Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 @ 1 AM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

CoroCoro magazine has revealed that a Level 100 Mewtwo will be available for download to players who preorder tickets to Extremspeed Genesect: Mewtwo's Awakening. The Mewtwo will come with its Hidden Ability, Unnerve, as well as Hurricane, a move it cannot normally learn (guess Mewtwo finally learned the move after making the giant hurricane in the first movie :p). More CoroCoro information may leak soon, but the March issues usually only contain movie distribution info.

Mewtwo Download
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Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 @ 7 PM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

Disclaimer: All Pokemon players come from different locations with their own unique metagames and levels of competition. To get the most out of any PTCG article, it is best to know the types of decks people are playing in your area and the level of competition you have to face so that you are better able to apply the advice presented here to your unique circumstances. All of our writers have been chosen based on the only measurable way of determining who should be giving advice: the amount of tournaments they have won and the level of competition they have beaten.

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The Four Horsemen of States

By: Martin Moreno

Hello PokeBeach fans! Marty here, and welcome to the the final installment of a three part article trilogy. If you haven’t already, feel free to go back and check out my first two articles, Regionals Top 20 and Ladies’ Night. I promised in the last piece that I would get back to some groundbreaking format strategy and that’s exactly what we are going to be doing here. On the horizon is the Pokemon Trading Card Game State Championships. Competitively, these events are traditionally very harrowing and very difficult fields to navigate. Over the past few seasons, the number of competitive-level players who travel great distances chasing opportunities to improve their Championship Point count with the intention of getting an invitation to the World Championship has shot up at a geometric rate.

For those of you who are new to the Championship Point system, it can be broken down pretty simply. The Championship Series is a sequence of tournaments that span throughout the season with events that range differently in Championship Point payout based on what type of event you are attending and actual attendance size can have an impact on how many points you leave with based on your placing. If you play with the intention of getting an invitation to the World Championship, you are shooting to make it to the 400 Championship Point mark to earn your right to play on the largest stage. State Championships come with the unique trait of not only paying out a solid number of Championship Points to top finishers, but there is also the possibility of earning a travel stipend of $500 for Junior and Senior division players and $300 for Master division players. The travel stipend can be redeemed at the US National Championship upon your arrival as a reward for preforming well at the State Championship. Here is the actual break down of prizes…

Prizes are awarded to the top players in each of three age divisions.

All participants will receive 3 Play! Points and a Pokémon SPT Championship promo card (while supplies last) just for playing!

1st Place

  • A Pokémon TCG SPT Championships 1st Place trophy
  • A $500 travel stipend to participate in the Pokémon TCG National Championships (Juniors and Seniors) 1,2
  • A $300 travel stipend to participate in the Pokémon TCG National Championships (Masters) 1,3
  • A first-round bye at the U.S. or Canada National Championships 3
  • A combination of 36 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 100 Championship Points

2nd Place

  • A Pokémon TCG SPT Championships 2nd Place trophy
  • A combination of 36 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 90 Championship Points (if division attendance is 4 or greater)

3rd & 4th Place

  • A Pokémon TCG SPT Championships 3rd or 4th Place trophy
  • A combination of 18 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 70 Championship Points (if division attendance is 8 or greater)

5th through 8th Place

  • A combination of 9 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 50 Championship Points(if division attendance is 32 or greater)

9th Place through 12th Place

30 Championship Points (if division attendance is 64 or greater)

13th Place through 16th Place

  • 20 Championship Points (if division attendance is 64 or greater)
  • 17th Place through 32nd Place
  • 10 Championship Points (if division attendance is 128 or greater)

33rd Place through 64th Place

  • 5 Championship Points (if division attendance is 256 or greater)

With the release of Black & White: Plasma Storm, the format was introduced with 138 brand new cards to concoct brand new decks and strategies with. If you are unfamiliar with the dynamics of this set and the new threats that have the ability to sow discord on the format, you can look up every single scan right here on PokeBeach. The big buzz circling the PTCG community right now is: What did this set bring to the table? How are the current popular archetypes affected? Which decks ride off into the sunset as the best of the best? What should you play at the upcoming State Championship?

I had every intention of attempting to answer these questions for you, but I thought I would take it a step further. For the first time, four winners of the United States National Championship have collaborated to give you some insight. Annually, the US National Championship is the largest event in the game by volume, which has gone up in attendance every single year and has no signs of letting up. It takes skill, patience, endurance, and a little bit of luck to come out as the last man standing in this event, so any player that has been able to accomplish this clearly knows the winning formula in conquering a difficult tournament task.

Each top-tier level participant chose a State Championship viable deck to review and break down. In a format with a brand new set and an unestablished metagame, it can be difficult to determine not only what to play, but where to start in your research for your best chance at preforming well at the event. Personally, I feel these type of tournament situations where there hasn’t been a major event for you to compare results to your choice favors more experienced players as they usually are the trend-setters for what everyone else either mimics or create an answer for. Let me make it perfectly clear right now that there will be more viable options than just what you see here today. The purpose is to give you professional-level insight on some of your potential options as a starting point for your very own research when making the most educated decision on what to test with and against. If you put in the time, the results will follow. Simple as that! So with that said, we’re off to the races…

 

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The 2006 US National Champion Marty Grant (on the right) defeats the 2007 US National Champion Chris Fulop (pictured left) in a City Championship finals.

Coming from the original Black and White set, Emboar has been in the format for quite some time. I had the pleasure of first working with Emboar back when the format shifted to HGSS-on for US Nationals in 2011. A very powerful Fire-type Pokemon that formed a solid relationship with Magnezone from the Triumphant set; this deck became destined for a World Championship run. Going forward in the timeline of the game, it’s time for Emboar to get an update for a new format. On my agenda was to find reasonable Pokemon to pair the roasted pig with. Taking a look from our arsenal of Poke-Warriors, the first Pokemon that came to mind was Reshiram. Marty has a thing for Fire-type Pokemon since his very first tournament-worthy deck consisted of the Fossil set Magmar.

Pokemon (14):

4 Tepig (BC 24)

1 Pignite (BW 17)

4 Emboar (ND 100)

1 Reshiram (BW 26)

1 Rayquaza (DR 128)

1 Keldeo EX (BC 49)

2 Rayquaza EX (DR 85)

Trainers (32):

4 Skyla (BC 134)

4 Professor Juniper (DE 98)

2 Switch (BW 104)

1 Cilan (ND 86)

3 Pokemon Catcher (EP 95)

4 Rare Candy (DE 100)

2 Tropical Beach (BWP 28)

1 Pokemon Communication (BW 99)

3 Ultra Ball (DE 102)

3 Energy Retrieval (BW 92)

1 Colress (PS 118)

1 Dowsing Machine (PS 128)

1 Skyarrow Bridge (ND 91)

1 Tool Scrapper (DR 116)

1 Super Rod (NV 95)

Energy (14):

10 Fire Energy (BW 106)

4 Lightning Energy (BW 108)

I got the idea to cover this deck from Kevin, a talented player who spent a lot of time working on the Emboar update. Kevin Franklin is a long time friend of mine from San Diego who I have been testing with since 2004. Surely, I could have reviewed a Rayquaza/Eelektrik update, but what fun would that be? Besides, I already covered a sample list of that in my first article. I like to take the road less traveled.

Let’s begin with the early game. “Doubling down” Tepig should be a primary objective when starting out the game. In a format where the bench is open to pending Pokemon Catcher attacks, you would assume the HP of Tepig is a vulnerable bench target. When two are on the bench, your chances of materializing the stage 2 Pokemon Emboar your next turn via Rare Candy are much better. Skyla is a huge part of the early phase game as well. During the opening game phase, you have a solid ability to manipulate your hand size with Ultra Ball to increase your draw power from the Stadium Card Tropical Beach. You can search out Tropical Beach with Skyla if necessary. Additionally, Skyla helps you complete getting the stage two Pokemon Emboar by hunting Rare Candy or Pokemon Communication depending on which cards are necessary to complete the evolution task. Tropical Beach can be kind of costly to obtain, so hopefully, you’ve been saving up your change. Speaking of Stadiums, I have included a lone Skyarrow Bridge since it compliments Keldeo switch out tricks very nicely in the event Emboar gets trapped in the active position. Yeah, you attach as much as you want per turn, but the paying to retreat and not being able to OHKO with Rayquaza-EX can be a huge let-down. Speaking of Rayquaza, his brother Promo Rayquaza has made the list here. Shred is a good way to OHKO a Black Kyurem-EX without having to discard energy. And in this scenario, any Eviolite presence simply is not a factor!

The middle phase of the game should be centered on you pumping out big hits after big hits with Rayquaza-EX, Reshiram, and even Promo Rayquaza depending on who is out in front on the opponent’s end of the field. Energy supplying cards like Cilan, Energy Retrieval, and even Super Rod are in the mix to keep the flow of energy and attacking going strong. Unless you feel like pulling a Frank Hicks, you might want to include an Ace Spec. The choice for this deck to me seemed to obviously be Dowsing Machine. The reason why you can run a mid-late type focused Ace Spec in here over Computer Search is we get enough raw draw and set up through Tropical Beach and Skyla manipulation. Situations may arise where you may have a need to re-use Energy Retrieval after using them all, or bring back a Stadium since they knocked out all of yours via Virbank when Skyla isn’t around to lend a helping hand. One more huge use for Dowsing Machine is to compliment the lone Tool Scrapper. Picture yourself facing against a Garbodor deck. Now, when you strip the tool card you then permit yourself to use Emboar’s ability and load as much energy on the board as your hand allows. With Dowsing Machine, in the event you do face this deck, you get a second chance to load your board with more energy if they somehow catch-up to your board dominating progress. For the end game phase, I shall quickly touch on a subject that applies to more than just running this deck. I’m going to break open the mystery behind defending vs N!

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(Image courtesy of long-time PokeBeach fan Rachel Baumbach)

What really bothers me about attending a tournament is listening to bad beat stories in between rounds. I get up from my game and immediately have to listen from ear to ear everybody’s stories about how they should have won the game. One of the most annoying stories to me is hearing about how they would have had it in the bag if only they didn’t suffer to a critical game deciding N. Do not let yourself become victim to the type of mental gymnastics that make you think you did everything you could to win when you really didn’t. From here on out, as long as N is legal and popular in the format, I want your whole mindset of anticipating facing this card to change. If you are one of those that play and think to yourself, “please don’t play N, please don’t play N”, and get the sinking feeling when they table it during any phase in the game, break away from that this instant. There are measures you can take, predominantly in the late game phase, where you can reduce your risks of getting “locked out” of your deck and improve your odds of breaking out of a hand crippling N. If you did everything you possibly could to prepare for N, then you should feel no shame on the occasions you didn’t particularly draw well vs it. This is part of the game!

Ultra Ball, since the beginning of the season, has become my favorite Item Card next to Pokemon Catcher for the late game N preparation tactics it provides. One of my favorite tricks to do with Ultra Ball is to do what I call protecting a lead. What do I mean by protecting a lead? Well, let’s say you are running a deck focused around big basic Pokemon . You are ahead on prizes and need to keep rolling in order to close out the game. By using Ultra Ball, and discarding two cards from your hand and pulling out a Pokemon from a deck, you should be compelled to simply bench it. You have kept a card you do not want to draw into when facing a possibly inevitable N. While on the bench, it has no chance of returning back to your hand and being draw content you’d rather be a supporter. You also got rid of two cards for paying the cost of the requirement. Four cards have now been eliminated as possible N draw. When your opponent is behind by like a 2 or more margin, the odds of a “defensive catcher” are very low and an incorrect play as well due to the time clock.

Another example of disarming N is a situation that happened to me at a City Championship I won in the early rounds. It was late in the game and I was in the lead. I counted how many N my opponent has used and that number was 2. The standard for most decks is 4 so I knew I was going to have to face N before taking my last prizes. My opponent knocked out my active and I sent out a Tynamo into the active position. Now, I had Skyarrow Bridge out, but I elected to use Switch in order to promote my Rayquaza-EX. Then, I used a second Switch to bring Tynamo back out. Finally, I retreated Tynamo for free to bring back Rayquaza-EX. I know that if I am going to face one of two Ns he has left with only 2 prizes to go, I don’t want to re-draw into either of those 2 cards and be in a scary top-deck mode situation. Sure enough, he used N next turn and I ended up getting punted Juniper to draw the game winning Pokemon Catcher. You have to open up your imagination when coming up with game winning strategy. This is what separates novices from experts!

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What’s going on, PokeBeach? It’s your boy, 2008 US National Champion Gino Lombardi. Now, I usually don’t do this stuff, but I thought I would tag along for the ride here. When I’m not practicing my discipline at the gym, I’m having a good time with all of my crew talking cards and how to be the very best. Most recently this season, I finished 2nd in a Regional Championship, so you know I’m still on my game. I decided to cover Blastoise. Since he got here on the scene, Blastoise proved to be a throwback to the old Rain Dance days allowing you to attach as much Water Energy as you want in a given turn. You can’t deny it, breaking the only one attachment per turn rule is very beneficial. I could just tell you to Rare Candy into Blastoise, attach all you want, and just win. But, I thought I would be nice and break it down to you a little more in depth…

Pokemon (12):

4 Squirtle BCR

3 Blastoise BCR

3 Keldeo EX

1 Moltres ND

1 Black Kyurem-EX (Plasma Storm)

Trainers (33):

4 Professor Juniper

4 Skyla

3 N

2 Bianca

3 Ultra Ball

1 Heavy Ball

2 Tropical Beach

4 Energy Retrieval

3 Pokemon Catcher

4 Rare Candy

1 Scramble Switch

2 Tool Scrapper

Energy (15):

11 Water

4 Prism

Your objective is to get Blastoise out and make it flurry with his Deluge ability. If you don’t know, the ability allows you to surpass the once per turn attachment condition. Once you do this, you are licensed to send out Keldeo-EX and go to war with Secret Sword. There’s practically no limit to the damage you can do with Keldeo-EX as long as you keep the river of energy running. You have the supporting big hitter in Black Kyurem-EX that gets out there and swings for a straight 200 which actually should be a much higher damage cap than the usual Secret Sword. 200 is such an important number because it effectively knocks out any Pokemon in the game, save from a handful of obscure possibilities (like an opposing Tornadus-EX with an Eviolite or Giant Cape and an Aspertia City Gym stadium in play). Scramble Switch is the Ace Spec of choice here since it allows you to maneuver between attackers while letting you play hide and seek with your energy pool. This deck plays 2 Tool Scrapper, so you are not put in a corner by a Garbodor deck. Scramble Switch gives you an option of combining both of your key abilities into an item card. You effectively get to change the pokemon in the active position (akin to Keldeo-EX’s Rush In) while also arranging energy (akin to Blastoise’s Deluge).

