The Red Zone

A Review of Christopher’s Forbidden Light Favorites and Initial Beast Box Musings

Finally, we can bid farewell to BKT-UPR. It’s been a long set of events, accentuated by the fact that Ultra Prism didn’t really change much from Crimson Invasion before it. Therefore, we’ve been pretty much playing the same format in a loop for most of the season—at the least, this entire calendar year to date. It’s, to say the least, tiresome.

In fact, in most scenarios, this article—shortly after a Regionals—would be about this weekend’s event. With that said, given the above (we’ve been at this for awhile), I’m probably about as interested in writing another article about BKT-UPR as you are interested in reading one. So, as I sit in Toronto at 1-2, playing and fairly sure I won’t have a remarkable finish to talk about later, we’re going to get right into Forbidden Light. For the record, I switched to a 10th Energy and didn’t play Muk this weekend. Some thrilling games with Ho-Oh (and an overwhelming amount of Fighting Energy) later, I’m ready to close the book on the format.

I’m going to focus primarily on new Standard in my discussion today, rather than Expanded, as it’s the more important format for the majority of players. Roanoke aside, everything will be Standard, and there’s no shortage of other events to consider. Hopefully we’ll see some progress on Q4 League Cups sooner than later, and assuming we do, I’d guess Standard will be the format of choice for most of those as well.

Entering the Forbidden Light

This also means that I have to go through and choose what I’m ordering from the upcoming set, which is entirely its own issue. I’m guessing most of you will have already gone through this by now—I’ve just been behind schedule because of the onslaught of Regionals/ICs in recent weeks (and, okay, I might’ve been hoping to win boxes to minimize the need to buy stuff too). Nonetheless, I’m going to list my own buy list here just in case there’s something that may differ from your own that could be of note:

Buys
Alolan Exeggutor FLI
Frogadier FLI
Greninja-GX
Rotom FLI
Malamar FLI
Inkay FLI
Poipole FLI
-GX
Diancie p
Rockruff FLI
Buzzwole FLI
Ultra Necrozma-GX
Noibat FLI
Beast Ring
Diantha
Lysandre p
Mysterious Treasure
Ultra Space
Beast Energy p
Unit Energy FDY

“Dislikes”
Zygarde-GX/Bonnie
Lysandre Labs

Of course, as mentioned, it’s been a busy stretch, so I’ve only recently begun accruing these cards on PTCGO to begin my initial testing of the format. I’m going to start with the lists Pablo and Brit presented last week for the respective decks in each, then work off from there. Most of what they say makes sense to me for initial justifications, and I’ll be interested in working from there.

On my list, it’s worth noting that it’s pretty extensive in terms of commons/uncommons because I’ve opened some boxes of the set—I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to literally purchase Noibat, for example, but I’d look to acquire a few over the next few months because I believe it could be competitively viable at some point in the future. At this point, I’m just going to run through that list and discuss some of what ought to be particularly intriguing.

Alolan Exeggutor FLI

160 HP on a Stage 1 is pretty insane no matter how you cut it, and as Zoroark-GX has proven, a damage cap of 120 is no death knell for a card. Of course, this is not Zoroark-GX—Trade is at least half the value there—but it’s pretty high in potential nonetheless, I believe. Combined with a good Psychic type (of course, I’m not sure what that looks like yet), it could be positioned to directly counter Buzzwole/Lycanroc, which rumor tells me is going to prove rather useful as an attribute in the coming weeks.

Greninja-GX/Frogadier FLI

The spiritual reincarnation of Crobat PHF/Golbat PHF, this duo is all too froggy for my tastes. Nonetheless, the ability is one that has serious potential, and I’ve heard discussion of a /Greninja concept as a way to make up for Standard Zoroark’s inability to hit some of the nicer numbers we’d like it to. I’m not inclined to believe this is a good solution to a format where Fighting is set to continue as a staple part of every tournament, but it’s something to be aware of and could be a worthwhile tactic in the future—on this basis, I believe it’s worth buying them up.

