07/31/2017 by Rahul Reddy
Rahul goes over his Top 10 cards from the new expansion Burning Shadows and his initial impressions moving forwards into the World Championships.
Table of contents
In the wake of the North American International Championships, we are left with only one tournament in the 2016-2017 Tournament series, The World Championships. Last year was the first year where Pokémon released a new set that was legal just in time for Worlds which was unusual and created a format for just a single tournament. This year is the same with Burning Shadows being legal just in time for the World Championships creating a unique format for Worlds, The Anaheim Open and whatever League Cups and Challenges are happening on the weekend of Worlds and the weekend after. There are a lot of people who are attending the World Championships and the Anaheim Open so with little time, information and testing is crucial moving forwards. The Anaheim Open this year had half of the slots open online before hand, and the other half opening on Friday 7 PM PST of Day 1 of the World Championships, so if you didn't register be sure to be ready at that time, especially if you're making the uncertain journey out there. The half slots that opened up were filled in a record time of 55 minutes leaving a lot of players flustered due to their lack of awareness at 6 PM EST on a Monday when it opened up. This article is going to be all about getting you ready for the World Championships if it is your first time attending and I'll be primarily discussing the Top 10 cards from the new set that I think will make an impact on the World Championships and the next rotation.
When the first scans of this set were leaked I wasn't floored by the new Pokémon we were getting into the set. But after closer examination as time passed I was astounded by the supporter set introduced during this expansion. Without further ado, let's jump right into what I believe are the Top 10 cards from Burning Shadows.
1. Gardevoir GX
The outright number one best card in the set is Gardevoir-GX. I believe that both the ability and the attack that it has are strong enough that if they were separated and placed on two different cards, those two cards would see play. The ability Secret Spring is a built-in form of damage and energy acceleration allowing you to play any tech attackers that you'd like. It also allows Gardevoir-GX to reach very high damage thresholds in a single turn. Its attack Infinite Force does 30x the number of energy attached to both active Pokémon for a single Fairy energy. That means if you attach and use your ability that's 60 damage and presumably more because the opposing active usually has an energy attached to it. Twilight GX is Gardevoir-GX's GX attack and it is very strong. Having the ability to grab any 10 cards from your discard and shuffle them into your deck makes your Garbador matchup near perfect limiting their damage entirely. Having 10 cards back means VS seekers, Supporters, Pokémon and even energy, allowing you to get less punished off of Sycamores that may seem game ending.
Gardevoir, while being a stage two, already has a skeleton that exists for it in Gallade/Octillery making it an easy fit. Diance functions similar to Spiritomb of old, allowing quick evolutions into a Turn 2 Gardevoir every game adding a built in consistency. Sylveon-GX is also making its way into decks as a support partner to Gardevoir due to its ability to evolve on the first turn and search for any three cards in your deck forcing your opponent to have the N that turn. Based on my initial impressions and testing, Gardevoir seems like the deck to beat heading into the World Championships. Whatever deck you choose to play make sure that you've played the matchup against Gardevoir and have a game plan, don't make Worlds your first time playing against Gardevoir because that won't end well.
Guzma might be one of the most broken supporters that we've had printed in a long time. While I believed Lysandre to be one of the more balanced cards we've had, this is that on steroids. In addition to a gust effect, where you choose a target to bring up, you now have a switch effect on your side too. This is going to make cards like Float Stone and Olympia see less play; decks can simply rely on Guzma to have a two-for-one effect. Guzma will see play definitely, but the question is: Does Guzma take both slots or just one of the gust effect slots leading into Worlds? I think the answer is a split. While Guzma is insane, sometimes you don't want to switch your active, and Guzma makes you do just that, so a split among Guzma and Lysandre doesn't seem like a bad idea. The only deck that I can see playing only Guzma is Greninja because Greninja has free retreat and Guzma allows you the ability to use Giant Water Shuriken three times in a single turn. Guzma is a card that I don't know if I love or hate at the moment, but it is going to be a different enigma to face up against at Worlds, as it limits the Lysandre-and-hope-they-can't-retreat strategy.
