Hey, everyone! It’s Drew, and I am so glad to finally write about a new set that seems like it will change the format for the better. The Standard format was getting a bit stale without many fun decks to play or write about, but now we have Team Up, which is an amazing set with a lot of new things to consider. Not only does this set add cards and archetypes for brand new decks, but it also brings consistency and support for older decks that we didn’t have previously. In this new, post-Team Up Standard we can try out different, crazy ideas that normally wouldn’t have been consistent enough to compete with decks like Zoroark and Malamar. I am also extremely excited about this set because some fan favorite Pokémon are finally getting love as playable cards. In this article I will talk briefly about the cards that I think will be making the biggest impact on our new Standard format, then I will talk with you guys about one of the decks that I think is extremely fun, and a surprisingly good deck. We have not had a good Charizard that was playable in a very, very long time. We will get to that later though.
First off, let’s talk about what just came out in this new set. Some hype cards and some sleepers that I think will be very valuable in countering the meta.
Pikachu Zekrom Tag Team GX
Right off the bat I did not think that this was going to be a very good card. Lightning has been getting some support lately but there just has not been enough to make a three Lightning Energy cost attack work. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this card is actually amazing, with just enough support to make the deck something to lookout for. PikaRom being able to accelerate energies to itself OR to any Pokémon you have in play makes it very playable. You get to use your first Tag Team GX to charge up a second one. Something that is always scary if you’re facing down this card is that your opponent can threaten the GX attack to just win the game on the spot if they’re at four or less prizes. I think this card is very solid and that there are a variety of good ways to play it. The weakness to this card is obviously that it only has 240 HP, gives up three prizes when it’s knocked out, and is weak to Fighting, which has always been an issue for Lightning types ever since Buzzwole came out. I do, however think that Pikachu Zekrom can overcome that weakness thanks to the new Zapdos that came out, along with some good deck building. That being said the next card is…
Once again, I was underwhelmed when I saw this card. I knew that it had been doing very well in Japan and that they loved it, but the damage output just seemed so low, and it only had 110 HP making it extremely easy to knock out. Then I played against it and realized that this card is not strong because of either of those reasons; it is strong because it applies a lot of early pressure to Stage 1 and Stage 2 decks. Zapdos and a couple of Guzma early game will be able to take knock out after knock out while your opponent is trying to set up. You do need to have something in the back for when your opponent eventually does get their set up, but being able to pick apart their Basics with a one-energy attacker really hurts them during their set up when they are trying to Beacon for some evolution Pokémon.
This is one of those original Kanto Pokémon I was talking about that is finally getting some love: for perspective, the last time Beedrill was good was when it won Worlds in 2009, which was ten years ago. That is way too long, but now we finally have one that could very easily dominate a GX-heavy meta. Whenever there is a card that gets to automatically knock out an opponent’s Pokémon by knocking itself out, you must be on the lookout for it because that is the most effective prize trade there is, especially with Tag Teams now running around. Beedrill only gives up one prize when it is knocked out, which makes it so when you trade with GXs or Tag Teams you are going to win those prize trades automatically. The issue with Beedrill is when you go up against other non-GX decks, because then the prize trade is no longer in your benefit. There are ways to help that, and you can win prize trades with cards like Shedinja, but then you also have to realize that you have to promote something after Beedrill knocks itself out, and because of that your opponent can get another prize because it is their turn to attack. These are the issues that you have to get around in order to make Beedrill good. A benefit to playing Beedrill is that it is an extremely consistent deck now because there is a Kakuna that has a “Water Duplicates”-like attack, but for Kakunas. Being able to play down every middle-stage Pokémon straight from your deck onto your Bench has traditionally been a strong attack. I am imagining that Beedrill will take the place of Greninja because it is that Stage 2 non GX deck that can just win a tournament if the meta is correct for it.
