from a great player when one knows the difference between how to properly thin your deck to give yourself the greatest percentage chance of winning.

Another strategic aspect of the TCG was also being able to manage your resources in a way that you would be able to close out the end of the game. Now with Trump Card printed, none of that matters when you can just shuffle everything back in! Not to mention, it also demolishes the whole win condition of decking your opponent out (what’s Pooka going to do now on Bad Deck Monday?) Along with VS Seeker, this card gets out of control in the fact that you have infinite Lysandre’s Trump Card and therefore infinite resources.

Anyway, there’s my little rant about that card, and I didn’t even touch on how it makes an impact on the time lengths of games or how it’ll interact with our best-of-three, 50-minute format. Now that it’s actually printed though, Tool Drop will probably be able to utilize this card better than any other deck that might pop up. Like I said before, along with VS Seeker, Trump Card allows for an infinite amount of resources (as long as you don’t run out of VS Seeker), which means an infinite amount of Tools.

Even if a Startling Megaphone gets rid of 8 or so Tools at a time, Trump Card can shuffle all of them back in for us to redraw. One big problem for Tool Drop in the past was eventually running out of Tools when Sableye could Junk Hunt for Tool Scrapper over and over. Now with Lysandre’s Trump Card and VS Seeker, that problem is alleviated, even with Startling Megaphone in the format.

Of course, whenever any new cards come out that we can add to an already known archetype, some of the other cards in the deck have to change along with it. So let me elaborate on one of the big changes that this deck sees in my new format list:

2-2 Electrode PLF

The first list originally had a 3-3 line of Electrode because getting 2 Electrode out in the early game was just so strong. There’s a strange feeling of satisfaction when you’re able to Bicycle, Magnetic Draw, Bicycle again, Magnetic Draw a second time, and then use a VS Seeker for a Professor Juniper. Normally, this would be a problem when you’re deck would become way too thin, way too fast, but like I already mentioned Lysandre’s Trump Card says, “Who needs resource management anyway?”

The reason that I cut down to a 2-2 line is that the Pokémon tend to clog up the hand a lot of the times, which is something that you really don’t want when you’re burning through your deck with Bicycle and Magnetic Draw. Plus, exchanging them for more Tools is never a bad thing.

I really think Tool Drop can be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming format, but I do want to throw out for all of you though that this deck does not fare so hot against Seismitoad. I don’t want to say that it’s an auto-loss because we do at least have Head Ringers to force Seismitoad into Quaking Punch for 3 Energy. However, even though Head Ringer can help, it’s still definitely not a favorable matchup. Just as Garbodor was essentially an auto-loss in the past, try to predict the metagame and avoid Seismitoad as much as possible.

Do you think Tool Drop is viable?

A Certain Contender

Like I’ve said before, there are a ton of new toys to play with coming out of Phantom Forces and the game designers have certainly made it clear what cards they want us to use. Probably the most clear example being the new Metal-type support that comes out of the set in the form of Bronzong PHF and Steel Shelter.

Chain Metal

Pokémon – 15

4 Bronzor PHF

3 Bronzong PHF

2 Seismitoad-EX

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

1 Heatran PHF

1 Aegislash-EX

1 Dialga-EX PHF

1 Cobalion-EX

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Skyla

2 Colress

2 Lysandre


4 Ultra Ball

3 Switch

3 Muscle Band

2 Startling Megaphone

2 VS Seeker

1 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search


2 Steel Shelter

Energy – 12

8 M

4 Double Colorless

Bronzong is obviously reminiscent of Eelektrik NVI, as many have already pointed out. However, in testing, I’ve found that although this deck acts similarly to the old Eelektrik decks, there are quite a few differences that mainly lie in what Pokémon can be used. While Lightning decks had Zekrom BLW, Raikou-EX, and Rayquaza-EX to utilize, the new Metal decks don’t have those at their disposal.

After testing the version heavily focused on Dialga-EX, I found that it really isn’t a very good substitute for Rayquaza-EX. It requires more Energy than Rayquaza-EX, has a higher Retreat Cost, and maxes out at 150 damage, so it needs some damage modifiers to go with it unlike Rayquaza. With that being said, I decided that a better route to take for this would be to focus the deck more on Seismitoad-EX and Mewtwo-EX and just have some Metal attackers as backup. I was able to take this deck to a 5-0 finish at a local tournament recently, and it played very well and was able to set up the majority of the time.

1 Heatran PHF

Donphan destroyer.

