Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Siege The Day!

Chris reviews Steam Siege and discusses its impact on Worlds and beyond!

08/04/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hey, everyone! With Nationals in the book and the 2016 Pokémon World Championships on the horizon, there are a few things that are on everyone's mind. First off, for those who have qualified for Worlds, they face a brand new format: XY-Steam Siege. This is the first Worlds that will feature a new set added onto the US Nationals format, meaning players have a lot of extra preparation to do. This format will only be played at this one event, so players not competing will have turned their eyes to the upcoming post rotation format of Primal Clash-Steam Siege which becomes the new Standard come September. As someone who is not qualified for Worlds, I have started looking towards the new Standard, but as someone who is also helping his friends test for Worlds, I've also been spending time with this new format as well.

In order to address either of these though, we need to look at exactly what cards Steam Siege has to offer! So to start this article off, we'll go into a bit of a set review. This will be a bit awkward in that I'll now have effectively three formats to evaluate the cards on: Worlds Standard, September's Standard, AND Expanded. I'll be mainly focusing on the two formats this article is structured around, but if a card is particularly exciting in Expanded, I'll address that as well.

Steam Siege Set Review


Yanmega/Yanmega BREAK: Yanmega is a clear throwback to Yanmega Prime, a card which was a huge impact player in 2011. Yanmega Prime could ignore Energy costs if both players hand sizes were equal. Copycat and Judge made this an easy feat to pull off, even if it couldn't be done under other circumstances. This Yanmega's Ability is a bit simpler, only requiring a hand size of four. Unfortunately, Yanmega's attack is fairly anemic. It only does 50 damage, but hits for 120 if a Tool is attached to the Defending Pokémon. This is nice because Fighting Fury Belt is quite popular, and it keys off of Spirit Links too. For Worlds, decks will have access to Head Ringer as well. Beyond this, Yanmega BREAK boosts Yanmega's 110 HP up to a healthy 140, and grants access to a 100 damage attack that cuts through all effects on the Defending Pokémon.

I never rule out cards which attack for free, as they let you apply pressure while devoting Energy cards elsewhere. It worked great in Yanmega/Magnezone, and while the game is much faster now than then, it’s worth keeping this type of approach in mind. One of the other things which makes this Yanmega package appealing is that it offers a "Colorless" (Free) Grass type attacker. With Primal Kyogre and Primal Groudon both being very powerful, and potential threats in the upcoming Primal Clash-on Standard, having a splashable counter is good. Being a viable secondary, or lead attacker while also being a silver bullet against multiple potentially top tier cards is enough to get me to pay attention to these guys.

Shiftry: One of my favorite things about this set is that we see a return to the split typing on Pokémon that we saw implemented back in 2004. I want to say it was Hidden Legends that first brought this mechanic into the game, but I'm not positive [Editor’s Note: It was actually Team Magma vs. Team Aqua]. I don't see why it wasn't used more often, as it is a pretty useful gimmick especially with so many Pokémon who are better represented by both of their types. Shiftry here, besides being two types, has a few things going for it. Its first attack does 40 for a Grass, and it turns off the effect of Tools and Stadiums. This is a good effect, but a bit less useful when attached to an attack, especially atop a Stage 2. I don't think this is a realistic counter to things because of those restrictions but I do like to keep track of unique effects like this. Its second attack costs only a DCE and does 120 damage if hand sizes are matched! This is a lot of damage on a non-EX Pokémon, and is quick and easy to power up. This benefits from being a grass type quite a bit, as does Yanmega, due to Forest of Giant Plants. With their attacks being obtainable on the first turn of the game, both Pokémon are able to be very aggressive.

Shiftry also benefits from there being other viable Shiftry available, such as the one from Flashfire. This will only matter for Expanded and Worlds, as Flashfire rotates come September. This Shiftry has always been fringe playable anyways, and now it gets a very welcome partner to offset its shortcomings. It has an Ability which lets you discard a Grass to draw 3 cards, which helps you set up and swarm Shiftry. For GCC, it does 20× the number of Benched Pokémon in play. This is a big hitter, but suffered from being able to be played around, while also taking 2 attachments to power. This made it hard to swarm with it, and prevented a turn 1 attack off a Forest. Combined with the Steam Siege Shiftry, both those issues are addressed. The extra draw also lets you compiled Puzzle of Times easier so you can look DCEs better and not run out. I'm not sure it’s quite good enough just because of how degenerate many decks are, but its close. The damage output is strong, and these non-EX Pokémon are pretty beefy too.

Volcarona: We see another dual-typed Pokémon, this time with a Fire/Grass pairing. The card is pretty underwhelming, but it does benefit from having access to multiple type specific cards. I'm beating a dead horse here with Forest of Giant Plants, but it helps so much. Plus, being a Fire type, it has access to Blacksmith which is huge at making its CCC-120, Discard All Energy Attached attack potentially viable. I don't think it is powerful enough, but covering two difficult to splash for types in one line is still something to consider.

