Hello everyone, and welcome back to part 3 of my guide this year’s rotation. Today, we’re looking at ‘the worlds set’, Celestial Storm, a set which has many impactful cards which are still being played in many Tier 1 archetypes today.
First up, we have Sceptile, a Pokémon with a powerful ability. Unfortunately, Power of Nature only blocked out a very small number of opponents. During the last season, the one two attacking Ultra Beasts that saw play were both fire type (Blacephalon GX and Baby Blacephalon), meaning that they would likely play other attackers capable of hitting Sceptile for weakness.
Buzzwole, Zoroark, Granbull and Mill are just a few of the archetypes that have made use of Magcargo’s Smooth Over ability, as being able to choose the cards you draw into provides an out to numerous game plans. With the recent release of Oranguru from Sword and Shield, you could instantly draw into any card of your choosing, all while saving a valuable resource as your top in case you opponent attempt to disrupt your hand.
When some cards end up in a control deck, it’s because players have found a way to exploit an ability or an attack in a new not before seen way. Articuno GX was not one of those cards. Legendary Ascent combined with Cold Crush GX to give Articuno incredible surprise potential (well, unless you’re playing of three) to punish opponents whose Pokémon required numerous energy attachments. When combined with Crushing Hammers, and up to 2 Belleba & Brycen Man (RIP), you could wipe almost if not all of your opponent’s energy, whilst milling any potential resources that could help them recover.
Stage 2 Pokémon may be difficult to set up, but the results are often powerful. Power Draw was no exception, being a suped up version of one of the most popular abilities of all time, Trade. As it so happened, Swampert saw most of it’s play in decks that saw multiple stage 2 Pokémon, with Power Draw being able to find vital combo pieces such as Rare Candies and other evolutions.
A spiritual reprint of an Electrode ex from all the way back in 2004, Electrode GX provided crazy acceleration on paper, with four large caveats. It only worked with non-GX/EX Pokémon, you had to fit in a 1-1 line of a Stage 1 (and that’s if you weren’t worried about prizing), you needed to get five energy cards in the discard pile ideally by turn 2, and, oh yeah, you gave up two prizes whenever you decided to accelerate any amount of energy in this way. Even with Island Challenge Amulet in format, it’s not surprising to see why Electrode GX never took off as a consistent form of energy acceleration.
Mr. Mime GX
The first of two Mr. Mime GXs (the other, being from Team Up, survives rotation), Magic Evens had the potential to completely wall certain attackers, who weren’t about to get around its ability. However, it could be just as easily teched around, thanks to the many damage mods and attackers that certain types would have available to them. It’s ironic, then, that Mr. Mime GX’s best showings came after the release of one of the best damage mods of recent times, in Galarian Zigzagoon.
It’s not often that a multiple prize Pokémon is given attacks that only cost a single energy, something that only gave players even more of a reason to play Banette GX as a counter to the powerful Buzzwole GX. Being able to score a OHKO with Shadow Chant, while also spreading additional damage from your own board with Shady Move, saw Banette instantly make an impact at the 2018 World Championships as it finished in 13th place.
Alolan Raticate GX
Continuing the Alolan trend of having attacks with a zero-energy cost, Alolan Raticate GX was, let’s be honest, pretty rubbish throughout most of its life. Discarding your own hand for only 80 damage seemed measly, 150 for a dark and a DCE was decent at the time, but not if half of the time you were just passing over to your opponent, and Item Maniac GX never really worked with the likes of Judge in format, meaning that all the items went straight back into your deck. However, earlier this year, the Big RatÔ finally found a place he could call home. Henry Brand’s Ultimate Mewtwo variant used chuck away to beat both Cinccino Mill and Baby Blowns (with some help from ADP and Galarian Zigzagoon), as its free attack cost allowed you to continue taking prizes without require any energy. On that basis alone, I think he probably deserves to be World Champions for another year.
The sad thing about Scizor GX is that, whilst it was clearly a very nicely designed card, it was simply never powerful enough to be competitively viable. The archetype was simple, tank damage with Steel Wing tools like Metal Frying Pan, until its HP was low enough to activate Danger Perception, meaning that you could hit for 160 for two energy, or 280(!) with Cross-Cut GX, knocking out any Pokémon in the format at the time of its release. Alas, if it hadn’t been for Tag Teams, Scizor GX may have seen a little more life, thanks to the release of cards such as Island Challenge Amulet and Metal Saucer. Oh well, there’s always Cube…
Another interestingly designed card, Metagross was clearly designed to reflect its partnership with Steven, who had one as its ace in the Champion battle. Being able to search for any three cards meant that you could find a Max Potion, a Metal energy and then any other card that would help you prepare for future turns. However, unlike most tanking archetypes, Meteor Mash’s increasing damage could be reset by either gusting another Metagross (with a retreat cost of 4) into the active, or by knocking the active one out. If you didn’t have another one set up, playing Steven’s Resolve mean that you opponent had two free turns to do whatever they liked.
