– Crimson Invasion
November 23, 2017
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Counter Catcher (Crimson Invasion, 91/111) was my number two pick in our top ten countdown, so I’m pretty happy with where this Item card landed in our final standings. As we saw this weekend in the unexpected Heatmor (Burning Shadows, 24/147) Raichu (Burning Shadows, 41/147) deck, this card can wreak havoc on your opponent. I’ve had tremendous success with it in the past few weeks in my Greninja (Breakpoint, 40/122) and Spread decks. I’m 10 W 7 L with the blue frog this month and 11 W 5 L with my Spread deck, and Counter Catcher is a two of in both decks. I might eventually up it to a four of, but two seems to be fine for now, especially since I play Skyla (Breakpoint, 122/122) in both decks.
I’m not sure how many other decks it might be valuable in, however. It might work as a one of in some meta decks, but if you’re running a top tier deck, you’re usually ahead or even in prizes. If you do have a deck that’s slow to set up, or if you’re the type of player who frequently employs the strategy of sacrificing your opening Pokemon and focusing on the development of your benched Pokemon, then this might be a good one of tech in for you. I just really don’t see it being incredibly useful to most meta decks, though. Rogue decks, absolutely. Decks that fall behind quickly? A must play.
Standard: 2.5 out of 5
Counter Catcher is great for stranding a heavy retreat cost Pokemon in the active position, and it can pull a Pokemon that your opponent is trying to shield on the bench up into the active position without having to waste your supporter for the turn to do that. And even your awesome superstar meta deck will sometimes fall behind in prizes against another top tier meta deck, and Counter Catcher might actually come in handy in that scenario. But the fact that you have to be behind in prizes means that your opponent probably has a powered up Pokemon in the active. If you swap your opponent’s powered up Pokemon back on to the bench, you usually can’t hit it, much less KO it, so in a way you might be doing your opponent a favor.
Whenever there’s a card with the word “Catcher” in it’s name, it mostly manipulates your opponent’s Pokemon in some way. Counter Catcher is no different, and it also happens to be the second best card in the Crimson Invasion set. We already got Pokemon Catcher which forced one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon to the Active spot…if you flipped heads; tails does nothing. Pre errata Pokemon Catcher is Gust of Wind (Base Set) while the post errata is Pokemon Reversal (HGSS). Then we got Mega Catcher is another Gust of Wind effect which forces only Mega Evolutions from the Bench to the Active. So what does Counter Catcher do?
This card has a built in requirement in which you have to have more prizes than your opponent. If you do, then this acts like Gust of Wind as usual. This card is more reliable (unlike Pokemon Catcher), less restrictive (unlike Mega Catcher), and is an item card (unlike Lysandre or Guzma). Decks that expect your Pokemon to be knocked out right away will love this card. Something like having Tapu-Lele GX and Shaymin EX as KO fodders after they serve their purpose.
There’s not much for me to say, but it provides another option with different requirements and it’s up to the player to decide what requirements that they’ll be able to accommodate for their decks. I think Counter Catcher is good for the game, something to deal with these pesky bench sitters whose abilities are the backbone of certain decks.
Standard: 4.75/5 (not a perfect score? Well, having to be behind on prizes keeps this card from being broken.)
Conclusion: Counter Catcher is another good “catcher” card, though carefully balanced with an requirement. Remove that built-in restriction, and pretty soon, everyone will have 4 in their decks!
At last, we come to the card that just missed out on being our number one pick: Counter Catcher (SM: Crimson Invasion 91/111). This is a Trainer-Item, with the first half of that not meaning too much in the modern game as very few affects apply to all Trainer cards. There are a few, though, with even fewer worth using like Skyla and Trainers’ Mail (and they aren’t even as good as they once were). Before considering card-specific costs and effects, or the state of the metagame, being an Item makes Counter Catcher as easy of a play as this TCG allows. There are no universal, built in costs or restrictions on running or using Items, save those that apply to deck building in general. Factoring in the rest of the cardpool, and specifically what is proving competitive, we encounter quite a few potent, anti-Item effects, as well as several other potent Item cards. The net result is that most successful decks are likely to include around a dozen Item cards, but competition for which ones you select is as fierce as it is among Supporters.
