Let’s Review!

A GroundBREAKing Mechanic, Game-Changers, Reprints, and Gauging Potential
will smith fresh princestarmap.com
Did someone say “fresh”?

One of the most intriguing things about the game right now is the manner in which the card creators seem bent on making each set refreshing and pivotal. I’ve played the Pokémon TCG for a long time, and there have definitely been some boring sets that didn’t change much about the game (I’m looking at you EX Crystal Guardians and HS Unleashed).

While it can be difficult to adopt to the new changes an influential set presents, I’ll take that over a stale format any day. Anyone that played during the reign of Gardevoir SW/Gallade SW (GG) knows full well what this kind of format looks like — practically anything worthwhile in a set provided benefit to GG rather than any other deck.

What’s notable about BREAKthrough is the new mechanic it presents — not necessarily because the new cards with this mechanic are game-changers (spoiler: they’re not), but because this mechanic will one day be good. It’s inevitable. As an example, look at practically any new mechanic introduced by the card creators and you’ll see a familiar pattern. At first the cards are just okay — they may never find their into a competitive list — but as time goes on the mechanic receives support until it becomes the new way to play. Both the LV.X and M Pokémon-EX mechanics match this pattern and eventually became frontrunners in the game.

And while I place emphasis on the new BREAK mechanic, that doesn’t mean the rest of this set is a dud. Certainly no set as big as this one can go without changing the game in a large way. There are some cards in here I think will become big players in years to come, and these are the cards I’m most interested in today. I’m going to be BREAKing down a lot of cards in today’s article, and we’ll see what combos might rise to the top for both the Standard and Expanded formats.

I’m going to steer away from decklists today, only because I still need to do some testing for the new cards (hopefully the new PTCGO interface is ready to go). I’ll provide updates in the comments with lists for these cards. For the most part though, I’m going to cover what cards I expect will see play in the future.

A GroundBREAKing Mechanic

Let’s go ahead and call a spade a spade here — the BREAK mechanic as exhibited by this set is unimpressive. There’s not a lot here that players are clamoring for, but as I explained earlier this isn’t a surprise. The card creators always seem to test the waters before ramping up a new mechanic. Remember that at one point playing an M Pokémon-EX was nearly unheard of, while now there are plenty of decks that utilize Mega Pokémon.

Still, I think the BREAK cards here will find a niche place in future formats. Let’s look at why, starting with the first BREAK card most players got a glimpse of — Zoroark BREAK.

Zoroark BREAK

zoroark break

The first thing that got my attention with this card — aside from the fact that it’s a BREAK card — is the low Energy cost for an attack that has historically held value. Recently, Kecleon PLF and Mew-EX have been the go-to cards for copying attacks. Foul Play has the benefit of being able to copy attacks without care for the Energy cost, something that both Kecleon PLF and Mew-EX can’t claim.

However, since this is a BREAK card that needs to be evolved from a normal Zoroark, we’re kind of looking at a Stage 2 Pokémon that can’t take advantage of Rare Candy. I stress the “kind of” here because the Stage 1’s attacks, Abilities, etc. can still be used, and in these cases the Stage 1 is actually a formidable card. Let’s look at this card’s strengths and weaknesses in both formats.

Standard Impact

In Standard, Zoroark BREAK and its pre-Evolutions are actually pretty good cards. Zoroark BKT has both a powerful attack and a proven Ability, while even one of the Zorua from this can auto-confuse for a single Darkness Energy. With some of the speed absent in Standard, this card might see some play, though I’m still doubtful. While Foul Play and Mind Jack are good attacks that have seen light in the competitive world, they can still be played around with ease.

In the end, I don’t see this card rising to the top, even though it’s a mashup of some really good cards. At one point during a tournament series two seasons ago a player was able to do well with a Dark deck that featured Zoroark; there was a lot of buzz about it, but it eventually fell out of favor. If I were to make a prediction, I see this Zoroark going the same way.

