Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Storming Into The New Standard

Chris takes an early look at post-rotation Standard!

08/15/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again!

While the 2017-2018 Standard format hasn't quite run it's course, the World Championships and Nashville Open will see players compete with a cardpool ranging from XY-BREAKthrough up to the brand-new expansion, Celestial Storm. Many players, however, are looking ahead to the 2018-2019 format. This format will see the cardpool restricted to the Sun and Moon expansion onward. While most of the newer Pokemon have been what has defined the recent Standard metagame (the power creep continues), there are a lot of tools which will be leaving the format that will change the way players build decks. Lets look at some of the most important cards that will be getting the boot!

Professor Sycamore: It has been a while since we have not had Professor Sycamore (or his spiritual predecessor, Professor Juniper) in Standard. Sycamore was unarguably the best draw Supporter in the format, unconditionally giving players access to a new hand of seven cards. While losing Sycamore will hurt every deck, it hurts decks which really care about discarding cards early on, such as Malamar decks which relied on the good Professor to reliably dump Psychic Energy to use for Psychic Recharge.

N (FCO; 105) : While I cite Sycamore as the best draw Supporter in the format, I will stand by my stance that N was the best Supporter...Trainer...potentially Standard. Not only a great early game Supporter which helped boost opening consistancy, N warped the entire game around its disruption. N forced many games to a luck of the draw point at the end of the game, but it also prevented players from recklessly stockpiling massive hands, leaving themselves with the resources necessary to craft their upcoming turns carefully. While I hate the idea of any card which effectively forces a player to take a random one-card hand at any point during a game, I also understand that N has been really important at keeping games from snowballing.

Brigette (BKT; 161) : Brigette has been a cornerstone of evolution decks all season. Getting three Pokemon on your bench on the first turn of the game almost guarantees setup. I believe most decks can craft an engine without it that won't impact them too much, but the main deck that takes a bit of a beating by losing this card is Zoroark. It will certainly impact Zoroark's speed and consistency. I'm not buying into the idea of playing the card's "replacement," Pokemon Fan Club.

Octillery (BKT; 33) : Octillery is a draw engine that has been a staple of the Standard format as well. Between Stage 2 decks, and Buzzwole decks which use Brooklet Hill to smoothly get out Remoraid, Octillery has been everywhere. Octillery both offset the damage done by N and let decks aggressively leverage it. It helped decks get away with playing utility Supporters such as Acerola and Guzma while still seeing more cards. While Octillery is no longer needed to protect against the rotating N, the card will certainly be missed. While trying to port over Buzzroc, for example, I was struggling to figure out how to fill the void left by the lack of this octopus. Oranguru is still legal, but that card was almost EXCLUSIVELY an anti-N option while offering very little proactive draw power.

Fighting Fury Belt (BKP; 99) : While Fighting Fury Belt's play waned since Field Blower was printed, the card was still very strong, seeing four-of play in Buzzgarb decks. The loss of this card, coupled with the loss of Parallel City and Garbotoxin Garbodor make Field Blower a much less desirable inclusion in decks.

Parallel City (BKT; 145) : Parallel City was such a well-designed Pokemon card. While the damage reduction half of the card was never super important, being able to cramp the opponent's bench or being able to discard some of your own Pokemon which sat as liabilities led to some very interesting plays from this card. It helped keep degenerate decks in check to some degree. Like N, it allowed players a bit of play-from-behind ability against better set up opponents. Unlike N, I don't even really have any complaints about this card being in format. It will be a card both Zoroark and Malamar decks will be thrilled to see leave the format.

Garbodor (BKP; 57) : This Garbodor has been an oppressive disrupting card legal for what seems like forever now. With Field Blower printed and Guzma being in format, Garbodor was very powerful and some pairing of it was almost always a tier one option, but it was kept in check from being too obnoxious. I felt like it did a good job slowing down or stopping some of the most degenerate decks. Now the big Ability-based decks have one less enemy. Being able to cut Field Blower entirely for space should really benefit decks like Malamar, Magnezone, Decidueye, Vikavolt, etc. Alolan Muk is the replacement for Garbodor, but shutting off Basic Pokemon has far from the same impact. It may disrupt engines for setting up, but it doesn't stop the energy acceleration Pokemon which is a big deal.