The actual effect of Counter Catcher is that it targets the opposing Benched Pokémon of your choice, then forces that Pokémon into the Active spot (thus Benching the former Active). The catch? It only works while you have more Prize cards remaining than your opponent does; that is, while you are technically losing the game. If you’re not abnormally lucky or unlucky, skilled or unskilled, facing superior or inferior opponents, etc. so that your Prize counts are pretty evenly distributed throughout matches, I think (I’m bad at statistics) you’re only able to use this card a little less than half the time. Why? Before effects that increase Prizes remaining, not quite 42% of possible Prize pairings have you behind. So, in a real sense, you might be better off with just Pokémon Catcher; as long as nothing is actively preventing you from using it and your luck isn’t too deviant, it should work about 50% of the time.
Except there’s more to it than that. This isn’t a Throwback Thursday, because we are in the middle of our countdown, but like with Buzzwole-GX, this is a revision of a past card. Pow! Hand Extension (EX: Team Rocket Returns 85/109) is a “normal Trainer”, which means it has retroactively been classified as an “Item” card. It is a “Rocket’s Secret Machine”, a sub-subclass of Items that hasn’t been used on anything in quite some time, and just meant it could tap a few pieces of Team Rocket-related support. Like Counter Catcher, it can only be used when you have more Prizes left in play than your opponent, but it has two effects from which to choose; you have the same effect as Counter Catcher, or you can move an Energy card from your opponent’s Active to something on his or her Bench. Considering there were often “target specific” Special Energy cards that would discard themselves if moved to something in compatible back then (just like right now), that was a useful effect. We also learned that the the “No-flip Pokémon Catcher” effect could be amazing.
Most decks just used something your opponent couldn’t afford to ignore as an opener; if your opponent didn’t take an early Prize lead, you got a setup that was well worth your opponent having access to Pow! Hand Extension to use against you. Some decks – including competitive ones – made use of Pokémon with effects that would self-KO, forcing the other player to pull ahead in Prizes. These decks would also combo Pow! Hand Extension with other “come-from-behind” cards, like Rocket’s Admin. and Scramble Energy. Rocket’s Admin. is almost exactly the same as N, while Scramble Energy is like Counter Energy, except it provides three units of Energy when you’re behind and has additional attachment restrictions. So, this means Counter Catcher is going to be awesome, right?
Maybe. There are some notable differences between then and now. Game rules, card pool, collective Pokémon TCG knowledge, etc. were all different back then. The most important differences are we have Guzma (and Lysandre, in Expanded) but do not have first turn attacks. I do not, as of yet, have detailed deck lists from the recent European International Championship for all the Top 8 decks across the age groups. I have seen lists for five of the Masters Division Top 8 decks, and none have Counter Catcher. That doesn’t mean Counter Catcher is worthless, but I think it does mean it is going to be a lot more specialized than Pow! Hand Extension. I do expect to see it used in Standard and Expanded Format play, but more the former than the latter, as Expanded has a lot more anti-Item effects (enough to overpower its added combo potential). Unless you’re running a +39 deck, where you’re always ahead in Prizes or you’ve already lost, definitely include Counter Catcher. You’re not going to be packing a Guzma or a Pokémon Catcher here… well, unless it is an event that mixes sets. Even then, you’ve probably got the space for something like Counter Catcher.
Getting a Lysandre-like effect without burning up your Supporter usage is potent but if your deck isn’t good at manipulating Prize counts, you’re better off finding another alternative or just accepting you need to run Guzma and/or Lysandre. If you’re running a deck that doesn’t take Prize cards or is more likely to fall behind in Prizes, that is where Counter Catcher has its best chance for Standard or Expanded Format play. I do expect us to see more of this card. Remember how I brought up Pow! Hand Extension? It took a while for it to catch on as well. At the same time, I’ve tempered my expectations for this card; I expected at least something running it to make the the Top 8 of the Masters Division in its first showing.
Counter Catcher earned 41 voting points and appeared on five out of six of our individual Top 10 lists. In fact, it was my personal #2 pick for the set, which you would think would make me happy but… yeah, I’m having some serious buyer’s remorse. I’m not ready to abandon ship yet, but I am thinking I overrated it. Speaking of which, I’ll take this space to remind folks that, had we all agreed on every card, first place would have 60 voting points, second place 54, etc. as we had six lists going into this. Tomorrow’s first place finisher only had 42, an average of seven points per list (4th place). You can tell we were pretty divided in some of our choices.