Imagine you’re in the finals match at a Regionals. You and your opponent are tied at one game apiece. Your Worlds invite rides on this last game. You’ve spent days–no, weeks–preparing for this moment. You both shuffle, cut, and draw. You pick up your seven cards, browse through them, and a look of horror briefly flashes across your face.
A lone Shaymin-EX start. Your first one of the day, and it has to happen now, of all times! You sigh inwardly as you promote the Lysandre bait as your Active Pokemon, hoping to make the most of a terrible situation.
Hey, PokeBeach, what’s good? I’m PMJ, you’re you, and this article is all about Steam Siege. It was recently revealed that Steam Siege will be legal for Worlds, with its first tournament-legal day being day one of the World Championships! Talk about shaking things up! With only three weeks to play test and no tournament rankings to go by, the effects that Steam Siege will have on Worlds will be a mystery. And while we don’t have a concrete set list yet, we have a good idea of the cards we’re going to get based on Japan’s XY11 set, Explosive Fighter / Cruel Traitor.
The first card I’m going to go over is Ninja Boy. I’m glad to see this great card back in format and by the time you’re done reading, you will be, too, even if you were too young to remember when this card was legal!
New Ninja, Old Friend
While the Supporter card Ninja Boy is new, its effect is not! In EX Team Rocket Returns, there’s a nifty little Trainer called Swoop! Teleporter that generally has the same effect Ninja Boy does, with two key differences (we’ll talk about them later). Here’s how it works: You pick one of your Basics in play, swap it out with another one from your deck (as long as it wasn’t a Pokemon-ex), and then discard the Basic that was previously in play. It basically made Jirachi one of the gold standards for starter Pokemon thanks to its Poke-Power, Wishing Star. The first iteration of Pokemon-ex were around during this time, and a lot of them were Evolution Pokemon instead of the “Big Basics” we have today, so Swoop’s requirement that your new Basic wasn’t a Pokemon-ex was almost moot. Jirachi’s side effect of putting itself to sleep was largely irrelevant when you could swap it out with any vanilla Basic and evolve instantly, thus waking you up. Pretty cool, huh?
As I just mentioned, there are two important distinctions between Ninja Boy and Swoop! Teleporter. The first is that you can swap out a Pokemon with a Pokemon-EX (or vice versa). This is huge. Since the new Pokemon-EX are all Basic Pokemon, this allows many more decks to utilize Ninja Boy than if the card did not allow you to do so. The second difference is that Ninja Boy puts the first Pokemon back into your deck instead of your discard pile. Again, huge. That’s like if I came up to you and asked you for five bucks and you gave it to me, and in return I gave you twenty and later you realize that I slipped the fiver back into your pocket when you weren’t looking. And wrapped in the five was a ten and a note that says “You’re awesome.” Those are the kind of good feelings that Ninja Boy will bestow upon you.
Utilizing Ninja Boy – Pros, Cons, and Card Combos
This card is good. Really good. Is it good enough to be at least a one-of in every deck? That’s hard to say until we actually get it, but since this card is basically Swoop! Teleporter on steroids, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it used just because of how much utility it has. No card is perfect, however, and despite what I’ve said up to this point, there are some downsides. Like trying to spend all the money I gave you and realizing that it’s counterfeit. Bad news bears. But let’s start with the good, yeah?
The Good, Yeah? (Pros)
- It alleviates bad starts. Remember the situation I described in the beginning, where you were about to choke in the finals thanks to starting with a lone Shaymin-EX? Ninja Boy in your deck means all is not lost. You can set up (heh) and then SURPRISE SWAP JUTSU on outta there. Your Shaymin-EX or Hoopa-EX or whatever Pokemon you have that is great to see in your hand but abysmal to start with goes right back into your deck, where it can be safely retrieved with Ultra Ball or Pokemon Fan Club at your leisure.
- It eases setup. You know how everyone’s totally in love with Mew from Fates Collide because it can copy the attacks of its fellow Basics? Mew is good because it lets you attack without necessarily sacrificing your attacker. Ninja Boy works in a similar way. You can power up your attacker without actually having them on the field, and since you can use Ninja Boy on any of your Basic Pokemon in play, your opponent will be left guessing about which Pokemon you’re going to swap out (or if you will at all! Go go gadget mind games!).
- You don’t need four, or even three, copies. Because it has a very specific function and can be easily retrieved with VS Seeker, most decks will be good to go with just one Ninja Boy. Decks that feature swapping Pokemon out as a toolbox deck of sorts could run two, but I think three would be pushing it.