Max Elixir (BKP; 102) : Yikes. This card's rotation should really impact the format. Aggressive decks that aren't just keying off of Double Colorless Energy get a lot slower, and a lot less resiliant without Max Elixir. Buzzwole takes a big hit. It still has Beast Ring, sure, but it can't have the same explosive starts it did before. A Pokemon like Lapras GX could have been poised to really shine post rotation but losing Elixir really hurts its speed. I'll actually miss this card because it helped strengthen a subset of decks that wanted to be aggressive and could afford to play a lot of Basic Energy cards. The deck-building cost for the card was not close to free, and I felt it carried more decks to viability than anything else.

Float Stone (BKT; 137) : This one kind of snuck up on me. Float Stone was the switch effect of choice. This will make decks a bit clunkier but shouldn't end up being a major deal. Decks that REALLY need to have switching effects have other admittedly worse replacemenet cards, and other decks can likely just do without them. Guzma's built-in switching effect gives decks a safety net at the very least. It does mess with Malamar a bit due to its strength alongside Dawn Wing Necrozma-GX's Invasion, but they can play Altar of the Moone to offset this.

Evosoda (XY; 116) : Evosoda really only saw play as a compliment to Ultra Ball in evolution decks as a one- or two-of, and it can be replaced by other options such as Timer Ball. The loss of it isn't negligible, but it isn't backbreaking for any decks either. As of right now, decks look to be getting a bit slower and clunkier across the board, and players will likely just need to accept that.

Greninja (BW; 162) / Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41) : Greninja tapered off in the latter bit of the 2017-2018 format, but it was still always a boogeyman that haunted the format. Not only was it an on-and-off-again tier one threat, but it attacked in a fairly unique way. One of the best one-prize-attacker decks is leaving the format. It is also one of the best disruptive decks, as Shadow Stitching was extremely degenerate when its damage was augmented by the BREAK's Ability. Both of the "turn off Ability" threats are leaving.

Volcanion (STS; null) / Volcanion EX (STS; 26) : While these Pokemon feel a bit outclassed compared to newer releases, they were big-time players for quite awhile and should at least be mentioned for their exit. There aren't a ton of great Fire type Pokemon left in their wake, either, while Metal type Pokemon look to only be getting more and more dangerous.

Mr. Mime (GEN; 52)  Mr. Mime didn't see much play, but it was a great silver bullet against spread decks. I don't expect I'd want to play Mr. Mime, but the fact it is leaving does make any good spread decks which exist much harder to counter.

Espeon EX (BKP; 52) : Espeon's devolution game was obnoxious and very powerful. The card was great with cards such as the promo Tapu Koko, Decidueye, Latios, and Yveltal BREAK. While Yveltal BREAK does rotate, a lot of stronger spread options stay in format. Espeon-EX would likely have stayed a popular roleplayer if it stuck around.

BANNED Puzzle of Time (BKP; 109) : Honestly, the only deck(s) that used Puzzle of Time were Zoroark decks, but man did they make great use of it. The loss of Puzzle of Time will hurt but far from cripple Zoroark. They will not have quite the same toolbox game they did before and will have to actually narrow down what utility cards they want to focus on using now. Zoroark is losing a lot of tools across the board though, and I'm not sure how well a conventional Zoroark deck will hold up post rotation. N and Parallel City were SO important towards the deck's ability to keep up with more powerful opposition.

Professor's Letter (BKT; 146) : Professor's Letter is an underrated, great card. Admittedly it requires a specific deck to want it, but Malamar Ultra Necrozma is a frontrunner for one of the best decks post rotation, and losing Professor's Letter is actually a really big hinderance to it. Even decks like Magnezone want to be able to draw Energy cards early, in multiples, and will miss this card.

Skyla (BC; 134) : Skyla rarely saw much play. It was maybe included as a one-of here and there. Still, Skyla could have potentially seen a spike in play post rotation with the huge void left by the loss of Sycamore and N.

Super Rod (DRV; 20) : This is another card that kind of gets looked at as just being always in format, but it actually leaves now. There are enough ways to get Energy back in format, and if you want to get back Pokemon, Rescue Stretcher is just better anyways. There will be decks that would like specifically this card, but it is replaceable.

Team Flare Grunt (XY; 129) : Flare Grunt didn't really see a lot of play outside of really dedicated disruptive decks such as Sylveon-GX. Still, the card is very good, and does hit those decks really hard.

