Rebel Clash and Rotation — What to Play Now for Success Later

The end of the 2020 season has been the most unique in Pokemon’s history. The cancellation of major events including the World Championships has completely changed the landscape of what competitive Pokemon players have to look forward to. Normally, this time of year would be dedicated to testing for the end-of-season Regional Championships as well as the North America International Championships. Instead, we’re caught in an awkward in-between, where we haven’t actually started the 2021 season yet but for all intents and purposes are now in the middle of it. Thankfully, we aren’t without Pokemon entirely as there are numerous player-run tournaments. Plus, TPCi themselves have announced the upcoming Players Cup to be played on PTCGO. However, this puts competitive players in a bit of a dilemma. All of these current tournaments use the pre-rotation Rebel Clash format, but the official events needed to earn that 2021 Worlds invite (the League Cups and Regional Championships) will be in the post-rotation Darkness Ablaze format. If there is a continued delay to the start of the 2021 season, we do know for almost certain that tournaments won’t be coming back until after the rotation occurs. Thus, any testing done for the Rebel Clash format will in a sense be “wasted” at least for the 2021 season. Hence the dilemma: If your goal as a player is to make it to the 2021 World Championships, how can you prepare for the post-rotation format while playing in the present?

Given the amount of potential play time coming up during the Players Cup Qualification and other online events, one of the best things that you can do to give yourself a head start for the 2021 season is to be familiar with a deck that will be good now and post-rotation. If you can have months of experience playing your deck (or decks) of choice heading into next year, that will automatically put you ahead of the rest of the field. It’s a concept akin to the idea of playing the same deck for Standard and Expanded formats to maximize your testing output during a busy season. Except that in this case, the two formats are much more similar. Qualification for the Players Cup alone will likely require hundreds of games of Pokemon — all of which you can use to your benefit. If over that time you learn to master one or more of those decks, then you’ll be able to enter the 2021 season with a considerable advantage over a player who doesn’t have that level of practice. After all, the more experienced you are with a deck, the more comfortable you’ll be playing it and you’ll win more games as a result.

I can save you some of the trial and error (and time) required to figure out which of the current meta decks will remain competitive! After all, most of my recent testing has admittedly been with an eye toward the post-rotation Team Up-on format. At this time of writing, we don’t know all the Darkness Ablaze cards, but we do have most of them — enough to make predictions on the set’s impact on current decks. Since we know the rotation will be Team Up-on, we know almost the exact post-rotation card pool. That’s the format I’ve been testing and while there are some strong decks on the horizon (Eternatus VMAX and Centiskorch VMAX, for instance), the broader current concern is how much those card pool changes will affect our current meta decks. So, for this article, I’ll be taking a look at how each of the current top decks will be affected by rotation, as well as by our next set Darkness Ablaze.

Rotating Decks

As far as decks to avoid, it should be fairly obvious that if the deck in question is about to rotate out of the format, practicing it won’t do you any good after rotation. In this case, however, the rotation may impact plenty of decks, but there aren’t actually a ton of current decks that will have their main Pokemon rotate out of the format. While many of the rotating cards have been good in the past — Malamar, Blacephalon-GX, and Rayquaza-GX, for example — none of them are currently considered top meta decks. The one card rotating out that could be considered as such is Resource Management Oranguru, The central piece to most current stall / disruption decks. However, most of the deck core remains intact, though stall will have to adapt to the loss of Oranguru.

Since the list of competitive decks that are rotating is so small, I won’t dwell on this point much. But avoid spending too much time playing any deck that you clearly won’t be able to play a few months from now. If you do want to give a long beloved deck a few last hurrahs or try out a unique concept for the last possible time, then I won’t blame you  but for actual playtesting, you’ll want to move on.

No Longer at the Top

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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