Super Trainer Showdown Analysis - by DRG3

Hi There Once Again Fellow Pojoers

Before I begin, I would like to point out that this article is probably being sent to the wrong place, as I think it would be better suited to your Featured Articles section. Nevertheless, as there is no address given for this section, I just sent it to the TCG Strategies section because, after all, it does contain some tips and strategies.

Well, it has been almost a month since I last wrote an article, as I was waiting for something that I felt like offering my opinion on. Yesterday I found that something. It was just like any other day, I logged onto the Pojo chatroom, and was quietly going about my business when someone suggested that I go and look at a post on the WOTC Message Board. Well, I thought, so WOTC have finally decided upon the format for the STS competition. I read the article, and just sat there, dumbfounded. I read it again. Was that right? Did I really just read what I thought I did? After reading the post a third time, I realized that I had unfortunately got it right. For those of you who are not aware of the format, here it is in brief:

The sets that can be used are:

           Team Rocket Expansion

           Gym Heroes Expansion

           Gym Challenge Expansion

           Neo Genesis Expansion

            American Promos

The only other important item is that Sneasel has been banned

So, having read this post, I was somehow transported back in time to when something called ‘Prop15/3’ was invented. Somehow, it seemed very familiar. WOTC are given a wide choice of available formats, yet they unfailingly seem to choose the one which will cause the most controversy and will upset the most people and players.

Well, after looking at my Professor Oak card and mindlessly asking myself why for a few hours, I started thinking rationally. Surely there must be a reason for this, I mean WOTC is a big, hugely popular organization and it must have taken them a long time to come up with this format. Right? Well, I sat down and had a long think (trust me folks, I don’t do that very often). I imagined that a conversation I might have with a WOTC employee might look something like this:

WOTC “Hi there DRG3, you’re looking nice today”

DRG3 “I know, I can’t help it”

DRG3 “I see the format for the upcoming STS competition has been released”

WOTC “Yes, we wanted to choose a format that would be different. We have removed the older sets from this environment in order to generate new deck styles and deck ideas for play. A large enough base of cards has been included to allow players to build decks without limiting the types of viable Pokemon, or removing the key cards necessary to play decks with multiple Pokemon types.

DRG3 “I see......so you are going to increase variety by effectively cutting out 30% of the available card pool?”

WOTC “Errr.....well we thought that we could encourage new decks to be played by restricting the cards that are overused in a US Standard environment”

DRG3 “Well that sounds fair enough. I think it will be an interesting experiment taking Jungle and Fossil out of the playing arena. But why Base Set as well?”

WOTC “It seems that our top players all seem to play similar types of decks using cards from the Base Set such as Electabuzz, Computer Search, Professor Oak and Pluspower”

DRG3 “So you’re telling me that all my hard-earned cash I spent buying cards from these sets is wasted?”

WOTC “No, not entirely. You can still use these cards in regular tournament play, just not in the STS”

DRG3 “Hmm......what about those players who spent up bigtime on those sets and have few or no cards from the newer expansions? How can you accommodate them”

WOTC “Well.......errrr.......I suppose they can trade their older cards for ones from the new expansion”

DRG3 “Who would be stupid enough to trade for cards they can’t use in a big competition like the STS?”

WOTC “Some people are pretty rich, you know. They can afford to trade those spare rares for ones they don’t really need”

DRG3 “Well at least I agree with one part of these rules. Banning Sneasel was a good idea after you also banned Ditto, Double Colourless Energy and Energy Removal, because otherwise it would be too powerful”

WOTC “Thanks”

DRG3 “But why then, have you allowed Slowking and Dark Vileplume to remain, when the best way to counter them, Muk, is banned?”

WOTC “Ummm.......well.......we can’t ban everything........I guess”

DRG3 “Don’t you think that banning many of the best card drawing engines will turn the game into a bit of a lottery, where whoever gets the best starting hand wins?”

WOTC “Well........no. We have left in a lot of card drawing options. There is Professor Elm, Erika, Blaine’s Quizzes, Mary, Sabrina’s Gaze, Secret Mission and of course TR Psyduck”

DRG3 “Well.......that does sound like a lot left, but none of them are quite the same as Computer Search, are they?”

WOTC “Well, players will have to play without the cards they usually use. That is what we are trying to achieve here”

DRG3 “Are you trying to encourage more evolution decks with this format?”

WOTC “Definitely. With no Energy Removal or Super Energy Removal, evolution decks will get a good chance, where before they were being overshadowed by big basic pokemon in Haymaker style decks”

DRG3 “How is banning Pokemon Breeder and Pokemon Trader helping evolution decks?”

