You’re sick of it.
It’s the beginning of the fourth round at States and you need to win out to even get a chance to bubble. You’ve tested a lot with Yveltal variants and with all that Trevenant hype, you felt like you made the right choice this morning going with YZG. You had a big win over those ugly trees in round one, but every match after has been nothing but Night March! Sitting down at table #34, you meet your opponent (let’s call him “Carl McSweatypits”) and roll out your kawaii playmat featuring Dark Magician Girl (yeah you’ve been judged but you don’t care) and Kuriboh and uncap your box of translucent teal dice. Carl begins talking to you about his other three rounds and says he’s been having trouble against Night March as well. “Deck is dumb to play against, amirite?” you tell Carl, who wears a bizarre animé t-shirt and sports a gnarly neckbeard that definitely needs shaven. “Haha, yeah sure is!” You finish shuffling your deck and call the coin flip…”Tails never fails tails never faaaaaaails…” and then you see Pikachu’s face. “I’ll go first!” already-annoying Carl says with a smile composed of teeth decimated only by the sugary assault of gallons of Mountain Dew Code Red. Attempting to suppress the frustration from the downward spiral of bad luck, you ask your opponent if he’d like to cut or tap. He taps it, and you draw your seven: VS Seeker, Darkness Energy, Trainers' Mail, Zoroark, Yveltal, Ultra Ball, and a Professor Sycamore. “Swag!” you think, as you play the Yveltal face-down and set out your six Prizes. There’s hope!
Your favorite judge, Keith, asks if all of the Masters players are ready to begin the fourth round, only to receive an overwhelmingly unenthusiastic response. (Two people clap and the rest moan in hunger. There was no lunch break. Carl was very distressed about that.) He signals for the games to begin and you shake Carl’s soft and sweaty hand. You quickly wipe the grime away on your brand-new Levi’s with disgust and flip over that sick-nasty Radiant Collection Yveltal you just pulled with dat shine. There’s a brief pause as you wait for Mr. McSweatypits to reveal his Active Pokémon, when he chuckles ever so slightly with a villainous look in his eye.
It is at this moment when Carl becomes your second least favorite person on Earth as he reveals a Joltik. (Every member of ISIS ties for first.)
You sigh audibly, and watch him giggle maniacally as he draws his card for the turn, drops a Battle Compressor, dumps three Lampent into the discard pile, shuffles, (yeah, he shuffles and offers to cut or tap, even though he’s going back in…don’t you hate those people?), reveals another Battle Compressor, dumps the fourth Lampent and two Pumpkaboo…and…I don’t need to finish this horror story.
Games like these make you want to flip the table over, quit Pokémon, and admit yourself to the emergency room complaining of mental trauma. That’s the third time you saw a play so…long and obnoxious in one day, and you know that this sort of recklessness didn’t happen at just your table. These ten-minute turns shouldn’t be a thing! Something needs to be done…something needs to be banned!
Ayo wuddup team! It’s ya main mane John back at it again with the free articles. After perusing the forums here on PokéBeach and reading other discussion around the Internet, the talk of the town is centered around one, specific card. It’s not Jolteon-EX (who I chatted about in my previous article here) or anything else out of Generations. Actually, it’s not even a Pokémon or an overhyped archetype out of the upcoming Fates Collide set. It’s an Item card: Battle Compressor, a gem that was once in VS Seeker’s shadow upon the release of Phantom Forces in November of 2014.
In the middle of the 2015-2016 season, people want to see it go. If this is the first time you’re hearing about this sudden uprising against Battle Compressor, throw off the bedsheets, open the blinds, get out of the basement, because where have you been. If you’re a newer player that genuinely hasn’t a clue on what Battle Compressor is or does, ignore the disappointment in that previous statement and read on. Gimme a few thousand words to rehash the chatter on Battle Compressor and on what it does, how it’s affecting the game, and why people wanna ban it. Fasten your seatbelts…because this article is gonna be…well. Wait. Actually, don’t do that. You’re probably just chilling in your living room without pants sipping on an iced tea as comfortable as can be. So. Yeah. Completely unnecessary. Just…just keep reading. Do that.
