Experts' corner

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Chris Fulop

Breaking down the BREAKpoint!

City Championships come to an end, and we look forward to Regionals and the upcoming BREAKpoint expansion!

01/26/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone! I am sitting here, half frozen, sitting in my house lamenting the fact that winter has finally hit Ohio, and hit it pretty hard. We had just gone through the warmed December in recorded history here, getting absolutely no snow at all. Well, January is a return to form, and while the snow has been rather light overall, it’s terribly cold out, and well, only moderately cold in my room right now as I type this.

Anyways, I have three portions of this article! The first part is my final City Championships tournament report from Ground Zero Comics in Strongsville, Ohio. After that, I have a few deck lists to go over, and then finally my set review for the upcoming BREAKpoint set!

Strongsville, Ohio City Championships

Going into the second to last weekend of City Championships, I was sitting with 3 finishes to my name, being a 1st place victory, and two top 8 losses. I had a potential 5 Cities to attend, and really just wanted to secure one more placement. I'll be honest: Once I hit a point where I need to make top 4 to actually earn points, I'm not that motivated to travel to play in additional Cities. If I was in a position where I didn't have any Regionals points yet, I'd be in more dire shape and feel that I'd need to really push for the extra points, but with my 10th place finish in Lancaster, and the 45 minutes I got for that, I still feel reasonably on track to get my invite assuming States and Regionals don't go disastrously.

Anyways, the first tournament on my schedule was at Ground Zero comics in Strongsville, which was only about 20 minutes from my house. I pick up Sarah and her friend "Alfred", and hop on the highway and...car accident has the traffic completely stopped up at the mall. I was already running a little late, as I'm the laziest when it comes to tournaments nearby, and we lost at least 20 minutes waiting for the highway to clear.

I get there, and we have a pretty good turnout. Ground Zero just moved into a new store right before Christmas, allowing them to have enough store space to actually hold all an event of this size. I do want to give a large shot out to the store, as it’s my favorite place to play cards at. So if you are ever in the Cleveland area, and are looking for cards, comics, or honestly anything nerdy, stop by Ground Zero Comics. (Sorry for the shameless plug guys!)

Anyways, I was torn between 3 choices for the tournament, and they are honestly the same decks I've been on all season: Yveltal, Night March, and Mega Rayquaza. Yveltal is still, in my opinion, the best deck in the format. The problem is, everyone is gunning for it. For a while, local players were resistant to metagaming it, but it finally has gotten to the point where everyone is zeroed in on it. It was the deck I trusted the most, and the deck I felt gave me the most ability to outplay people, only I expected a lot of the top players to be prepared for it.

Rayquaza was the deck that would beat up on all of the anti-Yveltal decks. Entei, Crobat Manectric, Mega Mewtwo, Mega Houndoom, Primal Kyogre, and other decks that do well against Yveltal all fall to Mega Rayquaza. Unfortunately, it’s the "worst" of those three decks in a vacuum and I still didn't get a list I REALLY loved for it. Losing Colress has really hurt the deck's consistency, and while I've gotten it to look reasonable, it was by far the weakest deck of my choices, even if it was an alluring gamble.

Finally, Night March is just a great deck. If people were playing anti Yveltal decks, they would be playing decks I feel are weak to Night March. If Yveltal is hated out of the metagame, it -should- favor Night March in the process. I ruled it out pretty quickly just by process of knowing that teammates David Cook and Sarah Lyons were both on Yveltal, and Dan Polo was on quad-Gallade with Focus Sashes. Night March was already lowest on my list, so this kind of sealed its fate for me.

I decided to bite the bullet, and play a slightly updated Yveltal list.

I reverted to a thinner 2-2 Zoroark line, as the card has been getting overall weaker. It isn't close to bad, but the lure of running more of it has somewhat disappeared. People are not playing into it as much, and decks super soft to it are being phased from the meta. It ends up being mainly useful for Stand In, and to passively restrict an opponent's Bench size. Both of those are GREAT roles, do not get me wrong, but a 2-2 line accomplishes both well, and anything thicker offers pretty severe diminishing returns. There are plenty of other cards I'd rather run.

I stuck with 1 Yveltal-EX, a change I'm generally happy with. I'll admit I do find a number of games where I wish I were running 2 though. I wound up adding 2 new cards to the deck: Ditto, and Target Whistle.

Ditto is great in the mirror match, and strong against Mega Mewtwo decks, and Crobat Raichu, a deck that is quite good, even if it isn't very well represented in this area. Quad Gallade has been doing well here as well, and Ditto does a lot of work there too.

Target Whistle addresses that "good players play around Zoroark" issue, and also lets me pick on Shaymin-EX for wins that I could otherwise not get. In particular, if I expect a lot of "bad matchups" in the field, Target Whistle helps me set up positions to get cheap Prizes when winning a "fair" game is unlikely. People aren't likely to Bench more than 1 Shaymin against me, if any. It’s a one of "catch all" that can work wonders against any of the decks that I otherwise lack of punch to keep up with.

Anyways, we wind up with enough players for 6 rounds, with a cut to top 8. Prizes trickle all the way down to top 16.

Round 1 versus Night March

I was made thankful immediately that I opted to stick to Yveltal when my round 1 opponent turned out to be playing Night March. I "win" the flip, but opt to go first (oops!) not knowing what deck he was on. I have to Bench a Shaymin-EX to set up, and am forced to leave an Yveltal active. Unfortunately for my opponent, who opens Pumpkaboo, he miscounts his damage on the first turn, and only smacks me for 120 damage (He could have DEFINITELY gotten a 7th Night Marcher discarded, his start was strong.) I get the first KO with Oblivion Wing, and start setting up the Yveltal chain. The matchup comes down to who gets the first KO primarily (I should have been behind, and now am ahead, and projected to win instead of demanded to break serve.) I had to Bench a Shaymin-EX, giving him an out to jump ahead if he gets the KO before I can Sky Return KO a Joltik to get rid of the thing. Fortunately, he mirrored my Shaymin play, projecting me to be able to stay ahead on Prizes all game. My field is fully set up to mainly KOs, so I actually opt NOT to KO his Pumpkaboo with a DCE (I would win even if he hit every attachment.) and instead Lysandre a Joltik to make that Sky Return play to lock the game up.

W (1-0)

Round 2 versus Carl Scheu with Kyogre

Well, here is a matchup that in turn makes me wish I had played Rayquaza instead. This matchups really bad, and Carl specifically opted to play it due to its strong Yveltal matchup (When a large portion of the best local players choose to be on Yveltal, it’s a good metagame call, for sure.)

I get a pretty good start, and bring up Yveltal (BKT) on my first turn to turn off his Float Stones and his Spirit Links. Due to this, and a weaker hand from him, his start is pretty anemic. My game plan is to try and kill off his Zoroark line, so that I can try and break up his chain of Primal Kyogre with some degree of disruption. He Benched a pair of Zorua early, so I plotted out my "win condition" being to KO both Zoroark, one Primal Kyogre (I can realistically two-shot one of them. Rough Seas make more than that a real tough task) and then finally try and take out a Shaymin if he Benches it, or Target Whistle KO one if he discards it.