Expanded Impact

Does Expanded change the effectiveness of Zoroark BREAK? Realistically, there are a couple of cards that make this card shine a little brighter. The first is Zorua DEX 69 with its Ascension attack and the second is the Zoroark from the same set. Since we’ve identified the BREAK mechanic as a pain with regard to evolving, it helps to have a Basic that can automatically evolve to a Zoroark, which is where Zorua comes into play.

As far as Zoroark DEX, there’s an interesting combination at play here with the attack cost for Mind Jack and Brutal Bash — they both cost a Double Colorless Energy! Powerful attacks that can be covered by a single Energy card are always valued highly in the TCG, and these are no different. Of note is that in Expanded, there exists Dark Patch for Energy acceleration and Darkrai-EX to capitalize on Zoroark BKT’s Ability. Also, with reference to Brutal Bash, this attack has largely been overlooked even with Sky Field in the format because of the difficulty of filling up the Bench with Dark Pokémon. With Brigette in the new set this task becomes a lot easier.

Chesnaught BREAK

chesnaught break

I love this card. Oh, I know, it’s got an absurdly high attack cost that can only KO Pokémon-EX with a Muscle Band and is even self-inflicting, but that HP! Yes, I’m also aware that 190 HP isn’t particularly grand in a game where many Basic Pokémon come equipped with 170+ HP, but you’re not hearing me out …

Once more, the value in this card rests with the cards it can evolve from, and Chesnaught XY happens to be one of those cards. It’s a card that has an interesting Ability, one that can damage any Pokémon that attacks it. So there’s that. Oh, and it’s a Grass Pokémon, so that makes Forest of Giant Plants an automatic go-to (thank Arceus given this is basically a Stage 3 Pokémon). I think when all these factors are combined, there’s a decent combo there we just might be overlooking.

Standard Impact

Sadly, Chesnaught BREAK is not that great in this format. It has clunky, high-cost attacks that can be managed a little better with Sceptile PRC 8, but then you’re playing a deck with Stage 2s and Stage 3s. Even though Standard isn’t as fast as Expanded, I still don’t see this card doing much of anything unless it gets some major support.

Expanded Impact

This is one of the reasons I’m really liking the two formats we currently have — where in one format a card is awful, in another it can truly take off. For Chesnaught BREAK, the big difference here is in cards that boost Chesnaught XY’s Ability — primarily Rock Guard and Rocky Helmet. Both of these cards help make the Spiky Shield Ability a nightmare, as any opposing Pokémon will take 5-9 damage counters for damaging Chesnaught. With Chesnaught BREAK having 190 HP, it should stay in play long enough to get healed by something like Max Potion (also an Expanded exclusive, though it probably won’t be for long).

The only issue I see with this card is that it gives the opponent all the time in the world to figure out how to combat Chesnaught. I wish there were a decent Quilladin or Chespin to copy attacks from with something like Celebi-EX, but there just aren’t, meaning you’re limited to paying hefty Energy costs just to attack. And in a deck like this where you’re netting more damage without any Energy at all, it’s almost safer to just ditch the Energy cards and stock up on healing cards like Max Potion, Super Potion, etc.

Noivern BREAK

noivern break

If I’m seeing any kind of pattern here with the BREAK cards, it’s that the card creators wanted to set up effective combos with the previous Evolutions of each card. It’s almost like they’re aware of the difficulty it will take to get a BREAK card to work, and as such are piecing together combos that are crazy enough to possibly work.

With Noivern BREAK here, the combo is quite obvious: Use Noivern FFI to possibly avoid KOs with Echolocation, spread damage just once, then use Noivern BREAK’s attack to land knockouts. With the benefit that Double Dragon Energy provides, this is a feasible strategy. What’s even more interesting is that Noivern BREAK seems to provide the firepower that a Noivern deck was previously lacking. I’ve faced a couple of these decks before, and they mostly leaned on Echolocation to spread damage as much as possible. This doesn’t address an ongoing threat, however, which is why Noivern BREAK seems a decent addition to a fun deck.

