It’s now August, and that means it’s time for the first Pokemon TCG expansion of the new season. This year’s August set is called Steam Siege, with its name surely being influenced by the introduction of Volcanion into the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Unlike past August sets, Steam Siege will be legal for the World Championships after a rule change making sets legal on the third Friday after release.
Just as I did for my Fates Collide Set Review, I will be once again dividing the cards into different categories. The categories used in this review will be the same as the Fates Collide Set Review, and those categories are:
- Standard Legal Reprints – Cards that are already legal in the Standard format, that we already know how they interact with both the Standard and Expanded card pools and which need no further discussion.
- Busts – Cards which appear to be part of a failed design concept or are trap concepts meant to mislead players into playing cards that appear good but are actually not.
- Have Potential – Cards that could work in the right meta game, or if another card is released to unlock its potential. I’m adding a new twist to this section this time around.
- Tech Options – Cards that will never be major parts of a meta game, but are verifiable tech options players can use for some utility in their decks.
- Stars – Cards that are clearly good and should see play as an archetype, contributor to an archetype, or which are commonly splashed into decks.
- Superstars – The absolute best cards in the set that will be major players in multiple meta games throughout their lifetime.
Per usual, I won’t be reviewing every card in the set, and instead will only be reviewing the cards that have some shred of competitive potential.
Standard Legal Reprints
- Yveltal (reprint of XY Yveltal)
- Xerneas (reprint of XY Xerneas)
- Gardevoir Spirit Link
- Professor Sycamore
The reprints in this set do a few things. First of all, the reprint of Yveltal XY makes it so Yveltal EX variants will last through the entirety of the XY set block, as Yveltal EX was recently reprinted in the Shiny Kalos Tins. The reprint of Professor Sycamore makes it so that the discard and draw 7 effect will last through the entirety of the XY set block. We will have to wait and see if Professor Kukui follows the recent trends of Professor cards from the last two set blocks.
In this section I will cover cards that are busts. These are cards that are part of a design concept that won’t work in competitive play, either through being underpowered in their design or intentionally added into the set as a trap card that is meant to look good, but which actually isn’t.
Armor Fossil Shieldon & Claw Fossil Anorith
Anorith, on the other hand, has an Ability that might seem useful on the surface, but is actually quite bad. Shutting off Weakness on Restored Pokemon might seem okay on first glance, but it’s actually quite useless since no one plays Restored Pokemon in the first place. One thing to keep in mind that a Pokemon like Archeops, which does see play in Expanded, is a Stage 1 and not a Restored Pokemon. Since every other Restored Pokemon needs to be evolved to be useful, this means that Aerodactyl is the only thing you would realistically play it with, and Aerodactyl’s HP is too low for Weakness to be much of a concern to you. The only way Anorith becomes relevant is if they make Restored EX Pokemon, as weakness isn’t worth worrying about for most non-EX’s.
Armaldo would have some minor potential if it was a regular Stage 1, but needing to go through the Fossil Restoration process to get it into play, or run a Maxie’s Engine makes it not worth the hassle.
There are probably some formats where Foongus is a decent search engine, but I don’t think this is one of them. With Ultra Ball, Level Ball, Heavy Ball, and Dive Ball all available as consistent Pokemon search options, running a Foongus engine is simply not worth the hassle.
As soon as you were to get three Pokeball in the discard pile, playing down Foongus does become better than Dual Ball, which did see a lot of play, but space becomes an issue with Foongus because you have to play 3-4 Pokeball to make use of the Ability’s full potential, and then you need to play Foongus as well. At that point I don’t think it’s worth the hassle.
This is an interesting attack, but the effect being on their Pokemon and not your own probably ruines it. Additionally, Pokemon Ranger, a card that will be talked about later on in the article, also undoes the effect. I also don’t think the HP boost would be worth it, as you wouldn’t be playing Clawitzer in your deck to attack with, so there will be bigger threats that your opponent will have to deal with in any deck running Clawitzer for HP to matter too much.
I hate to do this, since Chandelure is one of my favorite Pokemon and also my main in Pokken, but this card simply isn’t good enough. Sinister Selection is essentially Acro Bike as an Ability, which is solid, but not solid enough to want to get a Stage 2 in play, especially in a format where you can just play 4 Acro Bike instead.
