The Crimson Caper

Evaluating the Top Card of Crimson Invasion and Zoroark-GX & Sableye for San Jose Expanded

Ahoy, 6P-land. It’s good to be back with another article today. By a fluke of scheduling, the next time you hear from me will be at the very other end of the month, after London and San Jose are in the rearview mirror. With that in mind, I’m going to take a look at anything and everything from Crimson Invasion that I think you ought to have on your mind for the pair of formats over the next few weeks.

My sense is that we’re, as a site, going to stick to mostly Standard discussion before London, then dive into Expanded in the abbreviated week between that event and San Jose. My hope, though, is to have a few looks at Expanded before that, including some of the discussion I’ll have today. Most of the staff is going to London, though, so I imagine many of them will be focused there. Hopefully we can get off to a decent start on that today.

Cream of the Crimson Crop: Thoughts on CIN

Crimson Invasion doesn’t have quite the treasure trove of useful cards that some recent sets have, but it does have a few cards that threaten to transform the playability of a lot of already-released concepts. Travis gave us a great look at this idea last week, taking a look at the effects Counter Energy might have on the format. Counter Energy is the single most prolific example of the idea I describe, but it’s far from the only. Even its direct counterpart in Counter Catcher has some potential in this vein, as it’ll be able to aid concepts like Golisopod that sometimes need to bothgust and Acerola in the same turn.

Speaking of the Counter-cards, I think it’s easy to be fall into this idea that they could fundamentally alter how players think about taking Prize cards. Intuitively, it would seem as though this discourages decks like Gardevoir from taking early Prizes, as it opens them to potential messes like Cobalion STS and Counter Catcher before being entirely setup. While this is somewhat true, there’s still a fundamental issue here: you usually don’t win the game without taking 6 Prize cards. The race to take 6 probably isn’t going to be fundamentally terraformed by the fact that your opponent gains a few new options when you start it earlier.

One of my favorite cards in the set is definitely Gladion. I might be looking at it a bit too rosily, but I envision it as a 1-of in many decks that rely on n-card combos to go off—things that are especially reliant on Double Colorless, Rare Candy, etc. It can essentially serve as a limited Computer Search, with the added utility of plucking stranded 1-ofs from the Prizes when needed. With Gladion, your Prize cards are another resource from which you can draw—you need only know what’s in them!

In that vein, Gladion is the first card in awhile that truly has a “skill cap” from player-to-player. The player that cannot readily determine his or her Prize cards is going to be fundamentally disadvantaged against the one who readily assess them and can use Gladion to abuse that fact. If you can’t be sure of the cards in your Prizes when you play Gladion, it’s something you should leave out of your deck.

Fortunately, this sort of “skill” is something that can be learned, to an extent. Practice determining your Prize cards under time constraints. Remember that you’re not going to get (or, at a minimum, consistently get) unlimited time for that search. Aim to have yourself under a minute for 4-5 of your 6 Prize cards—of course, prioritize things like DCE, Pokémon Lines, etc. that can be of immediate impact with Gladion (Supporters are probably lower priority, as are Basic Energy).

The Regi-Trio (or quartet, maybe) seemingly has some potential as well. Registeel is obviously the best of the lot, being able to accelerate Basic Energy while hitting Gardevoir for a Choice Band-boosted 120 damage. It, of course, can be used to attach any Basic Energy, and I could see it finding a home in some sort of “counter” deck focused around Counter Energy and various attackers. I don’t think Regirock helps any math, so I probably wouldn’t play it unless I was trying to also play Regice for the Stage 2 (i.e., Gardevoir) counter. Regice’s fundamental problem is Tapu Lele-GX, though. Unlike some of my fellow writers, I’m not a huge fan of Regigigas… which is to say I really don’t like it.

Magikarp is potentially interesting in Expanded with Gyarados AOR (the one of last-season fame) but I still feel it’s probably a gimmick trying to do the same damage (for the same Energy) as other decks. It requires more work than some of those other decks, so I’d probably stick with them.

I think there’s a non-zero chance of Alolan Golem-GX seeing competitive play in its lifetime. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not rushing out to purchase any copies. But, I believe the GX attack has the potential to setup a swing where you take 4 Prizes in the two turns,while your opponent essentially draw-passes the intermediate one, and that’s a powerful equation.

I’ve seen a decent amount of talk about Nihilego-GX, and I simply don’t understand it. I don’t see a scenario where it’ll make sense to stack that much Energy to procure what’s probably only a 2-for-2 trade. I suppose there may be some niches out there for the Ability, but other than that, not a favorite of mine.

