Great Caesar’s Gengar! Ghosts of Generations Past

Hello again, Beach goers! What’s up? Steve here, back after a rather long absence and getting ready for the City Championships now! I’ve taken roughly a month off from the Pokemon TCG and it’s time for me to kick it into high gear again! With the release of BREAKthrough we have lots of new cards that I believe will impact the meta. In fact, this is arguably the most diverse set introduced to the Pokemon TCG meta since Phantom Forces was released a year ago. BREAKthrough offers a combination of new deck archetypes as well as cards to help existing decks while the meta continues to evolve as quickly as Caterpie evolves into Butterfree!

This deck is so spooky, it will haunt your dreams!

Throughout Cities I expect to see a variety of decks and a quickly changing meta due to players responding to and countering decks that have succeeded. It is important to note that because Cities are single game rather than best-of-three, players will be able to afford fewer losses than they could to make the top cut at Regionals. However, in the best-of-one tournament format, ties are statistically less common, which many players would consider beneficial. After going 4-0-5 at Lancaster Regionals, I’ve learned that some decks are simply not designed for the “50-plus-three” time format, but many of these decks are capable of succeeding in “30-plus-three” single-game matches. That said, consistency remains important in both types of events, and BREAKthrough offers several consistency-increasing cards to go along with the new deck types it creates. It was rather difficult to choose only 10 cards from the set as my personal favorites because of the extreme level of diversity in the set! This article will eventually focus onto the new Gengar deck specifically, but first I’d like to count down my personal top 10 cards from BREAKthrough and the impact I believe they will have on the game. So without further ado, I give you…

My Top 10 Cards From BREAKthrough

(Please note that I will not be including obvious reprints such as Judge, Fisherman, Town Map, and Rainbow Energy in this list.)

10. Glalie-EX

What a seemingly underrated Pokemon-EX we have here. In fact, if I recall correctly, this card was jokingly referred to as “Useless-EX” when it was originally revealed right here on PokeBeach! Talk about a reversal of fortune! Now you might be curious as to what reversal of fortune I’m talking about, or exactly why I have this card in my number 10 slot, so, I will explain. While M Glalie-EX may be a certified piece of junk, its unevolved form, Glalie-EX, is actually a pretty solid attacker, and it doesn’t even need to be the star of his own deck to function. Even better, it can be useful in both Standard and Expanded due in large part to its Instant Freeze attack. With Double Colorless Energy, this guy can dish out a OHKO on many of the game’s popular Pokemon-EX with just two Energy cards and a Muscle Band attached.

As for the hand-size condition, that can be manipulated rather easily with Supporters such as Battle Reporter and the newly re-released Judge. Now you might wonder why I’d even mention Battle Reporter when you’d expect better Supporters in the game, but I invite you to take a moment and consider our current draw Supporters for Standard. Yes, there is Professor Sycamore, and after that there is… not much. While Professor Birch's ObservationsShauna, and Giovanni’s Scheme offer some draw options, none of these cards compare to Professor Sycamore. So, although Battle Reporter and Judge aren’t always the most reliable draw sources, they aren’t much worse than the majority of the secondary draw Supporters, and they can work well with Glalie-EX. The main deck I can see Glalie-EX fitting into is Seismitoad-EXCrobat, as it meshes well with the Energy already in the deck and it provides a solid backup attacker that is capable of taking out bulky Pokemon like Giratina-EX with relative ease. This card doesn’t belong in every deck, but it has tested very well for me so far, usually as a single-copy heavy-hitter in decks that lack a big OHKO machine when going up against EX-heavy decks. Overall, this card is better than advertised and I expect it to see some play.

9. Giovanni’s Scheme

The leader of Team Rocket has returned after many years in training with a new scheme that offers us a pair of solid options. Cards like Shaymin-EX grant us slightly better draw than the first effect of Giovanni’s Scheme, but it is never a bad idea to have extra draw power handy, especially due to the short supply of draw Supporters in the Standard format. Giovanni’s second option is the real deal, though. While Muscle Band already offers the same effect in a Pokemon Tool card, the current meta suggests this effect could be very useful as a Supporter card, given the popularity of Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX decks which can lock down Item cards as early as the first turn. Supporters, on the other hand, are much more difficult to take away and therefore are much more reliable in a pinch. Because of its reliability and ability to surprise opponents, Giovanni’s Scheme is a very solid support and is worth testing out in any deck that isn’t already taking OHKOs at will.

