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Karl Peters

Ancient Origins’ influence on the Meta

A look at the Ancient Origins cards most likely to impact the upcoming metagame.

08/03/2015 by Karl Peters

Hey, everyone! How are you? Are you also excited for Worlds?

In this article, I’d like to focus on the newly released expansion Ancient Origins and inform you about all the new cards we'll be getting. This isn't going to be a set review so much as an overview of the standout cards and their competitive potential.

1.  Overview

Ancient Origins is available after Worlds 2015 or rather, at the end of August.  It's great expansion at first sight, but a closer look at the cards may reveal that it's really just an average expansion.  Whereas a set like Primal Clash introduced several new archetypes—such as Mega Gardevior, Primal Groudon, and Primal Kyogre—Ancient Origins focuses more on cards that help bring current decks to a new level.  All in all, it’s still an interesting set, with a  mixture of pure strength and strategic elements.

2.  To be or not to be? Possible new meta decks

There are several cards which should be focused on, since they can be a good basis for new meta decks. Let’s have a closer look together!

2.1.  M Sceptile-EX, its friends, and neverending healing

There’s no doubt that this card is one of the most powerful in the new set due to its perfect balance between HP, attack cost, and damage output. 

It’s almost impossible to miss this card's potential. A Pokémon that has the ability to heal your board each turn—in theory—is a phenomenal benefit for a two-Energy attack.

This card is quite similar to M Manectric-EX’s power level, but you’ll need at least one Grass Energy to actually make use of the healing. This restricts this card's utility to decks using Grass-Energy.  In contrast, Mega Manectric was much more versatile since its attack could accelerate any Energy type, allowing for decks like Mega Manectric/Fairy, Mega Manectric/Water, Mega Manectric/Aegislash, and Mega Manectric/Yveltal.  Mega Sceptile doesn't have this flexibility.

Nevertheless, M Sceptile-EX is still a strong card which could have a big impact on the meta. This means other decks, such as Primal Groudon, will have a bigger problem maintaining their place in the meta.

Now let’s have a look at the Basic Sceptile-EX and its advantages.

Don’t underestimate this card, guys. Even without its Mega Evolution, it can put out a lot of damage.  Sleep Poison can be a very disruptive attack in the early game, and Unseen Claw has a great damage output for two Energy, especially if your opponent's Pokémon already has a Special Condition.

Here's one Pokémon that perfectly supports Sceptile.

Its Ability, Poisonous Nest, inflicts a Special Condition each turn for free, a perfect combination with Sceptile's Unseen Claw. The reprint of Level Ball is also a great fit since it makes it easier to search out Ariados. 

Of course, the upcoming Forest of Giant Plants provides a big advantage too, for both Sceptile and Ariados.

 

This card has clear similarities to Broken Time-Space, one of the most powerful Stadiums of all-time.  Obviously, this card fits perfectly in the Secptile-EX deck. It provides a powerful setup so that you can put early pressure on your opponent, either through fast Poison from Ariados or early Energy acceleration from Mega Sceptile.

In addition, it provides Sceptile with a counter-Stadium, which will be very important in the new format.  I'll discuss counter-Stadiums more in a bit.

Here's a potential list for the deck.

Here are other cards, that you should concentrate on:

Vileplume

Stage 2 – Evolves from Gloom

Ability: Irritating Pollen
Each player can't play Item cards from his or her hand.

GGC - Solar Beam: 70 

 

 

 

Our good old Vileplume, a Pokémon which has been with us right from the start of Pokémon. It's making a big comeback in this set, with a card reminiscent of the Vileplume from Undaunted in Fall 2010.  In that season, Ross Cawthon made Second Place at Worlds, largely due to the strength of Vileplume.

But the question is, will it be just as strong as in 2011? Or will it be overlooked and not noticed?  Well,it’s hard to find the right answers for this question, since noboby knows how the meta will develop yet, but so far, Japanese players have been including Vileplume in their decks.

The most popular Vileplume deck at the moment uses Giratina-EX to create a very widespread lock.  I’ll tell you more about Girantina-EX and the new possiblities for lock decks a bit later.