Past Friends is also not well suited for the format and is one Energy too costly. With VS Seeker being in every deck, Supporter counts aren’t high enough for the attack to be realistically useful. Even in past formats without VS Seeeker, Supporter counts generally didn’t get higher than 14 in most decks, which would max out the damage at 150, which isn’t terribly good for two Energy on a Stage 2.
Like Chandelure, Infernape suffers from a lot of the same problems. Flare Up is probably 1 Energy too costly, and it’s hard to build a consistent deck that plays a minimum of 12 Energy, and would likely want more like 16-17 Energy to be consistent.
It’s a bait card to get players to build decks around it with Volcanion and Volcanion EX, but there simply isn’t enough room in a deck to make this concept work.
This card doesn’t combo well with the Yveltal cards that players use at all. Yveltal XY typically only keeps a single Energy on it, and is used to power up stronger attacks on other Pokemon. Yveltal BKT typically wants a Dark and a DCE on it, which wouldn’t fulfill the attack cost for Yveltal BREAK if you were to evolve.
The HP boost also isn’t worth it since attaching a Fighting Fury Belt would give Yveltal 170 HP, which is better than the 150 HP that Yveltal BREAK can provide.
This is a card that will capture the imaginations for all the gamblers in the Pokemon community, but most likely it’s bad. To illustrate why it’s bad, I simply prevent the following table (with data from Pojo) that shows the probability of the number of copies of the card being prized based on how many copies you’re playing in your deck.
|Copies Played||1 Prized||2 Prized||3 Prized||4 Prized|
To make matters worse, there are some other issues with the cards besides these low probabilities for hitting them. Once you do hit one, you have to flip heads for it to be useful. Additionally, if a copy of Greedy Die is your sixth prize card, it’s unusable for that game, even though you were lucky enough to prize one. You also can’t play the card with Town Map, since it has to be taken as a facedown prize card, and you also have to build a deck that can take prizes consistently while spending deck spaces on Greedy Die, a mostly dead card.
If something gets released that allows you to manipulate your prize cards in an easy way to slip Greedy Die into your prize cards as part of your strategy then this card will have some potential.
Have Potential (Low)
In this section I will go over cards that have some potential to see play in competitive Pokemon, but which most likely will fail to do so.
For players that played during the Heart Gold and Soul Silver era, this cards should bring back memories of Lilligant EPO. Volcarona’s Shimmering Scales attack is a reinvention of Lilligant’s Bemusing Aroma attack. The differences between the two are the Paralysis and Confusion have flip flopped positions on the coin flip, and you no longer get Poison along with Paralyze. The Poison was actually a fairly important part of Lilligant’s game plan as it allowed situations to arise where the Defending Pokemon would be knocked out by Poison headed back into your turn. Ariados can be added into any such Lilligant deck to fulfill that role, but having all of it in one card is much, much better.
The other thing missing from this format is Victini NVI, whose Victory Star Ability allowed you to re-flip your coin flips allowing you to hit Paralyze more often. Trick Coin is available, but that can’t be played with Vileplume AOR in play, and you most likely would want to play this card with Vileplume.
This is how Lilligant was played, it was a Vileplume lock deck. Lilligant’s high point was at Spring Regionals 2012 when Robert Ector piloted the deck to a third place finish. I think ultimately this card is worse than Lilligant as it doesn’t have the Poison as part of the attack, and Lilligant also occurred in a format where Unown CURE was the only real out to Status Conditions, and basically no one thought to play that card until Nationals of that year anyhow. With cards like Zoroark BKT and Olympia in the format to allow players to deal with Status Conditions more easily, it’s hard to see Volcarona seeing anywhere close to the success that Lilligant had.
One thing, I do like about the card however, is that it has a good follow up attack to knock stuff out, much stronger and easier to power up than Lilligant’s Cut. For this reason, I’m not completely writing it off yet.
This card has potential for a lot of the same reasons that Serperior did for Fates Collide, and really what gives any decent Grass Pokemon potential. That is, Shiftry has access to both Revitalizer and Forest of Giant Plants, allowing you to build a consistent list around it.
What Shiftry appears to do best is act as a grand annoyance to Trevenant decks. Wicked Wind shuts off Burst Balloon, Weakness Policy, and Dimension Valley, making Shiftry a great annoyance for the deck. Extrasensory is a solid second attack, being able to do 120 damage with matching hand sizes. With Grass/Dark dual typing, Shiftry also provides weakness counters to a more expansive set of Pokemon.
