Hello again 6P! It feels like I just finished my last article — “DON’T PANIC” — but here we are again. Honestly, even though it has only been a few weeks, a lot has happened. We have gone through a format change and experienced the first tournament using the new set. Everyone has been excitedly testing new decks, new lists, new concepts, new engines, new everything. So now who’s ready to throw that stuff out the window?
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course. I’m talking about Pokémon’s newly announced decision to ban Lysandre’s Trump Card. A large part of this article is devoted to discussing the various reasons behind the ban as well as its potential consequences for the game.
Before we open that can of worms, let’s talk about the now semi-irrelevant format and the results from this weekend!
The YOLO Format: Week 3-of Spring Regionals
This weekend unleashed tons of new decks onto the scene. Shaymin-EX was pretty much exactly as popular as everyone expected it to be. To my observation, Rayquaza-EX decks were not as heavily represented as perhaps was anticipated. Toad/Shaymin was a very popular play, as were Groudon-EX-based decks. Another popular deck that cropped up during Day 1 was designed to counter these decks: Raichu/Leafeon.
It seemed as though everyone was a bit confused on what to play, and Primal Groudon-EX presented itself as a stable, reliable option. It ended up doing very well, at least in Georgia. Here is my list for the deck:
Jurassic World: Primal Groudon
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 39
Energy – 11
I love this deck. I was personally inspired to play it by Kevin Baxter, who I think of as kind of the Groudon pioneer, haha. This list uses Wobbuffet to sit behind while setting up a Primal Groudon. Starting Wobbuffet against a deck that heavily relies on Shaymin-EX really cripples an opponent’s setup. This can buy enough time to Mega Evolve a Groudon-EX on the Bench with Focus Sash. Since Primal Groudon can’t be affected by disruption cards, it’s a safe strategy to allow it to sit back on the Bench until it’s ready to attack.
When Primal Groudon does come forward, even Rayquaza can’t immediately 1HKO it due to Focus Sash. This usually allows you to take 4 Prizes with one Groudon. With Scramble Switch, you can even take a KO with one Groudon, transfer the Energy to another once it gets hit, then take two more KOs with the second Groudon.
This is a pretty basic list, but there are actually a few options you can use to customise it. Landorus-EX is a useful tech for the mirror because it allows you to break opposing Focus Sash. I also considered playing a 1-1 Golbat PHF or Cofagrigus PLF 56 for that same reason. Dylan Bryan’s list played Dragonite ROS 51, which heals all damage from one Pokémon when you evolve into Dragonite.
Turtle Power: The New New Stoise
A few articles ago, back during States, I talked extensively about Blastoise with the Archie’s engine. I still feel the deck has a lot of potential.
Alex Croxton played my pet deck this weekend at Georgia, finishing in 9th place overall after Day 2. He played the same list both days. He’s kindly allowed me to reproduce it here:
Pokémon – 11
2 Suicune PLB
Trainers – 39
4 Professor Juniper
4 VS Seeker
Energy – 10
I haven’t tested this deck in the new format, so I asked Alex a couple of questions about his updates and general feelings about the deck.
How does the deck run with the addition of Trainers’ Mail?
I didn’t test it too much pre Trainers’ Mail, but you can easily pull it off first turn twice in a best of three. Being able to access Battle Compressor and Ultra Ball easier is very important in this deck.
What were your matchups like?
Day 1 I faced 2 Metal, 2 Ray, 1 Toad, 1 Flareon, 1 Leafeon/Raichu, 1 Manectric/Aegislash/Techs, and 1 Manectric/Shaymin.
Would you consider playing it at Nats?
It really depends how much Leafeon I expect ends up being there. I played two of them in Georgia and I went 0-1-1 against them. I think [Blastoise] is more consistent than people give it credit for, and I certainly am not going to rule it out as a possibility.
Will Trump Card’s absence affect the deck?
Trump Card being gone will affect this deck a little bit. I will most likely not Battle Compressor away my Energy willy nilly.
