The Pokemon Company international threw World Championship competitors for a huge loop this year by announcing new rules regarding the legality of new expansions. As a result of this change to procedure, cards from Steam Siege will now be legal at this year’s World Championships. For many players, this came as a tremendous shock, never in Pokemon history has such a twist been placed on the Worlds metagame. Steam Siege is also extremely important for players who are not competing in Worlds this year, shaping the beginning metagame for our 2016-2017 season. Since Steam Siege is so vital for players of all competitive levels, I want to discuss my picks for the top five cards from the set (in no particular order). A common theme I’ve noticed among cards from this set is that many are inspired by older cards, so veterans of the TCG should be at least faintly familiar with the general idea of most of the cards. Without further ado, let’s get into the list!
You can find the scans and translations of Steam Siege here .
Top Five Cards from Steam Siege
Players who were around for the 2011 season may remember the tyrant Yanmega Prime. Nationals and Worlds from that year was infested with the Sonic Bug, commonly paired with Magnezone Prime and / or Kingdra Prime. Yanmega Prime’s main strength was its Poke-Body (roughly equivalent to today’s Yanmega’s Ability) which let it attack for free as long as your hand size and your opponent’s match. The new Yanmega follows similarly in the path of Yanmega Prime, having an Ability that lets it attack for free but with a slightly different condition. Rather than needing to have an equal number of cards as your opponent, you only need to have four cards in your hand. This requisite is much easier than the previous since it doesn’t rely on your opponent in any way. We also have cards that let you manage your hand to exactly four cards with no problem, specifically Judge. Combined with its new BREAK evolution (also in Steam Siege), Yanmega has two powerful attacks. It can deal a flat 100 damage without bothering Weakness, Resistance, or any other various effects on the defending Pokemon, similar to the old Yanmega Prime’s Sonicboom attack. Yanmega can also use its Assault Boom attack that hits for 120 if the defending Pokemon has a Pokemon Tool attached to it but only 50 if doesn’t (very close to Manectric-EX‘s Assault Laser). With two nice attacks at its disposal, Yanmega BREAK can surely 2HKO anything it comes across. Another nice benefit Yanmega has its is Grass typing, especially with the astonishingly powerful Stadium, Forest of Giant Plants. With a Forest, you can potentially have a Yanmega BREAK ready to attack on even the first turn!
One issue Yanmega BREAK faces is its reliance on its Ability. If its Ability is shut down by any means, it can no longer attack, and since the idea behind Yanmega decks is to be able to run as few Energy as possible (often zero), losing its Ability is almost game-changing. To combat this, there are a few techs I would use in a Yanmega deck. Firstly, to have an answer to the increasingly popular Garbodor, Startling Megaphone is necessary. If you can use Startling Megaphone to discard Garbodor’s Tool card and then pull it Active with Lysandre, you can KO it completely. Another annoying Ability-lock that is found in the current metagame is Greninja‘s Shadow Stitching. Luckily, Steam Siege also brought Yanmega a reliable counter to Shadow Stitching in Pokemon Ranger. Pokemon Ranger can remove Shadow Stitching’s effect for a turn, letting you attack. One unfortunate downfall of Pokemon Ranger is its wording, it doesn’t last until the end of the turn, it only resets the effects of attacks present on the field when it was played. This means that Yanmega BREAK’s Penetrate would still ignore Greninja’s Grass Weakness, making a OHKO impossible.
The third, and by far the most popular, Ability-lock card in the format now is Hex Maniac. While there isn’t an way to directly remove Hex Maniac’s effect from your Pokemon, there is another way to essentially neutralize that Hex Maniac. By running Robo Substitute, you can free retreat into it any time after your opponent plays Hex Maniac to deny Prizes for a turn. Chances are that your opponent will have played a VS Seeker to get back Hex Maniac from the discard pile, so they’ll rarely be able to play another Hex Maniac or Lysandre on their next turn.
With a properly teched and consistent list Yanmega BREAK can surely be a big buzz in the format.
Volcanion-EX, one of the new dual-typed Pokemon from Steam Siege, is a very powerful Pokemon-EX that provides a great boost to Fire decks. Volcanion-EX’s Ability, Steam Up, not only increases the damage your Fire types do by 30, but it also fuels Blacksmith by putting Fire Energy into the discard pile. And while a Volcanion-EX can only use its Ability once per turn, having multiple Volcanion-EX in play lets you use Steam Up two, three, or even four times in a turn!