Infernape: Another call back to a previous printing of the Pokémon, this Infernape combines the attacks of the Diamond and Pearl Infernape and its LV.X card. Unfortunately, the game is much higher-impact now and the steps needed to make this work are likely not worth it. This is again a Pokémon which benefits from Blacksmith, but there are so many alternatives which do a similar thing that require less work than getting this Stage 2 out. Flare Up, does 200 damage at the cost of shuffling 10 Fire Energy back into your deck from your discard is also a huge pipe dream, and also not worth building around. I'm confident this falls well short of playable.

Pyroar BREAK: Pyroar BREAK is pretty interesting! It gives an already good Pyroar line access to a big hitter, doing 180 damage for RRC, even if it is at the cost of a lot of Energy cards. The Flashfire Pyroar used to be a huge player a few years ago but has dropped off since (Hex Maniac does not help one bit!) but tossing this guy atop him may give it some new life. The other Pyroar lets you Lysandre whenever you discard a Fire off of it, and that card makes a great one-of addition to the line. I would not be surprised to see this line make an impact at some point, even if it is very weak to Hex Maniac. (Ironically, when Battle Compressor rotates, making Hex Maniac harder to search up, so do both Pyroar I'd want to use with this.)

Volcanion: Okay, this guy seems awesome. It gets the old Zekrom/Reshiram/Yveltal/etc. 130 HP Basic Pokémon treatment and is clearly pushed as an intended to see play Pokémon. Volc here has a 100 damage attack for 3 Fire Energy, with no drawback. This is much less unwieldy with Blacksmith, and when you realize that its first attack is so good at spewing Energy cards into play. For a Fire Energy, it does 20 damage and attaches a discarded Fire to TWO of your Benched Pokémon. It does less damage than Oblivion Wing, but it puts twice as much Energy into play! You can't ignore how potent this looks. There are a lot of strong Fire type attackers as well, and this is a great enable to fuel a powerful deck. Dark still has better overall attackers, and this guy doesn't match up as well against Night March (a huge deal!) as it is 10 shy of a Joltik KO and can't exploit weakness on Pumpkaboo, but its upside in general is much higher. This can be dealt with though, particularly with a pairing alongside...

Volcanion-EX: Yikes! This card seems extremely powerful. It is a Water/Fire type Pokémon-EX, and has an Ability which lets you discard a Fire Energy to boost the damage output of your Basic Fire Pokémon by 30 until the end of turn! This is limited to once per turn...PER VOLCANION. So if you have a Bench full of them, and discard 4 Fire, you deal an additional 120 damage! With Hoopa-EX, it is easy to spew these onto your Bench early, and with Fisherman, it is easy to replenish your hand with Fire Energy each turn to power this up. Suddenly, the non-EX Volcanion only doing 20 damage is not as big an issue. There is a whole package here, with Fire having access to Blacksmith, and Scorched Earth (Although I feel like Sky Field is better with the demand for a Bench full of these guys, and Hoopa-EX's synergy at getting them.) and Fiery Torch. I included a Team Magma's Camerupt/Flareon-EX deck in a past article, and its biggest downside was that Flareon-EX fell just shy of being able to have a strong enough damage output to really be a contender, but with even 1-2 Volcanion Benched, that changes. Let’s not overlook that Volcanion-EX has a viable attack as well, doing 130 damage (Honestly, clearly more due to the Ability) for RRC. It can't attack on the next turn, so that does muck things up a bit, but that isn't too hard to mitigate with some switching cards, or even a Keldeo-EX/Zoroark with a Float Stone. This is another one of those showcase cards that the set is marketed around, so you more or less know it is going to be competitive.

Clawitzer/Clawitzer BREAK: Clawitzer serves one purpose: Accelerate out Energy onto your Mega Pokémon. I tried to use Aromatisse and Huntail (with the Trait) to help accelerate out Primal Groudon before, so clearly this is the type of effect decks are looking for. The problem I do see is that it will be competing with Mega Turbo and Max Elixir for acceleration, and I'm not sure running a Stage 1 Pokémon is better than those Items. I think at least a few decks will want to run this, but it is worth noting that many sets have gone by where Mega Pokémon were printed intended to be viable without this sort of acceleration, so most already had plans in place to get them powered up. (Either they had cheaper attacks, or were intended to be fine off Turbo/Elixir.) Primal Groudon is the main Pokémon I'd want to pair with this, and I think that is a decent deck to start looking at post rotation in particular. Clawitzer BREAK seems more or less worthless, as it prevents retreating, and then gifts a bonus 120 damage to the next attack on whatever Pokémon it locked onto. It is too easy for decks to circumvent this, I can't fathom ever even gambling on it.