I think it actually has the most potential out of the gate, where it fulfills a meta role similar to Serperior, only I think it is a bit better than Serperior in fulfilling that meta role. It can go toe to toe with Night March, while also shutting off any Fighting Fury Belts, allowing it to OHKO either of the Night Marchers (although it needs a Muscle Band or Ariados to take out Mew). It hits Greninja and Waterbox for weakness, and while Serperior had a tough time against Trevenant, I could see Shiftry doing fine against it. However, Shiftry has a much worse matchup against anything that isn’t one of those decks than Serperior did, meaning that it most likely won’t do anything at the World Championships. After rotation, it no longer will have such solid positioning in the meta game and will be relegated to bulk piles.
I really like that Pyroar BREAK actually does a solid 180 damage, allowing it to OHKO most EX’s without the need of damage modifiers. Unfortunately it also does 50 damage to itself, taking away the HP boost that it gives, and three Energy on what is essentially a Stage 2 is probably too costly. There are a lot of great Pyroar’s available though for it to evolve from in Expanded format, and it does get access to Blacksmith in Expanded, so there is some potential there.
I am really divided on Talonflame. Some days I wake up thinking it’s an awesome card, and other days I wake up thinking the idea of playing this card is absolutely absurd.
I do think it has some solid potential though. It’s the type of card that I wouldn’t base any strategy around, but in something like Vespiquen/Flareon in Expanded, it might be worth an inclusion as it gives you the opportunity to get lucky in a tournament throughout the day.
I also think it could be a solid inclusion in a deck like Greninja. If you include a single copy in a deck like Greninja, you’re looking at starting it around 20% of the time, or 1 in every 5 games. It’s not a core part of your strategy, but you can use it the turn after you use Water Duplicates to search out Greninja BPT and Greninja BREAK to get a really sick setup going in the games you do start it.
People may be tempted to throw Talonflame into anything that players Battle Compressor, but I also think you want Basic Energy if you were to play it. A Night March deck, which only plays Double Colorless Energy, for example, probably doesn’t want to spend one of those Energy on a Talonflame when it could be used for a powerful Night March attack.
Something cool Pokemon did for this card was make the name of the new Nidoran, Nidoran ♂, which means you can play up to 8 Nidoran in a deck, as previous prints didn’t have a gender symbol in their name.
The obvious combo, for the time being, is with Nidoqueen from Primal Clash. Its Poison Jab attack costs a single Psychic Energy, and Poisons the Defending Pokemon. With two Nidoking in play, you could OHKO 170 HP EX’s with Poison Jab. The low Energy cost on Nidoqueen’s attack does make the multi-Stage 2 deck more feasible than it otherwise would be.
Unfortunately, Nidoking’s Power Lariat is probably too Energy costly, so the whole concept probably doesn’t tie itself together well enough, with Nidoqueen having to carry too much of the load. Medicham and Excadrill seem like better options for this style of deck.
This is a weird card for them to release, especially since they released a Bronzong in the last set that does a similar thing. I think that Bronzong is probably the better option, as it likely will cover more Pokemon, with Magearna EX only really being good in a format where a Special Condition attack gets really good.
It’s not that good of an attacker since its attack scales down in damage.
Anything that can make itself invincible from attack damage, even if it’s only in specific situations, will have some potential for competitive play. Being able to Poison with its attack gives an easy method for setting up Toxicroak’s Ability. It’s attack damage is a little low though, and it needs two Energy to attack, so if your opponent plays enough ways to retreat or switch their Pokemon they can easily run through any strategy built around Toxicroak.
Yanmega & Yanmega BREAK
Being able to attack for free is certainly something that is worth considering. Most notably, this allows Yanmega (and BREAK) to be splashed into any deck and serve as a soft counter to Grass weak Pokemon.
The free attacking surely brings up memories of Yanmega Prime for players that played at the time. Yanmega Prime was very good, and because Yanmega Prime was so good, I think people are going to jump at this card being really good too. I’m not sure it will be much more than a fringe meta card though, as Assault Boom’s djamage output isn’t that good unless your opponent has a Tool on their Pokemon, and they can easily play around that by not attaching a Tool. The BREAK not hitting for Weakness is also very disappointing, that takes away from the card as a potential Weakness counter play.
