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Jay Lesage

"Straight out of Expanded" - 4th Quarter Ban List Update!

A cabaret of Jay's thoughts going into the 2019 Expanded format, detailing the new updated ban list.

07/30/2018 by Jay Lesage

Goodmorning 60Cards readers! My name is Jacob Lesage, and a very monumental event occurred the other day – I moved to Ottawa! It’s been an exciting exchange from my regular Toronto-esque living, to a city where it feels a little slower paced. Being in Canada’s capital is also great in terms of a fresh start, and I can’t wait to hit up the Pokemon leagues to see what the locals have to offer. I’ll of course have to adapt to a new metagame (as well as find a new barber plus food spots), but it’s a worthy exchange in order to expand on my career and my relationship. Speaking of expanding… the ban list was changed within the Expanded format! Pokemon made an official announcement the other day stating how they were going to remove certain cards existing within the format in order to recreate a healthier Expanded. The integrity of the Expanded format has been at a standstill for a while now, with many people speculating what cards would be banned for a while now. Now, you’re probably wondering, “what deems a card as ‘unhealthy’ or ‘not fit to exist in the format’”? Allow me – let's dive into the article and find out. Let’s take a peak at one of the first cards to be banned!

Lysandre’s Trump Card

Lysandre's Trump Card (PHF; 118)  

Ban Date: June 15th, 2015 (North American Announcement), June 20th (Japan Announcement) 

"As of June 15, 2015, Lysandre’s Trump Card (XY—Phantom Forces, 99/119 and 118/119) will be banned from all sanctioned Play! Pokémon tournaments in most of the world. (The ban will go into effect in Japan on June 20.) This card has created an undesirable play environment because it:

Eliminates one of your opponent’s victory conditions (running out of cards in your deck)
Allows repeated use of powerful Trainer cards
Allows drawing through your deck quickly with minimal repercussions
Extends the time of battles"
 

This is a card that prolonged many game states, especially alongside disruptive decks (like Seismitoad-EX). Seismitoad-EX would burn through the entire deck, just searching for cards like Crushing Hammer alongside Slurpuff’s Tasting ability, and eventually remove all of the opponent’s energy off of the board. This made for a toxic format that existed based around a single Supporter, to the point where Pokemon had to ban it. 

Here is a sample of a Seismitoad/Shaymin deck list – courtesy of Jason Klaczynski: 

Shiftry

Shiftry (ND; 72)  

Ban Date: September 1st, 2015 (North America)

"Shiftry will be banned from all sanctioned Play! Pokémon tournaments that use the Expanded format. This card has created an undesirable play environment because it:

Creates a strategy that frequently wins on the first turn of the game
Creates a non-interactive play environment where the opponent has little impact on the outcome of the match
Shiftry's previous Evolutions, Seedot (XY—Flashfire, 5/106) and Nuzleaf (XY—Flashfire, 6/106), are Grass-type Pokémon, so it's possible to evolve to Shiftry in one turn using the Forest of Giant Plants (XY—Ancient Origins, 74/98) Stadium card. With the help of Devolution Spray (Black & White—Dragons Exalted,113/124), Super Scoop Up (XY—Furious Fists, 100/111), and Recycle (Black & White—Emerging Powers, 96/98), players can use the Giant Fan Ability repeatedly to get rid of all of the opponent's Pokémon—and win the game in one turn."

The Giant Fan strategy works consistently enough to cause concern. Frequent first-turn wins are a sign of an unhealthy play environment, and the Shiftry deck is capable of doing that a high percentage of the time. Since Shiftry has a clearly negative effect on the Expanded format, we feel that the best option is to ban it from that environment.

Here is a Shiftry sample decklist for reference – courtesy of Andrew Wambolt:

 

Shiftry was a very – “yikes” – Pokemon to play against in testing, because the very epitome of the deck was to donk anybody and everybody in its sight. It was a very cruel deck to be initially designed, but players catch on quick to the best ideas. In an effort to not be Giant Fan’d away turn one, they’d even go to the extent of playing multiple copies of Baltoy, which could not be affected by Giant Fan. Since this card had such an adverse effect on the Expanded format, Pokemon had to drop that ban hammer. Bye, Shiftry!

(P.S. I’m absolutely just kidding. On October 20th, he was let back into the Expanded format, because of this particular card being banned just a couple years later…..) 

Forest of Giant Plants

  Forest of Giant Plants (ANO; 74)

Ban Date: October 20th, 2017

"The Forest of Giant Plants Stadium card enables many dangerous strategies with Grass-type Pokémon in the Expanded format. These strategies can range from locking down the opponent's options to winning the game on the first turn, and all of them can happen before the opponent ever gets a chance to play. No single strategy was powerful enough to ban this Stadium card, but so many of them existing at the same time gave sufficient cause to ban it."