Ampharos: Ampharos has a cool ability that lets you places 3 damage counters on any Pokémon-EX each turn, but I think it falls well short of viable. First off, Lightning has almost no real support to it. If this were Fighting or Water (and could be cheated into play via Maxie or Archie?) sure, maybe. As it is, this is a stage 2, which is clunky, and it has a very Ampharosy attack, but it isn't a good one. I guess it'd be cute to swarm these guys and spam Target Whistles on Shaymin-EX each turn, but that’s a pipe dream opposed to a real deck.

Galvantula: This Grass/Lightning type is actually interesting. Its first attack does 30 damage to two Benched Pokémon...WHILE applying Weakness! This guy can evolve on the first turn with Forest of Giant Plants, and it's typing is really useful! It can prey on Shaymin-EX, KOing them in two shots due to the fact that Weakness lets you smack them for 60 a shot. It also does 60 per hit against Groudon and Kyogre. We've seen how good Yveltal (Fright Night) is against Primal Groudon, so I think this could be the real deal. If there were a deck that wanted some nice spread damage already, I like what this offers. The 30/30 split also is really good against Night March. It is actually really difficult for them to race a solid line of this card. It OHKOs a Joltik, and two-shots Pumpkaboo, Shaymin-EX, and Mew.

Chandelure: Chandy here has a nice Ability, augmenting your draw power each turn. This is a bit weak on a Stage 2 Pokémon, especially in a format with Shaymin-EX. There are better Pokémon with draw, such as Delphox, Empoleon, Octillery, Shiftry...Chandelure does have an interesting attack for PC (P with Dimension Valley) that does 10+ 10 more per Supporter in the discard, but you really do not want a deck so full of Supporters that this attack is good. MAYBE if this were a Basic, but the card wants you to play a ton of Supporters, AND a Stage 2 line, AND 4 of a Stadium. This just isn't functional. There is also some disconnect between it offering draw power while also demanding a high Supporter count.

Nosepass: Honorary mention because it's art is legitimately TERRIFYING.

Weavile: Weavile's Ability lets you bounce Pokémon Tools, which could be useful. It is nice to be able to take a Spirit Link, Mega Evolve, bounce the Link, reattach elsewhere, Mega Evolve, and so on. I just think there isn't enough upside for this at the moment to warrant using it. That could change in the future of course, but using this "fairly" with nothing to exploit just doesn't seem worth it.

Spiritomb: Rearranging all of your Opponent's damage actually seems pretty insane, especially on a Basic, as a Darkness type which can be Dark Patched onto in Expanded, or Elixir’d onto in Standard. I could see this as a 1 of in Darkness decks. We've seen how good Dusknoir can be, as Mia Violet has played that card in Darkness decks to great success. (Including I believe a Top 16 Worlds finish.) I would not overlook this card.

Yveltal: They want this card in Standard forever.

Yveltal BREAK: Like Yveltal needs MORE help. This Pokémon is clearly one of the R&D team members’ favorite Pokémon. While jumping from 130 HP to 150 isn't a massive boost, it matters. I touched on this guy when he was spoiled last article a bit so I won't go over it in too much detail again, but its attack is pretty strong. 120 damage AND 30 across the board to Pokémon with damage counters on them...there are a lot of ways to make this abusive. The DDD cost is interesting, because it doesn't sync well at all with DCE which many Darkness decks play 4 of. As a result, it is clearly intended for more of a Dark Patch/Max Elixir build, which I'm fine with. This at least tries to split the Darkness decks more firmly into different builds opposed to just piling a bunch of great cards into one deck that can take equal advantage of all of them.

Steelix-EX/Mega Steelix-EX: I was hoping the new Steelix stuff would be good (I really like Steelix!) but what we wind up with is another bulky, heavy hitting, high Energy cost tank that is so middling that it couldn't ever see play. These "flip a coin until tails" attacks are always miserable, and none of the other attacks do anything to make up for it. Mega Steelix should have had some sort of Ability tacked on to give it a bit more use. I don't think it would even be unreasonable to give it a built in -20 damage reducer Ability. It would make the card stand out, and still wouldn't push it too hard as a threat. It may see play that way at least though.

Cobalion: Cobalion's first attack is a pretty great stall tactic against primarily Basic decks. The second attack gives Cobalion a role in Bronzong decks as a nice cleanup hitter at the end of the game off of just one attachment and a Metal Links. I think it will serve a role as exactly a one-of in most Bronzong decks.

Magearna-EX: I have never seen this Pokémon in my life. Ever. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Nonetheless, the card is pretty awesome! Its Ability protects all of your Pokémon with Metal Energy attached to them...not just Metal Poké I see it getting fairly wide spread play similar to Virizion-EX as a universal counter in decks with Rainbow Energy-esque options. There aren't a ton of effects that this stops that are that prevalent now (kind of the downside when the game has devolved into primarily OHKOs). Its attack is solid, but nothing to write home about. I do like the fact that at least they tried something different with the attack STARTING strong and then growing weaker (these "40 damage, next turn 80" attacks are miserable and never playable.) and not a strong hit that simply can't be used at all next turn. I think this is a better design as a whole.

