Belleba & Brycen-Man
– Cosmic Eclipse
August 8, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Bellelba & Brycen-Man (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 186/236) is getting banned… in Standard! I believe the last card banned from the Standard Format was Lysandre’s Trump Card, back on June 15 of 2015. Bellelba & Brycen-Man won’t officially be gone until August 28, 2020, so you’ve got just shy of three weeks left to enjoy it. Unlike with past bans, at least according to this article, things are going to be even more unusual. Instead of just banning the cards and being done with it, new versions of the cards with new art and updated effects will be eventually released. I’m assuming they’ll also come with an errata so you can use the older releases, but that is merely an assumption.
So we’re looking at Bellelba & Brycen-Man with its current effect, one last time. Bellelba & Brycen-Man is a TAG TEAM Supporter. This basically makes it a better Supporter, as it can still make use of Supporter support but can also take advantage of cards such as Tag Call. This means, even if it had somewhat subpar effects, it might be better just because of that extra search option. Speaking of effects, Bellelba & Brycen-Man follow the typical TAG TEAM Supporter template and have two effects. The first effect is mandatory while the second is optional; you can choose to just use the first attack or to do both, but you can only skip the first and do the second if you actually cannot perform the first effect.
In this case, the first effect has both players discard three cards from the top of their respective deck. As such, you can only “get out” of discarding from your own deck if it is empty and sarcastic spoiler, that is something folks figured out how to do. If you have just one or two cards left, you still discard as many as you can. The optional effect requires you discard three cards from your hand, paid before you carry out the first effect. Your reward for paying is each player discards Pokémon until they have only three Pokémon on their Bench (your opponent goes first). If neither player has more than three, you cannot select this effect. If both players have empty decks and neither player has more than three Benched Pokémon, Bellelba & Brycen-Man cannot be played.
As teased earlier, Bellelba & Brcyen-Man are seeing play, including a trick to use it without having to discard from your deck. I don’t believe that combo is why Bellelba & Brycen-Man are being banned, however. It is just a nifty trick that, if you’ve already milled out the rest of your deck, you can use another card effect to shuffle some cards back into your deck. The main examples of this are Oranguru (SM – Ultra Prism 114/156) and Phione (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 57/236; SM – Black Star Promos SM220). Oranguru’s attack lets you bottom deck three cards from your discard pile, while Phione has an Ability that forces your opponent to switch out their Active (they choose which Benched Pokémon comes forward) and then that same Ability bottom decks Phione itself. In the Expanded Format, there’s also Archen (BW – Plasma Blast 53/101), Lileep (BW – Plasma Blast 3/101), and Tirtouga (BW – Plasma Blast 27/101). Each has the same Ability, “Prehistoric Call”, which lets you bottom deck it from your discard pile.
Bellelba & Brycen-Man’s main use has been in various stall/control decks. Ornaguru is usually up front, constantly recycling your cards with its attack (mentioned earlier), while taking advantage of various disruptive effects to keep your opponent from fighting back while you mill them turn after turn. If you fall behind in Prizes, you can even use Lt. Surge’s Strategy to play two copies of Bellelba & Brycen-Man that same turn. Mill is odd in that you don’t usually know whether it will be a net positive, negative, or neutral action. If you hit stuff your opponent wants in the discard pile, you actually helped them; if you hit the right cards, even just a little milling can wreck your opponent’s strategy.
When we first looked at Bellelba & Brycen-Man, I was hoping it would become a general staple, and that at least it would be for stall/control decks… and the latter seems to have come true. Is that why it is being banned? Apparently, though it may be due to a particular new version of stall/control, using cards we don’t have quite yet. I’m a bit torn by this, because mill – as mentioned earlier – has a large component of luck to it, as you’re discarding cards off the top of your opponent’s deck. Maybe you hit something they don’t even need, maybe you mill something they cannot do without or recycle. Other than that, it is a strategy I very much enjoy and would more often be a significant part of the metagame.
You can still use Bellelba & Brycen-Man in Expanded. I’m not sure if that is an oversight or not, but I think it is intentional… because we’ve got more answers to it. As for the Limited Format, if you pull a copy of Bellelba & Brycen-Man, run it. If you pull multiples of it, you may want to run them all if you have room. Yes, the self-mill will hit you even harder here… but you begin with a 40 card deck. Whether you’re trying to also win on Prizes or not, you have an excellent chance of decking your opponent out.
Say goodbye to Bellelba & Brycen-Man, at least until the “updated” re-release becomes a thing. One would think that milling both players for the same amount would have been enough to keep it balanced, but it turns out you just need the right resource management to make it magnificent.
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