Some people might comment on my funky looking Blastoise evolution line. I didn’t forget Wartortle- he ain’t in here. Taking one from Yamato’s book, we decide to drop Wartortle from our Blastoise line and do without a stage 1 at all. Since we run 4 Rare Candy and 4 Skyla, the goal is to always Rare Candy into a Blastoise. Having to manually evolve takes an extra turn- one that we can’t afford in this speedy format.

Moving on to the recruiting of Moltres into the clique here, you need some sort of fire representation to handle that brand new Klinklang from Plasma Storm that has an ability that guards all Metal Pokemon from any attack from an EX Pokemon. The Heavy Ball is a single copy as well. Now, don’t get it twisted, just because Heavy Ball is single does not make it undesirable. Our main lady Skyla does wonders on making this connection for us. Speaking of Skyla, she does like long walks on the beach. So we have two copies of Tropical Beach to keep us relaxing confidently with big draw in the early game to set up Blastoise and his troop of executioners. Not everyone can make it rain quite like a Blastoise, so if you’re strapped for cash and still want to Deluge, the new item card Bicycle can make a cheap substitution for added consistency, draw power, and ways to work around late game Ns.

Quad Energy Retrieval is a must in this deck. You have to be aggressive with this deck. Once you got your Water Energy taking over the board, you have control. And when something gets knocked out, being able to bring that energy right back into play puts a lot of pressure on your opponent to keep up. Yeah, good luck doing that attaching only one energy at a time.

Your energy here is a colorful variety. The Prism Energy doubles as good supplement for your Moltres and Black Kyurem-EX. All your needs are covered to pack the biggest punch at your State Championship. You don’t have to run it like me, do your own thing, but this will give you a start to figure out your own flavor on how you will come out ahead of the pack at the State Championship.

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Hello PokeBeach viewers, you may or may not have heard of me, but I am Justin Sanchez, the 2011 US National Champion. I am here today to give my insight on my favorite deck since the release of Boundaries Crossed-BIG BASICS.

What is “Big Basics?”

Big Basics is a very versatile deck with many different builds. My favorite build would have to be a build focusing on my best bud, Tornadus EX.

Some of you may be wondering what is so special about this vanilla Pokemon. Flat damage, no effects that are to your benefit and 10 less HP than powerhouse cards like Darkrai EX. Well, Tornadus-EX has a mass of cards that can aid to its dominance. Double Colorless Energy allows you to possibly do 60 damage on the first turn, providing you OR your opponent have a stadium card in play to boost up the damage from “Blow Through.” Stadium cards have recently become a “thing” with the release of Virbank City Gym and the constant use of Tropical Beach in optimal Blastoise/Keldeo-EX builds. Not to mention that Tornadus-EX has a couple interesting stadiums of its own! Aspertia City Gym adds 20 HP to any Colorless type Pokemon on the field. That boosts Tornadus-EX up to a whopping 190 HP! With an eviolite attached to it, even Black Kyurem EX’s “Black Ballista” cannot one hit a fresh Tornadus-EX. Skyarrow Bridge reduces the retreat cost of all basic Pokemon in play by 1, which gives Tornadus-EX free retreat. Tornadus-EX is one of the most deadly Pokemon to stare down in the early turns of the game, with a possible turn one 60 and turn two 100 (Power Blast!). Needing any type of energy to attack allows Tornadus-EX to help his friends like Terrakion and Landorus EX fit in some Fighting Energy to get some play time as well. Power Blast does 100 damage for 3 energy and discards an energy if you flip tails. 100 damage for 3 energy is EXTREMELY energy efficient and can even be considered 2 energy thanks to Double Colorless Energy’s providing of two plain energy. Lastly, if that wasn’t enough to make you a believer, Tornadus-EX has fighting resistance, which allows him to take 20 less damage from popular Pokemon like Landorus-EX and Terrakion. I was once very skeptical of this card’s use, but after using this card for all of City Championships and Fall Regionals, I love this guy.

Next up to bat, we’ve got the ever so popular Mewtwo EX.

For only two of any energy, he does 20x the amount of energy attached to your opponent AND himself. That’s a minimum of 40 damage, but a more likely 80+ damage. With the popularity of Keldeo/Blastoise, Mewtwo-EX is a staple in any Big Basic variant. Keldeo-EX/Blastoise is easily your toughest rival, so having all the assets available to beat it is key. I still haven’t even mentioned his most prominent use though! Mewtwo-EX is weak to psychic, so if an opposing Mewtwo-EX has 3 or more energy, your Mewtwo-EX with 2 energy can take it out with one X Ball! The great thing about this is, there are many other ways to KO an opposing Mewtwo-EX. If you both only have 2 energy attached to yourselves, you can play a PlusPower to increase your Mewtwo-EX’s damage by 10, which would also knock out your opponents Mewtwo-EX. Lastly, if you both have two energy attached, you can also use a Hypnotoxic Laser to send your opponents Mewtwo-EX packing. But be wary, Eviolite and Giant Cape can throw off your math, so play cautiously. There are scenarios where certain builds of Big Basics can abuse his Psydrive attack, but those are not common. During Fall Regionals, I was able to run five psychic energy to compliment my Meloetta. Unfortunately, I was not able to use Psydrive effectively. Do not count this guy out of your build, or be tormented by an opposing Mewtwo-EX.

Last up for the big time players, we’ve got Landorus-EX.

For a single Fighting Energy, he does 30 to your opponent’s Active Pokemon and 30 to an opposing Benched Pokemon of your choosing. This is extremely cheap and very good against Eelektrik and Darkrai EX decks (who all have a common fighting weakness.) This 30 damage can also ease up the HP on your opponents Pokemon, to allow your other attackers to score a one hit knock out. Land’s Judgment is a tricky attack to use correctly. For a mere 3 Energy, you do 80 base damage. But, if you discard all of the Fighting Energy attached to Landorus-EX, it adds 70 damage to your attack. That puts you at 150 damage for three energy which can be a HUGE surprise. Energy Switch can allow you to use this attack while your opponent may not think it possible. Surprises like these can win games and even tournaments! Landorus-EX does have two big problems, though. He has weakness to water, which means any damage that the ever so popular Keldeo EX does to it will be multiplied by two. So for 3 Water Energy, Keldeo-EX knocks out Landorus-EX in one hit. It is extremely easy for Keldeo-EX to get 3 Water Energy on it when it is paired with Blastoise, so be wary of benching this guy when playing against Keldeo-EX. If that doesn’t scare you, Squirtle’s “Shell Shield” ability prevents all damage done to it while it is on the bench. So you cannot damage it with Landorus EX’s “Hammerhead” while it is on the bench. Landorus EX’s other problem is its 3 retreat cost. With Virbank and Hypnotoxic Laser entering the format, poison damage will be popular. It will be hard for Landorus-EX to escape the Poison without the aid of a Switch, and even then they can just use their own Pokemon Catcher to bring him up again. Thankfully, even with these flaws, his help in other match-ups makes him an easy 1 or 2 of in any Big Basics deck.

So, now that I’ve covered the three main attackers, you must be wondering “is that it?”. What makes Big Basics so good is the ability to play so many “tech” attackers. “Tech” attackers are Pokemon you play in small numbers to accommodate for certain scenarios or match-ups. Usually, you play Pokemon like Bouffalant DRX, Terrakion NV, Meloetta BC and Stunfisk DRX. There are of course other Pokemon that you can throw in due to the decks versatility. For the most part, you should focus your list around certain attackers preparing for a metagame of certain decks. If you expect a field full of Klinklang decks using the Klinklang from Plasma Storm to prevent damage from EX Pokemon, you would play a couple Terrakion NV and Bouffalant DRX. If you were expecting a field full of Keldeo-EX/Blastoise decks, you would run a decent amount of Mewtwo-EX and Tornadus-EX to apply early and late game pressure.

One of the best things about building a deck like this is that you can really make it your own. It does not have a set strategy that it needs to accomplish other than to overpower your opponent and win the game. Card choices in your deck list can really be the key to doing well at your State Championship. I can honestly say that this is my number one choice as of right now going into State Championships and it would be very unlikely to see me change. The assets and tools you have at your disposal with this deck make me feel like I’m actually building a masterpiece, rather than completing a puzzle like you do with making “good” lists for setup decks.

I am going to list a couple reasons as to why this type of deck is my almost undisputed deck choice for a large event like State Championships and why it could be yours as well.

DONK- It is indeed an unfortunate part of the game, the ability to end a game before it has even really begun. That should not discourage you from playing such a deck, though. If people complain about not getting a turn, or the game ending too quick that is their own fault. Part of the skill in choosing a deck for a tournament is knowing how your worst starts can go and what you can do to stop them. While playing a Big Basic deck, there are very few ways for someone else to turn one you. So I call that a skill in deck choosing in its own category. I choose a deck that gives the best option of winning, even if it means ending a game prematurely or choosing a deck that cannot be beaten so quickly.

SPEED- The quick tempo of a game is something that affects game play to the greatest extent. Putting your opponent on a “clock” to be able to develop their strategy is essentially the strategy of your deck. You force them to make game breaking decisions turn after turn. Some players will make the wrong decision and you can win because of it. Even if they do not make a mistake, the pressure you apply may just simply be too much. There is also some decision making involved while using this deck, so do not be fooled by its aggressive nature. You can misplay with this deck just as easily as you can with a deck that requires setup.

VERSATILITY- I love options. Options are like an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. You can play a certain amount of copies of non-EX attackers to secure your match-up against the “Safeguard” Pokemon such as Klinklang and Sigilyph. You can play a high count of Tornadus-EX to create optimal starts and dish out lots of damage very quickly. These are the sort of things that make great decklists and win tournaments. My favorite part about deck building is the “mad scientist” feeling you get when you feel you’ve created the monster you have been working on. You’ve made this big, bad deck and are ready to terrorize your State Championship with it. That is the sort of feeling I get when testing this deck.

I really hope this information has been of help. I myself need only 151 more Championship Points to secure my Worlds invite. Maybe that means I should add a Mew EX to my decklist (just a joke, Mew is numbered Pokemon 151.) I hope to be able to get another World Championship invitation and see all of my great friends. I have so much fun playing this game, I feel this was the least I could do to help out anyone who needed it. I was once not very good at this game, but I practiced and paid attention to the right people, which in the end paid off my getting me one of the most prestigious titles in the game’s history.

Here is a skeleton for you all to look at that, hopefully it will provide some insight on the things this deck needs to function correctly.

Pokemon:

1-2 Landorus EX

2-4 Tornadus EX

2-3 Mewtwo EX

2-3 Regular Attackers (These include a mix or match of Bouffalant DRX, Terrakion NV, Tornadus EP and Stunfisk DRX and others depending on your energy lineup)

Energy:

4 Double Colorless Energy

8-10 Basic Energy (Typically all Fighting, but you can mix and match these for your techs)

Trainers:

4 Professor Juniper

2-4 N

1-3 Skyla

2-3 Cheren/Bianca

4 Pokemon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2-4 Switch

2 Virbank City Gym

1-2 Skyarrow Bridge/Aspertia City Gym (If you’re packing 3 or more copies of Tornadus EX)

0-2 Eviolite

0-2 Healing Trainers (Such as Potion and Max Potion)

0-1 Tool Scrapper (If you are expecting some heavy tools in your area)

0-2 Bicycle (You can easily deplete your hand with this deck, this card is certainly playable in here)

0-3 Energy Switch (Huge utility card, depending on the way you draw the cards this can be very clutch or extremely mediocre)

0-1 Full Heal (If you think you are struggling against the lasers)

1 Computer Search/Scramble Switch/Dowsing Machine/Gold Potion (Dependent on your metagame or trainer choices)

This is of course not ALL of the cards that you can play in a Big Basics deck, just a look at the most popular choices in the current format. As you can see, there are so many variables involved when building a deck like this, such as the popular metagame decks you expect to see and the way your list is built. This deck is very easy to make your own, which is not something these evolution decks can really boast about. The flexible aspect of this deck is really just something I cannot pass up.

Next up is our surprise guest Ryan Vergel who’s going to take you on a tour through Hypnotoxic Laser and Darkrai-EX…

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(Ryan Vergel practicing before a big tournament in Hawaii!)

Hypnotoxic Laser (HTL) is the most impactful card to come out of Plasma Storm, and has quickly changed the landscape of the format. This item card poisons the opponent’s active Pokemon, and has a chance of making your opponent’s active Pokemon also fall Asleep. Although this has a 50% chance of happening, the opponent can flip once during his or her turn to try to wake their pokemon up. The end result is a 25% chance of your opponent’s active Pokemon being Asleep and Poisoned, and 100% chance of poison on your opponent’s turn. At first glance, it appears to be a gimmick- a kind of different PlusPower that doesn’t increase with weakness. However, this card becomes most powerful when combined with the stadium card Virbank City Gym.

Virabank increases the amount of damage poison inflicts, resulting in three damage counters being placed on your opponent’s active in between turns. Sometimes, this results in a Pokemon being knocked out in between turns by poison. This affects two popular Pokemon greatly. Terrakion NVI has the attack Retaliate, and for a long time since its release, this card has been something to help keep Darkrai EX in check. With weakness, it can do 180 damage to Darkrai-EX. The crux is that it requires the opponent to have knocked out a Pokemon their last turn. If a Pokemon is knocked out from Poison, Terrakion is unable to fulfill that requirement of its Retaliate attack and it loses its usefulness as an attacker that can knock Darkrai-EX out for 2 energy. The other greatly affected Pokemon is Lugia EX [Plasma]. This Pokemon has the Ability [Overflow], which allows it to take an additional prize if Lugia-EX knocks out the opponent’s Pokemon. This means that a player with Lugia-EX would be unable to capitalize on any knockouts from Poison damage in between turns.

