Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

The Evolution Of Pokemon As We Know It..

Chris Reviews The Evolutions Expansion, Reviews Philadelphia Regionals, and Shows Off A New Evolutions Inspired Standard List!

24. 11. 2016 by Chris Fulop

Let me get this out of the way since I haven't had the chance to publish this yet. Evolutions has been an extremely popular and well selling set. Talking to local store owners, the amount of the product they've sold to non-players off of nostalgia has been staggeringly high. That being said, I've really been unimpressed by the set as a whole for competitive play. I don't understand what was going on with the thought process behind this set. If they were banking on nostalgia selling this set and hoping to lure in new buyers ( Which has happened! ) wouldn't it be better to make this set a slam dunk and full of great, playable cards? Take the hype and use the set to reward players, both old and brand new or returning alike. I get that they are getting the sales regardless, but there is no reason they couldn't put out an overall better product to really use this as a good launchpad to get a broader player base.

Anyways, I'll cover the cards I feel are playable, as well as cards that "stand out" enough that I feel it is worth debunking their potential playability as well.

Evolutions Set Review

Blastoise/Charizard/Venusaur Spirit Links: Well, I like that they actually found a time and place to retroactively introduce these, but the time for any of these lines to be playable has long passed. I spent way too much time pet-decking Mega Venusaur EX, and I'm convinced there was a point where I could have made it a contender if it has a Spirit Link, but I'm pretty sure that time has long passed. The power creep has continued and dwarfed these lines now. Blastoise was never close to playable, and Mega Charizard actually saw extremely fringe play as a tank in Aromatisse decks a few years ago but is otherwise also outclassed. These cards all just look silly when you compare them to Mega Mewtwo or Mega Rayquaza. None the less, I am really happy to see these cards printed and MAYBE we'll get the same treatment for the other Link-less Megas like the Lucario line. I could see it making Lucario EX good enough to see play again. ( It would have an uphill battle, but it is a start. )

Pidgeot/Slowbro Spirit Links: Necessary for their Mega lines. Not too much to say here.

Brock's Grit: Grit here competes with Super Rod and Karen. It is 2x Rods, but a Supporter. In some cases, this can be a selling point. You can get it with Jirachi EX, and you can re-use it with VS Seeker. Karen can't get Energy cards too, but it is very disruptive to certain archetypes and gets ALL Pokemon, so it seems more appealing overall. I kind of like Grit in Max Elixir decks that may run thinner Pokemon lines, too. I think most decks will opt for Rod or Karen, but I'd be surprised if a few decks didn't opt to go with Grit over them.

Devolution Spray: This card is...interesting. The upside is pretty obvious. It lets you re-use evolutions with nice come into play abilities, such as Golbat/Crobat, Milotic, Bright Look Ninetales, and I'm sure plenty of others. In Crobat decks, will it be better than Super Scoop Up? Probably not. Will they have room to run both? Also probably not. ( SSU is too good with Seismitoad EX to get replaced even if Spray doesn't demand a flip. The lack of acting as a Switch is relevent, too. )

Here Comes Team Rocket: Well, it can replace Town Map...and should. It is a much cooler card, shame on anyone who doesn't upgrade their maps!

Misty's Determination: Well, I like being able to dig 8 cards deep. I'm not sure how useful this actually will be. Like, even if you can make a case it is cool for decks that really want to hit a specific card, like a Double Colorless Energy or Double Dragon Energy, how much better than a Sycamore is this? It effectives digs 7 cards deep, and Misty doesn't refill your hand ever either. I don't think this will ever see play. I am actually curious how deep this card would have to dig to be able to be a contender. 10 cards? 12? I'm not even sure, we have so much draw power at the moment that this just seems anemic.

PokeDex: Gallade on a stick! I don't expect this card to be too useful but it is decent alongside cards like Unown and Acro Bike. If there is a truly dedicated turbo engine in either format, I wouldn't rule this card out seeing some fringe play.

Professor Oak's Hint: Oh, I got the hint. Don't play this card. Its like one use of Trop. Beach on your Supporter! Yuck. I'm not even sure how good this card would be if it didn't end your turn. Since it does...well, lets just move on before I get upset thinking about this card.

