I was sitting in Chicago Midway airport recovering after a long weekend in Madison, Wisconsin when I first heard the news: Lysandre’s Trump Card had been banned in Japan. I didn’t think much of it, as Tropical Beach had also been banned just a few years ago in Japan, yet it remained untouched in the US. Japan plays different tournament formats in a completely different tournament series, so I figured this would have no bearing on the rest of the world.
Imagine my surprise when I touched down in Seattle and read (through various tweets and texts — thanks everyone!) that the ban would carry over to all sanctioned play in the world! Regardless of how you feel about the ban, I think it’s very cool to see these sorts of decisions being made on a global level. It can sometimes seem as if Japan is the only country whose decision makers care about the cards rather than just organized play and new product releases. I hope that this is a signal that there will be more symmetry between Japan and the rest of the world on these types of issues.
Almost immediately, players started tweeting and Facebooking their opinions. As to be expected with a community this large, they were polarized. Some thought that it was a great decision and would love to see more cards banned. Others were threatening to quit the game if they couldn’t play with Lysandre’s Trump Card. Like most issues the Pokémon community discusses, it was quite the spectacle.
Lysandre’s Trump Card is the first card TPCi has ever banned, and it is one of only a handful of Pokémon cards to be banned by any organization. It is my hope that through this article, you’ll not only read my feelings on the ban, but will also come to understand why decisions like this one are made.
The Points: TPCi’s Reasoning for the Ban
If it isn’t clear by now, I’m 100% in favor of Lysandre’s Trump Card being banned from sanctioned play. I think that the card causes way too many issues, stunts skill and deck building, and only serves to take away from what I think is a pretty fun format.
To best breakdown why this decision was made, let us refer to TPCi’s post on the official Pokémon site, wherein four main reasons are given for the ban, and break them down one by one.
Point 1: Eliminates one of your opponent’s victory conditions (running out of cards in your deck)
This is pretty self-explanatory. Lysandre’s Trump Card, if played competently, will ensure that neither player ever decks out. As long as you’re mindful of the amount of VS Seekers in your hand/deck and make sure your Lysandre’s Trump Card isn’t prized, you are free to completely ignore the possibility of losing through not being able to draw a card at the beginning of your turn.
Point 2: Allows repeated use of powerful Trainer cards
I’m willing to bet that when Crushing Hammer and Hypnotoxic Laser were designed, Pokémon’s R&D team never expected each copy to be played eight to twelve times in a single game. Lysandre’s Trump Card throws the four-card restriction out the window and completely changes the power level of basically every card in the format.
Additionally, in some ways it pigeonholes players into only being able to play certain types of decks. Though there are always going to be those that play rogue, and there are always going to be innovative ideas that win, it’s clear that the Shaymin-EX ROS/Acro Bike/Trainers’ Mail engine is one of the most powerful and consistent things you can be doing. At this past weekend’s Wisconsin Regional Championship I was tasked with picking matchups to show on stream, and it was pretty clear that the only decks that were succeeding were either running that sort of engine or were directly trying to counter it.
Lastly, Lysandre’s Trump Card is responsible for a lot of similar-looking game states. Making sure that your game stays varied and interesting enough is a pillar of game design, and Lysandre’s Trump Card made it so that almost every deck was running dozens of the same card, and that the first few turns of games turned out exactly the same way. A game needs to be about fun over everything else, and this certainly isn’t fun.
Point 3: Allows drawing through your deck with minimal repercussions
This may be the biggest reason why I am in favor of the ban. With Lysandre’s Trump Card in the format, there’s no such thing as resource management. You don’t have to worry about saving your Crushing Hammers for a Double Dragon Energy; you don’t have to consider whether or not to play a Stadium on the first turn of the game or wait until your opponent plays one first so you can counter it. It eliminates a huge portion of in-game decision making and skill.
A counterpoint I’ve seen players bring up is that, instead of banning Lysandre’s Trump Card, Pokémon should ban Seismitoad-EX, Shaymin-EX ROS, Hypnotoxic Laser, or one of the other annoying, powerful cards in the format. Though I understand this point of view, I think that Lysandre’s Trump Card exists only to be problematic, whereas the other cards mentioned have legitimate uses in a variety of decks, and can be interesting to play with.
Point 4: Extends the time of battles
This is probably the weakest justification for the ban. Matches are already going long and the time limit is already far too low. I don’t think Lysandre’s Trump Card is pushing the matches to extremes, though I will concede that it does contribute to the problem.
As an aside, I think that Pokémon would do themselves a favor by printing fewer cards that shuffle for any reason, especially those that require both players to shuffle. This would cut down on match length and I believe more interesting card designs would come of it. This is a topic for another article, so I’ll let it go at that.
The Counterpoints: What the Skeptics Are Saying
I hope all of my readers are familiar enough with me to know that, while I do have my fair share of strong opinions, I try my best to be a reasonable person. Although I am completely in favor of the bans, I concede that there are very real downsides. For fairness, I’ll go over a few of the biggest complaints I’ve heard since the announcement.
Counterpoint 1: “My cards/decks are worthless now.”
While Lysandre’s Trump Card is an inexpensive uncommon (I believe this is part of the reason why it was banned instead of Shaymin-EX, Hypnotoxic Laser, and the like), I understand that no one wants to spend time/money/energy on acquiring cards and building decks only to be told that they can’t use them. That frustration is compounded when it’s entirely unexpected, as a card hasn’t been banned in over a decade.
However, I think people should try to look at the other side of this coin. The format is likely to be different post-banning, and there may be some cards or decks that get much better in that metagame. It’s possible that, while you lost one card from competitive play, you’re gaining many more!
It’s also important to note that this ban only effects organized play, meaning that you’re free to play your Lysandre’s Trump Cards at the kitchen table, at League, or anywhere outside of a sanctioned tournament.
Counterpoint 2: “I enjoyed the strategies that came of Lysandre’s Trump Card.”
This is also a completely valid point. However, the same point can be made whenever a rotation is announced, or even when a card/deck is pushed out of the metgame and is no longer playable. One of the beautiful things about Pokémon and that it’s constantly changing and players are constantly adapting, and I don’t think that will stop any time soon.
Counterpoint 3: “If it was too good, the card never should have been released in the first place!”
This is the only point on this list that I entirely disagree with. I would rather Pokémon continue to push the boundaries in making powerful, interesting cards and ban something every decade or so than to play it safe and churn out a bunch of boring sets that are full of the same old cards we’re used to seeing.
In fact, I think it would be fun to see Pokémon experiment with more bans. Come up with new formats for a certain tournament series that don’t include certain overpowered cards. Experiment with limiting the number of certain cards that can be played in a deck (for instance, maybe players can only play 1 Hypnotoxic Laser?). I’m a fan of more experimentation in general, though I’m willing to admit it’s probably not healthy for the game.
I hope that my article shed some light on my feelings and the feelings of many others in the support of the ban. Whether you’re for or against it, please let me know your feelings in the comments, and I’ll do my best to respond to everyone. This is something very new and it’s a lot to take on, but I believe it’s the correct decision.