Path to the Peak – Chilling Reign
Date Reviewed: December 31, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
And our number one card from 2021 is… Path to the Peak! Maybe not what you were expecting, and it wouldn’t be a review if I didn’t explain, so here we go! For starters, here is the original review for Path to the Peak. It also finished in first place for its native set, SW – Chilling Reign. To be fair, it earned those honors because Vince and I were split on the “true” 1st-Place finisher but… yeah, lucky us it turned out well in the end. Path to the Peak is a Stadium card, and while it is in play, Pokémon with a Rule Box are treated as if they had no Abilities. Pokémon with a Rule Box include all Pokémon V (Basic, VMAX, V-Union, etc.), all Pokémon-GX, all Prism Star Pokémon, all Pokémon BREAK, and all Pokémon-EX. Contrary to what I expected, older (pre-Black & White) cards aren’t considered to have a Rule Box… even if they actually do. Not that it would matter; even if you’re playing a game in the Legacy or Unlimited Formats, nothing prior to Black & White has an Ability… though I suppose it would matter for one of the other few cards that reference Rule Box Pokémon: Cherrim (SW – Battle Styles 008/163; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH088).
Path to the Peak is the successor to Power Plant (SM – Unbroken Bonds 183/214; SM – Cosmic Eclipse 269/236), itself a great Stadium that released during the SM-era, and shut down the Abilities found on Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX. Instead of being a nerfed version of a great card, this is the improved version! The above two kinds of Pokémon are part of that list of Pokémon with a Rule Box I named in the first paragraph, so you’ve got expanded coverage! Now, most decks have at least one Pokémon that has both a Rule Box and an Ability but that isn’t the same as relying on such a Pokémon for the bulk of the game… or even key moments mid-to-late game. Just because your deck wants to drop a Crobat V or two early game does not preclude you running Path to the Peak. Looking at the top performing decks (according to LimitlessTCG), Path to the Peak at least inconveniences, if not practically shuts down six of the top 10 decks:
- Mew VMAX/Genesect V [1st]
- Umbreon VMAX/Single Strike Urshifu VMAX [2nd]
- Zacian V (Sword & Shield 138/202, 195/202, 211/202; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH018, SWSH076) [6th]
- Suicune V/Ludicolo (SW – Evolving Skies 034/203) [8th]
- Duraludon VMAX [9th]
- Eternatus VMAX [10th]
and best of all, the wording makes it at least somewhat future-proof! They have to create a new potent, central gimmick that does not include a Rule Box. Considering there are pre-Expanded Format Pokémon with Rule Boxes, I doubt they’ll be doing that anytime soon. Note: Again, I know that the older Pokémon with a Rule Box do not count as having one for the purposes of Path to the Peak, but I’m citing this to establish the design pattern that has been with this game since the Neo-block! As you know, I tend to value cards with a more general use over those with a more deck-specific one. While Path to the Peak isn’t for every deck – like the six out of the current top 10 I just listed – it still can and has worked its way into many others. Where I was disappointed by its performance has been in the Expanded Format. However, my sampling size was pretty small, so I still think Path to the Peak should be a useful card there. It just has a lot of competition and may be harder to safely run in your own deck. In the Standard Format, I’m awarding this card a five-out-of-five, but “only” a three-out-of-five in the Expanded Format.
- Standard: 5/5
- Expanded: 3/5
Wrapping up the countdown regarding the best Pokémon cards of 2021, our first place finisher is Path to the Peak from Sword & Shield Chilling Reign, which also happened to be the best card of that set as well, and it was reviewed here. This is a Stadium card which makes every Pokémon with rule boxes have no abilities. Various game mechanics from multiple past generations include Pokemon-EX, Pokemon-GX, Pokemon-V/VMAX, Prism Star, and more. Those types of cards have Rule Boxes and they will be affected by this Stadium card.
Based on the card pool of the entirely of 2021, there aren’t many cards which excels at general usage, and Professor’s Research schools nearly all of the other draw based Supporters, so there weren’t any of those cards that made the list. Path to the Peak is the closest thing you can find that makes it splashable in any deck that isn’t reliant on a specific Stadium card that could help the deck get some traction; It is just there to disrupt both you and your opponent…well, mostly the opponent. Path to the Peak was meant to be a double edged sword, keeping both players from performing certain actions, but the timing is still in your favor. You could still use your abilities from Pokémon-GX or Pokémon-V (such as Dedenne-GX or Crobat-V with their one-and-done abilities) before playing that stadium card, and that’s what made it unfair for the opponent. Granted, Path of the Peak isn’t shutting down everything; most of the baseline Pokemon that gives up a single prize don’t have any rule boxes, so they’re totally unaffected by this Stadium card. But even so, you would have used Path to the Peak to replace your opponent’s Stadium card.
Path to the Peak has seen lots of competitively play, so much that you could call it a loose (or true) staple. That’s how good Path to the Peak is, and sits comfortably at the best card of 2021!
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