Standard Impact

Most of the gimmickry that is Noivern exists in the Standard format, particularly with Double Dragon Energy (this deck wouldn’t even be a consideration without it). Noivern gains a little from the slower pace that Standard presents, but not by much. In the end, the saving grace for this card is Echolocation, an Ability that can keep Noivern alive long enough to attack, evolve, and possibly succeed.

Expanded Impact

There are a couple of additions the Expanded format offers Noivern decks, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. The first is Gabite DRX 89 (yes, the one with the Ability). This card can easily sit on the Bench and provide a consistent stream of Noivern from the deck and into play, useful for setting up multiple threats. A Garchomp DRX 90 or two seem like an easy fit as well to give the deck a bit more versatility.

The other card I can see this deck running is an annoying one — Life Dew. I know that Echolocation already provides a way to escape knockouts, but Life Dew prolongs the pain for the opponent. Pairing this with Eco Arm can give you multiple Life Dews, making things undeniably tough for the opponent.

Raichu/Marowak/Florges BREAK

In my opinion, these are the lesser BREAK cards, the ones that have overwhelming issues that — barring some miracle — most people will inevitably overlook. Each of them can be decent, but there needs to be an opening for them in either format. This can definitely happen, of course. For example, there looks to be a Marowak coming out that might stop Seismitoad-EX dead in its tracks. If that’s the case, Marowak BREAK might actually see some play. For right now though, these cards aren’t making an appearance because they’re too difficult to get into play and don’t provide much of a return.


brigette bkt 161 16-9
These cards are the showstoppers of the set.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, one of the exciting things about the game right now is how each set changes things up. When we can look at basically a single set out of the last 10 that failed to change things dramatically (that set is Flashfire, by the way), that’s a sign of a healthy, balanced game. Moreover, this exists with the presence of two separate formats, so it’s a wonder the Expanded format isn’t total trash. Again, I’ll point my finger to balanced, smart game design.

This set features game-changers as well, cards we will see immediately with our next tournament series. I’m going to cover these cards, again looking at the impact they’ll have on both the Standard and Expanded formats.

M Mewtwo-EX (64/160)

It’s hard not to ignore this card; there are, after all, 10 Mewtwo in this set. To pretend that people won’t play this card is silly — a reason it features strongly on this list — but I’m not sold on it just yet. The trouble I have with it is the math, if I’m being frank. Let’s compare Mewtwo-EX NXD to what appears to be a drastic upgrade. To do this, I’m going to keep constant a few things. First, I will assume Mewtwo-EX NXD has a Muscle Band attached and M Mewtwo-EX does not. It should be obvious why: Mewtwo-EX and a Muscle Band go together easily, while M Mewtwo-EX will presumably have a Spirit Link attached to it. Okay, let’s see how this breaks down:

  • If the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 0 Energy: Mewtwo-EX NXD (MEX) does 60 damage with a Double Colorless Energy and a Muscle Band; M Mewtwo-EX (MMEX) will do 70 damage with a Double Colorless Energy and no Muscle Band attached. MEX: 60 / MMEX: 70
  • If the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 1 Energy:MEX: 80 / MMEX: 100
  • If the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 2 Energy:MEX: 100 / MMEX: 130

… and so on. Essentially, M Mewtwo-EX widens that gap of damage by 10 for each Energy attached to either itself or the opponent’s Active Pokémon. This might sound good until you consider Yveltal-EX, which is doing 20 extra damage right out the gate. Here’s what that breakdown looks like if replace Mewtwo-EX with Yveltal-EX:

  • If the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 0 Energy: Yveltal-EX (YEX) does 80 damage with a Double Colorless Energy and a Muscle Band; M Mewtwo-EX (MMEX) will do 70 damage with a Double Colorless Energy and no Muscle Band attached. YEX: 80 / MMEX: 70
  • If the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 1 Energy:YEX: 100 / MMEX: 100
  • If the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 2 Energy:YEX: 120 / MMEX: 130

So looking at our Yveltal-EX comparison above, M Mewtwo-EX is doing a better job only when the opponent’s Active Pokémon has 2 or more Energy. A better way to put this is that M Mewtwo-EX is performing better than Yveltal-EX when there are 4 or more Energy between both Active Pokémon. There are consideration that go into this, however. Mainly, M Mewtwo-EX only requires a Double Colorless Energy, so it’s more “splashable” into various decks than Yveltal-EX. At the same time, it needs a Spirit Link, a Mewtwo-EX, and a turn to evolve.

So … where does this put us?

m mewtwo-ex breakthrough bkt 64
Cat’s out of the bag, meow now.

To understand what will happen with M Mewtwo-EX, I want to journey back to an awful prediction I made concerning Mewtwo-EX. At the time Mewtwo-EX leaked (the first Pokémon-EX in years), I didn’t think it was that great. I basically said it just didn’t put out enough damage — a monumentally stupid thing to say. I did have a logical argument at the time, however, citing that most popular decks then had incredibly low-Energy attack costs. Cards like Yanmega Prime, Donphan Prime, and Magnezone Prime made up the bulk of the format. All of those cards were really effective against Mewtwo-EX, a card that fed off Energy attached to the opponent’s Active Pokémon. By the time Mewtwo-EX came out, however, ZPST (Zekrom BLW/Pachirisu CL/Shaymin UL/Tornadus EPO) was the most popular deck around, which required 3 Energy to pull off a powerful attack.

I say all of this because the success of M Mewtwo-EX might not mirror that of Mewtwo-EX from Next Destinies. People love Mewtwo-EX, so they’ll play it, but right now the format demands low-Energy attack costs. There are some outliers such as Giratina-EX AOR and Aegislash-EX, but both of those are counters to M Mewtwo-EX in the first place. Plus, there’s Yveltal-EX, which requires less resources to power up and seems to have more going for it in the form of Dark Patch and Yveltal XY.

Standard Impact

If you strip away one of the things that makes Yveltal-EX really good (Dark Patch), you strengthen the argument to play M Mewtwo-EX. The other reason to play M Mewtwo-EX in Standard — and it’s a strong one — is that Mewtwo-EX from Next Destinies doesn’t exist in Standard. To pull off something close to X Ball, you have to throw that Spirit Link on a Mewtwo-EX BKT and get ready to Mega Evolve. For this reason, I think we’ll see M Mewtwo-EX in Standard, probably paired with Aromatisse XY or an Energy accelerator like Bronzong PHF or Magnezone BKT.

Expanded Impact

As you might imagine, things gets kind of tricky for M Mewtwo-EX here, mostly for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Mewtwo-EX NXD sneaks back into play, as does Dark Patch. It’s notable that Psychic Infinity does not hit for Weakness, providing even further reason to ditch the Spirit Links and M Mewtwo-EXs. Over time, this format has seen Mewtwo-EX phase out, then return, then phase out again. I expect M Mewtwo-EX in this format will do the same, though at the mercy of player preference more than anything.


magnezone breakthrough bkt 54
Magnets … how do they work?

The card creators seemed to go with another maneuver straight from their playbook for this one: introduce a Stage 2 Pokémon capable of dumping unlimited Energy on the field with a Basic Pokémon of the same type designed to do more damage for each Energy attached to it. For Boundaries Crossed it was Blastoise/Keldeo-EX, and for this set it’s Magnezone/Raikou. The difference between these two similar sets of cards is that when Boundaries Crossed was released, there was a lacking structure that developed over time that made Blastoise/Keldeo-EX such a powerful deck (e.g. Black Kyurem-EX PLS, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Archie’s Ace in the Hole were all released after Boundaries Crossed).