Bringing this back to Yanmega Prime, the card was very good at the beginning of the Heart Gold and Soul Silver-on format, but it wasn’t very good at the end of it. It started losing power during City Championships and was pretty much unplayable by State Championships as the power creep made it too weak. We’re still in that era of immense power creep, so like its predecessor, I think this new Yanmega is probably too weak for the current format.
This won’t go in many decks, but decks like Vespiquen/Flareon, which have played minor tech cards like this in the past could provide a home to this card. I don’t remember players playing Pokemon Circulator when it was last legal, but Hawlucha has the advantage of being able to be searched out with your ball search cards.
It probably won’t see very much play, but it could pop up in some lists every now and then.
Have Potential (Medium)
In this section I go over cards that I think have medium potential. These are cards I think have a solid shot at being part of a Tier 2 or higher deck at some point in their lifespan, but cards that I’m not 100% sure on them actually seeing through on that level of success.
Cards that scale damage based on the number of Energy attached to all of your Pokemon have typically not been too competitive in the recent past, but Xerneas BREAK is essentially a Stage 1, and it combos well with Xerneas XY, so i think this one has a better chance of breaking through than past ones.
Additionally, the upcoming Standard format doesn’t appear to have any serious Tool removal cards, so you might be able to build a Xerneas BREAK deck that uses Exp. Share to keep Energy on the field to create a powerful force that can last an entire game.
I don’t like that it requires two Fairy Energy, as that somewhat limits how creative you can get with the card. Something like Gallade PLS, for example, could power itself up with a Double Colorless Energy, which not only adds 40 damage but gives it more versatility with the other type of cards it could be played with.
I actually tested a Xerneas XY/Gallade PLS deck a couple years back, and it was okay, so I could see Xerneas BREAK actually being good, but most likely it will suffer the same problem that deck did, being a little bit too slow in its setup. I could also see someone figuring out a Togekiss ROS/Devolution Spray engine for this card to make a deck that floods Energy onto the field very quickly, and if someone figures out a consistent build for that, head for cover.
Cards that are able to do damage without attacking typically end up being somewhat competitive. This card is very similar to Chandelure NVI and Greninja XY, in that it does three damage counters, but it only does it to EX’s giving it less matchups where it will be useful in. While it can’t hit at non-EX Pokemon, it just needs to be in play to use its Ability, there are no additional hurdles that must be jumped over to play it.
If this card just did 30 damage to anything, it would be one of the best cards in the set, but instead it is a card that will have to wait for an EX heavy meta before it even has much potential for competitive play. I feel like one of the best attributes of Chandelure and Greninja was how you were able to completely control evolution decks with the damage they did.
M Gardevoir EX
This card is interesting is because it allows you to use a heavy Shaymin EX/Hoopa EX engine to get setup very quickly, and then not having to worry about getting punished for playing those cards down.
I think there are two potential ways the card could be played. You could play it with Dimension Valley, and focus on using Max Potion on it to make it hard to knockout. With its Psychic typing, it’s able to attack for a single Fairy Energy with Dimension Valley in play. This variant would be more limited damage wise, but you would still be serving out 2HKO’s on EX’s, and with 110 HP, you’re probably not getting OHKO’d in too many matchups.
In Expanded, I could see a very aggressive Sky Field variant of the deck. In Expanded, you gain access to Exeggcute PLF, giving you an easy means to get extra Pokemon onto your bench. It also gains in Expanded the Archen and Tirtouga that can put themselves on the bottom of your decks from the discard pile with their Prehistoric Call Abilities, giving you another method for replenishing your deck with Pokemon.
Have Potential (High)
These are cards that I think have high potential, and which I think will most likely have a place in a Tier 2 or higher deck at some point during their lifespan, and which likely will see success across multiple formats.
M Steelix EX
I think most likely we will see this card as part of a good competitive deck. We have Clawitzer in this set to accelerate Special Energy, along with Mega Turbo and Carbink BREAK as other options, making it easier to power up M Steelix EX than it would have been if it were released six months ago.
As it is Fighting/Metal Dual type, it can take advantage of support for both types, such as Strong Energy to build damage, Shield Energy to lessen damage, Fighting Stadium to increase attack damage, and Reversal Valley to prevent damage.