WOTC “Ummmm.......well........”

DRG3 “In banning Gust of Wind, Computer Search, Double Colorless Energy, Scoop Up, Item Finder, and most of all Professor Oak and Energy Removal cards, haven’t you just completely destroyed the basis and foundation of most DCI level decks?”

WOTC “These cards have substitutes. Rocket’s Secret Experiment could replace Computer Search, and Golduck has an attack that removes ener.......errrr........we banned that. Umm........good players should be able to build decks without relying on a select few cards”

DRG3 “I think that this format will further reduce the amount of playable decks at the highest level. Aren’t you going to create new super-powered decks by banning the most effective methods of stopping them?”

WOTC “Not at all. We believe that there will be greater variety because more evolution decks will be played, and the reliance on trainer cards will decrease, giving both players a better chance”

DRG3 “How do both players get a chance when one player puts their opponent’s Cleffa under a Murkrow/Slowking/Dark Plume lock with no way of escaping because Switch, Scoop Up and Gust of Wind are banned?”

WOTC “Well, then don’t play Cleffa”

DRG3 “But without Cleffa, card drawing power hardly exists, most decks need Cleffa to replenish their hands, and provide protection against

The Rocket’s Trap”

WOTC “Sorry, but this isn’t a strategy session. Any more questions?”

DRG3 “Yes, how do you think the players will react to this new format?”

WOTC “I have no doubt that they will love it and embrace it like they did the hugely popular Prop15/3 format last year”

DRG3 “Ummm..........yeah........*gives funny look*........well, thanks for clearing a few things up......I think. See ya round”

WOTC “Always a pleasure DRG3, always a pleasure”

There you have it. Now let’s take a closer look at this new format. What are the most important differences between this format and US Standard? How can good players adjust to it? What decks are going to be popular?

As you will see, I am opposed to this format for many reasons, however I must first of all point out the advantages of removing 3 whole sets of cards. Remember that all of the following is once again, in my opinion.

No Haymaker - The oldest, most popular deck throughout several sets, has been taken apart with the removal of Sneasel, Electabuzz, Scyther, Ditto, and most of the Base Set trainers. This deck will no longer be able to cut it with many other decktypes, because the speed it had is now lost.

No Pluspower - Many will disagree with me here, but I must say that I hate this card, and couldn’t be happier to see it banned. It encourages first turn knockouts, and that is one thing I despise.

More Evolution - It is true. Evolution will be used more, however I fear much of it may come in the form of Slowking and Dark Vileplume. Other evolution decks will be used, although they might not be able to compete without the use of trainers which the above decktypes shut down. I think we can expect more variation, although I the top decks at the STS may again be relatively similar. Nevertheless, evolution WILL play a bigger part, something which Prop15/3 failed to achieve.

No Sneasel - Some of you will disagree here. I think Sneasel was seeing too much play anyway in US Standard, but with the best ways of beating it gone (Removals, Ditto, Double Colourless) it would become nightmarish when combined with Slowking/Dark Vile. After the first few rules, WOTC had no choice but to ban this card.

Ok, that’s enough good points. I already said that I don’t like this format, and I am sure many of you will agree - here’s why I think it sucks:

No Energy Removal - let me explain why this is so wrong. Ok, in today’s playing environment, at the highest level, I see two basic types of decks. Hand manipulation (includes Slowking/Dark Vile, Trap/RSA, Lass/Cleffa) and Energy manipulation decks (Energy Removals and Super Energy Removals). My point is, nearly all good decks contain at least some of the above. You are either desperately trying to get rid of your opponent’s energies, or desperately trying to dispose of their hand, usually in an attempt to protect your own energies. Now I don’t want a million e-mails explaining how your Rhyhorn deck is 34-6, because this is a generalization. Most good decks (not every single one) WILL contain some of the above ‘weapon’ cards simply because it allows them more control over the game. However, I am sure that there are quite a few of you out there who can play a pretty good deck without these cards. Anyway, back to my point. Now out of these two deck types, I see one dominating again and again. The thing is, removals can’t cut it against a first turn Lass and then Eeeeeeek. So more and more frequently, hand manipulation is winning. Even I, the great opposer of hand manipulation, have given up with my Clefable/Removal deck and gone for something more consistent. So you see, now that WOTC have removed removals from the game, they have inadvertently created a horrible situation. Energy Removals are a fundamental part of the game, and have been since it was fist released. In this format, players can attach their energies fearlessly, knowing that they are inevitably safe from removal, unless their oponent happens to have a Blaine’s Charmander, Misty’s Poliwhirl or Sabrina’s Venonat deck. So hand manipulation decks will completely take over, and having no removals leads to the following problem:

Some Pokemon Are Too Powerful - Consider a Steelix with 4 Metal Energies on it. Sound like fun? Wishing you had that nice SER in your hand? Feeling a little bad that your Rocket’s Zapdos can only do 30 damage, and does 30 to itself? You should be. Steelix can become A WALL with no removals, being impossible to take out unless you can poison it or happen to use a big hitting fire pokemon. Murkrow is another problem, promising to lock little baby or psychic pokemon down, leaving the opponent completely helpless, unable to remove the energy or retreat. The problem is, once your opponent gets a big-hitting pokemon out, there is no stopping it. You cannot save yourself a few turns by removing energies, you are stranded, taking 60 or more damage a turn while you try to build up something on your turn.

Card Drawing - So we got Elm. Yay. We also have Mary, Erika, Sabrina’s Gaze, Secret Mission and Blaine’s Quizzes. But no Computer Search and no Oak. This means that in a deck the maximum Oaks/Elms you can have and use is 4, because there are no Item Finders. I mean, I am now accustomed to at least 3 of both Elm and Oak in my decks, but with this format, you are going to be relying heavily on Cleffa to get the cards you need. Blaine’s Quiz #2 gives you a 2/3 chance of drawing 2, while Mary is useful, and Erika and Sabrina’s Gaze help your opponent as well. I think out of the remainder, Secret Mission is the best choice, because you can play trainer cards after it, and look at your opponent’s hand as well. At least decking may not be so much of a problem...........

No Double Colourless - Again, this one is just wrong. Apart from no removals, this is one of the main reasons why I dislike this format. You cannot encourage evolution when you ban this card. I don’t know if you are the same, but I can tell you that EVERY single one of my decks contains this card, it is just too invaluable on that Gligar or Erika’s Jiggly, or to retreat a stranded pokemon with 2 retreat cost. There is no substitute for it, Double Colourless Energy is one thing that the game needs, because most decks use it, even if they do not heavily rely on it for attacking. Without it, the game further slows, and once again makes it more difficult to launch a surprise attack on your opponent.

Basic Strategies Lost - Gust of Wind. Scoop Up. All gone. These cards are, in my opinion, what make the game unpredictable and challenging. Energy Removal as well. You never know what your opponent is hiding in their hand. You can’t just attach 4 Metal Energies and expect them to stay there. You can now. Your opponent could Scoop that Lickitung and bring out something else at any moment. Not any more. Your bench is never safe. It is now, unless your opponent uses Double Gust as a substitute, but even then this is not much help unless the person playing it has a benchful of free retreaters. My point is, there is very little room for comeback in this new format. In US Standard, you could have nothing, then topdeck an Oak, Scoop Up your active pokemon, Super Energy Removal your opponent’s active, and then Gust of Wind out that Ditto for the ko all in one turn, completely turning the game around. Is this kind of excitement going to be retained in this format? I don’t think so. Games will be slower, and many will crawl to a slow (no pun intended) and inevitable decision, the majority being won on time limits. As soon as your opponent is up a prize, they can easily stall you, knowing they are safe from anything unexpected. Your opponent can SEE if you have a Blaine’s Charmander on your bench, they KNOW you cannot Scoop UP your active pokemon (don’t even try to tell me Super Scoop Up is a substitute, coin flips suck), and KNOW you can’t launch a sudden attack with a Gligar from your hand. It is easy to guess what your opponent is going to do, and one they are in trouble, you can rest, knowing they cannot topdeck a Computer Search or Super Energy Removal and make a comeback. More importantly, if you are losing, chances are there is little you can do about it. What good is a Sneak Attack when your opponent is crushing you with a Typhlosion?

Well, I think that is about all I can say on the topic of this format. Seeing as there is absolutely no possible way I could ever go to an STS competition, the following is purely to give you guys out there something to think about. And now, because this is in the TCG Tips and Strategies section.......I better give you some tips and strategies.......

So, What Can We Expect To See?

Let’s look at it by type:

Colourless Look Ma no Double Colourless! Ouch. No Wigglytuff, no Chansey, no Clefable, without Double Colourless, this type is on the ropes. Sure, there is Erika’s Dratini, Erika’s Jigglypuff, Cleffa (but I am looking at attackers here), even Brock’s Lickitung or Dark Dragonite. Maybe Lugia might even get a chance with no removals, although I doubt it. And as always, standing TALL above the rest, the undefeated, undisputed Queen of pokemon, MILTANK! Yeah! Go Miltank! Shake that thang! dance. Ahem........yeah.......but all of these are still practically nothing without Double Colourless. If you are looking at a Gym for your deck, I wouldn’t bother with Sprout Tower, it is unlikely to be needed.

