Rotation Guide 2021 Part 1: Team Up & Detective Pikachu

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Bath TCG Blog. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be taking a look at all of the cards that will be leaving the standard format on Friday 10th September. We’ll be starting with Team Up, the set that introduced TagTeam Pokémon to the world. There is also one card of note that is rotating from the Detective Pikachu expansion, as the other playable card from that set was released as a promo. We’ve got a lot of cards to cover, so without further ado, let’s take a look!

Celebi & Venusaur GX

Being a grass type, Celesaur could make use of several different healing cards to make it difficult for opponents to KO if their damage output wasn’t high enough. Thanks to cards such as Shaymin from Lost Thunder, Gardenia, Mixed Herbs and Life Forest Prism Star, Celesaur could theoretically heal 250 damage in a single turn. Evergreen GX could also heal off any damage you had sustained, while shuffling all of your healing tools back into your deck. All of this, combined with the annoying Pollen Hazard attack, meant that Celesaur could stick around for a long time. However, this archetype was only viable for one format, as Welder would render this card completely useless in a meta ruled by fire type Pokémon.

Shaymin Prism Star

Shaymin Prism Star was an easy inclusion for any grass deck, due to its free retreat cost and ability to deal huge late game damage. Rillaboom archetypes thrive when they can flood the boards with energy, which in turn powered up Shaymin’s Flower Storm attack. You could even surprise you opponents by placing down a Shaymin, powering it up with Voltage Beat and taking a big OHKO all in one turn to finish the game.

Charizard

The gatekeeper of the theme format, Charizard had more of a rouge presence in standard, being a stage two and all that. It did have access to Welder and the rest of the fire support, so it was still able to do over 200 damage in a single attack. However, it was also outshone by the Charizard in Vivid Voltage, which had a better ability, more HP and could do more damage.

Ninetales

Speaking of being outshone, Ninetales was the gusting option of choice for fire decks so that they didn’t have to play Custom Catchers. You could easily search out two energies with Giant Hearth and recover them once discarded with Fire Crystal or Victini Prism Star. While Welder decks wanted to play a Welder every turn of the game, Boss’ Orders turned out to be such a strong effect that it replaced Ninetales altogether in fire decks once it was released.

Blastoise

Although Powerful Squall was a powerful ability, it wasn’t quite strong enough to warrant setting up a stage two. Whilst you could high roll and accelerate 4-6 energy cards, you could just as easily find only one or two. Given that you would only use Blastoise if you wanted a lot of energy in play, one bad Powerful Squall could lose you the entire game. If you also struggled to set one up in the early game and had no other acceleration options, you could be quickly swept through by your opponent.

Magikarp & Wailord GX

One of the flashier TagTeam Pokémon on paper, Magikarp & Wailord was the perfect partner for Blastoise, as it needed a lot of energy to be powered up. Upon release, Super Splash’s 180 damage was very strong and is still decent damage output today. The main attraction however was its Towering Splash GX attack which could do 100 damage to each Pokémon on your opponent’s bench. Even with some good luck on Powerful Squall, this would take at least two turns to power up, by which time your opponent could have taken a big chunk out of your massive 300HP (a new record at the time of release). Even cards such as Frosmoth couldn’t make the deck consistent enough, which is a shame because that alt art is one of the best of the entire TagTeam era.

Gyarados

If Magikarp & Wailord GX wasn’t much more than a rouge deck, then Gyarados didn’t fare much better. Although it could do up to 240 damage with Distilled Blast, the odds of doing so, or any consistent high damage, were extremely low unless you played very high amounts of water energy in your deck. However, doing this would reduce the consistency of your deck massively, especially when you needed to chain together multiple stage one Pokémon and keep recovering other pieces that you discarded with Distilled Blast.

Pikachu & Zekrom GX

Pikarom was undoubtedly one of, if not the, greatest TagTeam Pokémon that was printed. The fact that it saw high level play in almost all formats it was legal just goes to show how objectively powerful this card was. This was no doubt in part due to the other lighting support that it received, such as Thunder Mountain Prism Star, Tapu Koko Prism Star and Electropower. At its peak, it wasn’t uncommon for Pikarom to pull off a Full Blitz on turn one, powering up either a ChuChu/Pikarom on the bench or itself for a full effect Tag Bolt GX on turn two. The sheer aggressive nature of the deck and damage output at its disposal (also aided by cards such as Boltund V and Tapu Koko V) meant that it was strong in a variety of matchups, assuring that the deck was almost never a bad call for a tournament. 

