Great Again

On the Big Play! Pokémon Changes, Rotation Implications, and Three Decks That Could Dominate New Standard
professor oak wave hello croppokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
“It ain’t no lie — baby, bye, bye, bye …” ?✌

It’s been a while, SixPrizes readers! The Pokémon World Championships are coming up within the next couple of weeks, which means that the 2015–2016 competitive season is also finally coming to an end. I can’t say that I’m sad to see this rotation happen, as I’ve never truly been this frustrated with a format in the Pokémon Trading Card Game in my many years of competitive play.

Games have often essentially ended on the first turn, mainly through a deck dominating over an opponent with massive attacks raining down from the get-go of the match. If Joltik and Pumpkaboo aren’t the responsible ones for these quick game-ending maneuvers, then it could be the work of the many Item-locking decks available to shut down an opponent from the first turn of the game (Trevenant, /Vileplume, ).

Regardless of who is responsible for these extremely quick games that have kept occurring in competitive play, the rotation will bring new life and wash away the intense amount of speed that has been disrupting the current format. We can once again look forward to playing a match of Pokémon knowing that a good amount of skill will be required to find victory. This is much prefered over current instances of finding a Wally to get a first-turn Trevenant to seal the game, inevitably deterring both players from having a fun series.

. . .

Not only do we have a new rotation to look forward to, but The Pokémon Company has also dropped a bombshell about the upcoming Play! Pokémon changes that are on the way for the 2016–2017 competitive season! Without a doubt, this has been one of the most exciting developments for the Pokémon Trading Card Game in a long time. Larger prize pools were announced along with complete shifts in the tournament structure incorporating a more homogeneous schedule and a higher number of tournaments for each player to enter.

What a time to be playing Pokémon! Even just the news of this completely different structure is bringing some well-known players out of retirement to begin playing again, which speaks to the magnitude of these changes.

Even though the World Championships are coming up soon and there is plenty to talk about with the current format, I’ve decided to focus this entire article on the upcoming changes to competitive play and looking forward to the new Standard format after rotation. With such great content out already about the upcoming World Championships and with most archetypes already covered, I feel like any reviews of possible options would be a little repetitive at this point.

After analyzing the big changes that are coming into play for the 2016–2017 competitive season, I’ll look toward the new Standard format and determine just how much it will slow down from some key cards being rotated. Russell LaParre gave some great initial thoughts and preliminary descriptions of possible changes that will happen after the rotation, which I will now look into with greater depth. After seeing how the format will look to shape out, I’ll go over three possible decks to play in the new Standard format that could make a major impact, with two of these decks showing off brand-new attackers from Steam Siege.

Enough introduction. Let’s get into the article!

Big Play! Pokémon Changes

I’m sure that everyone has seen or heard about the major changes that are going to occur in the upcoming 2016–2017 competitive season which were published Monday on Pokémon.com. Almost everything in the press release is extremely good news that will lead to a brighter future for this game, especially the larger cash payouts and higher number of tournaments for everyone to play in.

I’ll break down each of these huge changes and discuss what they mean for the new competitive season (compared to previous seasons). Every single change that TPCi is making this new season will basically be a test-run for future competitive seasons, so be sure to go and show them some love by playing in as many tournaments as possible and supporting this game. They’re making these changes to benefit the players and help the community grow!

1. No More Nationals; Now Zone Championships

European, North American, Latin American, and Asia Pacific Championships will be the replacement for the current National Championships that have happened every year. These four areas are the four core ratings zones that the game has implemented. Each of these zones will now have a huge event that will take place throughout the season and be open to all players worldwide, which is huge news to hear about.

feature match pokemon league
These events will be massive and highly competitive.

Up until recently, players haven’t been allowed to play in National-level events in different countries (aside from the European Challenge Cup, I believe). This could open the gates for players to travel into different core rating zones and possibly try to capture titles and bring them back to their home soil. Although this may seem improbable from the large amount of travel that would be required, Sydney Morisoli won the ECC this year during her travels to Europe and brought the title back to the United States for the Senior Division. Anything could be possible with these limitations being lifted to compete.

In the announcement, the wording is a little confusing on how many events will actually take place for these championships. Some have interpreted it as meaning that multiple intercontinental-level events will be taking place throughout the season, while others have understood this to mean just one huge intercontinental-level event for each core rating zone. In my opinion, it seems as though there will be just one huge event that will now occur for each of the four core rating zones, which will act as the “National Championship” of that zone.

