Need For Speed — The Rogue Side of Lightning Decks
The Lightning-type in Pokemon tends to be associated with fast, powerful attacks whose power doesn’t sustain itself in the long run — at least, as far as Pokemon types can be said to have a mechanical identity in the TCG. There’s a whole debate here; my position is that they loosely do, but it’s not as marked as colors in other collectable games. Plus, what a type will focus on can definitely vary over time, so I’ll only focus on the Standard format and not make any grand statement about types from the beginning of the Pokemon TCG.
Here’s my evidence for that statement: The main form of Lightning Energy acceleration, Tapu Koko Prism Star is a very powerful but one-time effect. Compare this to something like Malamar, which is slower but provides more Energy over the course of a game and you can see a distinction. Lightning support cards give their Pokemon power now without worrying about later. The same goes for Electropower. It’s an insane power boost but works only once, unlike say Diancie Prism Star that is less powerful but more constant.
Of course, this interpretation of the Lightning-type isn’t perfect. One could object that Magnezone provides a form of Energy acceleration that’s slower and works over a long period of time. Obviously, every type in the game has Basic and Evolution Pokemon, so no type can be entirely focused on fast attacks by Basic Pokemon or only use Stage-2 Pokemon that play longer games. I would agree with anyone who thinks that the card designers could do much more to give each type a distinct identity.
I feel like my point stands. Zapdos is a card that completely captures this idea of Lightning Pokemon having high power in the moment. The way the card works, Zapdos will deal 80 damage once, but its subsequent attacks will only deal 10 damage. Power now and not later. Using Zapdos or the Lightning type in general becomes an exercise in dealing with their downsides. In Zapdos’ case, it means having many switching cards such as Escape Rope and Guzma to reset its effect and target your opponent’s weaker Pokemon at the same time. Zapdos hasn’t been seen much since rotation but the various Zapdos / Jirachi variants of last season were in my opinion, a great illustration of what the Lightning-type was about.
But what does it mean for Hoopa coming in Darkness Ablaze, a card that does the same thing as Zapdos but Darkness-type? I’m not sure, but I’d say either they decided to give Lightning’s previous mechanical identity to the Darkness-type or they needed a powerful one-Prize one-Energy attacker for the Eternatus VMAX archetype. So they copied the best recent example of such an attacker without thinking.
Since rotation, the main Lightning archetype has unquestionably been Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, which doesn’t fit the theme. It uses some of the cards I mentioned above (Tapu Koko Prism Star and Electropower), but it’s a deck that allows for sustained power over the course of the game. By using its Full Blitz attack, you put enough Energy in play to last for the rest of the game. The newest addition to the deck, Boltund V provides another form of slower but longer-term Energy acceleration, so maybe the speed aspect of the Lightning type has definitely been abandoned.
Let’s look at Luxray from Rebel Clash. This card is a perfect example of the “power now and not later” theme, with Raid doing an unprecedented 160 damage for one Energy. However it’s only once, with Raid regressing to a mediocre 60 damage afterwards. Like with the Zapdos example above, to build a deck around Luxray you need to find ways to play around its attack’s downside — to continuously use Raid for 160 damage.
Luxray isn’t only a random example I’m taking to illustrate a point, it’s the focus of this article. Building a deck around a Stage-2 attacker that doesn’t have a way to stop other Pokemon from damaging it (unlike Galarian Obstagoon) may be foolish and I won’t claim that Luxray is a tier 1 deck. That said, Luke Fisher proved the deck’s worth by making it to Day 2 with Luxray at a recent online tournament. It’s a rogue deck, but like any rogue deck it can beat top tier decks with skillful play and the element of surprise.
In this article, I’ll explain the combination of factors that make Luxray an acceptable choice to build a deck around and how it can match up to other decks in the format. I’ll also talk about another deck, which happens to be Lightning-type. It’s Morpeko V / Lillie's Poké Doll, my favorite deck of the pre-Rebel Clash format! Similar to Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, this deck doesn’t have much to do with what I described the Lightning-type’s mechanical identity to be, which deprives me of the opportunity for a very cool thematic link between today’s decks. On the other hand, both decks play Speed L Energy — it’s something! (I’ve talked about the power of Speed L Energy before).
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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