Beedrill: Beedrill is kind of cool! It benefits greatly from Forest of Giant Plants. For GC, it can execute Swarming Sting which does 40 damage to ANY Pokemon per Beedrill you have in play. 160 is actually a really great rate for a 2 energy snipe attack. It sure does abuse Shaymin EX, which is nice, but I'm just not sure if the card is quite good enough. I kind of like the idea of pairing it with Galvantula, so you can set up 30 snipes and then pick them off with Beedrill later. I'll assume this won't see play, but the design is cool and at least worthwhile, which is all I really ask for in cards.

Chansey: I love how they took all of the old Pokemon cards and upgraded their stats to attempt to keep them in line with the massive series of power creeps we've experienced since 1996...well, except with Chansey, who they instead had to keep in check by adding 2 to it's retreat cost and removing it's Psychic resistance.

Charizard: It's upgrades are...pretty unimpressive. We get 150 HP instead of 120, and the same Pokemon Power/Ability allowing Charizard to abuse Double Colorless Energy. The attack still costs 4 Fire Energy but now does 200 damage...and discards 3 energy. That is a pretty big downgrade. To be fair, even if it did still do 200 for 4 and only pitched 2, I doubt it would see play, so maybe I shouldn't complain so much here. The nostalgia value on the card is really high though, so it has that going for it? At least it got to keep it's Resistance, too.

Clefairy: Clefairy is the same card minus the type change to Fairy that brings with it a shift in Weakness and Resistance. I only bring it up because I can't totally ignore Metronome for CCC that copies any attack. That is splashable, and can be powered up in one turn off of a DCE and a Max Elixir. If it were a different type, like Grass or something, I would love to run 1 of these in Rainbow Road to cover an addition type for Rainbow Force while also being a fringe attacker in a pinch. I'd keep this on the radar, as dumb as it sounds, because Metronome is pretty impressive even on a 40 HP Clefairy.

Dragonite EX: Ah. The stand out card from this set. Well, obviously this card is insane with Mega Rayquaza, where you really want to be able to fill your bench back up after things get KOed. Dragonite's Ability is extremely strong. It enables gimmicky decks like Rayquaza and Raichu. It lets you reliably recycle 1-of Pokemon in decks that run a toolbox or just want to run thinner lines and rely on Dragonite as a wild card of sorts. Dragonite also doesn't specify EX Pokemon...thus it can get back Unowns. I know it isn't super impressive, but being able to bench it, at worst, to draw 2 cards isn't negligible! I love Unown as it is, and Dragonite is just further incentive to run them. I can see Dragonite being a card that makes it's way into most decks as a 1 of. To top it off, Dragonite EX has 180 HP, and a pretty strong attack! 130 damage for CCCC that also rips an energy off the Defending Pokemon is really strong. The problem is, it is pretty tough to get powered up so it isn't really a great secondary attacker without a bit of work. I want to try Dragonite with Ninja Boy. The Ability works well with running a toolbox of big basic attackers, and it mitigates the difficulty of attacking with Dragonite itself if need be. There are a lot of opportunities to abuse this card.

Electrode: Another card that they nerfed a bunch. It's Ability is now restricted to attaching Electrode to a Lightning Pokemon, and it only provides Lightning Energy now. Giving up a prize is a pretty big deal, although it can be kind of cool to help accelerate the impact of N. The problem is, there really are not many impressive Lightning Pokemon in Standard, and if I am looking at Expanded, this card is a joke compared to Eelektrik. If they print better Lightning types in the future then Electrode can be re-evaluated, but I'm just not seeing this card being worth it with all of the new restrictions. You could use Ninja Boy to swap a Lightning type into a different Pokemon, or maybe use Jolteon to make a Stage 1 into a Lightning type to cheat the restrictions, but its still kind of rough. ( It is my understanding that the Lightning type requirement is only necessary when the Ability is used, and if the requirement proceeds to no longer be met that the Electrode stays attached. )

