Play!Pokemon has announced its 2017 edition of the TCG’s annual rotation. As expected the oldest 3 sets from the X&Y series, Primal Clash, Roaring Skies and Ancient Origins are leaving the Standard Format officially on September 1, 2017. This means that all cards printed in XY BREAKthrough and newer sets will remain legal for the Standard Format. The promo card pool will be cut to include XY promo #67 and higher and all Sun & Moon promos. This also means that promo set dubbed, Generations, remains in format, as it was officially released on February 2016. The Fincastle Gym, now in its 7th year of existence (9 years of playing the TCG) has developed what we hope is an easy-to-follow guide to walk both new and seasoned players through the annual rotation. We have posted articles each of the last 5 years and like the layout that we’ve come to over the last 2 years. We’ll stick to that design again this year, so if you have navigated our past posts, this year’s article should be familiar to you.
Calling this rotation a “game-changer” is kind of like calling hurricane Katrina a little poot. Most of the mechanics that have become staples in competitive play are tossed out of the window with this rotation. We believe that adjusting to the new format after this year’s World Championships will be much more difficult than following this year’s article.
As always, we like to say a word or two about what rotations involve and how just because a set of cards rotates, not all cards from that set are suddenly useless.
The most common cards that “survive” a rotation are Trainer cards. As you know, Trainer cards subdivide into the categories of Item, Supporter and Stadium cards. Stadium cards are usually specific to a set, often providing support to a type of pokemon prevalent in that set. Therefore, Stadium cards rarely are reprinted. Along the same vein, Supporter cards, which usually feature human characters from the video games, often only receive one printing. Item cards seem to be the tie that binds the card game over time. Since their effects are general and simple, Pokemon has kept many Item cards from the 1st few sets in play into the current format. No matter which type of card you are talking about, any card that has been reprinted in a current, legal set, is still good. So, if the most recent set contains the Item card “Switch”, then all prior printings of “Switch”, all the way back to the Base Set, are legal for the Standard Format. The same goes for any card, as long as the name, text and effect of the card do not change.
Past rotations have varied from “not too bad” to “gawd-awful” in terms of how easy they are to sort through which cards are gone and which cards stick around. Pokemon has had a penchant over the years to, at the end of a series (like Heartgold/Soulsilver or Black & White) release a “reprint” set. Past reprint sets (like Legendary Treasures) have picked seemingly random cards from earlier sets and printed them again (usually with new artwork) under a new card #. This keeps a card that would have left the format legal for play for at least another year, and sometimes longer. This trend may be coming to a gradual end, as the most recent reprinted promo cards kept their original set # and symbol, adding an “A” as an additional identifier. This marks the card as a new version for collectors, but does not give it new life in terms which format in falls into.
As we lay out which cards go and which cards stay, we will focus on the cards that make up the format. By that, we mean to focus on the Trainer cards, EX pokemon cards and heavily played non-EX pokemon. Many “rares” will not receive mention because some “rares” are atrocious and probably should have been printed as an “uncommon” or lower. On the flip-side, some of the biggest losses to a format come from rotation of an “uncommon” that Pokemon never anticipated as a card that would rule a format. Remember “Night March”?
The oldest set in this rotation is Primal Clash, a 164 card set. Let’s take a look at the cards that go and the cards that stay and then we’ll discuss the impact.
Primal Clash – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:
- Acro Bike
- Archie’s Ace in the Hole
- Dive Ball
- Fresh Water Set
- Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick
- Professor Birch’s Observations
- Repeat Ball
- Rough Seas (Stadium)
- Shrine of Memories (Stadium)
- Silent Lab (Stadium)
- Weakness Policy
- Shield Energy
- Wonder Energy
Primal Clash – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:
- Energy Retrieval (reprinted in EVO & SUM)
- Enhanced Hammer (reprinted in GRI)
- Escape Rope (to be reprinted in SM3)
- EXP Share (reprinted in SUM)
- Rare Candy (reprinted in SUM & GRI)
- Scorched Earth (reprinted in FCO)
- Switch (reprinted in EVO & SUM)
Primal Clash – Pokemon That Are Rotated:
- Aggron EX (regular & full art)
- M Aggron EX (regular & full art)
- Camerupt EX (regular & full art)
- Groudon EX (“Massive Rend” regular & full art)
- Primal Groudon EX (“Gaia Volcano” regular & full art)
- Kyogre EX (regular & full art)
- Primal Kyogre EX (regular & full art)
- Sharpedo EX (regular & full art)
- Trevenant EX (regular & full art)
- Wailord EX (regular & full art)
- Bunnelby (“Burrow/Rototiller”)
- Hippowdon (“Resistance Desert”)
- Manaphy (“Deep Sea Swirl”)
- Milotic (“Sparking Ripples”)
- Ninetales (“Barrier Shrine”)
- Swampert (“Diving Search”)
Primal Clash – Pokemon That Remain In Format:
- Gardevoir EX (“Life Leap”, reprinted as GEN Rc30)
- Mega Gardevoir EX (“Brilliant Arrow”, reprinted as GEN Rc31)
Of all the cards listed above, one set of cards stand out as the most significant loss to the current format. That set is the quartet of Stadium cards. Many of the cards from Primal Clash have had their moments in the sun and, for that matter are still relevant in the Expanded format. However, the stadiums: “Rough Seas”, “Shrine of Memories” and “Silent Lab” are still very powerful cards as this season wraps up and heads towards the World Championships. “Rough Seas” still finds its way into decks like Ninetales GX, Lapras GX, Raikou/Tapu Koko GX and Jolteon EX/Glacion EX, to name a few. While “Trashalanche” Garbodor may have finally driven Mega Mewtwo EX/Garbodor (ironic, isn’t it?), “Shrine of Memories” was vital to the past successes of Mewtwo. “Silent Lab” seems now, as always, to be massively under-played. The power of catching an opponent off guard with “Silent Lab” when they play down set-up cards like Shaymin EX or now Tapu Lele GX is undeniable, as many games’ outcomes rest on whether or not you let them take back that mistake (we suggest you do not… that’s what the stadium is for).
