Entering the Lion’s Den: Rotation Thoughts and Flash Fire Preview
After weekend after weekend of non-stop Pokemon tournaments, we will be getting a big breather, a two month vacation from competitive tournament play. There will still be League Challenges, but there are no big tournaments until U.S. Nationals (and the corresponding foreign nationals). This is always an exciting time of year.
This year looks to be a little bit different, as we have League Challenges instead of Battle Roads. Players seem to take League Challenges a lot less serious than they did Battle Roads, and the tracking of results is much poorer for them as just too many happen and players aren’t really sure to make of the results as some League Challenges can be pretty illegitimate in terms of competitiveness. With that, we won’t really have any major U.S. results to draw conclusions on about the meta game, which will definitely serve to make this Nationals more interesting.
We will still have foreign nationals to draw information from, so maybe it doesn’t end up being too different, but from past experience it seems like what is being played worldwide doesn’t always correspond to what the U.S. players like to play or find best. The U.S. simply has so many players, and lots of good ones, that it seems the U.S. spawns a lot of the deck ideas we see, so we I feel like we will have a little bit of incomplete information as we head towards U.S. Nationals.
The main purpose of this article is to discuss our May set, Flash Fire, which will be our last set before U.S. Nationals. It’s a set that will definitely shake up the game in a big way, even in the short term, and will provide strong archetypes headed forward as well. Before I talk about the set in particular, I want to talk about a few things first, the big one being rotation. As this is our May set, we need to really look at this set with rotation on the horizon, as even if a card won’t be good right away, it could quickly become a solid meta contender in a few short months.
This is a bit hard to discuss, as it can be difficult to accurately predict what the rotation will be. I think a lot of the more informed players correctly guessed that the rotation would be the Next Destinies on this year, and I think this year we can make a fairly accurate prediction, at least within a set. The most likely rotations will be to make the game Boundaries Crossed-on or Plasma Storm-on. Boundaries Crossed marks the beginning of the Black and White 2 block of sets, and Plasma Storm marks the beginning of the Team Plasma block of sets. After examining the contents of Boundaries Crossed, I firmly believe our rotation will end up as Boundaries Crossed-on.
With all the reprints, a rotation at this point will just serve as a ban list of sorts, at least in regards to Boundaries Crossed. A lot of the really good cards in the set have been reprinted, Blastoise and Dusknoir in Plasma Blast, Keldeo EX in Legendary Treasures.
The main meta cards that would rotate are all really balanced, and losing from the game doesn’t seem productive at this point. The main cards we would lose are Landorus EX, Flygon, Black Kyurem (non-EX). Altaria (shiny reprint of Dragons Exalted one) These Pokemon are all balanced, and losing from the game doesn’t really improve upon anything. Most importantly, we lose some important Trainer cards if we rotate this set out. We lose Town Map and Aspertia City Gym, which see niche play, and the big two things we would lose are Skyla and Computer Search, two search trainers. The game surely gets worse from rotating those two cards, so I don’t think it makes logical sense to rotate past this set.
So this leaves us with three sets we can expect to rotate, Next Destinies, Dark Explorers, and Dragons Exalted. I want to look at the important cards we lose from these sets and how they impact the meta going forward. This is important information to take into account as the strength of cards in Flash Fire (and some of the preceding sets) are impacted in the meta going forward from what we are losing.
It’s kind of sad for me to see this set go, as this is the set and time frame where I really jumped into competitive play. We will still keep a lot of this set because of reprints, but we will lose some niche cards that I would have liked to keep going forward.
We lose Zebstrika, which was known for its Disconnect attack, which was one of the many forms of Item lock available to us in the format. This is a small loss as it was found the past few formats to be too weak, both in HP and attack strength, so this will have little impact on the meta going forward, but it was a card that had some success so it’s worth mentioning.
Gardevoir, with its shiny reprint coming in Dark Explorers, will also be lost from the format. Its Psychic Mirage Ability made Psychic Energy count as two. It never saw a lot of play, despite being a strong Ability just because there were so many other great forms of Energy Acceleration available in the format. Its best performance came at the hands of James Proctor making Top 8 at St. Louis Regional Championships with it and Mewtwo EX and Sigilyph DRX.
The shiny reprints we lose also had some impact on the format. Stage 1 decks and the resurgent Zoroark deck will lose Foul Play Zoroark as an option. Cursed Shadow Chandelure, once part of the BDIF during City Championships 2012 will take its exit from the format. This card wasn’t really playable past its first two formats in rotation, but it was part of major decks when it was good, but now it’s just outclassed by things like Hypnotoxic Laser and Greninja’s Water Shuriken Ability. Lastly, we lose Hydreigon, which everyone wanted when Noble Victories came out, but never did well ever.
The trainers we will lose are all fairly good for the game. Exp. Share is gone, so Energy Acceleration through conservation is now gone, although this card saw little play with the increased popularity of Tool Scrapper. Heavy Ball and Level Ball will also leave the format, limiting our Item based Pokemon search options moving forward. We lose Skyarrow Bridge as well, which sees some play in Virizion/Genesect decks.
As far as Special Energy goes, we will lose Prism Energy. Plasma decks lose their go to Energy, and Energy Trans decks will no longer have 8 all purpose Energy available at their disposal.
The rotation of this set will be really big on the game. We lose some key components of one of the most dominating archetypes of the past two years, so this one will be impactful going forward.
