#1 – Cynthia
– Ultra Prism
December 31, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Cindy (UPR 119) debuted in the Pokemon TCG back in February in the Ultra Prism expansion set. Collinsville was the first tournament she was standard legal in, and 44 of the top 47 decklists ran at least one copy. Only six of those 44 played her as a four of, however. Fifteen played three copies, fifteen played two copies, and eight decks played just a single copy.
A month later, in Charlotte, counts of Cynthia remained about the same. Although only 39 decklists are available for the top 64, 36 of those lists carried at least a single copy. Only a paltry two lists played Cindy as a four of, ten carried three copies, 17 ran just two, and seven lists put only a single copy in their list of sixty cards.
A week after that in Portland, 28 of the top 32 employed at least a single copy. Six lists had it as a four of, seven lists carried three, eight lists used two, and seven had just a single copy.
Cindy’s initial acceptance was luke warm, tepid, and probably not worthy of being the number one card of 2018… if you go by these numbers. I’m not going to get into the use of N over Cynthia, all I’m going to say is that there were plenty of times when people played N when they would have been much better off with Cynthia. The late game N is a myth (two thirds of decks were running Zoroark GX, Octillery, or Oranguru at the end of last season), and the majority of the time you played N, you put more cards in your opponent’s hand than he previously had.
However, Cynthia’s mediocre employment continued in successive major events. Nobody played her as a four of at Sao Paolo at the end of April, and she saw similar levels of usage at Toronto and Madison in May that she had seen at events in the previous three months.
At the International in Columbus, 28 out of the 29 top finishing decklists included her, but only six lists played four copies, five lists carried three, six had only two, and eleven included just a single copy. Even at worlds, three of the thirty top finishing lists available didn’t even have a single copy. Eight used a full four Cynthia, five lists played three, eight carried two, and six lists included just a single copy.
And then came rotation.
77 out of the 78 decklists available at Philadelphia in September played at least one copy. 45 lists had her as a four of, 16 carried three, twelve used two copies, and only four lists played just a single copy.
Offenbach – a week later: again only one decklist didn’t use Cynthia. 21 had her as a four of, 17 used three, eleven carried two, and only five lists included just a single Cynthia.
At Roanoke, about a month ago in November, 64 out of 68 lists played Cynthia. 47 lists played Cynthia as a four of, 15 ran three copies, only two decks carried two, and no decks used one copy.
Our most recent Standard tournament – and the only major Standard tournament until the middle of February – at Harrogate: 27 out of 29 lists, with 23 of those 27 lists employing a full four of and only two decks using two and three Cynthias. Again, no decks played only one copy.
Clearly, by the end of the year, Cynthia has earned its spot as the number one card of 2018. It should have been used more earlier in her existence – certainly, no one has ever presented any sort of empirical proof that N was better than Cynthia to me. I don’t even think that Sycamore was better than Cynthia in most situations, but that’s my opinion, and I don’t have any testing to stand behind that claim. There’s no question, however, that Cynthia is by far and away the best draw supporter in the game today, and she’s the first four cards I put in my lists when I click on the Trainers tab on PTCGO.
Standard: 5 out of 5
And it looks like she’s going to remain our number one, go to draw Supporter Trainer card. The Supporters coming out of Team Up on February 1st look very nichey for the most part. The only Supporter card in that set that I think might potentially be a four of is Erika’s Hospitality, which allows you to draw cards based on the number of Pokemon your opponent has in play… but only if you have five or fewer cards in your hand (including the copy of Erika you’re intending to use), so it might only be marginally better than Lillie. We’ll see, I’ll have to do some testing on the viability of Erika.
There should be no surprises as to what the best card of 2018 is. For the second time running, Cynthia tops another countdown, being the best card of 2018 while previously she was the best card of Sun & Moon Ultra Prism. And based on the voting points, everyone unanimously picked it as their number one, and it should not be hard to see why. She lets you shuffle your hand and draw six cards, which is the same effect as Professor Oak’s New Theory. This gets you a good hand that isn’t dependent on certain factors; she gives you a fixed amount.
When she first came out, it instantly saw play, but had to compete with the other two best draw supporters, Professor Sycamore and N. Without VS Seeker, decks have to mind that it’ll be hard to get certain cards back, so deckbuilders have to adjust how many Supporter they would actually need. For draw based supporters, one can go as far as a 4-4-4 count (Sycamore, N, and Cynthia) and also need at least 2 Guzma cards, leaving little room for other Supporters. Still, it was a bit of a struggle to Cynthia to achieve maximum universal usage status and the few occasions where you see Cynthia used at full four copies…is when you’re using or facing a Garchomp/Lucario deck because Garchomp’s Royal Blades attack deal extra damage if you’ve played Cynthia during your turn and Lucario’s Precognitive Aura lets you search your deck for any card into your hand if you have Garchomp in play. Other decks that contained Cynthia could vary from zero to four!