Ok, so what’s the fuss about?
All of a sudden, this Team Flare Gear Trainer is soaking up all kinds of limelight after a few weekends of States results. Andrew Wamboldt over at The Charizard Lounge has done a tremendous service for the Pokémon community and compiled the winning decks from the States tournaments thus far in a comprehensive table. (Insert clapping hands Emoji here.) (Insert praise hands Emoji here.) Judging by these data, there’s no question that Night March is the most dominant deck in the format right now. Snagging 17 of the 33 titles up for grabs thus far, (I’m typing this after three weekends of States by the way), and topping in 66 other occasions, Night March is without a doubt a force to be reckoned with.
What many complain about in addition to Night March’s strength and call for reckless play is its utility with Battle Compressor, (the card in question), and how incredibly overpowered this Item makes the deck become. Night March is an attack that does 20 damage times the number of Pokémon that have the Night March attack in your discard pile. Battle Compressor takes three cards from the deck and discards them. If you can add one and one together, you can see the synergy here – using one Battle Compressor can offer 60 extra damage, two for 120, and…you can do the math, all on the first. freaking. turn. You have ridiculous one-hit Knock Out (or OHKO) potential on literally anything not named Wailord-EX, once again, on the first turn. I’m not sure if we’ve seen anything like this before. Now, we can’t attribute the success to only the twelve Night Marchers we can play and the four copies of Battle Compressor; the general Night March build is extremely aggressive and the deck thins down to the resources it needs for optimal consistency with four copies of Ultra Ball, Trainers’ Mail, and VS Seeker also. Puzzle of Time‘s advent in BREAKpoint is also common in Night March decks because of its versatility in grabbing resources from the discard pile when played in twos. Combine Battle Compressor with these, and you can choose the Supporter you need from the discard pile, increase the chances of drawing the Item you want from Trainers’ Mail, and pick up those one-of tech cards with two Puzzle of Time. Tell me this isn’t dirty.
But Night March isn’t the only deck that sees the benefits of Battle Compressor. You have cards like M Manectric-EX (mah boi!) that can take advantage of Battle Compressor by pitching Lightning Energy into the discard pile to power up a Turbo Bolt attack. YZG needs Battle Compressor to throw away Gallade for Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick. Heck, any other deck might play two or three Battle Compressor for VS Seeker combos. Unlike these, however, there’s one other deck that maximizes their Battle Compressor count in its list – enter Night March’s soft counter, Vespiquen / Vileplume.
Similar to Night March, Vespiquen / Vileplume focuses on burning through the deck with four copies of Battle Compressor and Acro Bike to get the aforementioned Pokémon in play to do two things: 1. have a formidable attacker in the form of Vespiquen that can hit big numbers with the expense of a single Double Colorless Energy and 2. Item lock the opponent with Vileplume’s Irritating Pollen Ability. With the combined strength of these deck-thinning cards and Forest of Giant Plants, it isn’t difficult to fill your Bench with an army of bees and flowers on the first turn. The idea is to have played all of your Item cards before evolving Gloom so that only you receive the benefits of Items on that one turn of setup. So what does this mean? If the Vespiquen / Vileplume player goes first and gets the lock off, that’s bad news for opponent’s like Carl that needs Items of his own to get work done.