Accelgor will be leaving the format, so we will see the end of “perfect” lock decks. There are a lot of counters to the card already, but it’s still seeing success in the right meta games. Moving forward, status lock decks will no longer have an attacker that allows for Item lock in the same turn. While I liked playing various Accelgor variants in its time, and don’t think it’s a broken card by any means, it will be nice going into a tournament knowing you won’t have a potential auto loss matchup if you don’t choose to put in counter techs to status conditions.
A lot of long forgotten EX’s will be leaving the format. Grouden EX, Kyogre EX, Raikou EX, Entei EX. All of these cards were good immediately upon the release of Dark Explorers, but have long faded into our distant memories. Entei EX has seen a bit of a resurgence in Fairy trans decks as a Grass counter, and will probably see more play than usual with all the Fire support in Flash Fire. It’s role as a Grass counter will surely be replaced by some of the new cards in Flash Fire moving forward.
The big two cards rotating will be Sableye and Dark Patch. Without Sableye, Dark decks lose that insane consistency advantage they held over the rest of the format. The loss of Dark Patch will make Dark decks a lot less explosive, and will make them play out more predictably as they won’t be dropping massive amounts of Energy out of nowhere no more. This will serve to greatly balance the very powerful Dark archetype. Dark decks will live on, but will play out more like Plasma does now, using Yveltal XY as Energy Acceleration. I’m a bit more skeptical of the Hydreigon archetype moving forward, but it’s possible it survives using Yveltal as Energy Acceleration as well.
We lose a solid item in Enhanced Hammer, a card that removes a Special Energy from one of your opponent’s Pokemon will be lost. I look forward to a loss of Enhanced Hammer, as it will make decks utilizing more complex Special Energy engines more viable.
Lastly, we lose a shiny reprint of Archeops. This card has seen very little play since being released in Noble Victories, but this one will be an important rotation for reasons discussed below.
The last set that will rotate will also be a big one, and I think will overall be good for the health of the game moving forward.
As far as small Pokemon we will lose, we lose Roserade with its Le Parfum Ability, which lets you search your deck for any card when you evolve into Roserade. This card saw some play in Virizion/Genesect decks as of late, and has saw niche play in other decks during its lifespan. Ninetales, a Pokemon with a Gust Ability with Bright Look will be lost. This card has seen some rogue success the past two formats. We lose Shadow Steal Drifblim, which has been one of the best cards for countering decks heavily reliant on Special Energy. And then we will lose the Damage Swap Reuniclus, who will partially be replaced by one of the new cards in Flash Fire.
As far as long forgotten EX’s, we lose Terrakion EX, Registeel EX, and Giratina EX. All three saw some niche play, but never really broke it too big.
There are three big cards that we will be losing from this set, which are Bouffalant, Ho-Oh EX, and Rayquaza EX.
Bouffalant was one of our first EX hate cards since we re-entered the EX format. Its Gold Breaker did a solid 120 damage to any EX Pokemon, and that could be increased to 150 with a Silver Bangle and 180 with the LaserBank combo as well. It’s always been a strong card, but I think we have enough other stuff to deal with EX’s now that it isn’t as needed as it once was in the format, but it’s still very good.
Ho-Oh EX is a card that floats in and out of the meta. It’s seen play as its own archetype, as tech play, and as part of a unique variation of Virizon/Genesect called Spookysect. While this card has never been overly dominating, it will surely be missed for all the unique decks it provided access to. It will be partially replaced by a new card in Flash Fire however.
Lastly, the really big one, Rayquaza EX, which has been at the forefront of the meta game for most of its life span. It was the main attacker in the Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck, which was one of the best decks all of last season. This year, it saw new life in Emboar decks, which played similarly to Blastoise, just with some different options giving it its own unique strengths. Emboar will be staying with us, but it’ll have to re-invent itself if it hopes to stay in the meta moving forward.
The biggest implication of losing Rayquaza EX is that we lose the Pokemon who was the biggest offender of not having a damage cap. This will only serve to increase the playability of the Mega Pokemon, which haven’t found a foothold in the format yet.
As far as Trainer cards go, the only big one we will lose will be Tool Scrapper. This will be replaced by the generally better Surprise Megaphone in Flash Fire. There were some niche plays you could make with Tool Scrapper of ignoring some Tools on your opponents side of the field, or removing some of your own to put another Tool. There isn’t anything you can do to change the former, but Masquerain in Plasma Blast is always a method of doing the latter.
We lose two Special Energy card in the two Blend cards. This will limit the amount of multi-purpose Energy in the format to just Rainbow Energy until anything new is printed to fill this void.
The last big card we lose from the format will be Tropical Beach. I think this isn’t good from the health standpoint of the overall game, as it’s a very balanced card that is good for setup decks. However, I think it’s good for the health of the competitive game as they chose to never re-release Tropical Beach to the masses, despite it obviously being an important card to varying archetypes. I think it would be nice if they finally did something to give this card to the masses in our August set, as I do think it’s a fine card for the game balance wise.
If it doesn’t see a reprint, the biggest deck to lose out from the rotation will be Blastoise decks, which were very reliant on Tropical Beach for there early game consistency. Beachless Blastoise variants have seen some moderate success, but they have never been anywhere as good as the variants that did play Beach.