Jirachi Prism Star
Wish Upon a Star, and your dreams will eventually come true. Eventually. Jirachi Prism Star may have had to wait until the very last format where it was legal (no, I’m not counting the POG meta) to see any play, but boy was it worth it. In combination with Mr. Mime, Oranguru and Scoop Up Net, players could use Zacian and, to a lesser extent, Baby Blacephalon, to cheat their way to victory. There was no need to go through TagTeam and VMAX Pokémon, when all you needed to do was gust around two Dedenne GX.
Part of the ‘Beast Box’, Stakataka GX could provide defensive support with its Ultra Wall ability or use Assembly GX to capitalise on high tempo plays thanks to Buzzwole GX’s Jet Punch, and its potential to take early prizes on low HP evolving basics.
Latias Prism Star
A key component of Rayquaza GX (more on him in a moment), Dreamy Mist could provide a powerful mid-late game boost and provide up to 120 extra damage for Dragon Break, meaning that you could always reload you attackers after one had been KO’d. Sadly, there were no other basic Dragon type GXs that could take advantage of Dreamy Mist, meaning that, after reaching 5th place at Worlds 2018, Latias Prism Star very much fell off the map.
Latios Prism Star
Latios Prism Star, on the other hand, saw no play when it came out, and saw no since. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but when all Dragon types require multiple energy types, and often require discarding them, the incentive to play evolutions was never too appealing. You just need to look at the numbers, doing 200 damage for getting out four separate evolutions? On a Pokémon that can only be used once? No thank you.
Probably the last great Stage 2 deck of the SUM block, Rayquaza GX teamed up with Vikavolt from Sun and Moon to get lots of Grass and Lightning energy on the board, and quickly. Dragon Break thrived on OHKO’s and the combination of Tempest GX and Strong Charge meant that you could thin your deck of energy to increase your chances of finding gust or a draw supporter. As is often the case with the best attacking Pokémon, Rayquaza was a brilliantly balanced card which had great synergy between its own ability and attacks.
An interesting card for control variants, more specifically Cinccino control, Delcatty could act as a double verses seeker to get back two disruption supporters straight from the discard pile, the two main targets being Belleba and Brycen Man and Lt. Surges Strategy. This way, you could continue to mill your opponent’s deck or disrupt their hand without having to search you deck for Supporters with things like Tag Call or recover them with a Pal Pad
Control decks, evolution decks, turbo decks… the beauty of Acro Bike is that it could be played in so many different archetypes. Any deck that wanted to be thinned as quickly as possible, or wanted discard synergy for energy acceleration, loved the ability to see an extra 8 cards while still having access to a Supporter card every term. At a time where Item based draw is at a premium (Judge Whistle, anyone?), Acro Bike is sure to be a card that is missed by every kind of player.
Speaking of premium, Beast Ball was one of the only cards that allowed you to see what you had prized. Not only that, decks that played a variety of Ultra Beasts, or just a one-of tech, could gain access to any one of them that were in the prize cards, so that their specific game plan wasn’t immediately disrupted right at the start of a game.
Although it was never as strong as something like Cynthia (or even its equivalent back in the HGSS days, PONT), Copycat was a useful addition to many archetypes to keep up with Zoroark decks which would usually allow for large hand sizes throughout games. It was also helpful in many stall decks as, with your opponent wanting to keep hold of their resources for the longest amount of time possible, it was easy to take advantage of their hoarding by drawing in lots of cards to progress your own board state.
Energy Recycle System
The energy equivalent of rescue stretcher, Energy Recycle System saw most of its play in Welder Mewtwo, where it could search out one of the low counts of specific energy (mostly psychic) needed to power up the likes of Espeon & Deoxys GX and Naganadel GX to finish of a game by sniping one of the opponents benched Pokémon. However, with the likes of Energy Retrieval, Energy Recycle and Ordinary Rod also in format, it was always hard to justify playing Energy Recycle System in the first place.
