Looking into a Post-Rotation World
Hello everyone and welcome to my first article for Flipside Gaming. My name is Jack and I am a European player that has been playing competitively for nearly 9 years now. I’m one half of the YouTube duo Omnipoke, a competitive TCG channel that upload deck analysis videos for the Standard format, and stream testing sessions each week (don’t forget to check us out after you’ve read the article)! I haven’t had many overly impressive achievements due to not playing super competitively but since January I’ve really began putting time into the game again with the release of Sun and Moon and am really looking forward to the 2017-2018 season. More recently I made 5th place at the Sheffield Regional Championships in March and top 32 at the Birmingham Regional Championships in June, and have just come back from the Liverpool Regional Championships that contributed towards next year’s season!
Enough of the introductions though, today I’m here to talk about the 4 big winners of rotation in my opinion. With Worlds being the only tournament left of this season, anyone not going to Worlds (including myself) will be trying to get a head start on the new format that come around beginning September 1st.
This year’s rotation was pretty notable in my opinion as there are a lot of very powerful cards that are leaving the format that features in high counts in many different archetypes throughout their lifespan in Standard.
VS Seeker is debatably one of the most powerful items we’ve had in the game over the past few years, meaning players could be incredibly aggressive with their discard mechanics such as Professor Sycamore and Ultra Ball. Losing VS Seeker will mean that players have to think more about resource management in their decks, as they won’t have access to the supporter cards in their Discard Pile anymore.
Shaymin-EX is another hugely impactful card that for a while broke the $50 mark per card. Almost every deck in the format doesn’t mind running 1-2 Shaymin-EX just to have explosive turns drawing into cards whilst still using alternative supporters such as Lysandre or Team Flare Grunt. Some decks (such as M Gardevoir and M Rayquaza) even ran 4 just to bench all 4, drawing loads of cards and increasing their damage output! Shaymin has seen less and less play recently with the release of Tapu Lele-GX admittedly but this is still a hugely relevant card in the format, and again will slow the format down, especially in the early turns of the game.
Yet another speed item card, Trainer’s Mail has seen a lot of play throughout its time in the Standard Format. Decks that ran heavy amounts of trainer cards always appreciated having Trainer’s Mail in the deck to give the extra 4 card dig potential into combo pieces for their setup. Having cards that look at the top 4 also helped in situations where opponents would N you into a low hand size in order to try and reduce the chance of you winning next turn, meaning you could still reach into your deck and find potential outs into game! Trainer’s Mail is another card that will assist with the slowing of the format and decks again will likely run higher counts of important items now that they can no longer dig a little deeper to find them.
As soon as abilities were re-introduced into the game, it was evident that they were going to be very powerful. Hex Maniac provided a 1-turn shut off effect for all abilities in the game for both players until the end of the next turn. This Ability lock effect was the only way some decks were able to compete in the format with decks like Volcanion and Greninja being incredibly ability focused, and very difficult to defeat when their abilities were online! With Hex Maniac leaving Standard, there is one less thing to worry about for many different decks in the format (including all four of the decks I’m going to talk about today). Whether this will mean these decks are completely unstoppable, or people perhaps turn to alternative ability lock methods (such as Alolan Muk) remains to be seen.
Forest of Giant Plants was very reminiscent of Broken Time Space from the DP era, but for Grass types alone, and has finally seen its days not only in Standard but also Expanded too. The fact this was one of the two cards that Pokémon decided to ban in the Expanded format come August 18th shows how strong the card truly was! Forest led to hugely powerful turn one’s from people, such as setting up Item lock or even multiple 240HP stage 2 Pokémon before your opponent could even have a turn! Despite the obvious satisfaction in setting up multiple stage 2 Pokémon really quickly, Forest of Giant Plants was a very impactful card and meant that Grass decks always remained Tier 1 just through their ability to essential break a game mechanic and set up incredibly quickly, making these decks very oppressive and unenjoyable to play against.
So the general trends from the cards described above seem to suggest a format that slows down quite significantly in general, and doesn’t seem to offer much splashable punishment for Ability based decks. This being said, there seems to be a very obvious Rock-Paper-Scissors type format straight out of the gate until archetypes have been fully established, with Gardevoir, Metagross and Volcanion all countering one another whilst not taking many hits from the rotation. As an outsider to this triangle, Vikavolt Tapu Bulu seems to potentially be able to handle itself also within the format as it also loses very little.
Gardevoir GX is my favorite card from the latest set Burning Shadows, and for very good reason. 230 HP is a huge amount to have to deal with, an ability that lets you attach multiple energy per turn, a strong GX attack that means that you almost never run out of resources, damage that scales incredibly fast that isn’t dictated completely by your opponent and a strong non-EX/GX attacker to swing the prize trade. The deck, once set up is near unstoppable and the rotation only helps Gardevoir overall. Due to the shuffle effect of Twilight GX, VS Seeker was often only a 2 count at most so the deck does not take as much of a hit as other decks do. Trainer’s Mail was often omitted from lists too due to having the Gallade/Octillery combo meaning you drew exactly what you needed for the turn without having to risk finding a single specific trainer card from the top 4 of the deck. Some Gardevoir lists did run Level Ball if a heavier Octillery line was used, but successful Japanese lists utilised the Diancie from Burning Shadows anyway and therefore this now acts as the decks evolution engine, along with Rare Candies. Finally, the deck often ran 1 Hex Maniac to help it deal with early aggression from decks such as Volcanion and Decidueye, with strong use in the late game against decks like Greninja too. However, with Decidueye losing Forest, it seems to take more of a backseat approach in decks and will no longer be Feather Arrowing your board in the early turns for late game value. Volcanion still naturally is unflavoured in my eyes in this matchup as they have to have 3 Energy on them in order to attack with Volcanion-EX (essentially upping Gardevoir’s base damage to 120 for 1 energy, before attaching more energy/Choice Band), and despite Turtonator-GX discarding it’s energy with Bright Flame, this attack is incredibly difficult to chain together for multiple turns which allows the Gardevoir player to find their Max Potions and set up secondary attackers in the meantime. The deck’s biggest issue is the fact that Metagross is a near autoloss, 1-shotting everything in the deck and having a huge 250 HP for Gardevoir to get through whilst being able to also abuse Max Potion themselves. However, I still believe Gardevoir will have a huge impact on the Post-Rotation metagame and fully expect this deck to be one of the most popular archetypes in the first weeks of BKT-BSH tournaments.
