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By popular demand, today’s article is going to focus on one specific card that has become prominent in the Expanded format, Archeops from Noble Victories, which was also reprinted as a Secret Rare in Dark Explorers. Its Ability, Ancient Power, is crippling to many popular decks, with Stage 1 Pokemon returning to center stage and Mega Evolutions being more and more viable… at least until now. Not only that, but Archeops is now easier than ever to get out thanks to Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick and a little reorganization of one’s deck. The only drawback to Archeops is that it is not viable to run it along with other Evolved Pokemon, since it also locks you out of Evolution cards. Of course, powerful Basic Pokemon, EX or otherwise, that can hold their own are nothing new to the format at this point.
In this article, we are going to examine why Archeops has risen in popularity so quickly, how to play it effectively, and how it can be countered.
Why now? Why Archeops?
Archeops was first released in the Noble Victories expansion all the way back in 2011. No pun intended, but this guy really is a fossil, as it predates every single Pokemon-EX from the Black & White era onward, and practically every deck archetype that has been significant since. So why has it taken Archeops such a long time to break into the competitive scene? Ancient Power is a formidable Ability indeed, and yet this Pokemon has been sitting in binders and bulk boxes for four years without seeing the light of day at a major event. So what gives?
The simple answer is that there was no viable way to get Archeops out quickly, and to prevent it from being Knocked Out. However, I’d like to explore the history of this card in a little more depth. And to do that, I’m going to take you on a little journey through time. We don’t need to travel all the way back to the Jurassic period when Archaeopteryx existed (the real-life dinosaur which inspired Archeops’ design). Instead, we’re going to travel to the distant year of 1999. Do you have your time traveling gear ready? Okay, let’s go!
We’ve just traveled 16 years into the past! Some of you younger folks may find this hard to grasp, but there was a time when there were only 151 Pokemon. That’s where we are, the days of Gameboys and Game Link Cables. Welcome to PokeMania! Pokemon is huge, and it’s everywhere. You get ants in your pants waiting for the next episode of the anime to air. Back then, we actually thought Ash Ketchum was an awesome Pokemon trainer, and we all wanted to be like him! You can abuse the glitches in Pokemon Red and Blue to your heart’s content to make your team level 100 in the blink of an eye. And if you own a Charizard from Base Set, you’re the coolest kid on the block!
So why are we here exactly? Well, believe it or not, there was another card with an effect similar to our little buddy Archeops. That card is Aerodactyl from Fossil. This card’s Pokemon Power (roughly equivalent to today’s Abilities) also blocked both players from evolving their Pokemon (it even had the same name!), and unlike Archeops, Aerodactyl did see play from its debut up until around the Neo era – just before it was rotated out. Due to the fossil rules at the time, Archeops and Aerodactyl are both functionally Stage 1 Pokemon.
Wasn’t that fun? We can return to the present day now. Anyway, why did Aerodactyl see consistent results when Archeops struggled to find a way into any deck? The issue lies in the steps that were needed to get Aerodactyl and Archeops into play. Aerodactyl evolved from Mysterious Fossil, a Trainer card which when played became a Basic Pokemon that your opponent received no Prize for Knocking Out, similar to today’s Robo Substitute. Archeops, on the other hand, evolved from Archen, which in turn could only be played to the Bench via Plume Fossil or Twist Mountain. While its Ability helped to set this up, it was still a clunky, slow, and overall unreliable method, especially when there were better support Pokemon to use, such as Garbodor.
Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick from Primal Clash, released earlier this year, was the game-changer. Now there is a much simpler way to put Fighting Pokemon that are otherwise hard to get out onto the Bench, though it does require a few conditions to be met. When Primal Clash was released, Archeops was no longer part of the Standard format, and with Expanded having such limited use, players had little time or reason to test and come up with new strategies involving Archeops. Archeops did see play in Japan, which uses a different format, but it did not become widespread until it was announced that all Regionals (and possibly other events) of the 2016 season would be played in the Expanded format.
At Worlds this year, Jacob Van Wagner’s deck showed the community just how easy it is to pull off a turn one Archie's Ace in the Hole (the Water-type equivalent to Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick) with the right mindset and a list that is conducive to thinning down your hand. “Archie’s Blastoise” has been discussed to the Distortion World and back by many already, so I won’t dwell on it too much. However, the deck is excellent at showing that deliberately getting yourself down to one card in hand isn’t as hard as some people think, and whatever logic applies to Archie can also be used with Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick. And as of right now, one of the best candidates to “Maxie” into play is our pal Archeops.
With Fall Regionals just a few weeks away, and Archeops being a popular play, that leave players with two options:
If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em!
