– Burning Shadows
July 23, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Guzma (SM – Burning Shadows 115/147, 115a/147, 143/147) is our fourth-place finisher. This Trainer-Supporter first has you switch one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon with their Active, then has you switch one of your own Benched Pokémon with your own Active. You (the person who played Guzma) picks which Basic gets promoted to the Active position. The wording is such that if you cannot change out your opponent’s Active with one of their Benched Pokémon, you don’t get the switching effect for your side of the field. We first reviewed Guzma as our top pick from SM – Burning Shadows, then as the second best card from 2017 (losing only to Tapu Lele-GX).
Controlling what your opponent has in the Active position ranges from a petty annoyance to game-defining, because it all depends on what else you can accomplish that turn, and how much it will burden your opponent. As Pokémon has typically had a brisk pace, these kind of effects enabled KO’s of your opponent’s most vital, current Pokémon. This is important to note because if you are not scoring a KO, messing up an opponent’s only-while-Active (or the much rarer only-while-Benched) effect, or stranding the right something up front, you might accidentally help your opponent. “So, instead of injuring or KOing my already prepped attacker or wall, you’re going to hit something else I’ll just retreat, switch out with one of my own card effects, or possibly bounce and re-play? Deal!”
You may have heard of effects that let you force your opponent to promote their Benched Pokémon of your choice to the Active position as “Gusting” effects. This stems from two “normal Trainer” cards, Gust of Wind and Double Gust. Gust of Wind first released in the Base Set, and players quickly learned it was great for forcing Evolving Basics into the Active position, where they were an easy KO. You’d simultaneously take a Prize and damage (perhaps even destroy) your opponent’s setup. Gust of Wind was even nicknamed “Gust of Win” for that reason. Fast-forward to the modern Standard Format, and Guzma filled a similar role. Not every game ends with this play, but it is a very common finisher. Almost every competitive decklist includes at least one Guzma, with most running two or three.
We have no good replacement for Guzma once it rotates. Yes, I know we’ll have Custom Catcher, but I said good replacement. Even cards like Pokémon Catcher are also rotating; having to use two of the same Item at once to fake a Lysandre isn’t bad, but it will either force all decks to run effects that make pulling it off easier, or to go without. Guzma isn’t quite as heavily used in Expanded, with decks more likely to only run one or two copies, and even a few that might skip it entirely, but this is a cardpool with VS Seeker; almost every Supporter may be run at lower counts because you have an Item that allows a one-for-one exchange of itself for a Supporter from your discard pile. It is worth noting that Guzma has almost completely replaced Lysandre, as it lets me address something which applies to Standard as well; while having to promote one of your own Benched Pokémon can be a drawback, more often it is either inconsequential or a benefit. It might be a bit more of a concern in the Limited Format and the Theme Format, but the benefits of dictating your opponent’s Active and having a potential out for your own Active are well worth it.
Guzma was my first-place pick. As stated, I think any of our Top 5 has a decent claim as being our biggest loss due to the 2020 Standard Format rotation, but Guzma is the one for which I see an almost universal deck need, a deep need, and no adequate replacement.
Guzma from Burning Shadows was the best card of the set AND the second best card of 2017 due to this card doing a simple thing, but that simplicity does make a huge impact. The gist of this card is that it is two cards combined into one. Most effects are familiar due to past cards doing a similar thing. In the case of Guzma, he is a combination of…
Lysandre/Gust of Wind and Switch.
Both effects are forced. While you can choose the target of your liking, you have to switch one of your Pokemon. If you have even one Pokémon with free retreat, you can bring that in the Active and then manually retreat to a different attacker. The nature of such switching effect means your previous Active Pokemon can shrug off Special Conditions and other effects affecting that Pokémon as well as picking your opponent’s Pokemon to either make them stranded due to high retreat or just flat out KO them before their strategy materializes. No wonder why Guzma was ranked highly.
Guzma may be leaving rotation, but some cards may take his place. Perhaps Custom Catcher is a good replacement; it also possesses the same Gust of Win/Lysandre effect if you played two Custom Catchers at once. As of this writing, Custom Catcher’s price has been spiking way high lately; what was once around $1-$2 when Lost Thunder came out last year became $6-$7. That’s probably a sign that you should get those copies before supply runs dry (that happened to other superstars like Max Elixir and/or VS Seeker). In terms of how he fares in Expanded, again, there’s Lysandre in Expanded as well, and maybe there might be very few decks that wouldn’t like to use two effects at once (gusting and switching).
Guzma – I knew this day would come, but Guzma rotating out does bring a bit of sadness. Course we’ve got Gen 8 right around the corner, so we’re likely to see a ton of new Supporters and Gen 8 cards that will potentially power-creep Guzma or replace him in some way in Standard. For now though, Guzma does feel like a good card on this list, and I definitely would have had him about this high if not higher. Granted, I’d probably need to be reminded of what was actually rotating out before declaring Guzma #1 on the list myself, cause boy there are some powerhouse cards leaving.
Note: The above is an excerpt from an email discussion about this Top 11 list. Aroramage was unable to submit a full email in time, but agreed this so he could still share his thoughts on the cards. This does mean there will be no Ratings, however.
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