Oh my, how time flies by! At the time of writing this article, the City Championships for the 2016 season have already drawn to a close, with players now preparing for Regional and State Championships. With the release of the upcoming BREAKpoint expansion on February 3, the format is sure to change – and adapt – in the coming months ahead. This is arguably the best set thus far in the season, besting Ancient Origins by a good margin and BREAKthrough an even greater one.
Most notably, it brings some much-needed support to Water Pokémon – the level of support that players have been so desperately craving since the departure of such staples as Blastoise BCR and Keldeo-EX BCR. But it’s not just Water decks that gain new strategies – there are a number of other types that will benefit from BREAKpoint as well, not to mention the addition of some notable Trainer cards that are sure to find welcome homes in many players’ decks!
Revival of Water Support
Making a Splash Again
Out of the 122 cards in the BREAKpoint expansion, there are 29 Water-related cards counting full art Pokémon-EX and the new Splash Energy – that’s nearly a quarter of the set! Clearly, The Pokémon Company recognized the lack of Water-type support and wanted to amend this. What is particularly striking about this decision, however, is the vast amount of diversity among the Water Pokémon in the set. For example, it seems the card developers took many successful card strategies from the past and reused them for Water types.
it seems the card developers took many successful card strategies from the past and reused them for Water types.
For instance, let’s take a look at Palkia-EX. For 2 Water Energy, its Aqua Turbo attack does 40 damage and allows you to search your deck and attach up to 2 Water Energy to 1 of your Benched Pokémon. Sound familiar? It’s nearly identical to the Virizion-EX’s Emerald Slash, albeit doing 10 less damage.
Though Palkia-EX lacks the powerful Verdant Wind Ability, I don’t believe this hurts the playability of the card, especially given that 1) it isn’t quite as easy to induce Status Conditions due to a lack of quick Item cards like Hypnotoxic Laser, and 2) there are already cards that can remove these conditions with relative ease. Given Palkia-EX’s Grass Weakness, I think it’s safe to say that it will certainly find its place into the format very soon.
Another instance of reusing past strategies is Manaphy-EX. It is reminiscent of Darkrai-EX thanks to its Aqua Cube Ability, which states that each of your Pokémon that has any Water Energy attached to it has no Retreat Cost. However, it should be noted that its HP is considerably weaker – maybe card developers realized that this Ability needed to be balanced given the immense popularity of Dark Cloak?
The great thing is that both Rainbow Energy and Double Dragon Energy count as Water Energy (as well as any other Energy), so there will be many decks that will soon be able to take advantage of this card. Specifically, I see Fairy-toolbox decks opting to use Manaphy-EX over the traditional Fairy Garden simply so that other – and more relevant – Stadiums like Sky Field may be used instead.
Being able to power up attackers and have no Retreat Cost are important, but having a heavy-hitting attacker is, too: enter M Gyarados-EX and Greninja BREAK. With a whopping 240 HP, M Gyarados-EX is sure to make a splash – or tidal wave – very soon. Though its Lightning Weakness is a bit of a letdown with cards like Manectric-EX, Raikou, and Magnezone in the format, it remains undeniable that this card is capable of dishing out a ton of damage. Blast Geyser does a base 120 damage plus 20 more for each Water Energy attached to it, optionally.
This means that the attack can do 200 damage with 4 Water Energy, easily KO’ing the vast majority of Pokémon-EX! While you do have to discard the top 2 cards from your deck to take fully take advantage of this attack, this seems negligible given the damage output. What’s more is that you can fit this card in a number of decks thanks to Archie’s Ace in the Hole. Imagine a Fairy-toolbox deck getting M Gyarados-EX out, moving 4 Rainbow Energy to it, and streaming constant Blast Geyser attacks while healing with Max Potion every turn – talk about scary! While this might seem like an extreme example, it attests to the fact that M Gyarados-EX will certainly be a force to be reckoned with in the meta.
But you don’t have to necessarily have to do the most damage via attacks alone. Greninja BREAK improves upon the already-great card that is Greninja from the XY expansion. Its Giant Water Shurikan Ability allows you to discard a Water Energy from your hand to place 6 damage counters on 1 of your opponent’s Pokémon. You read that right – you can put 60
damage on your opponent’s board having not even attacked yet!
Adding to this, you can also stack this with the card’s previous evolution, which allows you to basically do the same effect but place 3 damage counters instead. This makes Greninja BREAK an incredibly strong card; the fact that it can essentially damage your opponent’s board without having to attach energy tells me that it would pair nicely with healing cards like Max Potion and Rough Seas.
There is one drawback to its Ability though – it has to be your Active Pokémon in order to use Giant Water Shuriken. With Manaphy-EX, this is easily negated and lets you easily retreat into another one.