Given the fact that it is an item card, it is readily abused by Sableye DEX. Combine this with the ability to take knock outs in between turns to bypass Terrakion’s Retaliate, Darkrai-EX/Sableye makes best use of this card. It can easily be used turn one or two, only to be junk hunted against. The result is often 5 or 6 uses of Hypnotoxic Laser each game, meaning a much higher damage output from one of the best pokemon in the format.

Another deck that benefits from this card greatly is the Big Basics deck, which typically denotes a deck that uses all basic pokemon, Double Colorless Energy (DCE) and Fighting Energy. The usual suspects are Tornadus-EX, Bouffalant, and Mewtwo-EX for Pokemon that can make great use of DCE. Landorus EX and rarely- Terrakion NVI (for reasons explained above) make up the other Pokemon to round out the deck’s type advantage over Eelektrik and Darkrai-EX. Since many of these Pokemon can attack for a single energy attachment of Fighting or DCE, HTL works by increasing the possible early damage, and Virbank helps by fulfilling the requirements Tornadus-EX’s Blow Through attack. By already needing stadium cards to be effective, a deck like this mitigates the room that it normally takes to include HTL and Virbank and benefits from its early game high damage.

The other two top tier decks at the moment are Blastoise with Keldeo-EX and/or Black Kyurem-EX PS and Eelektrik with Rayquaza-EX. Blastoise primarily uses Tropical Beach to assist itself in setting up early and drawing lots of cards in a short window. Eelektrik relies on Skyarrow Bridge to make the retreat cost of nearly all of its basic Pokemon 0. Because these two decks already rely heavily on other Stadiums, and because they rely on evolution cards, unlike Big Basics or Darkrai-EX, it gets relegated to never used (or a tech) in this half of the top tier of decks. There simply isn’t enough room.

Many people will begin to use rogue decks that feature lots of disruptive strategy and card choices, and will fit in beautifully by allowing damage to be dealt independent on an attack.

Overall, expect a lot matches to be against a deck that utilizes this card, and prepare for the possibility of remaining Asleep after it is used against you. This is a card that is going to stay popular for a long time.

Below is a deck list for Darkrai-EX and Sableye, the deck that best uses Hypnotoxic Laser:

Pokemon (8):

4 Sableye

4 Darkrai EX

Trainers (41):

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Bianca

2 Skyla

2 Random Receiver

4 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

1 Computer Search

4 Pokemon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

3 Energy Switch

1 Energy Search

2 Dark Claw

1 Eviolite

1 Escape Rope

1 Switch

Energy (11):

11 Darkness

The inclusion of Dark Claw with the Hypnotoxic Laser allows the damage output of Darkrai-EX to change dramatically. With a Dark Claw, HTL, and Virbank, a defending Pokemon would have 140 damage on it before your opponent’s turn. This is enough damage to knock out a Blastoise, and with 30 more damage, easily set up through Night Spear’s benched damage placement, you can hit 170 damage. This knocks out many opposing EX Pokemon such as Rayquaza-EX, Keldeo-EX, and Mewtwo-EX- three of the best and most used Pokemon.

With HTL, Darkrai-EX gets another weapon in its arsenal, and a new way to hit perfect damage amounts to achieve knock outs and win games.

Since the deck has been out for quite some time now, lists are easy to come by, and you probably have your own. Darkrai -EX looks a lot like it used to around Battle Roads and City Championships, essentially swapping out Crushing and Enhanced Hammer for HTL and Virbank respectively. There is slightly more emphasis on Dark Claw instead of Eviolite, but other than that, the deck will look very similar to what you’ve been playing for a long time now.

Some players argue over the merits of Skyla vs Bianca vs Random Receiver in here. Ultimately, the right answer depends on too many factors to have an absolute list or best practice. Skyla works very well with Computer Search and the tech cards of Max Potion, Tool Scrapper, Energy Search, and Switch. Rather than take a particularly extreme route one way or the other, I included 14 “supporter outs”. With 4 Professor Juniper and 4 N as a minimum for drawing consistency, I wanted to include 6 other options.

With 12 supporters, your chances of having a supporter at the beginning of your turn, removing any draws from opponents’ mulligans, are 81.56%. I would love to bore you all with the statistical analysis that produced these numbers, but ain’t no one got time for that with States approaching so soon.

With 13 supporters, this increases to 84.31%. At 14 supporters, you have an 86.7% chance of starting the game with one of these outs. As you can see, the returns for adding additional supporters in your deck diminish with each one. Finding a good balance of increasing consistency while allowing enough room for situational cards is a key element of skill to the game, but the general rule of thumb in this format is 12-14 supporter outs.

With that in mind, you have some degree of openness to deck construction. Try your hand at extreme numbers (like 4 Skyla, 2 Bianca, 0 Random Receiver- or 4 Random Receiver, 2 Bianca, 0 Skyla) to determine what best fits your playstyle, and your deck construction.

More Random Receiver means more early access to Professor Juniper. The other edge to this sword is that you physically have a fewer number of resources, so your supporter outs against a late game N are diminished. Instead of drawing a supporter like Skyla or Bianca, you run the risk of drawing Random Receiver, which might net nothing better than an N, or nothing at all if you ran out of supporters (through discarding or using them).

I included Switch and Escape Rope as answers to opponent’s HTL and Virbank combos. There are quite a few possible answers to opponent’s own use of this incredible combo, from weird techs like Full Heal and Audino, to more typical answers like Keldeo-EX and Switch.

This list and analysis of how Darkrai-EX is impacted with HTL and Virbank will give you the tools to practice against the other big decks out there while having a good starting point to creating your own customized deck list.

306639_4312655059262_136960465_n

John Roberts II is the defending National Champion!

Hello PokeBeach readers!!! I am John Roberts II, the 2012 U.S. National Champion. This is only my second season playing the Pokemon TCG, but I believe I can give some valuable insight on decks and strategies. I can give some credit to quite a few players from my home store in St. Louis, Yeti Gaming. They have helped me become the player I am today.

There is one very important key to my success I would like to stress to the audience. That key is…playtesting. I can’t get the point across enough that playtesting is probably the most important part of preparation before an event. Some can get away with not testing, but most of the time it ends up costing the player either not making cut or not advancing further in cut. Two days before the Winter Regional Championships, I decided to not play Klinklang (played throughout Cities) and put together LMT/Techs instead. Even though I started 8-0 in swiss, then finally losing in round 9, I lost in Top 32 because of the lack of testing. I played a measly 3 games total with LMT/Techs before the regional. Had I tested more, I would have known to include Tornadus EPO, alongside my 1 of techs of Sigilyph and Bouffalant, to combat a swarm of Sigilyph (I played 4 PlusPower). It’s a horrible feeling when you have T1 Blow Through for 60 with Tornadus EX and your opponent starts a lone Sigilyph and then plays down another one and nothing else. I hope my mistake will help you not make the same one. Now that we understand how important playtesting is, now I will help you learn to playtest.

One BIG mistake I see every player make is drawing mulligan cards. You may be thinking, “why is that a mistake?” Let me explain why this is a mistake.

1. You may get another basic with the extra card, possibly preventing a donk. You want to just let the donk happen since nothing is on the line. Winning a game when you should have been donked does not help you prepare for what can happen during the tournament.

2. You may get that card you needed or a card to get you what you need FOR a donk when you otherwise wouldn’t have. The card could have been two draws away or even seven. It doesn’t matter if we have Cheren, Bianca, and Juniper because you could have whiffed had you not drew an extra card or more. You could even draw an Ultra Ball or an extra card for the ultra ball to pull off a combo for the win, T1 KO, or just early pressure.

3. You may be able to set up better because of the extra card(s). Anything from getting that T2 Blastoise or Hydreigon, T2 double or triple eel, or being able to discard one or more dark/lightning energy to be recovered from the discard pile.

All three of those are examples of skewed results and only hinders players from seeing flaws and /or inconsistencies in their deck. It also doesn’t help players get accustomed to tough in game decisions because they have more to work with. Especially with things like Ultra Ball and Skyla. Understand that drawing mulligan cards give you skewed results and does not help you build/tweak your deck to be the best it can be. From now on, in future testing games, ask yourself: Do I want to win against this friend/random opponent or win this next event?

Another thing you should do during playtesting is letting your opponent take back misplays (except on PTCGO). You should allow your opponent to take back energy drops, Catchers, retreats, evolves, Energy Switches, abilities, and anything else that is repairable. Searches apply too, but only for going back in the deck for something else because the deck has already been search altered. Any moves or cards played before a Supporter was played should not be taken back because it is considered an un-repairable game state. Not only that, but a person’s decision can change due to what’s in their hand after the Supporter. Allowing take-backs helps both players learn the correct moves and play against their opponent’s best plays, exploiting any flaws in each player’s deck and/or strategies. Players should also point out any misplays the opponent has made as they make them and tell them why. Here is an example:

I am playing Darkrai. My opponent has two Tynamos on the bench. One has no damage and one has 30 damage. My opponent is able to evolve only one of them into Eelektrik and evolves the one with no damage on it. I would ask my opponent why. If the answer is so the Eelektrik won’t have damage on it, I would tell them that it doesn’t really matter if the Eelektrik has damage on it or not because night spear will KO it regardless and I can KO the Tynamo at the same time.

If both players help each other out, they will be on top of their game come tournament time.

The third important part of play testing is to figure out how useful each card in your deck is. You want to do your best to minimize cards that are usually dead or highly situational unless it is a one of that is necessary for you to beat an unfavorable match-up. During cities, I used Mew EX in my Klinklang deck. It was used in combination with Klinklang EPO to use Charge Beam. When Prism Energy was discarded, I could recover it with Mew-EX and it would be moveable with the “Shift Gear” Klinklang. It can also be used for its own attack, Replace. Any Prisms on either Klinklang can be moved to something else, along with the energy on Mew-EX itself. I played against five Hammertime decks since I started playing Mew-EX and Klinklang EPO and beat every one of them because of that combo. That was an example of a situational card/combo that was vital in an unfavorable match-up. However, you don’t want to play multiples of those kinds of cards unless it does not hurt the consistency of the deck. Through play testing you can find out whether it does or not.

Now on to the deck review!!!

This deck features my favorite Pokemon. You’ve guessed it…it’s Klinklang!!! I feel this will be a very strong deck throughout States and probably Regionals. The deck, as you probably already know, is referred to as “PlasmaKlang.“ It has good matchups across the board except for a couple of decks, which aren’t played much.

I will now cut to the chase about what may be the play for the upcoming State Championships.

The Klinklang deck I used to win U.S. Nationals had so many options for attackers and everything essentially had free retreat. That now has changed. What the deck has lost has been made up for, and in a big way…the immunity from Pokemon-EX attacks!!! That does come with a downside as it only applies to your Metal-type pokemon. Does that mean that the deck is still unplayable? Absolutely not!!! Now, let me tell you why.

Klinklang PLS will be the difference maker in this deck. The Plasma Steel ability will nullify ALL attack damage from the opponent’s Pokemon-EX, meaning at least half of their attackers are useless. They will be forced to attack you with secondary attackers or even their support Pokemon. This will put the opponent in an uncomfortable position. They must be careful with their non-EX attackers, otherwise, they lose. There are, however, a couple of Pokemon-EX that have an attack that goes through this ability. Watch out for them.

Don’t forget about me!!!

Just because we have a new ability Klinklang doesn’t mean we forget about the old one!!! Klinklang BLW is also a key part in the new version of the deck because of the ability to charge up any new attacker as long as the necessary energy is on the board. Three is all you need to be able to attack with anything in the deck while this Klinklang is on your field. You can also use Max Potion to its fullest potential. Just shift the energy off of a Pokemon with damage on it, play Max Potion on it, then you can move the energy right back to it. That is a very strong combo considering the opponent’s turn was essentially “skipped”, especially if their board state was not advanced during their turn.

How broken is that?

I look good in the mirror.

Every deck needs a strong attacker, but the Metal-type has been lacking that…until now. Cobalion EX fits the bill due to the ability to 2HKO any Pokemon-EX. The attack, Steel Bullet, does a flat 100, ignoring Weakness, Resistance, and any other effects on the defending Pokemon. This means that cards like Eviolite, Sigilyph, and even Klinklang PLS don’t affect Steel Bullet. Damage reducing attacks do nothing to the damage either. This make Cobalion-EX the of the two best attackers in the mirror match.

Let me “break” it down for you.

Cobalion NVI has had its time to shine during the cities 2011-12 season and then the 2012 National Championship, being in the winning list. It has been forgotten since then…until now. It will have a resurgence because it is no longer a weak, easy to OHKO Pokemon anymore. That is thanks to Klinklang PLS. This card will be a force because it will be able to combat any non-EX attacker and render them useless with Iron Breaker, forcing switching shenanigans in order for the “broken” Pokemon to attack the next turn. I will be highly useful in the mirror match, especially if the opponent does not have a Klinklang BLW in play. Look out for this card if you don’t want to lose to it.

You can run, but you can’t hide!!!

One of the big reasons for my nationals winning Klinklang deck’s success was the excessive ability to snipe. I can still go the route of using Darkrai, Groudon or Landorus, and Kyogre, but since they are not Metal-type, they are not protected by Klinklang‘s “Plasma Steel“ ability. However, there is an alternative that is Metal-type. That alternative is Registeel EX. The attack, Triple Laser, can do 30 damage to THREE Pokemon of your choice, active or bench. That attack is ridiculous!!! Not only can you set up for easier KOs with Triple Laser, but you can finish off damaged Pokemon with it as well. You can also KO 60HP basics on the bench in two hits, denying your opponent their evolutions(or more of them) if they cannot get them out in time. Registeel EX’s second attack, Protect Charge, has been forgotten by most and I can understand why. Does that mean the attack is bad?…Not at all. Protect Charge can turn 2HKOs into 3HKOs from most non-ex attackers, allowing you to be able to Max Potion the damage off on the second hit. Combined with Eviolite, you are reducing damage by 40, taking Registeel EX out of OHKO range from even Benchtini and Victini EX!!! I’m sure that situation won’t come up too often, but if it does, it can be game breaking.