In my opinion, we should look at Vilplume critically. Yes, it’s true that many lock decks seem to be stronger than ever, but don't forget that this format has Lysandre to prey on Vileplume's heavy three Retreat Cost, especially disruptive since the Vileplume player can't play Switch.  It's an issue that will have to be solved for Vileplume to succeed.

For now, let's move on to another Grass Pokémon.

Vespiquen

Stage 1 – Evolves from Combee

C - Intelligence Gathering: 10
You may draw cards until you have 6 cards in your hand.

CC - Bee Revenge: 20+
This attack does 10 more damage for each Pokémon in your discard pile.

This Pokémon is a successor to the Flareon decks from the past season.  In general, it’s a really interesting and great card since it has no Retreat Cost and both of its attacks use Colorless Energy.

So, basically, it's a perfect card to damage your combatant fast.  Its low HP is a potential issue, as it will likely get OHKO'd by anything, and it basically needs to see a DCE every turn, so it can have issues in the late game.

However, it’s a card with potential since its support is multifaceted. On the one hand, you’ve got Forest of Giant Plants, which will let you Bench Combee and Evolve into Vespiquen in a single turn. In addition, cards such as Level Ball, Battle Compressor, and Double Colorless Energy, which fit perfectly to the deck.

All in all, it's a card which might surprise us in some way in the future.  This second list shows you how to build such a deck.

2.2.  M Tyranitar-EX: More hype than power?

Another controversial card, but let’s look at the basics first.

M Tyranitar-EX

Mega Evolution (Evolves from Tyranitar-EX)


Θ Double: This Pokémon can have 2 Pokémon Tools attached to it.

DDCC - Destroyer King: 110+
This attack does 60 more damage for each damage counter on your opponent's Active Pokémon.

 

 

This is a big monster which beats almost everything, but getting into the details will reveal that it’s not that powerful as it appears at the first glance.

The advantages are the 240 HP and the ability to OHKO all other Pokémon. In addition the Energy cost for its attack Destroyer King is fairly reasonable since all it needs is two Darkness and a DCE.  In combination with Mega Turbo, you can usually attack on the second or third turn.

At first sight, the Ancient Trait appears to be great, since you can attach a Spirit Link and still have room for a Hard Charm (or Rocky Helmet, in Expanded), but it’s not that great, believe me. I’ve been testing with players from all over the world for a while now and we all have noticed sooner or later that the advantage of two Tool turned out to be one of the biggest disadvantages as well. 

As soon as Mega Tyranitar becomes a meta deck, the turn-one Head Ringer will celebrate a big comeback.  Another disadvantage is its heavy Retreat Cost, which can lead to difficult situations. Furthermore, Darkrai-EX, Keldeo-EX, and Float Stone all rotate, which makes the deck rather inflexible.  At first glance M Tyranitar-EX seems to be a great card, but I’m convinced that it’s just too overhyped.

  

A look on the normal Tyranitar-EX reveals other issues. Although Tyranitar-EX is equipped with 180 HP, its damage output is very low for the Energy costs.  Also, its Weakness to Fighting seems to be a problem in the long run.  In a nutshell: M Tyranitar-EX is quite powerful, but its dominating disadvatages make the card unattractive for professional players. 

2.2.1.  Darkness support

Welcome back, Sableye. After Stormfront and Dark Explorers, there’s finally a new Sableye that could be playable.  Will it join the ranks of the best Support Pokémon ever?

Actually, I doubt it. The current dynamic in the meta is centered around high-damage attacks.  That’s why this special friend won’t gain ground easily.

Basically, it's okay, since it can get you extra Supporters in the turn, but it’s not really necessary at the moment given that the current speed of the game doesn't really allow for using attacks to set up.

Well, never say never. Maybe it’ll have its big performance sometime in the future. 

 

At first it seems like this card was just created for M Tyranitar-EX. However, I think we shouldn’t ignore it completely. It might appear to be a weaker version of Strong Energy, but remember that Yveltal-EX already has a very high damage output already, making extra damage potentially irrelevant.