It’s very bulky, so once it’s in play, it should stick around for a bit, especially if you choose to take advantage of the damage lessening properties of some of the Metal support. I think it’s the type of card that is so strong when you get it out, that if you can find a way to build a deck that can consistently get two of them powered up and attacking, that might be all you need to win a game.
It is a bit unfortunate that it got Fire Weakness though, as the Volcanion cards in the set seem like they will be heavily played meta cards.
This is essentially a pseudo reprint of Masquerain PLB, just with a new face put on the card. Masquerain never saw a ton of play, but it had its moments, so Weavile will probably have its own moments as well.
I think Masquerain is also a card that players never experimented enough with, so some good ideas that it could have formed a combo with probably went undiscovered.
In this section we will look at cards that can be described as solid tech inclusions for decks. These are cards that serve a clear purpose for what their role in the meta game is, but aren’t cards that are good enough to base a strategy around them. For this purpose, these cards usability is dependent on what cards other players are playing.
This card isn’t amazing, but it could have a tech role in Night March decks. Being able to do 30 damage to two of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon could give Night March decks an option for finishing off a KO they just whiffed previously, as well as softening some stuff up for easier knockouts down the road. You can also punish players for having to play down Joltik in the Night March mirror, which could be relevant, especially if players start playing Captivating Pokepuff in their Night March decks.
It could also be played with Shrine of Memories to use the Night March attack for Grass weakness, essentially replacing the Vespiquen strategy with fewer cards, although it would be reliant on having Shrine of Memories in play when you do want to use it, so it’s most likely worse than Vespiquen in this role.
These are the cards that are clearly good cards and should see play a role in either creating an archetype or strengthening an archetype and be part of competitive play at some stages of their lifespan.
I’m not really sure why this card isn’t getting more love, but it’s an absolutely terrific Energy acceleration option for Mega decks. It’s not very often that we’re able to accelerate Special Energy. It also helps that Special Charge is also being released in Steam Siege, allowing you to keep a steady flow of that Special Energy going throughout a game.
Potential partners that I see for this card are M Mewtwo EX (Y), Dragon M Rayquaza EX, and M Steelix EX. All three of these cards will benefit greatly from being able to accelerate Special Energy onto themselves.
As we presumably move back towards a more EX oriented format with Night March and Trevenant both rotating, cards that can take OHKO’s on EX Pokemon easily are likely to be better plays in next years Standard Format. Cobalion fulfills the same role as Shaymin EX (NXD) did in being able to sweep a game late with its Revenge Burst attack. It can easily be powered up in one turn with Bronzong in Expanded, and even in Standard you will be able to get one of these setup in a single turn with Max Elixir.
The card is especially punishing against Basic oriented decks, as you can N your opponent to 1 in the late game, attach a Metal Energy and use Quick Guard. Then as long as they don’t draw a Lysandre or Pokemon Ranger, you can then attach a second Metal Energy and take a knockout. This gives you multiple routes for powering up this powerful attack.
With non-EX’s seemingly being getting less emphasis in next year’s Standard Format, players may look to powerful Mega Pokemon to deal with Basic EX decks. Klefki gives us an extra tool that could be the key for some decks at winning Mega matchups.
You can also play Klefki in a deck like Vespiquen to create some crazy key chains to get a lot of Pokemon in the discard pile very quickly. You could play two Klefki down, attach a Klefki to the other Klefki, play down another Klefki, attach the second Klefki to that one, discarding the first Klefki, do it one more time, before attaching your last Klefki on the field to an Unown and using Farewell Letter.
I’m a big fan of these Tool effects where you can play a Pokemon onto your field and then plan your Tool attachment for the right moment. I really hope we see more of these types of cards in the near future.
This will be an interesting card on the meta game, as it makes playing high counts of Shaymin EX in your deck no longer quite as safe as it used to be, as you could be punished for having them in their hand. The card is more of a gamble than a card like Target Whistle though, as with Target Whistle, you play it for a definite effect, but this card is a little bit more of a gamble, and you don’t quite know whether it will pay off, but when it does pay off, it’s very strong.
It could be most punishing at the start of the game, before a deck gets setup. If a Shaymin EX or Hoopa EX a player has in their hand is their only out to getting their turn going, a turn 1 Pokepuff could prevent them from ever being able to get setup. Per the current Japanese rulings, Abilities like Setup cannot be triggered from a Captivating Pokepuff being played.
