Gotta Go Fast – Discussing ADP and One Counterplay Option

Hey guys!  It’s Charlie and I’m super happy to be back with another article.  Recently, the Pokemon community has been shaken by all the demand to address one of the best cards ever printed, Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX.  Never before has Pokemon had one card make such a dramatic effect in the game while also gatekeeping so many different strategies from being viable.  We’ve seen powerhouses like Garbodor force decks to either control their Item usage or absorb its massive Trashalanche damage, extremely overpowered cards like Lysandre's Trump Card eliminate an entire win condition and destroy the concept of resource management, and format-warping effects like Seismitoad-EX‘s Quaking Punch attack limit many options for opponents, but these cards never had as much widespread demand for a ban as ADP does now (not even Lysandre’s Trump Card, which is now seen as probably the craziest card to have ever existed!  I remember being surprised by its ban).  On the other side of the argument, many players believe calls for banning this powerful Pokemon are extreme and we should accept that it will be a dominant effect throughout the rest of its lifetime.  In this article, I’m going to detail a few reasons why I think ADP should be banned, address a few of the arguments against ADP’s ban, and then go into a crazy deck I’ve been testing to possibly combat ADP’s reign.

Dissecting the Card’s History-Why is This a New Situation?

While there have been a few calls for card bans here and there over the years, none have had as much support as the ADP ban movement, especially from top players.  Let’s look into why ADP is a unique situation and how what I think was a well-designed card has unraveled into the beast it is today.

When I saw ADP revealed during the 2019 World Championships opening ceremony, I was really excited.  I thought the “for the rest of the game” effects were some of the best ways to utilize GX attacks and it opened a ton of avenues for creative new decks that took advantage of this effect.  Could I build a deck designed to use a previously underrepresented attacker that can take advantage of the extra damage and Prize cards?  Can I improve a matchup by using ADP as a tech card in something like Mewtwo and Mew-GX with heavy counts of Rainbow Energy?  Maybe I can even take the card into Expanded and abuse Double Dragon Energy to pull off the GX attack on the first turn of the game?  All of these prospects were exciting and I loved the idea of having a card that could provide bonus damage and Prize cards for the remainder of the game.

Heading into the first events that used the UPR-CEC format, ADP as a deck was strong, but not format-defining.  It needed to use Keldeo-GX to help address other Tag Team GXs due to ADP’s 180 damage cap and support options like Cryogonal to slow down the game.  Don’t even get me started on the Gardevoir and Sylveon-GX matchup; that deck won the Daytona Regional Championships by taking down a few ADP decks in top cut.  Gust effects were limited to Custom Catcher, a combo card that only had two maximum effective uses a game, and Great Catcher, which could only bring up other GXs. Dedenne-GX was played a lot, but the format didn’t rely on its draw as much when we were allowed to play Supporter cards on the first turn.  Overall, ADP added an interesting dynamic to a cool format through Altered Creation GX, but it didn’t break the game.

Then came the release of Sword and Shield.  First and foremost, the new set block brought us a new set of rules; players would no longer be allowed to play Supporters on the first overall turn of the game.  This immediately increased demand for support Pokemon like Dedenne-GX that could offer players draw options on their first turn in order to assist them in setting up.  As we will get to later, Dedenne-GX is one of ADP’s favorite targets, as it provides a full three Prize cards for one KO after Altered Creation.  Second of all, the release of Zacian V gave ADP, already one of the most powerful Pokemon ever printed, another contender for the most powerful Pokemon ever printed as its main attacker.  Now the 180 damage cap that ADP had before was increased to 260 (270 if you included Vitality Band or more with Shrine of Punishment) and higher HP Pokemon became no problem for this powerful deck.  Add in the reprinting of Pokémon Catcher and the absolute truckload of Metal support with cards like Metal Saucer and you have one of the most dominant archetypes of all time.  Lastly, Pokemon announced that they would stop supporting the Fairy type and transition to representing them as Psychic-type Pokemon.  Fairy is ADP’s Weakness, so to hear that there would be no new cards that could do double damage to ADP was a warning sign that things could get bad quickly.

