Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Brewing with Ultra Prism!

Chris Showcases New Decks Built Around Ultra Prism Standouts, And Updates Existing Archetypes To Combat The New Threats!

02/05/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

Ultra Prism is the newest Expansion, and with it comes quite a few cards that will be impacting the Standard format. The first card I want to discuss is the "new" Supporter card, Cynthia. I use quotes because it is a functional reprint of Professor Oak's New Theory: Cynthia shuffles your hand into your deck and draws you a new hand of six cards. In the opening stages of the game, it performs the same as an N, which has long been embraced as a strong opening draw Supporter. Unlike N, Cynthia doesn't scale poorly ( as draw! ) as the game progresses and prizes get taken. It also doesn't shuffle your opponent's hand into the deck, too, which sometimes is an actual issue if the opponent has a small hand, or showed prior signs of possessing a poor hand.

Cynthia also competes with Professor Sycamore. While Sycamore sees you a 7th card, Cynthia shuffles your hand into your deck opposed to discarding your hand. If you are looking for a specific card, Sycamore has a few benefits. Beyond seeing one extra card, Sycamore sees 7 NEW cards, where as Cynthia dilutes your deck with the unhelpful cards you previously had in hand. In a deck using cards which are generally easy to play down as they are drawn, this is a notable downgrade. In a deck where you have to piece together Evolutions, discarding potentially clunkier resources is a pretty big issue for Sycamore. Stage 2 decks in particular, using Rare Candy to get out their Evolutions, struggle with using Sycamore at times.

The "core" of Supporter-based draw had been 4 Professor Sycamore and 4 N for quite some time now. Obviously decks augment this with some assortment of Tapu Lele-GX, Octillery, Oranguru and Zoroark-GX; but these had been the standard bearers for Supporters. Now, we have three very viable options, as any deck can make a very reasonable case to include Cynthia on the same tier as these cards. Currently, decks run generally between 7-9 draw Supporters. ( Those going beyond eight delve into the realm of Lillie, Mallow, Skyla, or Prof. Kukui usually. ) Even with Cynthia, I expect this to be the norm. I don't imagine decks will play four of each. Too many turns are taken up using Brigette or Guzma for there to be a need to play that many total Supporters. Tapu Lele-GX's Wonder Tag does so much to mitigate issues regarding failing to have access to draw, that there is just no point in bloating a deck with 10+ draw Supporter cards.

What this leaves us with is the puzzle of how to split up those spots in decks. I mentioned it earlier, but Stage 2 decks seem like they should put an emphasis on Cynthia over Sycamore. These slower Stage 2 decks also play very well with N, as they will often have to play from behind as they take a few turns to get going. ( Games where they are not behind are often games they are winning, too. ) Aggressive, Evolution-less decks like Volcanion have less incentive to conserve their resources and thus the extra reach of Sycamore is more appealing.

Zoroark decks which run Puzzle of Time also should lean more into Cynthia since those are cards which you really want to save until the late game. While Stage 1 decks can certainly benefit from Sycamore, Puzzle of Time conflicts with the Supporter quite a bit. I expect Zoroark decks to lean away from Sycamore, as it seems like the worst of the three Supporters for them. N is nice because you have so much on-board draw power from Trade that you can leverage over an opponent without it.

Greninja is actually a deck that could really benefit from the printing of Cynthia too. One of Greninja's biggest issues, to me, is that it lacked draw power. Greninja really struggled to run cards like Tapu Lele-GX because it did not want to have to deal with retreating them, and did not want to actually bench a two prize liability as so much of the deck's strength derives from it being able to force a full 6 prize game. Even cards like Starmie and Octillery are a bit clunky in the deck, and without the Lele-reinforced engine, getting access to thin 1-1 lines of these cards could be unreliable. This is one archetype that I can see actually playing closer to a set of all three Supporter cards.

Prior to this set, I had been really locked in on playing my own brew of Gardevoir Gallade, and despite the new influx of Metal Pokemon we have gotten in this set, I am still very much interested in continuing to play the deck. Before I go over an updated list of the deck, I want to look at a deck featuring the most powerful tool that Metal decks have gotten from this set: Magnezone.


Magnezone is nothing new. It has Rain Dance/Deluge/etc. It is a Stage 2 Pokemon that lets you attach an unlimited amount of Metal Energy from your hand into play each turn. These abilities have pretty much always been powerful, and should never be slept on. In this format, which has shown that Stage 2 Pokemon are absolutely competitive, this is even more the case. We have plenty of engines already showcased in-format that give us some insight into a good starting point for the deck. Both Gardevoir and Vikabulu are tier 1 Stage 2 decks, so lets look to those.