Magnezone/Raikou, however, already has a lot of that structure in place, and then some. Fisherman came out with this set, another boost to decks trying to absorb Energy from the discard pile. Flash Energy exists to help balance Weakness out (we’re still waiting for a Special Water Energy by comparison). The one thing this deck severely lacks is a decent attacker outside of Raikou. Where Blastoise/Keldeo-EX quickly became Blastoise/Black Kyurem-EX, this deck needs the same addition, that or it needs to find a way to keep massive amounts of Energy on Raikou at all times.

Standard Impact

Magnezone fares pretty well in this format, as Yveltal-EX is a strong go-to for many people in Standard and is weak against this deck. There are also some serious concerns Magnezone avoids by playing in this format (primarily Garbodor DRX and Landorus-EX). To me, the strength of this deck rests a lot in whether or not people choose to play Seismitoad-EX. Without Seismitoad-EX in the way, Magnezone-based decks are free to dump lots of Energy on the field and retrieve them seamlessly from the discard pile.

Expanded Impact

For me, playing Magnezone in Expanded is a much harder sell than Standard. Magnezone doesn’t really gain much from this format (Zekrom-EX? Zekrom BLW?). Meanwhile, huge threats like Landorus-EX and Garbodor DRX show up at the door. The one benefit to Expanded is the inclusion of Magnezone PLS 46, but that’s stretching it quite a bit. After all, with the way the game is now you’ll likely keep one Stage 2 in play during the game, and though Dual Brains is a good Ability, I’d much rather than take the one that’s going to allow me to attack!


gengar breakthrough bkt 60
“It slices! It dices! It even makes Julienne fries!”

Nearly every time a Gengar gets released, it creates a lot of buzz. This time is no different. This card seems a little all over the place — it poisons, spreads damage, and can land a 1HKO. That last part, however, is what many players are looking at. With the help of a variety of Pokémon that can spread damage (Crobat PHF, Landorus-EX, Gengar-EX, Absol ROS, etc.), Gengar stands capable of Knocking Out any Pokémon.

This card also has the advantage of being able to use Dimension Valley, making its second attack cost only a single Psychic Energy.

One thing players may overlook is the strength of the Crobat PHF line in setting up knockouts. As a Stage 2 Pokémon that can attack for no Energy (with Dimension Valley), Crobat provides a very decent shield against many attackers. Even if Knocked Out, the damage is normally done, since by that time Crobat will have spread the damage required for Gengar to sweep.

Standard Impact

With Dimension Valley, Crobat PHF, Level Ball, and Brigette in place, Gengar looks to be pretty good in the Standard format. As an idea, players may want to replace the Crobat line with Spinda PRC to spread damage and open up the deck space a little. That was a change I made to a M Gallade-EX deck back when that card was released, and I was quite happy with it.

One concern with Standard is the presence of Yveltal-EX, a powerhouse of a card that can rip into Gengar’s Darkness Weakness very easily. This is actually an argument in favor of Crobat, since it has Lightning Weakness an can withstand Yveltal-EX easily with such low Energy costs.

Expanded Impact

For Gengar, perhaps the biggest opportunity Expanded offers is the use of Landorus-EX. I like Crobat a lot alongside Gengar, but you can’t beat a card that can automatically spread 30 damage with just a single Energy. Landorus-EX is such a huge force early game that in many cases it will be able to overrun the opponent without issue. For those times that it doesn’t, however, this is where Gengar can slip in and get rid of a large threat.


brigette breakthrough bkt 134
Three for one is prettty good.

This could very well be the best card from this set. If you played this game during the time that Pokémon Collector or Holon Mentor existed, you should know full well the strength in being able to search for 3 Basic Pokémon. There is, however, a downside to Brigette — it has an either/or clause that keeps a player from grabbing 3 of any Basic Pokémon. Personally, I like this, as it keeps the effectiveness of non-EX decks intact and actually gives them some much-needed firepower.