- With Ninja Boy, all your Basic Pokemon are also all of your other Basic Pokemon simultaneously. Ever wanted to evolve Hoopa-EX into M Rayquaza-EX? Now you can! Got a big Pokemon-EX about to go down? Swap it out for a regular Basic and rob the opponent of a Prize card! Aren’t you dastardly?
- You will feel like a true ninja. This is kind of a personal point, but I think there’s a great satisfaction in making your opponent believe they know what’s coming and then SURPRISE SWAP JUTSU OUT OF NOWHERE and now there’s a completely different attacker. Like your opponent has Zygarde-EX from Fates Collide up front while and you’ve got a lone Spinarak, and you think all is lost and your opponent is expecting the scoop when WHAM. Ninja Boy into Sceptile-EX. Attach an Energy, drop the Laser, and rock Zygarde’s world. Complete Forme? More like Completely Wrecked. Enjoy those two Prizes, Trainer. You’ve earned them. Be sure to offer to help your opponent fix his or her mouth when their jaw hits the floor every time you get one of these surprise KOs.
The Bad, or PMJ Tries Hard to Be Objective (Cons)
- It’s a Supporter. This is unfortunate, as Swoop is not, but this effect is so good that it pretty much has to be a Supporter; that doesn’t mean it’s strictly a bad thing, but playing Ninja Boy means no Hex Maniac, no Lysandre, no draw for the turn outside of Octillery or the easy two Prizes you just shuffled in, and no draw means little to no advancing your board state, and little to no advancing your board state means you had better be in good shape already or consider the risks to playing it. Is it worth it to swap your Pokemon out now, or should you just Professor Sycamore instead and try again later?
- If you don’t have to swap your Pokemon out, it’s a dead card. Simple as that, really. Ninja Boy is a life saver if you get a terrible start or if you plan on employing SURPRISE SWAP JUTSU, but if it’s not necessary then all it’s really good for is Ultra Ball fodder.
- Deck space is at a premium. While Ninja Boy is definitely helpful, it’s not a necessity like Sycamore or a really good idea like N. If you put Ninja Boy in your deck, it’s going to come at the cost of another card. You have to determine what, if anything, you can get rid of to make room for it.
- Your target Pokemon has to be in your deck. If you’re looking to swap out with a specific Pokemon you’ve teched to help swing a matchup and it’s in the discard pile or in your hand (or worse, lurking in your Prize cards), you can’t grab it with Ninja Boy.
The Sick Plays (Combos)
- All Mega Evolutions: Are you tired of getting saddled with Head Ringer on the first turn of the game before you’ve even gotten a turn? Well, worry no more. Say you’re using a M Manectric-EX variant, your Active Pokemon is Raikou, and you are going second. Head Ringer can’t be attached to Raikou, so you are free to attach Manectric Spirit Link to him. Then, on your second turn, Ninja Boy to swap Raikou with Manectric-EX, evolve, attach, and start cleaning house.
- Any Pokemon you don’t want to start with: If you have Battle Compressor and VS Seeker in hand, you can easily use Ninja Boy to swap it out with something more favorable. If you don’t, feel free to toss an Energy on them anyway. There’s always next turn.
- Any Pokemon you do want to start with: No one said you could only use this to make a bad start good. Why not make a good start better? Mix and match your attackers with Rainbow Energy or any Pokemon with Colorless Energy requirements.
- Forcing a seven-prize game: If your Pokemon-EX is going to go down, you can use Ninja Boy to force your opponent to take a single Prize instead of two if you swap your Pokemon-EX out with a regular Pokemon. They’ll still be Knocked Out (and just a little bit salty that you threw them under the bus like that, you monster), but your Pokemon-EX will still be in your deck to fight another day.
- Surprise Jutsu KO: There’s nothing quite like swapping out a small (or a big) hitter for a big (or a bigger) hitter. Lugia-EX can cause big damage with a surprise Aero Ball or Deep Hurricane. Mew and Mew-EX can use their Basic-copying powers to use the attacks of any Pokemon in your deck. Remember, you aren’t restricted to your swapping out your Active Pokemon with Ninja Boy.
Other Steam Siege Notables – Trainers
Whew. That was the big one. There are a lot of other interesting cards in this set, but they don’t need nearly as much room to discuss. Let’s get the other Trainers out of the way and say a few words about Special Charge:
Shuffle 2 Special Energy cards from your discard pile back into your deck.
