Cheers to a New Format — The Implications of the Rotation and Two New Decks

Hello Beach goers! Hope all is well. At the time of writing this I am leaving for San Fransisco tomorrow and couldn’t be more excited! I have been testing fervently the past few weeks and I am feeling good about Worlds, but before I head out, I wanted to stop by and shed some insight on the upcoming format. The 2016-2017 season is already shaping up to be a groundbreaking one. With huge changes to the year’s tournament structure, new Alola Pokemon revealed and a massive upheaval of Standard on the horizon, I am anxious as ever to get working on my 2017 Worlds invitation. It’s a great time to be a Pokemon trainer! In today’s article I will be looking at the new Primal ClashSteam Siege format, discussing the forthcoming metagame in depth. I will also be reviewing a couple brand new decks that I have sleeved up for the fall. There’s a lot of new ideas in this article. My closest friends and I have been huddled up in my apartment grinding out games and lists all week, and I am excited to share with you the fruits of our labor.

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California bound!

As a quick side note, I wrote a motivational article about the life of a competitor at the dawn of the 2015 season, here. I just read through the piece again and it blew me away. It’s a timeless piece about assessing your goals and strategy within the Pokemon TCG and starting off a new season on the right foot. It’s the perfect article to read to get mentally prepared for the upcoming season. In fact, looking back at old articles is one of the sweetest part of being a PokeBeach premium subscriber. The longer our program exists, the more wisdom and experience you have at your fingertips!

Format Forecast

With Night March and Battle Compressor rotating out of Standard, the format slows down considerably. Now that there is no longer a deck that can consistently topple three 200+ HP Pokemon-EX in three turns whilst only promoting non-EX attackers, there are numerous deck options available to us in Standard. Imagine that! The landscape is much different than what we might be used to, but the general consensus seems to be that the game is rotating to a much more healthy and enjoyable state, and I have to agree. Below, I will review a number of significant changes to the format so that you can get an idea of how my proposed decks will function within the new metagame.

No Night March

I can’t wait to take more Pokemon GO photos in San Fransico!

The loss of Night March is easily the most liberating asset of the new format. Without Night March, Psychic and Lightning weak Pokemon-EX can re-enter the game. Most notably, this means that M Rayquaza-EX and M Mewtwo-EX become instantly playable. It also means that Dark decks can afford to play a copy or two of Lugia-EX or Yveltal-EX without fearing for their safety.

Night March leaving the format also means that, most of the time, decks can afford to take a turn or two to set up. There is much less emphasis on the strength of your deck’s first turn when you aren’t on a three to four turn game timer, making evolution and Stage 2 decks plausible as well.

No Seismitoad-EX

Next in line of exciting rotations is Seismitoad-EX. This card morphed into an absolute monster during its two year reign in Standard, spawning multiple popular archetypes such as Seismitoad-EX / Crobat, Seismitoad-EX / Slurpuff, Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor, Seismitoad-EX / Fairy Box, and Water Box. The card was also seen as a tech in Dark decks, Metal decks, and even M Rayquaza-EX decks. It turns out that producing an Item-lock for a single Energy is really good! But now, it’s time to lay our Frog Prince to rest. Finally! With Toad out of the picture, the doors are open wide for Fire to blaze through Standard.

PokeBeach writer Matt Price was over my apartment yesterday with his newly built Volcanion-EX deck. The deck functioned wonderfully! I was truly impressed. I even invested into a few copies of Volcanion-EX myself after seeing the deck’s magic first hand. The synergy between Volcanion, Volcanion-EX, and cards like Fisherman or Energy Retrieval is really impressive. Matt was regularly using Volcanion’s acceleration attack, Power Heater, for over 100 damage! Ridiculous!

With Water losing Seismitoad-EX, I think that Water archetypes will compensate by shifting towards Primal Kyogre-EX. Apologies to M Gyarados-EX, I’m not quite a believer in you yet! If Volcanion becomes popular, which I anticipate that it will, Grass decks such as M Sceptile-EX take a serious hit as well, improving the survivability of archetypes like Primal Kyogre-EX.


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Vileplume clearly not happy about losing AZ.

AZ had become a staple in many Pokemon-EX centric decks because of its ability to heal, switch, and re-use Abilities such as Shaymin-EX‘s Set Up. Though valuable, its loss in Pokemon-EX decks can be mitigated by playing other cards, like Switch or Max Potion. But there is one archetype in particular that will miss this Supporter more than any other: Vileplume.

Until now, Vileplume decks have been able to play entire suits of AZ to ensure that their Vileplume never gets stuck Active. AZ has also been utilized in Vileplume to break the Item-lock temporarily, allowing the player to use the Items in their hand before laying the entire Evolution line back down with Forest of Giant Plants. Without AZ, Vileplume decks will take a serious hit in potency. Of course they can still utilize switch Supporters such as Olympia, or resort to the Vespiquen / Vileplume strategy of attaching a Float Stone to Oddish or Gloom before evolving into Vileplume, but even then, AZ will be missed for its Ability to clear the Bench and break the self inflicted Item-lock. As the sole Item locker remaining in Standard, I expect Vileplume to continue to maintain its footing in the metagame, but lists will definitely need to compensate for the loss of AZ.