In the long run, this card is much better than Pokémon Fan Club, allowing players to set up a field of Pokémon from the very beginning (that one additional Basic Pokémon really is that important). I think this card will be of huge benefit to decks that have Pokémon that evolve, and though I’m not expecting Evolution decks to take over, this is a nice step in the direction of that.

Standard Impact

This card provides much-needed firepower to a lot of decks that try to evolve multiple Pokémon. Decks with Vespiquen, Eeveelutions, Magnezone, etc. will all take advantage of Brigette because it helps to lay some groundwork for setting up. Note that any time a Supporter that lets a player grab 3 Basic Pokémon has been released, it’s been used (with maybe the single exception of Lanette’s Net Search).

Expanded Impact

To me, this is where the power of Brigette gives an energetic update to some older decks. Decks like Durant NVI, Tool Drop, and pretty much anything that didn’t run Pokémon-EX can utilize Brigette easily. Brigette is also a handy card for any deck with a Crobat line in it.

Parallel City

parallel city breakthrough bkt 145
How cool is this card??

Parallel City has such versatility that it will certainly see play. The Bench-limiting effect on the card is capable of crushing M Rayquaza-EX decks, while the damage-reducing effect will most likely be used as a counter-measure to Seismitoad-EX. To me, this is one of the coolest cards out of the set since it represents a vague new mechanic of “either/or” effects, featured in both Brigette and Giovanni’s Scheme as well.

Standard Impact

In Standard, Parallel City serves to bust up a couple of the most powerful cards in the game: M Rayquaza-EX and Seismitoad-EX. Recovering from having eight Pokémon on the Bench to having three is back-breaking for M Rayquaza-EX decks and presents a dastardly counter in the form of a single card — drop it once and in some cases you’ve won the game. Meanwhile, Seismitoad-EX decks struggle without the presence of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym; plug in a Parallel City in place of that combo and you’re looking at a Seismitoad-EX that has been significantly crippled.

The great thing about Parallel City is that many decks can make use of it without issue, and it serves as an automatic inclusion for decks that don’t have a designated Stadium they resort to. It’s almost as if the card creators are trying to hype up the “Stadium Wars” players were so fond of years ago. That or they want players to find a use for Paint Roller.

Expanded Impact

The biggest difference for Parallel City here is that Seismitoad-EX has an easy answer for how to deal with it (Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym). While Seismitoad-EX decks struggle to find a decent response in Standard, here it’s just a matter of having either the Stadium or Hypnotoxic Laser as a counter. Even if Parallel City is in play, Laser will still cut through with Poison, and that extra bit of damage may be all that’s needed.

The Reprints

One thing I’ve always wondered about this game is why the card creators insist on creating something “new,” but with the same old mechanics as cards previously released (the Mr. Mime from this set is a perfect example of this). Why not just release a reprint of that earlier card? I guess Pokémon are the exception to this idea, as this set features quite a few reprints of Items and Supporters from earlier sets.

“HGSS is back?!”

fisherman breakthrough bkt 136
The one that got away … is back!!

Perhaps the strangest reprints in this set are the ones that came straight of out HeartGold & SoulSilver sets from years ago. Judge and Fisherman are duplicates of cards that came out long ago, and while they’re decent cards to have in the game, it definitely begs the question: Is this a direction we can expect Pokémon Card Laboratories (PCL) to take in the future? What if we get a Castaway reprint, or a Steven’s Advice?

In any case, let’s talk real quick about Fisherman. Yes, Superior Energy Retrieval and Energy Retrieval exist in the game right now, but Fisherman definitely deserves a spot in your deck if you are running those other Retrievals. The reason? VS Seeker. With VS Seeker, you can safely discard a Fisherman early game if you need to and come back to it later. It provides that additional retrieval option that can copied up to four additional times with VS Seeker.

