Welcome back! This is the part of an article where I’d usually talk about where we are in the season, think about what’s coming next in the competitive circuit, and generally muse on the state of the game. But, since I did all of that last week, I’m going to dispense! Hopefully we get Regionals information for next season soon. And, hopefully we get Standard rotation information soon — my proverbial money is on an announcement of BKT-on and BLW-on, July 21, with the Burning Shadows Quarterly Announcement, but we shall see.
It’s well-noted that we’re in a bit of a lull right now. Since I gave what’s left of my PRC–GRI thoughts and talked about the Worlds invitee structure as a whole last week, today I’m left with no real other direction than to look ahead to Burning Shadows. But, first, I do wish to briefly discuss the ongoing debate in the community about the 2016/17 Top 16/Stipend/Internationals/etc. structure.
The Road to the Top: Fairness and Pokémon
It’s a well-documented reality that this year’s point structure left some players behind, while others were the recipient of seemingly-constant support from TPCi in their international traveling exploits. The vast majority of all out-of-rating-zone travelers at International Championships this year were the beneficiary of a Top 4 trip or Top 16 travel stipend. A few players made these trips unassisted, but most had some semblance of financial assistance in doing so.
This year, the first stipends were awarded based on 2o15/16’s final CP standings. This set the top players from that season off to a booming start for 2016/17, giving them access to CP that others didn’t necessarily have. By utilizing past standings for these awards, TPCi essentially created a situation where the rich of last season were immediately in position to get richer through success in London. Combined with Worlds points (of which last year’s Top 16 all had at least 40, since they had Day 1 byes at the 2016 World Championships), 2015/16’s Top 16 was thrust into a favorable spot for the entire 2016/17 season.
Right alongside them were top finishers at Worlds 2016, and when it came time for Melbourne stipends to be awarded, a precious few 2016/17 early season high-flyers. By Brazil, a serious divide had opened up. This season, pretty much indisputably, featured a “rich-get-richer” sort of system. That’s not a judgement, but simply an assessment. Whether this is a “good” thing or not varies greatly based on the speaker’s perspective.
For the player that wasn’t grandfathered into the system, it obviously isn’t a great thing — that player is left to pay their way into the structure, hoping to crack the Top 16 at some point to receive the windfalls. (In a way, it could be argued that the original Top 16 from 2015/16 did “pay” their way into it originally, too.)
For the player that started at the top and rode the wave through this season, it obviously couldn’t get much better. Subsidized and/or free rides to the most CP-generous tournaments of the season aren’t anything most players would be looking to turn down. This put these players on the golden road to Top 16, without a doubt.
For TPCi, it seems the dual goals were:
a. Simply have as many players in the door as possible at each IC.
b. Have as many of the “top tier” players at as many International Championships as possible.
Given 12 of this year’s North American Top 16 attended 3 or more of the events, I’d say it was a success in the latter department. Whether or not they “maximize” IC attendance will really be told by the tale of this upcoming season. If we see a swell of traveling players, now that these events’ incomparable importance to the circuit is established, I’d say they’ll be on their way to reaching that goal.
But, in the meantime, it’s 100% unreasonable to expect or believe that TPCi is going to take any steps to discourage and/or prohibit attendance at International Championships. As a company, it is to their benefit when as many players attend these events as possible. Contrary to the beliefs of some, almost nobody is going to travel for the cash prizes alone (so, TPCi will not region-lock these events’ CP or crush their BFL).
Furthermore, the stark reality is that TPCi is probably not all that concerned that the 16 players in the Top of NA, the 22 in EU, or the 8s in APAC/LATAM, are the true “best” of their region. Expecting them to make it easier to achieve the highest tier of the game is probably unrealistic when their goal seems to be to push players toward the international scale.
Now, some suggestions, such as finessing the CP which qualify for International travel assistance (region-locking or quarter-splitting them), are potentially with merit. Splitting the points eligible for stipends by quarter could spread the wealth a bit more, and emphasize current tournament performance — a bonus for both TPCi and players.
But, on the whole, some of the discussion seen this week borders on unrealistic. TPCi is seriously unlikely to lower any BFLs or make either tier of invite at all easier for the upcoming season. Whether they should do any of the above is entirely a different discussion. I merely aim to discuss the seeming reality that it won’t happen, not the idealistic matter of whether anything “ought” to happen.