Zapdos

Another card that appeared in Pikarom, Zapdos was so strong that it was also its own deck. In addition to Thunderous Assault’s base damage of 80, you could use Electropower, Choice Band, and Shrine of Punishment to OHKO basic GX Pokémon. This obviously made for excellent prize trading (inside and outside of Pikarom), which in turn made Zapdos one of the best one prize decks around in the time after its release, until the time when Guzma rotated, which made it much harder to move Zapdos’ around the board each and every turn.

Tapu Koko Prism Star

Tapu Koko Prism Star was undoubtedly the greatest Prism Star card ever printed. Dance of the Ancients was so powerful that it was used in non-lightning decks as well, proving that if a form of energy acceleration is strong enough, it can breed new archetypes entirely. As well as being a mainstay in Pikarom (as well as every other lightning deck) Tapu Koko saw play in colourless decks, Mew3 varients, as well as a whole host of rouge creations. Tapu Koko was an extremely powerful card, but it was also great for the game as it opened up many new possibilities for deckbuilding.

Gengar & Mimikyu GX

Speaking of cards that are good for the game… Gengar & Mimikyu GX was always notorious for being a card that was fun to play, but extremely annoying to come up against. Whether it was with Omastar, in psychic Mew3, or in Shadow Rider Calyrex, Gengar & Mimikyu was always sent out early for its Horror House GX attack. This attack would buy you an additional turn to set up and make your opponent potentially draw more trainer cards, which in turn would power up your turn two Poltergeist attack. Although there will be plenty of people who are happy to see this linear and somewhat un-interactive card go, there was no doubting its ability to stop opponents in their tracks and deal big damage for a relatively low cost.

Nidoqueen

Although it was a stage two, Nidoqueen actually saw play with other stage two Pokémon in Meganium and Swampert. Together, these three Pokémon provided fast evolution, a draw engine, Pokémon search, and, thanks to Nidoqueen, a strong attack in Power Lariet that scaled high damage very quickly. Being a deck made up of three different stage two Pokémon, the ceiling was only ever going to be so high, but it would be nice to see another iteration of this archetype at some point in the future.

Mr. Mime

With the release of Dragapult VMAX and Scoop Up Net in Rebel Clash, the former faced a battle to keep its dropped damaged counters on opponents benched Pokémon. Mr. Mime was brought in to ensure that opponents could no longer simply pick up their damaged Pokémon off the board, which had before limited Dragapult’s damage output to a measly 130, which was never enough to deal with TagTeams and other VMAXs.

Hitmonlee/Hitmonchan

Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan (along with Hitmontop from Unbroken Bonds) made for a neat but ultimately slow rouge deck. Playing all three Pokémon in succession paid off with some big spread damage, but the odds of your opponent gusting up your next combo piece or you not being able to piece it all together in the right order meant that the rarity of this pay off ultimately ensured that the deck struggled in a competitive environment.

Omastar

As well as being played with Gengar & Mimikyu GX, Omastar saw play with a variety of TagTeam Pokémon that could hit for big damage all while being played alongside several other disruptive tools. All these decks were based around Greens Exploration, so you could set up an Unidentified Fossil on turn one and Rare Candy an Omastar on turn two, potentially leaving your opponent only one turn to play item cards. A common theme in these Greens decks, such as LucMetal, Gardeon, and Greens Zard, played disruptive, healing, and HP boosting cards, to keep these big basic Pokémon around for longer, all while leaving your opponent with limited options to take them out.

Lycanroc GX

Although it saw play in ZoroRoc, Lycanroc GX was never the main Lycanroc of choice. However, its’ time to shine came when Dragapult VMAX needed a counter to the newly released Eternatus VMAX. Not only did Lycanroc discard energy (which was welcome in a deck that played Crushing Hammer), but its GX attack also synchronised well with that strategy by doing more damage for each energy in the discard pile. This ensured that thanks to weakness, Lycanroc could OHKO an Eternatus VMAX in what was otherwise an extremely unfavoured matchup.