I’ve played plenty of games with Archie’s Blastoise where I just couldn’t get the Energy I needed late game because I had to discard my retrieval cards too soon. With even just a single copy of Fisherman, you automatically open up your deck to utilize the Supporter line to bring back Energy, not just Items. It almost guarantees you’ll never run out of Energy.

Now that we’ve covered Fisherman, what about Judge?

Honestly, Judge is a tricky card to gauge right now. As much as I want to be okay with dropping my hand size down to four early game, I’m just not. I ran Judge with a couple of decks back in the day — primarily Steelix Prime and Yanmega Prime/Donphan Prime — and both of those decks required very little to set up. Playing a Judge just didn’t seem too detrimental back then. Today, however, we have decks like Vespiquen and Night March, decks that absolutely rely on consistency and draw power.

I liken Judge to Ace Trainer, a card which hasn’t seen much play. Yes, there’s disruption, but there’s also a chance that your plan just won’t work. Starting with an Ace Trainer as your sole Supporter is like playing a Judge and running into a bad hand — you’re stuck until something good happens. And in Standard especially, without the presence of N, you may never get to of that bad hand.

Here’s what Judge has going for it, however: VS Seeker. Yes! Both of these Supporter cards benefit from VS Seeker. With a playset of VS Seeker, you can get away with one copy of Judge for after the opponent has dropped their Shaymin-EXs and seems in a fragile spot. This mid- to late-game play might just seal a victory, much like N used to.

“Stones, Maps, Rods, and … well, you get the point.”

super rod breakthrough bkt 149
aka the Bassmaster 5000™

There were so many reprints included in this set that even though there were 164 cards in the set, Max Potion was not one of them. It seems TPCi hit their “reprint quota” for this set and decided to axe one of the most important cards in the game. No big deal though!

Seriously though, this set returned to us Float Stone, Heavy Ball, Skyla, Super Rod, and Town Map … all cards that have had a pretty big impact on the game. I’m not so sure this changes the game so much as it reinforces it. For many players, Standard has been theoretical at best, and these cards might not have ever seemed to leave play (except Super Rod and Heavy Ball).

If we had not seen these cards for a full season, you would hear a much larger commotion about them. Since three-fifths of them just left play and are back, however, it doesn’t seem as big a deal. It is though!

The return of Super Rod is huge. Stuck somewhere between a Sacred Ash and an Energy Recycler, Super Rod provides players with just the right balance to navigate recovery properly during the course of a game. Nearly anyone will tell you they prefer this card to Ash or Recycler.

Meanwhile, Float Stone finds its way back into the game to provide players with a way to retreat for free (incidentally, this was something I was greatly concerned with after Keldeo-EX rotated and Float Stone seemed to be leaving). Not much to note here since few players have experienced a format without it. Most of the other cards can be seen similarly.

Except Heavy Ball! Yes, Heavy Ball returns not too long after Level Ball came back. Once more, the “Ball System” seems as healthy as ever. While Level Ball’s return was easily the bigger deal, Heavy Ball still has its niche inclusions, and I expect we’ll continue to see it show up in decks that feature something like Bronzong PHF.

Gauging Potential

parasect bkt 16-9
“There is no use for a lava lamp unless you’re on drugs.”

While looking through this set, there were many on-the-fence cards that may or may not see play. I wanted to mention these just briefly and give you my own thoughts on where these cards may end up.

Parasect // View

So, this card has some of the best Energy acceleration in the game. The issue? It’s a Stage 1 Pokémon and the Energy brought into play all have to be different types. This latter issue is manageable, but the Stage 1 bit is problematic. Thankfully, both Wally and Forest of Giant Plants exist to get Parasect in play much easier, making this a slightly better Volcarona AOR 17.