I’ve discussed this with many people both in person and online, and a lot of players agree that having Archeops is critical to victory at major events. This point is a valid one, as Stage 1 decks such as Flareon, Donphan, and Accelgor have all been discussed as possible players. Mega Evolved Pokemon such as M Rayquaza-EX, M Manectric-EX, and Primal Groudon-EX will also try to take a piece of the pie. The format is indeed quite diverse. Archeops stops all of these threats dead in their tracks, apart from any counter-measures that can get around or disable its Ability.
Let’s take a brief look at a couple of decks that have picked up Archeops fairly quickly, and discuss how to get the big bad bird out as early in the game as possible. With the speed that some decks have, getting a turn one Archeops can be critical. Unfortunately, making an efficient Archeops deck isn’t as simple as subbing two cards for one Archeops and one Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick. You need ways to maximize your chances of pulling this off as quickly as possible, and by whatever means necessary. As Archeops is a card that is only legal in Expanded, I will not be discussing the Standard format here.
Same as it Ever Was: Night March
In spite of what I have just said, Night March is one deck that lends itself very well to including Archeops. In fact, some Night March players were running Empoleon and Archie's Ace in the Hole in their lists, so in that case this is somewhat of a simple substitution. The deck is already operating off the discard pile, and running cards like Battle Compressor, Acro Bike, and Trainers' Mail, which allow easy access to key cards as well as thin your hand down. Of these, Battle Compressor is especially useful, as it searches out Archeops and plops it into the discard, right when you want it to be! You can also use it to get Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick into the discard and play it via VS Seeker. Trainer’s Mail is also quite useful, as it can become a “throw away” card if need be. If the top four cards of your deck do not contain any Trainer cards that you want to (or can) play immediately, you can simply fail the search.
Here is a basic Night March / Archeops list:
2x N (NVI #92)
This is just a bare-bones version of the deck, including the essentials and nothing more. You could add a few techs or play with the counts of some of the cards, such as additional Archeops or Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, but it’s still generally the same deck. The premise is the same as it’s always been: dump a bunch of Night March Pokemon into your discard and blast away whatever’s in front of you. The addition of Archeops helps tremendously, as it completely stops Golbat and Crobat, arguably Night March’s worst enemies, in addition to the Mega Evolved Pokemon that require more resources to Knock Out. This is without a doubt the deck that gives up the least by adding Archeops to its arsenal, and is undoubtedly something you can expect to play against this fall.
Birds of a Feather: Yveltal
Here’s another deck that’s a veteran in the format. After taking over the Darkrai-EX deck upon its release, Yveltal-EX has proven itself time and again to be both a powerful and versatile attacker. Although the 2015 season has been a bit of a bumpy ride for the big black bird, as both losing Dark Patch to the rotation, and the introduction of M Manectric-EX have hurt the deck’s pride, it has never petered out completely, thanks to its adaptability and consistency. With Dark Patch once again available in Expanded, this deck is regaining some of the speed which it has lost, and some new partners as well. Our friend Archeops is a welcome addition, as it helps to mitigate the threats presented by non-EX decks and Mega Evolutions in a way that other partners couldn’t.
Here’s a simple deck list:
3x N (NVI #92)
1x AZ (PHF #91)
Unlike in Night March, where we were already running a Battle Compressor-based engine, here we needed to lower the counts of a few cards in order to fit ample support for Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick. As I said earlier, doing this consistently in the early game requires a deck that can burn itself easily and doesn’t need to hang onto resources. I would have liked to run a third copy of Virbank City Gym, or perhaps Switch or Energy Switch, but there just isn’t space. There’s a price to pay in versatility for including Archeops here, but when Yveltal has trouble with non-EX matchups, it can be well worth it.
Those are just two decks where Archeops has become a household name. While they are both powerful, I would not expect the prehistoric bird to be limited to just these. Regardless of what attackers will be run alongside it, Archeops is a card you should be prepared to face or use efficiently going into Regionals. Of course, not all of us are satisfied with playing Archeops in our lists. There are still lots of great decks out there that use Evolved Pokemon, and they can still be competitive. You just need to be prepared.
Roasting the Bird: Countering Archeops!
If running Archeops isn’t for you, you are not alone. However, I have both good news and bad news. The good news is that there are indeed ways to get around that annoying Ancient Power. The bad news? There’s no way to do it without paying some sort of price. Whether it’s giving up consistency, limiting options, or something else, if you want to do something good, you’ll need to give something up in return.
Here’s a few tricks you can use to get around Ancient Power:
Evolving From the Deck
Archeops’ Ability states that each player can’t play any Pokemon from his or her hand to evolve their Pokemon. While playing cards from the hand is the usual method of evolving your Pokemon, there are a handful of cards that let you search your deck and pull the Evolutions from there directly into play, thus bypassing Ancient Power. The most prominent of these are the Trainer cards Evosoda and Wally. The way these two cards function is largely the same, only Wally is a Supporter, and can be played on your first turn or on a Pokemon that was just put into play. Both of these cards have been used competitively already, and if anything will see even wider application at Fall Regionals. Wally is especially notable when played in Trevenant. If you can get Trevenant out before your opponent has a chance to use Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, they will have very little, if any, chance of getting Archeops out without the aid of Item cards.