You may play as many Item cards as you like during your turn (before your attack).
If you’re a Giratina-EX player, you might be salivating a little at the thought of this card. Special Charge means you no longer have to use Bunnelby to get your Double Dragon Energy back from the discard pile. More importantly, it means you don’t have to use up your attack to retrieve your lost Special Energy. This also gives you a bit more leeway with Puzzle of Time. Puzzling for Special Charge instead of two Special Energy means that, if you needed to, you could get all four copies of your Special Energy card with just two Puzzles, and that’s huge. Even Puzzling for just one means you get any one card back as well as being able to put two Special Energy back into your deck. Now, the disadvantage of Special Charge, and Puzzling for it over the actual Energy themselves, is that Special Charge puts them into your deck whereas Puzzle of Time puts it directly into your hand, which is likely where you want it in the first place.
Remove all effects of attacks on both players and all Pokemon.
You may play only 1 Supporter card per turn (before your attack).
Pokemon Ranger is interesting because it counters a few important threats. At the top of this list is Giratina-EX; Chaos Wheel’s debilitating effect can spell doom if your deck relies on Special Energy, like Night March or Vespiquen. Pokemon Ranger gives you a one-turn out and lets you respond immediately, rather than playing Xerosic to remove Giratina-EX’s Double Dragon Energy and hoping the player can’t get it back next turn. Ranger also lets decks like Night March get around Jolteon-EX and its devastating Flash Ray attack without having to rely on Escape Rope / Lysandre shenanigans, and lets the deck combat Jolteon-EX safely if it’s the only Pokemon the opponent has in play. Another notable card that Ranger stops is Seismitoad-EX. We all know what it’s like to be Quaking Punch locked from the word go, so if you’re fortunate enough to have Pokemon Ranger in your hand, you might be able to do something about it. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss how much it fights for a deck space with Xerosic. Is it more important to you to be able to respond the same turn, or is denying the opponent a resource and having to wait out a turn the more practical thing to do?
If you take this card as your face-down Prize card, before putting it into your hand, flip a coin. If heads, take another Prize card.
You may play as many Item cards as you like during your turn (before your attack).
For the first time, we get a card that you actually want in your Prize cards. Greedy Die is a fun yet terribly inconsistent card that you (probably) won’t see in any competitive decks. The allure of a free Prize is certainly interesting, but it still requires a coin flip to use and running it in your deck means you are barred from using Town Map. Even if you know that Greedy Die is one of your Prizes, the fact that it has to be face down means you are still left guessing which of your Prizes it is. I would stay away from this card.
Other Steam Siege Notables – Pokemon
Let’s get the big guy out of the way first. With dual-typed cards returning to the game for the first time in many years, and an awesome Ability, Volcanion-EX is one of this set’s most hyped cards. Steam Up can be used to put Blacksmith fuel in your discard pile while simultaneously powering up your Fire-type attackers. It pairs up beautifully with the baby Volcanion from this set which I will talk about later.
Volcanic Heat is an awful attack, but if you have two Volcanion-EX in play, use Steam Up twice, and then Blacksmith them onto Volcanion-EX, you can swing for 190, OHKOing just about everyone. Most notably, this will one-shot Zygarde-EX, so it’s something to consider. Adding a Muscle Band will push your damage to 210, letting you OHKO M Manectric-EX and the new M Gardevoir-EX from this set, which I will also be discussing a little later. Still, I believe your tool of choice should be Fighting Fury Belt because the extra HP will help you out against Night March, and against that deck you can just have baby Volcanion do all the fighting.
Volcanion-EX’s horrible Retreat Cost can be mitigated somewhat by utilizing Float Stone or Zoroark. While Volcanion-EX can hit pretty hard, he’s not really someone you want in the Active spot for any extended period of time. He’s also a good target for Ninja Boy if you want to get him out of play in a pinch.
[R] Power Heater: 20 damage. Choose 2 of your Benched Pokemon. Attach a Fire Energy from your discard pile to each of them.
[R][R][R] Explosive Flame: 100 damage.
