You Will Miss Me When I’m Gone – Winners and Losers of the Trump Card Ban

__pkmn___lysandre_cafe___by_kajikokylance-d6rx35pLast Monday, the competitive side of the Pokemon TCG experienced a major shake up as The Pokemon Company International announced that Lysandre’s Trump Card will be banned from tournament play starting on June 15th. Earlier in the day, the news was spread that Japan would no longer allow Lysandre’s Trump Card in their tournaments once Bandit Ring was released. At first it seemed like this would be a Japan only thing, similar to the ban of Tropical Beach in their tournaments, however TPCI came through later in the day with the big announcement banning the card in most of the rest of the world.

TPCI gave four reasons for why they chose to ban the card, which are:

  • Eliminates one of your opponent’s victory conditions (running out of cards in your deck).
  • Allows repeated use of powerful Trainer cards.
  • Allows drawing through your deck quickly with minimal repercussions.
  • Extends the time of battles.

lysandres-trump-card-phantom-forces-phf-99-312x441It is unclear what Pokemon was thinking when they printed the card, as many of these outcomes seemed obviously inevitable. I am unsure of what type of testing goes into Pokemon sets and how rigorous that testing is, but with the release of Trump Card and later released cards that were surely planned ahead of time (Acro Bike, Trainer’s Mail, and the concurrently released VS Seeker) many of these outcomes seemed inevitable.

Most likely, Lysandre’s Trump Card was printed to act as a counter card to strategies that were present in the Phantom Forces expansion. Most notably, the card countered Night March, whose attack gains more strength for each Night March Pokemon it has in the discard pile. Other strategies that it could counter just within that set were Bronzong, which accelerates Metal Energy from the discard pile as well as M Manectric EX, which also accelerates Energy from the discard pile.

In the end, Lysandre’s Trump Card would extend its range of use to making new deck engines and game strategies possible in addition to the intended counter play to these strategies that came from Phantom Forces. By removing this counter card, as well as new strategies the card made possible, some decks and cards will become less powerful when they’re no longer able to use Trump Card. The format will surely change and a power vacuum will be created that needs to be filled. With that, lets go over the winners and losers of the ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card.

Loser: Seismitoad EX

seismitoad-ex-furious-fists-frf-106-ptcgo-1-312x441Pokemon should have seen the obvious combo of Seismitoad EX being played with a ton of disruption cards with Lysandre’s Trump Card to send them all back into the deck. The combo was so obvious, that it seems nearly impossible that Pokemon would fail to find it and see what a problem it would become. At least, that is the story being told by many players.

In reality, Seismitoad EX being played with Lysandre’s Trump Card wasn’t an immediately obvious strategy, and why would it be? The point of hammer decks traditionally was to run your opponent out of resources to the point that they couldn’t attack anymore leading to you winning by taking your six prizes uncontested or from your opponent decking out because they had to continuously dig for resources to keep up with the Energy disruption. Trump Card was the antithesis to such a strategy.

111-crushing-hammerWhat Lysandre’s Trump Card provided was a different strategy, where your primary goal wasn’t to run your opponent out of Energy, but to deny your opponent just enough Energy so that they couldn’t power up the attacks to knockout three of your Seismitoad EX’s to give you at least enough time to take six prizes. Something like Sableye/Hammers aimed for a total lock down strategy to create a checkmate against your opponent while Seismitoad EX/Hammers aimed to give a touch of Energy disruption to give Seismitoad the time to take six prizes before the opponent could.

Speaking from first hand experience, when I was testing Seismitoad EX/Garbodor DRX for City Championships it took awhile for this strategical difference to become clear. During testing, while the Seismitoad deck would still take a lot of wins, it never felt like it could consistently lock an opponent out of the game. I decided to try Lysandre’s Trump card out, realizing that the deck was different from Sableye, and the early testing made it clear that Lysandre’s Trump Card took the deck to a new plane of existence and I moved forward with a Trump Card build, never looking back.