That’s why I believe that Dangerous Energy could be a good card.  Rather than damaging the opponent directly, it forces them to choose which of their Pokémon they want to take extra damage, softening them up for a big Evil Ball KO.  Of course, the opponent could always play around this card with Lysandre or Escape Rope.  In addition, it’s easy to play around the Energy by using non-EX attackers.  Still, my guess is that we will meet this balanced card in many Darkness decks soon.

I just wanted to show you a list that includes M Tyranitar-EX. On one hand, it shows us its power, but on the other hand we'll see its limited functionality.

2.3.  The big performance of Lightning Pokémon and M Ampharos-EX?

Do you remember Ampharos? Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I’ve played a deck that contained Ampharos. 

M Ampharos-EX

Mega Evolution (Evolves from Ampharos-EX)

LLCC - Exavolt: 120+
You may do 50 more damage.  If you do, your opponent's Active Pokémon is now Paralyzed and this Pokémon does 30 damage to itself.

So here are the details about this almost forgotten Pokémon.

First, it packs 220 HP, which is actually low compared to the bigger Megas such as Primal Kyogre or Primal Groudon, but it's still solid and better than Megas like M Manectric-EX.  In a nutshell, on a scale from 1 to 10, I’d give it a 5 or 6.

This Mega comes without an Ancient Trait. It’s a pity if you ask me, since Megas get so much better with that extra Support.

M Ampharos-EX's attack does 120 Damage, which is quite low. For example, against Xerneas XY, it just misses the Knock Out, and though you can do an extra 50 damage, it's obviously not ideal to do 30 damage to yourself for a single non-EX Pokémon.

As you can see, you should take its attacks with a pinch of salt. It seems to me that it’ll be hard for M Ampharos-EX to make a splash as a great Lighting Mega, since cards such as M Manectric-EX are more attractive.  There are fewer reasons to play M Ampharos-EX, given the high cost of its attack and lack of benefits compared to its rivals.  So, this is a perfect example of a card which was just created as a filler Mega to hold the set’s power level down. 

Well, let’s move on to a card which is a great option for every Lighting Deck: Flash Energy.

 



This Energy goes along perfectly with Lightning Decks and provides extra defense. In general, Lightning gains more presence in the Meta – not only this card, but also the great mixture.

Combinations such as M Manectric-EX with Rough Seas and Flash Energy are extremely fast, strong, and flexible. I’m convinced that you cannot find fault with this card. You don’t have to worry about Hawlucha combined with Silent Lab anymore. In conclusion, go for it and don’t hesitate to play with an active and dominating style. 

2.4.  Hawlucha/Eeveelutions: Japan's newest deck

Let’s take a short break, in which I concentrate on Jolten and the deck that becomes more and more famous in Japan. 

 

Jolteon

Stage 1 (Evolves from Eevee)

Ability: Electric Effect
As long as this Pokémon is in play, each of your Stage 1 Pokémon is L in addition to its original type.

LCC - Thunderblast: 80
Discard 1 Energy attached to this Pokémon. 

You may wonder about the 80 Damage and three-Energy attack, both of which are far from strong, but no worries!  It's not about the 80 damage of Thunder Blast; it’s more about the Ability, Electric Effect. This allows your Pokémon to become Lighting Pokémon if they're Stage 1. This has huge potential: if your Pokémon gains a new type, they can exploit the opponent's Weakness easily.

Flareon or Vaporeon provides this Ability, as well. 

 

Flareon

Stage 1 (Evolves from Eevee)

Ability: Flare Effect
As long as this Pokémon is in play, each of your Stage 1 Pokémon is R in addition to its original type.

RCC - Heat Breath: 60+
Flip a coin.  If heads, this attack does 20 more damage.

  

 

Vaporeon

Stage 1 (Evolves from Eevee)

Ability: Aqua Effect
As long as this Pokémon is in play, each of your Stage 1 Pokémon is W in addition to its original type.

WCC - Hydro Splash: 70

Throw these together and you can cover a lot of Weaknesses.