No Battle Compressor

Many argued that it wasn’t Night March that spoiled last year’s Standard, but rather, Battle Compressor. Battle Compressor made aggressive decks overwhelmingly fast. By ditching resources that were not needed and discarding one-of Supporters that could then be fetched with VS Seeker, agro-style decks were able to get exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it. Combined with the draw power of Shaymin-EX and Trainers' Mail and the retrieving power of Puzzle of Time, there was nothing to stop a deck like Night March from setting up exactly the way it wanted to on the first turn of the game.

Though Night March has rotated, Vespiquen remains and will sincerely miss the discarding power of Battle Compressor to power up her Bee Revenge attack. All hope is not lost for the Queen Bee, however. Let’s not forget that Flareon was a successful archetype way before Battle Compressor was released. How could we forget that Dylan Bryan finished in the Top 16 of the World Championships in 2013 with Flareon pre-Battle Compressor?

More recently, Alex Hill saw success with a Vespiquen / Vileplume list that only played two Battle Compressor during States last year. The list picked up the slack by playing Basic Energy and alternative attackers like Jolteon-EX and Regirock. Even though Vespiquen no longer has Battle Compressor at its disposal, it can still discard Pokemon by using cards like Ultra Ball, Professor Sycamore, Unown, and Klefki.

Klefki is an interesting card out of the new set that helps Vespiquen get the discard numbers she wants. Using Klefki’s Ability, Wonder Lock, Klefki can leave the Bench and attach itself to another Pokemon as a Tool that prevents damage from Mega Pokemon for one turn. After the opponent’s turn is over, Klefki gets discarded. A neat trick you can do if you have both Klefki and Unown on your Bench is use Wonder Lock to attach Klefki to Unown, then Farewell Letter to discard both cards immediately.

Aside from affecting Vespiquen and the general speed of the format, the loss of Battle Compressor will also change the way decks are built. One-of Supporters cannot be relied on to patch matchups anymore. One copy of Hex Maniac will not be enough to stop Ability decks and a one-of copy of Ranger will not be enough to stop Giratina-EX‘s Chaos Wheel. Battle Compressor allowed us to search these Supporters out, making them instantly useable with VS Seeker. Now that it’s gone, we will generally need to play enough copies of a Supporter to draw into them naturally. Don’t get me wrong though. One-of Supporters will still see play, but they will not be nearly as reliable as they used to be.

No Tool Removal

One of the most startling (pun intended) realizations of the new format is that there is no form of Trainer-based Tool removal. The rotation of both Xerosic and Startling Megaphone means that there is no longer a convenient way to remove Tools from the defending Pokemon. This has a number of implications. Lately, Startling Megaphone has become a near staple in every deck in order to keep Fighting Fury Belt in check. But now, Fury Belt can go completely unchecked. Basic Pokemon like Volcanion, Raikou, and Yveltal are ridiculous to deal with when they are boasting over 160 HP. Pokemon-EX are even more ridiculous to deal with when they have over 200 HP. Viable decks will have to account for the fact that Basic Pokemon now just have 40 more HP thanks to Fury Belt now.

The other major implication of no Tool removal is, of course, Garbodor. Without Tool removal, Garbodor’s Garbotoxin Ability is free to block whatever Ability it wants. The only reasonable way to break Garbodor’s Ability lock now is to drag it into the Active position and KO it. This will be a challenge for many Ability based decks, like Greninja BREAK, to do.

Now Garbodor is only as good as Abilities are, this is true. Garbodor will be a waste of space in any deck unless it deals with a number of threats sufficiently. It’s true that Garbodor keeps the opponent from using Shaymin-EX‘s Set Up, but it also keeps you from using Set Up. My experience with Garbodor has been that you need a tanky and low maintenance attacker for it to be the most useful. This is why Darkrai-EX / Garbodor was so powerful back in its day. Perhaps now Garbodor can be paired with Zygarde-EX, taking advantage of the card’s natural healing with Cell Storm and insane 230 HP with Fighting Fury Belt attached.

Mega Ray Gets Buffed

With Night March out of the picture, there is a new speed deck in town, M Rayquaza-EX. Players have been hyping Mega Ray since the rotation announcement, and it’s legit, the deck is very powerful. With M Manectric-EX and Joltik both out of format, the only reasonable Lightning attackers that remain are Raichu, Zebstrika, and Raikou. Raichu is, of course, excellent against Mega Ray, but loses Muscle Band, making it less potent against other threats. Raikou is neat, but requires Magnezone set up in order to accelerate. Although he’s not a Lightning attacker, Zoroark is probably Mega Ray’s top threat in Standard. Zoroark is splashable and can be used in a number of decks in order to  punish Mega Ray for filling its own Bench. Since it’s also a useful mobility card, I expect to see a lot of Zoroark in the format to come.

Mega Ray also loses Battle Compressor, meaning that the deck won’t be quite as fast as it used to be. Although the list will need to be constructed differently, there are still a host of options for Mega Ray to chose from. Mega Ray could play Milotic, Mega Turbo, or even the new Clawitzer to help keep the momentum going. It even gets access to the new Special Charge, meaning that it has more access to Double Colorless Energy than ever before!

My only real concern with Mega Ray is, of course, Parallel City. Because Parallel City exists, I feel like Mega Ray will never be able to become the format defining deck. Parallel City and Raichu will be able to keep Mega Ray in check during the year to come. That being said, Mega Ray still boasted a handful of top finishes last year, including the Canadian National title, despite the existence of Night March and Parallel City. So the future is definitely bright for this explosive archetype.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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