– Sword & Shield
March 26, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Pokémon Catcher is our Throwback for today, and this card actually got some interesting history as well as one of those cards that got an errata later down the road. First printed in Black & White Emerging Powers, it was regarded being one of the most sought after card that was needed in every single deck because – before the errata – it lets you choose one of your opponent’s Benched Pokemon and get that Pokémon into the Active spot, which is exactly what Gust of Wind did back in Base Set days! At the time of release, there’s wasn’t much item based competition that tries to rival Pokémon Catcher, so it was a obvious inclusion to include a full four copy of Pokémon Catcher. Pokemon Reversal is deemed obsolete…unless you somehow think that 4 Pokémon Catcher isn’t enough to satisfy you, but Junk Arm gets you item cards back (despite a -3 from your hand) so that you can use Pokémon Catcher again instead of relying on coin flips.
Eventually, at the start of the XY series, Pokemon Catcher is given errata so that you need to get heads on a coin flip in order to do the same thing, turning into what was once Gust of Wind into Pokémon Reversal. It’s viability status plummeted, changing from being a staple to being a risky niche choice that you would have wished you would’ve ran something else if you flipped tails. Shortly after, though, the next set after XY was XY Flashfire, which gave us Lysandre came into the picture, doing the same thing Gust of Wind did. And the next set after XY Flashfire is XY Furious Fists, which gave Seismitoad-EX, whose Quacking Punch kept players from using item cards every turn every time the player uses that attack. There’s pretty much little to no hope for Pokémon Catcher’s viability with counters and competition affecting this card.
And that’s not all! Various formats in which Pokémon Catcher appeared almost always face competition from other efficient cards, and new ones come shortly after the previous one is about to leave rotation. Lysandre has been used around May 2014 to August 2017, then Guzma from August 2017 to August 2019, and Custom Catcher from November 2018 to present. And another Supporter card under the name “Boss’s Orders” is about to be eventually released – probably this May – that does exactly like Lysandre did. Maybe one day Pokemon Catcher will be in a place where no other competition exists, but that day won’t be coming anytime soon (though it’s wish already came true on Legacy). Those competition listed above does have their fair share of drawbacks, such as giving up using your other Supporter cards on your turn, needing TWO cards to be played at the same time in order to do the same thing (looking at you Custom Catcher), and other Catcher related items that requires a very specific condition or being restricted to target a certain Pokémon.
Pokémon Catcher is pretty much in limbo most of the time. You might see it in tournament play and you sometimes don’t see it. Despite heavy competition against Pokémon Catcher, it is still a good card in a very crowded field, just waiting for its time to temporary shine. Decks can’t get any more surprise of using existing outclasses cards…like today’s card, Potion, or even Switch!
Today’s Throwback is Pokémon Catcher, but its true history goes all the way back to the beginning of the game, with Gust of Wind. Gust of Wind is a Trainer-Item that lets you force the opposing Benched Pokémon of your choice into their Active slot while Benching their current Active. As you might gather, this was so potent it was nicknamed “Gust of Win”, and is why we refer to these kinds of effects as “Gusting”.
Gust of Wind was crazy good, and was lost in the very first set rotation. Similar cards succeeded it, but the original was gone until August 31, 2011. That’s when BW – Emerging Powers, the second set of the Black & White era, released and gave us Pokémon Catcher before its infamous erratum. At this point, until November 8, 2013, Pokémon Catcher was just Gust of Wind with a new name. Decks liked to max it out, though some could get by with just two or three.
When the Kalos Starter Set released on November 8, 2013, just a few days after the final BW-era expansion (BW – Legendary Treasures) released, the erratum went into effect (along with several others). It wasn’t a surprise, because they’d announced it months ago. Pokémon Catcher was still a staple, still run about as much as it had been before, but no where near as good.
Then came Lysandre in XY – Flashfire. The second set of the XY-era released on May 7, 2014. Lysandre is just Gust of Wind as a Supporter, and we finally had a reliable alternative to the nerfed Pokémon Catcher. Giving up your Supporter wasn’t cheap, but most decks were able and willing to make the trade. Some – usually still running at least a few Lysandre – would still run Pokémon Catcher: even with a 50% chance of doing nothing, gaining that effect without using your Supporter was a potent play.
Guzma would eventually replace Lysandre, and then Guzma would also rotate from the Standard Format, alongside Pokémon Catcher. We still had Custom Catcher and Great Catcher, but decks that couldn’t afford enough slots for the former or were worried about more than Benched Pokémon-GX wished Pokémon Catcher was back. Now it is, having been reprinted in Sword & Shield!
However, it is just that: a solid option among others. In fact, if your deck has the space for four Custom Catcher and maybe a copy of Great Catcher or two on top of that, that’s the route your deck should take. If you have four or fewer slots, then Pokémon Catcher is probably the correct play, maybe with a copy or two of Great Catcher backing it up.
In the Expanded Format, Pokémon Catcher actually remains a solid option even though it faces more competition and counters. That is how potent Gusting effects are! You won’t be seeing Pokémon Catcher all that often, but you will still see it. Even though you have all the same alternatives you’d find in Standard. Even though most decks run Guzma, Lysandre, or even both. Yes, even though anti-Item effects are strong in Expanded!
In the Limited Format, if you pull a Pokémon Catcher, you run it. Having access to this effect, even though it relies on a coin toss, is amazing. The same is true for the Theme Format; while only certain decks have access to it, that includes some of the most recent ones, and it can be a game changer when it works. The Legacy Format lets us see how Pokémon Catcher fairs in a metagame built around older cards using modern rules. Without competition from things like Lysandre or Custom Catcher, Pokémon Catcher is back to deciding games!
Though I don’t care for “tails fails” coin flip-based effects, I was still happy to see Pokémon Catcher return. It can be hard to believe given how often we experience the opposite, but a Bench that is too safe also causes balance issue. I actually thought Pokémon Catcher would be seeing more success in Standard than it has, but I’ll take what I can get. It is worth noting that we are receiving a new Supporter with the same effect as Lysandre in our next expansion; while this will make Pokémon Catcher less useful, I don’t think it will ding it enough to drop its score.
I ran out of time to work them into the review organically, but below are links to our past Pokémon Catcher reviews:
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