I dunno if you caught my wording in that other paragraph, but I used the term “soft counter” over “hard counter”. Vespiquen / Vileplume has its own kryptonite, and that’s needing a whole bunch of pieces to the puzzle for Item lock. In theory, it doesn’t seem too bad with all of the milling in Battle Compressor and Acro Bike and all of the drawpower in Trainers’ Mail and Unown and Shaymin-EX. But…you can whiff things. You don’t always go first. Your opponent may play Hex Maniac, meaning one critical turn liberated from that dreadful lock. If you’re playing against Night March, this one turn of Hex Maniac effect is huge. They, too, can drop all of the Battle Compressor they want and mount an incredibly disheartening comeback, defeating the purpose of the deck’s main strategy. And more bad news: it’s not uncommon for Night March to include Hex Maniac in their lists to alleviate their Greninja BREAK matchup, so you can guarantee they at least have a chance of busting out of that lock somehow. Maybe it’s more of a Night March problem than it is a Battle Compressor problem, (or maybe they go hand-in-hand? …ok they definitely go hand-in-hand), but you can see how fearsome this deck becomes with a card that bolsters damage output by 60 on its own.
The big picture.
“John, wait a second.” Suh dude. “So…you’re saying Night March is big because it’s winning a lot?” Yeah. “And it’s because of Battle Compressor?” Mostly. “And that the meta may literally become composed of Night March and Item lock aka decks that counter Night March because of how overly aggressive Battle Compressor can force games to be?” Possibly.
Our non-existential third-party audience member raises a point here. Forreal, what has the meta become that we’ve realized how busted Battle Compressor actually is? I mean, even the people over at Konami knew an effect like this was filthy when they originally printed Foolish Burial for Yu-Gi-Oh!. Heck, they even limit players to having only one copy of this card in their decks because of the devastating combos that could be produced by this one Spell alone. Another point – during Cities just a few months ago, there was hardly anybody outside picketing or rioting against Night March’s success. Even last season, when Phantom Forces was released, hardly anyone viewed Night March as a legitimate threat. What happened? Judging by this year’s States wins, Night March just needed a couple of sets that held key cards it needed to dig itself out of a few bad matchups and make the deck even more consistent. Got Crobat problems? Fighting Fury Belt outta BREAKpoint is gonna look great on that Pumpkaboo. That Irritating Pollen starting to spark some springtime allergies for your Joltik? Hex Maniac has your Benadryl. I already touched on Puzzle of Time, but sheesh. Talk about nutty.
The meta has shifted so drastically by these results that you either pilot a complete counter to the deck…or play it. These counters are limited, however, when you’re deciding between what you have at your disposal:
- Seismitoad-EX may work because it can lock Items on the first turn with a DCE and a Quaking Punch. This can be especially strong if Night March gets a weak opening hand, no doubt in my mind. But if you go second, your opponent gets that one explosive turn it needs to try and drop their hand to force the 180 Night March attack. If you go first, your opponent still has a turn of Items, and can take a Knock Out – potentially on that Toad you attached to. As much as I love watching Toad burn, this is absurd. (A part of my soul just died defending this disgusting creature.) Regardless, it all comes down to the coin flip, what the player opens with, and how many Battle Compressor the Night Marcher plays.
- Giratina-EX is another option. A bulky Pokémon-EX that boasts 170 HP, you also pressure the Night Marcher to burn as many resources as possible. Its Chaos Wheel attack is huge – it hits for 100 damage and prevents your opponent from playing any Special Energy or Stadium cards. Giratina has access to Fairy support (with Xerneas and Aromatisse), Max Elixir, and Reshiram, but to fire off a four-Energy attack on the first turn is no easy task. While a single Chaos Wheel can win you the game instantly, Night March has proven to look the Renegade Pokémon in the face with early Lysandres to spoil any potential fun. Hex Maniac can shut down those Energy-accelerating Abilities as well, another point to add when discussing powering up Giratina.
This leaves us with Trevenant and Vespiquen / Vileplume, arguably the two most consistent anti-Night March decks. The efficacy of these counters are also limited when you’re deciding between heads or tails, and that’s the scary part – whoever gets to go first already has a significant advantage in the match-up between Night March and Night March counter, and even if Night March goes second, there are always an out or two that the deck may have. Against both, Hex Maniac. Against Trevenant, Lysandre. Because of YZG’s popularity and ability to keep Trevenant honest due to its Darkness-type Weakness, however, we usually expect seeing less of this archetype. Therefore, Night March players aren’t as worried about pairing up against this deck as frequently throughout a tournament, so we have an inadvertent out in play.