One of the things you take to the Beach, Super Rod, will also rotate out. It was last reprinted in Dragon Vault, so it will disappear from the format as well. It will be partially replaced by Sacred Ash in Flash Fire, but it will definitely be missed by me.
The XY Reboot
I’ve been doing my best to fill in as much of my collection of XY cards as I can, as well as gaining a surplus of cards from the set to put together a trade binder. I think the XY set is very good, and the cards from the set only get better the further into the future we get. This applies to Flash Fire cards as well.
Something that may have gone unnoticed by a lot of the community, is that there is a reset that is happening with the XY set to making for a format where all stages of evolution are playable, and the EX’s will be a lot less dominant towards the meta game.
One trend I’ve noticed with the EX Pokemon, is that Pokemon hasn’t been giving any of the EX’s in the XY block Abilities. While none of the EX’s in Next Destinies had Abilities either, all sets afterwards have had EX’s with Abilities up to Legendary Treasures. So far none of the XY block sets, that’s XY Base Set and Flash Fire feature EX’s with Abilities.
The Mega EX Pokemon are surely powerful, but they come at the cost of high Energy attacks and ending your turn when you Mega Evolve. It seems the trend for these will be for them to gain power as the other, powerful EX’s from the Black and White blocks all rotate out at the end of next season. I think Mega’s will be more playable just with the elimination of Dark Patch and Rayquaza EX.
Looking outside of the EX’s gives us a look at what will be a very exciting change in the game moving forward.
Looking at the Big Basic Pokemon from the set, Xerneas and Yveltal, we have two Pokemon that aren’t really used as main attackers in decks, but rather as setup Pokemon for a bigger strategy.
Stage 1’s? We have Raichu, Trevenant, Gourgeist, Dugtrio, Aromatisse, and Swellow. All Pokemon with interesting or balancing attacks, or powerful Abilities.
Stage 2’s? Delphox, Greninja, and Aegislash. All three come with some very powerful Abilities.
Looking at the philosophy of card design in this set as well as Flash Fire, it becomes clear that moving forward we will have a format more full of Evolution based decks versus the Big Basic decks that have been prominent the last few formats.
The Trainers of Flash Fire
In general, my philosophy with Trainer cards is that you should usually just attempt to get playsets of everything. You never know when a Trainer will have a purpose in a deck, and they’re usually fairly cheap, so there isn’t much of a reason to not get a playset of everything to add to your arsenal.
Look at the top card from either players deck. You may discard that card.
This is a very soft disruption and knowledge gaining card. I don’t think it’s enough disruption to really see play.
There won’t really be much reason to play this card right away, as the versatility of getting Energy back as well with Super Rod is much better in my opinion, and three Pokemon is usually enough. This card will definitely be worthy of inclusion after Super Rod rotates in August, however. The card may be superior to Super Rod right now in evolution decks, as it simply lets you get more Pokemon back in your deck making it easier to stream these attackers, while not having to play multiple Super Rod like you had to in the past.
One potential combo for this card is with Weavile PLF and its Villify attack, which does 30 damage times the number of Pokemon you discard from your hand. Combined with Exeggcute, this card should make it easier to get enough Pokemon in your hand for OHKO’s.
In general, I would play this over Tool Scrapper right now in most decks. The one big exception would probably be in anything with G-Booster, as you may want to discard another Tool and replace it with G-Booster. However, there are rare situations where you don’t want to discard as many Tools as possible on your opponents side. In decks that like to play two Tool Scrapper, you might want to consider a 1/1 split.
This was a much needed reprint with Garbodor being reprinted in Legendary Treasures. This card also spells the end of Tool Drop decks.
This card will definitely see play as part of a draw engine in Fire decks. I’m a bit skeptical of using a draw card that is combo based, but with enough Energy and Professors Letter you probably shouldn’t whiff too much, and the card obviously combos well with Black Smith and the Stoke Charizard EX.
Supporter – Choose 1 of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon and switch it with their Active Pokemon.
Gust as a guaranteed effect for all decks. I think this is good for the game, and balanced as a Supporter. I’d still try to play Genesect EX over this in anything that can support it. It’s probably too slow to base your strategy around in such a draw heavy format, but with something with alternative draw like Shiftry or Delphox, it may see big time play as part of its strategy. I think it will be a 1-2 of in a lot of decks immediately upon release. As the format slows down more, I could see it just going up to a 4 of in XY-on.
Tool – The Pokemon this card is attached to receives no damage from its own attacks.
This card is obviously worthy of inclusion in any deck in which a Pokemon damages itself. We will need to get some Compendium confirmation whether this applies to something like Gourgeist that places damage counters, by my initial inclination would be that it doesn’t as there is a distinction in the game made between attack damage and placing damage counters, even if it still is damage caused from an attack.
Pokemon Center Lady
I don’t think this one will really be playable. Super Potion will always be in format with it, and it does 60 healing as an Item. We will also have Max Potion for all of next season. 60 HP doesn’t seem like enough to make this card playable. I’d still pick up a playset of these for the future as it might be needed to combat status lock decks in the longterm future.
Pokemon Fan Club
This is a reprint of another card called Pokemon Fan Club. It’s hard to get too excited for this card when it’s a worse version of the fairly recent Pokemon Collector, but I think it will still be a card worth getting. I don’t think it will be playable right away, Collector didn’t see much play during the end of its life because of the strength of Ultra Ball and Level Ball, but as we lose Level Ball in the next rotation, Evolution based decks will probably want to run this to get out multiple Basics turn one.