Now that I have given my review of PlasmaKlang, I will go on to the sample list:

Pokemon (15):

3 Klinklang PLS

1 Klinklang BLW

1 Klang DEX

4 Klink DEX

4 Cobalion EX

1 Cobalion NVI

1 Registeel EX

Trainers (34):

4 N

3 Professor Juniper

3 Skyla

2 Bianca

2 Colress

3 Heavy Ball

2 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy

2 Max Potion

3 Pokemon Catcher

4 Switch

1 Eviolite

1 Computer Search

Energy (11):

11 Metal Energy

Keep in mind that this is only a sample list based on “standard.” I suggest to anyone using this list to test it and make changes before taking it to State Championships.

MARTY’S FINAL THOUGHTS

I would like to thank each of these outstanding gentlemen for participating in this article. I hope after reading this you feel a bit more knowledgeable on this brand new Plasma Storm environment. Also, I feel the steps organized play took to try to improve numbers on the Juniors and Seniors division by adding a larger bonus to their prize pool was a good move. Honestly, the more serious player in the Masters division will probably find a way to get to these events no matter what since most players play for the social environment. A more desirable monetary outcome may make a skeptical parent less reluctant to let a prospective younger trainer compete. With that said, take care, and thanks for reading. I love you all! (But not as much as WPM.)

-Marty

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Friday, March 1st, 2013 @ 5 PM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

Super busy on some film projects, though there hasn't been too much significant Pokemon news lately. Thanks goes to Omahanime for the images below!

The "Legends of Justice" box has been out at retailers like Target and Walmart for a few weeks now. It comes with holo promos Virizion (BW70), Terrakion (BW71), and Cobalion (BW72) as well as a pack of Noble Victories, Boundaries Crossed, and Plasma Storm. Each box retails for $12.99.

BW70 Virizion BW71 Terrakion BW72 Cobalion

The "Elite Trainer Box" has also been out for a few weeks: it comes with seven Plasma Storm booster packs, 40 Energy cards (5 per type), an acrylic Burn and Poison marker, six damage counter dice, a coin-flip dice, a (chintzy) cardboard deck box, a (chintzy) cardboard box to hold everything (not pictured below), and a player's guide. At $34.99, the whole package costs $5 more than attending a prerelease but you get way more.

Elite Trainer Box Elite Trainer Box Dice

Coming to stores in a week or so is the spring 2013 tins featuring alternate-artwork Keldeo-EX (BW61), Black Kyurem-EX (BW62), and White Kyurem-EX (BW63). Each tin also comes with one of two non-holo Meloetta promos (BW68 or BW69) and four booster packs.

BW61 Keldeo-EX BW62 Black Kyurem-EX BW63 White Kyurem-EX BW68 Meloetta BW69 Meloetta
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Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 @ 5 PM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

I have a lot of news to catch up on, but I won't be able to for a while because of a production I'm working on. Bleh!

A commercial for BW9 Megalo-Cannon aired in Japan today, revealing Octillery, Eelektrik, Porygon, Porygon2, Escavalier, and two new ACE SPEC cards called G-Scope and G-Booster that are only for Genesect-EX's use. Also revealed was the secret ACE SPEC card for the Blastoise and Kyurem-EX deck, which is Master Ball! Thanks goes to Puddizzle for the translations below.

Megalo-Cannon

Octillery - Water - HP90
Stage 1 (Team Plasma) - Evolves from Remoraid

[W] Sharpshooting: Choose one of your opponent's Pokemon. This attack does 20 damage to that Pokemon.
[W][W] Bubblebeam: 40 damage. Flip a coin. If heads, the Defending Pokemon is now Paralyzed.

Weakness: Lightning (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 1


Megalo-Cannon

Eelektrik - Lightning - HP80
Stage 1 - Evolves from Tynamo

[L] Thunder Wave: 20 damage. Flip a coin. If heads, the Defending Pokemon is now Paralyzed.
[C][C] Headbutt: 30 damage.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 1


Megalo-Cannon

Porygon - Colorless - HP60
Basic Pokemon

[C] Tackle: 10 damage.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 1


Megalo-Cannon

Porygon2 - Colorless - HP80
Stage 1 - Evolves from Porygon

[C][C] Destruction Beam: 30 damage. Flip a coin. If heads, discard 1 Energy card attached to the Defending Pokemon.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 1


Megalo-Cannon

Escavalier - Metal - HP100
Stage 1 (Team Plasma) - Evolves from Karrablast

[M][C] Suppress: 40 damage. Does 20 damage to one of your opponent's Benched Pokemon.
[M][C][C] Slash Down: 80 damage. During your next turn, this Pokemon can't use Slash Down.

Weakness: Fire (x2)
Resistance: Psychic (-20)
Retreat: 3


Megalo-Cannon

G-Booster - Trainer
Item (Team Plasma)

Pokemon Tool: Each Pokemon can have only 1 Pokemon Tool attached to it at any time.

If this card is attached to Genesect-EX, it gains the following attack:

[G][G][C] G-Booster: 200 damage. Discard 2 Energy cards attached to this Pokemon. This attack is not affected by effects on the Defending Pokemon.

ACE SPEC: You can’t have more than 1 ACE SPEC card in your deck.

You can use any number of Item cards during your turn.


Megalo-Cannon

G-Scope - Trainer
Item (Team Plasma)

Pokemon Tool: Each Pokemon can have only 1 Pokemon Tool attached to it at any time.

If this card is attached to Genesect-EX, it gains the following attack:

[G][G][C] G-Scope: This attack does 100 damage to one of your opponent's Benched Pokemon. (Don’t apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokemon.)

ACE SPEC: You can’t have more than 1 ACE SPEC card in your deck.

You can use any number of Item cards during your turn.


Megalo-Cannon

Master Ball - Trainer
Item

Search your deck for a Pokemon card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Shuffle your deck afterwards.

ACE SPEC: You can’t have more than 1 ACE SPEC card in your deck.

You can use any number of Item cards during your turn.

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Saturday, February 16th, 2013 @ 8 PM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

Several of our forum mods and members have gotten together over the past two weeks to write this article about Plasma Storm's top cards. Thanks goes to Alex, Blah, Celebi23, Delta, Dmaster, EXdarkrai01, Nigel, Riskbreakers, RogueChomp, Rummage, Serperior, and Unsheathed for writing such a detailed article! To discuss their article, check out this forum thread!




It’s that time in the Pokémon cycle again. The villainous team theme expansion is back! Team Rocket, Aqua, Magma and Galactic had their time in previous seasons and made a profound impact on their respective metas. This time around, will the introductory cards for the 5th Generation’s villainous team, Team Plasma, fare as well in the format as past teams did in their formats? Or, will the non-Team Plasma cards from this set make a larger impact on the meta? Several members of the PokéBeach TCG Staff will now offer their opinions of some of the more notable cards of this new set and what impact will they have. So here it is, PokéBeach’s Plasma Storm set review!

#13: Amoonguss

Who ever thought this card could be good at all? At first glance, it looks pretty terrible. It’s first attack is Hooligans Jin & Cas in attack form, allowing you to flip a coin, and if heads, you get to shuffle three random cards from your opponents hand back into their deck. It’s neat, but not really competitive. Its second attack doesn’t seem all that great either, 30 damage, and with a flip you get to choose any special condition and afflict it on the Defending Pokémon. Again, it’s cool, but doesn’t really have any competitive use. Taking a quick overview of its stats, with a dreadful 90 HP and two retreat, it’s not hard to see why this card could be considered complete garbage. So why are we mentioning it? Surprisingly enough, this card had some success in Japan and actually came Top 4 in Japan’s Battle Carnival, similar to a Regionals in the U.S. It was played in a deck that used a similar strategy to Sablelock a long time ago. Using Ghestis, (a card that we unfortunately did not receive in Plasma Storm which lets you look at your opponent’s hand, shuffle all Item cards in their hand back into their deck, and draw cards equal to the number of item cards you shuffled back) Amoonguss and Victini, you could mess with your opponent’s hand and try to deny them as many cards as you could. After doing so, you could use Watchog from Emerging Powers to look at the top 5 cards of your deck and rearrange them in any order, stopping your opponent from drawing anything useful. The deck also used Mew EX so that it didn’t have to switch between Amoonguss and Watchog constantly, and because it didn’t matter to this deck that Mew was an easy double prize. After setting up the lock, you could either use your opponent’s attacks with Mew, Amoonguss’s second attack, or Watchog’s attack to take all of your prizes while your opponent sits and watches helplessly as he draws dead for the rest of the match because of Watchog. This strategy combined with other disruption cards such as Crushing Hammer and Hypnotoxic Laser actually made a pretty decent deck. However, since we didn’t get Ghestis, this deck takes a severe hit in terms of its potential. It has to rely on Amoonguss alone to deplete your opponent’s hand and it makes the deck much slower and trickier to use, not to mention you need to flip heads with his attack, despite the use of Victini. That’s not to say it’s completely useless though; it could still be a interesting and fun rogue to try out. If you’re looking for a fun (maybe not that competitive) deck that can annoy and disrupt your opponent, then Amoonguss may just be able to satisfy that wish.

#17: Infernape

It’s nice to see Infernape back after he dominated in Rising Rivals alongside his trusty partner Luxray GL LV.X. In Plasma Storm, the Flame Pokémon is also a part of Team Plasma, which will no doubt give Infernape room for testing in a Plasma-themed deck in the future. Aside from the sweet border and Plasma stamp, not much is going for Infernape. Infernape sits at 130 HP, a below-average Hit Point count for Stage 2 Pokémon. Its first attack, Torment, is interesting. It deals 30 for a single Energy of any type and prevents your opponent from attacking with an attack of your choice. This is excellent against Darkrai-EX and Keldeo-EX because they have only one attack (Night Spear and Secret Sword, respectively). Thus, you can keep your opponent from attacking at all. Syke. With their Abilities, which allow for easy retreating, Torment will be doing anything but torment your opponent. Keldeo-EX decks will laugh as they drop another Keldeo-EX, Rush In with the Benched one, and then Rush In again with their once “tormented” Keldeo-EX. The most you have done that turn was deal 30 damage. Moving onto its second attack, Malevolent Fire, you can deal 120 damage for two Energy. This looks pretty good, until you realize you’ll be discarding all of your Energy attached to Infernape. Not so hot, even when you can’t OHKO Blastoise or Terrakion. Moving on downward, we see the Weakness, Resistance, and Retreat Cost. Infernape’s free Retreat Cost is nice, but the glaring Water-type Weakness spells doom for the monkey. If Keldeo even has a single Water Energy, Infernape is done for. You’ve burned a Skyla and a Rare Candy and two turns charging up Infernape only to get KO’d in one hit. And for only dealing 120, it doesn’t seem worth it. And unfortunately for this guy, it isn’t. Infernape seems like it can be a possible contender in the metagame from afar, but its stats just don’t add up effectively.

#18: Victini-EX

With the release of Plasma Gale, we have yet another very frail, yet very powerful Pokémon-EX. Victini-EX boasts 110 HP with a Weakness to Water-types. Some would see the low HP and Water Weakness, and never think twice about this card. What Victini-EX does have to offer is two game-breaking attacks. The first one, Turbo Energize, allows you to search your deck for 2 Basic Energy and attach them to your Benched Pokémon for a single Fire Energy. This is an extremely powerful form of energy acceleration, because not only do you have 3 Energy on your field by the time your opponent gets to draw his or her first card, but you get to search your deck for them! There are never consistency issues with getting those 2 Energy to attach on the very first turn of the game. Another amazing thing about Turbo Energize is that it doesn’t specify Energy type. As long as you’re grabbing Basic Energy, you can attach it with Turbo Energize, making Victini-EX a fairly versatile form of strong early-game Energy acceleration. Victini-EX’s second attack, Intensifying Burn, does 50 damage and 50 more if the Defending Pokemon is a Pokémon-EX for a Fire and a DCE. Not horrible, but not worth 3 Energy on a 110-HP Pokémon-EX. The thing that makes Victini-EX so powerful early game, and makes Intensifying Burn a worthwhile attack, is a brand new ACE SPEC from Plasma Storm known as Victory Piece. It is a Pokémon Tool and while it is attached to Victini-EX, Victini-EX can use any of it’s attacks at a magnificent cost of zero Energy. With Skyla in our modified format, getting Victory Piece onto Victini-EX turn one is not such a hard thing to do. Hitting your opponent’s EX Pokémon for 100 damage before they even get to draw a card is devastating. Pairing that with an option of fast Energy acceleration, starting the game with a Victini-EX in the active slot is no joke. Now, of course anything so potentially good has to have its drawbacks, and that obviously comes from its low HP. I won’t even touch on its Water Weakness, because at 110 HP, Keldeo-EX knocks it out before Weakness! Victini-EX is definitely one of the strongest starters in our current format; it has amazing Energy acceleration and turn one potential. With the hype that Klingklang and Cobalion-EX from Plasma Storm are receiving currently, i’m sure that Victini-EX will pop its head here and there during States, but the drawbacks to Victini-EX, unfortunately outweigh the strengths of it in the type of format we have. If you are looking to add some Energy acceleration or early game power into your rogue however, Victini-EX may be of some help.

#25: Articuno-EX

On first glance, Articuno-EX looks broken. Auto-Paralysis in conjunction with a 170-HP tank is nothing to mess around with. However, this card isn’t going to be very good. This is because of the abundance of Keldeo-EX that are going to be played at States and Regionals, which are going to be played alongside Blastoise and as a tech in Darkrai varients because of Hypnotoxic Laser. The reason that Keldeo-EX makes this card bad is because of Rush In, which allows your active Pokémon to easily slip out of Articuno’s paralysis. Also, this card gets OHKO’d by Cobalion-EX, a card that alongside Klinklang, is going to see play at the State Championships. The one thing that I believe is worth noting about this card is it’s fighting resistance, which is great since Fighting is such a dominant type in our metagame. In conclusion, Articuno-EX is a relatively decent card, and would see play if it was introduced in any other format.