The card also provides a potential boost for cards like Zoroark BKT and Lucario FCO, giving them additional means to fill the opponent’s bench to boost their attack damage.
The card is very hit or miss as far as getting Pokemon onto your opponent’s bench, but being able to see your opponent’s hand does give you information that can let you plan other parts of your game plan, which is a helpful secondary effect for the card.
This is one of the coolest cards to come out in Steam Siege, and I think it will somewhat increase the skill cap of the format. Ninja Boy allows players to take a lot of very creative lines of play with their decks.
The card obviously works best with Big Basic decks with multiple strong attacking options. Ninja Boy will allow these decks to instantly mix up their fighting style, which could create some cool game turning strategies. I think this card will work beautifully in Dark decks, which have tons of options between Yveltal XY, Yveltal BKT, Yveltal EX, Darkrai EX, and Malamar EX. It could be cool in Waterbox as well, allowing you to do things like switch from a Seismitoad EX to an Articuno to take two prizes, or smooth out Energy attachments. Similarly, Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX could go from a Seismitoad EX using Quaking Punch to a Giratina EX using Chaos Wheel on the very next turn.
Another use for the card that is being overlooked is prize prevention. If you have an EX with loads of damage on it, you could use Ninja Boy to switch into a non-EX Pokemon to lessen the prize payout to just a single prize…or even better, 0 prizes. You could play Celebi XY93 and try to make use of its Leap Through Time Ability. If you flip heads, you would shuffle Celebi and all cards attached to it back into your deck and your opponent wouldn’t take any prize cards for the knockout.
Lastly, another potential combo for Ninja Boy includes another promo card, Regirock XY49.
You could play Regirock onto your bench with an Exp. Share, and thanks to Omega Barrier, that Exp. Share couldn’t be removed and Regirock can’t be Lysandre’d up. Once it has enough Energy on it, you could Ninja Boy Regirock into a useful attacking option.
If Yveltal XY is any indication, then Volcanion will be a very strong card. While it does 10 less damage, it can have its attack damage boosted with Volcanion EX, and instead of attaching a Basic Energy from your discard pile to one of your Benched Pokemon, it attaches a Basic Energy to two of your Benched Pokemon, making it almost 2x as good as a card that saw a lot of play. Yveltal has seen play not only in Dark variants, but also as an acceleration option for decks like Raichu XY/Crobat PHF and Vespiquen AOR variants. I would expect Volcanion to find a role in a variety of decks as an acceleration option, while also finding home in dedicated Fire decks.
It also combos well with our next card…
This is the flagship card of Steam Siege, so naturally it’s going to be of a good power level. Volcanion EX has a Water/Fire dual typing, which allows it to take advantage of both Water and Fire support. With access to Water Support, it gains access to Dive Ball, Rough Seas, and Splash Energy. With access to Fire support, it gains access to Scorched Earth, Blacksmith, and Burning Energy.
The big reason that you will want to play Volcanion EX is for its Ability, Steam Up. For each Volcanion EX you have in play, you can discard a Fire Energy with the Ability allowing you to hit bigger damage numbers. I think Volcanion EX is an automatic 1-of inclusion in any Fire deck as it essentially turns your Fire Energy into potential triple Plus Powers. 30 more damage could be the difference between falling short of a knockout and getting it.
A potentially great combination could be with Entei AOR. With a pair of Fighting Fury Belt, Entei maxes out at 150 damage with Heat Tackle, but a single Fire Energy discarded gives Entei that magic number of 180 damage. The other Entei with Combat Blaze could also potentially take surprise OHKO’s with boosted damage from Volcanion EX if your opponent has a big enough bench. It also fulfills the role that Charizard EX and Emboar EX had previously played in the deck as a backup EX attacker, although with a single Steam Up it can power itself up to 180 damage, a better damage number than what those two were hitting for.
There is also potential for gimmick style decks where you play multiple Volcanion EX onto your bench to turn dinky attacks into big hitters. Ponyta GEN, for example, has Agility for 10 damage. If you flip heads on Agility, you prevent all effects of your opponent’s attacks, including damage. 10 damage isn’t much, but if you turn that into 70 or 100 damage with Volcanion EX’s Ability, it becomes more of something that you could base a strategy around. There’s also Heatmor BKP, which does 20 damage plus 20 more if there is a Tool attached. With a Fighting Fury Belt attached, you have a base damage of 50, which means you could get up to 170 damage with 4 Volcanion EX in play.