Stadium – All Pokemon have no resistance.
As of right now, resistance isn’t too big of a factor in the game. This could change, but unless something combos well with it as a result of removing resistance I don’t think this card will ever see much play.
This card is interesting as it provides an engine for Fire decks to re-emerge into the meta game. You can power up almost any Fire attacker in one turn with this card, which is very strong, especially with the strength of some of them.
It’s also very balanced as it costs you your Supporter for the turn. It will have to be paired with an Item based draw engine or a Pokemon draw engine to help mitigate this fact, but it should definitely give Fire a revival.
Choose 2 Supporter cards from your discard pile and shuffle them back into your deck.
There isn’t much confirmation that we will be getting this card yet, but I think it’s a safe bet that we will see this card in Flash Fire. This card is very important to the Fire Engine, as it lets you get back your Black Smith and not run out of them. It will also be a good 1-of in most decks just to get more Supporters in your deck, which can really help against late game N’s.
The Pokemon of Flash Fire
This is probably my favorite part of looking at a new set, that is looking at the new Pokemon and how they fit into current decks and what new decks can be made from the new Pokemon entering the format. As always, I will do this in a list format, ranking the cards I view to be the strongest. I think it’s important to rank them as it hold me accountable as a writer for how I analyze the new set. I could just discuss the cards and not go one way or the other on all of them, and I don’t think that would be much of a benefit to anyone.
There are a few cards that weren’t good enough to make the list for me, but weren’t cards that I want to immediately write off.
The first is Heliolisk. Its Parabolic Charge attack costs [C] and says to search your deck for up to two Energy cards and put them into your hand. This isn’t a good card as is, but I just have the feeling that there is something else coming to combo with this. They put this as the headliner in the theme deck, and they’ve been putting more good cards in theme decks as of late. The other thing is that all of the Lightning attackers have pretty Energy intensive attack costs, which make them all unplayable, so I have a feeling some type of Lightning acceleration is on its way, and I could see this Heliolisk comboing with whatever that non-existent card is. It just doesn’t make sense to me as why they would make so many cards in one type so unplayable.
Lopunny has the mysterious Big Jump Ability, which lets you pick this card up and all cards attached to it back into your hand. The card itself is awful with a bad attack and low HP, but that Ability just seems like there is a bigger picture that hasn’t unraveled yet for it to combo yet…that or they just wanted to give a silly Ability to an unplayable card, and I guess at non-competitive play level that Ability can be annoying and useful.
The Duskull, which is a pre-evolution to Dusknoir, which made the list, has a Resurrection attack which lets you take a Pokemon from your opponent’s discard pile and put it on their bench. This could potentially be used to punish your opponent by putting something they don’t want back onto their bench.
Butterfree also has some potential, being able to be evolved into on turn 1. This can allow for Miltank to hit for 80 on turn one, and could form some type of rush deck in the future, but I don’t think that would be more viable than playing Miltank with more useful Stage 2’s.
Barbacle also has an interesting attack that combos well with Superior Energy Retrieval, but I fear the [F][F] attack cost will be too hard to setup consistently to stream them. It’s basically the Energy version of Weavile PLF.
20. Magnezone EX
This card simply replaces Kyogre EX. Electroball does a vanilla 40 for [C][C]. Dual Bullet is a Dual Splash clone, doing 50 damage to two of your opponents Pokemon. The [L][L][L] attack cost is awful though, so without some Lightning acceleration this card will never see play.
This is more of a counter card than anything else. It only has 70 HP, but can do a fair amount of damage. Wonder Blast costs [C][C][C] and does 40 damage plus 20 more damage for each Fairy Energy attached. If you use Fairy Energy to fully pay the cost, then it can be used to OHKO all of the Fairy weak Dragon Pokemon, but it doesn’t have much use outside of that.
I wish I could put Goodra higher on this list, as it is one of my favorite Pokemon from XY, but this one leaves a lot to be desired. Its Regoovery Ability is interesting, saying that you may discard as many [W] Energy from the Pokemon and then heal 60 damage for each Energy discarded. It has a high 150 HP, but its Heavy Whip attack which costs [Y][W][C] only does 80 damage, plus 40 more if you flip heads on a coin flip. If the power creep truly goes down, then Goodra might be able to just tank itself in annoying ways, but attaching Energy to constantly discarded doesn’t seem as a viable tank strategy to me as you can’t really setup anything behind it when you have to attach and then discard.
17. Charizard EX
I’m not a big fan of this Charizard EX, and see it only viable as a setup card for the Mega Charizard EX’s. Flare Up says Flip a Coin, if heads, attach 3 Basic Energy from your deck to this Pokemon. You have a couple options for this, do it with Charizard EX on say turn 1, and then retreat into something and then Mega Evolve. You could Mega Evolve and then use Celebi EX to use the attack. None of these are good options in my opinion and with cards like Mewtwo EX and Yveltal EX, you will get punished for putting Energy on a Pokemon in this manner.
I think using the, in my opinion, superior Charizard EX and just using Blacksmith to get setup is the much more viable option.
This is one of those cards that should just be stuck in your binder and forgotten about until XY-on. There is no reason to play this card over Dusknoir as long as Dusknoir is in format, which should be all of next year since it was reprinted in Plasma Blast.