The main menace they’re particularly referencing is Vileplume, which had the ability Allergy Pollen (which prevented either player from playing Item cards from their hand). Vileplume had the ability to completely create one-sided board states if the Vileplume player went first, and that’s unhealthy on its own. If you can’t play half of your deck because you went second losing the coin flip, then something has to be done. Another very ruthless card that Forest of Giant plants birthed was Decidueye-GX, which also worked itself into a donk-based deck spawning from Japan. Essentially, alongside Latios-EX, the player would get out as many Decidueye-GX as possible, and run rampid with Super Scoop Up and PlusPower in order to try and KO all of the opponent’s Pokemon using Fast Raid. Allowing a single type of Pokemon (Grass) to evolve quicker than others also made many other Evolutions of other types less appealing to play. 

Here's a sample Latios Donk deck list – courtesy of Chip Richey:

Archeops

Archeops (DE; 110)

Ban Date: October 20th, 2017 

"Archeops: The existence of Archeops's Ancient Power Ability has a very negative effect on decks that rely on evolved Pokémon. There are ways to combat it—Hex Maniac, Evosoda, or Wobbuffet are a few examples—but decks that focus on evolved Pokémon are forced to use these cards just to evolve their Pokémon. The combination of Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick with Archeops can stop Evolution before the opponent ever gets a chance to evolve their Pokémon, which limits the number of viable strategies. Removing a different part of the combo (Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick or Battle Compressor was also considered, but banning Archeops impacted existing strategies the least, so that was the route that made the most sense."

When Evolution decks – a style of decks that is already discouraged by all of the Basic Pokemon support – have even more obstacles to overcome, that makes it completely unfair. Archeops put such a big hurt on Evolution decks, because Maxie’s engine decks could whip up this prehistoric bird as early as their first turn. Most Maxie’s engines are so consistent to the point where this could happen 65% of the time, if not ensured by their second turn (which only allows a single turn of Evolution from the opponent if they started the match). If the Archeops player begins the game first, then the opposing player is out of luck because they won’t be able to evolve – that is, unless they’re packing counter cards, such as Evosoda, Hex Maniac, or something else. This ban was very justified in order for Expanded to grow into a healthier, Evolution-inclusive format.

 

Wally

Wally (ROS; 107)  

Ban Date: August 17th, 2018

"Wally enables a combo with Trevenant that creates similar problems, so it falls into this category as well. Without these cards in the environment, hopefully gameplay will become more enjoyable."

This ban is rather self-explanatory, as it mimics closely what they did with Forest of Giant Plants and Vileplume. It’s unfair to have a single-sided Item-lock as early as turn one, and your opponent has no out to that. It’s difficult to access Guzma while underneath Item-lock as well, especially since you need to play draw Supporters in order to catch up to the opponent. Matchups against Trevenant can sometimes be an autoloss if they just flip heads, and have access to Wally. This lock is even simpler than Vileplume’s was – I’m glad that Wally is removed. It doesn’t affect any other deck in Expanded that I can think of, so this was a positive change. 

Here’s a Trevenant deck list that utilizes Wally to achieve turn one Trevenant – courtesy of James Arnold:

 

Ghetsis, Hex Maniac, and Puzzle of Time

Ghetsis (PF; 101)

Hex Maniac (ANO; 75)

Puzzle of Time (BKP; 109)

Ban Date: August 17th, 2018

“The overall goal of the Expanded format is to have a fun environment where players can enjoy using a wide variety of strategies. Ghetsis and Hex Maniac were identified as cards that stifle creativity and prevent several kinds of strategies from being viable. These cards also have the potential to make a major negative impact on an opponent before they get a chance to take their first turn, which can lead to a frustrating experience.”

These follow a similar case that parallel Archeops – you don’t really have a chance to react to an opponent playing a Hex Maniac or Ghetsis turn one. While these cards aren’t crippling all of the time, they do stifle the first turn of the game by limiting the opponent’s options (while sometimes leaving them optionless). 

“Puzzle of Time is a flexible card that can be used in a wide variety of strategies. Its usage rate is quite high in popular decks, and it enables a lot of powerful combos. Removing this card from the environment will affect how many decks are constructed, which will hopefully make the Expanded format feel fresh and different.”

Puzzle of Time allowed for less creativity, because players could simply play “x” card and gain “y” copies, where y is the amount of times you can retrieve it with Puzzle. It was annoying to play against, because sometimes players could just tee off and draw into all of their Puzzles at opportune times, and win the game with invincible combos. Zoroark-GX was a monstrosity with this card, as was Night March. Now, these decks will be forced to play different recovery counts, or thicken their lines up of other cards. You may see cards that were initially 1-ofs become obsolete now that they can’t be retrieved. 

