05/16/2017 by Kevin Kobayashi
Standard is a metagame full of diversity, where many different decks are prevalent throughout the format. I now pose a question to you. Do the negative qualities outweigh the positives in this type of format? Let me provide my viewpoint.
The top decks play the same core cards, which leads me to conclude that majority, if not all of the cards that see play are overpowered. Professor Sycamore, N, Lysandre, Ultra Ball, VS Seeker, Shaymin EX, Fighting Fury Belt, Float Stone... there are more but I am sure you get the idea. These cards are so powerful when compared to the other cards in the format that you are forced to play them if you want your deck to compete at a tournament level. The lack of options in standard incentivizes players who maximize consistency counts to achieve simplistic, yet highly oppressive combos. Players are incentivized for drawing as many cards as possible per turn, and win through brute setup presence (how many Max Elixir they can play in one turn), or by locking the opponent out of their items with Vileplume on the first turn via Forest of Giant Plants. With every deck running the same consistency core, it can often feel as if there is never a window of opportunity to outplay the opponent.
Speaking objectively, neither of these proven tournament winning play styles take true cognition or require difficult decision making skills in comparison to previous formats. The skills required at this time in Pokémon are miniscule in comparison to previous formats.
Matchups are more polarizing than they have ever been before. Call me narcissistic, but when I am playing Yveltal/Garbodor and I get paired against turbo dark, is there a point in bothering to play the game out? There are simply no techs that are worth playing that are able to consistently enhance the matchup, and this is entirely frustrating when your only out becomes the opponent drawing dead, or whiffing turn after turn. Disclaimer: I use Yveltal vs Turbo Dark as one example of a poor matchup, but there are plenty of other matchups that are simply impossible for the other player to overcome in both standard and expanded, although it feels more rampant in standard due to the limited cardpool. The format is so matchup based that players have less of a chance to outplay the opponent.
I highly dislike the idea of playing a maximum count of draw cards to boost the consistency of a simplistic central strategy, and prefer for decks to be able to accommodate a bad matchup with a variety of strong tech options that still allow for fluidity and flexibility when deck building (such as SP in 2010). At this point in time for the Pokémon TCG, this is impossible. In my opinion, the stronger players prefer a search based format in comparison to a heavy draw oriented one. A search based format influences each and every small decision in a chess-like manner, and requires more decision making ability without being heavily reliant on whether the opening hand contains a Professor Sycamore or not.
Since decks are playing the same card cores and are unable to be adequately punished, the game just feels stale and lacks the difficulty for me to find interesting or worth my time. The skill ceiling is low. The card pool is simply divisive between cards that must see play, versus cards that will never see play. There is no true middle ground, and this makes it difficult for players to want to stray away from simplistic, overpowered strategies. These strategies (Volcanion, M-Mewtwo, Yveltal, M-Rayquaza) are so blatantly overpowered that it is impossible to construct a deck that is flexible enough to consistently beat them all without resorting to that style of play yourself. It doesn’t give players the flexibility to deckbuild without restriction, and pushes rogue decks out of the format almost entirely. The skill required to win in the current format stems from metagame knowledge, but not entirely game knowledge, and I also dislike this because it doesn’t necessarily reward the best player in the room.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly complaining here. I’m trying to state issues with what I perceive to be a stale format that lacks real deckbuilding skill and intuitive game knowledge to outplay the opponent through skill and not simply chance. I know that not all players feel this way, but not all players have seen and/or experienced glorious formats such as DP-SF, or MD-COL. These formats are often regarded as some of the best formats that the game has ever been able to establish. In a game of Pokémon, one should expect to trade prizes with their opponent until the last turn of the game while having access to plenty of options at almost any point in the game to search their deck for specific cards without having to discard resources, or worse, actually being rewarded for such reckless play. Look to previous formats, where there was more diversity in draw engines and every deck didn’t play the same 20+ cards. I simply feel that decks like Mega Mewtwo, Volcanion, Yveltal, etc are all the same thing, except they have a different color border. These decks are so simple, possess no unique properties to make them feel distinct from one another, and are boring to play. Tech options in this format are severely limited, and rarely offer enough power to justify seeing play.
Luckily, the future is bright for standard with the release of Guardians Rising. Once more, players will be rewarded for their creativity. Guardians Rising reintroduces cards that require distinct decision making ability such as Tapu Lele. ‘Lele gives players a more definitive way to access their supporters while providing an alternative attacker that isn’t a liability. This means that we may no longer need to play draw supporters like Professor Sycamore, since we can now access the cards that we want to use according to the tempo of the game. In my opinion, Tapu Lele is one of the best cards that will ever be printed. Then you have cards that may be just good enough to see play, but will require wits to use effectively such as Rescue Stretcher. Guardians Rising is the set that the game has wanted and needed for quite some time, and finally will reward players for stepping outside of their comfort zones. This allows players to be more liberal with their card counts and encourages players to utilize a plethora of tech Pokémon/Supporters.
