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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day



Puzzle of Time

- XY BREAKpoint

Date Reviewed:
Jan. 16, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.13
Expanded: 3.25
Limited: 4.50

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Don't worry, this is like the last couple of cards we've got from the BIG LIST OF THE TOP 2016 cards and then we can move on. 

Puzzle of Time has been an interesting card since its release. Its design lends itself to running the card at max copies in order to benefit the most from it, but you can only really play it at its full potential when you've got two copies. Having 1 copy lets you take a look at what's coming up from the top 3 cards of your deck and prepare yourself for the road ahead while playing 2 copies at the same time lets your retrieve whatever you need from your discard pile and puts it back into your hand. 

It's got a great effect in it, but you really have to run 4 copies to get the most out of it. There are a few decks that do benefit from its second effect though (because let's face it, no one's gonna run a lesser Pokedex when they don't even run the original); one that comes to mind is Greninja BREAK, who can use the cards to cycle back Water Energies, although it might just be worth it to run 4 more Water Energy. Night March actually ran Puzzle of Time to cycle back the limited amounts of DCE that it ran to power its main attackers, though it could just as easily bring them back too. 

That all being said, depending on your deck's particular needs, Puzzle of Time isn't a necessary card. And if it's not something you'd run at 4 copies in your deck, then there's really no need to run it at all; running 3 copies is just an odd combination, and running it at 1-2 copies just means it won't come up as often as a pair, making it less consistent. This is the sort of situation that has nudged Puzzle of Time out of many decks, since it's guaranteed to take up 4 slots out of a limited 60-slot deck. 

Never mind you'd never want them to get Prize'd. 


Standard: 3/5 (my initial review of this card pretty much sums up my main point about it) 

Expanded: 3/5 (it's either you're running the 4 copies you need or you're not running it, and competitively, it seems people don't think they need to run all 4)

Limited: 4/5 (at least not unless there's an absolutely vital resource that's needed like in Night March) 

Arora Notealus: Puzzle of Time is by no means a bad card, but it could be made into more of a must-run if it had been able to be played without the need for a second copy and just given the option between looking at the top cards or retrieving something from the discard. Obviously I'd tone it down to just grabbing 1 card, maybe even limiting the type of card it could be from the discard pile like say making it a Pokemon or an Energy card, but then it might have seen even less play. Who knows, it's something to tinker with, and at the very least the concept was proven to be a necessity within some decks. 

Next Time: Somebody shows up with this bad attitude, and you're like, "WHAAAAAAAAAAAA"


Our 12th place finisher, the card that not only came close to making the actual top 10 but also just misses being “the best of the rest”, is Puzzle of Time (XY: BREAKpoint 109/122).  You can read our original reviews of it here, complete with a strained Yu-Gi-Oh joke on my part.  It was our fifth place pick for its expansion, and I still think it ought to have ranked a bit higher.  Let us review the basics of this card, and then we’ll discuss how it did in 2016, and its prospects for 2017. 

Puzzle of Time is an Item card that allows you to play two copies at once.  If you play only one copy, you get the first effect listed in the bullet points of the card text while the result of playing two copies is the second effect.  Looking at the top three cards of your deck (with the option to rearrange them) is the first effect; a nerfed Pokédex.  The second effect is much more potent, adding two cards from your discard pile directly back to your hand, no restrictions!  You may only have up to four copies of Puzzle of Time in your deck, so even if none are Prized, discarded, or blocked (by Item lock), you’ll only get to use the second effect twice, unless you combine them with an Item recycling effect such as the “Junk Hunt” attack found on Sableye (BW: Dark Explorers 62/108).  Puzzle of Time cannot target itself, but only because the two copies being used are not in the discard pile until after the effect resolves; if a third copy (and even a fourth) is already there, you can indeed retrieve them.  I believe the rules of Pokémon prevent you using such a tactic to stall (same reason Energy or damage counter moving effects cannot be used ad infinitum), so using two copies to get two more copies from the discard pile will only matter if some effect you want to trigger would activate in response to the play.  If one Puzzle of Time card hits the discard pile prematurely, snagging it back can make sense, though, as you still come out one card ahead in the long run. 