Volcanion started the season off as a known quantity that everyone sought to counter, bringing Garbodor to the limelight and giving Volcanion the title of a bad deck. Once it was shown to have potential in Expanded paired with Blacksmith, people reevaluated the deck; while Decidueye seemed almost unfair, Volcanion was able to take advantage of that and come back. With more and more support being added to fire types we're left with Volcanion being one of the best decks leading into Worlds simply due to the release of Kiawe. Kiawe allows you to search your deck for four fire energies and attach them to one of your Pokémon but this ends your turn. Volcanion never did anything on the first turn anyway so being able to Tapu Lele for a Kiawe and put four energies on a Pokémon puts instant pressure on the board and your opponent. Kiawe in itself can combo with any deck that plays fire energy like Dragon Mega Rayquaza for easy acceleration. Having the ability to set up an attacker in a single turn without doing anything but a supporter is an insane ability to have. Volcanion becomes the 2nd strongest if not strongest, with Gardevoir being the other Top 2 prospect, with the addition of Kiawe. Expect it to be paired with cards like Hooh GX, Turtanator GX and Flareon EX. Kiawe is going to see play at the World Championships and definitely moving forwards into next rotation.
Acerola is AZ but with a much higher power creep. Acerola allows you to pick up a Pokémon that has damage on it and return that card and all cards attached to it to your hand. Currently we are in a format of two shots, so Acerola can be easily used to pick up something like a damaged Volcanion and all the energy attached to it. Acerola makes it possible to play decks that are toolbox decks using cards like Energy Switch to keep cycling between attackers and use a variety of different ones. Acerola will be in some decks that have the space for it but I wouldn't expect every deck to be playing a copy because right now there are much better cards that can fill that slot.
5. Tapu Fini-GX
This card is one of my absolute favorites from this set. I think it has a lot to offer decks like Waterbox, Ninetails or Greninja. Fini's first attack for a single colorless does 20 damage and bounces back to the bench which is incredibly underwhelming. Add a choice band that becomes a 50 hit and run which still isn't amazing. Its second attack for two water and a colorless energy does 120 as a snipe effect, discarding two water energy in the process. But what I really love about this card is the GX attack, Tapu Storm GX. Tapu Storm for a single water energy takes the opponent's active Pokémon and all cards attached to it and shuffles it back into their deck, however this cannot be a win condition meaning they have to have a bench Pokémon to promote after. Tapu Fini, I believe, has a slot in any deck that already plays water energy. Having the ability to set up a 120 sniper wherever you'd like is incredible, even if you can only get value from it once. Tapu Storm also allows you to negate all the hard work your opponent put into setting up an attacker over a turn or two and take the tempo back from them. Using N to put them to a four card hand and then Tapu Storming their Gardevoir GX with three energies on it sets the opponent pretty far behind. I will be working hard on a Greninja list that uses Tapu Fini-GX in it already because I believe Greninja has the ability to beat both aforementioned decks, especially with a Tapu Fini to slow your opponent down to your pace while you set up. This card most likely won't see play outside of Greninja so I wouldn't hold your breath for now.
Goliosopod-GX can be paired easily with other Stage 1's making it a very viable threat of a deck. The common partners are Zoroark, Decidueye, Vileplume and Eeveelutions. I personally like Zoroark and Eeveelutions as you get better matchup coverage. Goliosopod is also one of the last cards that can take advantage of Forest of Giant Plants before it rotates onto the ban list. Goliosopod's first attack does 30+90 if it just became active off the bench which is a lot of damage for a single grass energy. 120 is currently the perfect number to one shot a Garbodor which is crucial. Paired with Eeveelutions it can take down a lot of decks. Vaporeon helps your Volcanion matchup which is near impossible without it. Jolteon helps with Yveltal EX, Mega Rayquaza and Pidgeot EX which don't see much play but it's a single card to round out a few matchups. Flareon helps the Decidueye and Metagross matchups which are both very popular decks. The first attack for a cheap cost really does do a number. The other two attacks Goliosopod has are both mediocre and probably won't see play. Coupled with Acerola, Forest of Giant Plants and Super Scoop Up you can create a speed Goliosopod deck that aims to just use the first attack and switch from bench to active using Guzma. While the card is very cool and will see play next rotation I think it's too slow right now and can't keep up with Volcanion or Gardevoir so it shouldn't really see play at the World Championships.
Hooh-GX doesn't seem amazing off the bat but as a tech attacker it seems incredibly good. Hooh-GX's first attack for a Fire and Double Colorless does 50 to one of your opponent's Pokémon. While this may not seem like a lot of damage, with a choice band and a Steam Up or two, the damage will add up. It also helps set up a knockout on a Gardevoir-GX because Hooh-GX's second attack does 180 making it perfect math. Hooh GX's second attack does 180 damage and Hooh can't attack next turn for three fire and a colorless energy. If you are able to get a Turn 1 Kiawe into a Hooh-GX, there are insane amounts of pressure being presented onto the board. Hooh doesn't really have a good GX attack but the 4 for 180 is the real reason I would play this card in decks. Hooh and Turtanator can coexist in Volcanion adding two huge threats in the early and late game that your opponents have to deal with.