Malamar FLI (and Ultra Necrozma-GX)

It goes without saying that Ultra Necrozma-GX is the obvious combo here, but has potential to be more than that. Psychic has always, in the TCG’s history, had more of an emphasis on “Transfer” sorts of Abilities that could preserve Energy that was in play, but not accelerate Energy in the first place. In this vein, Expanded is littered with Psychic types that have silly Energy costs and broken effects—I haven’t had a chance to look through a full list yet, but suffice to say, I’m very convinced Malamar would be worth acquiring even if Ultra Necrozma wasn’t a card. Since it is, it only becomes a staple acquisition from the set. As I mentioned earlier, the lists Brit and Pablo gave us last week are good starting points for the deck, so I won’t discuss it further at this point.

Naganadel-GX

I’m told this is going to feature fairly prominently in a “” concept that aims to capitalize on the run of Ultra Beast support the format has recently thrown our way. Outside of providing fodder for some silly ruling questions pertaining to 4 Prize Penalties, I’m not sure the GX attack is all that great (in many matchups, triggering Beast Ring for your opponent never seems like a winning formula, and I can’t see putting you/opponent on even late-game footing when you’re far enough in the game to have setup a S1 with 3 Energy being a good plan). Similarly, Jet Needle seems underwhelming.

So, what’s the draw? In an odd twist from the last few years, attacks that can reliably execute 2HKOs (and take select 1HKOs based on Weakness) have become the flavor of the day for many stretches of this season, and Beast Raid fits that description. The giant, bug-shaped elephant in the room is Buzzwole’s seemingly-impending domination of the world (as if it wasn’t already here), and Naganadel is poised to take advantage of that. Here’s what I envision a list looking like:

Pokémon – 15

4 Poipole FLI

3 Naganadel-GX

2 Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX

2 Kartana-GX

1 Pheromosa-GX

1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

 

Trainers – 32

4 Cynthia

4 Guzma

3 N

2 Professor Sycamore

 

3 Max Elixir

3 Mysterious Treasure

3 Beast Ring

1 Super Rod

3 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

 

4 Ultra Space

Energy – 13

6 Metal

3 Grass

3 Psychic

1 Beast p

The problem here, implicitly, is that we can’t fit Zoroark-GX or Octillery BKT on our bench for supplemental draw. Even the 2 Tapu Lele in the list are a stretch of viability, and it could be that a combination of Parallel City/Field Blower is the best way to work through the awkward bench dynamics here. I’ve strain from that at the moment in favor of consistent search with Ultra Space and a belief that Garbodor BKP is currently lacking in worthwhile targets—making Field Blower not a very necessary thing in a deck that doesn’t especially care about Ability lock anyway. Of course, Field Blower is a good card, but here I’m just not sure it’s necessary at this point.

Some of the players that’ve spent weeks looking at this format are probably laughing at elements of my list (I’m expecting Xander will probably have messaged me indignantly questioning my sanity before reaching this point in the explanation), and there’s definitely a lot to work through. I like the idea of falling behind, finding a Beast Ring-equipped Dusk Mane Necrozma to use its GX attack—removing a threat and setting an opponent in a spot where they must return the KO or risk a Meteor Tempest on the following turn—and finishing a game out from there.

Beast p is probably not especially likely to stick on your board for more than a turn, as I figure Enhanced Hammer will probably figure prominently in the upcoming format, but I’m intrigued by the possibility of a Beast Raid for 120+Beast Energy 30+Choice Band 30 on a Tapu Lele-GX for our last 2 Prizes in a number of games. If at all possible, I believe it’s best placed on a Naganadel—though, if it lets you pull something clever off with Pheremosa or Kartana, that would be worthwhile too.

Speaking of those two, they mostly serve niches in the deck while fueling Beast Raid. I’m intrigued by the idea of a list that focuses more on Pheremosa and a Turn 1 attack for decent damage, but even in this iteration Beauty-GX is a decent alternative to the Dusk Mane plan I outlined above. Kartana is mostly going to be used to fuel Beast Raid while having some utility in the potential Energy removal, but I don’t exactly anticipate that being the highest value play ever known. Blade-GX isn’t awful either, of course, and the beauty of this deck is the number of options it presents.

One way or another, I’m confident something will eventually come of the mix of Ultra Beasts we’ve been handed to work with. An even crazier idea that I’ve floated involves using Beast Ring to facilitate a giant Guzzlord-GX play to close out a game with a 4 Prize swing (say, after a Beast Raid softened something)—though, Tyrannical Hole isn’t a bad attack itself. Unfortunately, while this could be offensively effective, the strategy is little more than a glass cannon as long as Fighting is heavy in the meta, as Guzzlord would not fare well when faced with Diancie p-equipped Buzzwole. I’ll probably return to this at some point when I’m distraught on about May 30, but for now, I’d say I’m too scared of the Fighting in the world.