But take a step back here – this is critical. Did the meta of the Pokémon Trading Card Game suddenly become decided based on the “zeroth” turn of the game – the coin flip – because of Battle Compressor? Think about it this way. You go second. Players like Carl can stream two or three Battle Compressor on the first turn, immediately spelling doom for a more-than-likely Benched Shaymin-EX (you need to get set up somehow, no pun intended) or whatever Pokémon you try to attach Energy to, while removing dead cards in the match-up, and while choosing what to target for Puzzle of Time if they get that second half off of a Trainers’ Mail (whose likelihood has also increased because he’s already discarded a third of their deck lol). If you’re able to Knock Out the Active Night Marcher, congratulations. You just played yourself. You’ve added 20 damage to their attack and you only earned one Prize Card. But your opponent is so far ahead in terms of hand advantage, deck advantage, field advantage, everything-but-life advantage that it’s not even worth playing anymore sometimes. On the other end of the spectrum, (let’s say you’re playing Vespiquen / Vileplume), if you hit the Item lock on the first turn and the Night Marcher doesn’t actually have the Hex Maniac, he’ll probably scoop right there and move on to the next game. But, this is also after playing two or three Acro Bike, your own fair share of Trainers’ Mail, a couple Battle Compressor, maybe a Revitalizer, and also trashing whatever you can just so you can get Irritating Pollen in play.
Many argue that these reckless, ten-minute, burn-whatever-resources-you-need turns to get the lock or hit the magic 180 aren’t healthy for the game. At all. When the outcome of a game can be determined by the very first turn, this is indicative of an unhealthy format. Imagine eating nothing but full-sized bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and twenty-piece boxes of Chicken McNuggets (guys, five bucks for twenty nuggets is a crazy-good deal) for three weeks straight, all the while being forced to do nothing but watch re-runs of Undercover Boss. This is the degree of unhealthiness I’m talking right now. And it’s bad…or is it? The other side says that this is just part of the game – disruption and stall decks saw their day at Nationals last year, when Jason Klaczynski’s Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor deck topped Enrique Avila’s Wailord-EX deck in the finals. Maybe…this is just a phase? And it’ll pass? It’s funny – before BREAKpoint, not as many complained about Night March because YZG, the other top contender at the time, could have at least kept up with the Prize trade by making sure to not Bench or discard Shaymin-EX because of the ever-threatening Target Whistle. Yveltal could take OHKOs with Oblivion Wing on both Pumpkaboo and Joltik, while powering up a second Yveltal for the next Night Marcher. Zoroark could Mind Jack stray Shaymin-EX dragged up by Lysandre and even go up on the Prize trade. Now? Fighting Fury Belt dashes all of those dreams. Joltik’s surviving Oblivion Wing. Wanna Knock Out a Pumpkaboo? Better have a Muscle Band. Granted, YZG can tech in a Startling Megaphone or something to help out, but once again, Battle Compressor thins the deck at such a concerning rate that removing Pokémon Tools like that can be compensated with a quick two Puzzle of Time play.