Using Trump Card as part of the strategy for a hammer deck still felt like a novelty that shouldn’t be as good as it had tested. I didn’t use my Seismitoad EX/Garbodor DRX deck the first weekend we had City Championships available here (Week 2), but after getting a couple Championship Point finishes in I decided to test out my Seismitoad deck and cruised to a fairly easy first place finish and used it for another first place and a Top 8 finish later during City Championships.

garbodor-dragons-exalted-drx-54When I won my first City Championship with Seismitoad EX/Garbodor, I was the third player in the United States to have a reported win with a Seismitoad/Hammers/Trump Card deck, being preceded by Austin Baggs’ Quad Seismitoad EX deck and Chris Beaty’s Seismitoad EX/Delphox XY deck. Seismitoad EX/Slurpuff PHF wouldn’t see its first City Championship win until the Sunday of Week 4 of City Championships when Jeremiah Williams won a City Championship with the deck. Players were stuck for awhile on building the deck similar to the predecessor deck Jason Klaczynski used at Fall Regionals that played a higher Water Energy count, and that style of build didn’t mesh as well with using Lysandre’s Trump Card effectively as modern Seismitoad decks do.

While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that Seismitoad decks would be one of the best decks in the format when paired with Lysandre’s Trump Card, it took a long time for the deck to catch on with the meta game. In hindsight it seems very obvious, but in reality it took awhile for the pairing to catch on in the national meta game.

Once the idea caught on, Seismitoad EX decks combined to be the 2nd best deck in both formats that were played during Winter Regional Championships. It then went on to dominate State Championships becoming the clear BDIF. It maintained its status as the BDIF in the Roaring Skies format, making up over 32% of the decks that put players into day 2 at Spring Regionals.

Seismitoad rose to the top of the Pokemon world with Lysandre (‘s Trump Card) at its side, and it will surely suffer moving forward without its partner in crime. Once a Seismitoad/Hammers deck runs out of Hammers, that will be it for the game and their opponent can begin piling on Energy to their Pokemon without fear of having it hammered away. A deck like Yveltal EX, for example, often lost to Seismitoad decks because they were able to maintain enough Crushing Hammer in a game to keep the Yveltal EX decks out of attacking long enough to take six prizes. Without Trump Card, Yveltal decks will probably be able to get enough Energy onto the field so that they can trade with Seismitoad favorably.

team-flare-grunt-xy-129-ptcgo-1-312x441Additionally, Energy maintenance will become a major concern for Seismitoad decks. With Lysandre’s Trump Card, Seismitoad decks could get away with just playing 4 Double Colorless Energy. Without it, cards like Xerosic, Team Flare Grunt, and Energy discarding attacks like Righteous Edge become much more powerful against Seismitoad decks. You can certainly start including more Water Energy or alternate acceleration methods to Seismitoad decks to work around this, but those things all take up space and will limit the other cards that Seismitoad decks were able to previously fit into their lists.

I think that the Seismitoad Disruption decks are dead and won’t live past the ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card. The one exception may be Seismitoad EX/Crawdaunt, which can discard Energy beyond the discards allowed by hammers and the Supporter cards, but that was a fringe variant of the deck with Trump Card, and since Crawdaunt can only discard from the active position it can be played around. I still expect decks using Seismitoad EX as a primary attacker, such as Seismitoad EX/Crobat PHF and Seismitoad EX/Manectric EX to survive into the new format, but the heavy disruption based variants should be a thing of the past.

As these disruption based variants were by far the most successful variants of the deck, Seismitoad EX is a definitive loser in the banning of Trump Card. It still will see play, but no more should players walk into a tournament and face disruption based Seismitoad variants in 1/4 to 1/3 of their matches.

Winner: Night March

joltik-phantom-forces-phf-26-312x441One of the strongest counters to Night March in previous formats was to use Lysandre’s Trump Card to put all of the Night March Pokemon in the discard pile back into your opponent’s deck and use Quaking Punch, so the Night March deck wouldn’t be able to use Battle Compressor to return Night March Pokemon to their discard pile to boost the attack damage of the Night March attack. Without Trump Card in the format, this strong and effective counter to the Night March deck is obviously no longer an effective counter strategy.

Playing Seismitoad EX is no longer an effective counter to Night March decks. Against Seismitoad decks, Night March decks always have at least one turn of using Item cards. With Shaymin EX now in their arsenal, Night March decks draw through a decent amount of their deck on the first turn of their game which gives them ample opportunity to find their Battle Compressors and get Night March Pokemon into the discard pile. With a successful first turn of the game, Night March can get enough Night March Pokemon into the discard Pokemon that they’re able to take OHKO’s on Seismitoad EX’s on three consecutive turns of the game if they get the Energy attachment to pull off a Night March.

