Magical Ribbon — My Top Plays for Virginia and the Best of Guardians Rising

Excited for the next two Regional Championships! (Photo by Doug Morisoli)

What’s up everybody! This has been another insane week and you’ve caught me at the tail end of it. In addition to teaching full time, I’ve written two graduate research papers and prepared two presentations already, but what would a busy week be without some Pokemon to top it all off? Since I last wrote, I’ve made another significant step towards my invite by winning a League Cup, placing me at 372 / 500 Championship Points. I’m very excited about my season so far. I have been able to move along at a blazing pace while attending minimal events because of my stellar batting average. Of the 12 Championship Point awarding events I’ve attended so far, I have earned CP at 10 of them. I currently have a season record of 61-20-8, with one of my losses being an intentional scoop. Because of my ratio of wins / travel expenses, this has proven to be a very profitable season for me! In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be attending Virginia and Ontario Regionals in hope of sealing the deal on my invite. If I can Top 32 either of them, I’ll be within striking range of an invite with two Cup wins in the fourth quarter. Feel free to follow me on Twitter to keep up with how things go! @enjoifriend.

In this article, I will be discussing the potential of the new cards coming out of Guardians Rising. Then I will discuss my reactions to the Brazil International Championships, (spoiler: not surprised Decidueye-GX was the winner), and offer my assessment of Standard while giving my top plays for Virginia’s Regional Championships.

Guardians Rising Top 10

Sit down and buckle up because Guardians Rising is a deep set. My shopping lists from new sets are typically pretty brief, but my list for Guardians Rising is relatively long, with lots of exciting Trainers and Pokemon that are sure to shake the game up heading into the final stretch of the season. Here, is my Top 10 list of cards from Guardians Rising.

1. Field Blower

Field Blower is an Item that has the option to discard any two in combination of Stadium and Tool cards in play. Fantastic! Two birds with one stone. We finally have a way to break the oppressive Parallel City / Garbodor lock, one of most powerful combinations in the Standard format, all with a single card. Field Blower will change the fundamentals of Standard that we have been playing with since the fall, and has numerous immediate applications.

First of all, Decidueye-GX / Vileplume, arguably the best deck in Standard, gets a bump from the card. Decidueye no longer needs to play that dreaded Beedrill-EX. One copy of Field Blower will suffice. If you happen to discard it early, the card is easily brought back via Hollow Hunt. If you run into it early, before you set up Vileplume, you can use it to remove Float Stone from your opponent’s Pokemon so that they can be trapped Active via Lysandre later in the game. Beedrill has been a sore to play in Decidueye so far, and I only play it reluctantly. Field Blower will alleviate a lot of pressure on the deck’s Bench space, opening room for better cards.

Other Ability reliant decks will thrive with Field Blower as well. Greninja BREAKVolcanion-EX, M Gardevoir-EX and M Rayquaza-EX will appreciate being able to remove Garbodor’s Float Stone and opposing Parallel, even if just for a turn. Though Greninja has pretty much been hated out of the format by the rise of Decidueye, Volcanion is poised to enjoy a very successful end of season run thanks to the release of Turtonator-GX. With Field Blower, Mega Gardevoir and Mega Rayquaza should both enjoy end of the season success as well.

Other than nerfing Garbodor and Parallel City, Field Blower also serves to break down the formerly impenetrable wall that was Fighting Fury Belt. No longer will Basic Pokemon enjoy a permanent plus 40 HP buff with a Tool card. This means Lapras-GXYveltal-EX, Darkrai-EX, Giratina-EXTauros-GXLugia-EX and Volcanion-EX all take a hit in survivability. This makes KOs easier to attain on Big Basic Pokemon, but has the most implications for Turbo Dark. Field Blower removes both Fury Belt and Exp. Share from Darkrai, seriously hampering the deck’s tank factor as well as its ability to keep Energy on board. Not only that, Field Blower also removes Turbo Dark’s pesky Silent Lab. While Field Blower is the biggest boon for Volcanion, Rayquaza, Decidueye, and Gardevoir, it hampers Turbo Dark and Yveltal / Garbodor the most.