I manage to keep a small Bench and Lysandre up his Zoroark and start applying pressure, and actually maneuver the game into a spot where I get down to two Prizes when I nuke a Kyogre...unfortunately, he has an AZ to rescue his Shaymin, taking away my win con. He is low on VS Seekers, so I am forced to Target Whistle the Wailord-EX in his discard in a last ditch effort to win if I can fade another AZ (He was out of Float Stones from my early Zoroark hunt.) I Buddy-Buddy'd back the Yveltal (BKT) and was doing 60/60 between his Wailord and a Primal Kyogre, but he drew into the VS Seeker for AZ to attack and win before I got to take any KOs. I probably win that game if he doesn't run AZ, which I'll admit I didn't know he ran when I tried to formulate the plan for the game. I

L (1-1)

Round 3 versus Mega Manectric

I got paired against Mega Manectric with Regice and Articuno, and I struggle to get a Gallade into play in the early portions of the game. I'm able to get a lot of work done early by using Yveltal (BKT) as an attacker, as it slowed down the Spirit Links, and Assault Laser doesn't actually get a OHKO on it either (It ignores their Muscle Band, capping them at 60 damage, and they can't saddle it with a Head Ringer either. That, obviously, is less an issue versus the Mega Manectric builds, but still applies versus say, Manectric Crobat decks.) I have to take out the first Manectric the hard way, and by the time I do, I was set up to get Gallade into play and that closed out the game for me.

W (2-1)

Round 4 versus Justin Boughter with Entei

Well, a lot of the better players at the event were sitting at 2-1, so this is when we all get to start weeding each other out. Unfortunately for me, I get paired against Justin who was playing Entei, which is another really rough matchup for me. There were not too many "bad" matchups in the field...Carl's Kyogre, two Entei decks, and a Mega Houndoom deck out of about 40 Masters. Unfortunately, I've managed to get paired against two of them in the first four rounds.

I get a good start with a turn 1 Gallade, but I had to use Shaymin-EX to get there. I lose an Yveltal to Entei, and get the Gallade return KO. He takes out Gallade, and I dig for the next Gallade, but fail to get there after burning a lot of resources. I end up being about a turn behind in the exchange, and he’s able to get the KO on Shaymin to win. (I really needed to keep pressuring KOs to force him into using Blacksmith each turn so I can keep him off using Lysandre to get to my Shaymin.) The matchup is pretty bad, and I didn't draw quite well enough to be able to be in a position to steal the game.

L (2-2)

Everyone else was still doing pretty well (Dan was 4-0! Cook was 2-1-1, Carl 3-1, and Sarah 3-1) and there was an off chance I could sneak in at 4-2, so I figured I'd keep playing. It helped that this tournament was located very close to me, so I didn't have much of a drive ahead of me, so "get a jump on the drive home" didn't really lure me into wanting to drop either.

Round 5 versus Allison Blanchard (Manectric/Bats)

This is what I get for waiting over a week to write this particular tournament report, as I'm really groggy about the specifics of this game. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I had kind of...left the zone, for a lack of better term, once I took my second loss the prior round, and while I played the match alright, I wasn't as tunnel-visioned as I normally would be, and the details of the way the game played out is foggy as a result. I remember the game starting out in my favor pretty heavily, but then it getting really close as my draws started to let me down, and me pulling out what was actually a very close game.

W (3-2)

Round 6 versus Mikey Collins (Mirror)

I've mentioned it before, and I'll say it again: Mikey is my kryptonite. I think my worst win rate against any player in the history of this game is against him. So to see myself seated across him for what could theoretically be a win-and-in for this tournament was not really confidence boosting. Superstition aside, I knew Mikey was on the same deck as me, and I felt like that gave me a nice advantage! Not only is the mirror very skill based, but it was slow and grindy enough that it didn't feel terribly high variance. This means it’s hard to just get a game that snowballs terribly too early without giving players a chance to leverage a better list or game plan. I'm running both a Target Whistle, only one Yveltal-EX, and a Ditto. This is the type of matchup where I could almost guarantee that these differences would have time to matter.

I lose the coin flip, which is unfortunate, but not terribly so as my start is better and I get a Banded Oblivion Wing off on my first turn. Going first gives you first access to Zoroark, an extra turn to maneuver towards a Gallade, and the first swing of Yveltal-EX/Yveltal (BKT) but going second, when you hit Oblivion Wing, does net you the Energy advantage and a nice set up hit. I'd still rather go first, but the matchup isn't terribly lopsided there.

I manage to get a Zorua into play, and put an Energy onto Yveltal (BKT) with Oblivion Wing, which is huge. If he has to resort to Yveltal-EX, this card is a monster. With Ditto being an easy counter to his Zoroark and Gallade, the odds I can force him down that path goes way up as well.

The game progressed with me slightly ahead, and him having to Bench a Shaymin-EX to stay in the game, meaning I'd have a big exchange edge as the game progressed if he didn't get a nice opening to use Sky Return. Mikey did a good job regulating his Bench size to play around my Zoroark, but on a key turn, where I'd be 20 shy, I draw into my Target Whistle to add an extra Benched Pokémon, and that 20 damage, to score the KO. From there, the game degraded terribly as his field lacked enough Energy to pull off a worthwhile attack from there, and it snowballed. It actually ended with him decking himself, which actually happens a lot, as that player who falls behind out of the gate can compete, but the demands placed on their deck is quite high, and to meet everything they have to, they have to really burn through cards. (This is why Mikey had to play his Shaymin as well, he couldn't play conservative and play to stay in the game.)

W (4-2)

After starting off 2-2, I had fairly low expectations of my odds of sneaking into top cut. It looked as if a pair of 4-2s would get in. My two losses in Swiss were both 4-1-1, so that did help. I had very few "bad" opponents, luckily, but I didn't know how everyone else was looking. Sarah had started 4-1, but gotten paired down to a 3-1-1, couldn't draw, and lost. With her 4-1 start, she had a really high chance of making it, meaning I was realistically praying for the 8th seed.

Top 8 gets read off, and Sarah gets 7th seed, and I get 8th! As a result, with Dan being 4-0-2 with his Gallade deck, Cook being 4-1-1 with Yveltal, and Carl being 4-1-1 with Primal Kyogre, that puts all 5 of the members of Team Buddy-Buddy Rescue (Matt Price didn't make the trip out) into cut for the first time. Of course, four of the 5 of us wind up on the same side of the bracket, as Carl plays off against Cook, and I am paired against Dan and his Gallade. Sarah gets a bit unlucky, with her Yveltal deck getting to face off against Mega Houndoom. The final match was between Justin's Entei and JW's...well. I don't know what he was using, actually.

8th seed

Top 8 versus Dan Polo with Fighting/Gallade

Dan was running a list featuring a 4-1-4 Gallade line, and instead of Octillery or the like, just opted to run Lucario-EX, Hawlucha, and Landorus. He has made cut with the deck every CC he’s played it in and been on a huge tear with the deck. This matchup should be interesting. I feel like in most circumstances, it is a pretty close call, due to resistance and both sides being able to play it out pretty grindy. I felt like I had an edge for a couple of reasons, though. I was running Ditto, which could copy Gallade attack easily and threaten an OHKO with either a Muscle Band or a Giovanni. Second, a big problem normally would be Focus Sash, and I have the Xerosic to check that. The pairing of those two cards left me feeling pretty confident.