The EX assortment has proven to be a very solid lot. Both Primal EX’s, Groudon and Kyorge, have had success in everything from local events to World Championships. Both are still great cards but currently fall short owing to their Grass-type weaknesses. Trevenant EX, the Grass-type equivalent of Keldeo EX, continues to be a fun EX to experiment with, as it still sees play in Lurantis GX, Decidueye GX and anyone still rockin’ their Mega Sceptile EX decks. Wailord EX, a name that, at this point, is usually accompanied by groans, hit its high water mark in the 2015 National Championships, breaching its way to the finals. Houndoom EX, without the aid of its mega evolution, has been a favorite of many Senior Division players, using it as a center-piece in a mill deck (those designed to deck you out).
It almost seems silly to say, but perhaps the most relevant non-EX pokemon to exit with the Primal Clash set is Bunnelby (121/160). It has been used as both a “resource-saver” and a mill deck attacker in a variety of decks over the last few years. Hippowdon made a surprise appearance in the 2015 National Championships, making the Top 8 that year. Ninetales and its stadium-locking ability is a card that we’ve tried in everything from Mega Rayquaza EX decks to Incineroar GX decks, but it has never found a niche and was rendered irrelevant during the “Garbotoxin” era that we have finally exited thanks to the recent release of “Field Blower”.
The Trainer cards that do stay in the format thanks to recent reprints are all pretty standard cards that have been in the game for a while. Darkrai EX players are surely happy to see “EXP Share” stick around. Volcanion EX decks can still turn to “Scorched Earth” as a source for non-Item card draw power in the wake of the release of Garbodor (GRI 51). “Brilliant Arrow” Mega Gardevoir EX is the most significant Clash card that stays with us for at least another season. While this slower, big-hitting Gardevoir deck has dwelled mostly in the Junior Division, it should not be overlooked in the near future. It retains its partner, “Geomancy” Xerneas and gains an interesting new one in the upcoming Diancie included in SM3. Players seem to be shying away from mega pokemon at the moment. Time will tell if the classic Mega Gardevoir finds its way back around.
The second set to exit stage right is a smaller set in terms of cards (110 total), but its impact changed the way the TCG was played in a way that we have not seen since the re-introduction of EX’s in Next Destinies back in 2012. Roaring Skies upon its release, seemed to be an attempt narrow the format to a one-deck format, as has happened several times since the Gym Leaders first began playing (ie: Lux/Chomp, Celebi/Mewtwo EX, Plasma Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem). Mega Rayquaza EX seemed mindlessly overpowered at first, but players soon learned how to put it in its place. While Rayquaza settled into the format, the components of the deck worked their way into becoming staples in every deck. Look at these lists and then take some time to mourn the value of your collection, as some of the most expensive cards in the format are listed below.
