Ball Guy – Shining Fates
February 15, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
This Friday, Shining Fates officially releases. This is a “bonus” expansion. While not an official term, what I mean is that there are normally four sets released each year as part of the regular, quarterly schedule. The sets are available as individual packs, booster boxes, and in various bundles, gift sets etc. and will have whatever the prefix or actual name of the current TCG series, like how “Sword & Shield” is actually printed above “Vivid Voltage” on those booster packs and related products. Though we would normally have a one of our core, quarterly sets releasing this month, SW – Battle Styles was pushed back to next month. Shining Fates is not our next quarterly set, even though it is releasing in the month SW – Battle Styles was originally scheduled, and is only available in gift sets and the like that contain its booster packs: no individual boosters, and no booster boxes from primary sellers.
Shining Fates is still a soon-to-be tournament legal set, though. That means we’ve got a countdown to do! Shining Fates is actually two sets in one; Shining Fates itself plus the second Shiny Vault expansion. There are 73 cards in Shining Fates and 122 in the Shiny Vault portion, making it a bit awkward when I refer to the former as the “main” part, as it is smaller than the latter! Most of the cards in this expansion are not new, so not candidates for a countdown. Anything in the Shiny Vault portion is treated like an “Alternate Printing” of that particular card, not making it suddenly Standard legal if it wasn’t already, and not affecting how long it remains legal through future rotations. Even among the 73 cards in the main part of Shining Fates, most are reprints of the regular variety. They might matter with respect to future rotations, but not for the purposes of our countdown. With so few new cards to consider, we decided a Top 5 was plenty. We also did things a bit different in that Vince and I simply discussed the handful of cards that caught our attention, instead of making individual lists and tallying the scores.
5th-Place in our countdown is Ball Guy (Shining Fates 057/072, 065/072). This new Trainer-Supporter is more help for the “Ball” family of Item cards. Specifically, it lets you search your deck for up to three different Item card that have the word “Ball” in their name. The exact wording of the card addresses some issues with past, similar effects: you cannot affect non-Item cards (no searching out itself) or cards that simply have b-a-l-l in their names (Air Balloon). It is good that it specifies “up to” three, though the general search rules would have let you snag less than three, anyway. What is a concern is that you must grab different cards with Ball Guy’s effect. In the Standard Format, that means
while Expanded adds
Definitely a lot more options in Expanded, but we have just enough that a “Ball Guy” Trainer engine might just work. The main idea would be making sure you get one or two Pokémon you really need ASAP while also reliably getting that Crobat V and/or Dedenne-GX into hand early game. As you only have so many Bench-spaces available and they’re relatively fragile, you can’t just max out on Crobat V and Dedenne-GX and plan on dropping one, the other, or one of each on each of your turns. Plus, a solid Trainer engine involving the typical draw and search effects still has a good chance of doing that, while saving your Supporter for a copy of Boss’s Orders, Professor’s Research, etc.
It is a certain kind of deck that can use Ball Guy well. The obvious qualifications are your deck already uses a lot of Ball cards. In this case, a “lot” should probably be eight or more, at least in Standard where you cannot easily search your deck for a copy of Ball Guy. Even then, you want to be running at least three different kinds of Ball Items. Now, an added benefit of using Ball Guy in such a deck, as opposed to direct Pokémon search options, is the added thinning and reliability. Once you’ve burned through a Ball Guy or three and most or all of your Ball-based Items, you’ve nicely shrunken your deck so that future draws are more consistent. However, if you’re facing a stall deck, a mill deck, or just running low late game, you can use Ball Guy to enact more controlled search for any Pokémon you need, and intentionally leave “extra” Ball Items to act as filler (and avoid decking out).
Ball Guy is definitely nicer in Expanded. Ball Guy doesn’t quite make Apricorn Maker obsolete; though Ball Guy gets you three Ball Items and Apricorn Maker only two, Apricorn Maker can grab two of the same Ball Item. Ultra Ball is legal here, and Ultra Ball gets any Pokémon. Lure Ball gives you an option to recover Pokémon from the discard pile. If you don’t have a significantly better Ace Spec, you may as well cash in on Master Ball and how it works with Ball Guy’s effect. Then there are the slightly specialized options. Level Ball for Pokémon with 90 or less HP; between it, Quick Ball, and Ultra Ball you should easily be able to snag most (if not all) the Pokémon you’d run in a Lost March, Mad Party, and/or Night March deck.
