The Celestial Storm is upon us! I’m back a few days earlier than I initially anticipated, but due to some scheduling snafus, we’ve jumbled some things around. With the new arrangement, I get the first “full preview” article on the new set, and while this isn’t quite something I normally write, it’s going to serve as the beginning of my own testing point as well given I’d planned to be next week. As such, today I’m going to run through my favorites from the new set and discuss some combos that seem worth exploring.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a preponderance of lists to share at this stage, but I do have a lot of ideas to work with. Hopefully some of them strike your fancy as well. Let’s get into it!
If you haven’t memorized the new spoilers yet, here’s a list of everything from this article! Thanks to our friends at Limitless :)
One bit of site news: The survey I’ve been mentioning for the past while will be distributed via email next week, so be sure to keep an eye out for that—and be sure your email address is up to date at sixprizes.com/account.
Unfortunately, as clever as this seems on paper for dealing with the Buzzwole swarm, I don’t think a soft-lock Stage 2 prevention mechanism is going to be something with all that much potential in the end. Maybe back in the Forest of Giant Plants days we’d have had something to work with here, but since Grass is mortal, there’s probably not as much as we’d need.
Normally, I probably wouldn’t even mention this, but considering Grass is the competitive equivalent of a desert wasteland in this set, I’ll toss it a mention. Confusion is never a bad thing to inflict, and maybe with some Lurantis SM25/Choice Band boost, it could be a halfway decent Max Potion/spam sort of thing. Extrasensory would be theoretically good in such a concept to clean out “big” threats, and in the end this might not actually be that terrible—but, that’s only because 240 HP is never a simple problem to solve and Fire is currently on the meta’s bench.
Macargo was pretty important the last time around too, but it was limited to a Ludiocolo’s “draw a card” ability. This time, there’s incredible potential, as the obvious synergy with Zoroark-GX burns itself into the eyes of basically anyone who reads it. While space—and bench space—is definitely highly valuable in Zoroark variants, the ability to essentially search your deck for any card is well-documented as highly valuable (see: Pidgeot FRLG, Teammates, Twins, etc.).
This is on the heels of Tord Reklev and some of the rest of Europe’s innovation of yet another Zoroark variant, and this time, it’s one that fits perfectly well with the oncoming Magcargo storm. The disruption scheme, when you can will any tech you want to the top, is even more potent, and I’ll be super curious to explore this angle.
However, otherwise, I do wish to caution that this may be a win-more feature in Zoroark’s overall vision of the world. Zoroark decks have been notorious all year for being able to access any resource they want at any time—and rightfully so! Now that they literally have the access to anything they want at any point, it’s going to be complicated evaluating whether the added setup step is worth that option increase—the pitfall of many Zoroark decks is already whether or not they manage to set up in the first place. Given that calculation is already afoot, I’m not sure having infinite options later on is actually worth the added cost in the beginning (excepting variants that are focused on pulling off more complicated combos in the middle of the game, which is why this makes perfect sense in something like Tord’s NAIC list).
Overall, the jury is definitely out on this for me, but it’s something I’m excited to start testing. After rotation, when the format loses Professor Sycamore and things like Sophocles and TV Reporter could become actual draw options, the utility of Magcargo is only likely to rise, so I’d be sure to get copies nonetheless.
Well…this might be a different story if they hadn’t delayed the accompanying Blaziken for some reason. My understanding is that we will not receive that as part of the set though, so Blaziken-GX has to stand on its own merits for the time being.
As it is, we’re stuck with a difficult-to-use attack that, while definitely not without merit of its own, is going to be hard to chain as long as we don’t have a good way to reattach the discarded energies. Even in Expanded with Blacksmith, a Stage 2 doing 210 is probably more something to laugh at than something to fear. The potential salvation here is that Burning Energy clings to legality in BKT, and while it’s a gimmicky solution at best to the problem, it does mean that I’ll probably throw in at least a few games with Blaziken before tossing it back on the proverbial trash heap.
Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough HP here to do a “bench, pick-up, attack, repeat” cycle sort of deck—the chances that something hits for 170 in the interim are just too high considering the 130 damage cap can’t be easily boosted to any useful numbers.
