Steam Siege: The Set Review

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Hey, everybody! With the 2016 Pokémon World Championships just a week away and Steam Siege being legal for the tournament, I thought it would be appropriate to write a set review to help kick off the upcoming season. I do apologize for the lack of content over the summer — between getting married, switching graduate programs, and moving into a new house, things have been extremely busy to say the least. That said, things are finally slowing down so I have had a great deal of time to work on the site. I have a lot of exciting changes in store for Top Deck Nation, and through the generosity and support of the Pokémon community these new features will soon become a reality.

Steam Siege is an interesting first set of the new season because while it does not bring a whole lot of new cards to the table — no pun intended — there are certainly a few notable strategies that will arise and support cards that are sure to make their way into already popular decks.


The Big Four Decks

Perhaps the most hyped card fromSTS_026 the set is Volcanion-EX. Had Karen been printed in Steam Siege, I think this deck would have been the play for Worlds — few decks can compete with its sheer speed and powerful synergy with Blacksmith, not even Night March in my opinion. The so-called baby Volcanion can easily hold its own against Night Marchers with the help of Fighting Fury Belt and the Steam Up Ability. Unfortunately, it is hard to say whether or not the deck will continue to do well in the Standard Format due to the loss of Blacksmith. Instead, players will have to rely on Max Elixir and Volcanion’s Power Heater attack for energy acceleration.

I think the deck will be a solid choice for Standard simply because Water-based decks seem to be on the decline. Water Box, which saw ample play recently and even won a National Championship, loses the notorious Seismitoad-EX, so it can’t get set up quite as quickly now. Greninja also loses quite a bit, including Greninja XY and Sacred Ash. Grass-types are on the rise too — Mega Sceptile-EX quickly comes to mind — so this could be the chance for Volcanion decks to shine.

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Red, hot, and ready.

What’s so good about Volcanion-EX anyway you ask? Firstly, it’s Steam Up Ability is reminiscent of Deoxys-EX’s Power Connect from Plasma Freeze, only this time the damage boost is significantly higher and works on any of your Basic Fire-type Pokémon. With a Fighting Fury Belt and Steam Up you can quickly hit the magic 170 mark to score OHKO’s on most Pokémon-EX. Not only that, but the Ability stacks, meaning that you can add up to a whopping 120 damage a turn to your attacks, enough to knock out Mega Pokémon and even Wailord-EX!

As far as partners, the aforementioned baby Volcanion is pretty obvious, but I also think the Entei from Ancient Origins is a solid one or two-of as well. Its Combat Blaze attack requires only two energy and with two Steam Ups can easily OHKO another hyped card for the new season: Mega Rayquaza-EX. Overall, I think Volcanion is a great play looking ahead, but I would hold off on buying the set one and get the promo when it’s released to save money.

Two Fairy-type decks are alsoSTS_079 expected to see play soon. First is Mega Gardevoir-EX. While the non-Mega is decent, the main attacker will surely be the Mega. For two energy its Despair Ray does 110 damage plus 10 more for each Benched Pokémon you choose to discard. Due to an incorrect translation, players thought the card did 30 more damage instead of 10, but this is not the case unfortunately. To KO a Pokémon-EX you would need to discard 6-7 Benched Pokémon per turn, which is difficult to constantly stream. Sky Field would be the ideal Stadium in this case, so perhaps the deck will run similarly to Mega Rayquaza-EX based decks.

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New life to Fairy-type decks?

Xerneas BREAK is similar to Darkrai-EX from BREAKpoint but only gives up a single prize. Its Life Stream attack deals 20 damage for each Energy you have in play, meaning with 9 Energy you can knock out most Pokémon-EX. Keep in mind it says any Energy, not just Fairy-type, so it can pair well with a number of attackers, not to mention that it can take advantage of Double Dragon and Double Colorless Energy for added damage. Interestingly enough, both the Xerneas and Yveltal from XY received reprints in Steam Siege, so this makes it a bit easier to get Energy in play, in addition to Max Elixir. With Metal-types having lost Bronzong and now having virtually no Energy acceleration, Fairy-type decks should do fairly well in competitive play, though the absence of Aromatisse and its Fairy Transfer Ability makes these attackers more susceptible to damage with few healing options.

Lastly, another deck that I amSTS_007 personally excited for is Yanmega. Similarly to its Prime version from the days of HeartGold/SoulSilver, Yanmega can potentially hit for up to 120 damage for no Energy. Its Grass typing means that it can plow through things like Zygarde-EX and many Water-types. It also has a great Lightning Weakness, Fighting resistance, and even free Retreat. In addition, the card received a BREAK card, which adds 30 HP and an attack called Barrier Break, which deals a vanilla 100 damage and goes through any effects. So why isn’t the deck getting more hype? For starters, Sonic Vision is an Ability and a Hex Maniac can easily shut down the deck’s core strategy. Also, the Assault Boom attack only deals 50 damage if your opponent’s Active doesn’t have a Tool card attached.

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Crashing bolt counters lots of popular cards.

