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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day


Top 10 Cards Lost to Set Rotation

#5 - Trainer's Mail

- Ancient Origins

Date Reviewed:
August 7, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

See Below

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Trainers’ Mail (Roaring Skies, 92/108) debuted in the Roaring Skies expansion set and has woven itself into the current meta as an essential part of the “speed up the game” strategy that many players (yours truly included) have willingly adopted over the past couple of years.  Trainers’ Mail allows you to look at the top four cards in your deck and grab any Trainer card other than Trainers’ Mail and put it in your hand.

I didn’t like this card much until I started playing Vileplume (Ancient Origins, 3/98) a lot.  As I mentioned the other day, like many others, I hopped on the Lurantis GX (Sun & Moon, 15/149) lock train early on, and I quickly realized the necessity of Trainers’ Mail to achieve that Item lock strategy.

Trainers’ Mail involves a sacrifice – obviously, for every Trainers’ Mail you put in your deck, that’s one less slot available for something else.  That means if you run Trainers’ Mail, you have to take out a switching card or a hammer or a tool card or something else that could greatly benefit you in the right situation.  It means you’re putting all your chips in and going all out for a single strategy (in this case Item lock, but it could facilitate other strategies as well – for example, Trainers’ Mail was common in Vespiquen (Ancient Origins, 10/98) decks as well to help get Pokemon in the discard more quickly).  You’re sacrificing something that could potentially help you win later in the game for something to help you achieve a strategy more quickly earlier in the game.  I normally don’t favor that kind of trade off, but that speaks to the dominance of Item lock when a player managed to get it established early in the game.

I had Trainers’ Mail as 16th place on my list.  The only reason I didn’t put it in the top ten: Garbodor (Guardians Rising, 51/145).  Everyone has reduced the number of Items they carry in their decks, and Trainers’ Mail has suffered more than any card because of this.  Top 8 decks since GUR that run Trainers’ Mail:

ˇ         Indy – 2nd (3), 4th (4)

ˇ         Madison – 5th (3)

ˇ         Birmingham – 1st (3)

ˇ         Seattle – None

Four decks out of 32.  In the tournament immediately before Garb came out (Toronto, Expanded), three decks out of the top eight ran Trainers’ Mail.  The last Standard tournament pre­-GUR (Virginia): seven out of eight decks ran Trainers’ Mail. 

It’s not that Trainers’ Mail just became a bad card overnight.  It just basically became Trashalanche fuel.  Trainers’ Mail didn’t change – the meta we live in changed and made it very difficult to play it.


Standard: 2 out of 5


If you don’t care about whether or not Garbodor one shots you, then by all means keep playing Trainers’ Mail and as many other items as you want.  And I don’t mean that as a bad thing – there are plenty of decks with low HP feature Pokemon or Pokemon that are Psychic weak that just don’t give a rip about Trashalanche and still run tons of items.  However, most decks have had to cut down on the number of Items, and Trainers’ Mail was the first to get dropped.


The bottom of the top half of our countdown is… Trainers’ Mail (XY: Roaring Skies 92/108; XY: Ancient Origins 100/98)!  This Trainer-Item allows you to look at the top four cards of your deck, then add any one Trainer card you find there to your hand other than another copy of Trainers’ Mail.  Oh, you’ve got to reveal that Trainer to your opponent and the other cards you see are shuffled back into your deck, naturally.  Searching out Trainers isn’t unique to Trainers’ Mail, but the other options are usually costly, such as requiring you run a particular Pokémon and attack with it or using up your Supporter for the turn and/or are restricted to a particular class or subclass of Trainer like only Item cards, only Supporters, etc.  While you cannot get another copy of Trainers’ Mail, every other Trainer is fair game, and without using up your Stadium or Supporter play for the turn.  Speaking of Supporters, there are not a lot of search options that hit them, and those that do usually snag anything, or any Trainer. 

There are probably several cards even I’ve forgotten about to which Trainers’ Mail is comparable but the two sticking in my head are Random Receiver and Skyla.  Both are Trainer cards as well, with Random Receiver also being an Item while Skyla is a Supporter, but of course, it is the effects that concern us, and the roles they’ve played because of them.  Random Receiver reveals cards from the top of your deck (to both players) until you reveal a Supporter, at which point it is added to your hand and the other revealed cards are shuffled back into your deck.  Skyla simple allows you to add any one Trainer card from your deck to your hand.  Both of these enjoyed a time as, if not actual staples, then approaching loose or near staple status.  While there will be times when you shouldn’t bother using your allowed Supporter for the turn, even (though quite rare) when you don’t want one in hand, you almost always want an out to get one.  VS Seeker often supplies this now, but Random Receiver once filled this role (just not nearly as well).  Skyla, on the other hand, was only used to fetch a Supporter as a desperation play, but she could grab any Trainer, and thus streamlined general setup, deck/discard/field maintenance, and TecH usage. 

Which brings us back to Trainers’ Mail.  This should not be your primary search card; its range is too small and it can only target one of the three core classes of cards in the TCG.  Like the above two, however, it serves as a fantastic supplement to the usual powerhouses like N, Professor Sycamore, and Ultra Ball.  Typical decks are running about half Trainer, so early game, you might not get what you want, but odds are good you’ll get at least something.  Late game, your deck may be quite low on Trainers; besides having used up many Trainers, most effects that return cards from the discard pile to your deck are focused on Pokémon and/or Energy.  However, Trainers’ Mail may become useful for another reason; the major draw cards are usually a bad idea at this point in the game!  N may only draw one or two cards and/or possibly while giving your struggling opponent a much-needed hand refresh at the same time.  Professor Sycamore might force you to win that turn or risk decking out, or at least put you on the road to decking out.  Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108) is almost always an easy target for a Lysandre to OHKO combo, but by this point, your opponent may only need one or two Prizes.  Etc.  Mid-game, Trainers’ Mail is still useful, splitting the difference between the pros and cons of early and late game usage.  Trainers’ Mail wasn’t always maxed out in most decks, but many enjoyed having at least a few to help their decks flow. 

