With this week as an interim between Philly discussion and Memphis regionals preparation in my content, I’d like to talk about a phenomenon in competitive Pokémon TCG deck building and metagaming. I’ve seen some inadvertent discussion on these topics, but I’d like to crystallize those ideas into a single concept. Luckily this has happened quite recently with several cards, strategies, and archetypes so I have some really great examples.
THE SHINY NEW THING PHENOMENON
I am going to define the Shiny New Thing Phenomenon as: When a new set is released and made tournament legal, players will often refocus their decks and strategies on new threats and ignore the threats that were previously kept in check, creating opportunities to punish new decks with targeted effects that were once adjusted for but now forgotten.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 17’-18’ GARBODOR
At World’s ‘18 the newest set legal for the Standard Format was Celestial Storm which brought amazing new cards like Rayquaza-GX, Shrine of Punishments, and Magcargo. Our last major tournament in NA before World’s was NAIC which was won by Zoroark/Garbodor but arguably was not the best deck in that format. Zoroark Control was a deck piloted by Tord Reklev, Philip Schulz and Robin Schulz which seemed to have an answer for every deck. Zoro Control and the new Rayquaza-GX archetype had a lot of hype and expected success going into Worlds.
Garbodor GRI is a great card, but I believe it’s potential power spikes in an unrefined new meta if players don’t respect it in deckbuilding. World’s 2018 saw success from Psychic Malamar, Rayquaza-GX, and Baby Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine. Rayquaza-GX played a large number of items, milled random cards from its own deck, and was almost exclusively focused on GX Pokémon. Malamar decks were and still are susceptible to any deck that can consistently find Guzma to KO their Malamars and also has attackers weak to Dark and Psychic. The Shrine deck was still new at Worlds, but its hardest Zoro variant matchup was arguably Zoro Garb, as Garbodor gives you a way to ignore their Shrines. The Garbodor decks didn’t add many new cards, but all of the sudden it lined up much better in the meta. Finding the cards/strategies that lineup well against the new strategies in an undefined meta can be tournament winning.
With the introduction and invention of new cards and archetypes, players forget about the constraints of a format and focus on building the best version of their deck. This is especially true in decks that are less reactive and more straightforward, like Vika Ray. Players want the best version for Vika Ray, not the version that respects Trashalanche best because they don’t know how much Trashalanche will show up so it is not worth compromising their strategy.
We, of course, saw this when GRI was released and Garbodor took the game by storm, but then people adjusted and Trashalanche got worse. A similar cycle happened after BUS and the release of Gardevoir GX. Since the rotation, I have seen players revert to item based engines that allow Garbodor to take advantage of lists and gameplay.
LOOKING TO THE PAST
Shrine of Punishments based decks (SPAS Single Prize Attackers w/ Shrine) dominated the Santa Catarina 2018 Regionals. 7 of 8 decks in the Masters Top 8 were SPAS. Personally, I had a Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine deck with 1-1 Banette-GX sleeved up and sitting on my desk for Philly Regionals hoping that nobody would play it before then… and then I saw the tweets about Santa Catarina being all one prizer Shrine decks.
What did that deck capitalize on? When comparing the current format to the pre-rotation format, we saw 1 prize attackers show up in larger numbers to combat Vika Ray and Zororoc in the past. Just as players will build their decks somewhat recklessly without Trashalanche in mind when making new lists, I also see one prize attackers omitted quite frequently. Taking that approach and applying it to the new meta would bring you to SPAS being under-respected and well positioned. Players took advantage of this in Santa Catarina. Capitalizing on these opportunities puts trophies on the mantle; keep this in mind when building, testing, and theorizing.
LIST OF CARDS TO REVISIT FREQUENTLY
- Enhanced Hammer: This card’s power fluctuates depending on how popular attackers that utilize DCE are.
- Weavile UPR & Weavile BUS: These cards are good in formats like our current Standard SUM-CST when a lot of popular archetypes like to have multiple abilities on the board at once.
- Garbodor GRI: As I went over earlier, Garbodor fluctuates in power depending on how many items are being used in decks at a given time in the meta.
- Hoopa SHL: Hoopa was extremely viable in last season’s Standard when the popular decks like ZoroRoc, ZoroPod, and Buzzwole/Lycanroc were running little to no non-GX attackers. Watch for a meta like this again for a chance to make Hoopa good again.
- Xurkitree-GX: Like Hoopa, this card can be an unhittable wall if there are decks playing no basic energy.
- Drampa-GX: Due to its ability to remove special energy with its attack for one energy, Drampa GX can lock out decks that rely on Special energy.
- Mismagius CRI: Mismagius’s Chaos Wheel prevents your opponent from playing Special Energy from their hand next turn, so this could be good in a similar position to Xurkitree-GX being good.
- Alolan Muk: If multiple decks were to start using basic Pokemon with important abilities, Alolan Muk could have potential. Tapu Lele-GX doesn’t really fall into this theory since Lele is often played down turn 1, and Alolan Muk has to wait until at least turn 2 to come into play since it is a Stage 1 Pokemon. In Expanded this card is fairly good because of the popularity of Exeggcute PLF in Zoroark-GX decks.
If any of these cards line up well against the new shiny thing players pick up, it merits consideration. Let me know in the comments of any cards you think should be on here!
IMPORTANCE OF THIS PHENOMENON
If you keep this in mind, you will be better prepared for new metas. If a larger amount of players become knowledgeable of these mistakes, our meta could progress even more than it already does within each three-month span of new sets.
REEVALUATION OF OLDER CARDS
If you have aspirations to make your own meta calls and create rogue decks that perform well against the established archetypes, it’s important to be familiar with the card pool you are working with. Many great players will scroll through all of the cards in standard when a new set comes out and go over them again to see if any new cards or new archetypes increase viability in any older cards. There are usually cards that get better as time goes on so this is hardly ever a waste of time. A great example of this is Sylveon-EX from Generations. It looked as if this card was never going to see play in its Standard format lifespan. That is until Rayquaza-GX was released and Sylveon-EX became a popular counter for Ray in the Worlds 2018 meta. A few cards that are viable in competitive play right now that weren’t used when they first came out include Great Ball, Pal Pad, Regirock FLI, and Marshadow SHL.
It is very exciting and very rewarding to be amongst the first to find out a card or combination of cards is good when everyone else is sleeping on it. I have already started to review older sets with Lost Thunder in mind, and with the size of Lost Thunder, I see a huge amount of untapped potential in older cards. I’ll be talking more about that as we get closer to the release of Lost Thunder, but look for yourself and see what you can find. Until next week, take care trainers!