Pikachu & Zekrom GX
– (Set?? Unknown 2019 Expansion)
August 28, 2018
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Today, we are previewing a card that would be released in 2019 based on looking at a set number from an unnamed expansion. It is also another new mechanic in terms on what’s being printed on a card. GX Tag Team is somewhat of an enhanced version of GX Pokemon, as it has two Pokémon on the background similar to the various Legend cards from the HeartGold and SoulSilver series, except that Legend cards require two cards while Tag Team only needs one. Heck, even two of the Pokémon’s name is printed! The drawback of being a GX Tag Team is that once those Pokémon is knocked out, your opponent takes 3 prize cards, which is pretty hefty! However, smart players can turn this into a eight-prize game (letting a two prize GX get knocked out first, which makes the opponent’s prize count down to 4, a KOed Tag Team brings it down to 1, and needing another KO to win the last prize regardless of being a GX or not). Regardless, proper care should really be taken if you want to use those cards. The first beneficiaries of this mechanic starts with Pikachu & Zekrom GX!
Being a Basic is still the best due to the usual reasons: saving deck space & and being brought into play easily than evolution cards. Being a Lightning type means it can hit certain Pokémon for weakness that represents the flying type in the video games. It would be ridiculous if I were to say that Lightning weakness can be found on Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Colorless, Psychic, Metal, and Darkness Pokemon because that’s where such weakness are found in those types of cards. Lightning resistance, however, can be found on Black & White-era cards. 240 HP is considerably higher than typical basic GX Pokemon (but not the highest) and falls in line with Stage 1 or Stage 2 GXs, which makes it incredibly hard to take it down in one shot, though the Fighting weakness makes me leery about its staying power for Expanded due to fighting types specializing in doing good damage for one Energy that can be amplified by Strong Energy and other damage boosting cards from Pokémon and Trainer cards. The Fighting weakness is still a concern on Standard, though not as ridiculous as certain combo pieces has already left rotation. Resistance is always useful as it means that Metal types will deal 20 less damage to this Pokémon. And a retreat cost of three is expensive, though could be searchable by Heavy Ball.
Pikachu & Zekrom GX has two attacks both cost LLL, which is pretty steep as it means that you will have to spend three turns with manual attachment unless you have Magnezone from SM Forbidden Light in play since its Magnetic Circuit allows unlimited energy attachments for Lightning energy. That’s makes it a natural partner to support this Pokémon. Full Blitz does 150 damage and lets you search your deck for three Lightning energies and attach it to one of your Pokemon. This can be boosted by Choice Band so that you can land KOs on most Basic GX Pokemon. It also thins your deck so that you have a better chance of drawing what you need and preps another attacker. There’s no downsides to that attack, which is a good start!
It’s GX attack called Tag Bolt GX and its attack cost is interesting; it has LLL+ meaning that you can still attack normally with LLL but will have another effect if more energies are attached to it. Under normal circumstances, you deal 200 damage. Additionally, if this Pokemon has three extra L energy in addition to the attack cost, which is effectively LLLLLL, then not only it does 200 to the Defending Pokémon, it also does 170 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon. I no longer can determine if that GX attack was overpriced or acceptable; you’re pretty much getting what you paid for, and you might hit certain important numbers, like knocking Out a Defending Pokémon GX and a Benched Tapu Lele-GX to get four prizes. Loading this much energy, however, may backfire since it might take a Gardevoir-GX with a single Fairy energy and a Choice Band to revenge KO these Pokemon. Even with Thunder Mountain reducing it to LLLLL, the Gardevoir player can use one Secret Spring to make it YY and still OHKO this Pokemon.
So far, this is a solid Pokemon. However, we aren’t finished yet; there are type specific support for Lightning types based on future cards, and that might make this Pokémon ridiculous than it already is. Thunder Mountain Prism Star makes both of its LLL attacks become LL. Electripower can be played as many times as you like during your turn. Each use of Electripower grants you 30 damage boost. With appropriate amount of times, Pikachu & Zekrom GX can actually OHKO any Pokemon in the game….except against safeguard users like Hoopa SHL and Alolan Ninetales BUS.
So how do you use this Pokémon? The one I’ve mentioned it already is Magnezone, as it provides unlimited energy acceleration for Lightning energy. You can even employ Max Potion to heal all damage. Despite losing all energy attached to it, Magnezone can easily refuel any attack cost with ease, which makes it viable for tanking and healing. You can also make a speedy deck by going through your deck as deep as you can while using Max Elixir to accelerate attackers. With this much HP, you can even use just one or two copies of this Pokémon and 58 other cards dedicated to disruption, in a similar manner to Wailord-EX decks, except that this Pokémon actually has good attacks than just being a wall.
