Lt. Surge’s Strategy
– Unbroken Bonds
May 13, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Well, this is going to be controversial. We have another card that breaks the normal rules of the TCG, and I can imagine players thinking about ways to take advantage of breaking the rules. To take a quote from Yu-Gi-Oh and modifying a bit, it would be “Screw the rules, I can play more than one Supporter during my turn!” Today’s 5th best card of Sun & Moon Unbroken Bonds, Lt. Surge Strategy, can be described as such, and it’s definitely worth a look of a card that can break certain rules, though how much advantage you can gain from him depends.
Anyhow, Lt. Surge’s Strategy works only if you have more prizes than your opponent. When the condition is met, then you get to use three Supporter cards. This effect is phenomenal, though it is important to be aware of how it technically works. You have to use Lt. Surge’s Strategy first in order to use further more supporters because if you use a different Supporter first, you won’t be able to use Lt. Surge’s Strategy second because you just used up your Supporter on your turn. Despite saying you can play three Supporters, Lt. Surge’s Strategy uses up one of the three uses during your turn, making you have two available usage left. I was going to suggest Lusamine to recover Supporter and Stadium cards, but this card is banned in Expanded, and well leave Standard this fall, so that option is out of the window. But still, being able to use multiple Supporters means you can further pursue more combinations of draw power, disruption, or even board control. Some good multiple uses of one turn could include, but not limited to: Surge + Cynthia + Guzma or Surge + Team Skull Grunt + Plumeria.
So Surge has a place in Standard, but what about Expanded? Well, there’s another card that lets you play multiple Supporters. Only one I can think of is Magnezone from Black & White Plasma Storm, or Team Plasma Magnezone. It is a Stage 2 Lightning type with 140 HP, weak to Fighting, retreat cost of three, an Ability, and an attack. Getting the attack out of the way, Gyro Ball does 80 for LLC and makes both players switch their Active Pokemon with one of their Benched Pokemon, if any. Dual Brains is the reason Lt. Surge’s Strategy faces competition in the Expanded format; this ability lets you play two Supporters instead on one. Magnezone is flexible such that you don’t have to use Lt. Surge’s Strategy first in order to trigger the effect, and it doesn’t matter how ahead or behind you are. However, it is a Stage 2, so getting it out in play is another matter separately. If you do combine the two together…I believe it can only let you play as many as four Supporters in one turn. Lt. Surge’s Strategy acts as a +2 while Magnezone acts as a +1. Still, it’s up to decide if you want to use a Stage 2 or a single Supporter card. Regardless, both comparisons can get you to use two different – or same – Supporters tops not named Lt. Surge’s Strategy.
I think this is one of those cards that would be aggressively monitored to see if such a ridiculous effect could be healthy or not. If it isn’t, you can expect to see a Public Service Announcement (PSA) regarding cards that are going to be in the ban list. Until then, I suppose that you would have to make as much use as you can. A card that breaks some of the rules of any kind of TCG does NOT mean an automatic five-out-of-five since, ultimately, you would have to use it at the right time and not mindlessly. I do appreciate this card being on the list.
Beginning the top half of our countdown is our fifth-place finisher, Lt. Surge’s Strategy (SM – Unbroken Bonds 178/214). This Trainer-Supporter states you may only use it when you have more Prize cards remaining than your opponent, and that you may play two more Supporter cards that turn. Prize card counts are a funny thing; while they give a rough idea of who is currently in the lead, it is indeed only a rough idea. Alternate win conditions are the obvious exception, as you may win without ever taking a Prize, but even in a run-of-the-mill matchup, with both players trying to take a win via KOing their opponent’s Pokémon, you’ve got Bench Outs and “Prize swings” that can make a liar out of the Prize count. By this point, it is crystal clear the powers-that-be are well aware of this, which makes me think that Lt. Surge’s Strategy was designed with atypical tactics in mind; it can serve as a “come from behind card”, but… well… there’s the rest of its effect.
Being able to use three total Supporters sounds ridiculously broken at first blush, but even apart from the Prize count restrictions, it isn’t quite that easy. You must use Lt. Surge’s Strategy before the other two Supporters you wish to play. Use a Lusmine to reclaim Lt. Surge’s Strategy? It had better be because you were thinking ahead; Lusamine took up your Supporter usage for the turn, so Lt. Surge’s Strategy cannot be played until your next turn. There are also deck space and further deck flow concerns; even when you’re enjoying them for some massive combo, Lt. Surge’s Strategy and your two other Supporters still eat away at how many Supporters you have available for the total length of the game. You can run additional Supporters to help compensate, BUT you won’t always be able to play three per turn; you’re still taking a risk of your hand becoming cluttered if you add too many.