Pidegot EX/Mega Pidgeot EX: Here we go again: My unhealty Ninja Boy fixation at it again. Pidgeot EX is an alright card...170 HP. Colorless. 80 damage and 20 to a Benched Pokemon for CCC. Not terrible for a "Mega Me" EX, but it's first attack is...intriguing. Mirror Move smacks them back for however much damage Pidgeot EX...or the Pokemon whose identity carriers over after a Ninja Boy ( I believe ) took the prior turn. Getting smacked for 150 on a different EX only to Ninja Boy into a Pidgeot is cute. Probably too situational to ever work, but cute. I'd be more optimistic if I felt Mega Pidgeot EX was better, but it was another middling Mega Form that doesn't stand out at all. If Mach Cyclone acted as a Gust of Wind to bring up a Pokemon of your choice, it would be MAYBE competitive. I don't even think that would be close to too powerful for the work you do to make Pidgeot work. Instead it is just way underpowered even if its cool to see Pidgeot get some chase-rare love.

Slowbro EX/Mega Slowbro EX: Well, Mega Slowbro is...not good. It does 100 damage and confuses itself, and afterwards does 200 damage instead. I get that the gimmick is you have to keep healing the Confusion to safely reap the rewards from the damage boost but really, if the attack was 100 and 200 every turn after, the card still wouldn't see play. It is too slow and low impact to start and Rope or Lysandre ( Or just getting KOed ) break up the damage buff. Slowbro EX itself is beefy and it's healing attack is a decent stall, but all the abusively good Pokemon that definite competitive play are just leagues better. This is a shame, because while I hate the design for MOST Mega Pokemon, I actually think Mega Slowbro is extremely cool, so I wanted better out of this line.

Machamp/Machamp BREAK: Machamp suffers from being a stage 2 Pokemon with a hefty energy requirement in a type that is extremely light on energy acceleration. The Ability is cool, and 3 damage counters isn't nothing, but I don't think it is strong enough in the current state of the game. The Break gives you a hefty 190 HP and a decent attack if you can keep it going, but as a "stage 3" it just really doesn't draw me to it.

Mew: Mew is interesting because it's Ability prevents damage from all Evolution Pokemon, but pretty much every deck has basic attackers. Worst case scenario, any deck can just attack with Shaymin EX. Mew only has 40 HP, and doesn't do a lot of damage, so I'm really not too interested in this card when there are better protective Pokemon in the format.

Mewtwo: Now this is an upgrade! I actually think this Mewtwo is really playable. 130 HP is great for a non-EX, and it has Lugia EX's attack, doing 20 damage plus 20 more per energy attached to the Defending Pokemon. Being a Psychic type, it is good against Mega Mewtwo EX. If run in a deck that demands Mewtwo attach 4 Energy to get a OHKO, if you have any sort of damage boost, Mewtwo OHKOs Mega Mewtwo for a DCE. Mewtwo, like Lugia, is also good against Giratina EX, and to a less extent, Yveltal EX. Mewtwo also benefits from Dimension Valley, making it's attack cost only C.

Mewtwo EX: Now this card is impressive. Energy Absorbtion is great in that it lets you power up when getting ready to transition into Mega Mewtwo. Most importantly it doesn't specify you only can retrieve a Basic Energy card, so you can soak up a DCE. This makes a second turn Mega Mewtwo a huge threat in terms of it's damage output. The problem the card faces is that it doesn't offer the damage swap option that the one from BKT does, which means Mega Mewtwo loses access to it's Shrine of Memories gimmick. That being said, I'm not super impressed by it...I'm not saying I dislike it, I am saying that with this Mewtwo being an option, it isn't a necessity in the deck. I could see some kind of split between the two being an option as well. Every time I look at these new cards I keep obsessing about Ninja Boy options, and here is another one that pairs with the card pretty well.

Nidoking/Nidoking BREAK: I hate having to review, lines? like this. I try and hit on all of the marquee/"rare" cards in each set, and Nidoking here falls under that umbrella. Nidoking is just another medicore stage 2 attacker ( I bet hes a true hoss at Pre Releases! ) with decent HP and expensive midrange attacks that will never be at the rate needed to see play. The BREAK buffs it's HP further and gives it a very underwhelming "Toxic" poison attack. Pass.