This is not to say that Seismitoad will always lose to Night March. Night March decks can and will falter on turn one every now and then, however, with Shaymin EX giving them boosted draw power, I wouldn’t count on this happening often enough to consider Seismitoad as a true counter to Night March.

I won’t go as far to call Night March the BDIF (Best Deck In Format), but I will call it the MIDIF (Most Important Deck In Format). I think this is an important distinction to make for the deck. I believe this is a role that M Rayquaza EX/Shaymin EX filled in the format before Trump Card was banned.

m-rayquaza-ex-roaring-skies-ros-105-312x441It would be a stretch to call M Rayquaza EX/Shaymin EX the BDIF, it only had the third most Day 2 placements at Regionals and came in at just above 1/4 of the placements that Seismitoad decks gave players. However, I would argue that M Rayquaza EX was the most important deck in the format.

The reason M Rayquaza EX was the most important deck in the format was because it was the deck that the Roaring Skies meta game ended up being based around. While it failed to be the most successful deck in the format, the format was still largely shaped because of the deck. Seismitoad EX decks saw such a high amount of play because they were very good against M Rayquaza. In turn, Primal Groudon EX/Wobbuffet was able to become the second most successful deck because Wobbuffet could slow down the Shaymin EX speed engine that both Seismitoad EX and M Rayquaza EX relied on, and Primal Groudon EX itself was devastating to Seismitoad decks.

Trevenant decks saw the next most success because they could deal with both Seismitoad and M Rayquaza decks well. Virizion EX/Genesect EX decks saw the next most success, even though they were very bad against M Rayquaza, because they had good matchups against the Seismitoad EX, Primal Groudon EX, and Trevenant decks that populated 3 of the top 4 decks in the format. From there, M Manectric decks did well because they had Rough Seas to heal Poison damage (important against both Seismitoad and Trevenant) and hit M Rayquaza decks for weakness. Raichu is the final deck that had more than two placements, and it wasn’t weak to Crushing Hammer because it could attack with a single attachment, could OHKO a Seismitoad EX under the right conditions, and it also hit M Rayquaza for weakness.

So while M Rayquaza EX was only the third most successful deck during that final weekend of Regional Championships, it was the most important deck, because ultimately its power level led to the top decks in the format being decks that were good against it, as well as the decks that countered its counters.

pumpkaboo-phantom-forces-phf-44-312x441I think Night March will fill a similar role in this format. Ultimately, I don’t think it will be the deck that comes out on top during US Nationals or the World Championships, however I fully expect the decks that win those tournaments to be decks that counter Night March well.  When building a deck moving forward, I think you will either want to play Night March yourself or play something that can beat Night March.

During the one Regional Championship weekend with Roaring Skies legal, only one Night March deck was able to put a player into Day 2 of the event. The one Night March deck was actually played by my friend Edan Lewis who I went to Wisconsin Regionals with. He played Night March to 19 points on Day 1 and then made Top 8, going 4-1 with Yveltal EX/Seismitoad EX on Day 2. Here is the list he played for the tournament:

Pokemon – 20

4 Joltik PHF
4 Pumpkaboo PHF
4 Lampent PHF
2 Mew EX
2 Shaymin EX
1 Jirachi EX
1 Empoleon DEX
1 Mr. Mime
1 Exeggcute

Trainers – 34

3 Professor Sycamore
1 N
1 Archie’s Ace in the Hole
1 Lysandre
1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

1 Computer Search
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Battle Compressor
3 Acro Bike
3 Trainer’s Mail
1 Town Map
1 Silver Bangle
1 Muscle Band

4 Dimension Valley

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless
2 Water

The list did play Lysandre’s Trump Card to get back Double Colorless Energy, but the deck can definitely get away without playing it, and can instead play something like an Energy Retrieval or Revive for some recovery.

While only one Night March deck saw success during this set of Regional Championships, I’m sure we will see plenty more do well in the weeks after the ban.

Winner: The Ghosts

trevenant-xy-55With Night March becoming a winner of the ban, naturally the best counter to Night March will be a big winner from the ban as well. Item lock has always been pretty solid against Night March, but as pointed out above, Seismitoad EX will no longer be an effective counter to Night March decks, however the Item lock provided by Trevenant can still work as an effective counter to Night March.