Team Rocket's Handiwork (FCO; 112) : I love a good Raichu lock deck! Unfortunately with Devolution Spray rotation, this deck is dead, and alongside it one of the few shells that would actually like to run this card.

Strong Energy (FRF; 104) : This is a HUGE loss. Without Strong Energy, Buzzwole-GX loses so much of its damage output. Jet Punch just doesn't hit nearly as hard as it used to, and without Max Elixir, the card's ability to use Knuckle Impact and Absorbtion is hit too. Despite this, I think Buzzwole was so powerful that it still remains a viable attacker. Cards like Lucario-GX, Zygarde-GX, and baby Buzzole fare worse in my opinion.

Regirock EX (FCO; 43) : While decks now have more or less embraced just running a Diancie Prism Star as their damage boosting Pokemon of choice, I think this card would have seen a lot of play to offset the loss of Strong Energy. With Fighting decks no longer being able to play Octillery, they will have extra bench space, too. Too bad it's gone.

Mew/Mewtwo/Mew EX: While all very different Pokemon, they have been used primarily as Psychic type counters for Buzzwole decks. They also keep Necrozma-GX in check to varying degrees. All of them rotate. Mewtwo gets a replacement in Deoxys out of Celestial Storm, but that is still able to be played around to some degree. This does really impact a Zoroark deck's ability to compete with the Fighting decks, even if they got weaker.

Clefairy (EVO; 63) : Clefairy would have made a great inclusion in Malamar, Magnezone, Vikavolt, and Gardevoir decks if it didn't rotate. Malamar still has access to Mimikyu, but that is a huge downgrade.

Gallade (BKT; 84) : I feel like Gardevoir is positioned to be one of the better decks going forward. It loses the Psychic type Ralts and Kirlia which made Mysterious Treasure so good in the deck, but beyond that it kept most of its pieces besides Gallade. Gallade was VERY good; don't get me wrong. It isn't replaceable. Yet I think the rest of the decks in the format get hurt more than Gardevoir does and that it is still going to be pretty strong going forward. I think you can beat Zoroark even without Gallade, too.

Hoopa (STS; 51) : Steam Siege Hoopa is Malamar's best one-prize attacker, but the promo Mewtwo and promo Dawn Wings Necrozma are servicable replacements.

Manaphy EX (BKP; 32) : Manaphy really only saw play in Lapras/Water Box builds, but it fulfilled a pretty important function for them. Between its rotation and the loss of Max Elixir, the potential archetype has a lot to replace. Aqua Patch and Crasher Wake make for a cool little gimmick but I think too much overall was lost.

Starmie (EVO; 31) : While it's two most notable partners, Volcanion and Greninja, are rotating, Starmie had the potential to be paired with Magnezone or even something gimmicky like Alolan Dugtrio. As someone who is way too invested in making both of those decks work, I will miss this card.

Zoroark (BKT; 91) : Zoroark decks haven't actually been playing this card, but it was still an option on their table.

Now that we have looked at the important cards that will be LEAVING the format, I'll do a brief review of Celestial Storm to see what new cards should make an impact!

Celestial Storm Review

Banette GX (CLS; 157) : Banette-GX is not a great card. Its damage output is low, and Shady Move is cute but low impact in this day and age. Its GX attack is moderately strong. Despite my criticism of the card, I think it is actually a pretty nice role player. It does a lot for Zoroark decks, as it is very strong against Buzzwole due to type advantage and resistance. Zoroark also doesn't do a tremendous amount of damage, and Shady Move can help offset that. Also, Zoroark doesn't ever use its GX attack, and without Puzzle of Time, it will struggle to get back DCE, as well as various utility cards. Tomb Hunt gives the deck some late game sustainability. Also, acknowledging the finite amount of DCE available, Banette can be a decent late game attacker for a Psychic Energy if you do run out. I'd be very surprised if the card saw much play outside of a pairing with Zoroark, or as a direct Buzzwole counter.

Blaziken GX (CLS; 153) : Blaziken-GX was rumored to get printed alongside it's non GX counterpart with Firestarter ( Psychic Recharge for Fire types ) but only the GX made it into the set. This more or less makes Blaziken an unplayable mess in Standard for the time being. Will it even be good with the Blaziken printed when the whole package is Stage 2 Pokemon and Malamar does it just as well while being a Stage 1? Despite my clear personal Blaziken bias, I really fear it will not be.

