A Storm Brewing

Initial Thoughts on Celestial Storm and How to Properly Evaluate New Cards

Hello everyone! Kenny Wisdom here, fresh off of the NAIC. I had a great time in Columbus, and I hope you all did as well. Special thanks to everyone who came up to me to have something signed, take a picture, or just to chat. I always enjoy interacting with the community, especially fans of SixPrizes.

As great as the NAIC was, it’s time to look ahead to the biggest tournament of the year: the World Championship. It should go without saying that Worlds is always an incredibly fun event, truly the crown jewel of the tournament season. The biggest prizes, all the best players, and, most importantly for the sake of the subject of this article: new cards! Celestial Storm will be legal for the first time at the World Championship, and I can’t wait to see what the greatest minds in the game manage to bring to the table.

I may not be playing in Worlds this year, but all I’ve done since getting home from the NAIC is look at the setlist and think about the format. The set not being on PTCGO yet makes testing a pain, but I know a lot of players are testing in person or over Skype with proxies. Today, I’m going to go over a few cards from the set that interest me the most, as well as talk about some fundamentals for evaluating new cards. All of this information obviously comes very early in the testing stages, but I think we’ve stumbled upon some solid interactions already.

Rayquaza-GX

Without a doubt the most hyped card from Celestial Storm, Rayquaza-GX has been at the front of everyone’s mind in these weeks leading up to the World Championship. It’s easy to buy into the hype, as boasts a very threatening attack when combined with energy acceleration, and definitely has the potential to go off in the early turns and completely take over games.

To be honest with you, I haven’t been too impressed with Rayquaza thus far. I’ve been playing around with a few lists, and this is what I’ve mostly settled on right now.

Pokémon – 11

4 Rayquaza-GX
2 Trubbish BKP
2 Garbodor BKP

2 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Latias p

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore
4 Guzma
3 Cynthia
3 N

 

4 Mysterious Treasure

4 Max Elixir

3 Ultra Ball
1 Rescue Stretcher

4 Float Stone
3 Choice Band
2 Wishful Baton

Energy – 14

7 Grass
7 Lightning

Although Rayquaza-GX is a pretty straightforward card, I think there are a lot of places you can go with the deck. I’ve mostly been messing around with this version because I feel like you need something more than just a big, powerful attacker that might not always go off the way you want it to. The inclusion of Garbodor gives us a better mid-to-late game, and can slow our opponents down a bit if we find ourselves in an awkward situation early. Here are some specifics on the card choices:

2-2 Garbodor

Although I think it’s an important piece of the deck, you can’t really justify spending too many slots on things that aren’t the main game plan of attaching a ton of energy to the board. I initially tried a 3-3 line and found it horrendous, and a 2-1 seems like too risky of a proposition for something we’re relying on so much.

Cynthia/Copycat Split

I don’t really know what the right answer here is, but I leaned into Cynthia because I can imagine a lot of spots where a) we need a critical mass of cards and can’t afford to shuffle and draw a new hand of three or four, or b) it’s the mid-to-late game and we’re doing a good job of locking our opponent out with Garbodor, so our Copycats become much worse. In the latter situation we’re assuming we’re already winning and there’s an argument that we don’t need to Copycat at this point, but I imagine a lot of games with this deck will revolve around rebuilding after your opponent takes a Knock Out, or otherwise trying to manage your board as carefully as possible, which leads me to our next card…

Wishful Baton

This card first appeared on my radar when it originally came out and Olliver Barr and Hayden Cameron-Jacobus kept testing a bunch of Ho-Oh-GX decks with it. While I’m unsure how many of those ideas fully came to fruition, I do think the card serves an important purpose in this deck: rebuilding.

You’re inevitably going to run into spots where you’re lacking energy on the board, or a big KO will otherwise set you back. Wishful Baton is the perfect answer to this, as it can keep the Energy, and therefore the KOs, coming.

I want to make it clear that I don’t necessarily think the Rayquaza deck is bad, I just think it’s been a bit overhyped and I’m unsure of the right home for it. The Garbodor deck is the option I’ve been liking the most, but I think there’s also a lot of room for a more aggressive, consistent version like those that have done well in Japan. Whether it lives up to the hype or not, Rayquaza is sure to be a presence at World Championship, so I encourage every qualified player to be on the lookout for it.