Ninetales/Ninetales BREAK: Ninetales here is a throwback to the original Base Set Ninetales ( Surprise! ) a card which has a really dear place in my heart. Back in 1999, I piloted a Ninetales/Magmar/Scyther deck and managed to hit 4th in the DCI Rankings back then, which was really difficult since I know at least the first place guy totally fabricated tournament results to hit that rank. Of course, the deck wasn't actually even very good and the Ninetales had to have made the deck way worse, but I was 14 and man did I love my fox. This Ninetales isn't great either, but it has a decent amount of HP, it's Lure attack is not bad at all, and 120 for 3 isn't a terrible rate. Unfortunately, in Expanded you have Bright Look Ninetales which is just better in most ways. In Standard, we don't have Blacksmith to make it easy enough to power.

Ninetales BREAK has a pretty absurd damage output, matching the old Rayquaza EX. Unfortunately, it still feels like it requires too much work to get out a non-RCable Stage 2 Pokemon to do that sort of damage when I feel like Fire, as a type, just has so many better alternatives ( Such as said Rayquaza even. ) The fact that it's attack isn't at all in line with what the other ( Better ) Ninetales offers doesn't help much. Bright Look Ninetales is a great card partially because it has such a cheap potent attack, and whatever shell you'd play it in would not be capable of supporting an odd BREAK addition even if the inclusion is somewhat free to branch off the line.

Rattata: Well, we finally have our universal tool hate! While it doesn't take tools off of Garbodor ( For two reasons! ) it does deal with Fighting Fury Belt, Balloons, and Klefki if you are running Mega Pokemon. The applications are wider in Expanded, too. I see this being played in a lot of decks. It helps that it has a nice evolution too...

Raticate: Yikes is this card great. It has an attack for a Colorless that strips away an Energy card off the defending Pokemon. While it doesn't protect itself afterwards, we've seen how useful that attack is on the Promo Jirachi. It also synergizes greatly with Shadowy Bite, which, also for a Colorless, does 60 damage for each Special Energy Card in the opponent's discard pile! It is easy to expect, against a lot of decks, that you'll be doing 120-180 damage. I think the card looks pretty good against a deck like Giratina, especially if you pair it with other energy removal. Alongside Hammers, Crunch lets you really pressure their attachments, and it can then transition late game into being able to sweep with high damage outputs. Also worth noting, Raticate BREAK is actually a really good card, and now that the rest of the line is strong too, I can see it getting dusted off. It does kind of take things in a different direction, but there may be something there!

Starmie/Starmie BREAK: Starmie's Ability is interesting, in that it lets you retrieve Basic Energy each turn, which actually seems like it is something both Greninja and Volcanion decks could be interested in. I feel like, especially with how popular Garbodor is in Standard, that those decks are better off using their Trainers based recovery that they currently have. If Garbodor tapers off in play, maybe a transition would be fine, but I'm not sold.

Starmie BREAK does 100 damage to every BREAK your opponent has...which is generally going to be like, one. If BREAK Pokemon were better, this card would likely still be bad because it seems really easy to play around by just restricting how many BREAK you play down at any given time. As it is, with a pretty subpar Starmie and a metagame that doesn't promote a lot of BREAK use, this card is pretty underwhelming.

Alright, I'll conclude this portion of the review with a fairly abritrary "Top 5" list out of the set which is obviously taking a lot of personal bias into account.

Honorary Mention: That Stupid Clefairy
5.) Mewtwo
4.) Mewtwo EX
3.) Raticate
2.) Rattata
1.) Dragonite EX

Philly Regionals

If I had gone out to Philly Regionals, I would have played a list very similar to those used by my friends Kevin Baxter and Carl Scheu. Kevin finished in 33rd place, right on the bubble, and Carl started out extremely well and I believe lost 3 in a row to miss top 32 due to some really bad luck. ( He told me the stories, and I am pretty sure I repressed the details to soften the pain. It was pretty bad, I remember, and I will spare you, the readers, of suffering through it as well. ) Anyways, this is the 60 cards I would have registered.