Buzzwole-GX is probably the best Ultra Beast, but that’s not necessarily saying very much. I’m not convinced it’ll be able to deal with the Psychic Weakness well at all, and as long as Gardevoir lists do the logical thing and show up with Mr. Mime BKT, Buzzwole just underwhelms. It’s possible that Gardevoirs don’t do that, in which case there’ll be an opening, but I really struggle to get past that Weakness.

Guzzlord-GX, I predict, will see competitive play during its lifetime. With that said, “see play” does not mean it’ll be anytime soon. I envision some sort of Ninja Boy setup where it surprises for the extra 2 Prizes, but Dark needs to be in a better place. Creatures seems to have a thing for Dark, though, so I suspect we’ll get there. I’ll be looking for a copy.

I’m a bit higher on Kartana-GX’s Ability than some others, and don’t think the attack is halfway awful next to some sort of Tapu Koko SM31 spread strategy, but the GX attack feels like a waste to me. There are only a few scenarios (Metagross wants to use Hala, maybe?) I can see it being sensible.

I’m a fan of Silvally-GX, to a point. It’s fairly Energy Efficient, can pair well with any number of types, and can be Psychic or Fighting in a pinch with its accompanying Tools. The GX attack creates the kind of broad-appliciabilty that should be good in most formats, but I wonder if it’s not just a bit too underwhelming for this one. Definitely something I’ll be testing, and early thoughts include the Regi-trio.

I don’t think Lusamine is any good. It’s not VS Seeker no matter how much some people want it to be. I don’t think many decks, or many games, offer the kind of time needed to make effective use of this sort of card. Would be better if we had more radical, game-changing Stadiums (think Crystal Beach sort of things).
Fortunately, an exact reprint.

Warp Energy is kinda here, kinda in Shining Legends, but I kinda think it doesn’t matter either way: I’m not a fan of it either. It was one thing a long time ago in a format pretty much devoid of meaningful Switch cards (or the need to do so), but few decks right now want to be wasting an Energy attachment on such an effect. Even in the olden days, I don’t really recall it seeing much play beyond things like Gyarados SF (didn’t need Energy otherwise) and DialgaChomp (wanted to move Dialaga G LV.X to the bench without using Poké Turn and had notable use for C Energy attachments).

Overall, I don’t think it’s the most impressive set we’ve ever had, but it’s not Emerging Powers (which served up somewhere between 1 and 0 cards that had lasting impact depending how you tally) either. There’s some interesting stuff to think about, and I think Counter Energy is especially relevant in Expanded, where the pool of compatible Pokémon is simply so much greater.

The Crimson Cataclysm: The Impacts

While I don’t think the set is transformative, there’s no doubt that it’s going to shake up the meta in some regards. I’ve heard some players of reasonable stature state that this could bring together the needed storm of factors to overtake the Gardevoir/Drampa hold on the format, which is something I’m definitely intrigued when I hear.

In Standard, I think Registeel is the most interesting card I’ve seen thus far—though, I’m not as big on Buzzwole as some others in the game, which probably plays into my opinion in that regard. I find Registeel’s overall Energy acceleration pretty intriguing, and the damage it pile on a Gardevoir is pretty intriguing. Otherwise, I don’t really have a ton to add to the Standard conversation that hasn’t already been said (or, that I don’t know is already going to be said in short order by others).

On the other hand, I want to explore Expanded a bit, as I think it’s potentially ripe for reform with the new additions to the format. We’re less than 3 weeks out from London, but that also means we’re only 4 away from San Jose—the next big Expanded event on the scene. So, I want to take a look at two Dark-related decks that’ll get boosts from the new set.

The Crimson Beyond: New Depths of Darkness
This is the Dark we’re used to in Expanded, but not the one I’m going to discuss today.


This is a concept that’s recently seen some success abroad, mostly through Robin Schulz. There are a lot of interesting Pokémon that evolve from Zorua at this point—that is, Zoroark’s had a lot of amusing iterations printed. Zoroark-GX is only the latest in a long line, and it’s definitely an interesting one. His list is pretty straightforward, but I have some…other ideas.

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua DEX 70

3 Zoroark-GX

1 Zoroark BLW

1 Zoroark BKT

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Cobalion STS

1 Sudowoodo BKP

1 Sudowoodo GRI

1 Oricorio GRI 56

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Exeggcute PLF

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Juniper

2 Brigette

2 Guzma

2 Mallow

1 AZ

1 N


4 VS Seeker

3 Ultra Ball

2 Field Blower

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Special Charge

3 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

1 Counter Catcher

1 Computer Search


4 Sky Field

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless

2 Counter

Lots of crazy going on here. Something I really like about Zoroark-GX—and, admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the card on the whole—is its compatibility with Mallow. In essence, for the cost of your Supporter and a card from your hand, you’re able to search for any 2 cards. In this list, that both allows you some intricate setup ideas and enables the use of the “counter cards” that’ve been of much recent discussion.