While Yanmega can get fully evolved as early as turn one thanks to Forest of Giant Plants, I don’t think it should be the only attacker in the deck. Some options to compliment it include Zebstrika from BREAKpoint and Raichu from XY. These attackers can take down Yveltal-EX and Mega Rayquaza-EX for just a Double Colorless and also go hand-in-hand with Yanmega with the theme of prize exchange. You could even use Eeveelutions such as Flareon and Vaporeon from Ancient Origins to add further typing support and make the deck a sort of toolbox. Regardless, I think the ability to hit for zero energy is incredibly strong, and it will be interesting to see how the deck adapts throughout the 2017 season.


Support Pokémon

While Steam Siege brings a few new decks to the format, it also brings a lot of support Pokémon. Hawlucha essentially brings back Pokémon Circulator, a card that as your opponent switch their Active Pokémon with something on the bench. I’m not sure why the card developers chose to make this effect as Pokémon Ability as opposed to just reprinting the Trainer Card, but it could possibly see play.

Klefki’s Wonder Lock Ability —STS_080 which is a bit of a confusing paragraph — could pair well with Vespiquen decks by getting more Pokémon in the discard seeing as Battle Compressor is rotating. It allows you to attach Klefki as a tool to 1 of your Pokémon and prevent damage from Mega Evolutions for a single turn; you can stream this effect with multiple Klefki to put them all in the discard quickly. Perhaps this is hinting at Mega Evolutions being a prominent part of the new format, so I’m glad that Klefki keeps them in check.

Weavile is basically a reprint of Masquerain from Plasma Blast, whose Ability lets you put Tool cards back in your hand as often as you’d like. Because Weavile is a Stage 1, I’m not sure how much play this will see. Perhaps there will be a future attacker that takes advantage of multiple Tool cards in play, but for now I don’t think it will be used in decks.

Speaking of cards that are limitedSTS_042 at the moment, Galvantula lets you snipe 30 damage to 2 Benched Pokémon. This card received an errata to confirm this effect as opposed to any two Pokémon, which could possibly donk cards like Joltik and Froakie before your opponent can even get set up. It will be a solid addition to Night March decks simply because it can still take multiple prizes and hit Shaymin-EX pretty hard, but in Standard I don’t think it really serves a purpose for now.

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Mega Evolutions will appreciate this.

Two support cards that I do think will see more play, however, are Clawitzer and Magearna-EX. Having lost cards like Blacksmith and Mega Manectric-EX, energy acceleration for Mega Evolutions is now scarce. Clawitzer serves to fill that void with its Mega Boost Ability, which lets you attach a Special Energy card from your hand to 1 of your Mega Evolution Pokémon. Keep in mind that this Ability stacks for each Clawitzer you have in play and works with any Special Energy card, including Double Dragon and Double Colorless Energy.

I can see this becoming an addition to a number of decks that previously were deemed unplayable because of things like energy cost, like the Dragon-type Mega Rayquaza-EX and even the unspeakable Mega Steelix-EX. The Ability is pretty balanced for the most part simply because Clawitzer is a Stage 1 — meaning it will take some effort to get it out — and the fact that you have to already have Special Energy cards in your hand.

Magearna-EX will see play in STS_075Expanded certainly, likely serving as an optional replacement for the Bronzong from Fates Collide. Its Mystic Heart Ability prevents all effects from opponent’s attacks done to each of your Pokémon that has a Metal Energy attached to it. This prevents damage from Trevenant’s devastating Silent Fear attack since damage counters are technically not the same as damage.

Keep in mind that the effect applies to any Pokémon with a Metal Energy, so it will work with Double Dragon and Rainbow Energy. Because it is a Basic Pokémon, Magearna-EX is pretty splashable in most decks, too.


Overlooked Attackers

What I’ve talked about so far is STS_015basically the core of the set — that is to say what most of the hype for Steam Siege is about. But there are some other lesser hyped strategies that I think could possibly see play. Grass-type Pokémon continue to see support, giving players more reason to experiment with them because of the ability to evolve quickly thanks to Forest of Giant Plants. Besides the obvious Yanmega, I think Volcarona and Shiftry both have potential. Volcarona’s Shimmering Scales attack only does 20 damage, but regardless of the flip it can deal status conditions each turn, including paralysis.

Combined with Vileplume and Ariados, this could be extremely disrupting if set up quickly, and it’s dual Fire typing is also a plus. It should be noted that because Larvesta is a Grass-type, the Volcarona from Ancient Origins becomes even stronger with its Solar Birth attack, which allows you to search your deck for a Basic Pokémon and then attach 2 basic Energy to it right away as early as the first turn.

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The most overlooked card in the format?

Shiftry could potentially compliment Yanmega thanks to its Extrasensory attack because of its damage output being related to hand size. I also like its other attack, Wicked Wind, because it can shut off Stadium and Tool cards. This could slow down Mega Evolutions just enough to take an early advantage. Its dual-typing is a nice bonus, though I don’t think Trevenant will see play now thanks to the one from XY rotating. That said, the fact that Seedot and Nuzleaf were printed as Grass-types makes me more interested in the Shiftry from BREAKpoint. While it takes two energy to initially attack, this Shiftry has the potential to completely lock your opponent out of the game.

