A new season means we have a new Standard format — BKT-on, to be precise! However, it is a little uncertain where we as players and deck builders will go from here, especially since we have lost more important cards than possibly any other point over the last three years.
Today, I will help you navigate this new Standard: first by going over the most important new differences, and second by offering a detailed analysis of four post-rotation archetypes, and how my changes could help keep them afloat for the coming tournament season.
An Approach to the New Format: Not as Hard as We Thought!
For the first time in a while, we are experiencing a Standard format rotation that makes a big impact on the way decks are built. I’m going to spend this section talking about the most important losses, deck construction issues resulting from those cards’ loss, and how we can fill those voids with the current card pool. As we go staple by staple, I hope it becomes clear that adjusting to the changes will not actually be all that hard.
Problem: Decks Now Have Weaker Mid and Late Games
Losing VS Seeker is a big loss, but it will be surprisingly easy to replace. For the past three years, the core of most lists have looked more or less like this:
That, right there, was draw power — and reusable draw power, at that. It is the perfect balance between aggressive discard draw and conservative shuffle draw at all points in the game. Now with VS Seeker gone, you will have to be much more careful in when you play your N or Professor Sycamore; otherwise, you may be entirely out of draw as early as the second or third turn. To add insult to injury, many decks might not even have enough draw cards anymore, since four N and four Professor Sycamore might not be enough!
Solution: Play a Couple More Draw and Search Cards
It’s tough to find the ideal counts for setting up, as well as continuing to draw cards late into the game, but a lot of the loss of VS Seeker can be handled simply by running more of these outs to good cards. Tapu Lele-GX smooths out this whole problem of “not enough good draw Supporters” by giving you an instant couple of outs to N or Professor Sycamore, and Brigette is an excellent turn one alternative which will surely save your core draw cards for later.
In two of the below lists, you’ll see me take radically different directions in updating them for the new Standard, but they both follow this same general principle: replace VS Seekers with more consistency cards.
Problem: Tech and Utility Supporters are Harder to Time Right or Conserve Until the Late Game
Since VS Seeker’s re-release in Phantom Forces, securing tech Supporter cards for later periods of the game was simple: You just had to draw into it, discard or use it, and then all of your VS Seeker became outs to using that Supporter. Now that VS Seeker is gone, being able to secure the timing of those tech Supporters is much harder, and will arguably make them weaker cards as a result.
Solution 1: Stop Playing Tech Supporters
This is the first response you will see from many deck builders at this early point in the season, but generally speaking, it’s unwise to forsake the utility Supporters. As we discussed above, Tapu Lele-GX being such a good attacker and search card is a complete game-changer, making utility Supporters a far safer call. Therefore, this solution is not a “solution” so much as a poor reaction to a new situation.
This advice might be decent, however, when applied to tech Supporters that do not make as big of a difference on the outcome of a game as they would have otherwise. For example, Plumeria is a powerful Energy-discarding Supporter, but only when timed perfectly. That actually involves not only timing your discard right, but at a point in the game where discarding cards from your hand will not lose you the game. Now that Plumeria is so much harder to use, players who might have teched it into their lists may think twice.
Solution 2: Play More of Certain Tech or Utility Cards
While I use terms like “tech” and “utility” interchangeably, I should clarify that tech cards are single copies, whereas utility cards are non-draw / non-setup options. At any rate, playing bigger counts of these cards could be the better option than simply not running them at all.
Guzma instantly comes to mind as the best example of a card that will go up in count. Given that most players were already running two copies, would it really surprise you to see them run a third copy to accommodate for the loss of VS Seeker.
Shaymin-EX: Not as Big of a Loss as You’d Think
Several decks are already treating the loss of Shaymin-EX as a zero-sum game: for every Shaymin-EX you can no longer play, run a Tapu Lele-GX. Many deck lists such as both the NAIC-winning Garbodor and the Worlds-winning Gardevoir-GX have already moved away entirely from Shaymin-EX, but in case your deck needed the extra boost for consistency, just run more Lele.
However, there is a role Shaymin-EX fits which Tapu Lele-GX does not quite meet…
Problem: Decks are Less “N-proof” Than Before
In the final stages of a long, close game, your opponent will probably use an N against you. This card will force you to shuffle your hand into your deck and draw a single card, because you most likely only have a single Prize left. Because Shaymin-EX was such an important card, players would often plan ahead and orchestrate a game so that they would draw their last two Prize cards at the same time, letting them draw more cards off of the opponent’s N and put them in range to use any spare Ultra Ball. (Two cards for N plus a card for the turn is just enough to play Ultra Ball!)
Now that Shaymin-EX is gone, an important element of N recovery is gone with it. However, recent releases have already been preparing us for this change…
Solution: Play Oranguru
Oranguru already saw a lot of play to counter N drops, and while it may not draw into as many cards as a Shaymin-EX does when it uses Set Up, it is arguably much better in both formats as a hard answer to late game N. Sure, drawing into large combinations of cards to win a game is no longer feasible, but with an Oranguru, you can at least increase your odds exponentially of drawing into small combinations of cards to seal a close game.
Problem: Setting up Stage 2 Pokemon is Harder Than Before
Level Ball and Dive Ball were important cards for the majority of the time both were legal, and were frequent features in the Decidueye-GX and Greninja BREAK archetypes last season. Now that both are gone, it is simply much harder to set up Stage 2 lines outside of Fairy decks (Diancie works wonders to get Stage 1 Pokemon into play).
Solution: Run More Ways to Fetch Basics as Well as Stage 1s
Similar to the above approach of simply replacing VS Seeker with more Supporters, you will also benefit by replacing your Level Ball and Dive Ball with more ways to get the pre-evolved pieces of your Stage 2 Pokemon into play. The number one way to do this is to either run Brigette if you were not already, or to run an additional copy of Brigette. For those pesky Stage 1 lines, you can run options like Evosoda or even Wally, which have the added bonus of getting your Stage 2 Pokemon into play.
Four Formatted Favorites: Archetype Updates and Discussion
Now that we’ve gone over the main changes to deck-building trends, let’s see those changes in action! Listed below are four decks: two archetypes that dominated Worlds and will continue to remain on top; and two old favorites that need major revisions in order to remain viable.
The 2017 World Championship winner remains a top tier contender going into the immediate set of Standard tournaments. This list is mostly the same as the one Diego Cassiraga won with in the Masters division, although you’ll notice some important alterations to make it 2017 – 2018 compliant.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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