Yes, you read that right, I’m back already. After my tournament report early in the week, I’m glad to be back to take a look at the next battle we have to fight: Guardians Rising. Astute schedule-watchers will note that Alex Hill was originally scheduled for today, but fear not, he’ll be here Friday instead. I’ve been playing way more TCGO than is probably healthy since I got home from Toronto, and have been excited to test out some of my ideas with the set.
Community perception seems to be that Guardians Rising is the coming of a new order in the game. I don’t really think I can remember any set receiving quite the hype that this one has, and I especially don’t remember my opinion on a set varying from the norm this much. To say the least, I’m not nearly as infatuated with GRI as many of my colleagues or players at large.
Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s a decent number of cards that have enormous potential. My disagreement with the consensus is more in the quantity of useful cards than the enormity of those that are useful. In that respect, the likes of Tapu Lele, Field Blower, and others certainly have the potential to be transformative in the way that Michael Slutsky‘s been talking about for awhile.
The important part today, though, is the cards that I do think have potential. By no means do I argue the set to be bad, but things like Alolan Ninetales-GX — receiving plenty of discussion — simply don’t strike me as better than anything we already have in the meta. Reinventing the wheel is seriously tempting, and it’s something players deal with every time a new set drops. It may be fair to call me jaded, but over the last several years, I’ve become severely skeptical of new archetypes as they release.
Even with that in mind, I’m here today with two new archetypes that I think could be set to make waves in the early portions of XY-GRI. Additionally, I’d like to take a look back at a deck that — literally — made waves earlier in the year: Gyarados. More often than not, I find that a new set’s impact is in the decks that it improves, rather than the ones that it creates out of thin air. There’re always exceptions, like Boundaries Crossed’s production of Blastoise/Keldeo-EX, but they’re certainly not the norm.
Tricks of the Trade: Guardians’ New Toolbox
The tools in this set for evolving current archetypes are numerous. Tapu Lele and Field Blower are the two most obvious, and I think their potential is well-documented. However, some other cards in the set have the potential to impart significant change in the meta. Principal among them in my mind is Choice Band. It may not seem like extra damage itself is something inherently transformative, but think about the number of attackers that seem to be just a bit off on math. It’s truly a pretty large number. Raichu XY, Gyarados AOR, Lugia-EX AOR, Greninja BKP, and Drampa-GX are the first five off the top of my head.
Choice Band puts the meta in a position to be more diverse, especially in conjunction with Lele/Field Blower. It puts more attackers in a position to do relevant damage, which, by extension, means there are more competitively viable strategies. This effect only plays so far — after all, those that were already positioned to do well are now only more well positioned with Band’s addition to the format. But, even so, the secondary effect of mitigating Fighting Fury Belt’s play (coupled with Field Blower) itself is enough to change the “magic numbers” dynamic of the game. Instead of 220, 180-190 is going to pop back into relevance.
A key example of a card that’s benefited from the new set is Lapras-GX. Aqua Patch is an obvious boon, but in addition to that reality, Choice Band gives it a way to hit critical numbers in the 170-190 range. While I don’t love Professor Kukui, it allows the concept to get over 200 — Sylveon-GX’s magic number. In a way, I feel the game is going to morph slightly away from the current environment where we see the clash of various strategies (Lapras’ Mill, Decidueye’s Lock, Darkrai’s Speed, Garbodor’s Ability denial) to a clash of mere numbers.
To some, that’s going to sound a lot like the unfortunate reality we faced in much of 2013-2015. And, in a way, it is. The flip side, though, is an ability to tech decks for specific purposes and a loss of matchup polarity. If decks aren’t meant to inherently counter each other at a fundamental level, but to simply go about their tasks in different manners, there’s more room for outplaying others.
Is it possible that I overstate this effect? Most certainly. I do very seriously believe, though, that we could see a shift in how things work. I’m not ready to declare this a good or bad thing, only a change. Time will characterize the nature of the change — or it’ll deem me an idiot for being totally wrong about all of this. We’ll see.
The first deck I want to look at embodies this concept pretty essentially. Instead of worrying about specific matchups, it concerns itself more with hitting these “magic numbers” and executing an effective strategy. Really, there’s only one “tech” in it the deck at all, even if it’s a bit of a spicy one. Linear, brute strength is something I think we’ll see become increasingly important, and I think this deck does a decent job of getting that done.
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