Contemplating the Counter Cards

A Look at the New Comeback Cards in the Pokémon TCG

Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist back with my first piece since attending the Vancouver Regional Championship! Unfortunately I didn’t do nearly as well as I wanted to, ending 4-3-2 on the back of some questionable last minute list decisions, but attending my first big event since Worlds was a really fun time. Big shoutouts to my fellow SixPrizes writers Pablo and Xander for taking 1st/3rd respectively!

As mentioned in my last couple of articles, I felt that the post-rotation format was relatively uninteresting and I didn’t enjoy it a ton, but overall thought it was fine for what it was. However, it feels like our card pool just exploded, with a robust mini-set and full set dropping within weeks of each other! This influx of new and exciting cards is sure to shake the metagame up for at least a little while, and I’m beyond excited to see what concepts will emerge from the hype.

New set articles are always my favorite to write about because the novel feeling of exploring fresh ideas is absolutely the best part of playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game! My piece today is going to be focused on the two new comeback cards we get in Crimson Invasion: Counter Energy and Counter Catcher. We’ve all gotten used to playing with N, and by now we’re all well aware of some cards’ potential of to swing the tempo of a game. However, Counter Energy and Counter Catcher bring whole new elements to the comeback game.

As disruptive as N can be, it really is only that: disruption for your opponent’s hand. For N to be an effective comeback mechanic, your opponent has to be disrupted by the card. Things like Octillery, Oranguru, and even the timeless “topdecked X for game” can drastically reduce the effectiveness of a comeback strategy. Counter Energy and Counter Catcher are significantly more proactive and give you more control over your comeback strategy. Even if your opponent is able to draw something playable off of an N, it is much more difficult for them to respond to the effects of Counter Energy and Counter Catcher when most of the damage was already done during your turn.

History of Comeback

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Throughout the Pokémon Trading Card Game’s history, we’ve seen a few other comeback cards, and most seen play at some point during their existence, with many of them being format-defining cards. Our new (and even recent) comeback cards can trace some similarities back to old cards that provided similar effects. Shout out to Jacob Willinger and Kyle Theaker for discussing old formats with me!

Scramble Energy – The predecessor to Counter Energy was unbelievably good during its time. Providing 3 Energy of any/all types with the restriction of ‘No Basics’ was incredibly powerful during its time. While Counter Energy initially seems like its use will be a bit more restricted due to the ‘No EX/GX’ clause, there is no doubt in my mind that it will find its place in the game.

Pow! Hand Extension – The older version of Counter Catcher is clearly better than its new iteration, but is arguably a bit more balanced, removing the Energy-disrupting capabilities. Both Pow! and Scramble were much more powerful effects in their day, but I think the intent of the new cards is to be a bit more balanced and less format-defining.

Rocket’s Admin. N is an exact reprint of this card, and the effect is just as powerful now as it was then. The draw heavy nature of the current supporter pool in the Pokémon Trading Card Game encourages N as not only a great late-game disruption card, but also has an early game draw supporter. Even in formats with VS Seeker, we still see the card average 3-4 copies per deck, showcasing its strength and versatility.

Twins – This card was a supporter that allowed you to search for 2 of any card from your deck and put them into your hand, as long as you were behind on prizes. A bit different than the recently rotated Teammates in that you could chain Twins very easily if you were playing a slower deck because it only required being behind on prizes as opposed to having something Knocked Out. We even saw both Worlds Finalists in 2011 packing a full 4 copies!

Considering Current Viability

Moving forward with Counter Catcher and Counter Energy there is one major difference about the cards themselves: flexibility. Counter Catcher will almost certainly be considered in just about every deck that might go behind on Prizes at some point in the game. To me, that seems like just about every deck in the game, except for maybe Fire variants. On the other hand, the restrictions of Counter Energy require a bit more consideration when planning to execute the come-from-behind strategy. The first question we should ask ourselves is: What the heck am I attaching Counter Energy to? I’ve done a fair amount of research into viable counter targets, and here is a list of relevant Basic, non-EX/GX targets I’ve come up with so far:

Grass Shaymin SLG, Shining Genesect, Virizion SLG, Carnivine SLG, Shining Celebi, Heracross BUS

Water Keldeo SLG, Regice CIN, Manaphy SLG, Shining Volcanion, White Kyurem FCO, Suicune BKP, Palkia XY75

Fire Reshiram SLG, Oricorio GRI 14, Victini GRI

Lightning Raikou BKT, Raikou SLG, Stunfisk BKT, Zekrom SLG, Tapu Koko SM31, Zapdos GEN

Psychic Latios SLG, Marshadow SLG, Mimikyu GRI, Wobbuffet GEN, Mew FCO, Mew FCO, Shining Jirachi, Shining Mew, Dhelmise GRI, Oricorio GRI 55, Mewtwo EVO