That was before, and eventually rotation happened and the Standard Format was moved from XY BreakThrough onwards to Sun & Moon onwards. Suddenly, Cynthia became a true staple to ALL decks, with every deck running a full four count. But then this leaves a lot of room for other draw supporters to fit in. Guzma is still needed for the switching element, but you can also include Sophocles, Lillie, Copycat, Sightseer, Judge, and/or other decent draw supporters that you can choose now that both Sycamore and N retired from Standard. But maybe you might not need the others because some of the item cards also has decent draw/search power, but not as much. You got even Pokémon whose some of it’s attack or ability draw cards as well. I suppose the only caveat is being a Supporter, which limits you to playing one per turn, but I can imagine that there are item cards that can do a similar job that certain Supporters do, making Cynthia used a bit more freely.
If anything, Cynthia has cemented herself as the most influential card for the Sun & Moon format than any of the cards that we looked at this countdown. Expect to see Cynthia be heavily used. If you haven’t got your copies of Cynthia, then it’ll take two Mach Strike theme decks to complete your playset because each of those Mach Strike theme deck contains two copies of Cynthia, so buying two makes sense. Or you could buy singles that currently go for around $6-$8 USD. No wonder why I see less of the Garchomp Theme Deck for every superstore I went to.
Standard: 5/5 (Well, this is almost a perfect card, except that she IS a Supporter card, since using her means lost opportunities of other Supporters on that specific turn when your decision between which ones to use and give up the rest. Besides that hiccup, you WILL definitely use this. A full four count is now the norm for Cynthia. I would have scored it 4.9/5.)
Expanded: 4.5/5 (While Standard doesn’t have much to work with in terms of draw supporters, Expanded has a lot to work with, and may clash due to deck construction and a lot of competition. However, Cynthia might have an advantage over Sycamore or N, such as drawing a fixed amount instead of being dependent on prizes and conserving resources instead of dumping and drawing.)
Limited: 5/5 (This is a must run if you’ve pulled at least one)
Theme: 5/5 (Of course it’ll help in this deck, as it is meant to emulate what an actual Garchomp/Lucario deck would be)
Notes: Fan favorite character? Check! Awesome effect? Check! Overall, this is a card done right!
And with that, I hope you all have a Happy New Year of 2019!
Happy New Year’s Eve! The entire reason we counted down from 11th place was so that we could have two full weeks of retrospective reviews yet also end the year with our number one pick: Cynthia (SM – Ultra Prism 119/156, 148/156)! It is almost anticlimactic having such an obvious candidate, but it is hard to argue against Cynthia’s influence this year. She released all the way back in February, giving her most of the year to prove herself. She’s an example of “Old card, new name” in that Cynthia is a Trainer-Supporter that has you shuffle your hand into your deck, then draw six cards… just like Professor Oak’s New Theory (HeartGold & SoulSilver 101/123; Call of Legends 83/95). Both cards also coexisted in a Standard Format with N and a Supporter that had you discard your hand to draw seven cards: Professor Juniper for Professor Oak’s New Theory but Professor Sycamore for Cynthia. A big difference is that Professor Oak’s New Theory released before N and Professor Juniper, while Cynthia released about seven months before we’d bid goodbye to N and Professor Sycamore.
Still, all of this was enough to convince me Cynthia would quickly become an important card, and probably a deck staple. Well, the “staple” part also needs to account for ease of access via Tapu Lele-GX or – in Expanded – Battle Compressor and VS Seeker PLUS the lack of a reliable shuffle-and-draw card with a sufficiently high yield. It isn’t that we had no shuffle-and-draw cards, it is just that most were a little too variable, a little too weak, or both to meet all our needs. That was pre-rotation; now Cynthia is simply one of our best draw cards. Lillie has proven far better than I predicted, while others like Hala haven’t lived up to my expectations… but Cynthia has been and remains about as good as I both expected and hoped. If there is an area of disappointment, it is that neither Garchomp (SM – Ultra Prism 99/156) nor Garchomp (SM – Forbidden Light 62/131) is a strong, tournament presence, even with Lucario (SM – Ultra Prism 67/158; SM – Black Star Promos SM95) backing them. They make for a decent beginner/budget deck, but that’s about it. If this seems like a petty gripe, that’s the point; there is nothing about Cynthia that seriously disappoints!
Pre-rotation, Cynthia was widely used but a not must-run for the Standard Format. Now? It seems like only decks which don’t play well with Cynthia’s effect – I’m looking at you, Granbull (SM – Lost Thunder 138/214) – should skip her. Everything else should include at least one copy, and probably more like three or four. There are still further exceptions; Magcargo (SM – Celestial Storm 24/168) does not lend itself to Cynthia-usage and is a significant presence. If you’re relying heavily on Magcargo and not comboing with Pokémon-based draw like Zoroark-GX, heavy Cynthia reliance is counterproductive. In the Expanded Format, I personally don’t like running without one copy of Cynthia, but I also know competitive decks are incredibly tight, running on fewer and fewer Supporters even in the fact of Ability-lock, Item-lock, etc. So Cynthia usage is actually spare in the published results. For the Limited Format, you’re normally desperate for any draw power. If you pull a Cynthia, you run her in your deck; she goes from “great” to “transcendent”!
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