Game 1: I get a pretty slow start, losing the flip, and he gets a turn 2 Gallade up. I have one of those games where my opening hand was clunky to the point I have to Shaymin for like 2 cards, and then Sycamore away a bunch of resources. I draw into another really subpar hand, and just fall pretty far behind. I end up using Sky Return to at least re-set the Shaymin and break up a Focus Sash, but I was falling well behind on attachments, and still didn't even have an impressive looking Bench. I have to do a weak Set Up again to try and draw into anything. The game is still competitive, somehow, if I were to Judge into a Ditto + DCE. I play the Judge, and hit the Ditto, but not the DCE. I don't Bench the Ditto, as I'd rather he not see it at all, since I didn't want him to start pre-emptively Hex Maniac’ing me to turn off its Ability in future games. I figure that’s a secret worth keeping for later.

Game 2: I get a great start, and he dead draws. The game lasts about 4 turns before I Bench him with a full set up. Pokémon is lovely sometimes, right?

Game 3: Now I open Ditto, and am force to Set Up for 1. I don't get anywhere from there, and next turn draw a Judge. I Judge into 4 worthless cards, and next turn VS Seeker to do the same...I sit and struggle and gain no ground for about 4 turns before I get Benched, completing what was overall an extremely poor match of Pokémon, as all 3 games one of us drew well under par.

L, 8th Place (180/300)

I wasn't too disappointed, because I didn't really feel like I deserved a top 8 spot a 4-2, not with such a rough start. I had to get fortunate to make it into t8 (I got in by .3% on breakers.) so getting fairly unlucky from there could have been worse. With this top 8, it did complete my 4 finishes, giving me 3 annoying top 8 placements, and a win, giving me 110 CP from my Cities run, which is within range of what I'd have been content with.

Before I go over the new BREAKpoint set, I want to include 3 updated deck lists. First off, we have an updated list for the Bronzong toolbox deck I had included in my last article, which is now a bit more streamlined and adjusted. Finally, as I'm starting to test for Regionals, I've got a pair of Expanded decks I like quite a bit at the moment. (I'd been very unmotivated to test Expanded since such a large portion of our Cities were Standard instead.)

I've added an additional Darkness Energy, and actually inverted the count of Yveltal. The XY one is good, particularly against Night March, but its roles have actually been to kill Pumpkaboo, and to accelerate Energy when under Hex Maniac or if Bronzong get killed or come out slow. The Breakthrough one, on the other hand, has been great. 12 Energy in general feels right, and the 3rd Dark is the best choice.

Tyrantrum-EX was miserable, and more or less garbage, so it has been replaced with Heatran, which is great. The card ends up being your universal primary attacker, able to hit for 170 with a Band and Giovanni. A problem in testing I had encountered was Crobat decks, where they could actually leverage aggro Bats pretty well. There weren't great attacking options against them. Heatran handles them with ease. Replacing Tyrantrum with them just gives the deck so much more power. The 2nd Heatran comes at a cost though, as we are down to a lone Ditto. I'm actually not thrilled by that, and it could find its way back in at the cost of a different Pokémon.

Regarding the Trainers, I'm torn between the 4th Buddy-Buddy Rescue and the 4th Battle Compressor. I've been hopping between both, and currently favor the Rescue. I am considering a 1 of Sky Field just to help liberate your Bench some (and counter Parallel City, as that is actually a troublesome card at times.). On a similar page, I am considering an AZ. It gives you additional switching, and lets you regulate your Bench some.

I actually did test some against a similar deck, which was using Bronzong and Xerneas (BKT) but I wasn't super impressed by it. It was difficult for them to keep the right ratio of typed Pokémon on the Bench to get a ton of damage out of it. It was promising enough not to disregard it, but I've liked this build more so far. I tried to throw something together with Xerneas, acknowledged it needs multiple Sky Field, and was unable to get to 60 that had enough of everything it wanted. I encourage people to try, but I didn't like where it was going.

While I won the lone Expanded Cities I played in, with this archetype, I stressed that I threw the list together and it was far from refined. I've since gotten to put some additional work into it, and made some tweaks. This is still my favorite deck in the format, and it will take some major revelations to convince me I'd rather play a different deck.

I cut the 2nd XY Yveltal and transitioned it into a 2nd Breakthrough Yveltal. Dark Patch makes XY Yveltal much worse, and the new version much better. The new Yveltal gets so much better in multiples, as well. I've loved the change, and am confident both of those numbers are perfect.

I had cut Keldeo-EX at my Cities, and didn't like it. Yveltal-EX is pretty underwhelming in the deck, as without Lasers, it's damage output isn't as impressive (It still serves a key role, and with Breakthrough Yveltal softening targets up, the KO power is still there.) so I've trimmed it down to 1, in favor of Keldeo-EX since I can use the lone Buddy-Buddy Rescue to retrieve it.

With the addition of Keldeo-EX, I'm switching (haha) the Switches into 1 Float Stone and 1 Escape Rope. With 2 Yveltal (BKT) the Rope is great. Not only does Stone not function with it, but Rope lets you send a damaged-EX to the Bench to get finished off with the Bench damage. I love having 2 "switches" and an AZ in the deck, as it lets you be more aggressive early, and the 1-1-1 split has been great. I do want to give thanks to Daniel Altavilla for the Escape Rope discussion, as I was pretty content just jamming in 2 Stones.

The final slot in the deck is still a lone Battle Compressor. The card struggles to fit in here as anything beyond that, but it’s played well. It is kind of just some glue that holds the deck's consistency together. The rest of the engine isn't built to maximize the card like in many decks, but it’s usually nice to see the one copy. It helps to search up your Supporters to dump for VS Seeker, making that toolbox more accessible. If the deck does wind up needing a specific answer for a key matchup, or if you feel there is anything major missing that you personally want, it can be cut.

You'll notice the deck is rather thin on a lot of its Pokémon. There is only 1 Keldeo-EX, 1 Yveltal-EX, 1 Yveltal, 1 Darkrai-EX, 1 Jirachi-EX, 1 Hoopa-EX, and 1 Shaymin-EX. You will Prize these cards, but the deck has a pretty diverse range of options available to it, so even if you can't force a certain strategy, there is almost always a viable alternative in those spots. I mentioned that the BC is trimmable, and if you really want to inflate one of those counts, it can be removed for them.

Finally, two cards which can be added to the deck to help the Seismitoad matchup are promo Jirachi and a Giovanni's Scheme. With Scheme, even if you get locked out of Muscle Band, you can get to 180 with a max Bench Raichu. If you have near a full Bench, dropping Sky Field and say, Hoopa-EX for Jirachi-EX for Giovanni (amongst other similar lines) makes it easy to make the jump to 180 even under item lock.