The reason why Trevenant is effective while Seismitoad is no longer effective is because Trevenant can deny a Night March player from getting even a single turn of playing Item cards. The reason it can do this is because you can evolve into a Trevenant on the first turn of the game using the Wally Supporter card, and if Trevenant is Active, its Forest’s Curse Ability will prevent your opponent from being able to play any Items, which will prevent them from playing Battle Compressor to power up their Night March attack, as well as get into Supporters through their Items to get the ball rolling on their setup.

gengar-ex-phantom-forces-phf-34-312x441Additionally, Trevenant will most often be paired with Gengar EX, which is a very effective attacker against Night March decks. With its Dark Corridor attack, Gengar EX goes back to the bench, and it can use Night March’s Dimension Valley to even power up its attack more consistently. As it hits Mew EX for weakness, and Pumpkaboo and Joltik have low HP, Dark Corridor is able to OHKO every Pokemon in a Night March deck.

One thing most people don’t seem to realize yet about Night March decks is that they can’t consistently use Lysandre if their Pokemon are being OHKO’d every turn. Sometimes their hand will align to where they have the Pokemon and Energy to attach to keep things going and then Lysandre, but if you’re knocking them out, more often than not, they will be forced to use something like a Professor Juniper to fish for more attackers for later in the game, Energy to attack with, as well as possibly a Dimension Valley to even be able to attack. Shaymin EX will certainly help them get into these resources while still being able to Lysandre, but from the testing I’ve done, they will still miss these hands more often than not.

wobbuffet-phantom-forces-phf-36-312x441Finally, Trevenant and Gengar will often be paired with a semi-high Wobbuffet PHF count. Wobbuffet’s Bide Barricade Ability shuts off the Abilities of all Pokemon except Psychic Pokemon. That means if one of these decks starts with Wobbuffet, Night March decks will be unable to get off to explosive starts as they will be unable to use their Shaymin EX’s Setup Ability and their Jirachi EX’s Stellar Guidance.

While this is the best counter to Night March, it won’t necessarily be the deck to come out on top either. However, I think this is where the format will begin. You have Night March, an incredibly powerful deck because it is no longer countered by Lysandre’s Trump Card and then Trevenant XY/Gengar EX, which will surely see play as it is the most powerful counter to Night March. This definitely isn’t where the format ends, but the format we will play in for the National Championship will build from a format where these two decks take center stage.

When Phantom Forces was first released, I don’t think anyone would have ever predicted these would be the two most relevant decks as we headed towards Nationals, but here we are. It’s amazing what removing one card from the card pool can do for some decks.

Loser: Creativity

I really like Lysandre’s Trump Card. I mean, I really, really like Lysandre’s Trump Card, like like like it. Each format differs from the others we have because of the cards that are printed and how they interact. Lysandre’s Trump Card is certainly powerful, but it isn’t an unfair card by any means as all players have equal access to use the card in their decks, or conversely to counter it knowing that other players may want to use it in their decks.

Just because a card doesn’t fit how players think the game should be played doesn’t mean that a card is fundamentally bad for the game. It just alters the way that we are forced to play the game, and different doesn’t mean bad.

vs-seeker-phantom-forces-phf-109-312x441For most of the Pokemon TCG’s history, having limited resources has been a fundamental part of the game. Lysandre’s Trump Card when paired with VS Seeker or Pal Pad provides players with the opportunity to play the game with unlimited access to the resources they play in their deck. This is a fundamentally new way to play the Pokemon TCG, and I for one enjoyed having a fresh take on how we play the game for the current format instead of just going about business as usual with a limited resources format, which is what the card game has been for most of the time I’ve played. It saddens me that we only got to play in such a format for half of a year before it was taken away with the Trump Card ban.

During my first few years playing the game, formats have generally been dominated by just a few decks, and you could go into tournaments just expecting to play against a few different decks. This was all blown up this year, as the format has become as diverse as we may ever see it. There are many contributing factors to this, including better reporting of tournament results and successful deck lists, as well as the related factor of the community being better connected leading to faster flow of information, however I think the most important factor in this was Lysandre’s Trump Card paving the way for more strategies to be viable within the game.

I think Pokemon has done an incredible job in designing the XY block of sets. We once again have a very deep card pool, and seemingly every card had some effective hard counters to it (although Night March just lost its with the banning of Lysandre’s Trump Card), as well as many more soft counters to decks. This meant that every strategy in the game had some type of counter to it, so nothing could be played unchecked.