Is there anything you would change about the list now?
I’m not too sure. I think I would cut the DCEs for Water and lower the Float Stone count. As for Trump Card’s banning I might add in regular Energy Retrieval. I’ll also test Dowsing Machine, but it’s hard to justify it considering a Comp in the opening hand is almost certainly a T1 Stoise.
Anti-Meta Stage 1s: Raichu/Leafeon
A new deck that popped up over the weekend was Raichu/Leafeon. This deck uses Sky Field to pump up Raichu’s damage output. It uses Leafeon to counter Toad and Groudon. In other words, it had an answer for the two big plays of the weekend. Jimmy Pendarvis agreed to share his list:
Pokémon – 19
4 Pikachu XY
Trainers – 33
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
Energy – 8
4 Double Colorless
I’m not sure about the viability of this deck going forward because it relies on a certain meta to do well. It also is severely impacted by the loss of Trump Card. However, it was a good meta call for the weekend, and it could still have potential.
RIP in Pieces: Au Revoir to Trump Card
Recently, Trump Card has been a staple in a lot of players’ lists, mine included. I put that card in everything, and I have for a while now. In fact, when I first saw the card, I freaked out. I went back through my Twitter feed to find my initial reaction:
ITS SO CRAZY GUYS pic.twitter.com/hH3l4XBfTD
— Nicholena (@F2K_Nicholena) September 11, 2014
At the time, opinions on the strength of Trump Card ranged from “OP” to “mediocre.” With its inclusion, players were able to virtually eliminate the threat of a loss by decking out. Resources suddenly became infinite. As soon as everything in your deck was in the discard, or even if only one key card had been used, Lysandre could swoop in and save the day, effectively resetting board state. Initially, this wasn’t an essential property. Decking out was not a huge problem, and most lists didn’t even run a Trump Card. However, the option was always there, and that was enough.
What I’m saying is that when the card first came out, I think it was completely balanced. The reason I was so shocked by its release was because it flipped my idea of Pokémon as a linear game entirely on its head. I felt the mechanic had so much potential that it could change the whole game. Reusing your entire deck again in the same game seemed far too good of an idea to me. I haven’t been playing for very long compared to a lot of people, but I caught the tail end of the Junk Arm format, and I remembered how amazing that card was. There just weren’t any decks that could fully take advantage of or abuse the concept.
Enter Seismitoad-EX. At the same time an overpowered and underpowered card, it had a very low damage output and terrible Weakness to Grass in a V/G field. If it weren’t for Quaking Punch’s effect blocking the opponent from playing Items, Toad would have been very unplayable. Its weaknesses were still apparent, but Trump Card seemed to be a natural partner. Perhaps 4 Hypnotoxic Lasers isn’t quite enough to obtain sufficient damage output, but with Trump Card, 4 becomes 8, 12, 16 … you understand. This allowed Toad to become a dominant card worthy of basing entire decks around, elevating its status from useful tech to main attacker.
Even with the creation of this new archetype, Lysandre’s Trump Card was far from breaking the format. In fact, it helped keep certain concepts in check like Flareon and Night March decks. For this reason, I believe it was an asset to the game. So what happened to cause this ban?
Don’t get the wrong idea. Yes, I love Lysandre’s Trump Card. However, I agree with the ban. There are several factors to take into consideration when thinking about the efficacy of TPCi’s decision. An easy way to organize my thoughts here might be to respond to the official post regarding the change:
Okay, let’s break this down.
1. Eliminates one of your opponent’s victory conditions (running out of cards in your deck)
Ah, who doesn’t love this rule? Losing a game to decking out has always been a bit of a disappointing way to end a match. There aren’t any popular decks right now that use this as their main strategy, and there haven’t been for a good while. Even before Trump Card was released, there was no popular mill deck. The last one, Durant, was the bane of many players’ existence, and I, for one, was ecstatic to see it leave the format.