In order for these decks to succeed, you need to not only have the Energy accelerator, but you need a good attacker too. Also released in Ultra Prism is Dusk Mane Necrozma GX. This new Necrozma ( as I will simply it to for the rest of the discussion as I have no idea what a Dusk Mane is, how Necrozma gets one, and what it implies. It is also shorter to type and read. ) Necrozma has 190 HP, and I think Buzzwole GX has done a pretty good job showcasing just how much of a difference the jump from 180 to 190 HP makes. For 4 energy, Necrozma deals 220 damage, and discards 3 Energy. The attack cost, and Energy purge are easily offset by Magnezone's Ability. While 220 damage doesn't OHKO -every- Pokemon in the format, it answers enough of them that I am inclined not to play with any Choice Band or Fighting Fury Belt. I think you possess enough durability and damage output that freeing up deck space is more important. These Stage 2 decks which rely heavily on Abilities are very demanding on cards to be included, and this is no different. Unlike Gardevoir, which can function off a lower Energy count, and Vikabulu whose Vikavolt yanks Energy from it's deck, Magnezone requires you to be able to have a lot of Energy in hand to really flow. You need Rare Candy, a lot of Energy, ways to get back Energy, and Field Blowers to deal with Garbotoxin. This space has to come from somewhere, and the lack of Tools is one good way to get it. Necrozma's GX attack also can hit the 250 mark, even if it does have the limitation of requiring you to be behind on prizes to use it. That is enough to make me forego the inclusion of damage boosting Tools.

Lets look at the core of the deck.

I am choosing to go with a 3-2-3 Magnezone line. You only need 1 Magnezone out at a time to function, and there is no real incentive to get out an extra one beyond as an insurance policy in case the first one goes down. As a result, there is no need for a thicker line than this. In fact, if there wasn't the threat of Espeon EX, I would trim this to a 3-1-3 line and rely more off of Rare Candy. While one of the Magnemites does have a nice attack that grabs Metal Energy from your deck, I'm not ever hoping to use the attack. As a result, all 3 Magnemite are being played as the one whose Ability protected it on the bench. Necrozma is the deck's main...or should I say "Mane" attacker...( Please don't cancel your membership...I won't do it again. ) and gets a three count as a result. You don't need more than that and you can make a case that you don't even need 3, especially with additional attackers included, but there is no need to really skimp on this card.

Beyond this, I'm running a 2-2 Octillery line and 2 Tapu Lele GX. This is a pretty common engine for Stage 2 decks, and with how much I've been enjoying it in Gardevoir so far, I'm not looking to deviate too much. While Starmie would get you your Metal Energy back cleanly for Magnezone, I feel as if Octillery will facilitate this function well enough while also protecting you from N and just helping you set up in general too.

For additional attackers, I'm testing out Solgaleo PRISM and Dialga GX. Solgaleo is a strong non-EX attacker, and also a means to dump additional Energy into play in a pinch. Sometimes you'll fail to be able to draw into enough to attack with, and sometimes you'll either lack the Magnezone entirely, or be Ability locked. Solgaleo gives you an alternative means to progress your board state. Solgaleo's first attack lets you pluck a Metal Energy from the Discard pile for every Pokemon your opponent has in play, and attach it to your field. For 4 Energy, it does 160 damage and cannot attack on the following turn. With 160 HP and only giving up a lone prize card, it is a strong weapon in the deck. Due to the limitations of PRISM cards, you can only run one copy, but I feel as if that would be the count even if we could run additional ones.

Dialga GX is far less impressive to me at first glance, but worth trying out in the initial build. First of all, it has a different weakness than the rest of the deck as a Dragon-type, being weak to Fairy Pokemon. It isn't the biggest deal, unfortunately. The only real Fire deck in the format, Volcanion, should still absolutely streamroll this deck. It has another safety net attack, as it gives you a new hand of 6 for only one Metal Energy. It is nice to have another fallback plan for games where you are struggling or disrupted. Dialga also has a "Shred/Swift" attack which cuts through the effects on Pokemon it attacks. The damage output of 80 is a bit low, especially without damage augmenting Tools, unfortunately. The big allure of Dialga is it's hefty costed GX attack, which does 150 damage for 5 Energy...and lets you TAKE ANOTHER TURN. ( Fun Fact: This turn DOES count towards turns in "extra turns" of rounds. If you use it on turn 2 of extra turns, for example, your extra turn counts as turn 3, and the opponent does not get a turn. If you use it on turn 3, you do not actually see this "4th" turn the attack awards, as the match ends before you take it. ) This is an extremely powerful feature, and I can't justify at least not trying it out in this deck whose skeleton fits it so well. Without Choice Band, you can't reach 180 damage for EX/GX KOs, which is a real downside, but it KOs most other Pokemon comfortably. You can Guzma up Octillery or other supporting Pokemon and take them out for "free" as your attack replaces itself. If Dialga proves effective enough, it may be worth forcing a few copies of Choice Band into the deck. ( Being able to KO a Tapu Lele, take 2 prizes, and get another turn immediately afterwards feels really, really powerful. )

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