Magcargo

Magcargo is another card that has been getting a lot of hype, and one that I’m personally pretty excited about. The first place my mind went was just jamming a line of these guys into existing Zoroark-GX decks. Something like this…

Pokémon – 16

4 Zorua SLG
4 Zoroark-GX
2 Slugma SM7
2 Magcargo SM7

2 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Oranguru UPR
1 Mew-EX

Trainers – 40

4 N

3 Brigette
3 Guzma
1 Cynthia
1 Professor Sycamore
1 Deliquent
1 Team Flare Grunt
1 Acerola

 

4 Puzzle of Time
4 Ultra Ball
3 Evosoda
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Field Blower
2 Max Potion

2 Counter Catcher
1 Float Stone
1 Rescue Stretcher

 

3 Choice Band
1 Weakness Policy

Energy- 4

4 Double Colorless

The concept we’re working with here is basically a slightly less all-in version of Tord Reklev’s second place list from the NAIC. We’re still playing a controlling/disruption version of , but we’re less concerned with having high card counts because we’re always able to find the key pieces we need with Magcargo.

The list can certainly be fiddled with, and is nowhere close to perfect I’m sure. Some cards, like Weakness Policy, you may want to pack additional copies of if you’re expecting a lot of , for instance, as it’s a card you’ll want to have in play often (of course, Puzzle of Time and looping cards back with is always an option), and I’m not sure how powerful Counter Catcher is in this list. Regardless, I think this is a good starting place, and I can envision a world in which Magcargo allows for an extreme level of consistency in Zoroark decks, pushing it into unfair levels.

My only concern is whether or not this type of deck is the one that needs Magcargo at all. Like Tord showed on camera at the NAIC, you’re able to go through your deck however you want and set up a game state that is exactly to your liking. So it’s possible that these super controlling versions of Zoroark should stick with the Oranguru plan, and Magcargo would be better suited for a more traditional Zoroark build. Either way, Zoroark and Magcargo are perfect partners, now it’s up to us to find them an equally perfect home.

Shrine of Punishments

The last card I want to go in-depth about today is an updated version of Desert Ruins. I don’t think there are many decks that can just make room for multiple copies of Shrine of Punishments, but Travis Nunlist’s Yveltal BREAK deck that broke out at the NAIC looks to be able to do just that.

Pokémon – 15

3 Yveltal XY
2 Yveltal BREAK
3 Hoopa SLG
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 Latios SLG
2 Tapu Koko SM31
1 Oranguru SUM
1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 31

4 N
4 Guzma

3 Professor Sycamore
2 Cynthia
1 Copycat

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir
2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Super Rod

3 Choice Band
1 Float Stone

 

2 Shrine of Punishments

Energy – 14

10 Darkness
4 Double Colorless

For those that didn’t catch any of the coverage from Columbus, this deck is the brainchild of Travis Nunlist (with a lot of help from Dustin Zimmerman, Brit Pybas, Aaron Tarbell, Clifton Goh, Olliver Barr, and Amelia Bottemiller), that ended up putting Aaron into the Top 8, Dustin into the Top 16, and Clifton into the Top 32. The strategy is pretty clear: spread and play exclusively 1 Prize attackers. Hoopa is a brick wall versus a lot of decks, and Yveltal BREAK can provide an amazing damage output, given that you’ve already put some damage on the board with a Tapu Koko (or now, Shrine of Punishments!).

Although this type of deck gets a lot worse once everyone knows about it and can prepare for it, I suspect that disadvantage is more or less negated by how much we gain from Shrine of Punishments. An extra two damage counters versus the hardest to deal with Pokémon is a big game. I was lucky enough to witness every step of the evolution of the deck, from a pure, aggressive spread deck to the middle ground that Travis and co ended up taking at the NAIC. I think Shrine of Punishments could push the spread strategy back to the forefront of the deck, and the minor changes to the list above reflect that. If it proves to be good enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if the deck leaned even more heavily into the spread aspect.

As anyone who did watch the coverage knows, the match up versus the controlling Zoroark deck that Tord played isn’t easy, and is going to have to be improved of this deck has any shot of making a splash at Worlds. The answer may lie in additional Enhanced Hammers of our own, or some other way to ensure that we can stay competitive in the long time. I’m not exactly sure what the answer is just yet, but I’m excited to find out.

There are a number of other cards in Celestial Storm that will either find their way into existing archetypes, or create whole new decks of their own. I don’t have much experience with anything outside of the three I’ve just gone over, and therefore don’t feel comfortable writing about anything else too in-depth in the way of specific decks. I do, however, want to give some quick takes on a handful of cards before we wrap up this segment of the article.