It is at this time some of us think fondly upon an old friend by the name of Lysandre's Trump Card (or LTC, also out of Phantom Forces…am I sensing a theme here?) that was banned on June 15th of last year, one of the first cards to be legitimately forbidden to play since Sneasel and Slowking out of Neo Genesis from ages ago. LTC forces both players to shuffle the entirety of their discard piles back into the deck, essentially restarting the game. Before the banning, this was scary. Aggressive players could burn through their entire deck and recover carelessly discarded resources with this one card. Irritating players (ok, I mean the people that played Seismitoad-EX / Hammers / Hypnotoxic Laser / Virbank City Gym) could lock you out of Items with Quaking Punch, flip heads on Crushing Hammer to prevent any potential attack, all the while stalling with three damage counters of Poison damage turn after turn. After the Toad player burns through all four of their Crushing Hammer…boom. Lysandre’s Trump Card. By banning this Supporter, we’re not seeing these incredibly disruptive Item cards being recycled over and over and can keep hyper-aggressive decks at bay due to the risk of potentially decking out. Some have questioned un-banning LTC, forcing decks that use Battle Compressor as its main source of acceleration to slow down. A lot. Yet again, others oppose this idea because those players can just as easily repeat the explosive play if she doesn’t go too deep in burning outs from her hand. In addition, this could further encourage resource mismanagement because LTC would account for compensating mistakes when discarding cards, just like before.
So this is strange now – the mindset behind banning LTC was to keep powerful resources from making their way back into the deck and prevent a win condition of decking out. What many are saying about Battle Compressor is that you don’t even need those resources in the first place. You can grab them back later with Puzzle of Time without repercussions, and you won’t even need to worry about decking out because you can be selective with what you discard. This opens up the door to potentially, and most commonly in Night March, Lysandre and Target Whistle the same Shaymin-EX two or three times throughout the game, for the game, in just a few turns.
The players’ perspectives.
After taking all this into consideration, it’s time we make a decision: do we drop the banhammer on Battle Compressor or not? Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument here.
It’s Gucci fam.
- Everyone has access to the swag. Just because one deck sees its benefits the most, doesn’t mean we need to nerf it entirely. Vespiquen / Vileplume thrives on Battle Compressor just as much as Night March does for damage output purposes and for Revitalizer combos. How else is M Manectric-EX gonna burn Lightning Energy into the discard pile, or any Mega Evolution actually, to fuel Mega Turbo plays? YZG loves Battle Compressor to easily get those otherwise dead Gallade out of the deck. To rob these decks of an important staple would be unfair. To reflexively want to ban a card because you think it majorly attributes to a deck’s success is kind of immature; find a way to get around it. Check out the next bullet.
- We already have outs to aggressive Item decks…we can just play those. We can choose a different deck altogether. It’s ok that Night March has become the best deck in the format, we just need to adjust to this stage of the meta and maybe Night March will see less play. This isn’t a Night March article or a Vespiquen / Vileplume article but there are ways that they can be beaten, as a matter of fact. When the community realizes that Battle Compressor-based decks are winning, they’ll combat it. This is just another phase in the game and it’ll pass just like it has in previous formats.
- No one’s forcing you to play Pokémon. Don’t like the format? Quit your whining and/or get out. If you’re posting mindless rants on how Night March and Vespiquen / Vileplume are consuming the meta and that the game is unfair, then you probably need to either find a different hobby or find a job – both options where you can better spend your time and contribute to the world in a more beneficial way. You clearly haven’t played in the old days when Plox was frickin everywhere (no one remember this guy?) and Toad was flippin Hammers while I was flippin birds. At my opponent.
- The coin flip itself can determine the outcome of the game. I touched on this point earlier in the article, so I’m not gonna run that back in full detail. There’s a clear advantage to the player that goes first, especially with Battle Compressor, to effectively play through half of their deck in one turn without your opponent having done anything or mount any sort of response. This is when Pokémon becomes solitaire, and no one enjoys watching someone play solitaire. (Does anyone actually like that? Because I think it’s boring. It’s definitely boring.)
- Its effects mainly favor hyper-aggressive play that discourage other strategies. For the reasons discussed when I brought up Seismitoad and Giratina earlier, Night March needs only one turn of going all-out and a Lysandre (or a teched Enhanced Hammer and/or Xerosic to force your opponent to burn resources to confirm attachments) to keep these beefy EXs at bay. Even though Seismitoad can take Knock Outs on Joltik and force Item lock, Pumpkaboo will survive and require only a DCE to take another two Prize cards. If the Night March player already has nine Night Marchers in the discard pile by the first turn, it won’t matter what kind of Quaking Punch tries to stop Items being played – three Double Colorless Energy are enough to win the game.