Being able to play two additional Supporters is incredibly potent; such cards are normally once-per-turn for a reason! Actually finding killer combos, though, is another matter. Typically, you’ll gain some benefit even if it only amounts to doubling up on your draw power or being able to use something like Cynthia the same turn you’re using Guzma. Control decks, besides often falling behind in Prizes while actually being in a strong, winning position, are more likely to have disruption that compliments each other. A combo that many were leery of was being able to use Lusamine to reclaim at least one Supporter from the discard pile then turn around the Supporter (or one of the Supporters, if you recycled two) that very same turn. Expanded still has VS Seeker, though it also has a lot of Item-lock so this would have been handy for some decks, and potentially game-breaking for others. I can’t remember if that was one of the chief reasons Lusamine was banned in Expanded, but either way, we don’t need to worry about it there. It can still be done in Standard, however, where we also don’t have VS Seeker as an alternative.
If all of this sounds vague… that is because I lack significant details. Yet again, I find myself relying heavily on tournament results from Japan, but I also still only have those three tournaments (Champions League Chiba, CL Chiba Extra, and Champions League Kyoto) from which to glean insight, as Lt. Surge’s Strategy won’t become tournament legal until the 17th. These are most definitely useful, but I don’t have lists for every deck in the top 64 (sometimes barely the top 8) and the Chiba events are already nearly three months old… meaning they are before that last wave of bans. These results are good for tempering and tweaking my initial impressions, though, and those would be that Lt. Surge’s Strategy is merely an “okay” card when it comes to general, competitive play but very good in slower decks and great in some of those. It can be hard to tell which uses qualify as which, as I’m seeing things like some Japanese Reshiram & Charizard-GX lists include a clutch copy of Lt. Surge’s Strategy… probably so that a slow start can lead to a double Welder or Welder/Guzma combo. The rest of its appearances seem to be stall and/or control decks.
Lt. Surge’s Strategy could ultimately prove to be a broken card, or at least lead to broken combos. CL Chiba Extra makes me think it already has, as I was seeing it to expand upon the already devastating Delinquent combos. It really does take a lot to use Lt. Surge’s Strategy well. It is something to always consider, but will usually only include when you’re running a deck that is slow at taking Prizes. Which is why I had it as my 11th-place pick; remember, this seems like a phenomenal, metagame changing set so making the Top 11 at all is pretty significant.
Actually, that’s something I’ve always wondered – why is he the “Lightning American” anyway? I mean, nowadays he’s just referred to as the “Lightning Lieutenant”, after it’s been more established that the Pokemon World is more than just “alt-Earth”, but still! What’s with that previous war that happened that Surge was even apart of? We’ve heard of wars happening a long time ago, but what about that war that he served in? The mystery of the Lightning Lieutenant only deepens…
Lt. Surge’s Strategy doesn’t require so much thought put into it or the man it represents. It’s a pretty simple Supporter that has a simple effect: during the turn you play it, you can activate up to 3 Supporters, which includes Lt. Surge’s Strategy for convenience’s sake. Course you can only use it if you’ve got more Prize cards remaining than your opponent does, but that’s a small price to pay for such a powerful effect.
Normally I’d call this kind of card a “catch-up” card, cause it’s usually playable at a time when you’re behind in the game, and it’s meant to help you catch up to your opponent. Sometimes these cards come up on occasion, and they’ve usually got effects like, “Only playable if your Pokemon was KO’d last turn,” and then it helps provide card draw, Energy, damage, disruption, etc. Basically it’s usually meant to help out with when you’ve just fallen behind or lost out on your star Pokemon. But now, imagine that Lt. Surge’s Strategy is playable on the same turn when you could activate something like Lance <Prism> or Morty. Just in theory, now you can get more draw power taken care of, attach more Energy, do more stuff!
And that’s just considering the small number of Supporters that would need that extra criteria. Now just think of cards like Cynthia, Guzma, Bill’s Analysis, Acerola, Copycat, or even in Expanded you’ve got N, Sycamore, Skyla, Colress, Lysandre, and more! There’s a LOT of Supporters that Lt. Surge’s Strategy boosts just by being playable! But of course, the full caveat on that is that you only get 2 more Supporters to use for the turn, since Lt. Surge’s Strategy counts as your first.
The option is there though, and it’d be pretty hard to pass up an opportunity like that!
Standard: 4/5 (this will help decks with a large Supporter count get multiples off in a single turn)
Expanded: 4.5/5 (and ideally with that, they’ll gain a major advantage in terms of resources)
Limited: 4/5 (there’s a good chunk of Supporters in this set, and they’re really good too!)
Arora Notealus: One of these days, they’re gonna have to tell us what’s up with the whole “Lieutenant” part of Lt. Surge’s name. Lore-wise, I don’t think it’s ever been established what exactly the war was that Surge participated in. And it’s definitely not that Kalos war, there’s no way Surge is 300 years old same as Az.
Next Time: Speaking of fighting, let’s do some training in Saffron City!
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