One of the reasons I love Yveltal/Raichu is because I think that Yveltal decks in generally are very well positioned. I don't think this is a major surprise: Yveltal was one of the best performing archetypes at the last set of Regionals. Now, the newest Yveltal looks to make waves as well. I think it is one of the best things you can be doing in Expanded at the moment, and a card that is not getting nearly as much hype as it deserves. Since I think this makes Yveltal in general very good, I like the Raichu build even more as it has the one-up on the "mirror match".

Normal Yveltal builds have access to a better engine than Raichu builds, and a slew of potential inclusions as secondary attackers, including Seismitoad-EX, Zoroark or Gallade/Archeops are just some of the possible options.

Most of this list is pretty set in stone, but I'm not sure how I feel about running 4 Trainer's Mail. The card is really good, but I don't know if it is worth adjusting the engine so the Toad matchup improves some. It isn't just that the Mail are dead against Quaking Punch, but they eat up a reasonable amount of space that could go towards cards that help the matchup.

If you want to try and run a thin Gallade/Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick in the deck, you need to find two slots to trim without cutting into the Trainers' Mail or Battle Compressors. In fact, you really need to add a 3rd BC to make it more reliable.

If you are wondering why this list is running 2 Yveltal-EX and 2 Darkrai-EX when I was at thinner counters in the Raichu build, it is because first of all, Yveltal-EX's damage output is much more impressive with Lasers, and because we need to embrace those two as attackers in the absence of Raichu being the primary weapon of the deck.

Breakthrough Yveltal is also pretty nice with lasers, as it lets you two hit any Pokémon (90 per shot with a laser...and yes, I know, it doesn't two hit Megas, but most things.) while also ravaging the Bench of Pokémon-EX. This 90 damage hit also helps against Vespiquen, so you can get the kills without using Pokémon-EX now. Also worth noting in that matchup, it lets you bypass Life Dew in matchups where that matters. (This can also be very useful against Sableye gimmick decks abusing Life Dew loops.)

Another card I like in this deck (particularly if you want to add some sort of Pokémon recovery...such as a Buddy-Buddy Rescue...which I'm still pretty sure is the best card for the job, even in Expanded.) is Kecleon. It is a superior Ditto, and it deals with Gallade (a great card even in Expanded) Seismitoad-EX, and most importantly, Raichu and Vespiquen, both non-EX Pokémon that give the deck a fit with OHKOs that are hard to deal with. Kecleon gets the job done for a simple DCE in both cases. I think it covers the deck's matchups pretty well and is entirely off the radar.

Anyways, let’s get on to the brand new set which is sure to make some waves (for better or worse!) coming out shortly: BREAKpoint!

BREAKpoint Set Review

(You can find all BREAKpoint translation here.)

Meganium: Rocking 150 HP, Meganium here showcases how cramping the damage to hit point ratios in the game now are. Meganium's entire design focuses on being a very defensive Pokémon. It has tankish HP, and its Ability boosts its damage while it is lower on HP. To pair with this, its attack does 50 damage, and healing itself for 100% of the damage one! This is a cool design, seeing how when it’s on its last legs it smacks for 120 damage and healing itself to full! This would make for a cool card under better conditions, where it requires a player to really use careful planning to play around the numbers, but unfortunately the card is just too easy to smash into oblivion now. If left undamaged, its damage output is negligible, and it isn't that hard to OHKO in this day and age. I don't think it’s too hard to realize that, even with a busted card like Forest of Giant Plants to augment it's speed, that this card isn't playable, but I do also like to address design and mechanics when going over a new set, and this card is a prime example to use to showcase the poor state the game as a whole is in on that front.

Standard: 3
Expanded: 2

Emboar-EX: Emboar seems like a cheap knockoff of Reshiram-EX or Charizard-EX. It’s a 180 HP EX with the very Fire-type attack of FFCC for 150 damage, discard 2 Energy cards. It isn't exciting, it isn't new, and it hasn't really been too powerful in the past. I could see it competing with Charizard-EX in Standard in Entei decks as your back up attacker. The fact it can be paired with Blacksmith and DCE for a 150 damage shot out of nowhere is always good, but it doesn't offer anything new or unique.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 3

Golduck/Golduck BREAK: This Golduck isn't too bad! 100 HP, and a one Water attack which strips the Defending Pokémon of a Special Energy card and does 20 damage. It is similar to the old Cobalion-EX's attack, although on a much frailer body, and a stage 1. That matters more so because Cobalion was able to take hits well, meaning it could really pressure an Energy supply, whereas Golduck doesn't wall nearly as well. Its second attack is alright as well, doing 70 for WCC. That is pretty much the cut off for a passable attack on a support attacker. 2 Energy and a Muscle Band gets the magic 180 damage over 2 turns mark, which is tolerable.

The main reason it is worth looking at though is it is the necessary evil to get to Golduck Break, who has the newest incarnation of Energy Trans, only it lets you move ANY type of Basic Energy between your Pokémon! This is a pretty big payoff, although on what is effectively a Stage 2. It is a lot of work, and probably just weaker than using Aromatisse and non-Basic Energy cards, but it’s still worth looking at. I don't see it being worthwhile, as it eats up a lot of deck space and is a chore to get out, but it’s worth filing away as a card to remember as it's Ability is clearly very strong.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

Slowbro: I don't think you can ever include this guy in a deck for it's obviously fringe 1 Prize win con attack, but man, it sure would be awesome to go to sudden death with someone and just fire it off. It does more to highlight the fact that players have to place down 1 Prize card in Sudden Death instead of just playing 6 and the first Prize taken wins. First we have the dumb interaction with N, which actually comes up, and now this. Fix this, Pokémon. It isn't hard.

Standard: 0
Expanded: 0

Slowking: Slowking here is interesting, as it pressures the opponent's Energy supply. While it requires a flip, and can be played around some by only Benching viable attackers, it seems pretty interesting in more controlling decks. We've seen how good Crawdaunt can be paired with Seismitoad-EX, and while this only moves Energy opposed to discarding them, it can be used every turn. Using it with Target Whistle to insurance there are lucrative Benched Pokémon to attach to is cool too.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 4

Gyarados-EX/M Gyarados-EX: Gyarados is armed with a first attack that flips coins to attach extra Energy to it, and a second attack for WWCC which does 130 damage to the Defending Pokémon and 10 to all of your Bench. With 180 HP, and a 130 damage attack, I do like that Gyarados-EX serves more of a function than "Becomes M Gyarados-EX" even though that is admittedly its primary function.

Mega Gyarados has a CCCC attack that does 120 damage plus 20 more per Water Energy attached to it. This makes its realistic base damage output 200, with upside. Gyarados here suffers from the fact that Pokémon has printed so many Pokémon who can OHKO that each new one that isn't quite on the same power level just really suffers. It feels like there is a conscious effort to real in the sort of OHKO potential of decks after Roaring Skies, and unfortunately that bodes poorly for the newer cards who share a cardpool with the further pushed Pokémon that came before them. I'd be astounded if Gyarados saw play in either format unfortunately.

Standard: 2
Expanded: 3 (It can hypothetically be used alongside Blastoise an Archie in this format.)