Metagross is another deck that seems to do well out of the rotation, not only because Hex Maniac is leaving the format, but compared to today’s metagame it does not have a tier 1 autowin. However, with the release of Gardevoir GX, Metagross’s value as a deck jumps up as the Gardevoir matchup is very close to a free win and will be a top tier archetype. Alolan Ninetales-GX also seems to be a relatively okay pick post rotation and also has metal weakness which is always a bonus. The deck is also very good at not being worried about much at all as soon as it has set up as the energy acceleration is all on the board/within the discard and therefore isn’t affected by disruption cards such as N. In the late game, the deck only really needs to be able to find Max Potions and Choice Bands to keep applying pressure turn my turn until your opponent can no longer take 150/180 damage turn after turn anymore. Whilst the deck did run copies of VS Seeker and sometimes Trainer’s Mail too, these losses aren’t overly significant as every deck will be losing these cards and therefore the deck is at no more of a disadvantage as any other due to these losses. Hex Maniac was often used on the turn your opponent was taking a knockout on the active Metagross-GX in order to wipe all of the energy off of the board and prevent a second Metagross setting up the following turn, and therefore with this no longer being an issue, the deck is free to then set up a new attacker if the active Metagross is KO’d. Forest of Giant Plants rotating also indirectly increases the potential in Metagross decks as well, as Decidueye’s win condition was often through devolution. Therefore, with a combination of Magearna-EX and a slower, clunkier Decidueye, this no longer seems to be an issue. However, much with Gardevoir’s difficulty with Metagross, Metagross struggles to deal with Volcanion very well at all as they are often able to get huge value from early game Steam Up and Power Heater combos, leaving your board to be torn apart by just 2 set up attackers from their deck in as many turns. If, however Gardevoir is as popular an archetype as I expect it to become Post-Rotation, Metagross seems to be the best answer and therefore may justify place high up the tier list just because of this.
Volcanion has always been a deck with a huge power level, being able to achieve 1-hit Knock Outs on almost any Pokemon in the format due to the strength of the Steam Up ability. And with Hex Maniac gone, there only really stands a few barriers in the way of this formidable archetype. Whilst Garbodor, Alolan Muk and various other forms of ability lock remain in the format, Volcanion always seems to show its presence within the metagame and always can compete with the most competitive decks and still come out on top. Gardevoir is still a very hard matchup without getting large amounts of value in the early turns from Baby Volcanion and even then they often have the energy to respond KO multiple EX/GX Pokemon. However, with the natural rise in Metagross decks to counter the Gardevoir’s Volcanion will have a field day. And Gardevoir’s presence within the meta will also push down on the amount of Garbodor decks which is very beneficial for Volcanion, not only due to less ability lock being run, but also meaning Volcanion can go back to a heavy Max Elixir build that can out speed almost any deck in the format and take huge KO’s from turn two. Volcanion is a largely unchanged archetype since its release back in Steam Siege, but with the loss of Hex Maniac and the fact it is a fully Basic attacking deck that also gains a near autowin matchup in the top tiers, it seems to be stronger than ever to begin announcing Steam Up into Knock Out turn after turn.
Finally, whilst there isn’t a straight autowin out of the aforementioned decks, Vikavolt seems to be a naturally good pick for the Post-Rotation format just due to its incredible consistency once it has set up. The deck is able to nullify the deck of bad targets through the Strong Charge ability, meaning N is not a particularly effective against the deck, and similarly the ability attaches energy anywhere on the board meaning Guzma cannot stall out the deck either. This, in combination with the loss of Hex Maniac means that the deck seems to lose virtually nothing but issues the deck currently has as a Tier 2 archetype. Tapu Bulu-GX has two very formidable attacks that can be difficult to play around and can take 6 prizes in 3 turns on support Pokemon such as Tapu Lele very easily. The GX attack completely resets anything your opponent has done in order to set the card up for a potential Knock Out next turn, again meaning the deck is able to force 4 prizes from one Pokemon. The biggest issue for the deck as always will be setting up as the deck relies on the ability of a Stage 2, however if the format does sow down as it seems to be doing this may be a smaller issue than before. Vikabulu is a deck that, once set up, seems to consistently be able to close out games through high value and awkward attacks and whilst is doesn’t have any immediate free matchups with this deck, the fact that it can present such a strong, unstallable board state may be enough for the deck to take down tournaments in the early weeks of Rotation.
The above 4 decks would be where I would start with Post-rotation deck testing as all seem to have very strong qualities and decent matchups straight out of the gate!
I hope you have enjoyed this first article from me and look forward to writing for you guys again.