Octillery // View

Octillery is an interesting card for its similarity to a card that used to see play but no longer does (Electrode PLF). It’s not that Electrode is a bad card, it’s just that it’s fallen out of favor in the face of consistent draw power. Still, I think Octillery has a place in the format, especially since it’s a more powerful Electrode PLF.

Some have suggested that Claydol GE is infinitely better than this card, but I’d like to point out that our current format features many cards that discard cards from the hand or otherwise empty the hand. Ultra Ball, Battle Compressor, Acro Bike … these are all cards that can help make Octillery’s Ability worthwhile, quite different than when Claydol was around.

Empoleon // View

The game designers definitely seem to have a soft spot for Empoleon, as this new one has a decent Ability and a BREAK version too (that will probably be released as a promo soon). The first idea that comes to mind for this new Empoleon is naturally Seismitoad-EX with an Archie’s Supporter engine.

Stunfisk // View

stunfisk breakthrough bkt 56
Revenge is a dish best served soled. (fish joke)

The reason I put Stunfisk on this list is that we are slowly amassing a growing number of Pokémon with the Revenge attack (Terrakion NVI, Druddigon FLF), which has been one of the best attacks for combatting certain types. When I first started playing this game there was a semi-popular deck that ran a number of different Pokémon types. It’s aim was to hit Weakness against Pokémon ex (the old ones) and win the Prize tradeoff. Perhaps one of these patchwork decks can resurface as a legitimate strategy?

Gallade // View

There’s a reason I’m lumping this card into the “potential” category rather than a “game-changer,” and that’s because it relies on a pretty risky set-up. From what I’ve heard, this card and Maxie’s are meant for each other. Looking at the card as one that just hit the Bench because of Maxie’s is promising. Premonition is a great Ability, especially in a format with Unown, Acro Bike, etc., and a Double Colorless Energy meets the cost of Sensitive Blade.

Still, though, this assumes you’re able to pull off the Maxie’s. And once you do, you still need to draw into the Double Colorless Energy to attack with Gallade that turn (or else use cards in conjunction with Premonition to grab that DCE). Moreover, this card isn’t going to just sit on your Bench and power up other Pokémon, it’s going to be attacking. In what kind of deck does this card fit?

To me, the likeliest of places for Gallade to go is in a deck that has a Maxie’s (or Archie’s) Trainer engine, and definitely not as a main attacker, but more as an occasional gimmick.

Dodrio // View

A main concern of mine going into this season has been the issue of Energy denial, that an opponent may relentlessly copy Supporters like Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic to strip a player’s field of Energy. Taking it one step further is the issue of Retreat Cost, which ties directly into Energy denial (after all, if an opponent uses a Lysandre to bring up a useless Pokémon from the Bench, that player has to use up Energy to retreat it).

I say this because I think Dodrio might play an important part in maintaining some balance here, ensuring games aren’t ended simply because a player used a Lysandre to bring up a Pokémon from the Bench and pass until the other player ran out of cards.

Dodrio also may play an important part in making Vileplume AOR more relevant. Without Retreat Aid, it’s very difficult to manage a 3-Energy Retreat Cost, something opponents constantly target with Lysandre.


baltoy ge 16-9 sharp
Managing so many cards is quite the balancing act.

I continue to be excited with where the game is going, an impressive feat given the large card pool players have to work with. The balance TPCi has created with Standard and Expanded formats is also noteworthy, as they’ve managed to keep both formats healthy and fun while banning only a couple of cards (Lysandre’s Trump Card, Shiftry NXD). BREAKthrough exhibits yet another inclusion in this game of fine cards that shake — but don’t break — the metagame.

Of course, I’m always looking for suggestions for what to write about. If there are any big topics readers want me to tackle, please let me know! I always like covering sweeping concerns in the game, and I think there are plenty of them out there. Also, give me a Like if you found this article useful, and be sure to check back in the comments section after I’ve had a few days to test things out on PTCGO. I’m going to provide some testing results — what works, what doesn’t, what needs work, and so on.

Thanks as always for reading!

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