A Changing of the Guard

Guardians Rising Preview and Cosmic Dream Team

What’s up, everyone! I’m back with you so soon after my previous article as a great consequence of our new article format. Whereas in the past I or anyone else would write one large article a month, we’re now splitting up the load to bring you more than you could have dreamed, which is why you get to listen to me again. My article’s timing puts it right on the eve of our third Internationals, in Brazil. I am not going, and this format, now entering its fourth major tournament, has largely been discussed to death. For those that are going, or for those still with Cups on the immediate horizon, I have nothing new to share with you. Articles and content here and elsewhere have overturned virtually every stone there is, and the emergence of some shocking new rogue is unlikely.

In a sense, I’m freed creatively, to discuss more entertaining topics. Nothing is more enticing to a Pokémon player than an imminent set release, especially when that set is poised to dramatically shake up the game. In Guardians Rising, we have that and so much more. It’s gonna be a casual Thursday, let’s get started!

Brazil marks the fourth major tournament where we’ll be playing with in this PRC–SUM format, echoing the length of the PRC–EVO cycle we had earlier in the year. This means that, once again, the format has been largely discovered. Sure, some new decks have popped up here and there, but those are not new in the conventional sense. Rather, they are strict counters to the format (or, most likely, to Decidueye/Vileplume). Lapras, the Eeveelution/Wobbuffet decks, and heavier inclusions of non-Garb Ability locks (Wobb, Hex Maniac) have all sprung up, all with the intent of countering that one deck.

As I mentioned in my last rant, the constricting nature of today’s engine prevents the emergence of wildly creative rogue decks as we’ve seen in years past, which is why there usually hasn’t been much to discuss about formats at this time. This can be attributed to two factors specifically: Shaymin being centralized as the consistency of the game, and Garbodor shutting that consistency down. Guardians Rising brings a wealth of extremely powerful cards to the game, but there are two cards that will do more to the game than any card released since Shaymin.

Rising Revolution: Guardians Rising Favorites

#1: Tapu Lele-GX
If you’ve been living under a rock up to this point and don’t know what this card does, here’s the translation (per Bulbapedia):

Shaymin-EX 2.0?

…Wow. I mean, uh, wow. This card is…actually insane! Its ability is the same as Jirachi-EX’s, which has largely been an Expanded staple since Lysandre was printed! It. Is. Incredible. For starters, the release of this card sends a clear indication that Shaymin’s time with us is finally (and thankfully) coming to an end. Tapu Lele-GX provides a much more stable consistency boost to a deck, without the blistering speed. This means that the game will become a much slower and more precise one, which can only mean good things. Ultra Ball was recently reprinted, which means there is still a consistent way to access this card, which makes its inclusion in decks an automatic decision. Furthermore, the bump in consistency this provides compounds the fact that decks will now start playing much thicker supporter counts, as VS Seeker is finally leaving us; singleton supporters will still get a chance to shine, however, thanks to Lele.

Adding on to this unbelievable ability and what it does for the game, Tapu Lele-GX also has Aero/X Ball as an attack. History won’t be repeating itself this time though, and the bloody conflict known as the Mewtwo Wars will remain in the books where it belongs. The designers apparently had the foresight to make sure that Lele’s attack did not hit for weakness. This is viewed by some as smart card design, but the more obvious solution to the problem that could have existed is to just not print the attack on what is clearly designed as a consistency Pokémon.

I digress, however, and here we are. The fact that Tapu Lele has this attack means that it not only serves as a required consistency Pokémon, but actually as a suitable secondary or emergency attacker. Decks may very well run high counts of Tapu Lele with the explicit intention of attacking with it, taking advantage of the ability to boost the consistency tenfold (can you say Decidueye/Lele?!). The fact that Lele attacks for a Double Colorless means that it can attack in literally every deck, so be prepared to have an easy way to do 170 damage going forward. Lele is now an automatic counter to Energy-heavy Pokémon, a style that has seen regular play for the past few years. There is now a universal counter to that kind of attack that also happens to be a consistency staple.

The reason that Tapu Lele’s attack doesn’t hit for weakness is obviously so that it can’t hit itself for Weakness, which is why it’s weak to…oh…uh…nothing? Tapu Lele actually doesn’t have a weakness!

In fact, none of the Tapus, most of which are actually fairly strong cards, do. … no resistance, either, and only one retreat for Lele. This is actually pretty astonishing. One of the biggest complaints regarding Jirachi and Shaymin was their frail nature (some players followed the incorrect line of thought that this frailty was not overcome by the consistency benefit they provided, which is patently false — they’re still worthwhile), and apparently the designers decided to flip that on its head, turning Tapu Lele into a legitimately-sized GX Basic and giving it a stellar consistency ability. This card is actually as insane as it seems.

