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Sebastian  P.

Shiftry Ban – a short recap

The Ban Hammer hits again

09/02/2015 by Sebastian P.

As most of you will know by now, Shiftry from Black&White – Next Destinies has been officially banned from sanctioned tournament play. You can read the official statement here.

After the ban of Lysandres Trump Card 4 months ago, this is the second time in recent past that a card has been officially banned, this time even prior to any major tournaments in Europe and USA.
I want to take the opportunity to talk about this issue, pro and contra arguments towards the ban as well as showcasing what went wrong in the last weeks since the release of Ancient Origens.

First of all, let's take a quick look at the reasons why the card, or rather the deck, was banned.

Shiftry Donk is tailored towards winning on the first turn by utilizing the new stadium card Forest of Giant Plants in combination with Shiftry. Add Super Scoop Up, Devolution Spray and enough trainer cards to keep a steady draw and you end up with a deck that can perform his unique trick a multitude of times in a single turn, usually the first one.
The first problem that we face here, is that this leads to a game state that isn't very keen on interactions between the two players, as it is likely that the opponent might not even get a single turn.
While turn 1 wins are still possible in a “normal match”, especially with Latios EX, they usually involve a bad draw and some kind of luck.
Speaking of luck, the Shiftry deck is extremely reliable on coin tosses, as both Shiftry, Recycle and Super Scoop Up use this mechanic, thus creating a bigger emphasis on the luck of a player, rather than on his/her skill.

It is also important, that the deck has no means to attack and that there are a bunch of cards that are unbeatable for Shiftry, mainly Wobbuffet with an empty bench, otherwise Escape Rope or Lysander can be used to get rid of a Wobbuffet on the active spot, and Baltoy from the new set.
However, while those cards can easily be searched via Ultra or Level Ball, if they aren't in the opening hand, it does require for the player to win the coin toss, as he won't get a chance to play them otherwise.

Alright, lets look at the pro arguments towards the ban, please note that those points do not reflect my own opinion:

- the card promotes an unhealthy environment, where you are forced to have a counter for the archetype, or face an auto loss

- even with potential counters, being able to have zero turns can still cause a defeat on the first turn

- the deck relies more or luck than on skill, at least to a certain extend

- the deck is not interactive and promotes a “solitaire like” play style

- the deck isn't fun to play against in the slightest

The arguments that support the ban of Shiftry are numerous and a quick look at official forums will show you, that the majority of players who are engaged in the discussion towards this card are definitely in favour of a ban.
Most notably on that regard is the online community on Pokemon TCGO, as the deck has flooded both the Extended and Unlimited environment on the servers, naturally causing a lot of concern amongst the player base.
It is without a doubt, that the feedback of the online users was the prime source of this ban, as the new season is just about to start and outside Japan the deck hasn't seen any kind of play in official tournaments so far, unlike Lysanders Trump Card, that was banned shorty after Jason Klaczynski won US Regionals with Seismitoad EX, where he literally went through his entire deck several times on the back of Super Scoop Up, Shaymin EX and LTC.
However, the online environment is widely different from the offline tournament environment, as seen in the contra arguments:

-the deck follows the concept of a glass canon, with several counter cards that can win right on the spot against it

- there hasn't been any established offline meta game, making the potential impact of Shiftry a mere speculation

- utilizing a deck that eventually requires some luck to win is a rather risky move in a real life tournament

- banning a card just days prior to the start of the new season is counter productive towards anyone who has spend some time testing for the new meta

- the deck may require some changes in the deck building process, but that should be a normal case after the release of a new set

- in a tournament environment, terms like “fun” aren't sophisticated to be used as a measurement unit

The main argument against this sudden ban is the solemn fact that we don't even have any kind of meta game in the Expanded format, as Ancient Origens hasn't been featured in major tournaments across Europe and USA ( a little side note, how can it be possible that Pokemon TCG is on of the few trading card games with different release dates across the globe. Dear Japan, please don't treat us like second class citizens, sincerely – the rest of the world).
It's furthermore a punch in the face for everyone who has been fine-tuning their decks for weeks now, as this sudden ban will definitely change the deck building process in the next few days.