Still, Mastermind is a solid attack, for [P], you are able to re-arrange the damage counters on your opponents Pokemon in any way you would like. This could be used in the future for spread decks, or decks that just aim to get a lot of damage on the opponent’s Pokemon. Right now, Dusknoir is clearly better, but it won’t always be here.
I have no idea whether this card is playable or not, but it’s Ability is interesting enough to make the list. Its Ability, Rain of Spikes, says when you evolve into Forretress you put 1 damage counter on each of your opponent’s Pokemon. This seems underpowered now, but if you evolve into say 4 Forretress throughout the course of a game that’s 40 damage to everything, which can really soften stuff up for KO’s.
It’s too early to tell whether Forretress will fit into the meta, but I’m reminded of Kingdra Prime, which was used to put one more damage counter on stuff to setup KO’s for Reshiram in Typhlosion decks. As the meta moves forward, we could end up with a situation where that +10 damage is all you need.
Even right now, we have a lot of cards that hit for 150 damage, like Reshiram EX and Zekrom EX. If you have Muscle Band attached, then Forretress can provide you with the last 10 damage for knocking out things in one hit with them.
This card would usually not be playable, because of its Stage 2 status, but as covered below, the Stage 1, Floette will certainly see play, so that opens the door to Florges seeing play. For [C] its Brilliant Search attack lets you search your deck for up to 3 cards and put them into your hand.
So in anything playing Floette, it would be a good idea to play one of these to give yourself the option to evolve and use a Brilliant Search to get yourself out of a tough spot, or to get the combo of cards needed to secure victory.
13. Toxicroak EX
This card isn’t all that powerful, but that doesn’t mean it is unplayable. Its Toxic attack costs [C][C] which Poisons the Defending Pokemon and makes you place 30 damage on it instead of 10. With Virbank in play, that is 50 damage from Poison in between turns.
I don’t think this card will be the centerpiece of anything immediately upon its release just because we have such strong Abilities to counter status conditions right now.
I think it will find immediate use as a tech card. For example, it can be used as a counter for decks running DCE to non-EX’s that hit for weakness. Just Poison them, and they will either be forced to lose that Pokemon (think a Raichu), or retreat into something that gives you a more favorable prize trade for something like Yveltal EX. Alternatively, it could see play as a Pyroar counter if the Pyroar players aren’t wise enough to play Virizion EX in their decks.
I predict Poison lock to come to fruition as an archetype in XY-on with Dragalge. You Poison something, lock them, and then send up another attacker the next turn to put more damage on your opponents field knocking out the Active, and then poison the new active, and repeat in such a manner.
This card could easily slide under most players radar, but I think it will be a card that will stand the test of time and find its way into decks during the entirety of its life. It has 100 HP, which makes it strong enough, and it has a hilarious attack name in Hundred Man’s Strength, which does 10 damage plus 70 more damage if you have a Stage 2 in play.
It might seem way too weak right now to see play, but I think it will surprise people and find its way into decks right away, and will become stronger as we rotate more of the broken cards out of the format.
80 damage is enough for Miltank to pick off a bunch of pre-evolutions in matchups with those. It can 2HKO EX’s with a Muscle Band attached. And it does all of this for just one Energy, which is a great damage to Energy ratio to have.
I think this card will have a short lived competitive lifespan, but it will be an important one. It’s a dragon type, and for [C][C] its Revenge attack does 20, plus 70 more damage if one of your Pokemon was knocked out from an attack on the previous turn. This is an obvious splashable counter to all of the big Dragon EX attackers right now…or to put it more succinct, it is to help balance the strength of Black Kyurem EX and Rayquaza EX by providing something that easily OHKO’s them.
It also helps Pyroar out, by allowing a Pyroar based deck to hit most of the major shred Pokemon for weakness and OHKO’s between itself and Pyroar.
With Rayquaza EX rotating out, and Blastoise’s position in flux with the loss of Tropical Beach, and no new Pokemon having a Dragon weakness, Druddigon will fade out of the meta game next season, unless Blastoise with Black Kyurem EX stays big. It will also serve an important role in the Black and White extended format as a counter to the otherwise completely broken Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck.
This is going to be our soft replacement to Reuniclus BLW, which will rotate out at the end of the season. Dusknoir’s Shadow Hole Ability lets you move damage counters to Dusknoir as often as you like during your turn. Pretty simple combo to understand, move damage to Dusknoir and then use healing cards to remove the damage.
It’s not quite as strong as Reuiniclus since you have less HP at your disposal to move damage to, but it will be a suitable replacement nonetheless.
9. Kangaskhan EX
I think this is a card worth picking up for early game consistency, and I think it will serve that role for a long time. It has for [C], a Triple Draw attack, which lets you draw 3 cards. This will be great for early game consistency, especially as the format slows down and you get less punished for using an EX for a consistency attack.
I think Kangaskhan EX and Tornadus EX PLF will compete for the role of early game consistency Pokemon in setup decks after Tropical Beach rotates. And then in XY-on, Kangaskhan EX will be the clear choice. Presumably N will rotate out and not get reprinted (Red Card is the obvious disruption replacement to N), and when that happens, Kangaskhan EX will gain more power as players will be more hesitant to play something like Red Card that doesn’t actively benefit their own setup compared to something like N.