Double-Dragon-Energy-Roaring-Skies-97Lysandre’s Trump Card allowed players to include these counters, and re-use them continuously after they had been spent once to help swing more difficult matchups. Additionally, Lysandre’s Trump Card opened up strategies that were dependent on formerly limited resources to fully use their strategy for an entire game. Donphan decks could play unlimited Robo Substitutes and a Latios EX deck could play unlimited Double Dragon Energy in a game thanks to Trump Card. These strategies of course could be countered through various means, but if left unchecked, these decks could execute these strategies for an entirety of a game. Such strategies may no longer be viable without Trump Card and the amount of available viable strategies could similarly shrink with the ban.

The deck I was planning on testing extensively as we headed towards US Nationals was a Shiftry deck that was dependent on Lysandre’s Trump Card to effectively exist. Without Trump Card in format, I know there won’t be enough available resources for the deck to work functionally.

shiftry-flashfire-flf-7-pokegym-312x438Against anything that wasn’t an Item lock deck, I would use Shaymin EX as well as Shiftry’s Leaf Draw to quickly draw through my deck and get many Shiftry FLF and Sceptile PCL setup using Rare Candy. Shiftry would be my primary attacker, and I would just need one Sceptile in play to accelerate Grass Energy to stream a Shiftry attacking every turn of the game from turn 2 on. The deck was reliant on being able to use Trump Card to get back my Rare Candy to further evolve more Shiftry and Sceptile as the game went on. Against anything with Item lock, I was going to play two of the Sceptile with the Barrier Trait to prevent it from being lasered and hammered and it would effectively OHKO a Trevenant or Seismitoad EX.

Without Lysandre’s Trump Card in format, there is no further need to test the deck. It simply cannot function without Trump Card, and this is just one of many victims of the ban.

Winner: Mill Decks

durant-noble-victories-nvi-83-ptcgo-1-312x441One of my most hated decks (well most hated) in the 2011-2012 City Championship format and then also the 2012 State Championship format was Durant. The deck used Durant’s Devour attack to discard cards from the opponents deck equal to the number of Durant that player had in play. It played Crushing Hammers, Lost Removers, as well as Junk Arms to get those cards back, to remove the opponent’s Energy to prevent them from attacking while their deck ended up in the discard pile and they ended up losing from the deck out win condition.

While some good players played the deck and being a skillful player certainly increased the probability of doing well, I don’t think this is a deck that players needed to be good to play it successfully. Similar to Seismitoad/Hammers this past year, unskilled players flocked to this deck in droves. With Seismitoad decks, I feel like the bad players trying to play it almost always do poorly with the deck, with Durant, it wasn’t uncommon to see players, who never did well before Durant and never did well after Durant, end up making top cut or winning tournaments with the deck.

typhlosion-prime-heartgold-soulsilver-hs-110This was the least fun deck that I’ve ever played against and I don’t expect there to be a deck that is any less fun to play against than Durant was during the two set blocks it was a viable deck. While there were certainly ways to play the matchup to improve your probability of winning, a lot of the matchup still came down to luck. If they hit enough hammers you could end up never attacking again as the rest of your Energy hit the discard pile from Devour. If they discarded the right cards (your N’s or Super Rod to prevent you from getting cards back in the deck, your Energy preventing you from powering up an attack, etc.) you just lost, and there was nothing you could do about it. You didn’t lose because you misplayed or your opponent played exceptionally well, you just lost because of bad luck and that wasn’t fun. It wasn’t uncommon to see Durant decks take out Typhlosion Prime/Reshiram BLW decks that were the strongest meta game counter to the deck, just because the Durant player got lucky in discarding the right cards against the deck.

heatmor-dark-explorers-dex-19-officialIt should be noted that Pokemon printed a Heatmor in Dark Explorers specifically to counter Durant. Its Hot Lick attack costs [C] and does 10 damage, and if the Defending Pokemon is Durant, it does 50 more damage. I actually played this in my Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion NVI deck at a Battle Roads in 2012, because even though Darkrai supposedly had a good matchup against Durant, I wanted to make sure I had no chance whatsoever of losing to any Durant decks I could be paired against. I did end up getting paired against Durant at that tournament and being able to just say Hot Lick six times for the win proved to be a satisfying way to beat an old foe that trolled me very much during City Championships that year.