Lastly, it should be noted that there is a new Stage 2 Greninja in BREAKpoint that can essentially shut off your opponent’s Abilities while doing 40 damage for a single energy with its Shadow Slip attack. I don’t think this card is quite at the level of the above-mentioned cards, but I can certainly see it as a one-off – or perhaps used in conjunction with Archie’s Ace in the Hole given its Colorless attack cost.
Defense is the best Offense
While the new expansion brings a variety of new Water-type attackers, there are also someother Water Pokémon that should not go unnoticed. Perhaps one of the most controversial cards is Slowking. Many veteran players like myself will recall that a Slowking from Neo Genesis was banned many years ago due to a mistranslation of its Ability, potentially forcing your opponent to flip a number of coins to use a single Trainer card depending on how many Slowking you had in play.
While the new Slowking may not be quite as game-breaking, I feel that its Ability is still an incredibly powerful one. King’s Inspiration lets you flip a coin – if heads, choose an Energy attached to your opponent’s Active Pokémon and move it to 1 of his or her Benched Pokémon. While it only works on the opponent’s Active, it still functions as a type of disruption much like Crushing Hammer. One could actually argue that this effect is stronger: after all, your opponent can’t recover energy from the discard pile if there aren’t any there!
Imagine moving Double Colorless Energy from a Lugia-EX or M Mewtwo-EX to a benched Bronzong, essentially making it useless. Better yet, there are some instances where the Energy CAN get discarded. For example, moving a Double Dragon Energy from an active Giratina-EX to a Benched Hoopa-EX forces it to be discarded because Hoopa-EX is not a Dragon-type. One can see how annoying this can be, especially if your opponent has multiple Slowking in play.
I can see many partners with this card, namely Seismitoad-EX and Houndoom-EX. As if Item lock weren’t strong enough, imagine having your energy constantly discarded while Seismitoad-EX simply tanks using Fighting Fury Belt and Super Scoop Up – such a combination is not just annoying but also potentially bad for the game. I can’t comment in regards to whether or not this card will get banned in the near future, but it’s safe to say that it will surely find its way into a number of disruption and mill decks.
Another Water-type Pokémon to look out for is Golduck BREAK. Its Hyper Trans Ability lets you move Basic Energy from 1 of your Pokémon to another as often as you like. Its effect is basically the same as Aromatisse’s Fairy Transfer but with any Basic Energy. While I absolutely love this idea and can think of a number of partners – namely Smeargle and Max Potion – I think this card will find a hard time fitting into a format where even Stage 1 Pokémon struggle, let alone what is basically a glorified Stage 2.
Besides its Ability, I don’t see much else going for the card – its previous evolution doesn’t do enough to justify playing it, not to mention that BREAK cards cannot be brought into play with Archie’s Ace in the Hole or Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick. Given the imminent rotation that is likely to come in the fall – my guess being Phantom Forces-on due to the vast amount of reprints and core strategies in the set – it’s possible that Golduck will eventually replace Aromatisse and possibly find some new partners along the way.
Lastly, it should be noted that there is a new Special Energy for Water-type Pokémon in the form of Splash Energy. Essentially a rehashing of Rescue Energy, it allows you to return all Pokémon cards to the owner’s hand instead of discarding them in the event of that Pokémon being Knocked Out. It could certainly be good addition to Water decks, particularly ones that use Manaphy-EX given its low HP.
The effect seems lackluster compared to that of Strong Energy and Flash Energy however; the incentive to play it doesn’t quite appear to be here yet. Perhaps a strong partner for the card will be released in the future.
Super Ghosts ‘n Garbage
While a great deal of the new expansion is undeniably Water-centric, a number of Psychic-type Pokémon also shine. In conjunction with the new Darkrai-EX – whose damage output is dependent on whether not your opponent’s Active Pokémon is Asleep, Hypno seems like an ideal partner. Its Goodnight, Babies (love that name!) Ability puts both player’s Active Pokémon Asleep once during your turn. This is an incredibly powerful effect given that – unlike Hypnotoxic Laser – you do not have to flip to use it.
Granted, it does put YOUR Pokémon Asleep as well, but this is easily circumvented by way of the new Stadium, All Night Party. This card allows you to remove the Sleep condition and heal 30 damage. With a Muscle Band, suddenly Darkrai-EX can hit for a staggering 180 damage as early as turn two with its Dark Head attack. More importantly, Hypno is even more viable given that it’s just a Stage 1. Imagine being able to use Zoroark’s Stand In Ability to get out of being Asleep while your opponent has to flip. Such an Ability is quite powerful and will find use in a number of decks, particularly those that aim to disrupt.
