Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

A Look Towards 2017-2018

With Burning Shadows Legal, and Everything Prior To Breakpoint OUT, Standard Looks To See A Major Shakeup!

24. 08. 2017 by Chris Fulop

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Hello again everyone! Today I will be writing about two things: the most important cards that will be rotating as Primal Clash through Ancient Origins rotates from Standard, and lists for some of the most exciting and powerful archetypes after this rotation!



Lets go over the cards that are leaving Standard for the 2017-2018 format!

2017-2018 Rotation

With the upcoming season, the legal sets will become Breakthrough through Burning Shadows. This means we lose Primal Clash, Roaring Skies, Ancient Origins, and Double Crisis.  This removes a lot of key cards from the format. While a lot of attackers are gone...including my precious Mega Rayquaza ( Rest In Peace...or at least Expanded ) the biggest losses worth talking about come from cards which are more ubiquitous among every deck. Losing specific Pokémon lines will remove entire decks from the format, but losing certain cards will force players to re-think their entire approach towards building decks.

Shaymin-EX- With the rotation of Roaring Skies, Shaymin-EX, both a safety net in terms of draw power and consistency and an enabler for totally degenerate engines, leaves with it. Shaymin-EX's popularity had dropped way off with the release of Tapu Lele-GX as an alternative. ( Garbodor's popularity, and ability to easily KO a benched Shaymin-EX for a lone energy didn't exactly make it extra appealing either. ) Still, the loss of Shaymin-EX will prevent totally broken, fast decks from being able to "go off" like they had. While you will still have the safety net function fulfilled by Tapu Lele, there isn't really anything that can replace Shaymin for it's more...unfair, roles.

Trainer‘s Mail/Acro Bike- Both of these Items rotate as well...Shaymin's partners in crime, if you will. This trio of cards is what allowed the "turbo" decks to not only function but flourish. While Acro Bike hasn't seen much play recently...outside of perhaps Vespiquen...Trainer’s Mail still saw recent play in non-degenerate decks just to smooth out draws. Garbodor pushed these cards from many decks, but the cards were still very strong and Garbodor's stranglehold over the metagame was far from a sure thing long- term. Garbodor is a bit of a self-correcting card...if it is well positioned, decks deviate from engines which it preys upon, and if those engines go away, Garbodor becomes a poor play. When Garbodor thus sees less play, players can run back to these cards. The loss of these cards, as well as Shaymin, should certainly slow down the extreme ends of deck construction which I view as a great thing. On top of this, it should make games progress much quicker. Having less non-Supporter draw power in the format makes individual turns shorter, and that is a great thing overall. I've been super critical ( Justly! ) of issues we have had with time limits in this game, and I am optimistic this will fix things to some degree.

VS Seeker- Well this one will be missed. This is going to be the biggest omission from decks, as it will force players to re-evaluate how to approach their Supporter counts. We've been so used to being able to run a mix of Sycamore and N while running a pair of Lysandre. Decks would then run a single copy of any utility Supporters they felt fit their list. On one hand, this won't change drastically. I expect 4 Sycamore and 4 N to be a staple in most lists. Tapu Lele acts as your wildcard placeholder for Supporters. ( until you run out of copies or bench spaces!) Tapu Lele also encourages utility Supporters because they are easy to grab at the right time. On the other hand, without VS Seeker, you only get that one use out of them. The biggest challenge will be determining how this loss will impact, Guzma. Two copies of Lysandre gave a deck up to 6 uses with a set of VS Seekers, and that made defensive decks or gameplay pretty weak. Are decks still going to just run 2 copies while embracing the fact that they won't have total control over what Pokémon they attack? How often did players use more than 2 Lysandre in a game anyway? Certainly a small percentage of games. How many of those games did a Lysandre come from a VS Seeker though? A much higher amount. My starting point is going with 3 Guzma in lists. I think it is the appropriate adjustment to offset the loss of VS Seeker, and if it isn't correct, it won't be off by much and will play well. Without Shaymin-EX, and without VS Seekers or Trainers‘ Mail, I expect decks will want to up their overall Supporter count from prior seasons. 


Lysandre- This is a bit misleading because Lysandre gets a fairly effective replacement in Guzma. Guzma is both a Switch and a Lysandre in one, with neither side optional. This deviation is almost exclusively advantageous though. If you have a free retreater on the bench ( either naturally, or through a Float Stone ) you can always promote the same attacker again. A card like Tapu Koko was already popular, so I expect its value to only raise due to the increased value of its free retreat. If you find yourself without free retreat, but your Pokémon is KOed, you can promote a placeholder and bring up your desired attacker with Guzma. Also, you can just use it to legitimately switch into a new attacker. Finally, if you forced to, you can also just pay the retreat cost of a benched Pokémon.