With the banning of Lysandre’s Trump Card, decks like Durant that aim to win using the deck out win condition can be played once again. This is also one of the reasons that Pokemon cited for the Trump Card ban in that it eliminated this win condition. This is mostly true, although some games did still get decided by deck out, even with Trump Card in formats and in the decks that were decked out. If players played the matches intelligently, it was hard to lose from deck out, as VS Seeker for Lysandre’s Trump Card let you get everything back in your deck, so effectively the ban does help restore this as a viable win condition to aim for and not something that occurs every now and then from happenstance.

trick-shovel-flashfire-flf-98-ptcgo-1-312x441Some new strategies for the current format that rely on deckout are using Bunnelby’s Burrow attack to discard the top card from your opponent’s deck (it also has the Barrage Trait so you can use the attack twice in a turn), Ninjask’s Wing Buzz Ability which makes you discard a card from your hand in exchange for discarding the top card of your opponent’s deck when Ninjask is active, as well as Trick Shovel, an Item card that can discard cards from your opponent’s deck.

From my own experience playing these decks as well as hearing other players’ feedback on the decks, all these current concepts aren’t very competitive. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these strategies are more viable than they were before and could come back if Pokemon prints better mill cards or new cards come out to support the existing mill cards.

Winner: Cards That Give Unlimited Resources

Over the past week, players have surely been inundated with the phrase resource management, and for a somewhat good reason, as resources will be limited for most decks, with a few exceptions. With Lysandre’s Trump Card no longer there to give players access to unlimited access, cards that act as the exceptions to the rule will gain additional value.

In the past few years there have been some very strong cards that acted as exceptions to the rules of resource management, so I want to go over those strategies, which proved to be some of the best in their format, as well as their analogs for the current format.

eelektrik-noble-victories-nvi-40-312x429One of the best strategies in the past few years has been decks using Eelektrik NVI’s Dynamotor Ability to accelerate Lightning Energy to a Pokemon on your bench. The card was used in the Zekrom/Eelektrik and Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik decks that did well during City Championships in 2011-2012, it then became part of the Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik deck that dominated State Championships in 2012 and which also finished 2nd at the US National Championship that year, losing to John Roberts’ Klinklang deck in the finals. The next season it would be paired with Rayquaza EX, and would ultimately win the 2013 World Championship in the Senior Division right before Eelektrik rotated out of the format.

Eelektrik was good because it gave players access to a pool of renewable Energy in a game making it so that a player never ran out of Energy and could continue attacking throughout the entirety of a game as long as they kept their Eelektrik’s alive.

bronzong-phantom-forces-phf-61-312x441This strategy is mirrored in the current format by Bronzong PHF, which accelerates Metal Energy to your benched Pokemon with its Metal Links Ability. Bronzong has only seen moderate play and has never been a dominant force in the meta, although it has always been playable, but a big reason for why it hasn’t been more successful is because Lysandre’s Trump Card allowed more powerful strategies to exist in the meta game which will no longer be playable.

The other card that played really well from the discard pile was Sableye DEX, which saw play in almost every Darkrai EX deck after Junk Arm rotated, and which also got featured in its own deck with my Sableye/Garbodor deck at US Nationals 2013, and then even more successfully in Dustin Zimmerman’s Hovertoxin deck that made it into the final four at the World Championship sableye-dark-explorers-dex-62that year. A year after Igor Costa won the World Championships with a Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX deck that played Junk Arm, Jason Klaczynski took home his third World Championship title with a Darkrai EX deck that made use of Sableye’s Junk Hunt, making Sableye part of a World Championship winning strategy.

Sableye’s Junk Hunt attack took two Item cards back from the discard, which was very powerful as it could be used to enable a number of strategies. During its time we had Items that could get Energy from both the deck and discard, Pokemon from both the deck and discard, as well as Supporters from both the deck and discard. It was also used for getting back disruption cards such as Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer.

bunnelby-primal-clash-pcl-121-312x441A card in the current format that could start seeing play in mildly similar role is Bunnelby PRC. Its Rototiller attack lets you take a card from your discard pile and shuffle it back into your deck. Since it has the Barrage Ancient Trait, you can put two cards back into your deck in a turn. As it is a Colorless attacker, it can fit into almost every deck.