I don't think it is particularly surprising that I would play Mega Rayquaza given a position where it is even remotely a defensable choice. I like having a very proactive deck choice that I am super familiar with, especially in a format with such a wide card pool as Expanded. I don't deny it: I am far less prepared with this format than I am Standard, and as a result will gladly embrace a deck I know inside and out if I can. Being honest with yourself about where you stand in regards to preparation for an event is very important. This isn't an excuse to enable poor preparation and testing, but sometimes your life makes it difficult to have the free time to allocate towards testing multiple formats. ( I made the choice to put Expanded on the back burner due to such constraints. )

Mega Rayquaza benefits from a few factors. First, it is not one of the "decks to beat" in Expanded. I mean, it is on the radar, but very few people will run anti-Rayquaza measures, and people will be fine running decks which are just extremely soft to it. Second, we have Special Charge and Karen. In Standard, I have been crutching on Puzzle of Times to help the deck keep up with lost resources, and that eats up a lot of space and forces me to run Teammates. Karen makes it extremely easy to always have access to your Pokemon, and Special Charge keeps you full of DCEs. The big issue is having beyond 4 copies of Sky Field. The nature of the format kind of combats this, though, because you don't have as many Stadium cards in the average list and you match up better against a lot of decks even without the 8 wide bench. Unlike in Standard, you also don't really face as many Parallel Cities ( Not having a giant bullseye on your forehead is nice, right? ).

Karen does a lot more than just recover your Pokemon, though! It lets you combat Vespiquen and Night March decks. Just spamming Karen gives you some pretty good game against the slower, type-advantage-less Vespiquen deck. Night March is tougher in that Joltik just has it's way with you so easily that you need a slightly different plan: Seismitoad EX. Toad with Karen can be good in both matchups, but is best against Night March. It has random applications as well, just being a good card

The one big argument I had with Kevin and Carl was over the inclusion of Ghetsis. They both ran a Prof. Juniper over it, and I felt like not running Ghetsis was just incorrect. I debated cutting the 2nd Hex Maniac or the Sycamore, and wound up cutting the Sycamore. I hate Sycamore in this deck, because it is almost ALWAYS worse than Colress. With Hoopas, Shaymin, and Jirachi to go with your Ultra Balls, your first turn usually has a ton of flexibility and you should be able to gain access to N or Colress on the first turn pretty easily. ( Lets not overlook the Battle Compressor + VS Seeker engine we have access to in Expanded. ) Sycamore offers a slightly different take on raw draw power that is almost ALWAYS worse past the first turn ( I'll take Colress every time. ) and offers no sort of disruption. ( N is a slightly worse play than turn 1 Colress if looking for card quantity, but it's primary role is as disruption later in the game anyways. ) Ghetsis isn't really a draw card...I mean, it is, but I'm never playing it on the pretense that I'll be netting a great deal of cards. It is disruption and strong in spots where N may not be. With the deck's incredible non-Supporter draw power, having strong turn 1 disruptive options is very appealing. If the deck goes second, it can pull off a turn 1 massive attack. If it goes first, it can set up strongly, while also slamming either Hex Maniac and Ghetsis. Even if these plays don't cripple an opponent, they should slow the opponent down enough to be worth it. I'd rather see a unique threat in Ghetsis than a vary narrow deviation of "draw" that I already have 3 copies of in the deck, more or less. Expanded is so toolbox friendly, it should be exploited. Also, Ghetsis does play really well with Seismitoad EX. It doesn't play out very often, but when you transition off of Quaking Punch and Ghetsis for a bunch, it does feel pretty nice.

Pokemon-wise, the core is pretty unchanged. 3-3 Mega Rayquaza, 4 Shaymin EX, 2 Hoopa EX and a Jirachi EX is standard. Beyond this, I'm at 1 Exeggcute. ( I really do like 2, but the 2nd is a luxury and a lot of cards got added to the list. ) Seismitoad's presence and role was addressed above. Keldeo EX is just a great utility card and I don't think it's inclusion is too out of left field. It is very good against disruptive decks. Since Keldeo made the cut, it influenced the inclusion of the 3rd Float Stone. Due to the 3rd Stone, I feel a lot less flimsy on only running 3 Rayquaza EX since it does make promoting one of the first turn more reliable. If it weren't for Keldeo, I'd be running a 2 Stone/1 Escape Rope split.

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