Other less-general search options with good to great potential are Dive Ball, Friend Ball, Heavy Ball, Nest Ball, Repeat Ball and Timer Ball. Supporter search like Tapu Lele-GX or Jirachi-EX, and Supporter recycling like VS Seeker also make Ball Guy better. One of my big concerns with Ball guy is, if you run a full four copies of it, and if you want to open with it, you need to do that, you’d need at least 12 Ball Items, with none drawn, discarded, or Prized before you used all four copies of Ball Guy to avoid having more Ball Guys than Ball Items. While I am saying that Ball Guy is better here, keep in mind that Ball Guy faces much stiffer competition.
In the end, I’m being generous with these scores. Ball Guy does his job decently, but I really, really wish he let you get Ball Items from your discard pile. Ideally, letting you get up to three from the deck, the discard pile, or a combination of the two. Get the benefits of running a Ball heavy deck without having to run quite as many actual Ball Items. As is, it is hard to compete by searching the deck for Ball cards when we have so many amazing draw effects in the game. Lastly, Level Ball is supposed to receive a reprint “soon”. Maybe in Battle Styles, maybe after that, but I did fudge things and already factor that into Ball Guy’s Standard Format score.
For this week, we are going to cover some cards from the Shining Fates expansion. Most of the cards there contain reprints from previous Sword & Shield expansions, but there are a few cards there that are unique and also enough to compile a top 5 list for this small expansion (if you don’t include the shiny counterparts, then the set itself contained 73 cards). Usually, reprints aren’t considered to be part of anyone’s personal pick unless the card in question has influenced the metagame in the past. Luckily we didn’t have to worry about this.
Today’s 5th best card of Shining Fates is Ball Guy. I thought it was printed before in another expansion, but turns out it didn’t. This is a Supporter card which lets you fetch up to three different item cards that have the word “Ball” in its name, reveal them, and put them onto your hand. Barring hypothetical obscure held items in the core series games like Smoke Ball and Light Ball not related to Poke Balls at all, this shouldn’t be an issue…for now. This effect sound famaliar, and that’s because it’s a similar effect to Apricorn Maker, first printed on Skyridge and got printed again in SM Celestial Storm, which lets you fetch 2 item cards with “Ball” in its name, and it could be two of the same Poke Ball related card, unlike Ball Guy, which makes you find up to three different ones.
Because it lets you fetch three different Poke Ball related cards, it could be hard to find several Poke Ball related cards that are just as good as the other. Here are the currently available types of Poke Ball in the Standard Format SM Team Up-on:
Yup, there are few options left in Standard. The most you can do when playing Ball Guy in Standard is to fetch Poke Ball, Great Ball, and Quick Ball. Cherish Ball could replace Poke Ball if your deck contained Pokémon-GX. The “up to” clause might suggest that you can decide to only fetch Quick Ball, but then you’re not using Ball Guy to the fullest extent. Expanded has several types of Poke Ball that you can choose from, but for the sake of shortening this review, the holy trinity of getting the three best Poke Balls in Expanded would have to be Quick Ball, Ultra Ball, and Cherish Ball in most cases. Other types of Poke Balls might also be considered for specific decks such as Dive Ball, Net Ball, Nest Ball, Level Ball, and much much more. Going way back to the Unlimited Format, you could consider Luxury Ball to be one of the options to consider.
There’s not much mileage for Ball Guy to exploit at the moment, but if future cards bring more reprinted or unique types of Poke Ball, then Ball Guy would be under consideration when building a deck. This may not be a draw-based supporter, but certain Pokémon can help fake being one such as Dedenne-GX or Crobat-V if you actually grab those.
Ball Guy provides quantity but forgoes flexibility, and some deck may or may not tolerate such restrictions. If Ball Guy lets you search for three of the same Poke Ball, then this would definitely replace Apricorn Maker. As it stands, we might have to wait for a while until more Poké Ball related cards comes out. There’s enough options to work with now for the time being.
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