Fighting Pancham GRI, Sudowoodo BKP, Sudowoodo GRI, Regirock CIN, Passimian BUS, Zygarde FCO 52, Zygarde FCO 53, Carbink FCO 49

Dark Absol GRI, Darkrai BUS, Hoopa SLG, Yveltal GEN, Yveltal BKT, Yveltal SLG, Spiritomb SLG, Spiritomb STS

Metal Cobalion STS, Registeel CIN, Skarmory SUM, Jirachi XY67

DragonZygarde BUS, Drampa GRI

Fairy Xerneas STS, Xerneas BKT, Mr. Mime BKT, Comfey GRI

Colorless Shining Lugia, Oranguru SUM, Smeargle BKT, Regigigas CIN

While my list here may have some targets that lean a bit more on the liberal side of defining “playable,” my main point is to highlight all the options that Counter Energy brings to the table. Keep in mind these are just the Basic Pokémon! There are a myriad of Evolution Pokémon that gain a lot more viability with the card as well, and I highly encourage everyone to start testing their craziest Counter-enabled ideas.

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Drawing cards? I can draw cards!

I think that the existence of Counter Energy and Counter Catcher will further encourage the use of early game setup Pokémon that may have been considered too slow or not worth the space in previous formats. In decks that look to utilize both cards to full effectiveness, going up on Prizes in the early game will be difficult and unwise. As a result the most effective course of action will be to set yourself up to capitalize on mid/late game tempo swings with setup Pokémon. I would not be surprised to see decks packing Counter cards utilizing Pokémon that search the deck, draw cards, accelerate energy, disrupt your opponent, and/or spread damage in order to give them something to do in the first few turns of the game without taking Prizes.

Concept Exploration

Now comes the hard part: how do we put all of this information together to actually make a viable deck? We already touched on the splashability of Counter Catcher, so we’ll focus on how we should be thinking about building decks looking to utilize Counter Energy. A few common themes to keep in mind when building a concept like this include:

  • 4 N
  • Something to do in the early game before you go down on Prizes.
  • Hard-counter considerations for bad matchups.
  • Closing out the game without Counter Energy.

The nature of the Counter Cards seems to promote decks that utilize them to engage in big tempo swings when they fall behind on Prizes while ensuring your deck is still capable of functioning when the Prize exchange changes will prove vital.

Idea #1: Raichu/Electrode

Pokémon – 21

4 Pikachu SM04

3 Raichu-GX

2 Raichu BUS

2 Voltorb EVO

2 Electrode EVO

2 Raikou SLG

1 Cobalion STS

1 Mimikyu GRI

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Xurkitree-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 26

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

3 Guzma

1 Brigette

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Choice Band

2 Counter Catcher

2 Exp. Share

2 Field Blower

1 Super Rod

Energy – 13

9 L

4 Counter

When I first saw Counter Energy, the very first card I thought of was Electrode EVO. The deck aims to utilize Counter Energy not by waiting for your opponent to KO something, but through proactively Knocking Out your own Pokémon!

Electrode has always had effects pertaining to Knocking itself Out, then giving your board an Energy boost. Electrode Prime would look at the top 7 cards of your deck and let you attach ALL Energy there, discarding the rest, while Electrode ex searched your discard for up to 5 Energy cards and let you attach them all. Electrode EVO fits the theme, blowing itself up and attaching itself to a L Pokémon—being worth 2 L energy.

If you have a Counter Energy after using Buzzap Thunder, you can theoretically get out 4 Lightning energy in one turn! This pairs very well with Raichu GX’s Powerful Spark attack which does 20+20 per L energy in play, making those 4 energy an additional 80 damage! Having access to Raichu BUS can also give us some very interesting plays when combined with N and/or Counter Catcher, as Paralysis is probably the best status condition in the game.

Raikou SLG is a great way to continue snowballing energy into play without relying on Electrode and Counter Energy. Xurkitree-GX is in the deck because of its Flashing Head Ability, that preventing all damage done to it by your opponent’s Pokémon with Special Energy attached. That sort of Ability has usually been good, and most decks in the game right now play Special Energy. Rumbling Wires and Lighting-GX are also both incredible attacks, giving you some nice options. The Cobalion/Mimikyu combo utilize Counter Energy and are there to help against Gardevoir/Gallade while also being strong cards in their own right.

Some cards I’m initially uncertain about are EXP. Share and the exclusion of Tapu Koko-GX. EXP. Share is obviously great for keeping energy in play, but can be hit by Field Blower pretty easily and ruin your day. Tapu Koko-GX brings a lot of flexibility to the deck, and having no weakness is always great against things like Buzzswole-GX and Gallade. Tapu Koko SM31 is worth considering as well, but right now the deck is so tight on space that it’s relatively low on the “want” list. The Electrode/Counter combo likely has even more applications outside of Raichu, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this pop up at the London Intercontinental Championship.