- (Night March perspective) Battle Compressor makes it way easier to find outs to counters. Your major keys to success against Trevenant and Vileplume are Lysandre and Hex Maniac…but frankly, I don’t even know why I need to mention this. If you go first, you’re fine in this matchup. Both of those decks run Pokémon that have low HP, meaning you only need to get rid of the four Lampent and a couple of the other Night Marchers to take OHKOs on everything. Anyways, you can dump those Supporters into the discard pile as VS Seeker targets to guarantee Items for the next couple of turns. If you go second…well. Just hope Trevenant doesn’t get a T1 Wally and Vileplume doesn’t run hot.
A scrub’s thoughts.
You wanna know how I feel about this? I feel guilty. When I wasn’t playing MegaMan…I was playing Night March. (Insert “speak no evil” monkey Emoji here.) I’m not nearly as competitive as a lot of other players (I think I have like 60-some CP) because of where I’m at in pharmacy school and what I do in terms of extracurricular activities. But I keep up with the game. I read the forums. I play online. And from reading here and testing there, I’ve determined that if there was a card to get cut next, it’s Battle Compressor. Night March is great right now. It’s a good deck. It’s a fast deck. It’s a consistent deck. I do not believe that Battle Compressor will get banned, however, because there are Item lock options in the game. There are ways YZG can beat Night March and there are ways you can dig yourself out of Item lock if your opponent plants the Vileplume on the first turn. Personally, I think there’s either been a lack of adjustment by the Pokémon TCG community as a whole or an overwhelming sense of surrendering to the deck and playing it. After three whole weeks of States, I had expected for something to have changed in those numbers, but…that hasn’t been the case. I think if the community allocated their time trying to find answers with cards we have at our disposal rather than fantasizing about rule changes we have no control over, we wouldn’t have nearly this big of a “problem”. Regardless, we’ll see what happens this weekend – it’ll be the true test to tell if those whining players are able to adjust accordingly and simply play the game we have right now. No doubt, Battle Compressor makes the game faster, but it’s an adjustment players need to make with deck decisions. Unless there’s a rule change, taking to social media and/or lighting your Joltiks on fire isn’t gonna help.
If anything were to happen, which is unlikely from my point of view, a potential errata knocking down Battle Compressor’s discarding capabilities to only two cards or requiring a coin flip may be possible. A two-card Battle Compressor would keep decks featuring Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick and Archie's Ace in the Hole in business, while hindering Night March (and to an extent, Vespiquen) from hitting crazy numbers crazy fast. A coin flip would hurt the consistency of an otherwise powerful effect, like Pokemon Catcher. Again, I think this is doubtful, like we could play Theorymon all day, but with our boi Kyle Sucevich working with the top dogs now, maybe he’s got an ear listening to the complaints.
What do you think?
After all of this discussion, there’s bound to be more to say. The Pokémon community is up in arms about this single card that’s giving this single deck a lot more airtime than any other, but what are your thoughts? Personally, I think that this upcoming fourth round of States (if this gets published in time) will feature enough counters to Night March that it won’t be as prevalent. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more Vespiquen / Vileplume, more Trevenant, heck, speed Giratina-EX decks may be a thing as well. Now that the community recognizes how legit Battle Compressor makes Night March, the players as a group might shift the meta closer to Item lock and shift the meta closer to ridding top tables of players like Carl.
Thank you for giving my third article on PokéBeach a read! I gotta admit, this is easily one of the most controversial subjects in the game right now and I hope I was able to shed some light on this subject for ya. We’re at a critical time during the season, and this calls for some pretty healthy discussion and dank memes, so comment below with your own thoughts on Battle Compressor. Where do you stand? What’d I miss? Who’s your daddy? Let me know – I’d love to hear what you have to say.
As always, thanks again and take it easy,
John / Serperior