Gardevoir-EX/Mega Gardevoir-EX: Gardevoir-EX's first attack seems pretty strong! For YC, it deals 30 damage but hits for 100 if you have the same amount of Energy attached as the Defending Pokémon. 2 is a pretty easy number to match up on, so this should happen frequently enough. Gardy's second attack is pretty uninspired, being a standard YYC-120, discard an Energy attack. This is a bit worse than usual because the Fairy decks in general want a critical mass of Energy in play for their game plan.

Mega Gardevoir has a really cool attack, doing 110 plus 10 for each Benched Pokémon you opt to discard. This works really well in Expanded with Exeggcutes, but can also be used to get rid of undesirable Benched Pokémon like Shaymin-EX. For a Mega Pokémon that has hoops to jump through to reach 160-190 (with Sky Field) damage though, it isn't that worthwhile at first glance. I think it this is a fine pair of Pokémon, but just shy of what you'd want for a tournament-caliber deck.

Klefki: I like this guy as he is a pretty brutal counter to Mega Pokémon, even if it does go away at the end of the opponent's turn. This can easily be looped with Buddy-Buddy Rescue, Sacred Ash, or Puzzle of Time. If Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre and Mega Rayquaza are potential frontrunners in the new format, a single copy of this card in lists could go a long way if you pack the tools necessary to retrieve it.

Xerneas: Same thing I said about Yveltal.

Xerneas BREAK: I covered this guy in my last article, and I'll just glance it over again. It BREAKs off a good Pokémon, and its attack falls in line with what Fairy decks generally want to do. It functions similarly to Mega Gardevoir, only with less work (and less durability!) and less space commitment in your deck. If you can keep a defensive field and build a critical mass of Energy in play this card can be very good. Worst case scenario, it’s a pretty free one-of to add onto your Xerneas line you already run.

Hydreigon/Hydreigon BREAK: Hydreigon benefits, at least in Expanded, from a number of viable Hydreigon printings over the years. I don't think this Hydreigon is terribly impressive in and of itself, but it hits really hard (at the cost of a ton of Energy) so it offers something unique to a line that, if played, could very well want that attack. Being a Dragon and not Dark type is unfortunate for the sake of Dark Patching, but it shouldn't be a huge issue. 

Hydreigon BREAK, on the other hand, has 190 HP, which is monstrous for a non-EX, and deals 150 damage to the Defending Pokémon AND 50 to 2 Benched Pokémon. (I like it from a flavor perspective...all 3 heads are attacking.) The attack eats up THREE Energy attachments (still staying with the flavor) so you can't really expect to use this frequently, but it’s hard to overlook the raw damage output. I don't think the infrastructure to abuse this exists yet, but it’s still a really cool card at the very least.

Talonflame/Talonflame BREAK: I covered these last time, but I do want to address that perhaps a build with a full Talonflame line using the BREAK as an attacker is actually more viable than I had initially thought. I'm not really sure what approaches will actually work well just because Talonflame itself is such a new design.

Hawlucha: Hawlucha is a pretty narrow-application Pokémon, but its Ability is more or less half an Escape Rope on a stick. We've all seen how much more often Rope's "them switching" clause actually ends up being useful, so to have it on a Pokémon which can be searched for easily is at least potentially useful. I don't know if giving up a Bench space will be worth it very often, but we'll see. In a deck like Vespiquen, where you have a few flex spots for disposable Pokémon, or in a deck like Mega Rayquaza where you want to fill your Bench (and actually do suffer from issues against Giratina-EX and anti-EX walls) I could see it warranting a slot.

Armor Fossil Shieldon/Claw Fossil Anorith: These are not really new cards, but just new versions of the old Fossil Items. They never really saw play before, and I doubt they will now either. The cards they put out are just not strong enough to warrant how much of an issue it is getting to them reliably.

Gardevoir/Steelix Spirit Link: The same thing can be said for the Spirit Links. If you want to play the Mega forms of these Pokémon, you are kind of just priced into these.

Captivating Poké Puff: Okay, I actually like this card. It pairs well with Target Whistle, forcing Pokémon onto the Bench. It gives a player a very hard time hiding Shaymin from getting picked off over the span of a game, so building a strategy around KOing them now becomes harder to prevent. It is clearly situational (unless you're using, say, Zoroark and want some extra damage) but the upside of even just one copy when played with Teammates/Puzzle of Time is pretty high actually.