As if Trevenant from XY wasn’t enough of a hassle thanks to its Item lock as early as turn one, we now have Trevenant BREAK, a card that is perhaps equally scary. Not only does it have 160 HP compared to its previous evolution’s 110 HP, it also has a powerful attack called Silent Fear, which places 3 damage counters on each of your opponent’s Pokémon.
What’s better is that you can use Dimension Valley to make the attack cost a single Psychic Energy! I can see players playing explosive decks that aim to get out Trevenant out turn one by way of Wally, followed by the BREAK on their second turn and attacking.
Still, this card will surely be kept in check given the vast amount of Dark-type decks currently being played. With a Muscle Band and Reverse Valley, Yveltal can do a whopping 120 damage for a single Dark Energy to Trevenant, preventing the BREAK from coming out to begin with. While there is another Trevenant that counteracts this with its Seed of Anxiety Abillity – making your opponent’s Basic Pokémon’s attacks cost 1 Colorless Energy more – I don’t believe this card is viable given how strong Item lock is.
With Mega Evolutions having taken over the format by way of such cards as M Manectric-EX and M Mewtwo-EX, it is reasonable to assume that the card developers would want to keep them in check. Espeon-EX does just that with its Miracle Shine attack, which devolves each of your opponents evolved Pokémon and puts the highest Stage Evolution card on it into their hand. This is huge given that the attack is a mere Colorless Energy, making it splashable in any deck.
Imagine this card being used alongside Trevenant BREAK against something like a Metal type deck. After having placed so many damage counters on the opponent’s board, you can simply use Miracle Shine to take not only take multiple Prize Cards, but to also remove support Pokémon on your opponent’s board! Its Psycho Shock attack is also decent, doing 70 damage while going through any effects on the Defending Pokémon. This could be a great counter to Regice, which can be incredibly annoying – or just a plain autoloss – if you solely choose to rely on Pokémon-EX.
The trash king is back, folks. When Garbodor from Legendary Treasures rotated last year, many players rejoiced because they could suddenly play decks whose strategies were simply impossible to play at the time. However, it appears that Ability lock is soon to make a return once again. While the Garbotoxin Ability is the same as the previous Garbodor, the new card is actually not a reprint – an unfortunate blow to the many players out there who kept their old ones.
However, I’m sure this card will not be too expensive to acquire – The Pokémon Company seems to better understand their competitive demographic and has recently been making a greater effort to making the Trading Card Game both accessible and affordable to all.
That said, Garbodor is sure to change the format as we know it. While Hex Maniac essentially has the same effect, players could get around It by using their Abilities before laying the card down, making the effect one-sided – not to mention that Hex Maniac is for a single turn use. Garbodor’s Ability is permanent as long as it has a Tool Card attached, which is easy to pull off given that most decks seem to be running around 4-5 Tool Cards anyway.
A number of decks use Abilities in order to execute certain strategies: some examples include Bronzong’s Metal Links; Aromatisse’s Fairy Transfer; and Magnezone’s Magnetic Circuit. Perhaps the most important Ability in the game, however, is Shaymin-EX’s Set Up. Most decks rely on this one card to quickly draw cards and set up. Many decks will struggle and be forced to adapt in order to combat Garbodor in the coming months – perhaps more Item-based draw cards will be used over Shaymin-EX, like Acro Bike and Trainers’ Mail.
New Strategies Shine
Pokémon-EX on the Rise
Perhaps more important than the abundant amount of Water-type support in BREAKpoint is the general card diversity that will surely make the format even healthier. There are a number of Pokémon-EX that will take current decks to greater heights. I previously mentioned Darkrai-EX, which can function both as a main attacker and a support Pokémon in other Dark-based decks. Metal players will rejoice with the inclusion of Scizor-EX and M Scizor-EX. The Basic Pokémon is an efficient attacker by itself, doing 20 damage for a single Metal Energy and potentially 110 damage for an additional Energy.
Combined with Fighting Fury Belt, it is already in the same HP range as such Mega Evolutions as M Manectric-EX. In addition, M Scizor-EX is sure to be played, with Iron Crusher doing 120 damage and giving the player the option to either discard a Special Energy on the opponent’s Active Pokémon or a Stadium in play. It is certainly a counter to decks that use Double Colorless Energy and Rainbow Energy.
Perhaps more important than the abundant amount of Water-type support in BREAKpoint is the general card diversity that will surely make the format even healthier.
I also like the addition of Togekiss-EX in Fairy-based decks. For one Fairy Energy, its Wind of
Power attack does 20 damage and lets you attach one Energy card from your hand to 1 of your Pokémon. This is great because it allows you to accelerate Special Energy – imagine being able to attach a Double Dragon Energy or Double Colorless Energy from your hand! You could easily power up virtually any attacker – I see Fairy-toolbox decks becoming popular again in the near future.