Exact wording for reference: “The European Championships, North American Championships, Latin American Championships, and Asia Pacific Championships will take place throughout the season and are open to all players worldwide.”

These tournaments will boast a very large prize pool of nearly $250,000 per event while also still handing out huge Championship Point payouts as well. Travel Awards and Stipends will still be available for these events, similar to previous seasons with National Championships, and will be based on a player’s Championship Point performance in their home rating zone.

Based on the information that we have about these tournaments, I have one prediction that will almost certainly come true: these championships will be the largest tournaments that the Pokémon community has ever seen in terms of attendance. The record for attendance was just recently set at the US National Championships (1,105 Masters), which will only look to grow as Canadian and Mexican players join along. With more details to be announced later on in the season, all signs are pointing up for these new large-scale tournaments for the 2016–2017 competitive season.

2. Regionals Spread Out, Bigger Prizes

Every Regionals will now offer more than $50,000 in prize money, scholarships, and Travel Certificates that are going to be based on the attendance of that event.

Many years ago, Regional Championships actually gave out scholarships to players that performed well, rewarding them with a monetary gain of some kind. This form of reward is coming back and will look to make winning these Regional Championships more prestigious. Bigger cash payouts will bring higher levels of competition, which makes for exciting tournaments to watch unfold.

Not only are these tournaments going to hand out more money to players that perform well, but they are also going to be more evenly dispersed throughout the season (instead of clumped together during multiple weekends in a row three times per year). This should allow for more players to attend each of these events and lessen the immediate costs of traveling, which has been a huge problem for the Pokémon community in recent years. Attendance for these events will surely rise and make for larger Regional Championships than ever seen before.

Another surprising change is that these new Regional Championships also have the opportunity to be played in the Standard format. This is going to be a major shift from the previous Regional Championships played in the Expanded format. Regionals are sure to be more exciting than ever in this upcoming season!

3. League Cup Events = New City Championships

City Championships have come with huge upside for most competitive players, as they provide a good amount of Championship Points and are also all clumped together in the same few months. It was announced that participating hobby stores will be eligible to host one League Cup event per quarter, which means that there could be up to four events at the same store throughout the year. This will provide plenty of opportunities for players to earn Championship Points from stores in their area.

One troubling thought that comes to mind when hearing about these changes to City Championships would be whether or not Marathons still fit in this new competitive season. Since each hobby store can now host only one League Cup event per quarter, most Marathon organizers may be out of luck in terms of finding venues that are close in proximity and can coordinate effectively enough to hold a Marathon.

Also, some Marathons (such as the Georgia Marathon) host a good amount of their tournaments at random venues that they can secure which are not hobby stores. An example that everyone seems to love would be the tournaments that are run out of Stevie B’s Pizza during the Marathon. Although most players enjoy the delightful combination of pizza and Pokémon, others are more excited to be returning to hobby stores and not having to play competitively at a fast-food restaurant.

Summing Up

To bring together these changes that are occurring …

  • TPCi is making tournaments easier for every player to attend with more even spacing of large-scale tournaments throughout the season.
  • League Cup events will be almost identical to City Championships, aside from only being played in hobby stores now, and could also have a huge impact with the possible disappearance of Marathons.
  • Regional Championships will have bigger cash payouts and prizes and will look to have huge attendance numbers. These events, just like League Cups, will also be more evenly spaced out throughout the year.
  • State Championships and National Championships will no longer occur.
  • Finally, the four core rating zones will hold large-scale tournaments that host all players worldwide and award a huge prize pool of nearly $250,000 per event.

Nothing but positive changes coming for the upcoming 2016–2017 competitive season!


So now that we’ve looked at all the big changes that are upcoming, we need to start working on decks that could be used at these tournaments. With the PRC-on rotation shifting so many important cards out of the format, there are going to be changes that come with deck-building and playstyles.

But before I go over the decks for the new Standard format, we need to talk about the rotation and how to adjust to the much slower speed that comes along with it.

Implications of the Rotation

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Slowpokes … it’s your time to shine!

From the iconic catchphrase of Donald Trump’s presidential run … “Let’s make this format great again.” I’m not too big on politics but I’m pretty sure that’s what he said, which must have been specifically a reference to the rotation and leaving behind Night March, Trevenant, and other detrimental cards that ruined the fun of playing Pokémon.