I want to start off by saying that I love this card. I think that it is an amazing card by itself, but because Water is such a good type right now, and has been getting a lot of support this card will easily find its way into the meta. After I test a little bit more with it I will try to write an article about it for all of you to read. This card allows you to look at the top six cards of your deck and attach all Basic Water Energies you find there to your Pokémon in any way that you like. Obviously, it is not as good as “Deluge,” but it is something that we can work with, especially when pairing it up with the giant 300HP Magikarp Wailord Tag Team. This is also an Ability that stacks, so if you have multiple Blastoise in play you can use it multiple times a turn. Blastoise has 160 HP, which is extremely good right now because you are not worried about anything one-shotting you, and it even has a viable attack. If you attach a Choice Band to Blastoise it is attacking GXs for 180 damage for three Water, which is a very respectable amount when you are talking about your support Pokémon that is only there to help set you up. This makes it very hard for people to try and Guzma stall it because you can just start attacking with it. There is a lot of Water support right now and this card will start to see some play.
This is one of the sleeper cards that I think has some real potential right now. This is a card that when you see it you usually just throw it into your bulk pile and keep going, but it has a lot of utility right now thanks to being able to search your deck for three Energies and attach them to one of your benched Pokémon. Not only does it get your Energy onto the field in a Water-box or even Psychic-box deck, but it also attacks for 40 damage, which when you are a Psychic type is a significant amount of damage. I believe that this card would be better in water shells than Psychic decks because Psychic already has Malamar as an unbelievably good energy accelerant. However, with all the Water attackers out there you can easily charge them up while attacking Buzzwole for some serious damage at the same time, all for just one Energy. The other thing about this Starmie is that it is a free retreater. This makes it so you can always Guzma up whatever you want and retreat into your attacker, and after you’re done with your Energy set up you can retreat and attack with something else. I could see this card being good as a substitute for Naganadel in Quagsire style decks. If you get one or two attacks off with it I think you would just win the game.
This is one of the cards that got Maxie’s banned in Expanded so we have to take a look at it in Standard and honestly, I do not see any value in playing it right now in the current format. Decks are very heavy with Supporters and do not rely on Items very much anymore, especially later in the game, which is when you would be getting Omastar out. It is a Stage 2, which makes it a Rare Candy deck, and those have not been successful as lock decks for a long time in Standard. There are just too many ways around it. You can still “Trade” with Zoroark, most decks are playing three or four Guzma, which is an easy way to end the game. If we could Maxie’s it out turn one and get the lock at that time then I could see it being very good, but in our current Standard I believe it is very close to unplayable.
This is one of those tech cards that I love in the format. Giving your opponent’s Basic Pokémon an additional Retreat Cost is HUGE in decks that are trying to use Escape Board as their retreat option. You will be able to win games just by having an Absol on your bench and forcing your opponent to manually retreat or waste a Guzma. I originally read the card and thought it said that Absol had to be Active, and when I found out that it could be on your bench I realized it was going to be a very sweet tech in decks to counter people trying to play Jirachi as their set up card. It is a Basic and can fit into just about every deck. Normally, a card like this wouldn’t see much play, but because of what people are trying to do with decks and the lack of Float Stone in the format makes it a great card to play.
This is one of the best cards in the set because it does what I was talking about earlier: it gives decks some much-needed consistency. This was an amazing Ability back in the day when it was played in almost every deck and now is no different. When you can look at the top five cards of your deck and take any Trainer you find and put it into your hand, it will help you when you are trying to set up. Being able to get Rare Candy or an Ultra Ball when you need it, or even grabbing a Supporter makes it very versatile. Unfortunately, it has a terrible attack and will only be used for its Ability, but this is a great card and one that you should be sure to pick up. When paired with Escape Board you can easily combo to get a free card and retreat into an attacker. I also think that playing it without Escape Board is great too because Jirachi is just there to help you set up, and if they knock it out then you should be perfectly okay with that.