Alolan Muk

Yet another Pokémon with a strong coming into play ability, Alolan Muk saw play in a variety of control variants such as Cinccino Mill, which sought to trap Pokémon in the active with Boss’ Orders/Galar Mine, with Alolan Muk then stepping in to potentially discard all of the opponents switch outs, leaving them stranded in the active with no way out.

Absol

Speaking of trapping Pokémon in the active, Absol’s Dark Ambition ability was so versatile that it was played in dozens of different archetypes. If your opponent carelessly played down a Pokémon with a high retreat cost, you could gust it up, play down an Absol, and watch while they scrambled to find a switch out as you threaten to knockout their three-prize Pokémon that had no attachments or any way of dealing damage on their next turn.

Yveltal

Yveltal was another Pokémon that could prevent your opponent from attacking, thanks to its ability to discard special energy. This could be devastating for your opponent if they went first and only attached a special energy, leaving you with more time to set up your board and, in the case of Eternatus VMAX, get as many dark Pokémon into play as possible. Having a free retreat cost was also a welcome addition, as it meant that your Air Balloons/Switch cards could be used on bigger Pokémon that needed moving out of the firing line.

Hoopa GX

An ever-presence in dark box, Hoopa GX was a great starter for when you went second, as you could begin setting up your board, before searching for the next combo pieces that would help you get off a turn two Black Lance from Umbreon & Darkrai GX. Whether this was a Rare Candy and Hydreigon, or Red & Blue and Silvally/Weavile GX, being able to tutor any two cards from your deck was a powerful effect that mitigated the consistency issues that came with playing a deck with a stage two or two stage ones.

Incineroar GX

Another Pokémon played in dark box, Incineroar GX had two useful colourless attacks which meant that it could be played in other Mew3 variants. In Welder Mewtwo, players going second could Welder two energy and attach a third for a turn one Crushing Punch if the opponent had played down a special energy on their active Pokémon. However, the real appeal with Incineroar was in its Darkest Tornado GX attack, which could deal huge amounts of damage if opponents were careless with the amount of damage they did to Mew3. This attack was particularly helpful with taking out VMAX Pokémon, whose HP was so high that it was sometimes difficult to 2HKO them with the less powerful attacks of GX Pokémon.

Jirachi

Arguably one of the most important Pokémon rotating, Jirachi was a cornerstone of the early game set up for most decks in standard throughout its life. Being able to find an extra ball search card or supporter could be key to ensuring a solid board state on your first turn. Not only that but Jirachi could be used throughout the rest of the game to continue chaining your attackers or finding a winning gust option. Put it simply, Stellar Wish was such a strong ability that nobody thought twice about the fact that it put Jirachi to sleep. Thanks to Escape Board, Scoop Up Net, Switch, and all of the other switching options that Jirachi had access to, you could use multiple Stellar Wishes per turn, and consistently throughout the game.

Bronzor/Bronzong

A rare instance where the basic Pokémon will be missed more than its evolution, Bronzor’s great ability was played with the Heatproof Bronzong that was most famously seen in the winning LucMetal deck in the first players cup. Bronzor was able to evolve into Bronzong on the very first turn of the game, completely walling the new Centiskorch VMAX. Although this surprising strategy didn’t last very long after the tournament, Bronzor still had a brief period of play with the Metal Transfer Bronzong, which will sadly have to go back to regular evolution post rotation.

Cobalion GX

A notorious tech Pokémon, Cobalion GX was used in Henry Brand’s 2019 worlds winning Welder Mew3 deck, as its Iron Rule GX attack, which essentially bought you an entire turn to attack energy, find Pokémon, and attack your opponent. More recently, this GX attack could be seen in ADP Moltres decks from the most recent players cup four, which allowed you an extra turn of powering up you ADP and Galarian Moltres V with its Direflame Wings ability. In between these two appearances, Cobalion GX popped up here and there in various LucMetal and ADP decks to prevent paralysis from ChuChu in Pikarom with its Metal Symbol ability. However, it was most often the case that it was more effective to simply include more switch outs into your deck, hence why Iron Rule GX is what will be most missed when this card rotates.

Latias & Latios GX

On paper, Latias & Latios GX had some of the craziest attacks out of all the TagTeam Pokémon. It could knock out even some TagTeam Pokémon in one hit with Buster Purge, whilst its Aero Unit GX attack could attach a huge amount of energy and prevent all damage done to it during the opponent’s next turn. However, despite these flashy stats, Latios & Latias GX was too hard to set up and too slow to ever see play. The only deck it did feature in was the rouge Alremie VMAX, as a way to reload the board with psychic energy after it had been discarded with G-Max Whisk.