Upon first glance, PRC-on looks to be a healthy format that will not be decided upon the first turn of any game. This will allow for players to enjoy the games and battle throughout the entirety of the match, instead of losing to a first-turn Item lock shutting down their hand completely. A much slower format will also allow an opportunity for Evolution-based cards now that they can’t just be destroyed by a Night March deck and will actually have some time to set up for an intended strategy.

Russell did a great job of presenting all of the important cards that are being rotated out which honestly saved me a lot of time from searching through all the sets and could do the same for you. Make sure to check out his list of notable cards that we are losing in preparation for the rotation.

Just to highlight again some of the more important cards exiting stage left, these are the concepts that are shifting and the resulting impact their dismissal will have.

Night Marching Away

I’m pretty sure that I can speak for nearly everyone in the Pokémon community when I say that it’s been time to see these little fellas go away. Almost every fun deck idea that I’ve assembled within the past year needed to be trashed instantly due to a lackluster matchup against Night March. Without this deck to stand in the way, along with the reckless abandon of Battle Compressor leaving, creativity will begin to rise again. Evolutions will actually have a shot to flourish with the added time that should now be present within each game.

Players also can no longer rely on playing smaller counts of important Supporter cards to discard with Battle Compressor for later use via VS Seeker, which should foster more consistent and slower decks. This is the most significant card to leave the Pokémon TCG in a very long time, especially due to the overwhelming presence of Night March and Vespiquen/Vileplume that rely on the card and have taken over without much of an answer to combat them.

Item lock Leaving

Although everyone is sure to be happy with the absence of Night March, there is no worse feeling than paying $20 to enter a tournament and being Item-locked for half an hour Round 1. The lock is worse with Trevenant, as Wally can fetch it on the very first turn and prevent any opposing turns of Item cards. At least with Seismitoad-EX, the lock doesn’t begin instantly, but games often inevitably turn into the same boring situation as soon as a Quaking Punch lands.

Without these forms of Item-locking, as well as Vileplume taking a hit from the loss of AZ, it should be possible to display more creativity in deck-building. Decks won’t need to focus on getting set up so quickly to circumvent Item lock, and can instead focus on employing a grander strategy that may take more time to develop.

This is another group of cards leaving that will help new deck ideas flourish and enable healthy matches that go the distance.

Less Energy Acceleration

These cards leaving isn’t that big of a hit right now in the current Standard format, but they become a big loss when considering the possibilities that could have been without Night March or Item lock around.

In my opinion, when Night March and Item-locking decks disappear, the strongest options to use will involve some form of Energy acceleration. Past formats have shown powerhouse decks that relied on accelerating Energy in some form at the top of the food chain (Eelektrik NVI, Dark Patch, Blastoise BCR, etc.). The introduction of Night March cut off nearly every form of Energy acceleration from being viable in Standard. Now would be the perfect time to capitalize, but these options are unfortunately being rotated as well.

Bronzong has seemed to be the only saving grace to come with Metal typing nowadays, so look for that type to not see much play at all anymore. Without Night March around, Mega Manectric would actually have been a great way to accelerate Energy and also counter any M -EX decks, which makes it even more tragic to be rotating now. Although Blacksmith also had a small time to shine with the Entei AOR decks that became popular around City Championships, it’s only just now found a new powerful combo piece in Volcanion-EX. This short-lived relationship will be ended almost immediately with the rotation in a few short weeks.

Without these cards around, look for other forms of Energy acceleration to grow in popularity (Max Elixir, Xerneas STS, Yveltal STS).

Once on Board, Always on Board

This shift is actually a little more complex than no longer having options to pick up Pokémon. With these cards rotating, players must be more careful about benching any Shaymin-EX that could possibly be picked off for easy Prize cards. Decks won’t be able to bench targets for short-term gain with hopes of picking them up later with AZ.

These three cards rotating should hopefully teach players to be more judicious about benching fragile Pokémon-EX and lead to a slower format in general. This slower format will be the result of players forcing knockouts on attacking Pokémon instead of allowing easy Prize cards to come off multiple support Pokémon like Shaymin throughout the game.

Another change that will come from these cards rotating is a more careful outlook from players when they are using Pokémon with high Retreat Costs. Without any way to pick up a larger Pokémon from being trapped in the Active position, players will need to carefully build their decks to prevent this from happening.