With the release of Rebel Clash, new powerhouse decks like Dragapult VMAX were immediately hyped up.  They were absolutely powerful on release, mostly because they could keep up with ADP’s ridiculous pace and take a lot of Prize cards very fast with Max Phantom’s extra damage counters.  However, ADP also gained even more tools, including the Galarian Zigzagoon and Scoop Up Net combo.  This alone would make ADP extremely good, but this set also brought us the return of Supporter-based gust effects in Boss's Orders.  A spiritual successor to the fair and balanced Lysandre, Boss brings us the exact same effect in a very different era of the Pokemon TCG.  Games would very quickly be won and lost on the sheer chance one player had a Boss’s Orders in their hand on like the fourth turn of the game because either Dragapult VMAX would take a multi-KO or ADP would take an extra-Prize KO on a support Pokemon.  This sped up the game even more and the vast majority of games were simply a race to see who could set up faster and inevitably draw game-winning Boss’s Orders.

Finally came the release of Darkness Ablaze and the rotation to a TEU-on format to start 2020’s new season.  This new set introduced the extremely powerful Eternatus VMAX to the game, pretty much eliminating Dragapult decks from the game and becoming the new powerful VMAX.  ADP decks are usually happy in a VMAX-centric format because they can easily include the powerful Zamazenta V as a one or two card counter.  Another powerful support Pokemon was introduced in Crobat V, giving decks another two-Prize liability to rely on for their set up in a no-Supporter T1 era.  Lastly, the rotation removed critical consistency Supporters like Cynthia, forcing us to only rely on Professor's Research, Marnie, and the support Pokemon for reliable draw.  All signs point to this format being relatively slow, but with the rotation things somehow sped up.

As you can see, ADP’s strength was not immediately felt upon release, but with every new set/rotation, it gained new tools and the format began requiring the support Pokemon ADP feasted on even more.  In today’s format, here are a few of the reasons ADP has become too much and is actively damaging a format that may be salvageable if it hits the banlist:

Pushing the Pace-How Fast is Too Fast?

While there are many different ways to define a good format (see Stephane Ivanoff’s article about it), I have one that is usually overlooked: better formats tend to be slower.  The more turns that happen in a game, the less likely it is that your opening hand defines the outcome of the game, the less likely it is that one whiff loses you the game, and more generally, the more likely it is that luck statistically evens out and skill decides the winner.  Many of the game’s best formats rely on single-Prize Pokemon or on 2HKOs of larger Pokemon.  ADP takes the exact opposite approach.  Never before has there been an era when the vast majority of games are decided within the first two turns and formally end within the first four or five.  When your opening turn is only one of five instead of one of twenty, the cards you drew are way more likely to make an impact on the outcome than when you have time to search, draw, and manipulate the board.  The fact that ADP’s game plan is always Altered Creation GX –> take 3 Prizes on Support Pokemon or Attacker –> Boss to take 3 Prizes on support Pokemon turns Pokemon into a relatively luck-based race to KOs on low-HP support Pokemon that decks are pretty much required to play if they want to set up before ADP wins.

Gust for Every KO-Why Bother with Attackers?

Another first for Pokemon is a world in which a deck can and will completely ignore the main attacker in a vast majority of its matchups in order to take Prize cards on support Pokemon.  While this definitely makes Pokemon more boring to play, I would also argue it goes against the spirit of what the game is supposed to be: two Trainers battling Pokemon with each other until one is crowned victor.  In both VGC and anime, you never see anything like Ash’s Pikachu using Thunderbolt on a random Pokemon in the audience to get the win.  He has to deal with the opponent!  Yes, gust effects and KOing support Pokemon should be a part of the game, but it should never be the only part of the game that’s needed to win.

Gatekeeping One Prizers-Why Try?

In the modern era of two-Prize Pokemon and now three-Prize Pokemon, one way to address these powerful monsters has always been to “trade favorably”, or use one-Prize attackers to deal either an OHKO or 2HKO and sacrifice your own attacker in a 1-for-2 or 2-for-3 trade.  Historical powerhouses like Night March, recent examples like Lost March and Tool Drop, and current decks like Spiritomb do this very well against most decks.  However, in an era of ADP, these decks are unable to trade favorably because ADP will take two Prizes on each KO.  While one-Prize decks may theoretically be able to keep up if they can dish out an OHKO to an ADP, it is extremely unlikely they will ever be able to draw well enough to constantly set up new attackers and keep liabilities like Dedenne and Crobat off the board to beat ADP in time. This results in a format where single-Prize attacker decks are nonexistent outside of Spiritomb, which simply takes a heavily unfavored matchup to ADP and is only really played by a small group of extremely experienced players.