8. Raikou

Raikou is an interesting card in that it is powerful both offensively and defensively. With both M Manectric-EX and the new Magnezone in Standard, in addition to Eelektrik in Expanded, this card has plenty of type support and Energy acceleration to work with. Its attack is identical to Keldeo-EX‘s Secret Sword, only with Lightning Energy instead of Water. Similar to Keldeo-EX, Raikou will often be dealing 110 base damage, increasing as you attach more Lightning Energy. There isn’t much else to say about Raikou besides that. Expect to see this card played at Cities. We won’t be seeing much of Zekrom or Zapdos on the tables now that we have this card!

7. Gallade

Hey, look everybody! We finally have a legit target for Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick in Standard! What a card it is, too. As Andrew Mahone mentioned in his most recent article, Gallade is an absolute powerhouse of a Pokemon, capable of fitting into Yveltal-EX and M Rayquaza-EX decks easily and providing them with a gorgeous answer to their dreaded M Manectric-EX matchup. One could even use this guy in Vespiquen / Eeveelutions, where it allows you to take full advantage of its Premonition Ability. After rearranging those five cards to your heart’s content, use any copies of Unown you have available to pick up the top card(s) immediately! This makes Unown much more powerful than it already was, allowing it to choose between the five top cards of your deck instead of having only a single option. Finally, we come to Gallade’s Manectric-slaying attack. While it isn’t much on its own, if you’ve played a Supporter during the turn — which you almost always will have — an additional 70 damage is added for a total of 130 damage, or 260 to a Fighting-weak Pokemon like Manectric-EX. That’s more than enough firepower to OHKO anything in the game with a Weakness to Fighting, in addition to many things without Fighting Weakness.

6. M Mewtwo-EX (Psychic Infinity)

You might recall my previous article in which I talked about a speed variant of a deck based around this big bad Mega Evolution from BREAKthrough. I’ve continued testing this beast in both Standard and Expanded with excellent results against everything besides Night March. While Joltik doesn’t present a problem, Pumpkaboo frustratingly hits Mewtwo-EX and M Mewtwo-EX for Weakness, totaling over 200 damage easily in this matchup. As for other matchups, Vespiquen can be dealt with by using Parallel City‘s damage-reducing effect, while EX-based attackers can be dealt with an old-fashioned slugfest that is almost always in Mewtwo’s favor due to its sheer damage output. Finally, the regular Mewtwo-EX can handle Seismitoad-EX by reducing the damage it takes from the opponent’s Active Pokemon by 30 via Photon Wave. You can further reduce the damage you take from Seismitoad-EX by utilizing Parallel City, which adds onto Photon Wave to reduce the damage by a total of 50. So, your opponent can continue to Quaking Punch you, even with a Muscle Band, but they won’t be doing any damage. Then, if Giratina-EX, their only damage option, comes up front to swing, simply drop a Hex Maniac and proceed to use M Mewtwo-EX and wipe it out with Psychic Infinity!

5. Gengar

As you might recall from Pokemon Red and Blue (or Base Set and Fossil), there is only one original Ghost Pokemon family: Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar. Finally, the stars of Pokemon Tower and the TV episode “The Tower of Terror” have all returned for the first time since  Triumphant was released in Fall of 2011! In other words, it’s been a while since we’ve seen these beloved pranksters and their trickery here in the TCG. Gengar comes with an interesting concept and the potential to be absolutely devastating — but we’ll go more in depth on that later. For now, he offers two attacks: the first dealing Poison as well as placing one damage counter on each of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon, and the second dealing an instant KO to your opponent’s Active Pokemon as long as that Pokemon has at least three damage counters on it. Yes, you read that correctly — an instant Knock Out. This will be the concept for the featured deck list in this article, so I’ll leave Gengar’s description at that for now.