2. Tapu Lele-GX

Wait so you mean this card is like Jirachi-EX, except it’s got twice the HP, no Weakness, X Ball and a GX attack that fully heals two Benched Pokemon? Seems good. In fact, this card is format defining. Lele will change the way our game is played. Decks are sure to be built around Lele, and Lele will be used to make other archetypes even more consistent than they are already. Tapu Lele-GX / Garbodor has already seen success in Japan. This seems like a consistent and versatile archetype that is sure to make waves in Standard, picking up exactly where Yveltal-EX / Garbodor left off in the fall. Tapu Lele’s Wonder Tag Ability allows you to search your deck for a Supporter of your choice and put it into your hand. This means that any Supporter is just an Ultra Ball away! This is going to fundamentally change the way decks are constructed.

One-of Supporters have been relatively weak so far in Standard with the rotation of Battle Compressor. Battle Compressor allowed you to discard your one-of Supporters, making them easily accessible via VS Seeker. Likewise, Lele allows one-of Supporters to be sought out even more easily. Turn one Hex ManiacLillie and even Brigette plays become more viable thanks to Lele’s Wonder Tag. The only weird thing about Tapu Lele is that it can’t be searched out via Hoopa-EX‘s Scoundrel Ring. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean that Hoopa and Lele can’t be played in the same decks, it does mean that they will more than likely be a part of different plays. Likely, the only decks that can afford to play both Lele and Hoopa would be Sky Field decks such as M Rayquaza-EX or M Gardevoir-EX. Otherwise, decks like Decidueye-GX will most likely begin to play a Lele / Shaymin-EX split, where decks like M Mewtwo-EX and Volcanion-EX will most likely forego the inclusion of Lele in favor of Hoopa and Shaymin.

3. Choice Band

Choice Band is another must-have Item from Guardians Rising. Choice Band is a Tool that adds plus 30 damage dealt to Pokemon-EX and Pokemon-GX. Combine this with the fact that Fighting Fury Belt is easier to remove with Field Blower, and all of a sudden Big Basic Pokemon-EX and Pokemon-GX are much easier to overcome than they were previously. Choice Band has a few partners that come to mind right away. Evolution Pokemon like GyaradosZoroarkRaichu, Umbreon-GX, Greninja BREAK, Decidueye-GXGarbodor (Guardians Rising), Huntail and Espeon-GX all appreciate the opportunity to pile on extra damage to their attacks. Additionally, the same Basic Pokemon-EX and Pokemon-GX that take a hit from Field Blower, gain a buff in the ability to pile on more damage to opposing Pokemon-EX and GX. Yveltal-EX, Tapu Lele-GXTurtonator-GX, Lugia-EX, Drampa-GX, Rayquaza, and Volcanion-EX all enjoy the option for increased damage output. It should be noted that the only Pokemon that don’t get to abuse Choice Band effectively are Mega Pokemon, as they have to wear their respective Spirit Links to function appropriately. As a result of this, M Mewtwo-EX‘s dominance comes down a peg. Yveltal, Tapu Lele, Lugia, and Mewtwo, all of which would have struggled to trade against Mega Mewtwo without Choice Band, can now reach the Mega’s 210 HP with less hassle.

4. Garbodor (Guardians Rising)

The Ability blocking Garbodor is already very good in Standard, even after getting nerfed by Field Blower. Trashalanche Garbodor makes it even better. Trachalance, for a single Psychic, dishes out 20 damage times the number of Item cards in the opponent’s discard pile. Between Trainers' Mail, Max Elixir, Ultra Ball and more, it is pretty average for a deck to burn through six to eight Item cards within the first couple turns of the game. That’s an early 120-160 damage with Garbodor for a single Energy. Compound that with the recent addition of Choice Band to boost damage and the fact that Field Blower easily sends more Items to your opponent’s discard, and we have a pretty formidable non-EX attacker on our hands.