While I don’t think it will see quite as much play as Sableye, as putting cards back into your deck isn’t as good as putting them directly into your hand for immediate re-use, I do think that it will still find its way into decks that have limited amounts of important resources. The most obvious inclusion right now will be Dragon based decks as they will want some way to get back their Double Dragon Energy as it is essential to the deck being able to power up a wide range of attackers.

Loser: Luck Impacting Game Results

raichu-xy-43-pokegymWith a format of limited resources, I believe that we will see an increase in luck impacting individual game results. Without Lysandre’s Trump Card, there just isn’t any way to properly reset a game to make up for a bad start.

For example, a player is playing a Raichu deck, and they open lone Pikachu and they have three Double Colorless Energy in hand and a Professor Juniper in hand as their only Supporter card. If they don’t play the Professor Juniper, they will lose because their Pikachu will just get knocked out very quickly by almost any attacker. If they do play the Professor Juniper, they probably lose anyhow because they will run out of one Energy attachments to Raichu’s and then fall behind in the prize trade.

In a format where Lysandre’s Trump Card is legal, that player can play Professor Juniper and discard most of those DCE’s and then reset the game a few turns later with Lysandre’s Trump Card and be able to play out their strategy that game and possibly win.

I think this is where my opinion on Lysandre’s Trump Card diverges from what other people have written in the past week about the card and its impact on the game. I strongly believe that Lysandre’s Trump Card immensely increased the skill in the game.

Resource management is certainly a skill, but I don’t think it’s an overly advance skill. It’s a skill that players need to get a solid grasp on before they can hope to do well at a tournament. There is skill in managing your resources better than your opponent to pull out a win, but this has been one of the dominant strategies for doing well for most of Pokemon’s history, so it feels very much like a stale skill that most good players already have a solid grasp on.

In the Trump Card formats though, it felt as though you were playing a game entirely revolved around combating different deck strategies and not a mini game of managing resources. Having to figure out a way to beat your opponent’s deck strategy when they would be able to maintain their strategies for the entirety of the game took a new set of skills that made for what I felt was a much richer game.

Winner: Match Times

The_Persistence_of_MemoryPokemon has really stepped up their streaming game this year. In the past few years, Pokemon has provided streams for the US National Championship and the World Championship, but this year Pokemon took it to the next level by providing streams for Regional Championships such as the St. Louis Regional in February and Wisconsin last month. While streaming of these tournaments has gone on in the past, the Pokemon stream is noticeably better with higher production values and a Pooka and Jwittz commentator duo which are the exact two people most Pokemon TCG fans would want to commentate the games.

While the stream is very much to provide TCG fans access into these tournaments and provide entertainment, the streams also serve as an advertisement for the competitive card game to the general Pokemon fan base and other passersby who stumble into the stream. When looking at the stream in the context of advertising, what happened during the stream of Wisconsin could be viewed as a bad advertisement for the game.

When I say that the stream provided a bad advertisement for the game, this is not because of the Seismitoad EX/Hammers strategy that was heavily featured on the stream. What is bad advertising for the game is the way that the matches played out and how the outcome was determined.

_kermitmemeNeither the Top 4 or Finals streamed matches actually played out to their conclusion with matches being decided on incomplete games and a silly sudden death game. If a competitive card game player is looking in on the stream to get more information on the Pokemon TCG they may be turned off from getting into the Pokemon TCG when they see the top cut matches of our tournaments ending in some strange ways.

Some slower play could be a contributing factor to the increased game times, but the design of the cards, and then the repeated re-use of these cards can make for some very long turns and games. Cards like Acro Bike, Bicycle, and Roller Skates are all generally fine. The cards that cause an issue are Trainer’s Mail and Ultra Ball, which involve shuffling the deck after being used which when done repeatedly adds up to a lot of time spent shuffling.

This is one regard where I think the ban will have a positive impact, as players won’t have as much of an incentive to even play these extra draw cards in the first place when resources become more limited in a deck, but even if they do, they will only be able to use them once in a game, which will surely reduce the time matches take.