New supporter Hala offers players reliable shuffle draw, something that has been missing from the format for quite some time. Hala rewards players for using an early GX attack, and prevents players from carelessly discarding valuable resources. If you have not used a GX attack, you shuffle and draw 4 cards. If you have, you shuffle and draw 7. I think that a card like this is quite balanced and much better than Sycamore. I assume that most, if not all decks will play GX attackers.
Mallow is a new search supporter, but places two selected cards on the top of your deck. There are a few Pokémon that can be used to access these cards such as the new Alolan Sandslash, or you can opt to use items such as Trainer’s Mail and/or Acro Bike to make some nifty plays. Although I don’t like this card as much, I still like that we get more options for supporters.
Tapu Lele, Tapu Koko, and Tapu Bulu are all going to be fun, exciting cards to use in events. All 3 possess unique qualities that should make them feel distinctive amongst the other powerful basics in the format. I am fearful that these cards may be too strong, especially in tandem with cards like Max Elixir, Fighting Fury Belt, and Ninja Boy. Despite their obvious strengths, I like them and am assured that they will lead us into a more exciting and strategic format.
Lycanroc GX is the Luxray GL LV X of this format, and there could not be a better time to reprint such an ability. I like that although Lysandre still exists, Lycanroc GX will also exist at the same time. This opens up more room for innovative deck building. Pokémon was even nice enough to print us a stadium that allows players to search out Fighting types, (Hilltop Stream). It’s a practical way to get the basic Rockruff on the bench, and threatens the Lysandre effect for the next turn. Not only is the ability useful, but it has excellent offensive presence as well, a GX attack that punishes your opponent for careless play, and a consistent attack that deals 110, typically enough to two shot the format. Lycanroc GX should be a strong deck in its own right, but I expect it to see play in a variety of decks simply for its Lysandre like ability.
One more card that I would like to put into the spotlight is Rescue Stretcher. “Put 1 Pokémon from your discard pile into your hand, or shuffle 3 Pokémon from your discard pile into your deck.” What I especially love about this card is that it reminds me of Pokémon Rescue, a card that saw little play in its respective format but I certainly abused it throughout its lifetime. Pokémon Rescue was Buddy-Buddy Rescue, except your opponent would not benefit by gaining access to a Pokémon from the discard as well. With Rescue Stretcher, you have the option to shuffle 3 Pokémon into your deck, or you can put a Pokémon directly into your hand. This makes teching much easier in a format that requires decks to run heavy counts of Professor Sycamore and Ultra Ball, and should make decks more consistent across the board. I could see myself running 2-3 in most decks.
Suddenly, the game becomes more explosive, with threats coming from various angles and decks utilizing a multitude of abilities and attackers to take 6 prizes. In comparison to the current format, next format should feel way more exciting. I think that games will be less about one shotting and attaching tons of energy, and more chess like where players have to consider their moves more carefully than before. There are many combos that are strong but not blatantly overpowered.
With Guardians Rising, we will see an extreme metagame shift. Although Decidueye will still be strong, it has a new counter in Machoke which is not terribly difficult to setup but may be worth the two card investment if the deck can easily search it out or find a way to utilize the line. Yveltal should see a sharp decrease in play due to Tapu Koko and general power creep of the GX cards. M-Rayquaza will see less play, but it should still be strong enough to win a tournament where the metagame favors it. I don’t know where I stand on M-Mewtwo, but I think that the new Garbodor will only make the deck stronger. It will be interesting to see how the deck adapts to the new metagame. Volcanion becomes much stronger with Turtonator GX, but I think there will be a lot of oppression due to new and improved waterbox type decks, who gain water acceleration in the form of Aqua Patch. Turbo Dark *should* no longer exist, Lycanroc GX is going to see a fair amount of play and should have an easy time against it, and like Yveltal, GX cards creep EX out of the format.
That’s all I have for you guys today, but I really hope that you all are as excited as me to see and experience a new format. I am certainly tired of the same cards seeing play and I know that most others feel the same as I do. My next article will be about the expanded format and should drop a little later this month. If you enjoyed the article, feel free to give it a like below, and check out my twitter page @Kkoba94. If you have any questions pertaining to the article or just in general, feel free to ask below.
Have a blessed day.
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