Fire Oooooh.......not bad at all. Sure, no Arcanine, but seeing as Water is still dead, there is hope. Blaine’s Ninetales could prove interesting, and even Brock’s Ninetales for some variety. With Steelix most likely to be popular, this type could prove to be a way of beating “The WALL”. With no removals, Typhlosion comes into play along with Dark Charizard and Blaine’s Charizard, but I doubt there will be enough card drawing power, and no Breeder, to get Stage 2 pokemon out easily. Although with the game slowed down, anything is possible...........

Other possibilities could be Magby as an anti-Slowking/Vileplume measure, Neo Magmar or Blaine’s Rapidash for bench damage.

Lightning Well, no Buzz eh? Fortunately, Rocket’s Zapdos is around to save the day. A TR Zapdos with Metal Energy attached can deal 60 and only take 10 damage, once again WITHOUT fear of removals (Perhaps I should say that a few more times). However, Rocket’s Zapdos has lost its sparkle, because all the other 70 HP Haymaker pokemon have been removed. I still think that it will see a lot of play though, simply for its versatility. Other options include Dark Raichu to attack benched baby pokemon, or Pichu as a counter for Slowking/Plume, but unfortunately Lt Surge’s pokemon look to be a bit of a joke. If you’re looking for something different, try Ampharos for an alternative lightning pokemon, but remember that water is unlikely to be used that much, and if it is it will most likely be weak to grass, not lightning.

Water It is only fitting that I look at this type after lightning, I suppose. Well, what is left? No Lapras, Blastoise or Articuno, we are left with Feraligatr, Kingdra and even Dark Blastoise for some serious damage. But remember, these are Stage 2 pokemon, and the lack of breeder may make it difficult to get them out. Azumarill can deal bench damage, but if you don’t want pokemon with a weakness to TR Zap, then Misty’s Poliwhirl looks the answer, because it can also remove those precious energies from your opponent. I would not expect this type to play a big part in this format, due to the lack of any good water basic pokemon.

Psychic Well, with no Sneasel and no Wigglytuff, psychic as an attack type seems to be coming back. Because American Promos are allowed, MP Mewtwo is in, and perhaps Sabrina’s Kadabra or Alakazam could be used as other psychic pokemon. But folks, let’s not mess around. There is only one psychic pokemon at the moment. He’s fat, he’s friendly, he’s purple.......NO! He’s not Barney! He’s Slowking, and he just might rule the STS. Combined with some good attackers, Slowking gives you perfect freedom while your opponent gets stuck playing the same trainer over and over again until you get tails. And if they bring out Cleffa to get a fresh hand, then BAM you keep it out there with your Murkrow. Yes folks, this IS an archetype. But if you’re not into archetypes, then here’s a strategy that is a little different. Xatu. Prophecy can be used to rearrange the top 3 cards of your opponent’s deck, so if they have no Cleffa, you can ensure they draw nothing good while you build up something big on your bench......this may not win the STS, but it is a strategy to think about....

Grass There are so many different cards here....unfortunately few of them are really that good. Sure, Koga’s Beedrill is playable.....but that doesn’t make it good. Here is a long list of grass pokemon that could possibly be used: Giovanni’s Nidoking, perhaps even Giovanni’s Nidoqueen, Meganium could really be a force when combined with some other grass pokemon. Rocket’s Scyther is always good although hurt by the loss of Double Colourless, and Erika’s Victreebel to bring out those benched Slowkings/Viles. Of course, Dark Vileplume is the giant killer of this type, with its locking pokemon power, but don’t underestimate the power of a Dark Muk with some Darkness Energies attached........

Fighting Well, it’s hard to see fighting making much of an impression at all. With Colourless being so weak, it isn’t much use, and even then, there is no Hitmonchan and no Double Colourless for Gligar. Ok there is Brock’s Sandslash........but most of Brock’s other fighting pokemon are weak. In addition to that, the huge popularity of TR Zap will make players think twice before using this type. I think the most fighting we see will be Onix, waiting on the bench to evolve. Apart from that, Brock’s Sandslash or Primeape look to be the only other feasible options, when combined with Pewter City Gym.

Steel Here we have THE WALL! Steelix, with a number of Metal Energy attached, is pretty much unstoppable if you don’t have a fire deck. You just can’t deal 20, 30 or even 40 less damage each turn to something with 110 HP, when it is dealing 30 or 50 to you each turn. Even Skarmony in support can be deadly with Metals attached to it. And are those energies gonna get removed? NO! They are perfectly safe, you say to yourself as your Mewtwo is unable to deal any damage to your opponent’s 4 Metalled Steelix with Gold Berry. Gotta love WOTC, eh?