The new Garbodor obviously pairs well along the old Garbodor, and the first deck that comes to mind is M Mewtwo-EX, since it already plays Garbodor and Psychic Energy. Whats funny about this though, is that Garbodor’s (Guardians Rising) best quality is that it can easily hit M Mewtwo-EX for OHKOs! This makes me want to look elsewhere for a partner for Garbodor. Perhaps a new Big Basics / Garbodor deck that runs Psychic Energy will rise up and outclass Yveltal-EX / Garbodor. Tapu Lele-GX / Garbodor has been doing very well in Japan, and I imagine that those results will translate Stateside as well.

5. Aqua Patch

Water getting the “Patch” treatment is an interesting progression for the Pokemon Trading Card Game. As we all know, Dark Patch has remained a relevant card in every format it has been legal since its release. Dark Patch’s success was due in large parts to the powerhouse Pokemon-EX that were able to use it like Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX. Now don’t get me wrong, Lapras-GX isn’t bad, but I’m not sure that Water Patch offers Lapras anything in particular that she isn’t already getting from Max Elixir. Aqua Patch will absolutely find its place in the meta, it’s just in a different space then Dark Patch is all. There doesn’t need to be a “Turbo Lapras” deck that plays both Elixir and Patch.

Interestingly though, Water Patch does open up the possibilities for cards like Huntail to potentially see play, allowing the deck to quickly pile Energy on so that Huntail can take big sweeping KOs late in the game with its Powerful Storm attack. Unfortunately for Water-types though, Decidueye-GX is becoming a dominant force in Standard, making it difficult for Grass-weak Pokemon to thrive. At the very least, Aqua Patch will find a welcome home in Expanded where there are more Water Pokemon to utilize it like Seismitoad-EX and Keldeo-EX.

6. Rescue Stretcher

Rescue Stretcher, essentially a reprint of Pokémon Retriever, is a fantastic recovery card. Rescue Stretcher outclasses Buddy-Buddy Rescue in every scenario, and beats out Super Rod in quite a few. In decks that Super Rod was played, Rescue Stretcher will prove to be the recovery card of choice if that deck doesn’t necessarily care about getting Basic Energy back. M Gardevoir-EX and M Mewtwo-EX will love the ability to either shuffle three Pokemon from the discard back to the deck or grab a single Pokemon, like a Mega Pokemon or a Dragonite-EX, from the discard and put it into the hand. I love the utility that this card allows for decks, and it is sure to see play in the year to come.

7. Sylveon-GX

That first attack is crazy. For one Energy, Magical Ribbon allows you to search your deck for three cards and put them into your hand. On a Stage 1 Pokemon that can easily evolve through Energy Evolution? Count me in. Players are already lofting Sylveon-GX up as the new and improved Lapras-GX of next format. Instead of using Collect to build a hand size, you can pick the three cards from your deck with Sylveon’s Magical Ribbon: Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, Max Potion, Team Flare Grunt, Team Skull Grunt. The implications of this attack when combined with Puzzle of Time are ridiculous. Look out for a Sylveon-GX / Hammers deck to be born very soon!

8. Drampa-GX

I love this card. Awesome art, good attacks and stats, there’s nothing not to like! Drampa-GX, though not necessarily strong enough to warrant building a deck around, provides welcome Energy removal and damage output in the form of a splashable Basic Pokemon-GX. Drampa weighs in at a solid 180 HP and has a Retreat Cost of two. For one Colorless Energy, Drampa can perform the familiar Righteous Edge, which deals 20 damage and discards a Special Energy from the defending Pokemon. For three Colorless Energy, Drampa can dish out a whopping Beserk attack, dealing 80 damage plus 70 more if you have a Benched Pokemon that has damage on it. At first glance, Drampa seems to fit best alongside Lugia-EX in Decidueye-GX / Vileplume. Righteous Edge can help slow down the opponent in the mirror, versus M Mewtwo-EX and versus M Rayquaza-EX. Though I usually find myself wanting to use Hollow Hunt every game with Decidueye, Drampa’s Big Wheel GX attack is a welcome inclusion here, allowing you to shuffle / draw 10 cards in order to set up or simply draw into resources late game. Additionally, Decidueye is an ideal deck to fulfill Drampa’s Beserk attack clause, as there is almost always a Decidueye-GX with heavy damage sitting somewhere on the Bench. If you opt to play the Rainbow Energy version of Decidueye, you can inflict the required Bench damage yourself in order to pull off big Beserk attacks!