Suicune: Suicune is an interesting case of a non-EX Basic Pokémon who has a pretty good damage output (110 for WWW isn't bad. It’s on scale with Keldeo-EX's attack for its Energy. A Muscle Band hits the 130 mark, which is important in that it catches most non-EX Pokémon.) Its Ability isn't super useful, but being able to prevent all non-damage effects of attacks to ALL of your Pokémon could have unforeseen uses. I don't think Suicune is a very lucrative play at the moment, but it offers good numbers and an interesting ability that could show up as a nice counter in the future.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 5 (Expanded has Blastoise, and a wider cardpool which may promote more gimmicky attacks which Suicune could stop.)

Palkia-EX: Palkia is saddled with a pretty mediocre, expensive bigger attack, which is clearly uninspiring. (And uninspired in design) As a result, what will make or break this card is its first attack, which for WW does 40 damage and grabs 2 Water Energy from your deck and attaches them to your Bench. This sort of acceleration is actually kind of cool, but the game really has progressed to a point where your 2nd turn doing only 40 (or 60 with a Band) is just so, so slow and behind curve. I understand it is a Basic Pokémon who requires minimal effort to get going, but it’s got to be better to just use Mega Manectric or Mega Sceptile for similar styles of acceleration. A few years ago this card could have been interesting, but much like Mega Gyarados, it feels like they are trying to reel in-EX design a bit, and it just results in these cards falling well short of the competition.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

Manaphy-EX: Manaphy-EX is Water's Darkrai-EX, with its Ability granting free retreat costs to your Pokémon holding a Water Energy. This card is comically worse than a Darkrai, though, because its attack isn't really useful, and it has an extremely low 120 HP as an EX. You see many decks shifting to a strategy of not Benching any Shaymin-EX unless absolutely necessary, as they are such liabilities. In this case, Manaphy offers no sort of safety net, it demands a proactive decision to build your deck with its Ability in mind, and pretty much every deck can pick on that. In Standard, Zoroark is so prevalent that it hurts decks on that front too, as it augments the Dark type's damage output. I just see no reason to run this now that we have Float Stone again.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

Tympole: Tympole is only on this list because it’s another Pokémon that has the attack Round, letting it play well with the old Seismitoad and Meloetta-EX that have the attack as well. At least we didn't get a new Night Marcher, right? I don't think this makes that deck viable or anything in Expanded, but it’s cool we have a new Rounder.

Standard: 0
Expanded: 3

Frogadier: Frogadier may be the most exciting part of the Greninja line to get printed in this set, which is interesting because I actually give it's BREAK fairly high marks. Frogadier's attack searches your deck for 3 additional copies of itself and fills your Bench with them. The best Greninja, obviously, is the one from XY which can dump a Water Energy from your hand to do 30 damage to a Pokémon. By getting a ton of Frogadier in play, it’s now reliable to be able to get a bunch of that Greninja out and go crazy with damage. In Standard, we now have a Fisherman reprint, so it isn't hard to discard 4 Water a turn to spread 120 across the board. Previously, builds had to rely on Archie or Rare Candy to try and swarm, and that wasn't reliable enough. Now, admittedly, this is still a somewhat fragile strategy: You have to attack on turn 2 with a 70 HP stage 1 Pokémon before the deck gets going, and likely Frogadier dies, leaving you with only 3 copies in play to become bigger frogs. I think this card makes the potential archetype it spawns a lot better, but I think it is a bit too frail still to be Tier 1. (It also struggles hard against Hex Maniac, which is more or less in every deck still.)

Standard: 6
Expanded: 5

Greninja BREAK: Well, if normal Greninja's 30 damage a turn was appealing, the BREAK's ability to do 60 damage is even better. The cute part of this is that it can be used alongside the Stage 2's Ability, making each Greninja capable of 90 damage a turn without even attacking! I think if this deck becomes real, it’s because this BREAK is the real deal. I could see decks running 2-3 of them, as it is just so devastating once it gets up and going. 170 HP is also REALLY nice on a BREAK, making it able to take a hit pretty well. Due to the lack of Energy attachments out of the deck, the reprinting of Max Potion seems really interesting in conjunction with these guys.

Standard: 8
Expanded: 7

Luxray BREAK: Here we go again with another BREAK card for a Stage 2 that has a pretty decent attack, but is just not worth the effort when you realize just how difficult it is to get what is effectively a "Stage 3" into play. I gave a stellar review to Greninja BREAK despite this, but this is a case where not only do you need to run this Stage 3, but you have to go through 3 prior subpar stages, and then need FOUR (3 with a DCE) Energy to pull off the attack. This is just such an overwhelming commitment that even if the attack were good (It fails to be notably better than so many easier to accomplish attacks) that it still wouldn't stack up. This kind of highlights just how clunky the Level X (er, BREAK) mechanic is on stage 2s and how if they want to make them viable that they have to be pushed even harder than this to justify the costs. (Having better Luxury’s to branch from is a start, too. You'll notice this set's one is so mediocre I didn't bother to give it a review at all.)

Standard: 3
Expanded: 2

Hypno: Hypno has a really creepy Ability "Goodnight, Babies" (How did this become its finalized name!?) which puts both Pokémon to sleep. There are plenty of cards which key off of having sleeping Pokémon for abuse, but it also works as just being annoying disruption if your deck is better suited to break out of sleep than the opponent. I think it'll be a rare situation where running a stage 1 Pokémon to be a bit of a nuisance is correct, but decks which can really key off the sleep condition can definitely like this.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 4

Espeon-EX: Espeon-EX is a throwback to the old Unseen Forces Espeon ex whose Pokémon Power devolved an opponent's Pokémon when it came into play. Espeon was awesome, but decks were chock full of Evolutions, and most banked on Rare Candy to come into play. Now, with most decks focusing on either big Basic Pokémon, Stage 1 Pokémon, or cheated into play Stage 2 Pokémon (using Maxie or Archie) this card is just not as universally threatening. (Never mind that this Espeon needs to burn an attack to pull off this devolution.) I don't like it much, but if a deck pops up which abuses Rare Candies, or something (I am admittedly stretching to find a proper application for this card) it isn't TERRIBLE. I do like that it can sit active with a decent HP total, and with Dimension Valley just sit and devolve Pokémon every turn as you set up. The card is powerful, it is just the direction the game is taking kind of hampers its usefulness. As the game hopefully shifts direction, its value could go up.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

Garbodor: I feel like I've seen this guy before! While it isn't very innovative, the original Garbotoxin Garbodor has seen play pretty much since printing. In Expanded, I can't imagine this card being much more than a lateral change from the first version, and can be played more or less interchangeably with it. (I GUESS with it having a high colorless cost to its attack, it could be better in like, the Mega Manectric deck from fall Regionals which ran it, as it could be powered up easier? Yeah. That is how fringe of application we have to look at to see a notable difference here.) In Standard, it could be pretty useful, but I actually feel like it is just worse than running Hex Maniac now? It is a lot more set up, and eats up a ton of deck space. As we are getting better and better Tools, decks are more and more likely to run Tool removal, making this less reliable on key turns than a Hex.

Standard: 7
Expanded: N/A (Yeah. I'm sticking by it as an effective reprint! Like that Mr. Mime!)