#46: Magnezone

Forreal, why does Magnezone always get the cool Poké-Powers, Poké-Bodies, and Abilities? Come on. After being a part of one of the best decks in the previous format alongside the still-popular Eelektrik, Magnezone returns in Team Plasma form. Before we get into its already-hyped Ability, let’s just review everything else. Magnezone has an average amount of HP at 140, meaning that Keldeo-EX won’t be OHKO-ing Magnezone without five Water Energy attached. Magnezone has an awkward attack, Gyro Ball, which is reminiscent of Magnezone from Stormfront, which allows both players to switch Active Pokémon. This can put your opponent in a weird position if he doesn’t have another one of his main attackers Benched and charged up. He will be forced to burn a Skyla/Switch for the turn, which can definitely work in your favor. On the other hand, you probably will end up doing the same too, meaning a lose-lose for everyone. If you’re playing against Darkrai-EX or Keldeo-EX, this hardly even matters, because your opponent will be able to drop a Darkness Energy and Retreat with no cost or Rush In without a problem. With a cost of two Lightning Energy and another of any type, it’s a shame that Gyro Ball isn’t even DCE-compatible. This would make Magnezone a much faster card and simply easier to charge up. We move down to its Weakness, which, in short, is terrible. Landorus-EX and Terrakion are still very popular choices in today’s metagame, and thus will still pose a large threat. Magnezone itself will be difficult to evolve as you watch your Magnemites get OHKO’d by Hammerhead. The Retreat Cost, two Energy, is also lame. But, the opportunity to use Gyro Ball is there so it may not be so bad.

Now let’s talk about Dual Brains. Think about being able to use two Supporters a turn. Consistency would boost incredibly. You’d grab more than enough of the cards you’d need. Life would be pretty good in general when you’re dropping Juniper and then Skyla for the crucial Catcher you didn’t get with the Juniper. Awesome, right? In theory, Dual Brains is legit. Amazing. And it is. Unfortunately, Magnezone as a card is pretty awful. And being a Stage 2 makes it hard to set up efficiently. Magnezone would be targeted for Catcher, and is 2HKO-able. With the amount of Landorus-EX and Darkrai-EX going around, the residual snipe damage from Hammerhead and Night Spear can already put dents into Magnemites early game. You would need to spend a lot of your resources keeping the Magnet Area Pokémon alive after it’s been exposed to a Catcher or two. But, if you get Zone set up, would the speed boost with Dual Brains compensate for a possibly painful slow start? We’ll see.

#48: Zapdos-EX

Along with Magnezone and Rotom, Zapdos-EX is the third lightning Pokémon from the set that has interesting (albeit weak) traits. I feel like the only real value (if you could call it that) with this card lies in its first attack, so let’s look at the other qualities first. 170 HP is pretty standard for an EX, but is a very susceptible magic number when facing against Darkrai-EX decks. Luckily, the amount of HP shouldn’t matter too much if you’re able to flip enough Heads with the first attack. The Weakness is actually not that bad either, to be honest. Lightning is not a very good attacking type right now (considering most are weak to Fighting), so odds are, you won’t be hit for x2 Weakness. The Resistance to Fighting also goes along with that. Being hit for 10 from Landorus-EX is great (factor in Eviolite and it’s essentially doing nothing to Zapdos-EX). The one Retreat Cost is decent enough as you can play Skyarrow Bridge and make it completely free. The second attack, Powervolt, is very underwhelming. 120 damage for four Energies (with one of them having to be a Plasma Energy and two others having to be Lighting) is extremely weak. You can definitely 2HKO EXs, but there is no advantage to using this card in a deck as opposed to say, Zekrom ND or even Raikou-EX as both cards simply outclass this card when it comes to damage, favorable prize trades, and being more efficient attackers. I wouldn’t really recommend playing this card as a tech in a more classic Eelektrik deck, and certainly not a Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck, just because there are much better options for attackers out there.

The first attack is the more interesting one and actually can provide a lot of headache for your opponent. One thing you can do with it is pair it with Eelektrik NV (for obvious reasons) but also include Colress Machine to power it up quickly, Plasma Frigate (if only to get rid of the Weakness since you will probably have Plasma Energy on it anyway), and Victory Star Victini NV. With Victini, your odds increase to around 75% that your opponent won’t be able to attack Zapdos-EX the following turn barring two Pokemon Catchers. This puts a lot of pressure on your opponent as you can usually try to stall with one Zapdos-EX and power up others that can 2HKO their EXs that they have. That being said, I think this deck is surely a long shot and will most likely only have a future as a fun league deck, if anything else.

#49: Rotom

At first, this card does not look like much. 60 HP, a Fighting-type Weakness, this card just seems like another item on the breakfast menu for Landorus. This may all be true, however Rotom has a wonderful little attack that is called Electrobonus. Electrobonus allows you to discard a lightning energy in exchange for drawing three cards. As many of you are well aware, this attack pairs very well with Eelektrik NVI. Drawing three cards is nice and all, but Rotom serves the dual purpose of improving consistency and putting Lightning energy in your Discard Pile. If all of that isn’t good enough, to put the icing on the cake, Rotom has a single Colorless Retreat Cost. Oh yeah, Electrobonus works with a single Colorless Energy. Rotom can potentially increase the consistency of Eelektrik-based decks further than just using Electrobonus for the first few turns. Electrobonus will allow you to run more Level Ball, instead of having to run high counts of Ultra Ball to ensure that you get the Lightning energy in the Discard Pile. Having Rotom in your deck can also potentially reduce the chances of starting a lone Tynamo at the beginning of the game, which as many Eelektrik players know, is one of the biggest fears of playing Eelektrik. Will Rotom become the staple starter in Eelektrik decks in the future? Only time will tell. Rotom has great potential to improve consistency, however some players may still prefer Emolga DE or using the combination of Tynamo NV #38 and Fliptini. Whether or not Rotom will be the best of the preferred openers in Eelektrik-based decks, it can be a solid choice and will see some play.

#90: Klinklang

After its successful Nationals victory, Klinklang seemed to be the new deck to play. Blend Energy WLFM allowed for a lot of versatility with the player’s Pokémon selection, and opened up opportunities to Max Potion away loads of damage counters. However, with the advent of Dark Explorers, Klinklang was replaced with a more consistent Dark Patch/Hydreigon engine. But with the release of Team Plasma’s Klinklang, we may see a resurrection of the Gear Pokémon. The fact that Klinklang is a Metal-type Pokémon is neither a good or bad thing. None of the Pokémon in the current metagame have a common Weakness to the Metal type, but none have a Resistance. Furthermore, we don’t see many Fire-type Pokémon being played today either. Looking more closely at Klinklang, we notice a Resistance to Psychic-type Pokémon. Sigilyph, the occasionally-played Meloetta, and Mewtwo-EX, (this Pokémon doesn’t even matter, however), will deal 20 less damage to Klinklang. The three-Energy Retreat Cost seems somewhat frightening, but is actually beneficial because of Klingklang’s access to Heavy Ball. You don’t need to discard two cards – just play Heavy Ball and get your Klinklang. Heavy Bullet has a weird Energy requirement, calling for two Metal Energy and a Colorless, and only deals 70 and a possible 20 to another with a coin flip. This is a pretty bad attack when compared to Darkrai-EX’s guaranteed 90 damage and 30 snipe damage.

But it’s the Ability that makes Klinklang great. Plasma Steel can wreak some serious havoc on the playing field. As long as this Klingklang remains on the field, Metal-type Pokémon take zero damage from EX Pokémon. This is excellent. Considering that most of the metagame’s Pokémon are composed of Pokémon-EX, this is really helpful and compensates for Klingklang’s poor attack. If you were to pair this Klinklang with the Klinklang from Black & White, you would have protection from Pokémon-EX and Energy mobilization, allowing for fun things like Max Potion. But this requires some time to set up, because it’s pretty doubtful anyone will be getting T2 Klinklang. While slow early game, Plasma Steel should compensate for a solid late game. Many players are seeing the threat this Ability can pose and are starting to tech Victini to deal 200 while packing their Bench. Another problem with Klinklang is its lack of solid Metal-type Pokémon partners…until Cobalion-EX. But we’ll get into that a little later. Overall, Klinklang may revive the Metal-type Pokémon with its unique Ability. But while a Stage 2 Pokémon, will the trade of time and resources for EX protection be worth it to the player? Klinklang’s viability will be his to decide.

#93: Cobalion-EX

The Iron Will Pokémon returns in Plasma Storm in Pokémon-EX form, and for pretty good reasons. From a distance, this card doesn’t look like anything too special. First of all, it’s of the Metal-type, so we start on a meh level. There aren’t any Pokémon in the metagame that are frightened by Metal-types, but there aren’t many Fire-types that would annihilate them either. Therefore, the Metal-type is a rather safe route to travel on. Cobalion-EX gets a solid 180 HP, meaning Keldeo-EX is going to need to scramble for seven Water Energy before KOing this Sword of Justice. Cobalion-EX’s first attack, Righteous Edge, doesn’t seem like much. A Metal Energy for 30? Landorus-EX does 30 and 30 more to the Bench. Bad deal for Cobalion right? Not necessarily. Cobalion also discards a Special Energy attached to the Defending Pokémon, discarding a vital DCE on a Mewtwo, Blend Energy on a Hydreigon, or a Prism in a random Ho-Oh deck. While situational, Cobalion’s first attack isn’t all bad. The fact that you’re guaranteed to drop damage on T1 is solid, as opposed to Keldeo, Darkrai, Eels decks, where they need a few turns to set up.

Cobalion’s second attack, Steel Bullet, deals 100 damage for two Metal Energy and a Colorless. Oh, this card would be sooooo good had it been a Metal and a DCE. But with what we have, it’s just ok. Steel Bullet bypasses any Ability, effect, Weakness or Resistance, guaranteeing that you’re dropping 100 damage every time you use Steel Bullet. Say, “Good bye!” to Sigilyph. While 100 seems underwhelming to the likes of a charged-up Keldeo and the Darkrai that hits for 90 and 30 to the Bench, Steel Bullet is nice because you even get through Eviolite. Regardless, you’re getting a 2HKO on the metagame as long as you don’t get Knocked Out first. This is raising eyebrows because some players are starting to tech Victini. Often known as “Benchtini,” the player would stack their Bench and Retreat into Victini and swing for 200 damage to Cobalion, no questions asked. Thankfully, this is the only Fire-type threat that seems to be viable in the format right now.

Incredibly for Cobalion, it also has a 20-damage Resistance to Psychic-types, aka Mewtwo-EX and Sigilyph. This is excellent in a format where Mewtwo wars are rampant and you can drop Cobalion to buffer some damage and discard a DCE or two. The Retreat Cost is rather lame. Two Energy is ok, but the Retreat Cost would have been much nicer if it were only one Energy higher, (for access to Heavy Ball), or one Energy lower (for free Retreat courtesy of Skyarrow Bridge). This would make Cobalion-EX perfect companions for, you guessed it, the Klinklang from this very set. The fact that you can deal 100 and take absolutely zero damage from Pokémon-EX is too good to be true. While teching the Klinklang from Black & White, you will not only have Pokémon-EX protection, but Energy mobilization that can be used in conjunction with Max Potion, in the case you find yourself in a random quarrel with Blastoise or Hydreigon. While the deck may seem solid in theory, it’s all a little too much. You need to set up two Stage 2 Pokémon for best results, so it may come down to the player to decide which Klinklang to partner with Cobalion-EX. No matter which Klinklang Cobalion-EX chooses to partner up with, it can be said that Cobalion-EX sheds a new light and provides new perspective for Metal-type decks to come.

#95: Black Kyurem-EX

The menace returns, except this time, it’s a whole lot meaner. With its pervious version from Boundaries Crossed being one of the worst EXs in the set aside from its playability in Klinklang, the new one from Plasma Storm is one of the best. After taking a quick glance over its attacks and stats, it’s not hard to see why. 180 HP, a relatively good weakness to Dragon, despite the fact that it gives it problems against Rayeels, and an attack that does whopping 200 damage. The best part about this is that it requires 1 Lighting, 2 Water, and 1 colorless to attack, meaning if you put some Lighting or Blend WLFM into a Blastoise deck, it can be easily powered up. It barely even matters that you have to discard three energy after using the attack; that energy can be easily recovered through Energy Retreival and the massive amounts of energy that Blastoise decks tend to run anyway. The combination of Keldeo-EX’s raw power and the massive damage output from Black Kyurem-EX is going to make Blastoise a deck to be reckoned with. The best part of Black Kyurem-EX though is that it finally patches up the worst weak point of Keldeo-EX: Mewtwo. It can easily take care of a Mewtwo in one hit, and after doing so, another Mewtwo can’t really do much to it because it discards most of its energy. It does have a downside to it though; because of it requiring Lighting energy, it means it’s going to take up a lot of space in Blastoise, which is already very tight for space. Not only that, if your opponent Catchers out something on your bench, you’ll have to burn two energy off a Keldeo-EX to retreat it if you want to get Black Kyurem-EX active again, which can be a pain if you’re running low on energy late in the game. For that reason, Keldeo-EX will still probably remain the main attacker in Blastoise decks, but Black Kyurem-EX will most certainly not be ignored. Be prepared to see it in your future matches, because if you’re not, Black Ballista will completely and utterly crush any chance you have of winning.

#96: White Kyurem-EX

This card is an interesting EX that this set offers us, and in the eyes of most players, the “least playable” one of them all. However, don’t judge a book by its cover. Let’s delve into this and see what makes White Kyurem-EX a threat. While its first attack does an average amount of damage, the second attack has the capability of doing upwards of 270-320 damage!

An obvious pairing for this would be Reuniclus from Black & White. It can allow you to move your damage around and keep White Kyurem around longer. The unfortunate downfall of Reuniclus is that is has 90 HP. The best partner for this behemoth… is itself. You want them to attack you, and you don’t want them to be able to Pokémon Catcher around it until there isn’t anything left but your lonely EX. If it gets a mere 80 damage on it, it can hit knock out anything in the format that doesn’t have an Eviolite on it. Even if they do have an Eviolite, you only need 100 damage.