The cost of playing either of these cards is consistency. Having Evosoda in your hand when there are no Pokemon you can evolve, or worse, when you desperately need a Basic Pokemon, is no fun. And that’s the problem these cards can create if luck isn’t on your side. Having them in your hand on your first turn with no option but to play a Professor Juniper means throwing them away, possibly forever. Still, if you can make room for one or two Evosoda / Wally, it can save you if you have it at the right time.
There are also a couple of Pokemon that are able to evolve from the deck without the aid of Trainer cards. Eevee from Furious Fists is the one you are most likely to see. While it is limited to evolving itself, and only into an Evolution of the same type as the basic Energy you just attached, it does get around Ancient Power. You’ll see this guy most often in Flareon decks, where along with Blacksmith, you can actually attack the same turn you evolved if you have the right combination of cards. One more card with this effect is Clefable from Plasma Storm. Like Wally, it can search Pokemon from the deck and evolve a Pokemon even on the turn it was played. However, Clefable has two serious drawbacks that greatly limit its viability. First off, it is a Stage 1 itself, so you’ll need to be extremely preemptive about getting it out before Archeops hits the field, or use your Evosoda / Wally on it. On top of that, though, Moon Guidance requires a coin flip that you can only perform once per turn, and it’s unlikely you would be willing to include more than a 1-1 Clefable line.
Disabling the Ability
An alternate method of dealing with Ancient Power is via an effect that disables it altogether. Garbodor would have been my first choice, as it’s gotten me through so many tournaments in the past, but being a Stage 1 itself means that I would be playing a game of chicken with my opponent and one that’s not in my favor. The plus side is that because of Archeops, you probably won’t be seeing much of Garbodor this fall (and I know there are many people out there who don’t like my little trash buddy one bit), but of course you have another limiting card to deal with, which we’ve been discussing all this time.
Don’t despair, though! There are a couple of other ways to disable Ancient Power. Like evolving from the deck, you can’t do these without paying a price, but it’s certainly better than not being able to execute your strategy at all. Before we continue, it’s important to remember that Silent Lab will NOT disable Ancient power. Archeops is not considered an Evolved Pokemon if brought into play with Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, but it is not considered a Basic Pokemon either.
The more universal method of disabling Abilities is Hex Maniac, a Supporter from our newest expansion, Ancient Origins, that disables all Abilities, both yours and your opponent’s, until the end of your opponent’s next turn. That’s all fine and dandy, since it means we can evolve for a turn, but we need to be careful about playing it. Hex Maniac does use up your Supporter for the turn, which means you can’t play a powerful draw Supporter such as Professor Juniper or Colress. Also, by disabling Abilities, you’ve locked yourself out of playing Pokemon-based draw like Shaymin-EX. In order to play Hex Maniac effectively, you will need to be able to use Shaymin-EX, possibly multiple times before playing the Supporter, so maximize your draw and get as many Evolutions into your hand as you can. On a good day, it will work, but you need to draw well and be lucky to get what you need. Still, this is probably your best shot, and in a speedy deck that thins itself out quickly, such as Flareon, this can actually work pretty often.
The second option which some decks can take advantage of is Wobbuffet from Phantom Forces. Like Hex Maniac, while it is Active, all Abilities are disabled, including your own. Regardless, through some creative play and use of cards like Float Stone, Super Scoop Up, and AZ, you can swap things around and use your Abilities while Wobbuffet isn’t Active, and evolve while it is. Another quirk to this card is that the Abilities of Psychic-type Pokemon are not disabled. This means that in addition to being able to evolve your own Pokemon, you can still use the Abilities of Golbat and Crobat. With Archeops’ rise to power, Wobbuffet may be the only reliable way to play Bats, and thankfully it does work effectively, though it is a little slow when you play savvy. Additionally, Wobbuffet can also be used in “U-Turn” decks like Accelgor and Donphan as a wall. Disabling Abilities can be a hindrance to many decks, and while Wobbuffet is Active, you are free to evolve your Pokemon even if Archeops is in play.
Archeops can be annoying, but if you’re going to be playing in any Expanded events this fall, be they Regionals or League Challenges, you should be ready for it. Love it or hate it, this card is going to show its face in the coming weeks, and should be on every player’s mind, whether they are including it in their lists or not. Remember what I said earlier about the price of including Archeops and getting it out reliably. You may opt for a more consistent version of a deck by avoiding Archeops, which will allow you to include additional copies of key cards, or perhaps other techs. I encourage you to test smartly and test often, and see what fits your play style best. Playing a deck that you are comfortable with is important to success.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you found this information useful! Until next time, may your top decks ever be in your favor!