This is a game-changer in my opinion for decks that were running Alolan Ninetales GX and Unit Energies. Now there is a Fairy Alolan Ninetales non-GX that can utilize those Unit Energies and stop your opponent’s GX Pokémon in their tracks. This is an exact reprint of the Water one, but I believe it has a lot more utility because it can be used with the Fairy, Dark, Fighting Unit Energy in a deck like Buzzwole/Ninetales, and it can attack in Gardevoir because they already play Fairy Energies. “Safeguard” users have never been good enough to win by themselves, but when you can attack with them they’re extremely strong Pokémon. You get to apply pressure while forcing your opponent to do something to stop you. This card is great, and I would definitely want to try and have a counter for it in most decks.
I was so happy when I read this card for the first time. At first, I assumed it was a Pidgeot because when was the last time they made a Stage 1 more playable than its Stage 2 counterpart? I was wrong, and this being on a Stage 1 makes it an extremely good card. You no longer have to worry about consistency because you get to “Air Mail” every turn, looking at two extra cards a turn and drawing one of them. I think that this card is going to be very good in decks like Granbull that want to keep their hand low. It is a Pokémon that does not get shut off by Muk like Oranguru does, and at the same time it does exactly what you need it to do. The other thing that is extremely good about this card is that it only has 60 HP, which normally is pretty bad but in this case it is amazing because you can use Professor Elm’s to get it from your deck. That will benefit decks like Lost March and reward them for playing a card like this. This is another card that we got to help consistency in decks that were struggling.
This is hands-down my favorite card in the set because I no longer have to worry about losing to control decks. This is a card much like Starmie that you would just immediately throw into your bulk pile until you read and thought about it for a little bit. First off, this card is good because it is a Stage 1 instead of a Stage 2, which means just about every deck can play it if Ditto Prism Star is in their deck. Next, the attack that matters attacks for ONE Colorless Energy--which means nearly every deck can play it--just destroys anyone trying to play an Unown HAND strategy, or anyone that is trying to keep a big hand in a Zoroark deck. This card, in my opinion is single-handedly taking the control decks out of the format again. Its attack, “Teach a Lesson” lets you look at your opponents’ hand and discard cards in their hand until they only have four cards left. This is amazing because YOU get to choose the cards. When your opponent is trying to stockpile Lusamine in order to chain them against you, you can discard all of them and make sure that they are never able to chain them again. When your opponent has a fifteen or twenty card hand because they are trying to get to Unown HAND’s win condition, or they are just playing Zoroark then you can get rid of just about everything they have. I also like it in general because people love to save Guzma for late-game and there will be a lot of times that you have a couple Guzma in your hand waiting for the right time. If your opponent drops down a Persian and discards all of your Guzma you will be at a huge disadvantage for the rest of the game. In a best two out of three your opponent will have to play around this card because they understand how powerful it can be, and because of that you will have an advantage just because your opponent knows about it. Playing around Persian is not an easy thing to do when you are trying to set up your field and want to draw cards to get to those crucial set up cards. However, this is not a good card against decks like Granbull and Lost March, who usually do not have very high hand counts.
Tapu Koko Prism Star
This card is amazing. This is part of the Lightning support that I was talking about earlier. All that Lightning needed was a little bit of Energy acceleration to push it over the edge: enter Tapu Koko Prism. You are able to attach two Energies to your bench Pokémon, and because of Energy Switch you’re able to easily charge up attackers. The other benefit of this card is when it is paired up with Thunder Mountain; getting one energy back then attaching an Energy to that Pokémon is good enough to attack in most cases. This is very good with Pikachu Zekrom because you are able to get a Tag Team charged up in one turn and that in turn charges everything else up for you. The other utility this card has is in Rayquaza. It is an easy way to add 60 damage to your board while setting up two more attackers. I do not think it is good enough to make Ray a playable deck because of all the non-GX decks that dominate Ray, but it is something that is worth playing in Lightning style decks.
Shaymin Prism Star
I like this card a lot, but once again it is really only good in a Rayquaza deck or Grass strategy decks, which I do not think are very good right now. Shaymin has the same attack as Rayquaza but is a non-GX and attacks for only two Grass making it a very good card, though charging it up gets a little bit difficult. I think that there might be a Grass deck out there with the Venusaur from Shining Legends that makes it so every Grass Energy counts as two, but until I test that out I am not sure that this card is very good.
