Hello again, Beachgoers! With States in the books, it’s time to turn our attention to the next major tournament series — Spring Regionals. A lot of time was spent in the Standard format from Cities until the end of States, but now it’s time to shift gears and focus on the Expanded format. We won’t have a chance to play around with Standard again until Nationals, which will feature the brand new Fates Collide set. The final major Expanded tournaments of the season are approaching quickly. Instead of talking about the top decks that you will probably see or any kind of tournament report, I thought it’d be interesting to talk about a critical part of the Pokemon TCG that can often make the difference between a win and a loss.
Today, I’m going to demonstrate what makes a tech good, how techs affect your deck as a whole, and what techs I think will be useful for the upcoming Spring Regionals. First, however, I am going to briefly go into deck building so that you understand the importance of techs, what they are, and where they fit into any given deck.
Deck Building and Techs
Deck building is what separates the Pokemon TCG from other TCGs like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering. There is a set limit to the number of cards we can have in each deck, like other games, but Pokemon has many more restrictions than other popular TCGs. As Pokemon players, we have a major constraint over what all we can fit into any given deck. There are only so many slots we can assign cards to, and limited to only four copies of any given card. This makes choosing what to put into each spot an important decision. As a matchup-dependent TCG, players constantly have to think about how well their deck can perform against each different matchup. Players want to go into a tournament with the best odds of beating every deck in the room. The way they go about doing so is through consistency and techs.
Tech cards are used to help players find a way around certain decks, and implementing them is a way to improve consistency and matchups across the board. However, the deck constraints placed on Pokemon players makes beating every deck impossible and the amount of techs you can fit into a deck limited. Pokemon is a game where drawing cards is a major mechanic and drawing into necessary cards puts you at an advantage as a player. While drawing well is an important part of every TCG, Pokemon has a higher focus on drawing a lot of cards to set up than other TCGs. As a result, we must devote a certain amount of room in each deck to consistency and draw cards in order to ensure that card combos can be utilized during gameplay.
Pokemon is also unique in how players attack. Magic and other similar games have mana, Yu-Gi-Oh! has summons, while Pokemon has Energy attachment. In a game of Pokemon, players usually require Energy to attack in order to win the game. Since you are limited to how many Energy can be attached per turn, for the most part, being able to attach an Energy every turn is crucial. As a result, a certain number of cards must be set aside for Energy. Aside from that, you must also make room for Pokemon and their Evolutions, as needed. What you are left with is a few slots that can be filled with whatever cards you want, which is usually where techs are placed.
When it comes to deck building, I am a firm believer in consistency over all else. However, there are times when you have to compromise consistency in order to increase your likelihood of winning against certain matchups. This is where the proper choice of tech cards comes into play, increasing the odds of winning against specific decks and putting the opponent at some sort of disadvantage. They are, perhaps, the most important cards in the deck because matchups are such a huge part of the Pokemon TCG. Having good matchups will cause you to be successful, and bad matchups will stop you before you get the chance to shine.
Tech cards are also where many Pokemon players fall short. Tech cards are one- or two-ofs that are included for a specific purpose. Problems start to arise when too many techs are put into a deck at once or too many copies of a single tech are played. If you aren’t careful with how you build your deck, you’re going to wind up with something that barely resembles what you were trying to make in the first place.
What’s in a tech?
As I described before, a tech is a card or cards that are put into a deck for a certain matchup in order to to make it more favorable for you or to perform a certain function that does not necessarily need to be in the deck otherwise. But what makes a tech card good? How do you justify putting certain techs into your deck?
Before we get into why techs are played and how they alter the way you play, we should first start by looking at tech cards throughout the history of the Pokemon TCG. History can tell us a lot about all sorts of different things, in all sorts of different areas. It can show us what has worked, what hasn’t, and what to watch out for in similar scenarios when it comes to all aspects of life. In regards to the Pokemon TCG, we can use history as a guide to predict what kinds of techs will work well in the current and upcoming formats. While the decks and formats of past years may be different from what we have today, the concepts and core ideas remain the same.
In order to best show how techs can be used and how they were used successfully in the past, I’m going to divide tech cards into two categories: general techs and specific techs. By dividing techs into two sections, the effectiveness and purpose behind different tech cards can be observed more easily and allows for a better understanding of what makes a good tech.
General techs are cards that serve a purpose more than just to counter a certain deck. It’s useful in most matchups and will give you an overall edge against most decks in some way. Many times they are used to boost consistency or provide a useful effect such as healing or switching. No matter the use, there have been plenty of general tech cards throughout the years.
To start, let’s look at one of the most popular techs during one the most beloved formats of the Pokemon TCG: Luxray GL LV.X. This card defined a format for a long time; it was powerful, and its Poke-Power was insanely good for the time. When it first came onto the scene it was not commonly played, but as time went on, Luxray was a common card to splash into almost any deck because of its Ability. When you leveled up Luxray into Luxray Lv. X, you could use its Ability, Bright Look. Think of it as a Lysandre or a Pokemon Catcher before their time.