A combination of Hawlucha and Eeveelutions is dominating currently in Japan, since it has answers for most of the meta. So, basically, you’re playing four Hawlucha and four Silent Lab to deal with Lightning and Darkness decks, and even Fighting decks since Hawlucha has resistance.  In addition, most Fire, Water, Metal, and Grass Pokémon will be no big deal.

Actually, this deck is optimally prepared for many decks in the meta, but I’m not quite sure about its place in Europe since we have a completely different meta than in Japan.  But one thing is certain: Eeveelutions will cause quite a stir in the next format.

This is a list that I've just received from a Japanese friend. Maybe it will give us a hint about how our meta will develop?

2.5.  Fire Pokémon: A new level with Blacksmith?

Am I the only one who thinks that Fire Pokémon have been getting a raw deal since Flashfire's release? But why?

Just have a look at the current cards. A playable Fire Mega would have enormous benefit compared to a lot of other types since they have access to Blacksmith and Scorched Earth on top of Mega Turbo. Furthermore, Fire is in a great position with the rise of Grass Pokémon.

Unfortunately, there's no big Fire-type Mega coming out in the next set.  However, I’m glad to welcome a new deputy. 

Entei

Basic Pokemon

Θ Double: This Pokemon can have 2 Pokemon Tools attached to it.

RC - Flame Screen: 30
During your opponent’s next turn, any damage done by attacks from your opponent's Pokémon is reduced by 30.

RRCC - Heat Tackle: 130 
Flip a coin. If tails, this Pokemon does 30 damage to itself. 

 

This Entei breathes new life into the dusty Fire Decks with the help of its Ancient Trait, which helps it hit big damage against Pokémon-EX.

So why is Θ Double better for Entei than for M Tyranitar-EX?  Here are a few points for you to consider.

  1. It can’t be affected by Head Ringer.

  2. 130 damage is high for a non-EX attacker and that damage can be boosted by a couple of Muscle Bands.

  3. With two Hard Charms, the damage it takes is reduced by 40, and its Flame Screen attack reduces that damage by an additional 30.  If you ask me, this is huge since the attack only requires two Energy, which can be attached via Blacksmith.

Let’s move on to the second Entei of the set.

 

Entei

Basic Pokémon

C - Burning Roar
Discard the top 4 cards of your deck.  If any of those cards are R Energy cards, attach them to your Pokémon in any way you like.

RR - Combat Blaze: 20+
This attack does 20 more damage for each of your opponent's Benched Pokémon.

This one’s more a secondary attacker.  Its second attack, Combat Blaze, can do solid damage for only two Fire Energy.  Blacksmith is a perfect supplement for Combat Blaze, letting you put out a lot of damage for next to nothing.  I recommend this Entei as a support attacker for your deck, since the other Entei is more likely to be a main attacker.

So, now let’s take a look at a Stage 1 that's getting a mixed reception from the community.

Volcarona

Stage 1 (Evolves from Larvesta)

C - Sunbath
Search your deck for a Basic Pokémon and put it onto your Bench.  Then you may search your deck for up to 2 Basic Energy cards and attach them to that Pokémon. Shuffle your deck afterward.

RC - Flamethrower: 60
Discard 1 R Energy attached to this Pokémon.

 

 

It’s all about the first attack, Sunbath.  One Energy attachment is all you need to get any Basic you want into play with a couple of Energy attachments to go with it.

Well, there are many different opinions about this card. Let’s consider the pros and cons.

The biggest negative point about Volcarona is that it's a Stage 1.  So that means, in pratice, after your opponent’s first turn, you’ll have to wait. Not before their second turn will you be able to attack.  Moreover, your opponent might have a Mega Evolution in play by that point.  So you see, your rival is always one step ahead, letting them put pressure on you while you've devoted your resources to one setup attack.

However, many players still think that Volcarona is a great card, and not just for Fire Decks. Before the release of SP decks, it was common to play setup Pokémon, no matter if they were Basic or an Evolution. Cards such as Fearow δ, Stantler SW, and Furret SW were played to gain resources as fast as possible to improve the deck's setup.

That’s why Volcarona could be good, since its a Fire Pokémon, a good type since the rotation of Garbodor and the prevalence of Sceptile might make Seismitoad a less popular choice.  Moreover, its second attack could be of avail in certain situations.