One of the more obscure Pokémon-EX in the set is Ho-Oh-EX. Much like its Dragons Exalted counterpart, this card utilizes various Energy to attack. Elemental Feather does 130 damage and lets you do 30 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. It’s basically a stronger Night Spear, an attack that many Darkrai-EX players know all too well – for better or worse.
With a Fighting Fury Belt, the attack basically puts 170 damage on the board and gives the Pokémon-EX a whopping 210 HP. With Absol from Roaring Skies, you can easily move the damage counters to get KO’s every turn. In addition, Ho-Oh-EX’s Cleansing Flame Ability can help it survive a few turns, allowing you to heal 50 damage once per turn if this Pokémon has any basic Fire Energy attached. Given the attack cost, I think it could fit into a M Manectric-EX deck or perhaps one that utilizes energy acceleration and Smeargle.
More Staple Cards
Adding to the amount of diversity in this format’s cardpool are the various Trainer cards in BREAKpoint. Fighting Fury Belt is sure to become a staple in most decks given its effect, adding +40 HP and +10 damage to attacks of Basic Pokémon. Why the card developers continue adding support for Pokémon-EX baffles me, but I am sure players will find innovative ways to use this Tool Card.
Burst Balloon could also be good, but it is completely situational given that it is a one turn card. However, perhaps that one turn is all one needs to get set up or attach an Energy without fear of your Pokémon being KO’d.
Item cards essentially drive a player’s strategy– the fact that most players opt to run as many as 30 in a deck attests to this notion. There are a number of other Item cards in the set that will certainly see play soon. Firstly, there is the return of Max Potion, whose effect is self-explanatory. Being able to heal all damage off a Pokémon has proven to be powerful, especially when partnered up such Pokémon as Aromatisse to move Energy around. It can also be great with Pokémon whose attacks are efficient, like Seismitoad-EX, Houndoom-EX, Lucario-EX, and many others.
I also like Max Elixir, which lets you look at the top 6 cards of your deck, pick a Basic Energy, and attach it to one of your Benched Basic Pokémon. This is the kind of acceleration many decks have been needing! Many players have compared to Dark Patch – it certainly has some similarities despite the Energy coming from the deck opposed to the discard pile.
Lastly, Puzzle of Time is an interesting card that could potentially be played as a four-off in most decks. Its first effect already has synergy with Acro Bike, letting you look at the top 3 cards of your deck and rearranging them. However, the second effect is what makes it great. If you play two Puzzle of Time simultaneously, you can put ANY two cards from the discard pile into your hand.
Suddenly Seismitoad-EX and Night March players can recover Double Colorless Energy again. I’m sure there are a vast amount of possibilities with this card involving Battle Compressor to quickly get any cards in your hand as early as turn one. This is certainly a card to look out for – I recommend getting a playset before they go up!
Other Trainer Support
There are a couple of Trainer cards that I will end with. I previously mentioned All Night Party, but another Stadium is Reverse Valley. As if Dark-type Pokémon don’t have enough support already, this card will likely become standard in most Yveltal-based decks. It adds +10 damage to the attacks of Dark-type Pokémon. I mentioned the math with Trevenant-EX, but this is only the start.
For example, with merely two energy and a Muscle Band, Yveltal-EX can now Evil Ball for 180 damage against Gengar-EX if Reverse Valley is in play, previously being 20 damage short. The flip side of this Stadium makes Metal-type Pokémon take -10 damage from attacks, certainly useful if using Shield Energy and Hard Charm alongside.
The second trainer – also a controversial one – is Delinquent. This card will be annoying to play against, to say the least. By discarding a Stadium, the card forces your opponent to discard 3 cards from their hand. Normally this doesn’t sound like much given that they will probably keep the best card, likely a supporter. However, in a format where Red Card exists this could quickly become a pain to deal with. Imagine your opponent going first, using both Red Card and Delinquent on your opening hand.
Suddenly instead of starting with 6 cards, you now have 1 and must rely on a top deck to continue the game if you did not get a Supporter. I can see this card quickly making the game unhealthy, especially with cards like Seismitoad-EX still running rampant. Perhaps players will opt to play thicker Supporter or Shaymin-EX counts to combat this, but I think Delinquent will make an impact on the game for the worse.
While there are two other Supporter cards in the set – Misty’s Determination and Psychic’s Mind Reading – I feel that they are both lackluster and will unlikely see much play.
Professor Sycamore will continue to be every player’s go-to Supporter, with Item and Pokémon-based draw by way of cards like Trainers’ Mail, Acro Bike, and Shaymin-EX, respectively, also being valid options in a format that lacks such cards as Professor Oak’s New Theory and N.
Professor Sycamore will continue to be every player’s go-to Supporter.