Greedy Dice: This is VERY Greedy. The upside of ever taking an additional Prize off this card is so just is very difficult to pull off. You have to Prize one, and you have to then get heads. The odds of actually taking a free Prize over the course of a game if you run 4 of these isn't even that terrible, but that does then eat up 4 spots in a deck with actual dead weight, so I don't think it is imbalanced. Like First Ticket, I think the upside is very high, but it is just too unreliable and too much of a sacrifice to the deck for it to see play.

Ninja Boy: Yikes, this card is incredible. It is the Supporter version of Swoop! Teleporter, but with a pretty big difference: It can Swoop! out a Pokémon-EX! You can trade out a liability in play for something that only gives up one Prize. You can preemptively get rid of a Benched Shaymin-EX before it gets KO’d. You can use this for so many different things it is pretty crazy. It helps you smooth over getting out evolution lines. It lets you turn whatever Pokémon you have in play and convert it into a frail otherwise killable basic and evolve past it. It can let you toolbox between big-EX Pokémon. You can exploit type specific effects, such as Energy acceleration, and then Ninja Boy out a different Pokémon. One popular idea has been to use Regirock (With the Trait preventing it from being hit by opposing Trainers) and then swapping it out with a big attacker. (Say, a Groudon-EX...which then gets Mega Evolved.) I can see decks being built specifically around a gimmick using this, and I can see decks using it just for value as well. This is probably my favorite card in the set.

Pokémon Ranger: This is a nice safety net to have. There are so many oppressive cards in this game that having stuff like this, Hex Maniac, and Marowak available as counter measures if you really want them is good. Having tested for the new Standard, these utility Supporters, even with VS Seeker legal, are much clunkier without Battle Compressor, so I'm unsure how playable this becomes. One copy is hard to see reliably, and running multiples of this seems...risky at best. Still, it gets around Quaking Punch and Chaos Wheel amongst other things, so I'll happily welcome it to print.

Special Charge: This would be a whole lot better if we didn't already have Puzzle of Time printed. Still, there are definitely decks which want more than 4 copies of Double Dragon Energy and Double Colorless Energy. This is similar to the Clawitzer though, where I feel like so many other measures have already been taken to helps decks which want this type of effect cope with the issue that its impact will not be major. I'm actually not even sure I WANT this type of card legal, just because these double Energy cards are already a bit on the “too good” side.

Karen: Okay, I want to address this card's ABSENCE from the set. Night March rotates in September, but it is still the best deck in Standard for Worlds. It had the biggest target on its forehead since States, and it has ALWAYS proven itself to be the clear-cut best deck, even going on to win US Nationals. This isn't an example of "well, it won Nats, the meta will shift, and it won't be the best deck anymore", we've had MONTHS of people trying their absolute best to dethrone it and fail. The idea of using anything else at Worlds right now seems crazy to me. Karen would have been a more than welcome fix to this, but unfortunately we did not get it.

World Championship Implications

So let’s take a look first at the major players to come out of the set regarding Worlds. The Volcanion, both the EX and non-EX both seem pushed to the point where they are very likely to make an impact. I'm not sure if the deck can deal with Night March, unfortunately, because you will want to Bench a bunch of Pokémon-EX which are far too easy to Lysandre and KO. Still, you cannot overlook the strength of these cards in a vacuum.

Clawitzer could end up being good enough to pair with Primal Groudon, which was already a near-contender. I'm not sure it passes the Night March test either, especially if the Night March build of choice ends up being pairing the Night Marchers with Vespiquen like the list that won US Nationals did.

I really do think Galvantula is a sleeper hit just because it is so strong against the clear best deck in the game. I'm not sure what I'd pair it with really, though. Yveltal BREAK is...probably not well positioned, even though I believe a Darkness deck is a real choice for Worlds. I think the Max Elixir builds all go towards a Giratina build (I really do not like this deck, I've not been impressed by it at all. This is likely an even worse deck is Ranger sees play, which I can absolutely see being the case in Night March) and it just doesn't seem like the best fit there. The other DCE builds are even worse-prepared to power it.

Cobalion is an easy one-of in any of the Metal decks, but I'm a bit hesitant to endorse those decks as I was pretty unimpressed by them at Nats. They were not very successful either, so I don't expect to see a lot of them for Worlds either.

The Trainers are a bit more impactful. I expect Night March to play a copy of Ranger, and I expect Ninja Boy to lead to some sort of deck as well. Poké Puff is a card I'd run in my Zoroark builds as well. I actually don't see the new set doing a ton to overhaul the format at first glance, outside of Volcanion likely breeding its own archetype.

Anyways, let’s look at the two decks I'm a fan of for Worlds so far.

So with the new set, I've cut the Marowak/Gallade/Maxie line. I added in a Mew, reluctantly, and have reduced some numbers down to 2 Unown and 2 Shaymin-EX. I'm pretty confident that the deck functions just fine with 2 Shaymin-EX, and I want to test out some of the new cards. If any of them underperform, the 3rd Shaymin can come back in. The big addition is Galvantula, which CONVENIENTLY evolves from Joltik, which we already run. Mirror has always been a chore to navigate, and I think that Galvantula, alongside Puzzle of Time and a lone Buddy-Buddy Rescue, will do a lot to make mirror match favorable. As a result, I felt more comfortable cutting the Parallel City I ran at Nationals.