For me, and I would argue many players, it means coming to the realization the Day 2 invitation is probably out of the question barring a Chris Siakala-like Regionals run, or a dramatic finish in Anaheim. It means disconnecting Top 16 from the strict idea of the true “16 best” players — don’t get me wrong, it is truly a measure of skill nonetheless, but in a respect, it involves playing the game at another, incomparable level.
Truly, this is where the beauty of the Day 2 system lies. For anyone who is skillful enough to merit Day 2, but not economically provisioned enough to push for the Day 2 invitation, all it takes is 4 or 5 Rounds on Friday at Worlds to be back on the exact same footing as those that put all the money toward the International Travel. There are truly multiple Pokémon circuits at this point, with different requirements for chasing the pinnacle of each.
Burning News: First Look at Burning Shadows
Unlike our last two sets, this one has a few cards that will see play, a handful that might, and a lot that outright won’t. Compared to some of the recent slam-dunks we’ve seen, there isn’t the plethora of high-utility options the last few sets has offered. Gardevoir-GX is an obvious contender, and trainers like Kiawe and Guzma are also likely to make splashes in both the way decks are constructed and the metagame in which those decks exist.
We have a bit of a dilemma at 6P over how to break up this coverage properly — because, the honest truth is that there isn’t some plethora of great stuff to muse over. Everyone will be bringing you their favorites over the next couple of weeks, and while we expect some duplication, we’re working to keep that to a minimum where we can. Where it does come up, I’m hopeful authors’ contrasting styles will help explore different ways to take a deck. I’m going to start us off talking about all of the Trainers in the set, then launch into a neat concept that could see play from the set but isn’t being discussed much.
Burning Shadows TSS
Editor’s Note (or, Author’s note, as I’m both here): We’re drawing from Bulbapedia’s page for a presumptive list of set contents. It’s possible that one or more cards listed here do not make the English set, and that something we omit does make the cut. Hopefully, though, we’re pretty on-target.
Good for Zoroark BKT, Espeon-GX, similar Stage 1 GXs. It’s an interesting card for sure, though it does fall into the age old issue of being somewhat reactive in a game that requires proactivity. Fighting Fury Belt was great for about a year because the format lacked Pokémon Tool removal in any effective form. When Field Blower came onto the scene, Fighting Fury Belt immediately was sent to the hills.
In using this card, you’re missing out on Choice Band and other tools. While a 140 HP Zoroark is a menacing concept, this does miss out on being able to do effect damage with that Zoroark. On that basis alone, it’s an iffy proposition. When you couple that with the fact that it can simply be removed with a Field Blower, gaining you 0 net benefit, there’re issues to be had.
I’m exceptionally concerned that there’s going to be a dumb Delinquent+Red Card+Torment Spray idea making rounds at Worlds. While I’m not sure that minimizing your opponent’s hand to zero is even that gamebreaking in this format, it does put lists in an awkward position where those diving VS Seeker counts may need to be replenished. Probably not something that most decks will run, but likely to ruin a few people’s days over the course of its legality.
Very, very broad applicability. A blast from the past, SSU is back and kicking. There’re a number of Pokémon, like Rhyperior BUS and Raichu BUS, with interesting coming-into-play Abilities to consider from the set. As such, it’s a timely return for the gambler’s friend. It should be noted, though, that this time Super Scoop Up will be arriving into a format with the likes of Garbodor GRI around: playing an Item with 50% effectiveness isn’t quite the mere risky proposition it used to be. Now, that bad 50% can be outright harmful, rather than merely useless.
Good with Ether BCR? A binder filler? Generally speaking, this is a type of effect that always seems cool, but almost never ends up living up to the hype. Maybe they’ll bring back some broken effect that requires a certain card on top of the deck. Who knows with Pokémon.
Good for Fire and things that need lots of Energy on the board. This is a pretty interesting option in Volcanion’s arsenal, and a pretty interesting card from a game design perspective. In decks that choose to play Kiawe, going first is now infinitely more important: the cost of playing Kiawe on the first turn of the game is far less than it is on the second overall turn, as the second turn sacrifices the potential to attack. I’m not entirely thrilled about the introduction of such a paradigm, as a coin flip isn’t my idea of a nice risk proposition.