Weakness: Water (x2)
The combo here is obvious. If you have two Volcanion-EX in play and use Steam Up with both of them, Power Heater will hit for 80 and you’ll get both of those Energy back. Fortunately you are not obligated to attach those Energy to Fire Pokemon. This will OHKO Joltik regardless of its Tool, which is great. If you give Volcanion a Belt of his own he will be sitting pretty at 170 HP and you’ll do enough with Power Heater to OHKO Joltik straight away. Holding a Belt and using Explosive Flame with two Steam Up uses nets you 170 damage which ruins the days of a whole plethora of Pokemon, most notably Yveltal-EX, Manectric-EX, Giratina-EX, Greninja BREAK, and Glaceon-EX.
Ability: Sonic Vision
If your hand has 4 cards in it, this Pokemon’s attacks cost no Energy to use.
[C][C][C] Assault Boom: 50+ damage. If your opponent’s Active Pokemon has any Pokemon Tools on it, this attack does 70 more damage.
Weakness: Lightning (x2)
Resistance: Fighting (-20)
Yanmega BREAK retains the attacks, Abilities, Weakness, Resistance, and Retreat Cost of its previous Evolution.
[C][C][C] Penetrate: 100 damage. This attack’s damage isn’t affected by Weakness, Resistance or any other effects on your opponent’s Active Pokemon.
Those who played during the era in which Yanmega (Prime) was legal know exactly how awesome it was. Attacking for free has always been a good thing, and this Yanmega comes with an easy-mode way to attack for free every turn. All you need is to have four cards in your hand. This is all too easy with the use of our homie Octillery, who gives us a five-card hand every turn. This deck relies on having our Abilities on at all times, so there are three cards you want to watch out for: Hex Maniac, Garbodor, and Greninja. Greninja can be circumvented by Pokemon Ranger. Garbodor can be countered by Startling Megaphone or Xerosic; there is nothing that can save you from Hex Maniac. (Pokemon Ranger only removes effects of attacks.) Chaining Hex Maniac spells doom for this deck, but otherwise it can perform quite nicely since you can run it without any Energy.
When 1 of your Pokemon becomes a Mega Evolution, your turn ends.
[Y][C] Despair Ray: 110+ damage. Discard as many of your Benched Pokemon as you like. This attack does 10 more damage for each Benched Pokemon discarded in this way.
When a Pokemon-EX has been Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.
Weakness: Metal (x2)
Resistance: Darkness (-20)
Speaking of attacking for free, this flavor of M Gardevoir-EX can also do it. As both a Fairy- and Psychic-type card, it can take advantage of Dimension Valley to reduce its attack cost by [C] and Florges from BREAKthrough to reduce its attack cost by [Y], thus resulting in a free Despair Ray. That said, relying on having both Stadium control and Florges’s Ability up to attack for free leaves you wide open to saying go way too often. It’s much easier to just run a few Fairy Energy and play it safe since Night March will likely put Dimension Valley in play for you. Despair Ray’s effect means Benching Hoopa-EX and Shaymin-EX comes with a lot less risk since Despair Ray will throw them in the discard pile. The best thing that M Gardevoir-EX has going for it is the fact that it’s not weak to Psychic, meaning Night March can’t just autopilot and dominate you with only half of its resources gone. This deck is not a deck that you will be OHKOing things with, and that’s a problem in a format based around grabbing KOs in one shot. Even with Sky Field in play, you will realistically only be doing 120-150 damage a turn. You need six discards to join the 170-damage club and one-shot Yveltal-EX and his buddies that I listed above. I think that M Gardevoir-EX will be used more next format rather than as a last-minute play for Worlds. It should definitely be on your radar for Cities, though.
Steam Siege being legal for Worlds is sure to keep everyone on their toes. While I don’t believe any of the Pokemon from Steam Siege are going to make a huge splash, except for possibly the ones I went over, the Trainers from this set are definitely ones you will want to take note of because they are all very good (except the Fossil cards but we’re just gonna pretend that mechanic doesn’t exist). I can’t wait to see how Steam Siege will help shape both Worlds and next year’s format. And speaking of that, what do you think it is? We were talking about it in the Skype chat room the other day and I personally think it’s gonna be Roaring Skies-on. Primal Clash-on was another popular guess. I’m hyped either way! Let me know in the discussion thread what your predictions are, and how you feel about this set. Do you think there are gonna be any surprises? Xerneas BREAK is kinda cool. It’s kinda like a lite version of M Gardevoir-EX. M Gallade-EX might be a little mad that Yveltal BREAK usurped his attack, but I’m not sure Dark decks will devote a spot to it. Then there’s weird stuff like Avalugg and Chandelure which, while not necessarily competitive, are definitely fun. Can’t wait for this set to drop!
Your pal, PMJ