There is additional upside to Guzma as well. There are a lot of powerful Pokémon with attacks which have negative side effects, such as preventing them from attacking the following turn. ( Lapras-GX and Volcanion-EX come to mind) These are decks that wanted to run a lot of switching effects anyway, and that ate up a lot of deck space. By allowing their new Lysandre to double as a Switch for this purpose, they get to avoid loading up on too many, otherwise narrow in their application, switching cards. Volcanion has to be a front-runner for one of the best decks in the format as it lost very little, and I could see it running a full 4 copies of Guzma.

Worth noting is that both Max Elixir and Aqua Patch only attach to benched Pokémon, so being able to bench an attacker (such as one like Alolan Ninetales-GX which discards energy to attack) and then use one of those two Items on it will come up frequently. Lysandre has been a format-defining card now since it's printing, and I view Guzma as a moderate overall upgrade to it.

Sky Field- While only a few decks (Mega Rayquaza, Mega Gardevoir, and Rainbow Road) really abused this card, and a few dabbled in it  some builds of Volcanion, for example) it is an irreplaceable effect that is no longer legal. Hoopa-EX is still actually in format due to its Promo printing, so I tried to see if I could still build a functional version without Shaymin-EX  (I believe it would have still worked!) and then I realized Sky Field was no longer legal and had to abandon it. I could see Volcanion running the card now, and a card like the new Darkrai-GX wouldn't mind this card staying in format, so I do expect it's loss to resonate.



Unown- Alright, this has just always been one of my favorite cards, and one that is pretty much unplayed now outside of my personal lists and Vespiquen, but farewell my farewell lettering friend.

Teammates- Teammates had seen a big spike in recent months due to its strength in non-ex decks and synergy alongside the pairing of Tapu Lele-GX and VS Seeker. It has a similar function to Mallow, and I think decks which really abuse this type of effect will be able to make use of Mallow, while decks like Zoroark and Garbodor which just used it for slight value will likely be fine without this type of effect in their builds. Mallow has great synergy with Octillery from Breakthrough, and I expect that engine to be fairly popular going forward.

Hex Maniac- This is a card that I think has gone under the radar a bit, regarding its rotation. It is both great at keeping degenerate decks from being too good, while also oppressing fair decks that wanted to make use of an Ability reliant strategy. Garbodor will continue to fill its void somewhat, but that will not be anywhere near as easily splashed. Metagross, Vikavolt, Volcanion, the new Gardevoir and countless other decks will benefit from its absence.

Double Dragon Energy- This is another card that didn't really light the format on fire, but one that I kind of overlooked as being gone once I started looking at cards. Without it, a lot of Dragon-type attackers are going to be really difficult to use. I don't think there are a lot of great Dragons right now anyway, but its loss will clearly be felt as better ones get printed.

Forest of Giant Plants- Forest was a dumb card, and I am glad to see it rotate ( and get banned in Expanded! ) It wasn't helped by the fact that they decided it would be cool to print really obnoxious Grass-type Pokémon that get a bit TOO good alongside the Forest. Decidueye and Vileplume are both prime offenders. Pokémon like Lurantis-GX are certainly going to get hurt by its loss, but I think it is overall a good thing as a lot of the Pokémon it "nerfs" are still likely to be competitive. I think Decidueye takes a reasonable hit by this, but the key word there is reasonable. I think a Decidueye deck may still be good, even without Vileplume or Forest. If the tail end of this format has shown us anything, it is that Rare Candy stage 2 decks are actually competitive. Some sort of Decidueye Alolan Ninetales deck should be really strong.

Vileplume- Good riddance! I hate these types of cards, which always seem to be Vileplume. I think the game is better off for its exit. Even if you want to argue that it is not too powerful...Decidueye Vileplume was a totally reasonable tier 1 deck. Its results were never oppressive. The problem is, it leads to a ton of non-interactive and dumb games that are just not fun to play for the opponent. I understand that it is not a PLAYER'S responsibility to let their opponent play fun Pokémon, but it is a responsibility of a game designer's. The game should avoid "feel bad" cards when possible. I actually think Pokémon has gotten a lot better with its card design recently, but this is still something they struggle with. Hex lock. Item lock. N. Delinquent. Ghetsis. Archeops. They may not...may broken or imbalanced, but they do provide for a pretty miserable play experience.