Energy-wise, I'm running 4 DCE and 1 Lightning Energy. The Lightning Energy is for Mew + Joltik attacks, and it helps against Chaos Wheel. I do run a Ranger, which also helps, but having multiple options is still good. This is also a package I can grab off of a Teammates and play immediately. The Lightning is also useful for attacking with Galvantula, who only takes 1 Energy.

Trainer-wise, I stuck with my 3rd copy of a Switching card, and added Ranger. Toad did well enough at US Nats, and I like it being an additional weapon for the matchup. The 2nd Float Stone (the bare minimum I'd run is 1 Rope 1 Stone) could also be the 2nd Dimension Valley, but I don't really feel like it’s necessary, and prefer the 3 switches over a 2-2 split, and here is why: you want a turn-one Night March every game. If you open Unown, or Shaymin-EX, you NEED to hit a switching card for that to work. With a Pumpkaboo, you either need a Valley OR switching card. When you open Pumpkaboo, you often find a position where you have to attach a DCE somewhere to either maximize Shaymin draws, or before using Sycamore. If you don't have Stone OR Valley yet, you have to hedge as to which you expect to draw. If you run a 2-2 split, its dead even odds on which you draw, so attaching to Joltik (Benched) or the Active Pumpkaboo is a wash. If you run 3 Switching cards, and 1 Valley, you know which line to play towards, and that actually ends up mattering a LOT! The switching cards have more overall uses in the deck, as well, and past that key first turn, where I feel the Stones are better than additional Valley copies (They don't stay locked in your hand if you draw multiples) you have access to Teammates, and can find the Valley. (Past the first turn, you have Puzzle of Time as well.) I am running 1 Buddy-Buddy Rescue to take some pressure off of my Puzzle of Times, and to make looping multiple Galvantula more realistic.

I don't think anyone is surprised that this is my clear cut first choice to run for Worlds. By this, I mean Night March, not necessarily this exact 60. There are a few ways to build Night March that are all good, and this is the one I am currently exploring as I feel it makes use of the new set the best.

Next up, I have a Zoroark deck list. I like this deck because it is both very powerful and consistent but also one of the few decks I feel can honestly compete against Night March on a fairly regular basis.

The big difference between my build of this deck and the traditional build is that I really feel like this deck should be abusing the Puzzle of Time/Teammates engine. Just having played the deck as much as I had during Cities, that pairing covers such a large portion of issues the deck suffered from.

With that package in the list, a 3-3-1 Zoroark line is sufficient. I'm torn on the Yveltal split, but I've leaned towards 3 of the XY one because I want to ensure the best Night March matchup possible. If I want additional copies of the Fright Night Yveltal, I can always Puzzle it back.

One of the main reasons I like the Puzzle of Times and Teammates engine is that they make Target Whistle and Poké Puff that much better in the deck, which in turn makes your Zoroark line MUCH better. Poké Puff has, thus far in testing, been pretty awesome, but it definitely has diminishing returns once the opponent knows it is in your deck. I'm not sure it AND Whistle are necessary but I'm liking the one-two punch they provide so far, and I figure it’s better to test the card out some opposed to purely theorycrafting around with it. 

One major omission is Yveltal-EX. This is a deck that wants to fight using only non-EX Pokémon, which is also why we only have 1 Shaymin-EX in here as an absolutely only-if-necessary safety net. I'm opting for 2 Unown over it, both as a bit of draw power, but to pad the basic count some (to prevent Mulligans, or opening Shaymin-EX) and also to offer some synergy with Gallade. Unown is also a card I like because it helps with and against N. In this deck, it’s a solid placeholder on the Bench while you chase the perfect hand size to use Maxie's.

This deck has already been pretty strong against the field as a whole, and if we assess that some build of Volcanion is going to be good, then Zoroark's ability to prey on them filling their Bench is going to be inherently strong as well. This is one of the few decks I feel is both proactively powerful enough and has a good(ish) Night March matchup to justify considering it for Worlds.

September Rotation

Okay, so this is a bit tougher a format to evaluate because not only do we have to look at what cards we gain with Steam Siege, but what cards LEAVE the format with XY-Phantom Forces. I'll just make a list of the key cards leaving from each set.

Muscle Band
Roller Skates

Mega Kangaskhan-EX
Fiery Torch
Sacred Ash
Startling Megaphone

Furious Fists
Focus Sash
Fighting Stadium
Super Scoop Up

Phantom Forces
Battle Compressor
Mega Manectric-EX
Dimension Valley
Night Marchers
Robo Substitute
Head Ringer
Target Whistle
Mystery Energy

Wow, Phantom was Forces such an incredible set. Wow, Furious Fists was like...a few really, really good cards and a pile of useless bulk. Flashfire actually had more playable cards in it than I remembered, too. Let’s try and break down exactly what this means going forward.

