The release of the first X&Y cards on Friday (11/8) brought with it the 2nd (and hopefully last round) of major changes to the Pokemon TCG. This set of changes, much like the change to the “2 of 3” format for Regionals is aimed at making the TCG a more complete contest between players as opposed to a game ending in a “donk” or on the 2nd turn. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen. To increase the likelihood of a game developing, Pokemon has also changed the definition of the most powerful card in the game (and no, we’re not talking about Tropical Beach… at least not yet).
The Rule Change:
The rule change that is now in effect deals with the opening of each game. Previously, a coin flip decided who went 1st and was done after setting up (the active, benched and prizes). The advantage to going 1st was huge, as you could attack right away, applying early pressure or taking the win. All of that has now changed and we will go through the new order for beginning a game in the order that you now go:
- After you shuffle your deck, but before any set up is started, you flip a coin and the winner of the flip decides whether he/she goes 1st or 2nd.
- Next you set up (7 cards, pick an active, lay down bench Pokemon and then lay down your prize cards).
- The player who goes 1st takes their turn as they always have, but they can NOT use any attacks.
- The player who goes 2nd then takes their turn and they can use an attack.
- From there, the game proceeds as it always has.
This makes the choice on whether you go 1st or 2nd (if you win the flip) an interesting one. You will have to base your decision on how your deck typically works. If your goal is to attack right from the start and apply that early pressure, you may choose to go 2nd. If you normally require a little set up before your deck works, then going 1st is the best choice, as you can evolve your Pokemon 1st and potentially set up a strong 2nd turn.
To encourage more “set up” decks to be played, Pokemon changed the definition of “Pokemon Catcher” to accompany these rule changes. “Catcher” basically becomes the old “Pokemon Reversal”, requiring a coin flip of “heads” to catch the benched character that you wish to attack. The “Catcher” released in the brand new X and Y Starter Decks reflects this text change. Over the last 2 years, catcher has become a staple of every competitive deck, with almost every deck out there playing 4 copies of the card. It combined with quick 1st turn attackers to all but eliminate the use of bench-sitting “techs” or Pokemon that take several energy attachments to attack. The change to catcher opens the door again for some long forgotten Stage 2 Pokemon. Players will have to give some thought to whether or not to commit 4 spaces in their deck to a card that may fail with a bad coin flip.
The changes to the 1st turn have sparked a debate/discussion over another powerful card, “Tropical Beach”, a stadium card released only at the 2011 and 2012 World Championships. Tropical Beach is a card that was given to both competitors and event staff as a REWARD (remember this word…) for their achievement (for players) and their efforts and time (for staff). “Beach”, as most of you know, lets you end your turn by drawing cards until you have 7 cards in lieu of attacking. This card obviously pairs nicely with the rule change where you can’t attack if you go 1st . Many “deck” sites have been insisting that you can’t win without this card’s inclusion in your deck list and several articles are suggesting including 3-4 copies of Tropical Beach in your deck. This is creating a sudden spike in demand for these cards and is driving the price of the card through the roof. We at the Gym feel obligated to point out that there have not been any events in this new format yet to test this theory. Keep in mind that many of these articles are written by teenage players who are very talented players but often tend to try to dictate the format without exploring all the options.
The discussion, which we have been avoiding, as it struck us immediately as ludicrous, has been an attack on this card. Half of what we’ve seen has been players panning for it to be banned. The other half want the card to be mass-printed in some sort of promo set or box. This is where we refer you again to what Tropical Beach is… a reward for those involved in the World Championships. Does that mean everyone should have it? Of course not. Gym Leader Logan would not part with his copies for any price because to him they are symbols of the tremendous achievements he made by qualifying for Worlds in 2011 and 2012. Other players and many staff members have opted to sell their copies as means to try to recoup some of the incredible expense of reaching and then traveling to Worlds. That is their choice and their right to do so and is the only reason anyone who has not attended Worlds has access to the card.
Would I like a Ferrari, an indoor pool, 24 hour maid service and an army of personal masseuses? You bet your buns I would… but does that mean I’m entitled to those things because someone else has them….. I don’t think so. Think about that before you spout off about what you don’t have or more accurately, what you don’t want anyone else to have. Many of the best things in life are the things that you go out and earn for yourself. If you’ve bought into the whole entitlement mindset that is rampant in this country, then we’re sorry to inform you that you may be in for some hard years.
We at the Gym like to use our heads as a little more than ornaments on top of our necks. Let’s look briefly at many of the options to Beach (not including rounding up everyone’s copies and burning them in the town square). Several Pokemon have attacks that let you refresh your hand, like Tropius, Spiritomb and Tornadus EX. At least 7 different Pokemon have versions of “Call for Family” attacks to get basics onto your bench. Less reliable options include some Stage 1 Pokemon like Milotic, Zoroark and the 3 “Simi” monkeys with draw and search attacks. Yes, all of these are attacks, so if you choose these to help set up, then you would want to choose to go 2nd at the beginning. Several bench-sitters have abilities that let you draw or search out cards (Roserade, Electrode, Lunatone, Musharna, Empoleon and Jirachi EX). The “Skyla/Beach” combination that can take up to 8 spots in your deck can easily be swapped for stronger lines of Supporter cards (which can be supplemented by “Random Receiver” to ensure you get a supporter) and the Item card “Bicycle”. One thing that we would like to see is for Pokemon to expand the Supporter card pool a little more. There was once very large group of varied Supporter cards to use, but in the Black & White era we seem to keep getting the same 6 cards over and over. A little more creativity from Pokemon would be refreshing.
Look through your binders and at resources like the “Researching Tower” on the Pokegym site. There are tons of options. Be creative in your build and remember that decks are only as good as the players that use them. Build a deck to suit you and your play-style instead of copying a list that someone else made. If after all of that, you decide that you can’t live without a card like Tropical Beach, then start saving your money and buy a set. I can guarantee you one thing, buying 3 “Beach” cards on Ebay is cheaper than taking a family of 4 to Hawaii for a week. A little perspective goes a long ways, doesn’t it? See you at the Gym!