This is a card I kind of overlooked when I first went through the set, just because I thought it was a Stage 2 for the longest time, but it’s actually another one of those Stage 1 Pokemon with a strong Ability.
The reason you would play Dragalge is for its Poison Barrier Ability, which prevents Pokemon who are poisoned from retreating. This is very strong, and can form the basis of a poison lock deck in the future, most likely paired with Toxicroak EX.
It’s hard to put this card in the highly playable category right away, as we still have some counters they made to obviously broken cards. With Hypnotoxic Laser, they needed a hard counter, which we got in Virizion EX. When Keldeo EX and Virizion EX presumably rotate and we get XY-on, I think that’s when this card will really shine.
To start off, I think it has some potential in a Strafelock deck. You can poison with Hypnotoxic Laser, and then still Strafe back into a preferable guard Pokemon while locking that Pokemon from retreating. This could make for more complex Palkia decks utilizing things like Trevenant and Froslass as send up Pokemon.
Its a Stage 1, and its Ability, Energy Grace, lets you knock out Milotic and then attach three Energy from your discard pile to a non-EX Pokemon.
This gives major Energy acceleration to any non-EX in the game, giving you high teching potential against pretty much any deck for any deck in the format.
Giving up a prize kind of sucks, but that can be used to your advantage with N. There will be a skill element with the card, as you need to know when to use it and especially a lot of skill deckbuilding wise in knowing when you can use it to put in a tech attacker to help a matchup.
6. Mega Kangaskhan EX
I am not too sold on this card, but I do think it will see play as it is a Colorless attacker, which makes it easy to fit into any deck. I think Kangaskhan EX will see play in the future just for consistency purposes, so if people are playing that already in there deck, they may just choose to slide in a copy of Mega Kangaskhan EX to add more depth to their deck. If you already have one Energy on it to use Triple Draw, it will just be a Double Colorless attachment away from being powered up to attack.
Its Gangan Punch attack costs [C][C][C] and does 100 damage plus 30 more damage for each heads that you flip…and you flip a coin until you get tails, so it has an unlimited damage cap.
With Muscle Band attached, that’s already at 120 damage. You can increase that to 150 with LaserBank. You can finally get to 180 with just one heads flipped, which is a 50% probability, or 75% probability if you play Victini LTR.
I think it will see play right away in its own tank decks, and will probably exist in such a form as long as it exists. Reuiniclus, the new Dusknoir, or just an Energy Trans deck can all attempt to tank Kangaskhan easily. I’m not 100% sold on any such concept, as if you knockout their support, it’s fairly easy to deal with Mega Kangaskhan, but if they can keep their support alive all game long, then barring Rayquaza EX or a really big Yveltal EX, Kangaskhan EX can be difficult to knockout.
Between being its own archetype and a splashable Mega, I think Mega Kangaskhan EX will find a role in the meta game.
Grass has been one of the top two archetypes all year, and we will see another Grass archetype come to being with the new Shiftry card, so anything that can support Grass Pokemon is going to be an instant hit. As a Stage 1, it should be fairly easy to get out as well.
Floette turns Grass Pokemon into very tanky monsters, adding +20 HP to all your Grass Pokemon for each Floette in play. Virizion/Genesect decks have a lot of space in them, so they might turn to Floette to tank them, while still being able to do a lot of damage, 120 with Muscle Band or 200 with G-Booster. This constrasts something like Umbreon in Plasma, which will take space away from Deoxys EX, decreasing your attack power for the extra HP. 210 HP Genesect’s and Virizion’s sound scary.
This is definitely the most hyped card to come out in Flash Fire, and for a big reason, it completely puts the game on top of its head. Its attack is forgettable, and it doesn’t have a lot of HP, but it has one of the most game changing Abilities in the format.
Intimidating Mane says that Pyroar takes no damage from the attacks of your opponent’s Basic Pokemon. We have been in a Basic dominated format for most of the past couple years, so Pyroar is the hard counter and quick bandaid fix to reverse that trend.
It’s fairly simple, if you don’t have a counter to it then you will lose when you play against it. Straight Yveltal decks? Autoloss. Plasma? Autoloss. All of these decks will need to make adjustments for this card, or just accept a brutal autoloss every time they have to play against a deck using this card, and I think that will happen fairly often if people refuse to adjust.
Now we have decks that can deal with it, but few have perfect answers to it. Blastoise has Blastoise, but you never really want to send your Energy Acceleration source into harms way when playing the deck. Emboar is probably the best well suited, having Delphox to deal with the card. I think this will finally be the time for Emboar to totally take over as the best Rain Dance deck. Plasma has no answers currently, and will have to put in some Stage 1’s to deal with it, and at that point, is Plasma good enough to deal with the other top decks? Probably not. Yveltal has the natural response of Garbodor, but if the Pyroar player can KO a couple of Garbodor then there is nothing that player can do to stop it. They also have the fallback option of Laser spam with Sableye, but most players are dropping Sableye numbers in their list, and Virizion EX can be played in Pyroar to counter it. A thicker Garbodor line may be wanted in these decks to aide in not losing to a knockout on their Garbodor.
Yeah, there are answers to Pyroar, and they will come, but just the fact that Pyroar exists will cause all these decks to adjust, as they can’t really afford not to when this card will see play. As most decks are so heavily based on Basic attackers, it will force evolutions to be fit into these decks to deal with Pyroar, hurting their consistency, or just leading to a meta game where the current evolution decks take center stage.