Perhaps the most exciting pairing is with Torchic PRC. It’s Claw attack does 20 damage for a single fire, but you have to flip a coin, and if tails it does nothing. However, Torchic also has the Barrage Omega Trait, which means it can attack twice. This gives Torchic the potential to take two KO’s in a single turn against weaker Pokemon, and a 2HKO in one turn if you were to flip for it. It’s very gimmicky and flip reliant, but there have been plenty of gimmicky flip decks that have done well in the past, so I wouldn’t count this combo out without testing.
The best combo is most likely to keep it simple and play a straight Volcanion EX/Volcanion deck. Volcanion can help get your Volcanion EX powered up and take early prizes, while Volcanion EX can act as a mid and late game sweeper. With a base damage of 130, you are already getting into 190 damage with just two Steam Ups in a turn, which is very, very powerful.
We can already get Special Energy back from the discard pile with Puzzle of Time, but that is a somewhat convoluted process of getting two of the same card in your hand at the same time. With Special Charger, we get a much simpler option for recycling Special Energy back into our deck.
Any deck that is reliant on Special Energy gets an immediate boost, most notably decks reliant on Double Colorless Energy and Double Dragon Energy, as those are two Energy at once, making them very strong. Decks like Night March, Zoroark, Vespiquen, and Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX all get a big boost from this card. Additionally, there is the Clawitzer that accelerates Special Energy to Mega Pokemon being released in Steam Siege, and Special Charge will allow Clawitzer to keep the Energy flowing.
At some point in time, Pokemon decided to print a series of cards that prevents the opponent from being able to do attack damage if a given condition has been met. There’s Jirachi Promo, which prevents damage if it removed a Special Energy from the Active Pokemon the previous turn. There’s Regice AOR to prevent damage from EX Pokemon, Jolteon EX preventing damage from Basics, and Glaceon EX preventing damage from Evolution Pokemon.
In addition to damage prevention, there is Seismitoad EX which prevents you from playing Item cards, Giratina EX which prevents you from playing Special Energy, Stadiums, and Tool cards, Greninja, which prevents you from using Abilities, and of course there is Gumshoos EX, which prevents players of Mexican descent from even entering a tournament.
Pokemon got a little carried away with these cards that prevent players from playing the game fully, so they’ve given us Pokemon Ranger to reset all these effects. Think of Pokemon Ranger like Pokemon Center Lady, a one time clearing effect, and not something like Hex Maniac, which lingers until the end of your opponent’s turn.
The most notable thing about Pokemon Ranger is that it makes Night March absolutely insane for the World Championships. Previously solid Night March counters, like Giratina EX and Jolteon EX, no longer shutdown Night March decks as they did in the past, because Night March can simply erase the effect of their previously limiting effects.
While I don’t think Pokemon Ranger will see as much play as a card like Hex Maniac, it still will be one of the biggest impact cards from Steam Siege simply based on the massive effect that it will have on the upcoming World Championship. Night March still could have been the focal point of the World Championship format, but with Pokemon Ranger its guaranteed to be the focal point of the World Championship format, and a lot of the options players were considering to counter it are no longer viable counters which will likely leave us with a World Championship featuring a big three of Night March, Trevenant BREAK, and Vileplume/Vespiquen. We’ve called formats this past season Night March vs. the World, and that may never be more true than it might be at the World Championship in a few weeks.
Overall, Steam Siege isn’t a very deep set as far as competitive cards go, but the cards that are good, are very good. I think the set will probably be most remembered for its strong Trainer set, which looks to have major impacts on the meta game not only at the World Championship, but headed into next season, with new Items and Supporters giving some decks big boosts.
As far as Pokemon go, I think Volcanion/Volcanion EX will form a long lasting Tier 1/2 variant. Outside of that, there are some Pokemon with good niche uses, and a few other Pokemon that are the right meta, or another new card being released away from being very good.
A lot of players were disappointed to see Karen not in the set, but ultimately I think it’s fine. Introducing Karen into the format probably would have involved too much new learning in time for the World Championships. By excluding it from the set, players can work with more refined concepts, and it gives the premier deck of the season, Night March, one last chance at glory before it rides into the night…at least as far as Standard format goes.
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