Note the past tense; after the Sun & Moon expansion was fully incorporated into competitive play, Decidueye-GX/Vileplume (XY: Ancient Origins 3/98) decks took over, and we were reminded why some of us were skittish of running Trainers’ Mail back when it first released and different Item-locking decks were big: like all other Item cards, Trainers’ Mail becomes dead weight at that point.  At a glance, this seems like a non-issue; as I just said, all Item cards suffer from this same issue, so why would it be worse for Trainers’ Mail?  I believe this is because Trainers’ Mail was often filling slots that would have gone to a draw/search Supporter.  Decidueye-GX/Vileplume is no longer the deck to beat, but things still aren’t looking as good for Trainers’ Mail as they once were.  Besides the fact that Decidueye-GX/Vileplume actually enjoys using Trainers’ Mail itself to improve the odds of a T1/T2 setup (before locking down Items), the decks that helped dethrone it often ran Garbodor (SM: Guardians Rising 51/145).  Its “Trashalanche” attack does 20 damage times the number of Item cards in the opponent’s discard pile for just [P], and if you didn’t need me to remind you of that, then you also probably don’t need me to remind you that makes supplemental Items like Trainers’ Mail more help for your opponent than yourself.  Tapu Lele-GX also made a difference, as it was a decent backup attacker that easily splashed into decks and, oh yeah, its Ability allows you to search your deck for a Supporter and add it to your hand when you Bench it.  That is only one of the three things Trainers’ Mail might snag, but it is the one that drives most decks and Tapu Lele-GX all but guarantees the exact Supporter you want. 

So, as of right now, only a few competitive decks still run Trainers’ Mail; some people think none do, but you have those decks that simply need it to work, and do enough other stuff that they remain competitive or they just don’t need to sweet Garbodor because they are so big or small that a few more Items don’t change the turn count for KO’s.  Once rotation happens, if Trainers’ Mail were reprinted, it would still have to deal with Trashalanche but it no longer has to worry about T1 Item lock from anything.  T2 is a possibility, but the exact efficacy of Noivern-GX is something about which I can only speculate.  So, just maybe, it would regain a little of its lost popularity because it wouldn’t be quite so risky.  As always, it is highly unlikely you’re able to enjoy a Limited Format event featuring packs from XY: Roaring Skies and/or XY: Ancient Origins, but if that should happen, this is a primo pull you’ll want to run.  Oh, and I know it shows up in at least one Theme Deck (“Storm Rider”), so it gets a score for the Theme Format 


Standard: 3.35/5 (Soon to be N/A) 

Expanded: 3.25/5 

Limited: 5/5 

Theme: 5/5 


Trainers’ Mail is a potent card, but it is another one that is past its prime.  Its decline is not because something better has replaced it, but because enough anti-Item effects have turned it into a liability in those matchups.  Were a surprise reprint to restore its legality post-September 1st, it might bounce back a bit, as one form of Item-lock (Vileplume) gives is replaced by another (Noivern-GX) that doesn’t look quite as potent, but Garbodor and its Trashalanche will still be here.  Decks focused on fast setups that either provide a measure of protection or produce expendable attackers should still see if Trainers’ Mail provides greater reliability, or merely uses up deck space better occupied by something else. 


Trainers’ Mail took fifth place with 20 voting points, appearing on three out of five of our individual top 10s.  It scored four more voting points than Friday’s sixth place Lysandre, while it finished six voting points behind tomorrow’s fourth place finisher.  I had this as my third place pick, but I’ve since changed my mind.  This time, the reversal is due to seeing how few competitive decks are still running Trainers’ Mail at all, let alone with heavy counts.  While its past success still matters, that means it probably should have clocked in a bit lower on my list.  Fifth place seems pretty good to me, in the end.


Coming in at number 5 is Trainer’s Mail from XY Roaring Skies.  It took 4th place in the top 10 cards of XY Roaring Skies and 2nd place in the top 10 cards of 2015.  It lets you look at the top 4 cards of your deck and it is optional to find a Trainer card from those four cards (excluding Trainer’s Mail) and put that onto your hand.  Alongside Bicycle, Roller Skates, and Acro Bike, Trainer’s Mail is one of the few item cards that tries to burn through your deck to quickly get what you need for that turn.  Also, if these Trainer cards weren’t what you’re looking for, you can opt not to pick any and just shuffle your deck.


Losing Trainer’s Mail may hurt, but I guess that slightly slows down the game since players can’t dig deeper without using Professor Sycamore or Kukui.  Trainer’s Mail doesn’t benefit much to a particular type matchup; it’s just maintains solid general usage because you are searching stuff from your deck, therefore improving consistency.  It could lead to a type specific support if you actually find it.




Standard: 4.3/5 (Grab a card and go.)


Expanded: 4.6/5 (Same here, with even more Trainer options in Expanded.)


Limited: 5/5 (Draw and/or search is precious here.)


Notes:  This was my number three pick on my personal top 10 list.


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