Heating up Worlds
Thoughts on Steam Siege being legal for Worlds and what it means for the tournament.
08/09/2016 by Shiv Luthra
Well Worlds is going to be pretty "exciting" this year as we get introduced to the blind format of XY to Steam Siege. This means a lot as this is the first time Pokemon has introduced a blind format for the biggest tournament of the year. Yes they have done mid-year rule changes and rotations, but this means we will have an entire new set legal for Worlds.
Instead of talking about decks for Worlds instead I want to talk about the concept of making Steam Siege legal for Worlds, three weeks after the set releases.
A question to be asked is why Pokemon decided to pull this out of their hat. Introducing an entirely new format that players will have no experience in, aside from testing in person or PTCGO.
I think perhaps the largest reason for this move is that it highly rewards innovators and deck builders. Because normally when a set comes out and everyone sees a card that has potential, it takes one player to take the deck and place in a tournament to really have that archetype take off.
Think back to when Greninja BREAK came out. Everyone knew it could be a good deck. But when making actual lists there are so manythings to consider such as:
- How many Greninja XY vs Greninja BPT?
- How consistent does my turn-2 Frogadier need to be?
- Should I play less Froakie than Frogadier?
- Should I play Miltank?
- Is Energy Retrieval worth it?
No one really knew how to optimally build a Greninja deck until they saw it place at a tournament and now we have a standard list.
So going in to Worlds, if a player wants to build a deck around Steam Siege Pokemon then they will have to build the deck without any knowledge of tournament results and any "standard" list. It rewards people who can build/optimize decks well and can use rogue ideas.
Now if a player goes with a rogue or creative deck revolving around Steam Siege, that player is rewarded by the fact that no one knows how good that deck is and may not know what cards could have countered it.
This also favors those who can metagame well. Your decklist is final and you have to account for Steam Siege without actually knowing what is good in the set. You have to think about how many Volcanion or Yanmega you'll be facing and whether you should counter it or not.
For viewers this is awesome on paper. We get to watch a tournament where we can see cards that haven't been played before. We get to see a whole new metagame and not complain that everyone's playing Night March or Trevenant (or so I thought). This should increase the amount of TCG players that tune in to Worlds to see what Steam Siege decks players have come up with. It's unpredictable and exciting for the viewer.
For players, this blind format is likely very very frustrating. Its harder to predict what the metagame is going to be if you've never seen the metagame before. You can predict the falling off or rise of decks, but to start you need to know that that deck exists. As mentioned earlier, this blind format favors those who can deck build and create new decks, which does not represent the majority of players.
Players would also have to dedicate even more time to testing in which Japan technically has an advantage since they get the set earlier. This means its in online programs sooner and theorycrafting and deckbuilding can begin sooner.
So what does it Mean?
So what does this blind format mean for the state if the game going into Worlds?
As we know by now, Karen, the only card that really mattered, is not in Steam Siege meaning there is no playing it for Worlds.
Karen was the saving grace of the format. It's a mini-Lysandre's Trump Card where both players shuffle in all the Pokemon in their discard pile into their deck. This would mean Night March would have to shuffle in all their Pokemon but no Battle Compressors, Trainer Mail, Ultra Balls, etc.
Night March ran through Nationals and Karen would have been great. It wouldn't nerf Night March into the ground since people would still have to consider when to play Karen and how many to play in the deck. Karen would have opened up the format by making Night March counterable. And while there are Night March counters are feasible now, here's a card in Steam Siege that WILL be legal for worlds: Pokemon Ranger
Pokemon Ranger is a supporter that removes all effects of attacks on both players and all Pokemon.
Here are some cards that get neutralized by Pokemon Ranger
- Jirachi Promo
Four of the five mentioned cards above were ways to beat Night March. Giratina was a reason that the Darkrai/Dragons deck surfaced, Giratina prevents the Night March player from playing down that valuable Double Colorless Energy, slowing the deck down considerably. Jolteon was played in Manectric decks just to counter Night March and force Lysandres. And Seismitoad is well Seismitoad. Item Lock but it's on an attack so Pokemon Ranger will nullify it.
Night March becomes very good with not only it's counter getting removed, but it also gets to counter some of it's biggest problems.
Pokemon Ranger isn't an "end all be all". You still need to find your one copy without VS Seeker under a Toad Lock but it makes all of it's matchups more favorable.
In the long term of the game, Pokemon Ranger is a card that can maintain a healthy format. It makes certain lock decks never the central point of a format, and after a format dominated by the item lock of Toad, Trevenant, and Vileplume, I think we can appreciate that. Apparently, the previously printed Marowak BPT was not a good enough hard counter to cards like Seismitoad and Giratina. Pokemon Ranger does so much more than Marowak and is so much more accessible. It makes a healthier future format but right now it creates a format completely centered around Night March.
Steam Siege doesn't give us any cards that can really help against Night March. Nothing to prevent OHKOs, no cheap bench damage, and no way to run a deck as fast as Night March.
So remember the idea that Worlds becomes much more exciting with a blind format? Well throw that out the window. There are only three main decks heading into worlds: Night March, Trevenant, and Vileplume.
Now think about it: if Night March is against a Trevenant or Vileplume deck, the game is decided turn 1. Even more ridiculous is that these games are also decided on the coin flip. Does Trevenant/Vileplume go first and get the item lock? If yes, good game.
Night March mirrors are also not games anyone wants to watch. Pokemon that have the potential to drop 160 plus damage are reduced to hitting away at 30, 50, and 60HP basics. It comes down to who plays more Lysandre to drag out Shaymin.
Now there may be a good thing to come from all this and that is the overhype of Night March. So many players right now are trying to counter Night March rather than playing it, which could end up having decks like Trevenant becoming the most popular archetype at Worlds. From a viewing perspective, having a Night March counter deck like Trevenant be the most popular deck at Worlds would be very disappointing. Trevenant is a deck that (more than likely) doesn't change at all with Steam Siege. The objective of Trevenant stays the same and there isn't much variety with the deck. Night March at least is a deck with a lot of space, even if there is a ton of Night March decks they definitely won't be the same. There are varieties with Vespiquen, Bronzong FTC, maybe even Galvantula from Steam Siege.
So overall, Steam Siege is an interesting set with many different archetypes set up for future formats but at Worlds, it doesn't do anything to change up the game (other than Pokemon Ranger).
Now the idea behind making Steam Siege legal for Worlds had good intentions. It creates a need for creativity and innovation around new archetypes should players want to play these new decks. But the issue is that the old decks are so good that no one will be willing to play any new decks with hopes of winning. If players were playing new decks it would be better for the audience and better for the player that pilots them. But right now, Steam Siege just makes Night March the best thing since sliced bread.
So when you tune in to watch the 2016 World Championships, sit back and watch Night March take its last bow.
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