We lose a lot of important Pokémon we are used to. Trevenant, as a deck, is now dead, with the rotation of the namesake Pokémon. Metal decks are also equally dead with the absence of Bronzong, as Metal Links was the only thing keep that type's head above water. Both Manectric had a long reign as a viable deck choice, but they too are gone. Most of the Flashfire Pokémon had already left the spotlight and had been reduced to role players at best. Aromatisse leaving hurts the Fairy decks quite a bit as it was more or less the lynchpin that kept the type as a whole almost viable. Out of Furious Fists, Lucario-EX and Hawlucha had both kind of fallen to the wayside anyways, meaning their rotation will not be felt as hard as it could be. Seismitoad-EX is another card that feels like it had overstayed its welcome, too. It actually hasn't been nearly the force it had been in Standard since the rotation of Hypnotoxic Laser last year, but it did see a resurgence at Nationals. I do not feel bad about it leaving.

Energy-wise, we don't lose a whole lot. Mystery Energy leaves the format. Strong Energy and Double Colorless Energy, two of the Energy cards printed in this block of four sets have both been reprinted since then.

We lose a lot on the Trainer side of things though. With Xerosic AND Startling Megaphone getting the axe, we now have no means by which to get rid of Tools off of Pokémon. This is something really important to remember going forward, too. This also means Fighting Fury Belt gains even more influence. On the topic of the Belt, Muscle Band also rotates, although that card had fallen out of favor in most decks for the Belt anyways.

Super Scoop Up and Crobat both rotate. Super Scoop Up's exit matters less because its two primary targets, Crobat, and Seismitoad-EX, both leave with it. AZ leaves as well, so we don't have a great means by which to bounce our Pokémon anymore. Shaymin-EX is much more of a liability once it hits the Bench now. (Ninja Boy is the new means to combat this.) 

Enhanced Hammer, Xerosic, and Team Flare Grunt are all gone, meaning it is very difficult to actually attack Energy cards in play now, at least reliably. [Editor’s Note: Actually, Enhanced Hammer was reprinted in Primal Clash and Team Flare Grunt was reprinted in Generations!] Now, to be fair, most of the Pokémon used in the decks that used these cards also have rotated, but it’s still an aspect of the format that is no longer present.

I mentioned how I felt like Primal Groudon was going to be a likely role player going forward, but that is going to require a bit of reformatting. Two cards that Groudon was used to pairing itself with, Wobbuffet (to slow the opponent down to its speed) and Robo Substitute are both leaving with the exit of Phantom Forces. Now, a Regirock/Ninja Boy and/or Carbink BREAK build seems like it is likely to take over in those card's absence. [Editor’s Note: Wobbuffet was also reprinted in Generations.]

Seeing how I've mentioned the card a lot in the set reviews, I want to go over how we are losing Blacksmith as well. This is a card that has been instrumental in Fire Pokémon being viable, even if they haven't set the world on...wait for Yes, I'm ashamed. I feel like so many of the Fire Pokémon printed were designed with power level in mind assuming this card was a factor, so I think the loss of the card is a huge blow.

Also, Fighting loses Korrina. The type can survive losing it as while it is a very good consistency card, it is still just a consistency card in a format full of them. Focus Sash and Fighting Stadium leave as well, which are also pretty big blows to Fighting decks as a whole.

Okay, now to get to the big one since VS Seeker is still legal due to its Secret Rare printing...Battle Compressor.

Battle Compressor has been hunted as a major reason why this game was facing down so many problems: 5 minute turns. Incredible starts. Night March and Vespiquen being oppressive in Standard and Expanded respectively. I've always countered that this is more due to a critical mass of cards, spearheaded by Shaymin-EX. Either way, it is impossible to overlook what Battle Compressor had done to the Standard format.

Vespiquen hasn't been too strong in Standard for a while, and partly this is because Night March was a better version of it. Battle Compressor is pretty much also the lynchpin that makes any sort of Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick/Archie's Ace in the Hole deck work. So the loss of Battle Compressor guts those strategies. Beyond this, they really helped make decks using Yveltal (XY) or say, the new Volcanion smooth and consistent in terms of getting Energy cards discards quickly. Mega Rayquaza wasn't as all-in on Battle Compressor but it really did get away with running as few as 3 Basic Energy cards because it knew it could get away with discarding them each game with Compressor to fuel a quick Mega Turbo. Anything that needs to get cards discarded early on will now be much worse for wear without the card.