4. Magnezone

Apparently Blastoise, Feraligatr Prime, and Emboar found a new brother: Magnezone. Similar to its older siblings, Magnezone has an Ability — Magnetic Circuit — which allows you to attach as many Lightning Energy cards from your hand to your Pokemon as you like during your turn. While this was considered “broken” in most regards around the Base Set era, the game almost feels weird if we don’t have a Pokemon like this nowadays. Unlike the Worlds format, however, we can’t use something like Archie's Ace in the Hole to bring this powerful motor into play. This means you will have to use Magneton as a mid stage or play Rare Candy to skip from Magnemite to Magnezone, the latter likely being the preferred method of building this Stage 2 Pokemon. Magnezone has received excellent support from this set, gaining allies in the forms of Raikou, Fisherman, and a homerun-hitter, Pikachu-EX, who comes as a Promo card. These cards, potentially along with Manectric-EX, allow Magnezone decks to be very playable in Standard. In Expanded, though, I expect Archie’s Blastoise to be played over Magnezone variants due to its superior speed and consistency. This deck may gain yet another weapon if / when we get the Jolteon-EX card that was recently revealed for Japan. This is one of the few actual archetypes to come out of BREAKthrough, and might be the best one for the current Standard meta.

3. Parallel City

What an idea this card was! Rather than having a Stadium card that affects both players in the same way, Pokemon decided to make a Stadium card with a different effect targeting each player. Parallel City also offers the user the nifty option of being able to choose which player gets each effect, making the card that much more versatility. The Bench-limiting effect was the one that initially jumped out at me, since Sky Field has become such a popular card with Shaymin-EX, M Rayquaza-EX, and Bronzong all having seen quite a bit of play over the last few months. First off, this card almost single-handedly shuts down M Rayquaza-EX. It forces the player to discard anywhere between one and five of their Benched Pokemon, capping Emerald Break’s damage output at 90 instead of the usual 150 or 240. That’s huge right there!

But this card can be used in even more ways. Believe it or not, this effect can be useful to place on yourself. Why, one may ask? Well, to knock Shaymin-EX off of your Bench, of course! Shaymin-EX is a fantastic source of draw power that will continue to see play, but it can be a liability if your opponent plays a Lysandre for an easy two-Prize KO. Also with this card, one can discard a heavily-damaged Pokemon from their Bench as a way to deny their opponent a Prize card or two.

Next, let’s talk about the other effect. This effect might not seem like much, but against decks that rely on these types of attackers (Seismitoad-EX, anyone?), this can be much more powerful than one would expect. For instance, if you’re running a high-HP Pokemon such as a Mega Evolution, this can be the difference between a OHKO and a 2HKO against Vespiquen, and against Seismitoad-EX you will reduce their 30 base damage to 10, meaning your opponent will need a Muscle Band just to deal a mediocre amount of damage! Pretty crazy stuff, isn’t it? This is one of the most creative Stadiums to come out in a while, and I look forward to seeing in what creative ways people will use it.

2. Brigette

Brigette is the PC girl, so it only makes sense that she goes and gets your Pokemon for you. But is she better than Winona or Pokémon Fan Club? Well, that’s up for debate. In a Colorless deck, Winona is almost always better. In an EX-heavy deck, you’d likely want Fan Club. But we also have decks based around non-EX Basics as well as Stage 1 Pokemon at the moment. This is where Brigette really shines. The fact that she puts the Pokemon onto the Bench instead of into the hand is actually a big deal, as you could simply search and use Hoopa-EX for three more Pokemon-EX with its Scoundrel Ring Ability if she put the Pokemon into your hand instead.

Still, imagine this card in a deck like Raichu / Crobat, where you could pull a Pikachu and two Zubats on the first turn, bringing back memories of the loved Pokemon Collector. Another solid home for Brigette would be in a Vileplume deck, where you need to get several Pokemon out quickly in order to achieve your setup and take control of the game. While you’ll rarely use her to search for a Pokemon-EX, Brigette is very good at what she does for non-EX Pokemon, and what she does is quite useful in a handful of decks in Standard at the very least. Maybe Trevenant / Accelgor could even use her in Expanded?

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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