But, from the Fire perspective, it’s an energizing option. Volcanion now is even more Garbodor-immune than it used to be, as Brooklet Hill and Tapu Lele for Kiawe can net you quite the setup without much Item usage at all. I also believe Kiawe puts Turtnator-GX on the map, as it allows an economical setup that can get you “ahead” on Energy attachments, mitigating the effect of the double discard.
Good at being highly annoying. In Expanded, this basically can read as Energy Removal as a Supporter when considering Exeggcute PLF. Thrilling, isn’t it? In the current format, there aren’t too many decks that live attachment-to-attachment, so it’s probably not very good outside degenerate things like Sableye. I’m not usually one to throw around the “degenerate” label, as I feel it’s a lazy way out of acknowledging alternative strategies, but this feels like a new level of laziness in card design. I digress.
Potential in literally any and every deck in format. Lysandre’s replacement is now known, and it’s one with an interesting twist. On one hand, cards which require a “reset” effect to attack in back-to-back turns (Metagross-GX, Golisopod-GX) are probably pretty excited to see this effect. On the other, things that have limited mobility are probably not thrilled with the new wrinkle in gust effects, as it’ll require some finagling to make work. This could cause a rise in Tapu Koko SM31 play.
On the other hand, this is a death knell for Paralysis and other Special Conditions. A staple Supporter is about to have a switching effect attached. Going into September, this’ll be slightly more variable as we lose VS Seeker, but for Worlds, stay miles away from attempting to inflict Conditions. Speaking of Worlds, I believe the proper course for most decks is a straight split of Lysandre/Guzma. Those with infinite mobility and those with limited mobility may find the split unnecessary or harmful, but I think it’s the default testing state for most of my lists heading into the format.
binacle.tumblr.comSome have proposed to me that this allows 3 Giant Water Shurikenss in one turn. I would counter that, if a Greninja player has 3 BREAKs set up, 3 W Energy in hand, and a Supporter to burn, that game is probably over — Guzma or not.
Unlike the rest of the Trainers so far, I had to refresh my memory of the card’s effect when I went to find the image link. That should be your first hint as to its viability. Shuffling both players’ hands is mildly interesting, and could result in niche play when (or, I perhaps should say “if”) Pokémon allows N to die in peace. what this card does. But, until that day comes, this is a worse substitute in almost every deck. It’s not every day you want to offer your opponent a straight hand-refresh.
I’m pretty low on this one. It’s a reactive effect, and as already established, I don’t like those. Could have use, for sure — Team Aqua’s Secret Base did, somehow. Unlike Aqua Base, this covers only a very narrow swath of the format, meaning it’s not going to have any sort of universal effect. I foresee selling many of these for $0.0065, or whatever the going rate for bulk is these days.
It’s a reactive card, but its effect just might be potent enough to make it playable. The fact that your opponent doesn’t have their entire turn to get rid of it — that is, they may want to evolve before trying to find a Field Blower or Stadium off their Supporter — makes it infinitely more playable than its reactive ilk I’ve been badgering. Seriously high potential for play here.
Interesting note: There’s an Escape Rope reprint in Secret Rare form in the set. If not for that print, Escape Rope would’ve likely been eaten by rotation in September. So, when you’re doing your Trainer sorting for rotation, remember to keep Escape Rope in Standard.
The Next Evolution in Robots: Metagross 2.0
Here’s my new take on Metagross, which may not be what you expected to see in a discussion on a set whose focus is…Fire types?
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
I’ve not done much testing in the format at all, but theoretically, this might be able to strike a balance between countering Gardevoir-GX and beating Gardevoir-GX’s other counters. A reloadable attacker like this is pretty decent, and while Genesect-EX FCO could’ve held down the role before, introducing a new Weakness is welcome.
I’m not sure this’ll be able to beat Volcanion (or, therefore, good enough to play). Volcanion gets quite the buff with Guzma and Kiawe, so this remains to be seen. In any event, though, this is the “Metagross” list I’d be testing at this point. If you have any questions about it or thoughts on it, feel free to reach out.
Flaming Out: The Horizon Ahead
With that wrapped, I’ll see you all in August. We have an exciting few weeks of coverage, and though our current content base is a little dry, I expect TPCi is going to give us some news to reinvigorate players once more soon. I suppose I need to figure out a proxying solution for Burning Shadows testing. If one of us finds something particularly compelling, I’ll be sure that it makes its way into a mention in an upcoming article.
As always, all the best,
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