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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Professor Birch's Observations

- Primal Clash

Date Reviewed:
April 7, 2015

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.13
Expanded: 3.13
Limited: 4.75

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being horrible.  3 ... average.  5 is awesome.

Back to the main COTD Page


aroramage

Ah yes, Professor Birch, the most hippie of the professors in Pokemon. Seriously, dude wears sandals and shorts - no professor wears sandals and shorts! But that's okay, cause his big innovation in the world of Pokemon research is the actual fieldwork, so it makes sense for him to be wearing that stuff. What DOESN'T make sense is why he doesn't have a Pokemon to protect himself from other wild Pokemon at the opening of RSE/ORAS. COME ON, MAN!

For a period of time, Professor Birch hung out in the TCG as one of Gen III's first Supporter cards (huh, looking back, apparently I got out of Pokemon TCG just before they introduced Supporters...weird). Back then, he was "draw until you've got 6 cards" guy, not a bad gig to be apart of honestly. We've seen a lot more recent examples of "draw until you've got X cards" Supporters, but they've usually been shafted in favor of Sycaper, N, Colress, etc. - you know, cards that can draw you LOTS of cards. 

So here we have Professor Birch taking notes on this trend and working to stylize himself to be in with the "hip" crowd. And he tries (oh my god, does he try)! He came up with an...interesting solution. First, he decides that instead of being a negative Nancy like Sycaper and Oak were, he'd rather send the cards in your hand back to your deck...hm. Could be useful set-up for other cards, or else your hand is just not that great. But then here's the kicker: you get to flip a coin. Heads, you draw 7 cards. Tails, you draw 4 cards. 

Now before we dismiss Birch right off the bat, keep in mind he acts like another copy of Sycaper/Oak half of the time. How exactly? Well let's say you don't have any cards in your hand other than Professor Birch's Observations. Suddenly it doesn't matter what you flip - you've just plussed! Either by +6 (in the case of heads) or +3 (in the case of tails) - and that's already really good! So in such a scenario, he's a pretty good copy of Sycaper...half the time. 

The thing with shuffling your hand into your deck is a bit of a mixed bag, though, seeing as you've got the potential to just draw back the card you sent to the deck. I'd say you'd want to use it whenever you've got 4 or less cards in hand (including Observations) - that way you don't run the risk of drawing into so many of the same cards while at the same time you plus out of your current situation. 

Sure, he's no Sycaper, but Birch does what he can! 

Rating 

Standard: 3/5 (timing is everything with this card, and hey, maybe there are some combos you can set-up by returning stuff to the deck - Battle Compressor anyone?) 

Expanded: 3/5 (I imagine he'll do about the same here) 

Limited: 4.5/5 (draw power is always good, though the slower format may leave you with more cards in hand, and the coin flip can't always be reliant) 

Arora Notealus: Man, he is just raring to go out and do some field work! Gotta get that notepad, that book bag, just gotta get going going going! 

Next Time: Deep in the depths of the ocean, a clam opens its shell to reveal-


Otaku

This Tuesday we are looking at something that I wish we had covered earlier.  We’ve mentioned Professor Birch’s Observations (XY: Primal Clash 134/160, 159/160) in passing, but today we’re giving it a proper review.  This is a new Supporter and in general players have been longing for another great draw Supporter while non-draw Supporters have slowly been making inroads due two

  • VS Seeker and/or Lysandre’s Trump Card allowing lower counts to be used multiple times in a single game
  • Seismitoad-EX being so popular that decks need to assign jobs to Supporters that were once the domain of more efficient Items

The main hurdle is simple; the combination of overly strong Pokémon, Trainers and sometimes even Energy makes it very hard to create useful cards that are not themselves too powerful, and I think our main draw Supporters emphasize this.  In a slower format Professor Juniper and Professor Sycamore* would be balanced out because you’d have a hard time playing out your hand or recovering the cards you discarded… but obviously we have a format where there are a lot of great cards that are easy to play out and/or have a discard cost so that otherwise “dead” cards in hand have a purpose.  Coupled with big, Basic Pokémon so that you don’t have to deal with (at least as many) “pesky” Evolution cards that can’t be played out of order.  The other top draw Supporter is N, additionally potent due to how Prize cards are a poor measure of the actual game state (until you hit the “No Prizes” point), the initial six cards drawn are usually worth the alternative of running something far weaker (even though you’re risking helping your opponent) and because disruption ends up being such a potent thing (especially late game when even if you’re drawing less, it can be mitigated by the circumstances). 