There are three obvious partners to make maximum usage out of Volcanion-EX. The first is Entei, the core of a deck that saw moderate success during Cities this season but ultimately fell off the radar when BREAKpoint brought Greninja BREAK to the scene. Entei decks were known for their incredible speed and ability to attack on the first turn of the game for 130 (or more) damage. With Steam Up, Entei can now take OHKO’s on Pokemon on which it never could before and even on some Mega Evolution Pokemon. With this new power boost in Volcanion-EX, Entei decks may end up seeing play at Worlds, the last tournament before the Fire deck staple Blacksmith rotates.
Another good partner for Volcanion-EX is Flareon-EX. Flareon-EX decks aim to flood Fire Energy onto the field to make Blaze Ball do more damage, and Volcanion-EX raises Flareon-EX’s damage cap even higher. Just like in the Entei deck, Volcanion-EX makes OHKO’s significantly easier and it also fuels the discard for Blacksmith. However, one benefit of having the main attacker be a Pokemon-EX is being able to abuse Hoopa-EX. In a Flareon-EX / Volcanion-EX deck, Hoopa-EX turns one Ultra Ball into three, letting you snag whatever three Pokemon-EX you need, whether it’s Flareon-EX, Volcanion-EX, or even Shaymin-EX.
Lastly, Volcanion-EX breathes life into good old Torchic. With its Omega Barrage Ancient Trait, Torchic can attack twice in a turn, even if it Knocks Out the defending Pokemon on the first attack! Although its damaging attack requires a successful coin flip to do anything, Trick Coin makes that condition easier to achieve. With three Volcanion-EX on the field and all three using Steam Up, a Torchic can deal 220 damage in one turn, and that isn’t even factoring in damage-increasing Pokemon Tools like Muscle Band and Fighting Fury Belt. The downside of Torchic, though, is its abysmally low HP. 50 damage is a piece of cake for all of the other decks to deal, so a Torchic will rarely ever last more than one turn; but, then again, the Fire Chicken usually does more than enough work in a turn, so the tradeoff is fair.
One other card to note that is great with Volcanion-EX is the new “baby” (non Pokemon-EX) Volcanion. Its main attack, Power Heater, attaches one Fire Energy from your discard pile to two different benched Pokemon as well as 20 damage. With a few Steam Ups, that 20 damage can become enough to Knock Out a Pokemon-EX in two turns, but, more importantly, you get to attach those Energy you discarded for Steam Up. Any deck that uses Volcanion-EX can certainly benefit from the regular Volcanion.
Xerneas BREAK is another card from Steam Siege that is very similar to previous cards from recent years; Xerneas BREAK’s attack deals more damage for each Energy on your field, reminiscent of M Gardevoir-EX and the new Darkrai-EX. While M Gardevoir-EX decks only saw a small amount of success in its era, Darkrai-EX decks have already made a major name for themselves. Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Hydreigon-EX placed in the Top 4 at U.S. Nationals, and Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX achieved great success at other National Championships.
The strategy with Xerneas BREAK is the same as with M Gardevoir-EX and Darkrai-EX: flood the field with Energy as quickly as possible to deal tons of damage. One beneficial factor Xerneas BREAK has is the amazing Geomancy attack from Xerneas. With Max Elixir, Geomancy, and manually attaching, you can have seven or eight Energy in play by just the second turn, setting up Xerneas BREAK to sweep through whatever it comes across.
There are two different Xerneas BREAK variants that I feel have a lot of potential. The first is Xerneas BREAK / Giratina-EX. Xerneas BREAK / Giratina-EX is essentially the same thing as Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX except with a Fairy engine rather than a Dark one. Xerneas BREAK only gives up one Prize card for being KO’d to Darkrai’s two, and Xerneas BREAK only does 20 less damage. While the one Prize factor is quite nice for Xerneas, the thing that pushes it over Darkrai-EX in my eyes is Geomancy. Not to be redundant, but Geomancy really is an incredible and often underestimated attack, and the only thing Darkrai-EX has like Geomancy is Yveltal‘s Oblivion Wing, which is only half as effective when it works and much harder to pull off. One more benefit of using Xerneas BREAK instead of Darkrai-EX is Fairy Garden. Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX decks are forced to run thick counts of switching cards like Escape Rope, Float Stone, and Hydreigon-EX because of the hefty Retreat Costs of most Pokemon in the deck. Xerneas BREAK decks, on the other hand, can simply use Fairy Garden; with Fairy Garden in play, anything with a Fairy Energy attached to it (or Double Dragon Energy since Double Dragon Energy provides all Energy types) can retreat for free. Considering Fairy Garden, Geomancy, and the one-Prize advantage, I see no reason to continue using Giratina-EX with Darkrai-EX instead of Xerneas BREAK.