So, in general, it’s a card with great potential that can find a spot in some decks. I don’t doubt that.  Yet I’m quite sure that most professional players won’t make use of this card, since it’s too slow to keep up with all the fast decks in the meta.

2.6.  Psychic Pokemon: New draw and search effects

Let’s focus on the real king of this edition.

Hoopa-EX

Basic Pokemon

Ability: Bandit Ring
Once during your trun (before your attack), when you play this Pokémon from your hand onto your Bench, you may use this Ability. Search your deck for up to 3 Pokémon-EX (excluding Hoopa-EX), show them to your opponent, and put them into your hand. Shuffle your deck afterward.


PPP - Hyperspace Fury
Discard 2 Energy attached to this Pokemon. Choose 1 of your opponent's Pokemon. This attack does 100 damage to that Pokemon. (Don’t apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokémon.)

 

Hoopa is a really interesting card, reminiscent Meganium from Dragon Frontiers. A Pokémon searches out three more Pokémon-EX can be called a really strong card. Moreover, we having a great target for Scoundrel Ring in Shaymin-EX.  So all in all, I’m convinced that Hoopa will be played in many EX-focused decks (especially Mega Evolution decks) since it brings a lot of consistency to the tablr.

The only big "but" is its attack.  Costing three Psychic Energy, it won't be used very often.  Still, Hoopa is an interesting card overall.

Unown
Basic Pokémon 

Ability: Last Will
Once during your turn, if this Pokémon is on your Bench, you may discard this Pokémon and all cards attached to it. (This doesn’t count as a Knocked Out Pokémon.) Then, draw a card.

C - Hidden Power: 10

I cannot mention it often enough: this set has a bunch of reprints. Let us welcome a newer version of Unown R from Legends Awakened.

This card can speed up any deck and it's great in a Vespiquen deck for extra damage.  It's a nice card, that is definitely worth buying—about four copies, if you ask me. 

2.7.  Must-sees: Shiny Megas and other Pokémon-EX

Giratina-EX 

Basic Pokémon

Ability: Rebellious Wave
Prevent all effects of attack, including damage, done to this Pokémon by your opponent’s Mega Evolved Pokémon.

GPCC - Chaos Veil: 100
During your opponent’s next turn, he or she can’t play any Pokémon Tool, Special Energy, or Stadium cards from his or her hand.

 

A new Lock King—that would be the perfect way to describe Girantina-EX. A card with a shield that protects it from Megas. In addition, it comes with a unique new attack that denies your opponent many ressources.

In Japan, Yveltal still dominates at tournaments, but from time to time, you can read reports about Girantina-EX on some Japanese blogs.  Here in Europe and in other Western countries, players tend to associate this card with Vileplume. This combination takes almost every significant resource away from your rival.

Well, we’re never sure about the meta’s development, but we can surely claim that this strong card will find its spot.

Lugia-EX
Basic Pokémon

CC - Aero Ball: 20x
Does 20 damage times the number of Energy attached to this Pokémon and the Defending Pokémon.

CCCC - Deep Hurricane: 80+
If there is any Stadium card in play, this attack does 70 more damage. Discard that Stadium card.

 

 

Lugia-EX is a newer version of Mewtwo-EX.  Now that Mewtwo-EX is rotating out of the format, Lugia-EX is a great alternative that should be kept at the back of your mind. It’s great during matches against decks such as Primal Groudon and in combination with Hard Charm, it can survive an attack as well. But there’s is more to it than that.

On the one hand, Lugia-EX works as a tech in every deck that is dominated by Pokémon-EX and on the other hand, it relies on Colorless Energy. Not only does it have Mewtwo's X-Ball, but also its second attack can be a big advantage in a match.

In my opinion, this card won’t lose its value soon and due to its flexibilty, it’s a great tech that you’ll probably have to face from time to time at tournaments. 

This one will be anything but cheap! A Mega Pokémon in gold. Well, I don’t know the creator’s motivation for this card, but let’s go through the facts together.