Phantump: Ascension. I don't think I need to explain why this Attack is great. Being able to assure a turn 1 Trevenant Item lock is another huge boon for that deck. I actually think this is a major upgrade.

Standard: 6
Expanded: 6

Trevenant: While it faces stiff competition from the XY Trevenant, this one offers something new and fresh too. Its Ability increases the cost of all of your opponent's Basic Pokémon by C, and that actually slows most decks down drastically. We've seen how impactful Head Ringer can be, now just imagine it on non-EX Pokémon as well. Now imagine it in Double Battles! (Is that even still a thing? I do remember back in like 04 how hard they were trying to push that as a viable game type. It clearly never caught on.) This Trevenant lacks a bit of the punch needed to be an attacker, but as a means to slow down more aggressive decks, I could maybe see it. I hate trying to use a Stage 1 Pokémon as a stop gap, but it seems to be the function this card serves. The fact you can Ascension into it means you don't need to run a ton of copies of it, though, so that’s something.

Standard: 6
Expanded: 5

Trevenant BREAK: The new Trevenant is cool in that it offers some disruption to an aggressive opponent, but this BREAK actually seems really good! XY Trevenant has already proven to be a viable card in decks that bank on hit and running behind it, locking opponents out of Item cards. Trevenant's own attack was never quite good enough with its fairly frail HP. With this BREAK, we get additional HP (160 is actually fairly tanky!) and a REAL attack, as with a Dimensional Valley, it smacks their entire field for 30 damage at a time! I actually think this card does a LOT to help the viability of Trevenant decks. This coupled with the new Phantump really gives the archetype a whole new lease on life. Worth noting too is that if you Ascension into a Trevenant turn 1, you can BREAK on turn 2 and start attacking. The same is true if you go first and Wally into Trevenant.

Standard: 7
Expanded: 7

Garchomp: I read this card initially and passed it off as underwhelming. Then I heard players actually being pretty hyped for it, and I didn't really understand. That’s when I realized it wasn't actually Dragon type. By being Fighting-type, it can be Maxie'd into play, which makes it so much better. Its first attack is great for putting extra Energy into play, and the F for 60 damage payout is actually really, really good! It can abuse Focus Sash, Fighting Stadium, and Strong Energy. Fighting has the best type support in Standard by miles. The second attack chews clean through-EX Pokémon as well. I actually am really high on this card, ALTHOUGH I'm not sure if it is just better replaced by Gallade? My gut is actually telling me "Worse than Gallade" but I could be wrong there.

Standard: 8
Expanded: 7 (The Maxie engine is better here, but I think the card is worse versus the field here.)

Darkrai-EX: Well, we couldn't go too long without a Darkrai-EX in Standard, right? I don't think this one can possibly match up to the lofty standards set by the Dark Explorers version, but it is somewhat interesting. For a DCE, Darkrai does 20× the amount of Darkness Energy you have in play. To be fair, I rarely see this ever eclipsing 80 damage, and if it does, you have to be in such good shape as a whole that it becomes a win-more condition. The second attack does 80 damage, and 160 if the opponent is Asleep. (Hello Hypno, Goodnight, Babies!) The attack cost is DCC, so that isn't too expensive. In Expanded, you can actually power it up for a Dark Patch and DCE, and get an easy OHKO on something put to sleep by a Hypnotoxic Laser. I actually can really see this card as a 1 of in Expanded Yveltal decks.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 8

Scizor-EX/M Scizor-EX: My initial thought on these cards was that they were very underwhelming. Then, on second glance through, I thought they were my favorite of the new Pokémon-EX in what I view as a pretty underwhelming class of them. I'm a bit milder on these cards than at my peak hype, but I do still like them. Scizor-EX does exactly what I want a Mega Evolving-EX Pokémon to do: Have a 1 Energy attack. It isn't great, but Steel Wing hits for a bit, and blocks some incoming damage to protect the HP total of its Mega which is nice. Its second attack can hit for 110 for MM which is a good rate, especially since it can be powered by a Bronzong in a turn (and made active from a Float Stone retreat.) Mega Scizor is a bit of a house, with decent HP for a Mega, and a cheap, potent attack that just wrecks a lot of decks relying on Special Energy. Dumping a Stadium card isn't too useful at the moment, but taking out Special Energy cards will always be in demand. Being a Metal type, it gets to work with Bronzong, meaning that not only is it easy to power up, but it gets a slew of viable support attackers that can hit a little bit harder, and also make up for the fact that it isn't that impressive against anything that isn't using Special Energy cards.

Standard: 7
Expanded: 6

Togekiss-EX: I criticized Palkia-EX for being mediocre acceleration by using a low damage attack to dump a few Energy into play. I'm a bit kinder to this Togekiss-EX because its attack costs a single Energy and can dump any Energy type into play opposed to merely Water. The damage output is lower, and it does compete with Geomancy Xerneas for a similar sort of acceleration in a Fairy deck. Togekiss here would be much better off if it had a viable second attack, but it's tentatively named Hurricane Wind is way too high variance for it to be a reliable attack.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 4

Raticate/Raticate BREAK: First off, I cannot stress how happy I am to see Raticate get ANY sort of premium card. That is one thing I do like about the BREAK Pokémon. We've seen Pokémon like Raticate, Marowak, and Golduck get love they have never gotten before. Raticate itself isn't super exciting, even if it does have a cheap attack that can Poison and disrupt Tools which are rising in popularity. Its Ability to be immune to Special Conditions is actually great though. Its BREAK is so good with Ariados that being immune to its Poison is useful. Let’s not beat around the bush with what makes Raticate BREAK so cool: If you pair it with Poison (either from say, that Ariados, or a Hypnotoxic Laser) it can just OHKO any Pokémon for a DCE. This is really great against Pokémon-EX in particular. In Expanded, Mew-EX can copy this attack, and alongside Dimension Valley, do it for a lone Energy of any type. This helps bypass the stress put on your deck to swarm with what is effective Stage 2 Pokémon who cannot use Rare Candy. I'm not sure if this is able to be turned into a Tier 1 deck or not, but man, just getting the chance to realistically do well with a Raticate deck is so awesome.