That said, there is talk of the card in Expanded. The idea I've heard thrown around is using Ho-oh GX to reanimate a bench full of them, and then to use Blacksmith to keep powering them up. With Expanded being hit with a pile of bans, the format MAY slow down enough for this gimmick to be competitive. I feel like the barrier of entry into Expanded is so high that I can't be optimistic about a clunky game plan like this being format warping or anything. I don't see how this beats Night March, for example. Still, it is a cool enough gimmick.

Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) : Rayquaza is the BIG hype card in this set, and has results from Japan to support the hype. Going into Worlds, the card has a lot going for it. Rayquaza has 180 HP and a weakness to Fairy. ( Which is a bit depressing against Gardevoir. ) For LGC Rayquaza does 30 damage for every Grass and Lightning Energy attached to your Pokemon. To help accomadate this demand, Rayquaza has an Ability that mills the top 3 cards of your deck when you bench it from your hand. Afterwards, you may attach a Basic Energy from the discard pile to it. Worth noting, it doesn't have to be an Energy you flip with it's Ability. This not only boosts your damage output, but brings Rayquaza closer to being able to attack. Prior to rotation, access to Prof. Letter and Prof. Sycamore make it so that it is pretty easy to dump Energy into the discard pile early on. Clearly you also run 4 Max Elixir. With this, it isn't that unrealistic to be able to attack on the first turn with a Rayquaza.

Post rotation, that changes a lot. It is harder to get Energy in the discard pile early. Without Max Elixir, you can't really pull off a turn one attack very easily. One of the other problems with Rayquaza is that it tapers off as the game progresses. Once a Rayquaza or two fall, the deck's damage output should drop drastically.

There are two cards which do pair really well with Rayquaza though. The first is Latias Prism Star (CLS; 107) . For one Energy, you can attach one Basic Energy card from your discard pile to one of your Basic benched Dragon Pokemon. This card is hilariously clearly designed to work with Rayquaza. Pokemon loves to hold our hands on archetypes, and it does that rather well. Now, on the first or second turn of the game, it should be difficult to actually get enough Energy discarded to really go off with this, but it is a great rebound mid and late game. Worth pointing out, with the deck being all two-prize GX attackers, if they KO the one-prize Latias Prism Star, it doesn't really factor into the exchange, so it is rather free.

Of course, besides this, we have Lanturn. Lanturn is clunky as a Stage 1, but it's Ability soaks up Energy off of KOd Pokemon, so it helps preserve your damage output even when Rayquazas go down. This admittedly feels really strong, particularly if you actually go for the Energy Switch route as it becomes a nice battery for you. The deck really wants to be streamlined and aggresive though, so fitting in evolution lines comes at a cost, clearly.

I feel as if pre-rotation, Rayquaza is quite the force to be reckoned with. I am a bit nervous that post rotation it is not good enough. It should have a poor Malamar matchup and it is weak to Gardevoir. These are two of the more hyped and easily ported over decks that players will start with.

I do want to mention the idea of pairing Rayquaza with Vikavolt. Vikavolt DOES work well with Rayquaza, but it doesn't really play to any of Rayquaza's strengths. I feel as if Vikavolt still combos better with Tapu Bulu GX. You could run some of both, but I think that is poorly thought out as Bulu doesn't synergize very well with Rayquaza as it purges itself of Energy so often that you never hit the critical mass that Rayquaza demands.

Articuno GX (CLS; 154) : I love this type of Ability. Articuno's damage output is on the lower side. Its GX attack is not bad but situational. I love being able to loop Articunos though against decks which struggle to actually OHKO it. Articuno GX could certainly see play in some type of Waterbox deck, even though I have stressed that I felt that deck would have lost a lot of tools with rotation. I wish Articuno, a bird and flying type, would have been granted resistance to Fighting to help it against Buzzwole. If that were the case, it would be quite good against both Zoroark and Buzzwole.

Mr. Mime GX (CLS; 156) : Mr. Mime is bad. Its Ability is too easy to play around. Choice Band is played in almost every deck, and it turns any even amount of damage odd. Mime's attack is also easily played around and managed. Its GX attack relies solely on the idea that you can actually leverage its Ability to be difficult to break through, which just isn't going to ever happen. MAYBE there is some sort of stall deck that could benefit from Mr. Mime GX, but as long as tools are available to easily manipulate damage, Mr. Mime isn't going to be much of a role player.

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