Roll Up alongside Delinquent can quickly deny your opponent of a hand. Otherworldly Return allows you to put any Trainer card from your discard pile into your hand, which means you can recycle any Item, Supporter, or Stadium card. While the cost of this attack might seem big, it has a huge payout considering cards like Trick Shovel, Captivating Poké Puff, and Special Charge are in the format. Will this card see further attention in competitive play down the road?

With Blacksmith rotating, it will beSTS_096 difficult to say how Fire-types in general will fare, let alone ones that are essentially Stage 3’s. Talonflame BREAK and Pyroar BREAK are interesting additions to the format. Had Blacksmith been reprinted I think these two could have seen some play — particularly the latter — but getting them out is simply too clunky, having to rely on thick counts of Wally or hoping that Talonflame is in your opening hand. However, I could see Talonflame in Vespiquen decks simply because it’s a win-win scenario either way: starting with Talonflame adds a consistency boost by letting you search your deck for cards quickly, while being able to discard them if you don’t still adds up to 40 damage for Vespiquen’s Bee Revenge attack.

Finally, we have Mega Steelix-EX, STS_068a card which I recently did a deck video profile for below. With a whopping five energy cost for its Canyon Axe attack, Mega Steelix-EX seems completely unplayable at first. However, thanks to cards like Carbink BREAK and Clawitzer, powering it up isn’t as hard as you might think. Out of of the two options, I think Carbink BREAK has more synergy. It can use Strong Energy, serve as a counter to and stall against Pokémon-EX with its Safeguard Ability, and is relatively easy to get out despite being a Pokémon BREAK.

Being able to attach 2 Double Colorless or Strong Energy from the discard is huge, and I think it’s just the boost Mega Steelix-EX needs to become viable. The beefy attack cost aside, the 240 HP Mega boasts dual typing and a solid Psychic resistance. (Think Mega Mewtwo Y.) While it’s weak to Fire and loses hard to Volcanion-EX, keep in mind that every deck will have some type of auto-loss that can not be avoided.


Useful Trainers

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Bringing in the surprise factor.

The last thing I want to mention about Steam Siege is the addition of some interesting Trainer cards that will surely spice the game up this coming season. Ninja Boy adds a new surprise element by allowing you to essentially swap one Basic Pokémon you have in play for another, with the new one retaining all effects, energy, etc. Because it is so early in the season, I’m not sure what will pair with this, but one card could be the baby Volcanion. Being able to swap out a fully powered Volcanion-EX for the baby could keep the prize exchange in your favor while still being able to OHKO a number of Pokémon thanks to the Steam Up Ability. (You could technically use Steam Up from that Volcanion-EX and then swap it out for the baby!)

Pokémon Ranger provides a senseSTS_104 of balance to the game that players have been craving for quite some time with things like Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX wreaking havoc with their powerful Trainer lock effects. The card acts more like a Pokémon Center Lady than a Hex Maniac as far as analogies go — this means that it removes effects immediately but does not last for the duration of your turn. While it does remove effects like Item lock, it will not remove status conditions because they are technically their own mechanic in the game. Also, Pokémon Ranger makes cards that could normally not attack the following turn do so, making Volcanion-EX and other attackers even better.

Captivating Poké Puff is a suitable replacement for Target Whistle since it is rotating — it also makes Hand Scope completely irrelevant now. It allows you to look at your opponent’s hand and put any of their Basic Pokémon directly into play. For example, if they have a Shaymin-EX you can put it directly on their bench and its Set Up Ability will not activate, providing a form of disruption that will especially hurt early in the game. This will be good in a lot of decks with heavy-hitting Pokémon that hit for low energy costs.

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Night March gets even stronger.

Closing this set review will be Special Charge. Night March has consistently gotten better over this past season, and this card continues to take it a new level. By letting you essentially reuse Special Energy Cards like Double Colorless Energy, cards like Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic become less powerful, particularly against Night March. With 4 Double Colorless Energy and 4 Special Charge, you can potentially use a whopping 12 energy in the span of one game! An obvious pairing with this Item card is Clawitzer, which can enable you to quickly accelerate Mega Evolutions even if you are bombarded with energy disruption.

Overall this card will be favorite among competitive players and I think it will see quite a bit of play, though I am not overjoyed by the fact that it makes Night March even stronger in the Expanded Format.


Conclusion

That’ll be all for my Steam Siege set review! In short, it brings a lot of balance to the game while at the same time adding new strategies and fan favorites that are sure to appeal to a broad spectrum of players, both casual and competitive. (Finally a full art Professor Sycamore!) Because many Regional Championships have confirmed to be using the Standard Format, players have all the more reason to test the various cards that the set brings to the game.

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Residing in Lexington, Kentucky, Zach Carmichael is a 24 year old who has been a Pokemon enthusiast since the early days of the original Base Set. A competitive player since 2012, he has won multiple City Championships and made Top Cut at various Battle Roads, Cities, and State Championships. Outside of Pokemon, Zach is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky where he studies music theory. This is probably why he enjoys deck analysis and theorymon'ing as much as actually playing the card game.

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