The other huge implication is what it does to Supporter counts. With Compressor, and VS Seeker, decks could get away with running very few Supporters. Not only this, but you could run 1 copy of a lot of more narrow purposed Supporters solely to search up and use when needed. Decks would run 1 Xerosic, 1 Lysandre, and 1 Hex Maniac and be able to reliably get them. Well, now, that is no longer the case. It is much harder to draw into that first copy of your silver bullet Supporters than it used to be. Now, you either need to decide if you think the card is REALLY worth it or not. Cards that used to feel like free inclusions before are now probably better off left out of your 60 cards. Other really important ones (I'd see decks skimp on Lysandre, and others run like, 1 N) need to have additional copies added to your deck. The right approach to this is up in the air, but the absence of Battle Compressor has been really pronounced in my testing so far.

I want to include a few deck lists I've thrown together so far for the format. I feel like it’s silly to assume anything but Mega Rayquaza, a deck that has barely lost anything in rotation, is the frontrunner and benchmark for the new format. It is so proactively powerful, lost nothing, and its biggest enemies have more or less all rotated. Will it settle down as the best deck? Who knows, but I do know it’s the right place to start testing at, and go from there. Here is the deck list I've been working with.

This list isn't anything too far out of left field, but it has made some necessary adjustments. First off, we're running 15 Basic Pokémon. A lot of this is because we do not have access to Sacred Ash anymore, so I want to be able to refill my Bench if necessary. The deck has Puzzle of Time, but it’s best not to overload the card if unnecessary. A 3-3 Rayquaza line is probably sufficient, but 4-3 does help with your starts.

On the topic of the Rayquaza, you'll notice something crazy...I'm running a copy of the Ancient Origins Secret Rare Mega Rayquaza!? It's got a different Trait, and one that is widely regarded as the worse between the two. I is generally the worse of the two Mega Rayquaza. Its Trait heals itself when it Mega Evolves...which rarely is necessary. Well, it rarely WAS necessary. Previously, builds of the deck had gone with pure speed in mind, aiming to attack on the first turn with a Mega Rayquaza. Not only was that not really too consistent LAST format, it’s even less realistic this format without Battle Compressor.

Accepting a slower build, it is also a good idea to be more creative with our Rayquaza line. There will now be a number of times when our Rayquaza takes a hit in the first turn of the game and has damage on it. If we accept that our Rayquaza-EX is going to take a hit a portion of games, and then we can Spirit Link it and Mega Evolve on the second turn, the healing Trait is actually awesome! Having 1 copy to search up in the deck to cover those spots is well worth the inclusion! Past that first turn, you rarely need to make use of Mega Rayquaza's Fast Evolution Trait anyways, so some split has to be correct.

Once we accept that logic, the desire to open with a Rayquaza goes up, and running 4 is more appealing. I'm at a 2/2 split between them again, and I do plan on running at least 1 copy of both, but 3/1 in one direction or the other is likely better. It just depends on what direction the format takes to determine which is correct.

Beyond Rayquaza, we have 3 Hoopa-EX. I could see running 4. The card is just incredible in this deck. It pretty much guarantees the deck a good set up. It and the 4 Shaymin-EX are the glue that holds the deck together. 1-1 Zoroark actually wound up playing much better than I expected it would, so it gets the port over as well.

I've gone over why Unown is so good previously, and I stand by it here too. They are even better because they help fill the Bench for Emerald Break too. Finally, we have a Klefki. If we end up using our first turn to Mega Evolve without a Spirit Link, Klefki is going to be an awesome addition. With Puzzles, we can loop this guy back and pretty much lock out mirror match, Primal Groudon, and other decks. Remember, there are no ways to discard Tools now, so this guy is going to stick! If the card gets widely adopted as an anti-Rayquaza solution, Garbodor can be added to the deck as a means to turn Klefki's Ability off too.

I'm torn between 8 or 9 Energy, and am currently on 8. Without Battle Compressor, it’s pretty easy to not see your Basics for Mega Turbo. With that being the case, you need to use Ultra Ball and Sycamore to discard them more often, and that means you need more copies of them.

The Trainers aren't too crazy but I want to look at the Supporters. I've bashed Sycamore in this deck many, many times, but it is a necessary evil now, even as a 4 of. Paired with it is two copies of N, a Teammates, a Hex Maniac, and two Lysandre. The deck needed more Supporters as a whole without Compressor. There are 7 spots to allocate to Sycamore, N, and Teammates. I could see a 3 Sycamore, 2 N, 2 Teammates split here too. I want to see Teammates every game, it’s your best midgame Supporter.

Anyways, my next article will go further in depth about this new format, even though Worlds will still not have been put in the books yet. I want to mention that on August 14th, we will be having our second ARG Circuit Series tournament in Providence, Rhode Island, and it WILL feature the Worlds format of XY-Steam Siege! So anyone who comes out to that will be able to get a nice jump on Worlds preparation! Hopefully I'll see a bunch of people there!

- Chris

[+17] okko


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