The other Xerneas BREAK variant I like is much more unconventional, Xerneas BREAK / Regirock / Exp. Share. This deck begins the same as Xerneas BREAK / Giratina-EX, using Max Elixir and Geomancy to attach as many Energy as possible, but has a drastically different ending strategy. One downfall of Energy-reliant attackers like Xerneas BREAK is that losing a sizable chunk of your Energy cuts your damage, so this variant aims to keep every Energy you attach in play for the rest of the game. When one of your Xerneas BREAK would be KO’d, Exp. Share can conserve one Energy attached to the Xerneas and move it to the Pokemon Exp. Share is attached to. With Regirock’s Omega Barrier Ancient Trait, you can stockpile Energy on it from Exp. Share, and those Energy will be safe, your opponent can’t discard them with Crushing Hammer, your opponent can’t discard Exp. Share from Regirock, and your opponent can’t Lysandre Regirock.
Like Xerneas BREAK and Yanmega, Ninja Boy is a throwback to an old time, but this time to about 10 years ago to a card called Swoop! Teleporter. Both cards do the same thing, except Ninja Boy is a Supporter whereas Swoop! Teleporter was a Trainer (equivalent to an Item today). Ninja Boy being a Supporter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially considering it can be used multiple times with VS Seeker.
What makes Ninja Boy so powerful is the surprise factor it is loaded with. Say, for example, you’re playing the Seismitoad-EX / Manaphy-EX (Water Box) deck, and you use Quaking Punch three or four times against one of your opponents’ Pokemon-EX. Rather than Quaking Punching again for a KO, you can Ninja Boy to swap Seismitoad-EX for Articuno. Then, as long as you flip one heads out of three flips, you can take three Prizes for KO’ing them rather than two. Ninja Boy can also be used to shuffle back a Shaymin-EX or Hoopa-EX and pull out a better Pokemon to place on the Bench. In decks that utilize multiple attackers with similar Energy costs, Ninja Boy gives immense toolbox potential.
Pokemon Ranger is a very interesting card, similar in effect to Hex Maniac. When you play Pokemon Ranger, all effects of attacks that are still lingering, such as Quaking Punch (Seismitoad-EX), Chaos Wheel (Giratina-EX), Flash Ray (Jolteon-EX), Crystal Ray (Glaceon-EX), and Stardust (Jirachi). One important ruling to note, however, is that Ranger is not like Hex Maniac in the sense that its effect does not stay until the end of turn. For example, if you play Pokemon Ranger and then use Seismitoad-EX‘s Quaking Punch, Quaking Punch’s Item-lock will still be present during your opponent’s turn. Like Ninja Boy, Pokemon Ranger being a Supporter is actually helpful. With VS Seeker, Pokemon Ranger can be discarded early and recovered down the road whenever it’s needed, and it can even be used multiple times.
Pokemon Ranger’s real allure is how it serves as a counter to certain annoying effects that were previously unable to be removed. Whereas certain Item-lock effects, for example, had a way to be removed, like Lysandre or Hex Maniac for Trevenant and Hex Maniac for Vileplume, other effects like Seismitoad-EX‘s Quaking Punch couldn’t be stopped once the attack was complete. But now, with Pokemon Ranger, pesky effects of attacks like that can all be wiped away!
As it always is, U.S. Nationals was an absolute blast this year. I got to see a ton of old friends as well as make many new ones, and making the Top 64 made it even better. Another thing that I think made my Nationals experience so enjoyable was my deck choice. Since my freshman year of college finished in May, I’ve been working almost full time every week, so I had practically no time to test for the event. So, rather than theorizing a deck and playing it without experience, I just chose to play a deck that I’ve had success with all season in Standard, Tyrantrum-EX / Giratina-EX / Bronzong .
Not only did I feel comfortable with the deck itself, but I also thought that it has great matchups across the board, which it does. Giratina-EX works wonders against Night March decks, with Xerosic, Jirachi, and a well-timed Lysandre (along with a little luck) being the only ways they can break a Chaos Wheel lock; if they can’t stop you from Chaos Wheeling, they lose. Tyrantrum-EX / Giratina-EX / Bronzong also has good matchups against Genesect-EX oriented Bronzong decks and Manectric-EX decks, two matchups I expected to see a lot of after their success at Canadian Nationals. Other decks like Vespiquen / Vileplume, Zygarde-EX / Vileplume, and Seismitoad-EX / Manaphy-EX (Water Box) are all close matchups. The only bad matchups the deck has are Greninja BREAK and Trevenant BREAK, and I did not anticipate an enormous showing from either of those decks (which turned out to be true, for the most part).
For reference, here is the list I played at the event.
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