Beyond that, the GX attack is just rather bizarre—though fits a “discard Energy as your once-in-a-game attack” trend that this set decided to harken back to Umbreon-GX for. As far as I’m concerned, too many GX attacks are doing too much of greater relevance for this to be a serious consideration in any game, so Articuno is just lacking in too many respects.
The other half of the Ludicargo reboot is unlikely to receive quite as warm as its better portion, as this time around Zoroark-GX is a simple outclassing of it. Even if Ludiocolo were magically a Stage 1 for comparison, discarding the card is an upside to Zoroark, and certainly not the other way around, so this will stay in binders this time.
I initially wasn’t going to mention it, but 160 HP with a Grass Weakness isn’t half bad at the moment. The draw power is excellent, and Aqua Patch means the attack isn’t completely unviable dumpster fire. Unfortunately, though, it is still a Stage 2, which means setup is a challenge that it’ll never escape. It’d be one thing if Aqua Patch and Rare Candy could fit in the same deck, but since they probably can’t—at least if you want to not skimp out on other very important things—this is probably a non-starter.
Pokemon ParadijsSo, last time around, this was a pretty non-insignificant part of its metagame. However, the last time around, it also had Boost Energy and a lot less restrictions to work around—and a good place to put all of these energy.
As it is in today’s world, though, I’m not sure there’s a deck where the 5 Energy is worth the two Prizes. It’s the kind of thing that would almost interest Primal Groudon-EX, except you can’t attach to EXs anyway. The Prize sacrifice can only realistically be made up by winning the exchange elsewhere, and that’s not really possible when you don’t have somewhere bulky to put the Energy.
The other “option” is streaming a series of high-efficacy single Prize attackers, but once more, I’m not sure where to find something like that within this metagame. I won’t be surprised to see someone someday do mildly well with this at some point, but I don’t think it’s a strong card in the interim. There just isn’t enough benefit to going behind, nor enough ways to come back from behind, available at the moment.
Sceptile from earlier finds a partner? Who knows. Last time, it worked with a very different Huntail in a very low-damage cap affair that would probably be rocked into next week by today’s theme decks. This time, there’s no such obvious application, and I’m not sure energy conservation is the name of any deck’s game to this point. Perhaps Darkrai-EX BKP would like to pack it in a time machine to return to a few years earlier, but even that might’ve been fringe.
I really, really like the theory here, but I fear there’s a massive liability in the fact that opening Manectric isn’t exactly something you’re ever going to make as an odds-on favorite play—so, when choosing first or second, it’s not something you’re generally going to be able to count on. As a result, I feel any deck built around this has to be built around evolving manually, with the Ability present as something to potentially abuse in the best of games.
For better or worse, this isn’t something that breaks the card for me. Having to run Lightning Energy is inconvenient for most concepts, but I think this is a card that could be widely applicable, which makes it something worth owning for sure. 110 HP isn’t a total picnic to deal with in the early game either, so if Buzzwole perhaps takes a step back in September, it could be a consideration. (It probably isn’t, though, for Worlds, as Buzzwole stepping back seems inconceivable even in light of a poor NAIC run.)
Apparently hitting for 280 is acceptable? That’s our new goal, I guess.
In all seriousness, I actually think there will be a use for this or the Odds counterpart at some point in the future—some niche deck that can be countered out of existence by it, for example. For now, though, Worlds is a format dominated by Choice Band, which conveniently changes any even-or-odd damage to the opposite, meaning Mime won’t be doing much of use. Its day will come, though, I’d predict.
I’m not really sure this achieves anything, short of maybe being a Blaziken counter someday. It’s something to remember exists, as inevitably it’ll come to matter someday in some bad tech sequence, but this effect really is too little to be substantiative within the metagame—or most metagames I can see existing for the next while.
Difficult issue to overcome: weakness to Dark! As long as Zoroark remains, this is a sketchy proposition at best, though maybe it can find a home of sorts within Zoroark itself! Shady Move isn’t exactly a game changer, though it could add some useful damage outcomes to the game once in awhile.
Once Shadow Chant reaches a reasonable capacity, you can do a lot with a single Energy attack for its cost. It probably won’t manage to be the focal point of a deck on its own merits, but the typing is advantageous and the GX attack extraordinarily applicable to a wide variety of decks—no deck will ever complain about that effect!