Standard: 6
Expanded: 6

Ho-Oh-EX: Well, this card sure is textbook schizophrenic. Yikes. First off, it's mediocre attack costs three Energy types...then it's Ability keys off of a 4th type. Alright, I guess "mediocre" is really underselling a 130 damage Night Spear, but that Energy cost is so brutal that you almost need more for it. I just can't imagine any shell that supports this card that couldn't likely pull off a better pay off. (Hint: It likely involves Smeargle.) I don't even know if you are supposed to try and enable its Ability or not. Healing 50 a turn is actually PRETTY potent, but the Energy demands are so stressful even before that...I just feel that for all the hoops you jump through, there are too many better pay offs for the effort. The Ability is great, the attack, 130 and 30 to a Benched Pokémon for 3 Energy is super competitive...I even feel like if it's Ability just required one of its attack's Energy types we may have something here...just requiring that 4th attachment to get the most of the card is strenuous.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

All-Night Party: This card is actually pretty interesting. I was not ever a fan of a similar card, Steel Shelter, even in Metal decks, because I really felt like even when Hypnotoxic Laser was in Standard, that decks were already running answers to deal with status conditions. Decks ran Switch or similar cards already, and would likely have to do so in addition to Steel Shelter. Metal decks also usually ran AZ, and possibly Keldeo then to deal with status even under Quaking Punch. This card not only works on all types of Pokémon (Which in particular is more useful in Expanded where Laser is still an issue.) but it also heals the recovering Pokémon of damage! Against Seismitoad-EX, that’s actually a huge deal! Getting rid of status off of Lasers and healing 30 damage really cuts into their damage output in a meaningful way. In both formats, you now have Pokémon which sicken your own Pokémon with conditions, too, so you can actually self-activate this as a means to heal. (Ariados is a good example, as is the new Hypno, although there is clearly a disconnect in strategy there since this card works for your opponent too. Ariados still isn't terrible there, as it still acts as a Plus Power/way around Focus Sash. It would still trigger additional Sceptile-EX damage as well.) I'm not in love with this card in Standard, but I am pretty keen on it in Expanded due to Seismitoad still being a very prevalent card.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 7

Burst Balloon: Burst Balloon is similar to Rock Guard, which saw minimal play, with a few differences. First off, it isn't an ACE SPEC, so a deck can jam a full set of these if it wants to. (Using this with Eco Arm is interesting, as you can really just spam a bunch of them over the course of the game.) The biggest difference, according to the translation I'm reading, is that it gets discarded at the end of your opponent's turn, regardless of if it gets triggered or not. This means, if your opponent wants to just take a turn off attacking, or Lysandre around the Ballooned Pokémon that it will blow up harmlessly on its own. I actually think this is a pretty well designed card, with some pretty high upside that may make it playable while having enough built in ways to play around it so it can't really be considered really oppressive. There are a bunch of Pokémon (Entei, for example, whose already proven quite great.) who have Traits enabling them to carry multiple tools, and these may be good in conjunction with some of those and Eco-Arm. I think this card seeing play is more of a longshot than an inevitability, so my scoring won't be too high, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did see use.

Standard: 5
Expanded: 4

Delinquent: This is the first of the "What are they thinking!?" cards in this set. I've already harped on the fact that Pokémon clearly didn't learn anything as a result of Uxie (Legends Awaken) or Broken Time Space, since they printed Shaymin-EX and Forest of Giant Plants, and here we go again with The Rocket's Trap. The old combo with the release of Gym Heroes was Imposter Professor Oak's Revenge (It gave the opponent a new random hand of 4 cards) Rocket's Sneak Attack (It let you look at an opponent’s hand and strip it of a Trainer card) and then The Rocket's Trap (Flip a coin. If heads, the opponent loses 3 cards from their hand) to give an opponent no hand. Now, Delinquent, paired with Red Card, and any attack which discards a card from the opponent has a similar effect. (Zorua, for example, comes to mind.) There is enough of an engine in both formats that pulling this off on the first turn isn't too difficult! I don't know why a game would willingly print a card that can give a player a 0 card hand. It is just an unenjoyable game experience, and a terrible idea.

The translation I'm looking at for the card reads "Discard a Stadium Card in play. If you do, your opponent chooses 3 cards from his or her hand and discards them." Part of me clings to hope that the actual translation requires the Stadium card to be an opponent's Stadium Card. This means if a player WANTS to avoid getting hammered by this thing, they can just not play a Stadium Card. That makes for an interesting design and play dynamic, opposed to a degenerate mechanic. I'm not optimistic, but oh well.

Imagine a deck like Yveltal/Zoroark/Seismitoad-EX (this is honestly just a quick idea I'm throwing together, I'm sure there are better ideas available) with Red Card, Delinquent and Silent Lab as the Stadium to key off of. You get to play the combo on the first turn, and if they don't draw out of it, you have Quaking Punch to turn off Items and Silent Lab to turn off Shaymin-EX. This means an expanded deck has to draw one of its like, 6 actual draw Supporters, before the game has snowballed completely out of control. Or perhaps pair it with Exeggutor. Even if you don't strip that 4th post-Red Card card away, it'll almost always be their Supporter, in which case Exeggutor locks them with what is effectively a 0 card hand anyways. If this card is printed as written, it is almost certainly going to be great.

Standard: 8
Expanded: 9

Fighting Fury Belt: And we are at number two! This Tool grants the Basic Pokémon holding it 40 additional HP and gives its attacks an additional 10 damage. Yes. Only your Basic Pokémon, though. Which I don't understand. I'd rather see this only work on Evolutions (we know they need the help) or just on all Pokémon. (Maybe the caveat of no Megas or Primals, as admittedly, them having 280+ HP is pretty silly. Especially Groudon, whose Belt would be buckled tight and irremovable.)

My first thought was “this is dumb, why would they print this?” Well, the more I think about it, the less I object. Hear me out, as the general consensus thus far has been very negative towards this card. I've beaten into the ground my belief that the HP-to-damage output ratio has grown worse and worse. As a result, giving Pokémon an HP boost decreases the amount of one-hit kills, and possibly turns two-hit kills into three-hits. While "hey, we're boosting the HP of already absurd Pokémon-EX!" sounds like its making the game worse, it actually seems like it could slow the game down and give different strategies a chance to shine. (Although I admit, a 220 HP Seismitoad-EX does make me want to puke.)

The Pokémon able to hold multiple Tools gain a ton off this. (Entei and Mega Tyranitar-EX come to mind!) Giving a Mega Tyranitar over 300 HP feels filthy. 40 additional HP could help make it so that decks like Night March and Vespiquen could fall short of OHKOs, which is good! That said, the idea of giving Joltik 70 HP, or Pumpkaboo 100 HP is...pretty awful. Even Yveltal can no longer actually one shot Night Marchers, and even Crobat decks can't pick them off well. My big concern, especially in Standard, is that this breaks Night March decks wide open, and pushes them from being Tier 1, to being the only deck that’s Tier 1.

On the other hand, we do have access to Megaphone, Xerosic, and even Banette, whose Ability turns off all Tools. The new Breakthrough Yveltal's Ability also gains further strength with this. I love that card more than I have a right to, in the first place, and this just makes me love it more. Stock up on ‘em, kids, it’s going places.

I'm giving this card perfect marks across both formats, which is NOT something I think I've ever done in one of these before.

Standard: 10
Expanded: 10

Max Elixir: This is a tough card to evaluate. "Look at the top 6 cards of your deck. You may choose a Basic Energy card you find there and attach it to 1 of your Basic Benched Pokémon. Shuffle the remaining cards back into your deck." I'm glad to see it only attaches to a Benched Pokémon, as it at least makes a turn-one attack more difficult to pull off. Still, with Switches, Float Stone, and AZ, it doesn't seem too difficult to actually pull this off easily. If we want to look into potential abuses for this card, we can look at the Ho-Oh Xerneas deck I've been testing for Expanded, where it bends over backwards to use Ho-Oh and Energy Switch just to cheat an additional Energy onto a Xerneas on the first turn. It may just be easier to use Max Elixir.