Continuing with the energy recovery theme, Fisherman on papers seems like a very strong effect. And it was… for just one deck. Dusk Mane Necrozma did the discarding, Fisherman got back the energy, and Magnezone put it straight back on. Whilst it is probably intentional that only one type at a time can have a ‘Rain Dance’ style effect on a Stage 2, it is a shame that not more archetypes could take advantage of such great synergy.
Friend Ball was always an interesting potential addition to decks and, as the name suggests, was best used when searching out a Pokémon that was the same as one your opponent already had played down. This could range from evolving basics in Zoroark and Malamar mirrors, Dedenne GXs or even various puzzle pieces in Combo Zacian. However, with all of those decks long gone by the time rotation hits, it looks like all of its closest friendships will have come to an end.
In an era when HP and damage output was only increasing, it was only getting harder and harder to control you own Pokémon’s hit points to activate Hustle Belt’s powerful buff. Boasting twice the power of a Choice Band, it took until the release of Spiritomb from Unbroken Bonds to unleash its full potential. The combination of Building Spite, Big Charm and Rainbow Energy could manipulate damage perfectly to enable Spiritomb to hit for 310 damage for just a single energy! Boy, they don’t make single prizers like that anymore.
While on paper it seems as though Lure Ball would be great recovery for evolutionary attackers, it was in fact mostly used in conjunction with unique support Pokémon. Firstly, it combined with the Charjabug that also doubled up as a special energy (a mechanic that we definitely need to see more of), providing energy recover straight back to the hand. Secondly, it saw (much more) play with the Roxie/Wheezing combo, which provided great spreading of damage to set up attackers such as Garchomp & Giratina GX.
Another example of Item-based draw, Pokénav allowed for some additional dig to find that crucial attachment for turn or evolution Pokémon. Although, one of the most creative uses of Pokénav was seen in Granbull, where players could manipulate their top decks to find a draw Supporter, so as to keep their attackers rolling and avoid dead drawing. Any chance of some replacements TPCI, please?
Rainbow Brush filled a very specific niche, so it’s no surprise that the decks it saw play in always came out of the blue. Take ADP Bird Trio, for example, a deck that on paper had impressive potential with Ultimate Ray, but always seemed like a lot of work. Rainbow Brush meant that all you needed was an attachment for turn, before you swapped the energy over and smacked with Trinity Burn.
Shrine of Punishment
Another great damage mod, this time in the form of a Stadium, Shrine of Punishment was always popular because it automatically targeted the most popular decks in the format. However, that didn’t mean that it was only played alongside single prizers. Although it was played alongside Zapdos, Wheezing and Spiritomb, some of its most prominent play was in various ADP decks to help in mirror matches and give Spiritombs some additional damage to work with. With VMAX’s now possessing mouth watering amounts of HP, it’s not surprising to see a Stadium like Spikemuth being printed in its place.
Although never played as much as Bench Barrier Mew, Sky Pillar filled an important role in the format in that it prevented all effects of attacks as well. That meant that, for control decks in particular, your bench was protected by attackers who liked to sprinkle damage counters on the bench, rather than directly sniping a specific Pokémon. With both Dragapult VMAX and control decks taking a back-seat post rotation, it doesn’t look like Sky Pillar will be as much of a loss as we thought.
Speaking of control, Steven’s Resolve has a much better partnership with Hoopa and Florges than it ever did with Metagross. In a stall deck when you are not always going to attack, Steven’s Resolve was an ideal way to end your turn by searching out the resources you would need next, be it a Lillie’s Poké Doll, a Max Potion or a different Supporter for your next turn.
Super Scoop Up
Let’s be honest, it is a very good thing that this card is rotating. Not necessarily because it’s a bad card in a vacuum, but because the prospect of healing over 300 damage just because you flipped a heads is frankly disgusting. The last thing anyone wants would be a major tournament being decided by who could heal their VMAX Pokémon the most, only to put them straight back down again as if nothing had ever happened.
Tate & Liza
A popular choice for control decks, Tate & Liza allowed players the choice of shuffling large hands back into the deck to avoid deck out or switch a Pokémon out the active that had been gusted by an opponent to disrupt their control of the game. With the upcoming release of Bird Keeper from Darkness Ablaze, which can provide both options at once, in will be interesting to see if control decks adopt this new Supporter or switch over to a new strategy.
Although the release of Aurora Energy will mitigate the loss of Rainbow Energy somewhat, they luxury of having both and the options they provide will see the end of some high tier archetypes. The additional damage will be a big loss for Spiritomb, and the options of having 8 universal energies will be something that saw Ultimate Mewtwo become such a surprise success. While we may not need both Rainbow and Aurora in the format, it will be hard to get over the luxury of having access to both.