A Pokémon that’s worth three prizes would have to be amazing, and Pikachu & Zekrom really delivers! You might be able to print this card as a proxy due to PokeBeach having a HD version of it. It might be a good pull in Limited depending on cards in the set, though you may not be able to attack for two turns if you rely on manual energy attachments. I opt not to give ratings for this card since we won’t be getting it for several months. Pikachu & Zekrom GX Tag Team may not be the one of the best Pokémon cards out there, but looking into the future, they will become a better card due to type specific support.
Ok so we can all read the card, I’m not going to go into all the different ways that you could potentially use Vikavolt or Dragonair or Magnezone or Wishful Baton or Beast Rings and Ninja Boy or whatever other creative methods you might want to use to power up that crazy GX attack. No, what I want to talk about something that happened this weekend that includes but is a whole lot bigger than this new mechanic.
So there were a LOT of draws this weekend at worlds. The announcers talked about it ad nauseum, and people warned about that in pre worlds video discussions. There were a lot of 2-0 scores and a lot of 1-1 scores. There weren’t a whole lot of 2-1 scores. This is a problem for Pokemon. Say what you will about Zoroark, it has significantly increased the complexity of the game. Long gone are the days when Darkrai EX would smack Yveltal EX as hard as it could. Zoroark Control and Zoroark Garbotoxin have significantly elevated the skill level involved in this game – and that’s a very good thing.
The downside of playing matches that take 20 or 25 or 30 minutes is that you can’t complete three of them in an hour. This means that a lot of people get draws and are unhappy because in day 2 a draw is pretty much the same as a loss. This was blatantly exposed in the round three second match that ended in a draw but would have clearly been a victory for one player if he only had a single additional turn. The rules are the rules – that match definitely and correctly was a tie under the current rules… rules that are very obviously flawed.
So what’s the solution? How do you speed up the game so that more players can complete three games in less than 60 minutes? How about introducing a Pokemon that could potentially take four (or five if it can KO another Tag Team Pokemon) prizes in a single turn while at the same time giving up three prizes on the rebound KO? Seriously, these games could take five minutes. Ok OK I get it I’m exaggerating, but a couple more Pokemon like these and the game will descend back into massive Big Basic Pokemon blasting each other as hard and as quickly as they can. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing.
Dumbing down the game so you can ensure that three games can be completed in less than an hour doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a good idea.
And here’s where my perspective quite possibly comes into conflict with most players. I have played very little IRL. I went to Indy in June of 2017 and Collinsville last year. I suck IRL. I can’t shuffle to save my life. And I am so busy right now that there’s no way I could possibly commit the time needed to go to tournaments. So let me be very clear: I am interested in the best interest of the game in its online version. I follow the IRL tournaments extensively, and I love seeing what happens in the meta. But if there is a direct correlation between the complexity of the game and the length of matches, I do NOT want to see the complexity of the game reduced in an attempt to decrease the number of draws at IRL tournaments.
Now please take note: I am speculating here. I am completely aware that everything I wrote in the previous paragraph could be totally delusional. My wife had the best definition of neurotic this weekend, I had never heard it described this way. My son asked what neurotic meant, and she told him that it was someone who tries to fix something that isn’t necessarily broken.
The game is not broken – it is growing at leaps and bounds, and I think that’s great. I hope that we have a tournament next season that tops 2000 players in Masters alone. And I hope we have a tournament in two or three years that tops 3000. I want to see this game grow. But at the same time, I want to see the complexity of the game increase. If shortening game times leads to a decrease in the complexity of the game, I’m not in favor of that.
So the two biggest problems Pokemon faced this weekend: draws and cheating (sorry but it is what it is), both of which could very easily be solved. Play matches on PTCGO and you eliminate both of those issues. I know I just committed heresy and will probably be burned at the stake, but if I went into my boss tomorrow and said, “I can solve our two largest problems, but it will take some technological infrastructure and some money,” the change would be made that day. Unfortunately, the shortest distance between two points isn’t always a straight line, and the simplest solutions to a problem aren’t always the easiest.
Standard: 2.5 out of 5
If you dropped Tag Team Pikarom (Zekachu?) into the new Standard format today (umm tomorrow is when I’ve heard it cuts off on PTCGO), I’m sure it’d be all over the place. It’s definitely going to fall into one of two categories: too big to fail or too big to succeed. Considering nobody plays Snorlax GX anymore, I’m guessing it will be the latter, but what do I know? I would have taken Promo Koko and Fairy Lele to worlds if I had been so fortunate to earn an invite.
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