M Rayquaza-EX is the only playable gold Mega if you ask me. The other two, Primal Groudon-EX and Primal Kyogre-EX are only playable now due to their Ancient Traits, which are replaced in their gold reprints.  The complete healing seems extremely strong at first sight, but the Ancient Traits that Groudon and Kyogre normally have are many times stronger and change more on the board.

Well, what’s the difference between them and M Rayquaza-EX?

M Rayquaza-EX's normal Ancient Trait lets it Mega Evolve right away.  It can be handy, but Rayquaza-EX is being used less in speed decks and more in slower Metal decks. That means a 3-3 M Rayquaza-EX line could replace one of the regular Megas with this one instead to take advantage of its Trait.

All in all, a card which is quite expensive, but we all know quality has got its price. So, we shouldn’t underestimate the card.  Perhaps some of you can think about placing it in your list.

2.8.  Supporters and Stadiums: More control during the game

Let’s look at a more interesting new addition to the meta: all of the interesting new Trainers. It’s no big secret that many great Supporters will rotate out, such as N, which is included in almost every deck in the current meta.  So, time to consider interesting and new opportunities in the newest set.

Not bad, if you ask me. Finally a Supporter which follows the in the footsteps of Rockets Admin. from Team Rocket Returns. The only big "but": you’ll have to be behind in Prizes. Nevertheless, it's a card which will likely be a staple Supporter.

In case you're in (Prize) arrears during the late game and your combatant hasn’t got any Shaymin-EX or many Supporters left, Ace Trainer will give you the relevant advantage to beat your opponent. Maybe it’s not as good as our all-time favourite N, but it’s definitely worth playing. 

Hex Maniac – Trainer
Supporter

Until the end of your opponent’s next turn, each Pokémon in play, in each player’s hand, and in each player’s discard pile has no Abilities.

You may play only 1 Supporter card during your turn (before your attack).

It’s not easy to value this card and its development in the meta appropriately.  Just like Mesprit of Legends Awakened, it blocks all Abilities for one turn. But will it enough impact on the meta?

Perhaps. It’s not that unrealistic, provided that this card will have relevant decks to counter. Maybe if Vileplume becomes prominent or the format trends toward fast, quad-Shaymin draw engines.  Well, if all these maybes become certain, then Hex Maniac will definitely be played in many decks.

If you ask me, this card is overhyped at the moment. It’s true that there’s potential, but I would wait and see how the meta develops before throwing it in every deck.

Faded Town – Trainer
Stadium

Between turns, place 2 damage counters on each Mega Evolved Pokémon in play.

This card stays in play when you play it. Discard this card if another Stadium card comes into play. If another card with the same name is in play, you can’t play this card.

Well, we’re almost done and I’d like to introduce you the last card. which will have a big impact on the meta. It's not a real reprint, but more of a successor to Desert Ruins from Hidden Legends.

This Stadium will have an enormous impact due to all the successful Mega Pokémon in the format.  This Stadium can damage your opponent vastly and dominate all the Megas on the board, provided that your combatant cannot counter in any way.  Furthermore. many smaller decks without Pokémon-EX will make use of this Stadium to gain a huge advantage against Megas. So, in my opinion, it’s one of the strongest Stadiums that has ever been printed.

3.  Conclusion 
 

So, I hope that I could give you a good overview about an interesting set full of ups and downs with a focus more on the technical cards and less on pure damage output (well, with exception for Tyrantiar-EX).  If you ask me, this set not only changes a lot, but also gives us a free ride to the past, since it’s includes many cards which remind us of the good old times, when Pokémon placed more value on strategic playing.

Also, on a scale from 1 to 10, I'd give this set a 5 or 6, since there are some good and powerful upgrades, but somehow a "star" or significant card is missing, such as Seismitoad-EX, Yveltal-EX, or Genesect-EX. I’m sure that Mega Sceptile-EX and Vespiquen will gain big hype at the start, but we’ll never know the meta’s development.  However, we can certain about one thing: exciting times in the Pokémon Trading Card Game are waiting for us.

I’ll hope you all had fun while reading. Again, it was a pleasure for me to share all this news with you.

See you soon, guys!

Karl Peters

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