Here's a sample deck list that utilizes Hex Maniac, Ghetsis, and Puzzle of Time all in harmony – courtesy of Mike Pramawat:

Consequences

Of all the new cards banned, Puzzle of Time, and Hex Maniac will be the most missed. I’m not saying Ghetsis wasn’t a phenomenal card with a lot of skill inherited into it, but Hex Maniac was literally some deck’s only answer to other decks. What do decks do against Archie’s Blastoise now that they can’t stop Blastoise’s Deluge? How do certain decks get past Xurkitree-GX’s Flash Head ability? Hex Maniac was a one-stop-shop for those. There’s many oppressing issues that will have to be solved in the new format. I would’ve preferred to see an errata on these cards, one that potentially stated the following:

“You can’t play this card if it is your first turn.”

This would be an excellent way to alleviate any issues arising from stifling the first turn of the game – the second thing they should ‘ve included on the card is the following:

“If you played this card on your last turn, you can’t play it this turn.”

I could see something like that being promising, but then again, it’s difficult to track those actions sometimes in a format where VS Seeker is legal. You could simply remove the Supporter form your discard pile, and then the effective history would be erased. 

Then, there’s a really nice balance point – the decks that utilized these cards are also the ones that were kept in check by the same cards. For example, Ghetsis was a common tech against Night March because it was a primarily Item-heavy deck. Now that Puzzle of Time, Hex, and Ghetsis are all removed from Expanded together, Night March is receiving a nerf, and certain decks may not need to play Ghetsis in order to compete with it in the first place. The same thing goes for Zoroark variants – the fact they’re losing Hex Maniac is HUGE, because it means the Zoroark player doesn’t quite have a “disruptive” Supporter to get ahead of the game with. I mean sure, they could play others like N, but those are much more balanced. The Zoroark mirror match is no longer who can get their Zoroarks up, play Hex, and OHKO your opponent. There’s also no more Red Card + Hex shenanigans – it becomes a much more back and forth skilled game. 

Important to note is that the removal of these cards didn’t directly cripple any deck – it just allowed other decks to have a chance against the metagame. Here’s an example of just a simple change in the Expanded format.

Before, Zoroark-GX decks would easily handle Buzzwole-GX decks in the Expanded format – they have Zoroark BW which can simply use Foul Play with Choice Band, and OHKO a Buzzwole by copying Knuckle Impact or Absorption. Now, Zoroark decks can still do the same, however they’re limited in the amount of times they can actually pull that off. Previously, they would just use Puzzle of Time to retrieve back Zoroark and a Choice Band, but now they’ll have to find Rescue Stretcher, or something of the likes and another Choice Band from the deck. Buzzwole now effectively stand a chance against Zoroark because of its ability to retain a positive prize trade against them. Interesting stuff right? Let’s look at another deck, Sableye. 

Sableye is another under-the-radar deck that got Puzzle stripped from it, but received a buff in the form of Ghetsis being banned. Sableye becomes less reactive as a result of Puzzle’s ban, however it can still fully function as nearly any Trainer card can be retrieved from the discard with some form of Item card. That’s the beauty behind these revamped decks that I’ve just realized – they all encourage creativity. Like just because Puzzle got banned, I’m instantly looking towards how there might be an Item that can retrieve a Stadium card from the discard, in order to consistently grab Parallel City back. Or maybe that’ll warrant a copy of Lusamine within the deck? That way you can use Junk Hunt, nab back a VS Seeker, VS Seeker for Lusamine, and then retrieve your Supporter of choice as well as a Stadium of choice. Overall, I’m loving the new changes, as I think the entire Expanded format just got opened up for some interesting concepts! 

Personally, I’m looking the most forward to Archie’s Blastoise making a comeback, as well as Buzzwole/Lycanroc. Sableye might just become the best deck in the format, since it’s the only deck that can consistently retrieve back resources from the discard pile. Only time will tell which deck will rise to the top, and I’m very excited to see how the new format will shape up!

As for the rest of the season, you can tell I’m already looking forward to playing in the Expanded Regionals coming up, especially since they are being ran by Carta Magica and Top Cut Events. That whole charity splurge going on on Facebook is seeming to be really cool, and I highly urge you to vote your favourite players to go and participate in it! I personally voted in Daniel Altavilla and my brother, Zachary Lesage, because I know they’d be excellent representatives at this tournament. Don’t forget to pick a Junior divison player either – I’d personally pick Benny Billinger, but that’s just me being biased. 

Thanks for giving this article a skimover, as we brush past the dark format that Expanded once was. Ever closet has its demons, but I’m excited to look past them and begin anew with my beloved cobwebbed collection. Deck building is one of the main reasons why I love Pokemon so much, because I get to express myself in every essence. My move to Ottawa has also been going okay, as I just got hired at a steakhouse after multiple heavy-duty interviews! It’s been great getting back into the workforce, and coaching/article writing have surely helped me to gain my traction during this transition period. As always, feel free to message me or comment if you have any questions – until next time 60Cards readers, get lucky and run hot!

Jacob Lesage

#PlayPokemon

[+15] okko


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