Some players, likely newer ones, made the unfortunate mistake of not picking up their copies of Shaymin when it was cheap, with the misplaced belief that it would not be as required as it was. If you are, for some reason, not planning on picking up this card in what I’d recommend should be multiple copies, then you are simply making a colossal mistake, and you are doomed to suffer. Get this card in as many copies as you can, as fast as you can, because you’re gonna need it. This card is probably the best card in the entire set, with only one card coming close.

#2: Field Blower

They’ve downgraded me to…a leaf blower?

It’s finally here! If you’ve paid any attention to this past year of Standard format, then you don’t need an explanation on why this card is such a big deal. They could have just reprinted Megaphone and called it good. Instead, they decided to bring back Windstorm, a card that saw frequent play in historical times. This card will be an automatic inclusion, likely a 2-of, the moment it is released. Removing tools alone (specifically a Float on Garbodor) will immediately change the game, but having the added utility of removing a stadiums, with an Item, is absolutely absurd. I’m unsure if Delinquent will now see play (honestly, it probably still will, because the disruption offered there is a little different and the card is more about control than Stadium removal), but those that run Delinquent as their “stadium out” no longer will do so.

Let me sum up for you, in one single situation, why this card will change the game: Mewtwo has a favorable matchup against both Rayquaza and Volcanion simply through playing down a Parallel City and attaching a Float Stone to Garbodor. This, combined with an N, almost always spells disaster for the opponent, as Mewtwo now has an unchecked power level. The combination of both Parallel and Garbodor is the proverbial last straw, and there was never a way to stop Garbodor before.

Now, a single card will completely remedy that entire situation. Playing Field Blower removes Parallel City and the Float Stone on Garbodor. This single play alone throws the format on its head. This is gamebreaking. I know that Tapu Lele-GX will likely change the game to a greater degree over the course of its existence, but in the immediate, I am of the belief that Field Blower will do more to the game than anything since the release of Shaymin.

I don’t want to go overboard here and say that the format is completely blown open as a result of this card’s printing, but, it’s kinda hard not to salivate at the thought. I’m not saying you need to pick up your copies of Vikavolt immediately (I genuinely believe that card will see competitive play at some point in its lifetime), but, hey, you might want to pick up your Vikavolt immediately! Or your Octillery! Or your Greninja! Or your Magnezone! Or your Starmie, Solgaleo-GX, Lunala-GX , or Electrode, or…

The list goes on, and on, and on. Every single Pokémon with an Ability should now be looked at once more, because the very real possibility of using that Ability now exists. I mean, it’s honestly as powerful as it sounds. I am more excited for the printing of this card than I have been for any card this or last season. As I said before, Shaymin was the last time a card had as immediate and profound an impact on the game as I believe Field Blower will have.

The rest of Guardians Rising could be an extremely underwhelming set and it would still be more impactful than any set this year. Of course, the rest of the set is actually pretty good too, but that’s just how powerful these cards really are. This is as tacit and clear an acknowledgment of a mistake that the designers could have made. This is a weapons-grade apology. “Oh man, we kinda messed up” does not come close to describing these two cards. I’ve been saying this since Sun & Moon released, but the game is going to change in some big, big ways going forward.

Guardians Rising packs a ton of incredibly powerful, cool, and refreshing cards, and actually highlights a possibly disturbing (if not ironic) trend: I hope the designers don’t continue to make these AAA sets, because the game is going to get much more expensive as people scramble to acquire all of these new and good cards! With that said, the continued printing of these kinds of sets can only mean an extremely bright future for the game, so it isn’t actually a consequence, but you get what I’m saying!

I believe Prereleases are starting up really soon, which is always extremely exciting. After Brazil, I know my fellow writers will jump in and start dissecting the meat of this set as well, but I was fortunate enough to get first dibs!

For those that are still wondering what to play for this current format, I advise you to simply look at the most recent articles we’ve got here. The meta is now in a cyclical battle between decks like Decidueye, Mewtwo, Gardevoir, Darkrai, etc., and there isn’t much guidance I can give you. The best thing to do is not pay as much attention to national/global trends and instead focus on your meta specifically. Otherwise, lists and decks you’re curious about are all out there, and you don’t need me to reiterate them for the nth time.

Team Effort: Dream Team 2.0

Michael’s idea of a dream team?

One last thing I want to do that’s piqued my interest recently is actually from Brit’s most recent mailbag: specifically, the theoretical “Dream Team” Brit would choose, if he could. The moment I read it, I immediately wondered who I’d put on my team, and after some deliberation, I thought it’d be fun to share my squad, and I invite our other writers to follow Brit’s lead and share their own teams! Themes are imperative for this activity, and as Brit chose Always Sunny, I will choose another: Star Wars!