Finally, White Kyurem has a trick up its sleeve to make the damage even less, Crystal Edge. If this is attached, then you only need 30 – 50 damage on yourself to OHKO any card in the current format. White Kyurem-EX does have more pitfalls than advantages, but maybe one day it will have its time to shine.

#108: Lugia-EX

This was the most hyped card in Plasma Storm, and it’s not hard to see why. Taking a look at its stats, it sports a good 180 HP, a pretty good weakness to electric, and a fantastic resistance to fighting. The fact that its colorless means it can also take advantage of Aspertia City Gym, despite it not being able to hit anything for weakness. Its ability is what really makes it stand out though. Being able to take an extra prize card after knocking something out is HUGE in this format, where the 7th prize rule is very prominent and with EX’s that could give Lugia-EX a whopping three prizes. From that alone, Lugia-EX seems like one of the most broken cards in the game. Its attack, however, is where it falls apart. 120 damage seems good at first, but it misses out on many of the big KO’s in the format, and you can’t boost it with Hypnotoxic Laser because if Poison damage knocks out the defending Pokémon, you don’t get an extra prize card. The absolutely worst part about it though is that it requires you to discard a Plasma Energy every time it attacks. This immediately limits Lugia-EX to four attacks per game without the use of gimmicky cards suck as Durant DE, Trubbish NV, or Recycle, all of which are really bad. This means Lugia can only be used as a tech, but since it requires Plasma Energy, it can only be used well in a deck that already utilizes the Plasma engine of Colress Machine/Plasma Energy, otherwise it would be way too clunky. And as of now, nothing Plasma really stands out as being very good. Lugia-EX, the most hyped card in the set, is actually doomed to fail in this format because of that very reason. Right now, Lugia-EX is actually quite bad. It will see more play after next set when a ton of great Plasma Pokemon such as Thundurus-EX and Deoxys-EX come out, but for now, you’re better off veering away from this legendary bird.

#117: Bicycle

Pokémon is starting to put more of the iconic items from the video game into the trading card game. Bicycle is one of them. This card was one of the most hyped up cards during the release of Boundaries Crossed but was held back for some reason. Now that Bicycle has finally been released, competitive players have finally rejoiced. Its effect allows us to draw cards from the deck until the player has four cards in his/her hand. It looks underwhelming at first but there are several reasons why this card can make a spot or two in some decks.

First of all, it’s another option to counter N. N is a very broken card late game when you’re only forced to draw two cards, (or even one card), from the deck and you’re only hope is to pray to topdeck a Supporter card or a Pokémon Catcher for the game. Adding Bicycle in your deck increases the probability that you can draw something to get you out of this tight spot that I’m pretty sure everyone has at least experienced while playing Pokémon.

Second of all, it has synergy with some of the better cards in the format. Most decks right now run Ultra Ball and will have Computer Search/Dowsing Machine as their chosen ACE SPEC. These cards require dropping two cards from your hand to trigger their effect. Playing these cards reduces the hand and in turn makes Bicycle more effective.

Lastly, Bicycle is not a Supporter card. Bicycle is probably the first non-Supporter card that adds cards to your hand since Pokédex Handy910is from years ago. Bicycle, being an Item card also gives its distinctive synergy with Skyla. Most players find problems when they play Skyla and pull a Supporter with its effect. When they do this, they have to wait another turn to be able to use that Supporter. In the current meta, one turn of not being able to draw off Trainer card effects is critical due to the very fast pace of the meta has right now. Bicycle at least solves that problem a bit by allowing the player to draw a few cards off of a Skyla.

As for weaknesses, the card does suffer from the 61st-card syndrome similar to Town Map. Some decks really can’t find a slot to fit this in especially with all the different Trainer/Supporter cards that are also just as broken. Bicycle has to compete against Hypnotoxic Laser, Pokémon Catcher and the various draw Supporters for a spot in a deck. That in itself is a tall order for Bicycle. Another weakness would be that other decks rarely have their hand size down to less than four. People would argue that a draw Supporter would be better.

In conclusion, this card has potential but it has to fight for spots in a deck. However, it really does deserve to be at least a one-off in the deck just in case you need immediate draw to be combo’d with Skyla. This card would have so much more utility had there been more cards like Ultra Ball and Dowsing Machine.

#118: Colress

At first glance, this card is amazing. We don’t have enough shuffle/draw Supporters in this format and this one seems over-the-top good. If both players have full benched, you could draw a ridiculous 10 cards off of it. It’s more than even a Juniper will net you. However, at second glance, it suddenly seems terrible. In this EX heavy format, many decks will often play off a small bench, meaning Colress will be weak. On another note, if you draw Colress on your first turn and you don’t have any Supporters, it’s completely useless. You won’t even be able to fill your Bench because you won’t have access to enough cards without a useful supporter. It makes running Colress a double-edged sword, meaning it’s probably best as a 1-2 of tech that can be great late game, but won’t be relied on. Colress is a great card at the right time, but be careful of letting the positive aspects of it cloud it’s extreme disadvantages.

#119: Colress Machine

Colress Machine is a great card. It has built-in consistency and is an Item card, so you can play multiples during your turn. Better yet, unlike Dark Patch, you search your deck with Colress Machine, so you can easily power up a Plasma Pokémon turn 1! Currently, the best partner for Colress Machine is Lugia-EX, though it will hardly see any play for States. Next set, however, Colress Machine gains new partners in Thundurus-EX and Deoxys-EX which, alongside Lugia-EX, will come together to form what will possibly be the BDIF. There is one downside to Colress Machine – it only attaches Energy to Plasma Pokémon. Next set, when Plasma Badge comes out, Colress Machine is going to become a whole lot better, providing energy acceleration for any Pokémon in play!

#120: Escape Rope

If there was one thing Pokémon liked more than reprinting old cards, it’s reprinting old cards with new names. We have seen this scenario happen with Gust of Wind and Pokemon Catcher, and now we have the “reprint” of Warp Point that we are so excited about: Escape Rope. This is probably one of the more sought after cards in the set and has a spot in almost all decks.

Escape Rope takes off from where its predecessor left off. It serves as a secondary version of Switch. It provides disruption by forcing your opponent to get a new Active out and in a way, can temporarily substitute Pokémon Catcher if we’re talking budget decks. Escape Rope functions as a second Switch with added utility to the board. Not only do you get your Catcher’d bench-sitter out of the Active spot, you can also disrupt the opponent by getting something out from him that could be crucial to his strategy. Escape Rope is a two-in-one card that is very versatile and can provide outs in almost any situation. It will be a given that most decks that run Switch would consider changing them all to Escape Ropes or maintain a balance between the two cards to suit to their situational needs.

It is not all fine and dandy for Escape Rope however. The one major weakness of this card is that its versatility can also backfire and it can provide utility for your opponent by letting him get a free Switch and rearrange his field. Treat this card as something like Colress. When played correctly, it will provide headaches and when played wrong, you’ll just end up helping your opponent more. Oh yeah, if you use Escape Rope when your opponent only has one benched Pokemon in play, it’s similar to a Pokémon Catcher. Use that to your advantage early game to conserve your precious Pokémon Catchers.

#121: Ether

Originally from the Pokémon Video Games as a way to regain PP, Ether makes its first appearance in the TCG in Plasma Storm. Before Plasma Storm, there have been many versions of Energy acceleration: Dark Patch, Blastoise, Eelektrik, Ho-oh-EX, and the occasional Emboar BW were all the best ways to get Energy onto the field in order to attack. Ether introduces a new way to accelerate Energy cards. This Item allows you to look at the top card of your deck. If it is a Basic Energy,you attach it to one of your Pokémon. If it isn’t a Basic Energy, you simply return it to the top of your deck. Now, this on its own cannot support a deck at all; it’s way too luck-based and typically decks don’t run more than a maximum of sixteen Energy. However, paired with Lunatone PS, Pokédex from BW, or Musharna ND, Ether suddenly becomes an engine, allowing you to have the ability to attach multiple Energy to your Pokémon from as early as turn one. Ether opens a world full of possibilities to players. Finally, every single deck has the ability to have energy acceleration, increasing its speed rather than having to manually attach Energy turn after turn while your opponent sets up. A turn one Night Spear is even more of a possibility. Turn one or two Land Judgment is within reach, and Klingklang decks can finally have a source of acceleration. But, while Ether sounds godly right now, it has its downsides. Even with the assistance of Lunatone, Pokédex, and Musharna, Ether is still a risky engine – a hit or miss if you will. Late game, it isn’t the most reliable engine, and you only have four of them – four to last you the entire game, unless you run Sableye DE. Ether is one of those cards that you may or may not see in the competitive scene, but it’s always good to be prepared for it.

Ether will be most commonly seen in speed decks, or decks that have a sour matchup against the disruptive Hammertime deck.(Darkrai /Sableye/Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer used in conjunction with Sableye are used to slow down the opponent immensely while charging up main attackers.) You can’t really just add four Ether into a deck: you need some way to make sure you have a Basic Energy on top of the deck, without cheating of course. I suggest testing Ether with Pokédex, (also known as the EtherDex engine), in Darkrai, as you can use Sableye’s Junk Hunt attack to return both to your hand. Even if you don’t get successful Ethers, you have some reliable Dark Patches to fall back on. Ether and Lunatone or Ether and Pokédex work well together with Landorus-EX, since you can use Heavy Ball to search out Lunatone, Landorus-EX, and Terrakion, and Fighting-types have never had acceleration before. So while Landorus-EX was fast before, it just became faster. Last but not least, EtherDex could work its way into Klingklang decks in order to provide some early attacking and relief against Hammertime.

In conclusion, Ether is one of the many unique cards that is presented to us with the set Plasma Storm. It has its uses, providing speed for decks that haven’t seen it before and others that just want to be faster. Unfortunately, it is very luck-based, but with tools like Lunatone, Musharna, or Pokédex, it could find its way into a winning deck.

#123: Hypnotoxic Laser

We’ve arrived at what is arguably the best card in the set. It’s effect is simple: Poison the opponent’s Active Pokémon, and on a coin flip, put it to sleep too. That alone essentially makes it a better, unstackable Pluspower that has a pretty sweet side effect and doesn’t require you to attack to apply the damage. Truthfully, if that’s all this card had going for it, it would still be pretty good, but it wouldn’t be game breaking. Combine this with the new Virbank City Gym though, and it suddenly becomes one of the best cards in the game. Instead of 10 extra damage, you now do a ridiculous 30 extra damage, which can add up to some pretty sweet damage calculations for many decks. You can figure them out for yourself via some quick math, but to give an example, if you use this with Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear, assuming Darkrai-EX has a Dark Claw attached to it, Darkrai-EX does an insane 140 damage. That means it can then snipe 170 HP EX’s for 30 damage after the original 140 to pull off some amazing combos, not to mention 140 is enough to KO support Pokemon like Blastoise. If the card couldn’t get any better, the fact that it Poisons the opponent’s Pokémon means it’ll do another 30 damage going back into your turn, creating possible situations where the Pokémon will be knocked out, giving you a free shot at their new active. Even if isn’t Knocked Out, the 3 turns of Poison will add up to an extra 90 damage. All of that combined with the ability to disrupt by putting the opponent’s Pokémon to sleep, and you get one seriously good card. Expect to see it everywhere it upcoming tournaments, as this card is going to be a big part of the game for a long time to come.

#124: Plasma Frigate

Every time a new Stadium is released, it finds it way into something. On the surface, Plasma Frigate’s place seems to be in Plasma Pokémon-based decks because Plasma Energy is required to get rid of the Weakness. However, that isn’t the case. This particular card can allow a player to play with an ace in the hole. Imagine having a Mewtwo-EX without a Weakness. A player wouldn’t have to fear retaliation from an opposing Mewtwo-EX. The downfall of this card is the unfortunate reality that an opponent simply has to play their own Stadium to get rid of it. While you do run the risk of your Stadium getting removed, Plasma Frigate is worth the risk as a card that can swing games in your favor, or even seal a well-earned victory late in the game.

#126: Virbank City Gym

Truthfully, this card shines the most as a form of boosting Hypnotoxic Laser to unbelievably good levels, which is why this analysis is going to be brief. On it’s own, the only real place it has is to make some interesting rogues out of anything that can Poison, although none of them are really viable because the format is too fast and damage-heavy for rogues to succeed. One cool thing to pair it with is the new Crobat, which could allow you to do a ridiculous 60 damage from Poison in between turns. Again though, rogues like these have a difficult time succeeding right now, meaning it’s probably best to let this have its glory as a pair with Hypnotoxic Laser and not with anything else.

#127: Plasma Energy

As with all gimmick themes, they get a special energy card all to themselves. Generation 3 had React Energy, R Energy and a truckload of Holon-based Energy, Generation 4 had SP Energy, now comes Generation 5’s first venture into gimmick themes with Plasma Energy. Plasma Energy provides 1 [C] and of course will do something when attached to specific Pokémon. The most notable of these in the current set are Zapdos-EX, Lugia-EX and Articuno-EX and Plasma Frigate. You can refer to their respective card reviews to get a more detailed explanation about how Plasma Energy works for them. Moltres-EX, who is also a beneficiary of Plasma Energy sadly didn’t make the list of cards to be reviewed but let’s all just say that the card itself leaves to be anything of note.

Plasma Energy as with all gimmick-themed energy cards do provide problems. First of all, they are considered Special Energy; having them as Special Energy limits their deck slots to four and this can be taxing especially when the cards now require Plasma Energy to be continuously attached to the Pokémon or being used as fuel to attack. This card also falters to the still lasting popularity of Hammertime which uses Enhanced Hammer to remove Plasma Energy from the Pokémon. Overall, Plasma Energy works just like its predecessors but the main problem now is trying to keep the energy on the field, and the quality of the Pokémon that actually get to use it. It will have its time once more Plasma support is released but for now it’s just a mediocre card. It can be accelerated by Colress Machine so it does at least provide Plasma Pokémon with some sort of acceleration and search that these kinds of gimmicks actually get every time.