Black Market Prism Star
I am not a huge fan of Prism Star Stadiums that do not do anything for you when you play them down. The reason for this is because almost every deck plays a counter Stadium right now, and having a reactive Prism Star Stadium just seems like a waste of a space most of the time. Sure, this card is amazing when it works in a deck like Zoroark, but that is not the case most of the time. You only get to use it once, so you must make sure that it is at a time when your opponent does not have any of their Stadiums in hand, which is hard to do. The same applies to Wonderous Labyrinth, so I will not have a section on that card in this article. I think the power level of both those cards is very high, but being able to use them effectively is just not worth the spot to me.
I am so happy that this card is back. This will be a playable card in a lot of decks just because of how much it can get back into your deck. You are able to use Ultra Ball more effectively and are now able to be a little less conservative with your resources thanks to this card. This is also a card that helps a ton against deck-out strategies because it puts back all of your Energies that they worked so hard to get rid of. I feel like this set is starting to destroy control and deck-out decks in Standard and I think it is very healthy for the game.
This card is exactly what we have needed this entire season. We not have a good draw Supporter that can be played in every deck. It helps any deck with consistency and the requirement to play it is easy to meet. This card is an effective reprint, and although the last couple of reprints like TV Reporter and Copycat have not been very good, this card is going to see a lot of play and I love that it has been printed. I have noticed that isn’t as large a need for consistency Pokémon anymore like Oranguru or Zebstrika in a lot of decks because now we have access to better draw Supporters that will help us win the game. This card very rarely will every be drawing you less than four cards, and even when it draws you four cards it is still a very good card in every deck. Most decks right now require a full bench and because of that you can draw a lot of cards to help win the game. I was a little bit tired of all my deck lists being four Lillie, four Cynthia, four Guzma and then maybe a tech Supporter here and there. Now we finally have a super solid card that you can play with anything you want.
It’s back! This card is also very helpful for making decks more consistent. Being able to search your deck for a Pokémon by returning one from your hand is just an amazing effect, especially when there are Stage 2 decks out there with a lot of Pokémon to shuffle back. Instead of discarding them with Ultra Ball we can put them back into our deck because chances are, we will want them later. This is a card that still sees play in the Expanded format, and because of that it is safe to say that it will be very playable in our Standard format as well. I think my favorite thing with this card right now is how much better it makes Lost March. You no longer have to worry about having a Jumpluff in your hand and not being able to use Skiploom; instead you can just throw it back into your deck with Poke Com and then get it back out immediately.
Personally, I do not like this card very much. I understand how good of a card this can be in a lot of decks that are Basic Energy reliant and want Energies in the discard like Naganadel and Malamar decks, however, I feel like this card being linear and allowing your opponent to use it also makes it not that great. You are not progressing your board state with it like you would be with Brooklet Hill, which is also a linear card. I think that most decks will be able to utilize Viridian Forest even if it is just to discard their cards they do not want anymore. That makes it so we are playing a card that gives our opponent the same advantage that we are trying to give ourselves. That makes it a bigger advantage for them because they can play other cards in their deck but also get to use the effect we are giving them. It might be worth playing if you are a GX deck that cannot utilize any other Stadiums and need a counter to Shrine of Punishment. This would be a pretty good all-around Stadium to do it with, but I do think that playing more Field Blowers might be better though (though those do nothing against Prism Star Stadiums).
These are all the cards that I think will be seeing play in the next couple of months and the cards that I think are going to impact our Standard format more than anything else. I do not, however, think that Expanded will be changing all that much, but luckily for us there are not many Expanded tournaments coming up right now. Now that you have figured out all the cards I think are good you might have noticed that there is one card that I did not talk about but that should be on the list. Charizard has never had a playable card and now we finally have one that might make it to the big stage. Everyone loves Charizard, and when my friend Zak built this deck I jumped on it and started testing it, trying to make it as good as can be. Playing a Charizard in a tournament is what we all dreamt about when we were younger and now here is our chance.
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