Darkness Well, Sneasel is gone, all is well you say? I think not. Murkrow is just plain evil. Maybe that is why it is an evil pokemon. At least with Sneasel you got a chance - after all, your opponent could get a multitude of tails or you could topdeck an Elm, right? Now with Murkrow, you don’t even get a chance. If you send out a Cleffa, or psychic pokemon, or colourless even if they have Sprout Tower in play, you are IN TROUBLE. Murkrow, when combined with Slowking/Vileplume, proves to be an infallible combination. If you get locked, there is NO WAY OUT. You can’t retreat, and you can’t play a trainer to move your pokemon out of the active position. You also will be unable to deal any damage if you have Cleffa or a psychic pokemon out. All you can do is draw cards, and sit back and watch as your bench disappears, and one by one, your opponent’s prizes. To put it simply: YOU LOSE. Even if your opponent has no Vileplume or Slowking, Double Gust is about the only trainer possible to be able to remove your pokemon from the active position. This type may only have one pokemon, but it is a killer.

Trainers UGH. Where do I begin? I think I have already covered this. Scroll up to read about how WOTC have just mindlessly removed basic game mechanic trainers from the game. Not only that , but they have left in the most evil combination in the game! All 3 components of a Trapper deck are left, meaning players are forced to use Cleffa to combat this, which in turn leaves them open to being locked by Murkrow. Are you beginning to see why this format is not good? There are a lot of trainers that can be used in specific deck types, such as Sabrina’s ESP, Brock’s Training Method or Giovanni’s Last Resort, and some universal ones like Good Manners. But this format has really just torn apart the list of available trainers, the most important part of the game at the highest level.

Stadiums Well, this is part of trainers, but I haven’t mentioned it yet so I thought I would do a separate piece. Ok, so no Stadium Cards have been removed, but some of them have little or no value in decks in this format. No Removal Gym has no point, and Ecogym’s only purpose would be to stop Blaine’s Charmander or other removal pokemon. With Wigglytuff and Sneasel gone, Narrow Gym could only be used as a free Scoop Up, and really has little value. As well as all this, Sprout Tower is unlikely to be much use, because without Double Colourless the colourless pokemon have little power anyway. Of course, Chaos Gym will be around, and there will probably be some decks that use Trap/Chaos and then desperately try to get rid of their opponent’s annoying Cleffas. Apart from that, there are only City Gyms left.....which may see some play in Gym Leader’s decks, or just to counter Chaos Gym. Resistance Gym in fighting or psychic decks, and The Rocket’s Training Gym look like the only other options. I don’t think Stadium cards will play such a huge part though as they do in US Standard.

Energy All remains except Double Colourless, which you can scroll up to hear my opinion about. No real changes here....although with no removals Recycle Energy will probably be used less, and Metal Energy will see more play.

So there you have it........a comprehensive list of reasons for and against this new format. I must say, I thought Prop15/3 was bad.......until I saw this. By removing so many GOOD cards from the game, you have created, in my opinion, a boring environment ruled by a few all-powerful archetypical decks. I can see some sort of Slowking deck winning, although perhaps not in the under 10 section. Anyway, of course some of you geniuses out there will conjure up some magic with an unheard of deck, so good luck to all building decks and for those of you who are sigh actually able to go to this competition ^_^

I am sure many of you out there will agree with me that this format is not good, although most likely for different reasons. I have emphasized the reasons why I personally think this format does more harm than good, but if you want you can e-mail me with your thoughts, or even better, e-mail WOTC. And if you are going to write to me, Pojo or WOTC, then PLEASE do the following:

           Go the the Pojo Magic website www.pojo.com/magic

           Click on the section labelled ‘Spike’s Random Beatings’

           Read the article called ‘How not to be a Scrub’

If you are considering writing anything in future, even if you don’t play Magic, this is a GOOD article to read, because it will hopefully stop you sounding and looking stupid. Well, maybe it can help you stop sounding stupid at least...........

You can e-mail me your thoughts and comments to drg@xtra.co.nz

Thank you to Pojo for posting this, you for reading this, and to the guy who pointed out my......errrr......deliberate mistake with Neo Electabuzz in my last article. I do now realize that his second attack does indeed ignore pokemon powers. My apologies.



PQOTW “I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said don’t be ridiculous - everyone hasn’t met me yet” - Rodney Dangerfield