I’m not sure why this card is being overlooked a lot of times in Metal decks because it is actually really good. Both of its attacks are pretty decent and it can abuse Double Colorless Energy really well. Its first attack hits for 40 base damage and 40 more damage if there is a Stadium in play. 80 is a pretty great number to hit for as along with a Muscle Band, it can 2HKO most Pokémon-EX. Its second attack hits for the magic 130 damage, which 1HKOs most Outrage Pokémon, as well as more importantly Donphan PLS.

Along with its attacks, Heatran also gets 130 HP, making it a nice tech for any Metal deck using Double Colorless Energy. I think the main use I found with it during the tournament was using it against Donphan. Its 130 HP makes it really difficult for Donphan to Knock Out, since Donphan can usually hit for 80 damage to non-Pokémon-EX with a Strong Energy and a Muscle Band.

However, if the opponent decides to put down a Strong Energy on their Donphan, it leaves them open to being walled with Aegislash-EX’s Mighty Shield Ability. I’m expecting Donphan to see a decent amount of play this format, so being able to have answers to it in the form of Heatran and Aegislash-EX is a big plus in my eyes.

1 Dialga-EX, 1 Aegislash-EX, 1 Cobalion-EX

All of these cards play a big role, especially in the Seismitoad-EX matchup. I’m predicting Seismitoad/Garbodor to be one of the strongest decks in the format, especially with the introduction of the new Head Ringer card. Dialga’s Chrono Wind attack can stop Quaking Punch altogether, especially when Seismitoad decks don’t run a very high Switch count to get around Chrono Wind’s effect. Aegislash-EX can block Seismitoad’s damage output altogether coupled with Steel Shelter, assuming that the Seismitoad is attacking with a Double Colorless Energy. Cobalion-EX also helps to counter Seismitoad by forcing them to attach two basic Energies to it, limiting its overall effectiveness.

When not going up against the ‘Toad, Dialga-EX is extremely strong against Virizion/Genesect since it can 1HKO any of their 170 HP Pokémon, and Aegislash is a great option against Donphan like I mentioned before.

3 Switch, 1 Escape Rope

One of the biggest things that distinguishes this deck from Eels is that the Retreat Costs are significantly different. Eelektrik variants were able to take advantage of Skyarrow Bridge which was honestly huge. They would be able to promote a Pokémon with a 1 Retreat Cost, accelerate Energy to a Pokémon on the Bench, and then retreat and attack with the newly powered up Pokémon. With Metal Pokémon having such high Retreat Costs and with Skyarrow Bridge being out of the picture, we have to focus more on higher Switch counts. It is a huge pain when you have to discard a whopping 3 Energy just to retreat, so Switches are more important than ever.

I think a main problem with people building Metal-type decks recently is that there are so many options that you can include from Cobalion LTR to heavy Dialga-EX count. I know this because I was victim to it at first in testing. I tried out a heavy Dialga-EX with Heatran PHF, but also some Hypnotoxic Lasers, Mewtwo-EX, and Seismitoad-EX. Needless to say, the deck was beyond clunky and hardly ever accomplished what it was meant to do, which was stream Dialga-EX and be able to 1HKO Pokémon-EX with Heatran’s Steam Blast attack with Muscle Band and LaserBank. I tried using both Virbank City Gym and Steel Shelter, which really didn’t help matters. After changing the deck to focus more on Mewtwo, Seismitoad, and 1-of Metal attackers, it runs a lot smoother.

This variant is vastly different than the old Eelektrik decks, but that doesn’t mean that Metal won’t see play or be successful. Metal Links is one of the strongest forms of Energy acceleration in the game, so there is no doubt that it will be seen in some of the top tables of City Championships.


dimension valley phf 93 art
Welcome to the next dimension.

As you can see, I’ve been doing a lot of testing of the new format, and overall, I think this format is going to be crazy with all of the different archetypes that can come out of the new set (especially that M Manectric-EX/Black Kyurem-EX PLS deck that Kyle Sabelhaus touched upon). Along with Night March, a revival of Tool Drop decks, Manectric variants, Metal variants, and all of the already established decks, the format will be full of new things to try out and new matchups to test. With all of these decks coming out right around the most fun series of tournaments of the season, this is going to be a great time for the Pokémon TCG.

Thank you all for spending the time to read my article, as it always means a lot to me. I love writing about Pokémon just about as much as I love playing, so thanks to Adam as well for giving me the opportunity to write. Also, please go check out my website, A Roll of the Dice, as writing for SixPrizes helps me to fund that website and get even more content out to the community of this awesome game.

This is a hectic time for the college school year, but things are about to start dying down, so as always, feel free to leave a comment, and I will do my best to respond! Please make my day by giving this article a +1, as it helps me out a ton! Thanks to all of you fantastic readers, and have a great rest of your day!

-Andrew Zavala

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