While that lecture might seem a bit superfluous, it is important in understanding why card effects that have appeared before (Shauna is just Professor Oak’s Research with a new name and art) and performed at least adequately as well as cards that are actually superior versions of what was once available, like Cheren and Tierno seeing no serious competitive play despite being better versions of TV Reporter, a one time staple even in decks that didn’t like the discard effect of TV Reporter.  We actually do have a few Ability or attack based draw effects that are on par with those of the past, but the nature of the format means only those that can escalate the abuse see play (and so far even that is only until the format can adjust to render them insufficient).  So… is Professor Birch’s Observations another Supporter that is just bad to begin with, another that might be good but is inadequate or only just competitive enough to see some play until something better comes along, or have we at last gotten a “third pillar” for our deck building, kind of like we had when Skyla was a more common play? 

Professor Birch’s Observations has you shuffle your hand into your deck and flip a coin: if the result is “heads” you get to draw eight cards while if the result is “tails” you draw four cards.  This means it is Shauna with one card wagered for a two-to-one return.  This… is another Supporter that is adequate enough to see some serious use, but after you’re running as many copies of N and Professor Juniper/Professor Sycamore as you can make room for in your deck… plus I think after one requisite Colress as well.  Decks that have reason enough to run other Supporters, such as Fighting decks running Korrina likely won’t have the room, especially after we add in a Lysandre or two (and as I prefer, one Lysandre’s Trump Card).  Plus if the deck is good at filling its own Bench, then a second Colress is a better choice. 

You may be wondering why I expect a Supporter to see some even a little successful competitive play when I just compared to Shauna... a card that received good (but not great) scores in its CotD but doesn’t see a lot of competitive usage.  Well, I was one of the players expecting Colress (another Supporter we’ve already reviewed twice) to be about as good as it turned out.  Colress is also variable, providing as much as zero draw (if neither player has a Bench) to a massive 10 cards worth of draw (for two full Benches).  In this case it helps to look at things relative to each other; Colress mostly only hits its low first turn and while it isn’t guaranteed to reach its high, much of the time players have incentive to at least get four Basics on their Bench (leaving a slot open in case they need to Bench something specific in answer to the opponent)... but with Professor Birch’s Observations there is always a 50% chance of a four cards (which is only two less than N draws before you take any Prizes) and a robust seven cards… and if gives you another option that spares you the choice of discarding important cards or helping your opponent draw a new hand.  You don’t get the potential payout offered by Colress but neither do you take as large a risk while simultaneously getting almost as reliably an amount of draw as provided by Shauna… and there are always even odds of getting either result, for better or worse. 

Ratings 

Standard: 3.25/5 - A decent fit in most decks but usually not the optimal choice.  Where it does fit, it probably only needs to be run as as single or double but that doesn’t make it bad. 

Expanded: 3.25/5 - As above; while there is a bit more competition for Supporters, a good deal that might have rotated out are still legal through reprints and the few that were actually lost weren’t very important. 

Limited: 5/5 - This is draw power.  Limited.  You run it if you pull it.  If you want to get technical you can stop past a certain amount of copies but the odds of pulling “too many” are so low (and universal a concern) even I am not picky enough to dock fractional points for it. 

Summary: Professor Birch’s Observations is a welcome addition to the card pool, but by the same note shouldn’t be mistaken as being some new staple or near staple.  You don’t run this instead of any Professor Juniper (or Professor Sycamore) or N.  If your deck significantly clashes with one of those, then you might run it in place of just a single copy (so three of those, one Professor Birch’s Observation).  If your deck deck doesn’t like Colress, you might run this instead, but most decks shouldn’t need more than two Colress.  In all cases, this may also be crowded out by other more important and less general (if only slightly) Supporters like Korrina or Skyla.  What earns it its score is that it is that (especially with respect to other draw Supporters) it at worst is “not as good” as the next best choice instead of actually being “bad” or even “significantly underpowered”.** 

*Again I’ve got to ask why the powers-that-be didn’t just issue an errata so that this was a single card named “Professor” so that we didn’t need a special game rule about not running the two together and so that we could have enjoyed awesome alternate art featuring any Professor from fiction.  No, that doesn’t preclude today’s card from existing, though it might have followed suit by being “Professor’s Observations” and again allowing someone to fill their deck with cards featuring their favorite Professor.  Given the recently revealed Gym Badge promo (where it makes more sense for them to have different effects) are eight functionally identical cards but each has its own art featuring the different Hoenn region Gym Leader’s and their respective badge. 

**For now, anyway; XY: Roaring Skies may shake things up by offering some alternatives/providing combos that make Colress better than it currently is but before the year it out, rotation will likely throw everything out of whack again.


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