Idea #2: Zoroark Box

Pokémon – 20

4 Zorua SLG

3 Zoroark BKT

2 Zoroark-GX

2 Zoroark BREAK

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Cobalion STS

1 Drampa-GX

1 Keldeo SLG

1 Mimikyu GRI

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Sudowoodo BKP

1 Tapu Koko SM30

Trainers – 28

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

3 Guzma

1 Brigette

1 Gladion

 

4 Choice Band

4 Ultra Ball

2 Counter Catcher

2 Float Stone

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Special Charge

Energy – 12

4 Double Colorless

4 Counter

4 D

The next idea on the list utilizes the most hyped GX out of the new cards: Zoroark-GX! The deck is a new take on the classic Zoroark BREAK deck we’ve seen find success before, but now you have a very powerful GX and the ability to tech for any match up!

The idea is to lead with Tapu Koko to start spreading damage, ideally without taking any Prizes. Once your opponent Knocks it Out, you can go in with Counter Energy and the appropriate tech attacker for the matchup, or fall back on either Zoroark to start dishing out the big hits. The deck actually has a hilariously high amount of “copy” effects, giving us plenty of opportunities to steal attacks from our opponent to use. It’s interesting to note that Mimikyu cannot copy your opponent’s attack from the previous turn if they used a GX, but Sudowoodo can.

Gladion found its way into this deck because of the high count of tech attackers included. Being able to fish one out of the prizes can be crucial in the right match up, and generally is a great way to grab any other resources you might want for the turn/game. Some Pokémon I considered including, but left out due to space, are: Reshiram CIN, Kartana-GX, and Nihilego-GX.

Reshiram serves as a great splashable counter to Golisopod-GX, which can be very difficult for you to knockout. Kartana and Nihilego both serve as great coming-into-play Pokémon with their own unique effect. I especially like Nihilego because of Zoroark’s mobility, ensuring you don’t get stuck with the Status conditions, but Kartana has an easily usable GX attack if we switch the D Energy to Rainbow.

A “counter box” style strategy like this may be less effective before the metagame fleshes itself out a bit, but the inherent strength and “techability” of the concept has me very hopeful!

Idea #3: Legendary Titans (Regi.dec)

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Pokémon – 18

4 Registeel CIN

3 Regirock CIN

3 Regice CIN

2 Regigigas CIN

1 Cobalion STS

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Kartana-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 26

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

3 Guzma

1 Brigette

 

4 Fighting Fury Belt

4 Ultra Ball

2 Choice Band

2 Counter Catcher

2 Rescue Stretcher

Energy – 16

4 Double Colorless

4 Counter

6 M

2 Warp

This is almost certainly the weirdest deck of the three, but I think there is a lot of potential here! Regigigas fascinated me when I first read it. A non-EX with 180 HP is massive! On top of that, it can dish out 160-190 damage per turn once it gets attacking… even if the attack does take 5 Energy. Ideally, this is mitigated by the inclusion of DCE and Counter Energy.

You generally try to lead with Registeel, using Turbo Arm ASAP to begin pumping up Regigigas. You have some solid type coverage through the other two Regis, and can easily utilize them with Counter Energy. Something I really like about this deck is that it certainly dominates Gardevoir-GX. Metal typing as far as the eye can see, and Regice has a nifty ability that Safeguards it from Stage 2 Pokémon as long as the other Regi are in play.

Some other iterations of the “Regi” idea could focus around Garbodor BKP so you don’t need to rely on having all 3 Regis in play to attack with Regigigas. Regice is probably the worst of the set, and freeing up some space for a Garbotoxin line and relevant tech attackers could prove better against things like Volcanion. Registeel is very clearly the best of the titans, and could easily land in decks without the rest of the crew as well.

Conclusion

As you can all tell, I’m really hyped about the re-introduction of play-from-behind mechanics into the Pokémon TCG. Adding this element to the game makes it much more dynamic and way less of a prize race, forcing both players to think before every prize they take. The mentioned ideas above are honestly just the tip of the iceberg right now, and I’m sure better players than me will break the game wide open soon enough. If nothing else, Crimson Invasion and Shining Legends have at least opened up a narrow format and card pool a bit to allow for more creativity.

Looking forward to future tournaments I think I will almost certainly be missing San Jose despite living somewhat close to the event. Right now it feels best to spend Thanksgiving weekend with friends and/or family because I’ve lost a good amount of interaction with my move out west. I’m looking real hard at trying to make both Memphis and Dallas, and am fairly certain I will be able to make them. The London Intercontinental is certainly a no-go because I don’t really want to take that much time off of work yet, but I would love to hit an IC this year if possible. Until next time!


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