Another good Darkrai card? Pokémon just doesn't want this card to ever not see play. Darkrai-GX has a very unique ability--if it is in your discard, you may put it onto your bench and attach a dark energy from your discard pile to it. Darkrai-GX's first attack for two dark and a colorless energy does 130 damage and isn't affected by resistance. This attack is very vanilla but will allow a two shot on a Gardevoir-GX due to it bypassing resistance. Darkrai-GX's GX attack is surprisingly good for two darks and a colorless energy if your opponent's active Pokémon is affected by a status condition they are knocked out. Simply knocked out no if, ands, or buts. In Expanded Darkrai just received a huge power up due to this card. In Standard Darkrai-EX has one last ride with Skyfield which would allow a speedy combo to be established with this card. Using Hoopa-EX you can set up your field quickly and use Ultra Ball and Sycamore to get them into the discard effectively. The card may be served better as a tech card in decks like Mega Gardevoir-EX that revolve around getting damage from discarding benched Pokemon like Darkrai-GX but only time will tell. The only way this card is seeing play is if Darkrai-EX sees play or someone plays Mega Gardevoir-EX with this card in it. While it's going to be a dominant card in Expanded I don't think it will see play at the World Championships and the Anaheim Open.
Marshadow has a unique ability similar to Darkrai-GX where this Pokémon can use the attacks of any Basic Pokémon in your discard pile. (You still need the necessary Energy to use each attack.) This is similar to Mew-EX but you aren't required to have the Pokémon in play allowing for more toolbox style decks to function out of the discard. Marshadow-GX also has an attack for two fighting and a colorless energy that does a vanilla 120 damage. It's nothing special for three energy in fact I think it's quite bad for the energy cost required to use the attack. Marshadow's-GX attack for a single fighting energy does 50x the number of basic energy attacked to Marshadow. This attack doesn't seem amazing but it isn't awful. If you're playing a toolbox style deck like Plumebox with cards like Jolteon and Glaceon you can use Marshadow to copy those attacks and have a very positive type advantage in fighting right now. The downside is that Marshadow is Psychic weak meaning Garbodor is a huge problem unless you manage to get the Glaceon lock off on them. I don't think Marshadow will make an appearance at this Worlds but it has incredible potential moving into next format. The biggest application for Marshadow is in Night March in the Expanded format allowing Night March to have every single Night Marcher in the discard and hit for maximum damage. Good card and an awesome concept but most likely won't see play just yet.
To many, this might be a weird inclusion into my list. Seviper has an ability that adds an extra damage counter to poison between turns. While there isn't a reliable way to poison right now, in a format like expanded with Accelgor there could be some synergy. In the Standard format, Raichu/Salazzle/Seviper could be a cute deck idea that allows you to do big damage to threats like Gardevoir GX and Metagross GX to take knockouts. This is a niche card and not amazing by any means, in fact I don't expect this deck to see any play whatsoever, but the concept of the card is cool and barring Guzma and Acerola, status conditions are getting a buff and there might be some more synergy down the horizon.
Now that we've covered my Top 10 cards from Burning Shadows I'll give you my Top 5 decks leading into the World Championships and a very brief reasoning behind each one.
Add a Guzma and a Tapu Fini GX to this list
I hate Greninja, let me preface with that statement. When it sets up it's the most broken deck in the game but the problem is that it doesn't set up sometimes. However, the way the metagame is shifting, Greninja is emerging as one of the best decks during testing. Greninja deals with both Gardevoir-GX and Volcanion decks losing primarily to whatever is green. Decidueye-GX, Goliosopod-GX and Vespiquen all beat it handedly, but those three all aren't in a good spot in the meta game right now. With the matchup spread I think Greninja is one of the best decks moving into Worlds and currently it has been my top choice throughout testing, but who knows, I might just draw some Greninja hands and Froakie pass.
Volcanion has gotten the biggest power surge from the release of Burning Shadows with Kiawe, Guzma and Hooh-GX. It's no surprise that one of the most consistent decks found its way into my Top 5 decks. Going with 2 Kiawe in the deck will ensure getting one hopefully Turn 1 and putting on immense pressure on anything your opponent has. Once you're a few prizes ahead your field is probably bare of energy due to going all in, but you can simply just Kiawe and take a turn off or use Nitro Tank-GX to reestablish the end game. Volcanion seems like the best and most consistent all around deck at the moment.
3. Mega Rayquaza-EX
Mega Rayquaza is one of those decks that just sets up and rolls the opponents but recently has been countered by a single card Sudowoodo. Sudowoodo has been seeing less and less play and Mega Ray beats Gardevoir GX, Greninja and Volcanion convincingly. The lack of a counter currently and the sheer firepower the deck offers makes it a very alluring option in a Day 1 format where you can't afford to tie even a single time.
4. Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt
Worlds Tapu Bulu/Vika
To this list add 2 Guzma, Brock's Grit and a Giratina Promo
Tapu Bulu has a shockingly good matchup against Gardevoir-GX and Volcanion is close to even making this a very alluring option. If you can get set up effectively you can keep the pressure up for a majority of the game. Tapu Bulu itself is a very strong card and since its inception has put up result after result. I think the deck is a very strong pick and wouldn't see myself shocked to play it.
Vespiquen is being hard countered more than ever right now and I'm not even sure it can deal with Gardevoir-GX but its my favorite deck as you guys know and this is Forest of Giant Plants last tournament so why not? Sometimes it's best to play what you know and hope that your knowledge will carry you through a tournament, so if I don't feel confident with anything else this is always my fallback.
That pretty much summarizes where I'm at in my testing, I haven't actually played any games with Vespiquen mind you but it's just my favorite deck so it has a place on my list always. I choose not to play Gardevoir because its the best deck and the deck that everyone should be practicing against so you lose the element of surprise. But what can you do to prepare for the World Championships? How do you get ready and what can you expect?
The first thing to keep in mind is that you earned your right to participate here on the world stage. No matter how you finish during the tournament you are playing against the very best the game has to offer so don't be ashamed if you lose. That being said, don't get complacent, you're playing to win the greatest honor the game has to offer.
If you haven't already checked in as a competitor, you should do that as soon as possible. This allows the roster to be updated for the tournament and allows players to be in the system when check-in takes place Thursday evening. During Thursday check in this year we will be turning in deck lists for all Day 1 competitors, which is different from previous years, but it's the rule this year. So don't save picking your deck choice till 3 AM Friday morning, you have to be ready to go between 4 PM-8 PM on Thursday evening and believe that whatever you turned in was the correct deck choice.
Start your testing now if you haven't already. There are a few expected top decks so make sure you know how to play against all of them to an extent. You can't go in blind and learn on the fly because now your opponents will be able to capitalize on every single mistake that you make, this is the best of the best remember. What I do to prepare is build every deck I think will be present, so around nine or ten different decks and just grind out games on the daily or play solitaire hands at the very least. Once the set is released on PTCGO I'll be playing games almost every day to make sure that I understand all the interactions and I get to try out any dumb deck ideas I have to make sure they're actually dumb and not something that could be a viable play.
In-person testing is the most valuable form of testing so make sure you get there early and get some good games in with people you trust and respect as players. The caliber of player definitely matters when testing for a stage such as this one. Most importantly remember to have fun, I know it's extremely cliche but you deserve to enjoy yourself. I know that during every single opening ceremony of Worlds I get chills down my spine and goosebumps because I earned that, I deserve to be there standing amongst the worlds best competing for the crown. When I go to pick up my swag bag at check in, thats the moment where it all becomes real. The entire year of hard work that I put in, that all of you competing put in, you pick up that bag and you gaze at that spectator badge with pride.
Playing Day 1 is a straight forward format, get to X match points to move on to the next day. With the projected numbers I would assume we get 6 Rounds and have to win 4 of them to move onto the next day. When thinking about this keep in mind that a tie is essentially the same as a loss. You're playing to win games, if you were going to lose a game that ties scoop so that you can at least help someone move on and hope that courtesy makes its way back to you. Play a deck you know you won't tie with and play fast and play confidently. Ties literally help no one on the first day.
If you manage to make it to the 2nd day then you can change your approach because every match point matters Tie or otherwise. A single tie can be the difference between Top 32 and Top 16 or Top 32 and Top 64 which the prizes differ for. Remember to just enjoy yourselves and give it all you have on this final stage.
I hope that this helps you guys out a little bit on what to expect and how to prepare a little for the World Championships coming up and the Anaheim Open. I will be at the World Championships playing Day 1 alongside many others so please feel free to come up and say hello and introduce yourself. PM me on Facebook if you have any further questions and I'll be happy to answer them all. Follow me on twitter @thefleeee I try my best to update my record during the tournament and other than that I post occasional musings about Pokémon and my personal life as well. Check out CCGCastle.com and use promo code CCGTEAM5 for 5% off your next order which is going to be useful when ordering your Burning Shadows cards. Check out TCEvolutions.com for some absolutely amazing aluminum dice and use promo code ccgcastle at checkout for free shipping. I wish everyone the best of luck and hope to enjoy the weekend with everyone attending there. Good luck and have fun trainers, until next time.
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