#128: Dowsing Machine

Well here we are, another ACE SPEC that Plasma Storm introduced to us. At first glance, you’ll notice that Dowsing Machine is from the video game as an item that looks for other items. That’s what Dowsing Machine does! It allows you to discard two cards from your hand and search your discard pile for a Trainer card. Now, to the many people who played during the 2011-2012 season, this sure sounds familiar…a little like Junk Arm, perhaps? Junk Arm did the exact same thing, except it could only get back Item cards. Junk Arm was also referred to as a staple in all decks that didn’t contain Vileplume UD, a 4-of that was necessary to in order to do well. Other than the fact that you obviously can’t play 4 Dowsing Machine, Dowsing Machine is a little different than good o’l Junk Arm – it allows you to get back Supporters too. This is great. Technically, now your deck can contain 5 of one card – 5 Junipers, 5 Catchers, 5 Switch, basically any Trainer, Supporter, or Stadium. This helps after a late-game N, because you can Dowsing Machine and get back a Supporter to get you back into the game. Or, it could allow you to survive after having to Juniper away or discard resources that you may need later. Of course, there is always a bad side to things. Dowsing Machine isn’t the greatest card early game, because if there is nothing in your discard, it could sit as a dead card in your hand, unlike Computer Search, which is always useful. Even with it’s downside, Dowsing Machine is certainly a contender for best Ace Spec.

Now the question we have all been waiting for: Dowsing Machine, or Computer Search? The answer simply relies on two things: preference and deck choice. In a Landorus-EX, you rely on speed and quick KOs to get you ahead of your opponent. In this case, Computer Search would be the ideal card to play, allowing you to get cards you need easily and have a fast start. Or, in an Eelektrik deck, for example RayEels, or Blastoise/Keldeo-EX, you don’t necessarily need a turn 1 attack, which in most cases, you won’t even get. Dowsing Machine in these decks allows you to be able to set up, while keeping in mind that you are able to get back anything you discard. And finally, a Darkrai deck would typically run Computer Search, since they are fast and Sableye DE gets back items anyways. I’m not saying that you can’t run Computer Search in Eels or Dowsing Machine in Landorus-EX – if you test it out and you feel comfortable with it, that’s fine. Computer Search is also strong throughout the game while Dowsing Machine is only strong mid to late game.

However, Dowsing Machine can catch your opponent off guard when they think you are out of a certain resource.

Like it’s brother, Junk Arm from HS Triumphant, Dowsing Machine is one of the pluses of Plasma Storm for sure because of its countless uses late game. It is definitely something to consider testing out in your deck and testing against. It could be the item that you are looking for.

#129: Scramble Switch

Scramble Switch is controversially the best ACE SPEC released yet. It works as a way to move all of your Energy from a damaged Keldeo-EX to a new one in Keldeo/Blastoise builds, and works as a quick way to power up new attackers. Along with the new Black Kyurem-EX that was just released, Keldeo/Blastoise lists can use Scramble Switch to take the last 2 Prize Cards, an easy feat with such a powerful ACE SPEC. It’s also good with a lategame Skyla, and can be used to snag some game-changing Prize Cards. Overall, I believe that Scramble Switch is going to be one of the most game-changing cards of Plasma Storm, and I expect it to be a staple in Keldeo/Blastoise lists, and make an impact as an ACE SPEC in general.


In conclusion, the released support for Team Plasma is lacking, with most of the important cards on hold for the next set (Plasma Freeze). However, that does not mean that this set is bad by any means. The set has several cards that will impact the meta and several more that will try to find a niche. The sheer amount of ultra-rares in this set also makes pull rates a bit easier which gives people more for their money. Overall, Plasma Storm is a very good set with plenty of options for meta players and some fun cards that can be used by people who decide to play more unique decks.

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Saturday, February 16th, 2013 @ 1 AM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

As posted on Monday, the name of our next English set is Plasma Freeze; it will be our equivalent of Japan's BW8 Spiral Force / Thunder Knuckle. Its booster pack images have been revealed below thanks to PokeCollection, featuring Absol, Bisharp, Thundurus, and Deoxys. The theme decks on the other hand will feature Leafeon and Glaceon. Click the thumbnail below for a larger image.

Plasma Freeze Booster Packs and Theme Decks
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Thursday, February 14th, 2013 @ 8 PM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

Do you know how hard it is to post a story like this in a film class where you have to analyze different visuals and answer questions about them once every 10 seconds? Berry berry hard.

The official Pokemon Card website has revealed Eelektross and Porygon-Z from BW9 Megalo-Cannon. Porygon-Z is an in-set reprint of the booster box promo we posted last month. Thanks goes to Puddizzle for the translations!

Eelektross from BW9 Megalo-Cannon Porygon-Z from BW9 Megalo-Cannon

Eelektross - Lightning - HP140
Stage 2 (Team Plasma) - Evolves from Eelektrik

[L][C] Crash and Burn: 30x damage. Discard any number of Energy cards attached to your Pokemon. This attack does 30 damage for each card discarded this way.
[L][C][C][C] Lightning Storm: 50x damage. Flip 4 coins. This attack does 50 damage times the number of heads.

Weakness: Fighting (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 3

The 60-card "Combo Deck 60 Blastoise + Kyurem-EX" deck that will be released the same day as BW9 has also been revealed. Blastoise is a reprint of the one from Boundaries Crossed while Kyurem-EX is new. The deck will also come with a secret ACE SPEC card.

Combo Deck 60 Blastoise + Kyurem-EX Blastoise-EX from BW9 Megalo-Cannon Kyurem-EX from BW9 Megalo-Cannon

Kyurem-EX - Water - HP180
Basic Pokemon

[C][C] Outrage: 30+ damage. This attack does 10 more damage for each damage counter on this Pokemon.
[W][W][C][C} Giga Frost: 150 damage. Discard 2 [W] Energy from this Pokemon.

Weakness: Metal (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 3

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Thursday, February 14th, 2013 @ 7 AM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

Pokemon has announced that Eevee's latest evolution will be named Sylveon in English while its French name will be Nymphali and its German name will be Feelinara. A video, some artwork, and some screenshots of it in battle were also released where it appears to be using Swift, as you can see below.

Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y Sylveon, New Eevee Evolution in Pokemon X and Y

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Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 @ 12 AM PST -  By: Water Pokémon Master

And today we have a second article from Martin Moreno. To discuss his article, check out this forum thread.

Hello PokeBeach fans! My name is Martin Moreno and today we are going to touch on a subject that isn't discussed very often in the Pokemon community: the presence of female players. They are out there at events and today we are going to learn about four hand-picked players from different areas of the country. Out of the four, we have two students and two girls already in the working world that still find time to take out of their busy schedules to be Pokemon weekend warriors!

Each participant was asked several questions that concern the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I will introduce each player with an introduction based on what I know about them and their experiences in the game. I also want to add that I can personally vouch for each of their in game skills having played vs. them all (I occasionally won).

What motivated me to choose this particular subject was the stigma that surrounds women in the Pokemon community. Are girls capable of keeping up with their male counterparts? Do they belong at events? Do they have what it takes to capture a championship? If I were to personally answer that question, I would say that we are reaching ever so closer to seeing a female Regional/National/World Champion in the Masters division. I myself have treated women unfairly in the past, so I think now is a better time than ever to get the word out that we are in fact all equals. One more thing to point out is how outnumbered female players are in comparison to males. PokeBeach reaches the largest number of people out of any other Pokemon TCG-oriented website by far, so I thought to myself, we have an opportunity to show new-player prospects that the game isn't so intimidating once you try it out and get involved. We'll get back to some ground-breaking format strategy discussion next time, because the spotlight tonight is on these rising stars!

Note: There are a number of references to cards no longer playable in the current tournament format. You have a way to look up these cards right here at Pokebeach to see exactly what each player here is referring to if you are unfamiliar.

ANN-MARIE THOMPSON

Age: 16

Occupation: Student

Location: Southeast, US

Meet Ann-Marie! When searching in the land of God's and Pocket Monsters, I found this angel. Her roots in this game started on this very website. In the online community, many refer to her as "AMT." Apparently, that is an acronym for her full name. It didn't take me that long to figure out since I am in fact a genius (sarcasm). Although, at first I was under the impression maybe her name was a reference to a popular archetype ran last season, but nonetheless, she has a following online for being very well respected in her region. I wish my name was cool enough to have a hyphen…

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

At about five or six years of age my best friend Christian and I were absolutely obsessed with Pokemon figures. We had over 300! We would play with them all the time. Even after getting all these new toys for Christmas we would always revert back to Pokemon. Pokemon has pretty much always been in my life, and one day I saw some Pikachu cards that one of my sisters had. She had a few other cards, too. That's how I learned that there were even cards for the game. Fast forward five years and this is when I found out about the Pokemon card game. I collected a lot of NHL and NFL cards and would always look up the current prices, sell them, etc. One day I found my sister's old cache of Pokemon cards. I decided to look into them (hoping to sell them!) and that is how I came across PokeBeach. I made an account on the forums and became friends with some of the TCG players. I spent a year or two just talking to them online and frequenting PokeBeach before I decided to go to an actual tournament. So glad I did!

2) How long have you been playing?

I've been playing this game for five years now. I played three years in the Senior division and am currently in my second year of the Master division.

3) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

I have never really felt underestimated while playing in a tournament. A lot of people in this region (South… Southeast?) know me or know of me and they don't underestimate me. I don't think the fact that I'm a girl has led people to believe I am an easy win.

4) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

This season has been going okay. I won my first BR of the season and played in three more, doing poorly. I went 3-3 drop at Fall Regionals and had a pretty good Cities run. This past Regionals I went 5-3. I haven't had great success but I've still had a lot of fun this year.

PS: Don't drop from tournaments. You came there to play so you might as well.

5) Your most memorable tournament moment

My most memorable tournament moment would probably be Ohio States 2009. This event is memorable for two reasons:

1) At the time, almost all of my online PokeBeach friends were from Ohio. I convinced my Dad to take me to Ohio so I could meet them. I had an absolute blast meeting them and am still friends with them to this day.

2) It was the first tournament that I won. I played against one of my newly met friends, Michael Zele, the first round and lost to him on a misplay. Everyone pointed it out to me after the game, but I just thought to myself, "Well, whatever. It's too late to fix now." I went on to win out and make T8. I played a funny T4 match against Spencer Brown. He was running speed Machamp and I was running Palkia G/Honchkrow G. Game 1 he mulligans a bunch and donks me. Game 2 he mulligans a bunch and I donk him. I wasn't running any Unown G so I knew I had to win G3 quickly and I did. I played Ty Wheeler in T2 and was able to beat him. It was my first time winning a tournament and all of my friends were still hanging around and congratulated me. It was just a great experience overall.

6) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

I love the game and I love the community. I used to complain about the game a lot but I've realized how much it and the community has changed my life and I'm glad to be playing. The community really is incredible.

7) What is your favorite card in the modified format and why?

My favorite card in the current modified format… definitely Rayquaza-EX. I feel like it's one of the best cards because of its ability to OHKO every EX. It's just such a powerful card and I've had pretty good success with it.

Shoutout to Curse Gengar from Arceus... sadly it's no longer in the format. :(

8) Talk about what you would change in the format?

There is really just one change that I would make to the current format and that would be the first turn rule. I think it's completely unfair to the player who loses the coin flip. There is no disadvantage to going first and that's an issue. The player going first needs some kind of restriction… either no attacking or no playing a supporter might work.

9) How would you improve organized play?

I would improve Organized Play by increasing the TC caps for Cities/States/Regionals. The numbers for these tournaments the past two years have been increasing dramatically. St. Louis Regionals this year had almost 400 Masters! It's crazy to think that only the top 32 players after swiss get a chance to play in top cut with a number that high. I think the players would be very happy if the TC caps were raised for these events. I would also improve Organized Play by reinstating TC for Battle Roads. It was a weird decision for them to even remove it in the first place, especially with the Championship point system. Speaking of the CP system, I would improve upon it as well. I think this system favors the players who can travel more and attend more events. That's not cool.

10) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

The event I look forward to the most each year is definitely Worlds. Nationals is a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, but Worlds is certainly better. I get to see my friends from all over the world and it's just such a great experience. Last year I got to play against Yamato round one of the grinder and it was incredible. Another minor reason for my choice of Worlds over Nationals as my favorite event of the year would be because my birthday is usually the week after Worlds. In Hawaii last year my friend Amelia surprised me with a sweet dinner and even got me a birthday cake. Worlds is by far the event I look forward to the most.

Kristy Britton

Age: 16

Occupation: Student

Location: Southern California

(Kristy Britton's favorite Pokemon is Espeon!)

Story time for a bit. Flashback to last season's California State Championship on the Queen Mary. I was heading into round two fresh off of a loss from round one. I see the pairings and am relieved that not only have I never heard of my opponent, but knowing she was a girl, I was already under the impression I'd be in good position to eat lunch early after getting a sure win. Flash-forward about 15 minutes, and instead of sinking my teeth into a piece of pizza I was craving from the vendor outside, I was signing a match slip ready to take the walk of shame. My heart was broken at the hands of Kristy Britton!

At the beginning of this season I wasn't very interested in playing the game competitively. There was a Battle Road in my own hometown of San Diego, and I chose to stay home and play PlayTCG online and watch Blade 2 rather than go to a tournament minutes away. Kristy Britton wins this Battle Road and proceeds to go to my Facebook wall and talk major smack (in a nice way) about me not showing up. I think to myself, do I really want to get involved in the Trading Card Game again? What should I do? When the next weekend rolled around, I decided to go to Temecula Battle Roads, only to find her there. I was really in no condition to play after being up for two days because of work, so I decided to leave. On my way out the door Kristy stops me and urges me to give it a shot and try. I reluctantly agree. And thanks to her encouragement, I managed to play my heart out and came in second place!

A little later during the Battle Road series a surprise Durant deck defeats Kristy and gives her second place. She decides to share with me that running two of the Noble Victories Terrakion in my Terrakion/Mewtwo/Roserade makes me susceptible to not only that Durant deck, but other similar builds that focus on a Sableye/Crushing Hammer disruption premise. The fact she would go out of her way to share this with me is something I have never forgotten, especially since she is the top-ranked female player in California.