I do agree that this point is factual. Trump Card does eliminate this win condition. However, I don’t necessarily see this as a negative effect. The situation reminds me of another way to win that also used to be much more common: donking your opponent’s lone Basic. TPCi semi-recently implemented the first-turn rule, largely taking this option off of the table. I considered Trump Card an extension of this same idea, thinking that TPCi was intending to make these win conditions back into a more rare occurrence than they had been previously. After all, one is not required to play Trump Card.
I realize that the effect of the two rule changes are not equal in scope. Although players cannot attack on the first turn anymore, benching the opponent to win the game does still happen, albeit with far less frequency than before. On the other side of the coin, if everyone plays Trump Card, the option to win by decking out is nonexistent outside of some rare Toad/VS Seeker lock situations.
So, while I may not like the idea of decking out, I do understand the principle behind the idea. There may be a better way to solve this dilemma, such as reprinting Trump Card with text that only allows it to be played once per game, similar to the ACE SPEC rule. This would give players one “get out of jail free” card.
2. Allows repeated use of powerful Trainer cards
This is another double-edged sword. As I mentioned previously, the strategy of reusing cards like Hypnotoxic Laser and Crushing Hammer is obviously very effective. However, I also think that if Trainers weren’t so overpowered right now, this would be a moot point. Printing cards like Hypnotoxic Laser is detrimental to the game, and this ban is effectively being used as a Band-Aid to cover up that mistake. I think that Trainers are becoming too powerful, but this is probably an unavoidable side effect of the power creep that EX cards also suffer from.
I mentioned ACE SPECs before. One thing that Trump Card can do is return an ACE SPEC to your deck so that it can be played again. Perhaps amending the text so that ACE SPECs cannot be reshuffled in would also help solve this issue. At any rate, as an example of this concept, Michael Canaves and Ryan Sabelhaus both played a deck based around Empoleon PLF and Magnezone PLS 46 at Georgia Regionals this past weekend. The idea was that the deck could play two Supporters per turn using Magnezone’s Ability. This, combined with Empoleon’s Diving Draw Ability, allowed Canaves and Sabelhaus to run through their deck extremely quickly. It played Life Dew as the ACE SPEC, so when an Empoleon was Knocked Out, the opponent couldn’t take a Prize. The goal would then be to use Trump Card as the first Supporter, returning Life Dew to the deck, and then use Juniper and Diving Draw to redraw into Life Dew, preventing the opponent from taking Prizes the entire game. This worked well because Startling Megaphone has gone down in play recently.
Again, even this combination is far from broken in my eyes, and I think that if a Trainer is too powerful to be played multiple times, perhaps that Trainer should be banned instead (*cough* laser *cough*). Canaves and Sabelhaus did well with the deck (they both finished in the Top 32, although Ryan played Groudon Day 1), but it did not win the tournament.
3. Allows drawing through your deck quickly with minimal repercussions
This is the strongest argument for banning Trump Card, in my personal opinion. Of course, this was a non-issue before the release of Roaring Skies and the introduction of the new Shaymin-EX to the format. When played to the Bench, Shaymin allows the user to draw his or her hand back up to six. This can be used repeatedly during a game and even during a single turn. In one of the first games I played against the Colorless Rayquaza-EX/Shaymin-EX/Sky Field deck, Kevin Baxter went through 40 cards of his deck in his very first turn. I couldn’t believe how insane that was! Again, is Trump Card really the problem here? Maybe the ability to go through 20+ cards on the first turn is another sign of overpowered Trainer cards.
However, this is the bullet point that converted me. My initial reaction to the announcement was negative, because I do like the security that Trump Card provides. After seeing and contemplating the results of this weekend, I think this is a valid reason to ban the card. The combination of Shaymin-EX ROS, Trainers’ Mail, Trump Card and VS Seeker promotes reckless, unskilled play. Resource management, which was a large part of the game’s strategy, is effectively eliminated. Many card combinations that could create interesting, control-based decks are rendered unviable in the current format. The goal of the game has become: “How fast can I play all my good cards???”