The Rest

Sceptile SM7

This card should be good. It won’t be, due to the fact that it’s a stage two with laughably how HP, but it should be. Protecting itself (and potentially your entire board!) from Ultra Beasts is going to be a big deal as long as Ultra Beasts are legal, and it’s attack is powerful in it’s own right. In a slightly different world I could see this card getting there, but unfortunately that is not the world that we live in.

Electrode-GX

One of the most interesting cards in the new set to me, I think Electrode has a lot of potential. I’m imagining a deck that is primarily focused around single prize attackers, where Extra Energy Bomber can fully power up two of your Pokémon, as well as turn on Counter Catcher. I also think there’s a potential for something that can abuse Beast Ring, but that’s probably unrealistic. I’m not sure if this card will be powerful enough to make up for its inherent downside, but it’s one I’ll be keeping my eye on.

Mr. Mime-GX

If only Zoroark-GX with a Choice Band didn’t deal 150, we might have something here…

Banette-GX

Relatively low HP and a Darkness weakness is a lot to overcome, but I’m interested in trying this card out, and I know a number of Worlds qualifiers who are testing it already. Everything the card is trying to do is powerful in its own right, it’s just a matter of getting all of the pieces to fit together correctly. This is one that I would have on your radar, but ultimately there are more important things to try first.

Scizor-GX

Everything I just said about Banette can be applied here as well. There’s a lot to like, but I’m not sure if it’s quite there. Scizor is a card that is dependent on a lot of different things going right at once (it’s ability turning on, your opponent having evolutions), which is always an uphill battle when straightfoward, powerful cards like Buzzwole and Zoroark exist.

Stakataka-GX

I’ve yet to mess with any of the Ultra Beast decks, but I’m sure this will slot in somewhere. It has powerful attacks and a good Ability, which should be enough to find it a home.

Acro Bike

This card is probably an immediate include in decks, or any other decks that benefit from having cards in the discard pile. Just like the last time it was in Standard, I expect Acro Bike to be heavily played.

Copycat

I touched on Copycat a bit earlier, but I think it’s a great inclusion to the format. It’s not just “always good” like cards such as Cynthia, and it has a definite downside. However, in a format with Zoroark-GX, I’m inclined to think this card is going to be serviceable more often than not. We’ll have to see how the format shapes up before we can call this one, but I’m optimistic.

I’m sure there are cards I’m overlooking, but those are the ones that have excited me the most in the last couple of days. If you feel like there’s something I’m not considering, please let me know in the comments!


Moving on, I’d like to quickly talk about how to evaluate new cards, and hopefully equip you with some tools to spend your time thinking about new sets a little more efficiently the next time scans start popping up.

Firstly, I’m not a big fan of looking at scans before the whole English set list is known, especially if there’s any confusion about when exactly a card is going to come out. This is less of a problem now that we are so mirroring Japan’s release schedule so closely, but it still matters, and it still comes up.

I know it’s easy to get excited about new cards, but don’t worry too much about looking into the future until you know precisely what the format is going to look like. To test a format, or even just seriously think about one, that may or may not exist, is no benefit to anyone. Be disciplined, use your time and energy wisely, and wait until we know exactly what’s going on.

Next, it’s very important to understand how new cards can impact a format. For the most part, these are the three considerations you should be making when looking at to-be-released cards:

  • Does this card fit into an existing deck? This is the question you should be asking yourself most often. I spent more than a thousand words of this article talking about the ways in which existing archetypes are improved with cards from Celestial Storm, and I didn’t even touch on everything! Thinking about which top-decks might want some of these new cards is the best way to spend your first pass through a new batch of scans.
  • Is this card a deck in itself? The perfect example of a card like this is Rayquaza-GX. It doesn’t really fit into an existing archetype because it requires so much dedication, but instead it’s a main attacker and has created an entirely new deck around itself. After you’ve gone through and looked at what may change with a new set, it’s important to look at what is totally new, as well.
  • Does this card make a bad deck good? This is a very important, yet often overlooked method for evaluating cards. It’s just all about improving the top-decks or making entirely new decks. Sometimes you need to look at decks that have been successful in the past, or those that just fell a little bit short, in order to realize a card’s full potential.

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.comLastly, I can’t stress enough how important it is to look at cards with a positive eye. You should be looking at every card thinking “Why is this good? How can I make this work?” rather than anything negative, or trying to come up with reasons why its bad. It’s better to be optimistic about a card and find out that it doesn’t work than to have never tried at all and end up overlooking something potentially broken. This method isn’t easy, as you’re going to find the former is much more common than the latter, but never trying at all is the worst place you can be.

Hopefully this helps you for Celestial Storm and beyond. I’ll see you in Nashville.

XO
KW


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