Noibat FLI

I discussed it in example a bit earlier, but I want to do my good friend here the service of a full explanation. This is definitely an Expanded-only thing in my mind, but in the right Garbodor GRI-featuring concept, I could see it as a good shock-effect sort of thing in Expanded—such an Item-heavy format could be prone to exploitation in this respect. Zoroark-GX is often very reliant on Puzzles, and catching an opponent off-guard on a discard in that respect could be valuable as well. I’m excited about the potential here, even if I don’t have a concept to slot it into at this stage.

Diancie p

I’ll get to what this does for Buzzwole in a moment, but for this section, I want to principally focus on the effects it could have elsewhere. In that vein, there’s mainly Lucario-GX, which stands to benefit substantially from Diancie’s release. Now, hitting 190 is as easy as Diancie+Strong+Choice Band, and if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that 190 is a valuable number because of Buzzwole-GX.

I really like Lucario-GX, and will probably be trying a number of concepts with it over the next few weeks, but my primary fear with it as a card is the shared Weakness with Buzzwole. Psychic is a type in a powerful position at the current moment, and since I don’t think that’s going to change, that leaves Lucario in an awkward spot. Zoroark/Lucario lists from the past few weeks are probably good things to test, though, and I’ll try something in the vein of my Portland deck as well (though, my expectations will be tempered).

Rockruff FLI/Buzzwole FLI

Meanwhile, these two are directly going to help Buzzwole further its dominance in the world. Rockruff FLI’s HP boost is probably less of a big deal than it’d have been if Diancie p wasn’t in the same set. Since Buzzwole-GX will easily 1HKO it still, the biggest thing is that it’s now safe from a bench 2HKO. Not sure what ramifications this will have, honestly, as the Remoraid was often the better target anyway, but nonetheless.

I hate Buzzwole FLI as a card, honestly. Something that only really works once/game (at most) to do anything super significant isn’t attractive to me, but I begrudgingly buy arguments that it can be useful against Hoopa SLG and that Beast Ring makes the 2nd attack a conceivable option. Therefore, it is on my list…quietly and annoyedly as that may be.

Lysandre p

Probably only in Expanded, but in Expanded, imagine the potential here. It’s still a format based on VS Seeker to a large degree, so if one could remove those tech Supporters from an opponent’s discard indefinitely, a lot could happen. This’ll be a Turbo-Turtonator sort of idea for sure, but what remains to be seen is whether it can deal with Buzzwole. A theme? Definitely. I do believe it can probably compete plausibly with Zoroark variants, so there’s hope there.

Dislikes: Zygarde-GX/Bonnie and Lysandre Labs

Briefly, I want to touch on these two semi-hyped cards that I believe have no competitive value. Zygarde’s Energy costs are atrociously high for what it achieves, which is just fundamentally a non-starter for me in a format like this. Lysandre Labs is a reactive Stadium, and there are few card types I dislike more than reactive Stadiums. The problem is that it has no effect unless an opponent is unable to counter it, and in most decks/cases, it’ll be easily countered. Thereby, you’ll have simply wasted a deck slot. Major thumbs-down here.


While this wasn’t my most exciting article in history, I hope to have inspired some ideas for building with the new set. I’ll be eagerly sorting through cards over the next few days, as a new set is one of the few things that truly can inspire me to deck build creatively these days. We’re entering the final stretch of the season—and not a moment too soon, personally.

I’ll be back later this week with a look at the current nature of tech cards in Expanded as part of a larger project I’m undertaking on the Expanded format. With something like 30 sets, it’s quickly becoming an uncouth disaster to handle, so I’m hoping to create some resources that’ll help new players ease into the scene more comfortably and old players stay on top of the weird card demands the format can sometimes generate. Hopefully that’ll further help you prepare for Roanoke.

A final note on Roanoke: if you haven’t registered yet, be sure to do so! Right now, attendance is rather poor, and I wouldn’t want to see the event plan on having less people only to be surprised by a last-second rush on registrations—that’s not good for anyone! If you know you’re going, head over to player.rk9labs.com and get that taken care of.

That’s all for today. As always, all the best in all of your pursuits.

Christopher


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