The only caveat I have is that TPCi may be solving this situation, but it was one they created by designing the cards in this way. Alone, any of these given cards may not have been a problem. However, when printing so many overpowered cards at once, it’s not surprising a situation necessitating a ban of one or more of them occurs.
4. Extends the time of battles
Aha! TPCi tried to sneak this in at the end! This occurred to me immediately when I heard about the ban. I feel that one of TPCi’s main goals with this move is to shorten the length of matches. It’s true that tournaments have become a huge grind recently. In Georgia at least, there were 9 rounds, and the tournament didn’t finish until very late.
My initial thoughts about this point are that it’s a false prediction. I don’t think the removal of Trump Card will speed up match time. It may in some cases, but I almost feel like it hastens the pace of the game. It allows resources to be drawn through much more quickly. When Trump Card is gone, since resource management will become more important, players will have to make much more slow, calculated plays. As it is right now, players have the ability to carelessly Juniper every turn, quickly drawing the cards needed to get set up or finish a game. So yes, the option to reuse the deck will be eliminated, but slower play inspired by higher consequences to actions will result.
Trump Card is in play for almost an entire season. TPCi subsequently prints multiple very powerful draw cards. Decks begin to abuse these combinations. TPCi bans Trump Card.
I’m very interested to see what the results of this ban will be. Of course, Night March immediately springs to mind as gaining a huge advantage from the ruling. On the other hand, if decks like Night March continue to draw as fast as they have been, the elimination of Trump Card will hurt them almost as much as they help. For example, running out of DCE could pose a real problem for both decks. Unlike Flareon, Night March can solve this problem.
Might Narch? Night March.
Oh boy. This is going to be fun.
Pokémon – 15
4 Joltik PHF
Trainers – 38
4 Professor Juniper
4 VS Seeker
3 Acro Bike
Energy – 7
4 Double Colorless
I apologize for the slapdash nature of this list. I didn’t really have a lot of time to think about or test it, as the announcement was today, haha. I think this could be a good starting point, and it’s what I’ll be trying first.
The core strategy of the deck remains unchanged, of course. The goal is to get a bunch of Night Marchers into the discard pile and just go ham. Previously, the deck played 3 Mew-EX as the primary attacker. The reason for this was that the Night Marchers are easily KO’d, and they need to be in the discard to maximize damage output anyway. For this reason, the typical board setup for Night March was an attacking Mew-EX in the Active, one on the Bench, and one or two Night Marchers on the Bench for Mew’s Ability.
However, something has changed: Revive is back! Reprinted in Roaring Skies, Revive puts one Pokémon from the discard onto the Bench. This allows the deck to reuse Night Marchers as attackers over and over again, forcing the opponent to take only single Prizes while still allowing the Night Marchers to remain in the discard for most of the game. I still included one Mew in order to copy Quaking Punch and other useful attacks in a pinch. Another copy may be needed, or Mew may not be need at all, but this will become clear with testing.
The other changes I made are small but important. I think Shaymin has replaced Jirachi for the most part, but I don’t really know how many is enough. This deck needs to be wary of drawing through too many cards, so I think 4 is too many. I’ve started with 2 as a good middle ground, but that could be increased or decreased. I lowered the Acro Bike count from 3 to 4, again in apprehension of decking out. Dowsing Machine becomes much stronger without Trump Card as well. Trainers’ Mail is an obvious update, and should allow for much more consistency than my previous Roller Skates inclusion. I also play one more N than I did before, because I think that decks in general should benefit from higher N counts, which have been falling out of fashion lately.
Of course, we will have to wait and see how the format develops without Trump Card. These were my initial thoughts, and I’m sure new points will come to light with further discussion. Overall, I think the change will be a positive one, promoting more careful and considered gameplay, as well as requiring more skill in deck building.
As always, I thank you for reading this article and providing your feedback. It’s very helpful to me to know how to improve my writing in the future and I appreciate it.
Look for my next article after US Nationals! I’ll be following up on my article from the fall and talking to women that are playing in Worlds!
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