Another argument is tailored towards a majority of people, who have simply labelled the deck “not fun” and “ not interactive”, as those two things are certainly valid points, however those points are meaningless in a competitive environment, as the cry for banning card such as Seismitoad EX, the Night Mrash archetype, Sky Field and others has also been rather loud amongst the official forums, usually referring to those two points that are now listed towards Shiftry.


My personal opinion and a look into the future

Alright, it's time for my very own opinion. Personally, I've been pretty excited about the deck when I saw the first spoilers, as I came from tcgs like “Magic the Gathering”, where the notion of combo decks was part of a healthy environment and I was missing this strategy from the holy trinity, aggro - control – combo, in the Pokemon TCG.
Upon playing the deck on PTCGO, I had a lot of fun, however I did also realize that this deck may concern a good amount of users, for the very reasons that I stated above.
What I was not prepared for, is the initial shit storm that hit the forums quite hard, which unfortunately showcased that the game is after all coined to appeal to a younger audience, in comparison to the games I was used to play.

The tone that appeared there was full of insults towards the player base, usually generalizing all Shiftry players as “toxic”, “cheaters”, “unskilled”, you can guess the rest. I would however lie, if I said that there weren't also a lot of intelligent arguments towards a ban, that pointed out their concerns without relying on insults or arguments that simply read as “I don't like this card, ban or I cry”.

Am I surprised that Shiftry got banned ? To tell the truth, I am, mainly because I don't think that the deck would have had an impact offline that comes even close towards the one online, as it is one thing to play the deck in place where you can scoop after 20 seconds and just start a new game, or to take the deck to an official tournament, eventually wasting your entire day if you run into bad match-ups or bad coin flips.
Another thing that concerns me is the policy that the Pokemon company is implying with this ban. It does not only show, how little thought is sometimes put into the creation of certain cards, as the deck was more or less created once Forest of Giant Plants was spoiled. This mess could have been prevented easily with a slightly different wording on the card.
Furthermore it showcases that there is a major lack of communication between the player base and the developer, as this sudden announcement comes as a shock for most players, especially so soon before the next season starts.
However, the thing that annoys me the most, is the fact that all of those people who have cried in my ears for the last weeks finally get what they wanted and this is a really negative sign for the future development of Pokemon TCG, because the angry mob with their pitchforks shouldn't determine the course of this game.

I'm not even mad about the ban itself, as I wouldn't have taken the deck to real tournaments anyway and after roughly 400+ games it did also become a bit stale on the online client. I can also understand why so many people where in favour of the ban, I'm just really unhappy about the circumstances.

Let's end this article with a short outlook into the future.
Right now, the new season is upon us and the next weeks and months will definitely provide us with interesting concepts and ideas, alongside some old friend of us.
The Shiftry incident has however showcased some major problems with the current cards that we have in the formats, because such an archetype was only possible with the combination of Trainers Mail, Shaymin EX, Acro Bike, Bicycle and others. Neither of those cards will leave the game in the distant future and thus every new card that is slightly overpowered has now the potential to break the meta, given that we live in a world where drawing your entire deck on the first turn is possible without much effort.
Considering that the Lysander Trump Card ban was also directly influenced by a combination of other cards, one has to come to a simple conclusion: Shaymin EX is in a dangerous spot right now, because the developer team will eventually stop cutting the highest branch of the tree and rather pull out the entire root, and Shaymin EX is just that, the root of all evil, the foundation that allows those archetypes to be played from the start.

Well, that's all for today. Best of luck to you for the next tournament and for those who seek a combo deck that isn't banned right now, I'd advise you to play Forretress + Dusknoir, not as effective as Shiftry, but a solid way to win on the first or second turn, depending on the initial draw, never the less.



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