Having a card that can unconditionally dump Basic Energy onto your Bench is pretty absurd. The downside is that it only digs 6 cards deep, meaning you have to run a fairly high amount of Basic Energy (And if your goal is to pair this Basic Energy with a DCE, that means a ton of Energy as a whole...which cuts into the type of "turbo" engine you'd otherwise want in that type of deck.) to reliably pull it off. Still, this card offers something that’s really rare in this game, and I expect it to be a big role-player in multiple decks in each format.

Standard: 8
Expanded: 7

Max Potion: We've seen how great Max Potion is over the years, but it has been rotated out of Standard for a while now. This won't impact Expanded, obviously, but it'll make waves in Standard. This should make a deck like Aromatisse viable again, especially when paired with the new Belt, making it easy to grant Pokémon an HP total that prevents an OHKO. Even a deck like Mega Manectric can enable loops with this card. I'm not sure how much random play the card will get (for decks which want this effect occasionally, a lone AZ may be better, as it can be looped with VS Seekers and is "searchable" with Battle Compressor) outside of a few archetypes which may exist BECAUSE of this. (The prior Aromatisse example, for instance.)

Standard: 7
Expanded: N/A

Misty's Determination: Misty's Determination digs through the top 8 cards of your deck, netting you one. I don't think this cards awful, but it seems a bit weak compared to a lot of Supporters in the game now. (Standard lacks a ton of options, but in Expanded, this can't beat the options we do have.) While it helps dig towards specific cards, it isn't even that great at it. First off, it competes with Teammates for decks which REALLY want this type of effect. Second, if you want to abuse searching for specifics, it’s likely in a build that wants to run a wide diverse set of cards, at which point digging 8 deep isn't even reliable. It’s kind of nice towards finding DCEs, so it isn't completely undesirable. I actually could see this being playable in Turbo Rayquaza in Standard, where you want to compile a bunch of cards you run 3-4 copies of.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 2

Psychic's Mind Reading: Looking at your opponent's hand isn't really Supporter-worthy, but when you tack on the ability to dump X cards from your hand and draw X new ones, it becomes more interesting. I like the filtering it offers, I'm just nervous that most decks don't have THAT many cards they want to just throw away to the point where it draws enough cards to really be viable as a draw card. (For me to value this over say, Tierno's "Draw 3," I feel like I'd need to have 4 cards I can discard to draw 4 new ones, and that is actually not going to be common at all.) In Expanded, this card could be kind of cute with Exeggcute, where every use of this card effectively draws a base of "four" cards plus whatever you want to filter out. Still, in Expanded, there are just so many good Supporters to compete with.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

Puzzle of Time: Here is the third clearly degenerate card. In the vein of the old cards Poké Drawer +, Poké Blower + and Poké Healer +, we have another Item card that has a fairly tame impact that can be played in pairs for something very degenerate. Played normally, it lets you re-arrange the top 3 cards of your deck, without drawing a card. This is still somewhat decent with Unown in the format. Yet if you play TWO of them, you get to grab TWO cards from your Discard pile into your hand! This effect is extremely good. Decks burn through so much of their deck now that discard piles end up carrying most cards available to you in your list by mid to late game anyways. I don't think I need to get too in depth as to why this effect is so strong. Milotic has seen a surge in play now. Lysandre's Trump Card had to be BANNED. Simply look at what number of games come down to trying to, or successfully run a player out of DCE or VS Seekers. Imagine a deck effectively having access to 8 VS Seekers and 8 DCE now.

This isn't to say that this card doesn't require some work to pull off. Pairing them isn't going to be that easy, and getting to the late game without discarding any of them is even harder. Beyond this, you have to devote 4 cards in your deck to include them. (You more or less play 4, or 0 due to the nature of design.) If you want to abuse these, you want an engine that enables their pairing, meaning it’s going to eat up a LOT of cards. They become better in decks which can run a wide array of cards, to play with the fact that it can get back single copies of cards. The card's payoff is super high, but it is very demanding on deck construction. I think this card is great, but I think it’s actually fairly well designed. It requires enough work on multiple fronts to abuse that you earn the pay off.

Standard: 8
Expanded: 7

Reverse Valley: I love these split Stadium cards. I just find them exciting and very dynamic. This one isn't nearly as strong as Parallel City, and both of its sides are very narrow in application. It basically offers to replicate the effects found on the original Dark and Metal Energy. It will be rare we find a deck that wants both effects, so you have to base this card's viability on whether either effect is worth it in a deck. Currently Yveltal runs no Stadium, and 10 extra damage across the board is actually kind of nice there. I think in the YZG Standard builds, if they want a Stadium, it’s the go to. For Metal decks, 10 damage reduction isn't negligible, but I think any viable build would be using Bronzong, and if so, I'd rather have Sky Field. In Expanded, I imagine most Dark decks will be using Lasers and Virbank.

Standard: 6
Expanded: 3

Splash Energy: For the Water "Special Energy" this card seems a bit underwhelming. If the Pokémon it is attached to dies, it loops back to your hand. Unfortunately, when most attackers wind up being Basics, this doesn't do much. It’s pretty easy to just run enough copies that they become pretty replaceable. In addition to this, we have Super Rod, Sacred Ash, Revive, and Buddy-Buddy Rescue. If the Greninja deck becomes a thing, looping back full lines could be nice, but there seem to be three ways to build the deck: Frogadier spam using the new one, Froakie + Rare Candy, and Archie's. None of these really work that well with this card. Plus, while the frogs do only use one water to attack, which works here, they also discard ACTUAL Basic Water Energy, meaning this card kind of sucks there. I'm just not seeing the uses of this card being too prevalent.

Standard: 4
Expanded: 3

In closing, I feel like this is a bit of an interesting set...you have three Trainer cards which are clearly designed to be game changers. (Whether that change is good or bad is yet to be seen...) The Pokémon aren't necessarily bad...there are a lot of "decent" to "good" Pokémon, but none which scream that they are going to make an immediate impact. I like that MORE than how it had been, but the problem is they are being thrown into a cardpool that is still defined BY Pokémon of that power level, so they appear rather weak. I'm not very excited for the set, but I think much like the past few sets, that more cards will make an impact than initial opinions would suggest. I'll leave you guys with my quick Top 10 list for the set...this isn't strictly based on my assessed raw card quality level, as it also factors in my own personal biased excitement level for the cards too.

10.) Max Elixir
9.) Raticate BREAK
8.) Trevenant BREAK
7.) Mega Scizor-EX
6.) Garchomp
5.) Darkrai-EX
4.) Greninja BREAK
3.) Delinquent 
2.) Puzzle of Time
1.) Fighting Fury Belt

 

Chris

[+10] okko


 

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Zach Lesage

How to Interact with a Judge Calls

10/11/2019 by Zach Lesage // Zach re-releases an important article about Judge calls for free! (+30)

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Zach Lesage

My Top Picks for Knoxville

10/08/2019 by Zach Lesage // Zach shares his top three picks for Knoxville Regionals this weekend. (+26)

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Jimmy Pendarvis

Pikachu World Tour

10/09/2019 by Jimmy Pendarvis // Jimmy takes a look at his favorite deck right now, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. (+20)

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