For the first time in a long time, I don’t think there’s a single playable Fighting type in this set—something I don’t think I’ve been able to say in the Sun & Moon era, in fact! Sadly, I doubt this means a release from the Buzzwole reign of terror anytime soon, but in the meantime there are at least no on-type tools added to the arsenal this time around.
However, Palossand does deserve mention as one of the most ridiculous attacks ever printed. Who at Creatures decided it was important to examine the top thirteen cards? I’m simply aghast. Nevertheless, the card does not meet competitive muster considering the investment needed to do…anything.
Sadly, I don’t think we’re going to get there in terms of competitive viability, but the idea sure is super cool. Imagine the monstrosity we could create with Metagross, Metagross-GX, Ultra Necrozma-GX, and other fun. There’d be so many options, and with this Ability/Steven’s Decision, they could all work!
…now, back on planet earth. In reality, I think the above idea sounds super cool, but probably would not be able to achieve any degree of consistency in execution, which makes it a lot less cool. I’ll probably play a few games with it, but I’m sad to say it’s probably mostly binder fodder at this point in time.
You may have seen this succeed in Japan a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it will not do the same here, as we are missing a Japanese promo from years ago that allows you to swap the top card of your deck with one of your Prizes. In Japan, you Smooth Over (Magcargo) Jirachi ♢ to the top, then swap it to one of your Prizes, to virtually guarantee the effect every game. As we don’t have that option, Jirachi is largely unplayable in my view.
Might be clever in a Beast Box at some point, but that’s merely a “try to own one” memo.
Some of the craziest Energy acceleration I can remember—and it has 130 HP, too! Make sure to own one, as Rayquaza-GX or not, I’m fairly sure it’ll be playable at some point in something. The effect is too broad not to be.
Similar to the above, but also entirely different: it’ll be only usable in something like Garchomp if it eventually finds a way to relevance, but in the event it does, this will be a staple. The effect is very strong, but it just doesn’t have a good partner at this stage.
The hyped showboat of the set, but not something I’m entirely sure is set to change the meta in the way Japan’s results predicted. The effect is no-doubt strong, but Sylveon-EX is a pretty solid counter to the entire concept—and Zoroark-GX decks have absolutely no trouble fitting that. That could keep it down for Worlds, but it should surprise nobody to see it do well afterwards—or even at Worlds itself.
Sadly, a wording change on the first attack may render Sandstorm copies unplayable, but I think it will have competitive merit at some point nonetheless. We’re about to lose Brigette, meaning Stage 2s will be on the lookout for some options. While I don’t predict the onset of a full starter-based format like we saw so many years ago, I would be sure to get my copies of Dunsparce, as it could be played.
Rayquaza in particular is happy to see the return of Acro Bike, as it helps aggro decks of its sort gain that extra edge on the format. I think this will be less played than it was last time around, but more important in the scenes where it does see itself.
Thoroughly excited to see this rejoin the format, and not just because it opens up the opportunity to play reprints. Copycat will be a very welcome refresh to a Supporter lineup that’s about to get a lot weirder, especially given Zoroark-GX means there’ll be a lot of big hands around to copy. I’m actually fairly optimistic about what the game will look like in the coming months, and this card is a big part of why.
Also a reprint that I think we’ll be able to play! Tapu Lele-GX is Psychic, and in almost everything, and most decks can benefit in some way shape or form from most other decks’ typing. It won’t be a staple, but it’ll be a decent 5th or 6th search option in a number of concepts.
Initially, I wasn’t optimistic about this one’s playability, but I do think there’s actually decent chance it could see play. It’s a worse PokéNav, and a worse Great Ball, but the best of both worlds. Will be in something “aggro” of sorts, or some sort of Glaceon-GX Expanded hijinks deck if it ever gets there, but I think something eventually will use it.
This card could change a lot in the game, and it’s going to be fascinating to test. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than get your Malamars ready, as they’re the most immediate application in my mind, but this has serious potential all-around.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a pretty comprehensive analysis of what I believe the set offers going into Worlds (and a bit of beyond). There are a few intriguing cards left, like Hustle Belt, but this features all of the ones that I could actually see affecting Worlds. It’s going to be an exciting time building ideas for the new set, and I’m looking forward to rejoining you in August with a look at some of those.
Until then, all the best to you!