Team Magma Base- This card really only saw play with Gyarados, which is rotating, and to power up Drampa-GX. The loss should hurt Drampa, but there were already lists that didn't run any Magma Base as it is, so that shouldn't hurt the card too much. Seeing how the card played almost no "fair" or normal role, I don't expect its absence to be widely felt.

Gyarados- With the loss of Magma Base, the archetype would die whether or not Gyarados itself was gone. Still, it marks the death of what I'd call a tier two archetype, so it is worth noting. 

Rough Seas- Rough Seas has seen a ton of play, but it is actually a Stadium I feel is fairly replaceable. While you will NOT find -better- healing options for Water or Lightning decks, most of these decks were not viable because they had access to healing cards. Rough Seas has always struck me as a very powerful addition to already tier 1 decks that is just a nice bonus. I don't think it makes or breaks a lot of potential decks. I've looked at building Waterbox, Alolan Ninetales, and Greninja decks and while they would all run Rough Seas if they could, but I haven't felt like they are much less playable without it.

Mega Rayquaza- RIP. RIP. RIP. I'm too emotional right now for a proper write-up/eulogy.

Mega Turbo- Mega Pokémon haven't seen a lot of play lately, as that whole gimmick was kind of awful. The mid-mechanic release of Spirit Links being a tell-tale sign that they terribly misevaluated it. I'm not saying they never printed good Mega Pokémon, but the mechanic was clunky and obnoxious and they had to print a bunch of stuff like this to offset how inherently handicapped the mechanic was. There aren't a lot of Mega Pokémon post rotation that seem alluring, but they really take a beating with the loss of Mega Turbo too. Its omission needs to be remembered when considering trying any of the Mega Pokémon though.

Primal Groudon/Primal Kyogre- Neither of these cards have seen successful play in Standard for some time now (even if I did play against two Groudon decks at Virginia Regionals in the first 4 rounds, somehow.) I'm actually a bit surprised by Kyogre's general lack of success overall.

Giratina-EX- Giratina hasn't seen play in awhile either, and I feel like that wouldn't change had it stayed in format. Its Ability gets worse and worse as less Mega Pokémon get printed/see play. There is enough of a power creep going on that its attack is just shy of being where it would need to be anymore. On top of this, Field Blower just undermines so much of the strength of the locking aspect of Chaos Wheel.

Ancient Origins Eeveelutions- All three of these rotate, and that does hurt Stage One decks. Vespiquen really liked them but has rotated. Still, the GX Pokémon are now their proper stages, so they could have seen a reasonable amount of play in this new format. The Eevee GX Pokémon suffer the most from this rotation.

Wally- Wally is another card that didn't see much play, but it is a card I really liked as an option in Greninja, especially with the release of Tapu Lele GX. While Talonflame builds are the de facto approach to the archetype, I could see Wally having seen play if it were still in format.

Now that we've gone over that, let's look at some of the decks I've built to start testing with!



I'm choosing to run four Volcanion and four Volcanion-EX. This is the meat of the deck, and while I've seen builds running three copies of either card at times, I like the full set of both of them. Volcanion-EX's Steam Up is beneficial in multiple copies, and while I know the most recent benchmark list, Ryan Sabelhaus' list from North American Internationals ran 3 due to recovery and his copies of Brooklet Hill, I like being conservative here and running the full four copies. The baby Volcanion is just a great attacker, and having four copies lets you leverage the fact that it is a non-EX Pokémon. This ends up being more important than usual because we lose VS Seeker. When decks can't spam Lysandre...well, Guzma, as well as before, they end up having to eat through your active more often. I'm trying to force those KOs to be Fury Belted 170 HP that are not EXes if possible.

I want to use this as an opportunity to address a card I think will be extremely popular going forward: Octillery. Octillery's Ability is so powerful, especially in a format almost devoid of non-Supporter draw power. It also works extremely well with Mallow. Without Shaymin, decks are going to struggle more to find themselves free to play Guzma in the late game as KOs and Ns start flying. Octillery, and to a lesser extent Oranguru, offset this. Why is this deck, a deck running Brooklet Hill to get Water basics, not running Octillery? Simply put, there is no bench space. You end up needing multiple Volcanion-EX, plus bench space for Tapu Lele, your other attackers, and a Starmie. Starmie is so good in this deck. In a way, it provides your N protection too. Most of the time what this deck needs as a game progresses is just access to multiple Energy cards. Starmie assures that. There is something else that is great about Starmie...the Staryu. Staryu has a free retreat cost! This is so important to this deck, which is running 4 Guzma. You'll end up using Guzma as a Switch to reset Volcanion EX a lot, and having a Staryu to promote is important.


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