9. Turtonator-GX

I’ve never been a huge fan of Volcanion-EX, although I can justify playing the deck in Standard now that Yveltal-EX / Garbodor has taken a back seat. I do expect Lele / Garbodor to fill the void that Yveltal / Garbodor left in Standard though, making Volcanion a suspect play in the upcoming format. That being said, if you do find yourself playing Volcanion, Turtonator is a fantastic inclusion. It boasts a hefty 190 HP and three great attacks. For two Colorless Energy Turtonator can Shell Trap, which deals 20 damage and gives it a temporary Bursting Balloon effect that deals 80 damage to an attacking Pokemon during the following turn. For two Fire and a Colorless, Turtonator dishes out 160 damage with Bright Flame with the drawback of having to discard two Energy attached to Turtonator. The real star here, however, is Turtonator’s GX attack, Nitro Tank GX. For one Fire, Nitro Tank allows you to attach five Fire Energy from your discard to your Bench in any way you like. This obviously has fantastic synergy with Scorched Earth as well as Volcanion’s Steam Up Ability. It also adds a much desired GX attack to the already proven archetype.

Because of Bright Flame’s discard clause, I think that the card has a higher potential ceiling in Expanded rather than the Standard format where Blacksmith can easily refuel the attack’s Energy cost. It will be difficult to stream Turtonator’s attacks in Standard, however, the card does have the option to come into the Active, Bright Flame, then either Nitro Tank or Shell Trap the following turn relatively easily.

It should be pointed out that with Choice Band and Steam Up, Turtonator’s Shell Trap can hit for huge numbers. Three Steam Ups and a Choice Band put Shell Trap at an intimidating 140 damage. Then, if an opponent were to strike Turtonator during the following turn, they would take 80 additional damage, most likely suffering a KO in the process. Turtonator will likely be played as a one-of in all Volcanion decks from here on out. It’s a little awkward that Turtonator cannot be searched out via Scoundrel Ring, but the Turtle’s utility makes its inclusion easily worth it.

10. Rayquaza

The Pokemon Trading Card Game has never seen Colorless attack based Energy acceleration like this. There’s so much good about this card. If you would have dropped this non-EX into nearly any format within the last three years, it would have made a significant impact. Big Basic Pokemon-EX have dreamed of a partner like this for a long time! Rayquaza has 120 HP, a Retreat of one, Lightning Weakness, Fighting Resistance and two attacks, only one of which matters. Most importantly, for two Colorless Energy, Rayquaza can use Turbo Storm which deals 30 base damage and accelerates two Basic Energy from the discard pile to a Pokemon on the Bench. Rayquaza can be used to accelerate any type of Energy to any type of Pokemon!

Now obviously Rayquaza jives best with decks that play Double Colorless Energy, since DCE is the easiest way to power up Rayquaza’s attack. Rayquaza seems to stand out as an obvious partner for Energy stackers like M Mewtwo-EX, Yveltal-EX, Lugia-EX and Tapu Lele-GX. When combined with Choice Band, Rayquaza can pack a significant punch and soften up targets while building a better board position. Since Rayquaza does not rely on Abilities or Items to accelerate, the card could be paired with Garbodor or Vileplume effectively. I’ve already mentioned that Tapu Lele-GX / Garbodor has proven to be a successful archetype in Japan. Rayquaza seems to slide effortlessly into that archetype, providing the deck with a way to superpower a Tapu Lele out of nowhere under Garbodor’s Ability-lock. Rayquaza opens the format up by offering all Basic Pokemon-GX and EX a viable accelerator.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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