Thanks to Kristy's encouragement, I regained my competitive spirit that season and even managed to come in second place at NorCal's Regionals. I lost to PokeBeach forum's very own Kian Amini, but the experience is one for the ages. Kristy's courage and kindness to challenge a hyped-up player like me is a story I found to be incredible.

So now, here's Kristy!

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

Honestly, I wasn't very interested in the game at first. It was my brother, Kenny, who convinced me to check the game out. We went to our first tournament during Cities in 2010 and it was a memorable experience for me. The tournament organizer, Chris Boutcher, helped us understand how everything works and it was really easy for us to catch on. Although I was reluctant to play at first, the game grew on me and now I enjoy playing the game and spending time with my Pokemon friends.

2) How long have you been playing?

This will be my third year playing Pokemon and my second in Masters.

3) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

Unfortunately there was a time where I did feel underestimated. In some cases, I could hear people saying "wow I can't believe I lost to a girl" or people thinking that the girl participants are a waste of points. There were times when people thought I was going to be an easy win or pretty much a "bye" for the round which upsets me to feel looked down on. I hope to make a difference now and make other players think of us girls as competitors like them.

4) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

I had a head start in points with Battle Roads, but I wasn't able to make it past the top 8 mark in Cities. Although I'm disappointed in my performance in the last two Regional tournaments, I'm planning on getting points in the upcoming States and Regionals. This year I'm motivated for an invite – 2013 Vancouver Worlds here I come!

5) What's your favorite tournament event?

By far Nationals. Overall the tournament is fun and exciting – I just love how competitive it is! And afterward it's so relaxing to hang out with your friends after a long day of Pokemon. Sharing your bad beats and your amazing plays is always much more fun at Nationals. I would love to win at Nationals at least once while I'm playing this game.

6) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

The main reason I continue to play is because I love the tournaments! I really enjoy battling other people and winning feels great knowing you earned it. I think people shouldn't be afraid to play Pokemon because of what others might think. What really matters is whether you are enjoying yourself or not. Also, spending time with friends through Pokemon is a wonderful bonus!

7) What is your favorite card in the modified format and why?

My favorite card in this format is Professor Juniper. In my opinion, the draw power is amazing and she has powerful synergy with decks that require energy in the discard like Darkrai and Eel variants. I know everyone has had their moments of an N to Juniper or top decking a Juniper for the game. She's a life saver!

8) Talk about what you would change in the format?

If I were to change the format I would definitely add searchable Pokemon that give you outs with draw power. Pokemon like Uxie, Smeargle or Claydol to name a few. Being able to search for a Pokemon that add more cards to your hand definitely helps with consistency and gives us the opportunity to add a variety to the meta. Cards like that made other cards versatile. For example, I could Pokemon Collector for Pokemon I need to set up and an Uxie to draw more. Also, if I could, I would give more attention to types that aren't used that much, such as Metal and Grass. Even if it's just a few additions, being able to add counter types would help keep overpowered decks in check. Let's be honest, playing mirror match all day gets old.

9) How would you improve organized play?

First of all, there are some tournaments that I've been to that weren't… well, organized. I've seen amazing TOs who really care about the players and the tournament and some who don't seem to care that much. It would be nice to see more of the amazing TOs and less of the opposite.There's a new trend recently where some TOs are posting pairings to Twitter so that players can look at their smartphones during a tournament instead of crowding around the busy pairings, and I hope many of them start to make use of this. Another improvement is of course directed to the need for more female players. I'm aware that there are PokeMoms and girlfriends that sometimes join the tournament, but most of the time they think "I have nothing better to do" and aren't really motivated to play which is a bit disappointing. Hopefully there will be a day where we see a lot more female competitors who play in the tournaments because they choose to and they have a desire to win.

10) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

I always look forward to Nationals, but this year I'm really looking forward to Worlds in Vancouver. I can't wait and I really hope I have an invite when I'm there! There are some people who I'd really like to challenge, too. Vancouver sounds like it will be an amazing vacation spot and I have high expectations for it.

Sammy Bittinger

Age: 24

Occupation: Aerospace Engineer

Location: Mid-west

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice that this girl really enjoys the game and the friends she's made playing it. In 2009 she managed to pilot a Dusknoir/Mewtwo-focused deck to a semi-finalist Regional Championship finish. She's the first girl to receive Regionals glass in the Masters division of the game. Regardless of the fact she has a demanding career, she still makes time for the things she cares about, like Pokemon. It didn't take me very long to realize that she was going to be somebody I will never forget.

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

Back in the fourth grade, the kids at school had the cards. My friend gave me a Base Set Charmander card and I adored it. From there I got into all things Pokemon and learned how to play from a theme deck instruction booklet and then I started playing at a Toys R Us league. This was before we even had internet, so I used to buy all the Pojo magazines and read them from cover to cover. My first deck was a Wigglytuff Haymaker – I loved that little guy.

2) How long have you been playing?

Since Jungle. That would be 15 years or so. It’s pretty unbelievable to think that I’ve been playing that long. I guess you could say it’s an addiction. I just don’t feel right going a couple months without playing Pokemon.

3) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

Sure. I hear, all too often, comments about being matched up against a girl is an auto-win. But that’s the makeup of this community – it’s a man’s world. And any mostly-male group will have some individuals with feelings of superiority over the female minority. I get this at work too as a female in the male-dominated world of engineering. However, as the game has grown over the past fifteen years, more and more girls are playing, and more are winning. And so I think that feeling of superiority has subsided and we are becoming more respected. We’re definitely going in the right direction.

4) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

Excellent so far. I’ve not been playing as much the past couple years in order to launch my career while maintaining my social sanity. But last month, I placed third in a 64-man City Championship with Rayquaza/Eels. Clearly, luck was with me, but I feel I made the right deck choice and right plays that day.

5) What is your most memorable tournament moment?

I’ll never forget my first premier tournament, a Gym Challenge down in Columbus. My mom actually didn’t let me go to any qualifiers for a couple of years because I was a girl – she really didn’t like the idea of me hanging around so many boys. I think I had to beg her. But that first tournament, I made top 8. I ran Meganium in the Neo-on format where Feraligatr dominated and it worked out quite well.

6) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

Definitely the people. I love going to Nats and Worlds every year and seeing my friends from all over the nation and the world. We have this great game in common and always will. And I do actually really love the game itself. I’m glad it has grown and thrived over the years.

7) What is your favorite card in the Modified format and why?

My favorite card has always been PlusPower. I love playing it down at the end of a turn and watching my opponent sink into his chair. He thought he had it in the bag. Nope!

8) Talk about what you would change in the format?

Definitely the advantage of going first. It’s always been a problem in our game. Something needs to be done there. Also, I dislike the high damage output these days. I think it takes skill out of the game and turns it more into who drew all the necessary cards to pull off the OHKO.

9) How would you improve organized play?

Actually, I really like the recent changes to OP. The Championship points invite structure of this year is cool – some players already have invites and don’t need to stress about playing more events and getting knocked out. And the lack of cash prizes really doesn’t bother me. I prefer the extension of trophies to Cities and things like that. It’s about the pride for me!

10) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

Nationals, without a doubt. It’s an event that everyone in the country is playing in. I love the big stage. But my favorite part is just getting to see everyone and spend time with them, and to meet new people of course!

11) How has the online world helped you improve your game?

I actually lost interest in the game around ’06, but becoming a member of an internet forum really reignited my ties to the community. It provided me with a way to make the game more of a social experience. It really drove me to up my game. Sure enough, ’08-’09 was a great season in which I placed third at Regionals and won a Battle Road.

12) How do you prepare for a tournament?

I think having limited time really kills the most in this area. Of course, I’d want to play a ton of games and know every matchup by heart to be fully prepared, but life is about choices and balance; we can’t do it all. So the important things that I focus on in the week prior to a big event are putting the list together the way I like to run things and learning the general strategy of the deck that could work in the most number of matchups. And of course, test driving it a couple of times against the dominant decks.

13) Why do you think girls are not playing this game as much?

I think the Pokemon TCG is simply targeted at males. Maybe it’s the way they are wired. They certainly have the deep-rooted competitive spirit. But girls can absolutely have that as well, as evidenced by the many successful female players out there. Competitive card gaming is just a difficult sell for females who usually hold other interests.

14) How do you balance playing the game and school/work?

Hah. Well. School and work have the priority, end of story. But I plan out my work, prioritize, and get it done so that I can go to events when I’d like to. I have to say, it’s much easier now that homework is out of the picture!

15) What other hobbies do you participate in outside of Pokemon?

I like lots of things! I’m an ex-gymnast and have been coaching for nine years now. I like to paint abstractions and draw portraiture, especially after a rough day at the office. I love to travel – last summer I went backpacking across Europe, and I’m headed to Japan in April. I have two great puppies with whom I love to spend time. And of course I love to hang with friends and family. I’m a big people person!

16) What's it like being an engineer and what are you doing with it?

I recently graduated with my degree in Mechanical Engineering and am now working for NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m a dynamicist for Project Orion, so I design and analyze the spacecraft parts for resistance to launch vibration and acoustics. Orion is NASA’s next-gen spacecraft set to send manned missions to Mars. I really love what I do. I’m learning new things every day, working alongside my team to take mankind to our next great destination.

HEATHER LYNCH

Age: 22

Occupation: Nurse

Location: Northern Texas

Heather Lynch is the person in the Pokemon Trading Card game I have known the longest. I first met her 11 years ago at a Super Trainer Showdown qualifier. For those who are unfamiliar with game history, these events offered paid trips for top finishers to the Super Trainer Showdown which was our original version of the World Championship. However, I would compare these events more to US Nationals due to the fact there wasn't as much of a global presence as our current system has. Most recently, I witnessed Heather pull a remarkable City Championship win where she not only beat her boyfriend (a high-caliber player from Oklahoma), she also beat a Regional Champion, and me a National Champion, all in the same tournament! It's quite clear that Heather is not a delicate little angel when it comes to battling in the Pokemon arena – she even wears a shirt that says "I'm no angel" when playing sometimes. Right now, Heather is sitting on enough Championship points to make any guy sweat. So what does Heather have to say about her experience in Pokemon? Let's find out…

1) How did you get interested in the PTCG?

We moved to Florida in the 1990s and my father discovered a Pokemon league at Books a Million and we began to go to League. At first, it was just a collecting thing, but soon after my brother and I began to play for fun. It wasn't until 2002 that we truly started playing at the competitive level.

2) Do you ever feel underestimated when playing at an event?

Sometimes I think I am underestimated because I got out of the game for a while due to school and needed to focus on my studies. It was not until this most recent season that I began to make top cut and began getting points towards a Worlds invite. I think many people don’t expect me to do well at events because of this.

3) Event-wise, how has this season been going for you?

This season has gone well for me – at this point I have 252 points. I made top 32 at Fall Regionals and I made top 8 at Winter Regionals. I have a few top cuts at Cities and Battle Roads and hope to continue placing well.

4) What is your most memorable tournament moment?

Probably 2004′s Worlds. This was the first year I got to play in Worlds, and it happened to be in Florida! Not only did I get to enjoy the event, it was also fun to hang out at Disney World with my family. I remember making top 32 and then advancing to top 16, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

5) What would you say is the primary reason you stay involved in the tournament scene?

I stay involved because of all the people I have known over the years. I was a military kid, but no matter where I went, Pokemon people were everywhere and I could always make new friends. It was also an activity my family and I could do together – traveling together at least once a month, I don’t know many families that get this luxury while also doing something they love.

6) What is your favorite card in the Modified format and why?

Blastoise! Since I started with the video game, Squirtle was my Starter Pokemon, and from then on I loved the Blastoise evolution line. It just happens to be a playable card in this format. I have just always liked the Pokemon no matter how good or bad the card is.

7) Talk about what you would change in the format?

I would take away the overpowered Basic EXs. I believe that evolution decks take more skill and I would bring back the Stage 1 and Stage 2 EXs. This makes the games go longer and involve more skill. The overpowered Basics make it impossible to make a strategy, and at this point, the game has turned in to “do as much damage first turn as possible and whoever goes first has the upper-hand by far.” I think going back to the set up format and not having an absurd amount of damage done each turn would greatly benefit the players who want to actually strategize rather than just doing as much one-hit damage attacks as possible.

8) How would you improve organized play?

I would change the format structure of when events occur. There are so many events to go to and if you do not make most of these, it is really hard to get a trip to Worlds. For example this year we had the Texas marathon, and then 2.5 weeks later we were on the road to Regionals. I think this may be wearing a lot of people out.

9) Which event of the season do you look forward to the most?

Nationals, because I will get to see everyone I have met over the years. I become overwhelmed with all of the hugs and love I receive every year, not to mention all of the new friends I get to make each year.

10) How do you prepare for a tournament?

I prepare by testing the weeks before the tournament and thinking about all the decks in the formats and measuring the pros and cons of each deck. I usually stay with a deck that I am comfortable with and do not change decks at the last moment.

11) How do you balance playing the game and your school work?

I tend to play test at the last minute and try to squeeze in as many games as possible. I try to stay organized but spend many sleepless nights doing homework.

12) What other hobbies do you participate in outside of Pokemon?

I like to run and exercise and compete in 5K races. I also do scrapbooking and love taking pictures. I manage to also volunteer with my school at times.

13) What career are you aspiring for?

I am currently in school and I will graduate with my Bachelor's Degree in Nursing in only a few months. After this is completed, my goal is to work into the Emergency Department as a registered nurse. Right now I work in a hospital as a patient care technician and it is a constant learning environment for me and I really feel that nursing is where I belong and where I will spend many years of my life.

MARTY'S FINAL THOUGHTS

I must say that this article was a lot of fun to put together. Each of these four stories are a great example that the fanfaronade surrounding male dominance in the game can now be considered archaic. These shining stars all have proven that they possess the ability to trump any opponent they face. An interesting fact to note is that first turn implications are a dynamic of the game which most of these girls agree is out of balance. I would say, most everyone else thinks the same way! That alone should tell you the game can be taken seriously at a competitive level by anybody no matter what background they come from. Hopefully, after reading this, we all can learn to be less judgmental of others and try to be more understanding that we're all in this for fun at the end of the day.

Thank you for reading!

-Martin Moreno

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