Eevee & Snorlax GX

Although its’ heavy hitting attacks were expensive, EeveeLax could be powered up by Volcanion from Unbroken Bonds, making it an easy include for ReshiZard decks. Dump Truck Press could knockout almost every evolution Pokémon in the game bar stage two GX Pokémon, whilst it could also use the attack in consecutive turns, unlike Flare Strike. Although Dump Truck Press still did decent damage to single prize Pokémon, Megaton Friends could knockout high HP basic Pokemon such as Regigigas, or other TagTeam Pokémon that had already taken damage from something like a High Heat Blast from Volcanion.

Pidgeotto

Although it has since been outshone by Cinccino, Pidgeotto was for multiple formats the best single prize draw option in standard. It was a great partner for baby Blacephalon, which wanted to draw through the deck as quickly as it could to fill the hand with fire energy and energy recovery cards. It comes as no surprise then that the deck this card saw the most play in was Pidgeotto Control, a deck that also wanted to draw through cards as fast as possible so that it could start looping control cards with Oranguru, such as Mars, Jessie & James, Crushing Hammer, and Chip Chip Ice Axe.

Persian

Another control centric card, Persian saw brief play in Pidgeotto Control but was primarily seen in Cinccino Mill, punishing opponents who kept hold of resources in their hand hoping to survive long enough to take their six prizes. This not only got you closer to your goal of milling your opponent, but it also reduced their ability to disrupt your control loop.

Aerodactyl

A card that always required some creative deckbuilding, Aerodactyl seemed to be best paired with Golisopod, as the two Pokémon only required one or both of Twin Energy and Triple Acceleration Energy, meaning that you only ever needed one attachment per turn. While this deck never strayed far from the rouge tiers, it was a very fun archetype that, thanks to Pokémon Research Lab, was easier to set up than other one prize decks, while also being able to hit a lot harder.

Bill’s Analysis

Bill’s Analysis was sadly one of several supporter cards that couldn’t justify its inclusion in decks once the new turn one rules were introduced in Sword and Shield base. Not being able to play a supporter on turn one meant that only the best draw options made it into decks. Whereas before Bill’s Analysis could grab specific combo items, stadiums, or future supporters from the top seven cards of your deck, once Sword and Shield came out this effect was vastly outclassed by Professor’s Research, which drew all seven cards from the top of the deck.

Black Market Prism Star

Played in a variety of dark decks such as Zoroark and Eternatus, Black Market Prism Star could skew the prize trade in your favour by forcing your opponent to take an extra knockout than would usually be necessary. This was particularly effective in Spiritomb decks, where one prize Pokémon could be knocked out without any prizes being taken, allowing for some huge prize trades.

Brock’s Grit

Brock’s Grit was a powerful recovery option that was a great option for control decks. Brock’s Grit could recover your energy cards and Pokémon, whilst Oranguru recovered your disruptive supporters and item cards. Brock’s Grit also saw play with Excadrill, a deck that had to discard cards every turn to attack, so that you weren’t at risk of milling yourself.

Buff Padding

A card designed for tanking archetypes, it made perfect sense for Buff Padding to be paired with Coalossal VMAX, a card with high HP and access Stone Fighting Energy for further damage reduction. Along with cards such as Mallow & Lana, Coalossal could be very difficult for opponents to take a KO if they couldn’t hit hard enough or didn’t have a way to remove the Buff Padding.

Hat Ladies

One for fun rather than competitive play, the Hat Ladies combo had plenty of highlight moments with cards that liked to flood the board with energy to do big damage, such as with Boltund V, or pull off a powerful effect, like with Togepi & Cleffa & Igglybuff GX. Although Morgan was essentially double the power of Powerful Squall, having to find four separate supporters was not quite worth the payoff, especially if you only found two or three energy cards.

Erika’s Hospitality

Although it could only be used in specific instances, Erika’s Hospitality offered that distinct advantage of being a draw supporter that didn’t discard cards or shuffle them back into the deck. This way, you could have a large number of cards in your hand, whilst being able to play as many of them as you wanted afterwards. However, the problem with Erika’s Hospitality was that it was only useful in the mid-late game when your opponent had a close to full board. Trying to draw Erika’s Hospitality at the right time was always tricky, at which point it wasn’t worth including in decks compared to the likes of Marnie or Professor’s Research.