There is also the option of playing a Shred attacker, but none of these are good counters. Druddigon counters Giratina EX and Rayquaza LTR, and neither of these OHKO’s Pyroar without a Muscle Band. Cobalion EX is weak to Fire, so it will quickly be knocked out by another Pyroar if players try to use Steel Bullet as their counter.
Pyroar is a card that I think gets worse over time. The more we move into the future, more evolutions should naturally see play, at which point playing Pyroar probably will no longer be worth the space.
The scariest part…Arhceop is still in the format. Archeops prevents players from evolving a Pokemon with a Pokemon from their hand. The Pyroar player then uses Evosoda to evolve into their Pyroar. As Archeops depends on the fossil engine, it will probably be too slow to prevent all evolution, but then all the Pyroar player has to do is knockout any evolutions with something like Charizard EX or Mewtwo EX, and then they have the lock for most of the game. Knocking out Archeops is an option, but there’s nothing to say multiple Archeops won’t hit the field, and that forces more gust effects to be played to even bring up Arhceops.
A lot of people don’t think anyone will actually try Pyroar/Archeops, but any time a perfect lock deck can be made, it will be made. We’ve seen this with Quad Sigilyph, Strafeguard, Silver Mirror lock, and Accelgor locks. People will build this deck, and it won’t be bad.
Evosoda does counter this deck, as then the player can still evolve their Pokemon…but that’s the thing, look at what we’re talking about to counter this lock deck. Increase gust effects, playing Evosoda. Just more stuff that players are going to have to fit into their decks to combat this one card.
Pyroar isn’t an unstoppable force that can’t be stopped, but it will cause a lot of changes in most decks to allow them to deal with it. The players that choose not to tech against it wil just have to hope to avoid it.
First of all, its Ability is the grass version of Ninetales Roast Reveal, which saw a lot of play in Typhlosion/Reshiram decks. As you get Shiftry onto the field, and this Ability starts stacking, you have insane draw power going for you. Get a few Shiftry on your field, and you will be drawing through your deck in no time, and having a lot of your deck in your hand seems really strong for getting out multiples of your Stage 2. The Ability will combo well with Professors Letter early game, and then Energy Retrieval after just the first Professors Letter.
A lot of people will initially want to go with Virizion EX to power up these guys, but I believe such a deck will be too slow and just not good. Drawing Energy out of your deck and putting it on your Pokemon doesn’t really combo well with its Ability. I think Virizion EX is still a fine choice for the card, as it will shutoff status conditions, but outside of that, I wouldn’t use Virizion EX as your setup.
Its attack, Frenzy Dance, costs [G][C][C] and does 20x the number of benched Pokemon in play. This is just a superior version of Empoleon’s Attack Command attack, which was seeing play as recently as City Championships. You’re hitting for 100 just based on your own bench, and you can increase that up to 120 with Muscle Band. From there, you just need three Pokemon on your opponent’s bench to hit them for OHKO’s. Alternatively, LaserBank is an option for increasing damage further, although I would venture to guess that there isn’t space to effectively use that. You could also put a couple Greninja or two on your bench and use that for the additional damage.
Now the big question for the attack is how to set it up. It can be setup with just an attachment of a Grass and a Double Colorless. I think that might be fine, but at least during the onset, you probably want some additional form of Energy acceleration.
Lunatone with Ether could provide the answer to this. Lunatone fills up your bench for you, and Ether with a Double Colorless attachment is all it would take to setup a Shiftry. One option I really like is using Milotic to setup one of your Shiftry, while just double attaching to setup the others. One of the reasons I like Milotic in here is that it can open up the door to teching the deck to deal with poor matchups. For example, Fire probably isn’t a good weakness to have after Flash Fire comes out, but Milotic could be used to set something up like a Kyurem to deal with Fire decks partially.
Exp. Share could be used as well to conserve your Energy, but Tool Scrapper and Surprise Megaphone will probably still see a lot of play as Garbodor won’t be going anywhere.
Another option is to just tank your Shiftry. Floette’s Flower Veil Ability adds 20 HP to all of your Grass Pokemon, so filling your bench with some of those can easily turn your Shiftry army into 180-200 HP monsters.
This card will take a bit more figuring out than a lot of the other cards in this set, but once people figure out how to use it properly, I think it will be form a strong archetype.
2. Mega Charizard EX and Mega Charizard EX (X and Y)
I think it’s appropriate to discuss these cards together, as they are functionally the same card, just with some minute differences. The Y-version is Fire Type, has 220 HP, and a Water weakness. Its attack, Crimson Dive does 300 damage and then does 50 damage to itself. Its counterpart, the X-Version, has 10 more HP, is Dragon type with a Fairy weakness, and its attack, Wild Blaze, does 300 damage and its drawback is you have to discard the top 5 cards from your deck.
Y’s attack costs RRCCC, making it easier to setup than X’s RRDCC attack. As its a Fire type, you can also Black Smith to it, which is an advantage. Y is more awkward to setup, you have to aim to hit a Black Smith and attach a Dark Energy, and then Mega Evolve into it and attach a DCE the next turn and attack with it. You probably want Protect Cube with Y, as that 50 damage can make it fairly easy to knock out. I don’t think the discard effect of X will be too big of a deal, as ideally you’d be using it to take two knockouts on EX’s to end a game.