After adding up all of these factors, I hope you can see how a ban to ADP would be good for the game as a whole and possibly make the format a good bit better.

Counterarguments to ADP’s Banning

While I think “git gud” and “stop whining” are not valid counterarguments, I have seen some legitimate counterarguments to an ADP ban.  I try to address them properly below and I hope this can help explain why ADP is the biggest issue currently facing Pokemon TCG.

“ADP isn’t winning every event, so why is it so broken?  Eternatus is better!”

A card does not have to be winning every single event to be worth a ban.  The reason ADP needs to be banned is because its literal existence has such a profound effect on the pace of the game that slow decks, one-Prize attacking decks, and many two-Prize attacking decks have no chance to keep up with it.  Decks like Eternatus have the ability to keep up with ADP through extreme tempo and extreme damage output, creating yet another turbo deck that might struggle more in a format where one and two Prize attackers are viable.  Decks like the Players Cup-winning Zacian/Zamazenta/Lucario and Melmetal-GX deck use ADP’s tricks against it, but would likely falter in a format where more interesting concepts existed.  Overall, removing ADP from the format would help change the environment, which is much more important than changing what wins events.

“Zacian V is the real problem!  Ban Zacian V instead and ADP will struggle with high HP decks!”

I’ll start with this: Zacian V is a better card than ADP.  Zacian V may very well be the most powerful Pokemon ever printed; it has a setup Ability critical in no-Supporter T1 environments and an insane attack that can simply be reset with a Switch.  However, Zacian would simply be a strong deck in a non-ADP environment that might lose to something like Fire decks that could trade favorably.  Currently, the most viable Fire deck is Centiskorch VMAX because it can survive an attack from Zacian V, but it has trouble with Zamazenta V.  Hilariously, ADP, Naganadel and Guzzlord-GX, and Magikarp and Wailord-GX are the only Pokemon in the HISTORY OF THE GAME that cannot be OHKO’d by Zacian V with a Vitality Band/Headbutt Tantrum or stopped in its tracks by Zamazenta V (for over HALF the Prizes required to win due to Altered Creation)!  Without ADP, Zacian will stay strong, but it can be checked.  With ADP, the only checks are huge VMAX decks that can be countered by Zamazenta or carefully-tuned anti-ADP strategies that often fall to every other deck.

“ADP was fine before Boss’s Orders!  Ban Boss and ADP will be ok!”

I personally believe ADP is what makes Boss bad for the game.  If there was no ADP, Boss would be similarly healthy to Lysandre: not my favorite gust effect, but not as broken as Guzma or the original Pokémon Catcher.  Support Pokemon would not be worth half the Prize cards you need to win and Boss could be used more as a tactical asset to chase down powerful attackers your opponent may be setting up.  I’m actually playing in a tournament that only bans Boss’s Orders right now, and I decided to use it as an opportunity to prove this point and play an ADP build that abuses Pokemon Catcher instead.  Here’s my list for the No Boss Tournament; I’m currently 1-0 and have unhappily taken all my Prize cards off of support Pokemon:

Pokemon (14)

4x Jirachi (TEU #99)2x Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX (COE #156)3x Zacian V (SSH #138)1x Zamazenta V (SSH #139)2x Dedenne-GX (UNB #57)1x Crobat V (DAA #104)1x Galarian Zigzagoon (SSH #117)

Trainers (36)

4x Professor's Research (SSH #178)4x Quick Ball (SSH #179)4x Switch (SSH #183)4x Energy Switch (SM #117)4x Metal Saucer (SSH #170)4x Pokémon Catcher (EPO #95)4x Scoop Up Net (RCL #165)2x Cherish Ball (UNM #191)2x Energy Spinner (UNB #170)2x Turbo Patch (DAA #172)2x Cape of Toughness (DAA #160)

Energy (10)

8x Metal Energy (CL #95)2x Water Energy (CL #90)

As you can see, this deck is designed to abuse everything that is wrong with ADP: I have huge damage-dealing options with Zacian V, I can take Prizes off Benched Pokemon with Pokemon Catcher, and I can block VMAX damage with Zamazenta V.  This deck should never exist in Pokemon.

One Whimsical Idea to Counter ADP

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!