This was a format where Pokémon Reversal had yet to be printed and the closest thing to a gust effect was Warp Point. While Warp Point was a popular card, Luxray outclassed it in every way. You were able to choose the target, and Luxray’s Power was reusable thanks to PokeTurn, which let you put an SP Pokemon and all cards attached to it back into your hand. On top of that, Luxray Lv. X had a decent attack and no Retreat Cost, making it both versatile and powerful.
As a tech, Luxray had everything you would ever need. It was useful in every matchup and defined every match that you played. It served a general purpose instead of a specific one, and it was a common inclusion in most decks. It was a reliable way to give you an edge throughout the entire match.
Smeargle from Undaunted is another great example of a general tech because it was used to help improve a deck’s consistency, rather than focusing on attacking or blocking one of the opponent’s effects. Whereas with some tech cards, consistency is decreased in order to fit in what you want. Smeargle actually added consistency through its Poke-Power, Portrait. The best part about Smeargle’s Power is that any Supporters used from the opponent’s hand did not count as you playing a Supporter for the turn, so you could use multiple Portrait Powers in one turn in addition to playing your own Supporter for the turn. As you can imagine, this made the deck exponentially more resourceful.
Being able to draw through your deck in order to set up your field is extremely important, especially in slower formats. With multiple Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokemon as the main focus of the deck, there had to be enough consistency to search for and set up everything you needed. Smeargle added that in spades, allowing you to take an extra turn or two to set up your field, while also increasing your chances at drawing better opening hands. As time went on, people played two or even three copies of Smeargle just because of how powerful its Ability was at the time.
For a final example of a general tech and how it influenced the game, let’s look at something more recent. Jirachi-EX is an extremely powerful consistency card that was included in almost every deck during its time in Standard and even now in Expanded. When Jirachi was released, there was a popular debate on whether or not it was worth the spot in a deck or, more importantly, a spot on the Bench. Despite its excellent Ability, Stellar Guidance, the card had a lot of drawbacks as well. It’s a Pokemon-EX which means it gives up two Prize cards when it’s Knocked Out, and it only has 90 HP. This is the lowest HP we’ve seen on an EX since they returned in Next Destinies. It could be easily OHKO’d by most of the main attackers in the format, and it could be KO’d at practically any time thanks to Pokémon Catcher still being automatic at the time. There was also the popular Genesect-EX which could bring Jirachi into the Active with Red Signal.
On the bright side, Jirachi’s 90 HP meant it was searchable via Level Ball, and its Ability was just too good for the card not to be used. Jirachi was played more frequently as time went on, and people began to realize how useful its Ability was in the format. Although it did give up two Prize cards, it was played onto the Bench whenever you needed a specific Supporter or needed to get out of a bad situation. There were times you didn’t need to play it until the end of the game, and sometimes it was not needed at all. While many games were decided by being able to KO a Jirachi for the last two Prizes, it was also the card that allowed the player to set up their field more quickly and consistently than if it weren’t played at all.
In today’s Standard format, cards like Seismitoad-EX and Jolteon-EX have been used simply for their ability to lock and disrupt the opponent. Exeggcute is still a popular tech in Expanded because it allows you to conserve more resources when you play Ultra Ball or Computer Search to find cards. These are all general techs that are bound to still see a lot of play in the near future, or at least until they become illegal.
There are many examples of these types of tech cards throughout the history of the Pokemon TCG. These are just a few that show how a general tech can influence the construction of decks, how their purpose can influence gameplay, and why they were popular inclusions during their time in play.
Techs don’t simply have to be Pokemon either; there are general Trainer techs as well, such as Misty's Determination, Teammates and Target Whistle which are used in a more general sense. They allow for versatility and a more dynamic strategy, offering more options throughout each match. These techs are also easy to switch out when any changes in the metagame occur.
Now that I’ve covered general techs and the purpose they serve in a deck, it’s time to move on to specific techs. Specific techs are the riskiest, yet most beneficial cards you can find open slots for in a deck. They are included for the purpose of countering a specific card or deck that poses as a difficult obstacle. Specific techs take advantage of the weaknesses of your bad matchup and allows you to exploit them for an easy victory. Often times, these kinds of techs are Pokemon that can take advantage of Weakness to keep the Prize trade in your favor, but there are Trainers that are also used as a counter to certain decks.
Problems begin to emerge, however, when these techs are either bad during other matchups, or take away from consistency in the deck. Some techs are useless against matchups that they weren’t intended to be used against, effectively making them worthless. Some can be useful in other matchups as well, making them more valuable, but still not ideal to use. Every now and then, techs blend so well into the deck that they become much more important than originally thought and transform into something similar to a general tech card. Regardless of which of these areas a specific tech falls into, they are an extremely important part of deck building in the Pokemon TCG.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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