Loser: Blaming Poor Performance on Seismitoad/Hammers

At some point during this season players who were having a poor year latched onto the excuse for them doing this poorly being that this format is luck based and there is nothing they can do to prevent their opponent from flipping so many heads on Crushing Hammer, and it was just their opponents getting lucky that led to their poor performances.

seismitoad-ex-furious-fists-frf-20-ptcgo-1-312x441I don’t think this excuse even makes much sense in the context of this season. This has been one of the most diverse meta games that we’ve had and you will often see tournament reports that don’t include a single match against a Seismitoad/Hammers deck. I know for me personally, I played against only 4 in 35 matches during Day 1 of Regionals, although I did play against 4 in 10 matches at Day 2 of Regionals. During State Championships, I played against 0 in 19 rounds of play.

Even if a player did play in an area where these decks were common, I still don’t think that is a good excuse for doing poorly as there are plenty of strong counters to Seismitoad EX decks. Decks such as Primal Groudon EX, Virizion EX/Genesect EX, Aromatisse variants, and Gengar EX/Trevenant XY decks all can be effective counter decks to Seismitoad.

111-crushing-hammerWhile Crushing Hammer has a luck element to it, the point of Seismitoad decks are to play them in such large quantities that the luck element of an individual flip is eliminated. It’s always awkward talking to players after they have just lost to a Seismitoad deck, as they will almost always say that their opponent flipped heads on all but 2 or 3 coin flips. I’ve seen players throw out such numbers, even when their opponen flipped in the 30-40% range. Seismitoad decks just seem to cloud people’s perceptions and make them imagine things that didn’t actually happen. I think what can happen is that strings of something like 3 heads in a row isn’t too uncommon, and with the amount of flips that these decks get off in a game this string pops up and players just use that string of flips to paint the entire game.

While there is a luck element attached to these decks, I still view Seismitoad decks as some of the most skill intensive decks in the format. It is true that a bad player can get lucky and sack a few wins by flipping amazingly on their hammers or just hit a string of good matchups and make cut as a result, however, I think it’s proved true, especially at higher level tournaments, that it is primarily the really good players that are doing well with Seismitoad decks. I think this makes sense, as it will take a skilled pilot to pull out wins when the flips don’t go your way or to get through matchups where there is no room for misplays.

Shaymin-EX-Roaring-Skies-77We had a set of League Challenges here in the past week. The first tournament was won by I believe the only player with their invite in the tournament, playing a Seismitoad EX/Shaymin EX/Absol ROS deck. The next tournament was won by another player with their invite using a Seismitoad EX/Shaymin EX/Slurpuff PHF deck. At the third tournament, I used the same list as the player that won the first tournament and all of a sudden the meta game was almost entirely Seismitoad EX decks, and some unfortunate souls playing decks that were very bad against Seismitoad decks. I ended up winning the tournament, and the player that won the second tournament got 2nd at this one, with the only two players with invites playing in the tournament finishing first and second.

Three tournaments is a small sample size, but when the few players that have proven the most successful this year in their area are going into tournaments where other players are playing the same or similar decks and coming out on top consistently that is an indicator that skill matters a lot in his format.

primal-groudon-ex-primal-clash-pcl-86-312x441What did I not see at the tournament? Decks like Primal Groudon EX, KoltonDay’sStateChampionshipRun.dek, or M Manectric EX/Rough Seas, all decks that have proven to be effective counters to Seismitoad. If people aren’t playing the counters to Seismitoad then how can they legitimately complain about losing to Seismitoad after the tournament?

So much of doing well at Pokemon is being able to adapt to new decks, strategies, and meta games. If a player couldn’t adapt to deal with a Seismitoad heavy meta game, why would they be able to adapt next year when there is a new deck running the meta?


I am definitely saddened that Lysandre’s Trump Card will be leaving the meta game. I thought the card helped to really help creative deck building and increased the skill of game play. The most recent formats that the card were legal were a fresh take on the game that was much appreciated by this player.

While I feel that Lysandre’s Trump Card is healthy for the game on a general level, I do think the card was detrimental to the tournament scene. The impact it had on the time games took to play out didn’t mesh very well with Pokemon’s best of 3, 50 minute match play at their premier events.

I think it may have been better to just errata the card in some way. Making it so that the card went to the Lost Zone when played or making it irretrievable with VS Seeker could have helped balance the card some. Nonetheless the card is gone, so there isn’t much point focusing on the card beyond this point and just move on to working on stuff that works in a world without Lysandre’s Trump Card.

Featured Image Credit: KajikoKylance on Deviant Art

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