In this deck, I think Sudowoodo and Cobalion are the most ideal selections for the Counter options. You have non-EX/GXs, which can put your opponent in a spot where they’re forced to enable your Counters, then you can swing for a 2 Prize advantage. Notably, you can swing against a last-turn Dark Pulse with a Choice Band on Sudowoodo for a knockout, as Counter Energy counts as two Dark on your side of the board. This makes it effective against Darkrai, but, it’s more obviously useful against other Zoroark decks.

I like the raw damage potential and the different techs that can be swung around. It’s probably notable as well that the Mallow idea can be applied to Standard as well (and as such, any “Counter” deck that plans to arise in the future probably features Zoroark), though Exeggcute PLF isn’t around to make it quite as smooth a transaction.

Not much else in the list is particularly interesting, though perhaps it’s worth considering messing with the Energy count a bit. I think 6 is good, and while 3/3 sounds heretical, it may be appropriate with the double Special Charge.

This is definitely a concept to be tested in my mind, and, honestly, in the vast space of Expanded I’ve probably missed a potentially beneficial inclusion to pair with Counter Energy. The possibilities may well be endless.


Trust me, writing about this deck excites me as much as I know reading about it excites some of you. With some of the new options in Crimson Invasion, though, I think Sableye has some immense potential. I’m going to start with the list Jimmy played earlier this year and will be revising it from there, but there are so many possibilities with this deck to consider that it’ll take significant testing to get a feel for whether this “variant” is still the best.

Pokémon – 14

4 Sableye DEX

4 Trubbish NVI

2 Garbodor GRI

1 Garbodor BKP

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Latias-EX

Trainers – 40

3 Professor Sycamore

2 N

1 Gladion

1 Guzma

1 Team Flare Grunt

1 Plumeria

1 Hex Maniac

1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork

1 Delinquent


4 Ultra Ball

3 Crushing Hammer

3 Puzzle of Time

3 VS Seeker

3 Trainers’ Mail

2 Battle Compressor

2 Float Stone

1 Counter Catcher

1 Trick Shovel

1 Target Whistle

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Field Blower

1 Super Rod

1 Life Dew


1 Parallel City

Energy – 6

4 Blend GRPD

2 D

Definitely a theme in the decks I’ve looked at today: lots of 1-ofs. While this isn’t really ideal deck construction, the current Expanded format definitely enables it in a way we haven’t seen in awhile. Gladion and Counter Catcher are the two big adds here. I initially went searching for new Counter Energy-enabled options, but didn’t really see anything that struck me as better than the tried-and-true strategy.

Gladion allows you to grab Life Dew or another matchup-specific critical Item from your Prizes, which is something this deck has had a problem with in the past. It means there’s literally no reason to touch bad cards like Town Map or Rotom Dex. In addition, it can function as a way to grab a key resource, so overall it’s a strong card in a deck that generally seeks to assemble a puzzle of sorts.

Counter Catcher means we’ll be able to play disruption Supporters and gust in hte same turn, which is a huge boon for the concept. I’m still playing a Guzma, partially as a switch out and partially for the games where you try to take 6 Prizes, but I’m not entirely sure it’s necessary. Since you’re going to spend most of the time down in Prizes, turning an effect you formerly needed a Supporter for into an Item is an immense boost to the concept’s viability.

Like I mentioned before, there’s a lot of things that could be mixed around in the list. I could see looking at the new Red Card from Crimson Invasion as an option, as such hand disruption can be valuable in the face of a Delinquent, or just generally so. Like so many of other interesting Items, though, it falls by the wayside here because of space.

If I were going to San Jose, I’m almost certain this is what I’d play. Unfortunately, I’m not, so I’m not going to spend too much time refining the list. I do think it’s a high-potential concept, though, and hope we’ll get a bit further into it as the month moves on.

Fading Colors: Onto the Beyond

As we move into another new format, we’re due for the usual uncertainty that follows. Last fall was unique: Evolutions was a dud. This year, we’re setup to have the characteristic number of format shifts within the season, and things are sure to get crazy.

I’m not back, as noted earlier, until after the month’s events, so the best of luck to everyone across the Pond and in California. I’ll be in London, regretful that the Harry Potter tour is apparently closed (or something) the week of the tournament—I suppose the consolation for a performance that falls short of Sunday could be a trip over there, but we shall see. It’s a few weeks away, but it seems like it’ll feel like a few hours.

If your eyes are instead on Memphis, I think you’ll be in for a treat regardless. Jimmy Ballard and crew are always on their game, and I have an inkling it might be on track to attract some pretty huge numbers. Unfortunately, I won’t be among them, but I think 6P will have some solid representation there as well.

Otherwise, as always, all the best in all of your endeavors.



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