Ys Typing is probably the worse of the two, at least for now. Keldeo EX can OHKO it with Secret Sword in the Blastoise matchup, and Blizzard Burn will also knock it out. Blastoise can also knock it out for 5 Energy with Hydro Pump. Y has a Fairy weakness, and Fairy just isn’t popular right now. Xerneas EX can OHKO it with X Blast, and may start to see play, at least in Fairy Trans decks if this gets popular.
Both cards do 300 damage, which makes it clear that these cards were designed to be the pre-eminent OHKO threat moving forward. If you can set one of these up, you’ll probably get two attacks in, and if that attack is on EX’s, games can end very quickly.
They can be setup behind walls such as Sigilyph DRX and Pyroar FF.
I don’t think they will see much play right away, although they will probably get used in some slower setup Charizard EX decks at the onset. I think they become more playable instantly with the rotation of Rayquaza EX and Dark Patch leave the format. I think especially after the second rotation, in an XY-on format, they are juggernauts, as there just won’t be many other broken EX’s to compete with their attack power. Of course, they lose strength as well if EX’s wane in popularity, as it’s probably not worth all of the setup for 150-200 excess damage to knock out Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokemon.
Still, 300 damage with a lot of HP is undeniably strong, and I would be shocked if these cards don’t end up as major meta forces during their life spans.
1. Charizard EX
Okay, this might have been expected, and some might be calling homerism, as this is The Charizard Lounge, but I truly believe Charizard EX to be the best card in the set. I don’t know if it’s been officially confirmed that we are getting this version, but I would be shocked if we don’t at least get this version in some type of box set or tin before Nationals. I think Pokemon went in with the intent of making Charizard one of the best cards in the game finally, and I think they’ve succeeded in doing so.
Why is this card my #1? Raw strength and speed. With a successful Black Smith and a Double Colorless attachment, we are looking at a turn 1, 150 damage attack with its Flame Explosion. Add a Muscle Band, and we’re at 170 damage, add a Hypnotoxic Laser, and that’s 180…and this can all be setup on turn one.
If they knockout your first Charizard EX, you’re just a Black Smith and another Double Colorless attachment away from having another one ready to go. There simply is no other attacker that can be so easily setup for that much damage.
I think there are two philosophies that can be taken with building a Charizard EX deck. The first is to make it a speed deck, focusing mainly just on Charizard EX using Flame Torch, Roller Skates, and Bicycle to draw through your deck quickly, giving you an Item based draw engine to allow you to use Blacksmith for your Supporter for turn.
The other option is to turn it into a more well rounded deck, using Delphox and/or Magnezone as potential draw/Supporter engines. In such a version, there can be more of a focus on other strategies, from playing the Mega Evolution cards or playing something like Pyroar, to shutdown components of your opponent’s deck.
I think both will be viable options. The setup version will obviously have more versatility, and while I generally don’t like rush decks, the power level of Charizard EX is so high, I think it may be worth it. I’m much more weary of the speed version just because Ghetsis can ruin its day very easily, and Ghetsis will see more play if that gets more popular.
There is a lot of Water hate in the game right now in the form of Keldeo EX and Kyurem PLF, but I don’t think it’s the worst weakness to have. Blastoise decks will have to deal with extra hate in the form of Druddigon making it weaker against the format as a whole. Kyurem really only sees play in Plasma decks, which will need to consider other options to deal wit Pyroar, so Plasma as an archetype doesn’t seem to be too well positioned headed forward, but I don’t think it will go away completely.
I think right now, the two best archetypes are Virizion/Genesect and Yveltal decks. Charizard EX hits one of those for weakness, so just that can give it relevance.
I think Keldeo EX will be a viable tech against it for decks like Virizion/Genesect and Yveltal, which often play Energy Switch. With just a single Water Energy and a Muscle Band attached to Keldeo EX, it swings for 180 with Secret Sword, good for the OHKO on Charizard EX. Is this enough of a counter though? We’ll have to see just how well Charizard decks can stream attackers, as a Charizard EX can just respond to a Keldeo EX for 170 with a Muscle Band. And while something like Genesect can use Red Signal to drag up other Pokemon if you try to stall with Pyroar, other decks won’t have that option and Pyroar can shutdown the Keldeo counter strategy down.
As we move forward with rotations, Blastoise continues to deteriorate next year with the loss of Tropical Beach. Plasma’s fate is uncertain, as it needs to find an answer to Pyroar, and even if it does, will it be consistent enough to compete with other stuff while playing evolutions? And then that rotates the year after…so yeah Charizard EX should only get stronger as we move forward, barring other Water counters coming in to take it down, which is a possibility.
I don’t think any other card from the set will warp the format around it, forcing other decks to adjust as much as Charizard EX will over its lifespan, and that’s why Charizard EX is The Charizard Lounge’s #1 card from Flash Fire.
And that’s it for my preview of Flash Fire. I think it will prove to be another really strong set that will have long last effects on the meta game. The set provides the basis for a few archetypes, some that will be short lived, some that won’t come for the future, and some for now and later. Charizard EX/Fire archetype, the Pyroar/Archeops archetype, Shiftry, Poison lock, and Mega Kangaskhan tank appear to be decks that will come from this set.
Additionally, there are a lot of other interesting Pokemon that will add depth of the game as well as a strong set of Trainer cards. This is definitely a set to get excited for!