Look forward to more switching options being utilized in decks, like Zoroark BKT for instance.

Sticky Tools

These two cards may not seem like much, but they are the only Trainer-based forms of discarding Pokémon Tool cards that were available in the Standard format the past year. This means that almost every Fighting Fury Belt and Bursting Balloon is going to stick from now on, which could be very annoying to deal with. Having to Knock Out Pokémon-EX with 220 HP will not be a fun task when it must be done multiple times throughout a game.

Not only will Tools stick, but the implications for Garbodor BKP make it very tempting to use now. Without any way to discard Tools and shut off Garbotoxin, an opponent will not be allowed to use their Abilities until the itself is Knocked Out.

Look for a rise in the usage of Pokémon Tool cards in the new Standard format, along with a slight uptick in the amount of Garbodor being played.

A Big Hit to Fighting

This is more of an honorary mention, as Fighting Pokémon were never really that much of a threat. It has seemed like they finally found a good attacker in the form of Carbink BREAK, which could accelerate Energy while also living through big-damage attacks with a Focus Sash. It also benefited from the Carbink FCO 50’s Safeguard to protect itself from opposing Pokémon-EX, which came in handy quite a bit.

Without any Korrina to properly set up, Fighting Stadium to add damage, and Focus Sash to survive through big attacks, you should expect a huge decrease in the amount of Fighting-type decks that will be seen.

Three Decks That Could Dominate PRC-on

emerald break rayquaza
Let’s dial back the hyper-speed.

Now that we’ve gone over the format and possible changes to expect, we can start building decks that could dominate this new and exciting Standard format. Let’s start with a deck that has seen a lot of hype over the past year or so, but with a slower take from no Battle Compressor available.

M Rayquaza-EX/Zoroark

Pokémon – 20

3 Rayquaza-EX ROS 60

1 Rayquaza-EX ROS 75

3 M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76

4 Shaymin-EX ROS

3 Hoopa-EX AOR

2 Unown AOR

2 Zorua BKT 89

2 Zoroark BKT

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Rayquaza Spirit Link

2 Float Stone

2 Mega Turbo

 

4 Sky Field

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless

4 Darkness

Now although we’ve definitely already seen M Rayquaza-EX decks before, this version is completely different than the previous lists. In the current Standard format, the deck would be known as HexRay and would rely on setting up extremely fast on the first turn, while also using a Hex Maniac to shut down their opponent. Without Battle Compressor to help speed up this process, Energy must be discarded manually through the use of Ultra Ball and Professor Sycamore. Since this takes much more time to set up than the previous versions, this M Rayquaza-EX deck focuses on setting up multiple attackers and outlasting an opponent while dropping down huge attacks.

Since discarding Energy becomes almost mandatory for setting up quickly, this deck plays 4 copies of Professor Sycamore and 4 copies of Ultra Ball to maximize the chances of drawing them. For non-Pokémon-EX attackers, there are 2 that can be used to hit for big damage, while also providing the utility of preventing a Hoopa-EX from being trapped in the Active position. Once the game gets going and Pokémon begin trading for Prize cards, vital resources can also be easily replenished through the Puzzle of Time that are in this build.

It’s always important to remember that when playing this deck, do not play it like the HexRay of the current format. Conserve resources and focus on the longer game instead of just discarding everything and always finding more Shaymin-EX to draw through the whole deck. Slow and steady wins the race in this new format.

Volcanion/Flareon-EX

Pokémon – 12

4 Volcanion STS

3 Volcanion-EX

2 Flareon-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

1 Pokémon Ranger

1 Fisherman

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Float Stone

2 Professor’s Letter

2 Energy Retrieval

1 Super Rod

1 Escape Rope

 

2 Sky Field

1 Parallel City

Energy – 11

11 Fire

A similar build to this can be seen in Henry’s article, in which he discusses possible XY-on builds involving Entei. This is the first deck that I tried out when the cards became available from Steam Siege. It looked like a very fun idea that could reach huge amounts of damage with not much effort, which was definitely proven correct once testing began.

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Cute factor is off the charts as well. ?

