Ace Trainer – Ancient Origins
Date Reviewed: January 7, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Ace Trainer (XY – Ancient Origins 69/98) is our Throwback today. This is a Trainer-Supporter you may only use when you have more Prize cards remaining than your opponent. When you are able to use it, Ace Trainer has both players shuffle their hands into their (respective) decks, then draw a new hand. You draw six cards, while your opponent only draws three! When Ace Trainer works, it gives you the draw power of Cynthia coupled with a stronger piece of disruption than you’d get from Red Card. It is like catching your opponent with an N when you have a full six Prizes remaining, and they are already down to three. There’s always the chance your opponent will get a better hand and you a worse one, but it is still a pretty potent effect.
While often misleading, in general it is assumed that the player with fewer Prizes remaining is winning, so Ace Trainer can be thought of as something of a “comeback” card. If we just look at this in terms of raw Prize counts, only being available when your opponent has fewer Prizes remaining in play than yourself is a big restriction. Ignoring the various scenarios that can add Prizes, in your typical Constructed Format match, there are 36 possible Prize counts. Ace Trainer can only be used with 15 of them. That’s not quite 42% of the time! If you’re just using this as a come-from-behind card, that is a concern; it is a dead card in hand over half the time, and that hurts reliability. Even more, half of its focus is as draw power, but as your Supporter for the turn you really want that draw power to be reliable.
There are proven strategies where a person will fall behind in Prizes pretty reliably. Some are simply decks with a slower setup, while others are decks featuring Pokémon that self-KO via Ability. Why via an Ability? So you can still use Ace Trainer that turn; you could still do so with Pokémon that self-KO through attacking, but if you’re attacking, not pulling ahead or keeping up in taking Prizes, you have to hope your opponent doesn’t basically win before you get a chance to play Ace Trainer. For decks where you don’t try to take Prizes, where your setup is very slow, and/or where you’re using something that self-KO’s, Ace Trainer was and is a great card!
It still faces competition in those decks, however. The posterboy for this is N. Unless you’re relatively new and have never played Expanded, you know who and what N is in the Pokémon TCG. For the rest, he is a Trainer-Supporter that forces both players to shuffle their hands into their decks, then each player draws a new hand equal to the number of Prize cards they have remaining. This shaped many formats, because an early game N was likely to have both players shuffle-and-draw for six cards. Even though your opponent received the same benefits (assuming you didn’t shuffle away something they wanted to keep), it became important for early game reliability. Even when you got down to five and five cards, or four and four cards (basically mimicking Judge), N was still pretty useful both as draw and disruption. Even when you’re well ahead of your opponent in Prizes, you can use N to disrupt your opponent’s hand… and late game uses of N can be clutch for that reason.
Ace Trainer doesn’t do any of that. Either it is a dead card in hand, or it gets that sweet six/three split. Fortunately, decks often have additional, non-Supporter draw power. You still won’t be relying on Ace Trainer as your main draw power, but you can think of this card as disruption with “bonus” draw power included. Which might describe how Ace Trainer was run. At first it was Standard-legal alongside cards such as Battle Compressor and VS Seeker, but N so was N. Here is where my memory fails me; I recall trying to make good use of Ace Trainer, but also seeing most decks give up on it. This might be reflected in the World Championship deck results. The only example I found using Ace Trainer was Ninja Blitz in the 2016 World Championships. This was a Greninja BREAK deck, and Ace Trainer was a single, but check the list out for yourself.
When Ace Trainer was new, we reviewed it once, as the 10th-best card of XY – Ancient Origins. I hadn’t thought too highly of it before reviewing, but warmed up to it from a little bit of play-testing and running the numbers in my head. I was a little too generous, thinking it’d see more play due to specific decks built around abusing its effect, and then being a loose staple in most builds (VS Seeker made such things easy and effective). Ace Trainer did not live up to my expectations, but it still wasn’t horrible. Fast forward to last year, give or take. Yes, this is a stealth honorable mention review, and not just a Throwback. Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX decks basically broke Expanded. Detailing the entire deck is beyond the scope of this review, especially as it adapted to some of its tricks being banned.
The basic gist of it is that, at present, the deck may finally be unreliable enough that it is no longer seen as viable, but it still taught us the power of Ace Trainer. We’ve long since lost most of the reliable, early game disrupting Supporters. Even after what was lost, there are solid Stage 1 Pokémon that can self-KO via an Ability, forcing your opponent to take a Prize, and letting you reliably use Ace Trainer and outperforming N (at least, at that point in the game). Though its presence is hardly overwhelming, checking results from early last year (nothing newer, sadly), Ace Trainer shows up in low counts in a few other control decks. Going down to a three-card hand is much scarier without, for example, access to Abilities.
I’m pretty sure I scored Ace Trainer far, far too high in the Limited Format last time. Probably because it is a must-run for being draw power, and from the Limited Format rules at the time (this was before the Evolution Booster). If you can somehow not only participate in a Limited Format event at this time, but one using XY – Ancient Origin boosters, Ace Trainer is a must-run if you’re not using a Mulligan build, but mostly because you’ll have the space. The Limited Format has each player begin with four Prizes, so that means fewer opportunities to pull of Ace Trainer before it is game over. Remember that 42% figure I tossed out earlier? It isn’t a huge drop, but now it is down to 37.5%. You’ll have few to no search or recycling options for Supporters, so having it in hand, at the right time, just isn’t likely.
- Standard: N/A
- Expanded: 3/5
- Limited: 2/5
Ace Trainer didn’t see a huge amount of success while Standard-legal, and was actually a somewhat hyped card prior to its release. It did see some success, however, and if I didn’t have a thing against such effects, I’d be happy to have it in Standard. In the Expanded Format, Ace Trainer rose to some serious success, but I think it is back on the way down, now. As a general use card, it would still be underwhelming (but not terrible), and in specific decks, it should actually still be great. I just don’t know if a winning, Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX list is among those decks anymore.
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