The Jedi: Alex Hill (@kazambolt)
It is no secret that Alex has been an absolutely dominating force in the game these past few years. Having just missed Top 8 in London, Alex returned to the States with a vengeance, making Day 2 at the following two Regionals, before redeeming himself at Oceania just last month. He is heading to Brazil this weekend, where I imagine he will likewise exert his dominance. Alex’s consistent placings are due to his ability to read metagames with expert precision.

Very rarely do I think he makes an incorrect call, even if he himself stumbles in a particular tournament. This is likely due to his own actual team that he works with, but I still think this is an innate gift that you must possess as a player, and Alex has it in spades. The Force guides his deck choice, and once selected, his mastery of the game allows him to play expertly. I think having someone on a team who is able to find and decipher underlying shifts to make good meta calls is invaluable, and can be the difference maker in an individual and team performance.

The Scoundril: Jimmy Pendarvis (@Ginge_TCG)
When Princess Leia first meets Han, she spends the entirety of her time criticizing him and undervaluing his contribution to their escape. In truth, it is Han’s ship that allows them to escape, and at the movie’s climax, it is Han who is the unsung hero, saving Luke from Vader’s clutches so that the Death Star may be destroyed. The entirety of the Star Wars trilogy has Han ejecting procedure and decorum, opting to do things his own way. Yet, a tenant of Han’s character is his dependability.

For those that know Jimmy, I think this trait rings truer than any other. He is a firebrand and does not hesitate to let his opinions be known, and yet he is as reliable a teammate as one can have. In a team, I think having someone who isn’t afraid to candidly shoot down poor ideas to be an important dynamic for success. It is natural for players to put undue stock in ideas that may not bear fruit, and having a strong counterbalance is needed to break a trance. I’ve gone to Jimmy with a bad idea more times than I’d care to admit, only to have him immediately and aggressively shoot it down.

The Co-Pilot: Rahul Reddy (@thefleeee)
Rahul’s place as the sidekick is fitting for a couple of reasons, the least of which is the fact that he and Jimmy hail from the same area, and Rahul has been the beneficiary of Jimmy’s talents for many years. The two of them are good friends, and it is only fitting that their partnership extends much farther back than the creation of this team in general. Rahul has put on an absolute clinic this year, one of only six players to make it to Top 8 at three separate Regionals (going in at first overall seed in two of them) – no small feat! Rahul is perhaps best known for his infatuation with Vespiquen, having great success with it this — and last — season.

Chewbacca’s bowcaster is known to be extremely potent, and has bailed the team out on more than one occasion. Rahul’s equivalent is Vespiquen. Metas and formats change over the course of a season, but there are usually a couple of decks that survive the shifts at a relative constant. Players have been known to be “character actors” of certain decks in the past, choosing a deck and rolling with it all season, and having access to that level of stubborn consistency can be a lifesaver. There are many times that a player will be unsure what to play for an upcoming event, but having a teammate who’s remained unchanged in their deck choice all season can do wonders to inspire confidence: if they’ve stuck with it all this time and found success, why can’t you?

The Diplomat: John Kettler (@Calchexas)
Rounding out my dream team is the diplomat. This is the player who’s extremely well known in the community, has no trouble discussing any number of topics with any number of players, and in general has ample wisdom and experience – John Kettler fits this role to a T. Having been playing or involved in the game for well over a decade, John is one of the few remaining players that make up the “Old Guard” of the Pokémon TCG. John is naturally a very approachable person, having created the popular forum HeyTrainer ages ago, which has spawned its own devoted and close-knit community.

Further, as Brit discussed, having a player who is able to communicate with different testing circles brings a world of information all its own, before analysis even begins. I don’t need to elaborate on why this sort of teammate could be useful, especially when tournaments are growing with players from around the country faster than ever. Just as Princess Leia served on the Imperial Senate from a young age and carried that experience with her into the New Republic, so too does John bring his experience of the game’s evolution with him into the current age, shaking the game to its core with this toxicity that is Decidueye/Vileplume.

Well, that’s my personal team! There are many players that I think would make incredible teammates, but for this exercise, I had to narrow it down to just four. I’m interested to see if my fellow writers will pick up on this trend and share their own thoughts, or even what you guys think!


What will become of the meta after Guardians Rising?

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today. I apologize for those hoping for one last nugget regarding Brazil, but honestly, I think everything that needs to be said has been. I had a blast writing this article and it’s always fun to think about new cards at this time, right on the cusp of their release. Also, I encourage you to discuss with your friends who you think would make the perfect team, as it’s a fun way to learn what each of you values as the most important traits to success. The annual tradition of Nationals Drafts (now with a global flair) are also just around the corner, as U.S. Internationals, perhaps the greatest tournament of the year, is only a couple of months away. Those are a blast, and Dream Team construction honestly had the same feel to me. As always, please let me know down below what you think, and good luck to all of those competing in Brazil! Someone from the USA (specifically my Dream Team!) bring it home! See ya!

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