Through Volcanion STS acting like an Yveltal XY (except much better), this deck can function through attacking for big damage while also attaching Energy onto a Benched Flareon-EX and another Pokémon. Every basic Fire Pokémon can help swing for up to 90 more damage thanks to the 3 Volcanion-EX that are played, which means that a normal Volcanion can hit for 120 damage with just a single Fire Energy and Fighting Fury Belt. The amount of damage that Flareon-EX can do is off the charts, so be sure to use him as the clean-up attacker to end games with huge knockouts. Flareon-EX becomes extremely difficult to deal with once a Fighting Fury Belt becomes attached and will usually lead to multiple attacks and many Prize cards being taken.

The main issue with playing this deck is to make sure that Energies are being conserved and won’t run out during the game. Although using Volcanion-EX’s Ability is certainly fun to add extra damage, it sometimes may not be needed until a future turn where essential extra damage can reach a knockout. Make sure to always be aware of how many Energy are left in the deck, discard pile, and how many Energy-retrieving cards are available to use.

Also make sure to use the Parallel City in a good way, which is to mainly discard excess Pokémon-EX from the Bench (such as Shaymin and Hoopa). Although not its main purpose, Parallel City can also be a strong play against opposing M Rayquaza-EX decks as well. Another interesting tech card would be the Pokémon Ranger, which is needed to counter any opposing Jolteon-EX or Regice AOR that an opponent may have to shut out the game.

With answers to almost anything that I would expect to see in the new Standard format, look for Volcanion/Flareon-EX to make a big impact in tournament play.

Xerneas BREAK/Giratina-EX

Pokémon – 12

4 Xerneas STS

3 Xerneas BREAK

2 Giratina-EX AOR

1 Lugia-EX AOR

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 34

3 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Max Elixir

3 Exp. Share

2 Fighting Fury Belt

1 Super Rod

 

3 Fairy Garden

Energy – 14

11 Fairy

3 Double Dragon

This deck is based off a new concept of conserving Energy and hitting for huge amounts of damage with Xerneas BREAK while never losing those Energy cards from the board thanks to having Exp. Share in play. Although the strategy takes a while to build up, it can be extremely powerful when enough Energy have reached the board.

exp.-share-primal-clash-prc-128
The idea is to conserve Energy.

Max Elixir and Xerneas STS are the forms of Energy acceleration that are used to power up the Xerneas BREAK. Secondary attackers would be Giratina-EX and -EX, which both serve essential purposes that need to be filled. Giratina-EX is used as a counter to opposing Mega Evolution cards, which could be a huge problem to deal with if M Rayquaza-EX skyrockets in popularity. For almost every other matchup, Lugia-EX is used to hold a good amount of Energy through constantly gathering from Exp. Share and can finish off games with its Aero Ball attack.

Some helpful tips to remember when playing this deck would include attaching Exp. Share to Benched Pokémon that will not be attacking in the near future. If the Pokémon that are wielding this Pokémon Tool card get Knocked Out, then the Energy flow may start to diminish and attacks become weaker. It is crucial to always monitor how much damage is being done and how many Energy can be retrieved through Exp. Share if an attacker were to be Knocked Out.

Also, the use of retreating for free through Fairy Garden is very helpful toward conserving Energy cards on the board. This can allow for some sneaky transitions into a Giratina-EX attacking to catch an opponent off guard. Without an immediate Pokémon Ranger, they would be shut off from Special Energy cards, Stadium cards, and Pokémon Tool cards for their following turn.

Even without Aromatisse XY to move around the Energy cards, this Fairy deck is looking good for PRC-on.

Conclusion

Thanks again to everybody that made it through my article and hopefully learned a thing or two. For anyone that has been bored with this extremely stale format and games being decided on the first turn, just wait it out until the rotation finally happens after Worlds. Once Night March and the Item-locking decks are long gone, the fun will certainly start to pick up again. The Pokémon TCG is about to get more exciting and creative than it has been in the past couple of years.

Also, if there are any recommendations or comments on my writing style from subscribers, feel free to comment or message with any negative/positive remarks. I’m always trying to build on my writing style and want to make every reader happy with the content that I put out. If you were really liking the analysis on the new 2016–2017 season or the new deck ideas that I’ve been trying out, any input would be greatly appreciated! If you weren’t feeling the content, it’s always good to know for future articles.

And feel free to come and say hi to me in San Francisco this year at the World Championships. This game is all about the community and friends that we make.

-Ryan Sabelhaus<3


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