So what made Puzzle of Time so good?  Lysandre’s Trump Card was banned, which affected us in two ways.  Some strategies that needed key elements - like Special Energy - to be recyclable had few other places to turn than Puzzle of Time.  Other strategies were strengthened because you could not force your opponent to recycle his or her discard pile; besides Night March and Vespiquen (XY: Ancient Origins 10/98) with their discard pile dependent attacks, you also had supporting effects like VS Seeker or the Energy acceleration provided by Bronzong (XY: Black Star Promos XY21; XY: Phantom Forces 61/119).  Just about any deck could benefit from Puzzle of Time; while Pokémon and basic Energy cards are relatively easy to reclaim from the discard pile, Trainers and Special energy aren’t and while some decks can get by without Special Energy cards, all make good use of Trainers.  There were alternatives to Puzzle of Time that predate it; Milotic (XY: Primal Clash 44/160) adds a single card from your discard pile to your hand via its “Sparkling Ripples” Ability when you Evolve something into it from hand.  That is a Stage 1 which Evolves from a 30 HP Basic (every Feebas printed has 30 HP), and Abilities are about as easy to block as Items, so you can see why Puzzle of Time would supplant it even in the face of potent Item locking decks.  Decks like Night March got to the point where they ran on just four Double Colorless Energy and relied upon Puzzle of Time to recycle them; Puzzle of Time wasn’t for every deck but it definitely made its mark on the competitive scene. 

Then we got Special Charge; this fellow Item shuffles two Special Energy cards from your discard pile to your deck.  While you’ll need to draw into or search them out afterward, and you can’t get back anything else, many of the major decks running Puzzle of Time could replace at least two cards (sometimes upwards of four) with a single card.  Sometimes the two were even used together for the same good reason some decks still use Puzzle of Time; there are other cards you want back from the discard pile.  Getting other discard reclamation cards like Special Charge just further increased their yield, plus you have stuff like Stadium cards which lack a better, generic recycling option. By late 2016 and into 2017, Puzzle of Time is down to niche usage, being useful in general (again just about any deck can benefit from it), but with no stand out deck that even kind of has to run it in either Expanded or Standard play.  Something I did not focus on was the first effect, which actually is pretty good; there are many simple combos such as with Acro Bike that can make manipulating the top three cards of your deck a profitable action, but we recently got Pokédex back for Standard play, so decks that really focus on such a thing have a better option.  Puzzle of Time is a must run for Limited play; even if you only have one copy that effect is handy here, and if you do get multiples and can pull off the second effect, even better.  This might mean more if Limited play was seen more often in Pokémon; the only regular example in this game is the Pre-release, and those are of course long gone by now. 


Standard: 3.25/5 

Expanded: 3.5/5 

Limited: 5/5 

Summary: Puzzle of Time was really important to several top decks prior to Special Charge because recycling Special Energy cards was important to those top decks.  Both effects now have alternatives that can do the job about as well or better, at least adjusted for actual deck needs.  Nothing else snags any two cards from the discard pile, but needing two copies of Puzzle of Time to play at the exact same time to do it means most decks will settle for a slightly slower but more reliable alternative, like using Special Charge to get back Special Energy cards.  It is better in Expanded, where a few decks can exploit it well; besides Sableye you have any deck spamming its Ace Spec card.  Which brings us to a final recommendation of remembering this card; a carelessly designed gimmick, or just a really important Stadium card, and Puzzle of Time could become big again. 

Puzzle of Time received five voting points, taking 9th place on my own personal top 10 and 8th on the list of another reviewer.  I was tempted to treat this and Special Charge as a single entry, given the similarity in their usage.  Special Charge received six voting points, so together they would have had 11, enough for 6th place.  As is, Puzzle of Time tied with last Friday’s Pokémon Ranger.  Both were one point away from joining the three-way-tie we had had in points for the 9th, 10th, and 11th place.  Actually about that 11th place card…

Zach Carmichael

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