Fairy Charm UB

One of the last Fairy Charms remaining, Fairy Charm UB was mainly used to stop Blacephalon GX and other Ultra Beast Pokémon GX. While not as common as GX Pokémon with abilities, that Fairy Charms were only ever as good as the meta they were played in.

Judge Whistle

Judge Whistle was unusual for an item card in that it offered you raw card draw, which meant you could essentially use it in a 56-card deck. Now, most of the time you would rather have played an item card with a specific use, but in some instances, such as in Green’s Reshizard, it was a way of thinning the deck faster to find you combo pieces to pull off consecutive Welders. In more defensive decks, such as Celesaur, Judge Whistle could also be used to recover a Judge, which could disrupt opponents who had built up a large hand size.

Metal Goggles

A staple in the LucMetal archetype, Metal Goggles was key in tanking damage from opponent’s attacks, while preventing them from placing any damage counters on that Pokémon. Metal Goggles could be the difference between surviving a turn and being knockout out and, in combination with Coating Metal Energy, ensured that there were very few decks in the format that could take a OHKO on a LucMetal or Zacian V.

Nanu

An interesting supporter that was ultimately too slow to use in a lot of dark decks, Nanu saw some success in Zoroark as a way of replacing a bench sitter with a Zorua, and in Spiritomb as a surprise option for when one of your other Pokémon had taken some damage. After the release of Shining Face, Nanu became the core of a very fun rouge deck with amazing rare Yveltal and Axew from Cosmic Eclipse, who couldn’t be gusted up, leaving you free to manually power it up and Nanu into a Yveltal that could instantly knock out any Pokémon. This combo also saw some niche play with Mega Sableye & Tyranitar GX, where you would pull off a full effect Gigafall GX to mill 15 cards from your opponents deck.

Pokémon Communication

It is hard to overstate the significance of this card’s rotation. In a format where the vast majority of decks will be based around Pokémon VMAX, the only ball search we are left with that can tutor out these cards is Evolution Incense. Pokémon Communication could also search out basic Pokémon and was a mainstay in almost every archetype that played evolutions. Being able to swap a Pokemon in your hand that you didn’t want for one in your deck that you did, at any point in the game where you had a Pokémon in hand, was a versatile effect that will be sorely missed.

Viridian Forest

Thanks to its duel effect of discarding and energy tutoring, Viridian Forest saw play in a vairety of decks that wanted to make use of both. Whether it be for Tapu Koko Prism Star in Pikarom, Malamar’s Psychic Recharge, Turbo Strike Solgaleo in Welder Mewtwo or Metal Saucer/Galarian Moltres V in ADP, Viridian Forest was a great way of ensuring that you got an attachment for the turn whilst being able to discard another for your acceleration option. Although this meant that your opponent could take advantage of these great effects as well, Viridian Forest was often played with another stadium so that you could choose the best one for the matchup you were in.

Wondrous Labyrinth Prism Star

Being a stadium that inhibited non-fairy Pokémon, Wondrous Labyrinth was a mainstay in Gardeon throughout the decks time in standard. However, Wondrous Labyrinth did see play in plenty of other archetypes that smartly made use of its effect. The most common of these was in control decks, which would try and remove your energy from the board whilst forcing you to attach extra energy if you wanted to attack. Elsewhere, decks that attacked which more energy than required loved to frustrate opponents with Wondrous Labyrinth and slow them down, with Pikarom and Centskorch VMAX being two of the most effective attackers to use the stadium in this way.

Mr. Mime (Detective Pikachu)

Our final card of part one is actually from the Detective Pikachu mini set, with Mr. Mime being the only (non-promo) card of note that is leaving of standard format. In combination with Scoop Up Net and Jirachi Prism Star, Mr Mime could help manipulate your prize cards to use Jirachi’s Wish upon a Star ability to take an extra prize card for every KO. Thanks to Zacian V’s Brave Blade, you only needed to knockout two two-prize Pokémon to win the game. With Dream Ball and Treasure Energy from Evolving Skies both requiring interaction with prize cards, there could have yet been another chance for Mr. Mime if it was staying around for longer.

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