Roaring Skies – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:
- Healing Scarf
- Mega Turbo
- Sky Field (Stadium)
- Steven (also in AOR)
- Trainers’ Mail (also in AOR)
- VS Seeker
- Wide Lens
- Double Dragon Energy
Roaring Skies – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:
- Energy Switch (reprinted in SUM)
- Switch (reprinted in EVO & SUM)
- Ultra Ball (reprinted in FCO & SUM)
- Wally (reprinted in GEN)
Roaring Skies – Pokemon That Are Rotated:
- Gallade EX (regular & full art)
- M Gallade EX (regular & full art)
- Hydreigon EX (regular & full art)
- M Latios EX (regular & full art)
- Rayquaza EX (“Intensifying Burn”, regular & full art)
- M Rayquaza EX (“Dragon Ascent”)
- M Rayquaza EX (“Emerald Break”, regular & full art)
- Shaymin EX (regular & full art)
- Thundurus EX (regular & full art)
- Altaria (“Clear Humming”)
- Articuno (“Tri Edge”)
- Reshiram (“Turboblaze”)
Roaring Skies – Pokemon That Remain In Format:
- Articuno (“Find Ice”, reprinted in GEN)
- Zapdos (“Raging Thunder”, reprinted in GEN)
- Latios EX (“Fast Raid”, reprinted as XYP 72)
- Rayquaza EX (“Dragon Strike”, reprinted as XYP 73)
Players all over the world have spent unknown amounts of money, picking up a booster pack or two as they could afford to, hoping to hit the jackpot and pull Shaymin EX. Those who pre-ordered copies of Shaymin for $20-$25 dollars felt more than justified as they watched its value soar to over $60, pushing $90 at times for a full art version. The draw support provided by Shaymin EX’s “Set Up” ability is unrivaled. Anyone who has endured one of those 10 minute opening turns where their opponent plays 30-40 cards in a turn as they burn through Item cards and then replenish their hand over and over with multiple Shaymin knows exactly what we are talking about. The tough thing about cards like Shaymin is that once they are established in a format as a “staple” and the price locks in, it becomes difficult for new players to become competitive unless they (or their parents) are willing to invest in a card like Shaymin. In one sentence, you now see one of the major reasons Pokemon has an annual rotation.
While Shaymin EX definitely holds the top spot as the biggest loss in this year’s rotation, it is by no means the only pokemon lost from Roaring Skies. The aforementioned Colorless-type Mega Rayquaza EX has hit many peaks and valleys in terms of its play-ability since its release. While the “Night March” era drove it from play, it has returned as a contender at any event. Its heavy reliance on Item cards keep it at bay as Vileplume and “Trashalanche” Garbodor are still major threats approaching the 2017 World Championships. We at the Gym, like many, tested out the Dragon-type version of Mega Rayquaza because, well, who would not want to play a card that hits for 300 damage? Mega Latios EX has surfaced off and on as a tech in format decks or the center piece of its own deck. Mega Latios was 1 of our final 3 decks that we tested for the 2016 World Championships as it can pick Shaymin EX off of your opponent’s bench and yield quick, easy prizes. Hydreigon EX has also floated in and out of major decks. Its biggest role was as a support pokemon and back up attacker in Darkrai EX/Giratina EX, a top deck at last year’s Nationals and Worlds.
As we stated earlier, many of the Trainer cards that were meant to support Mega Rayquaza went beyond that deck to become key components in other decks. “Trainers’ Mail” quickly became a “four-of” in almost every competitive deck. Every mega evolution deck has looked to squeeze in as many copies of “Mega Turbo” as the list would allow, as this Item card provides insanely quick energy acceleration. “Mega Turbo” has allowed Mega Mewtwo decks to sometimes overwhelm opponents before they can even get their deck set up. The Stadium card “Sky Field” which allows players to bench 8 pokemon (over the 5 allowed in a standard game) has been used in more decks than we can mention here, as players often use it to play additional Shaymin EX and Hoopa EX onto their bench during the set up stage of their game, only to knock out the same stadium with a different one later, thus allowing them to discard easy KO targets like Shaymin EX. “VS Seeker” would have left the format last year if not for the “secret rare” reprinting it received in Roaring Skies. It is the staple of all staples in the current format, one of the reasons that it has remained one of the most expensive item cards that we’ve seen in our time playing (hitting highs of $15 apiece). Many players are hoping for a reprint in a future set, which is possible, as this version is its 4th printing. For now, we suppose that you may want to stock up on “Puzzle of Time” as a substitute.
We normally don’t go into great detail on special energy cards that leave the format unless they have much significance. “Double Dragon Energy” (DDE for brevity’s sake) has proved to be huge in this format. Since the introduction of the Dragon-type pokemon to the TCG (previously they were all Colorless), Pokemon has struggled to decide on a cohesive plan to address their energy costs. Pokemon has assigned random combinations of every energy type in the game to Dragon-type pokemon without much rhyme or reason. The end result has been pokemon with energy costs that are too heavy and awkward to be playable. DDE, which basically serves as a double “rainbow” energy (for dragons only), has been Pokemon’s best solution to date. DDE has been played heavily in Darkrai EX and Mega Gardevoir decks (attached to Giratina EX in both decks) which both deal damage based on the amount of energy you have in play. Giratina EX would have never seen play in any deck if not for DDE. With Noivern GX (a Stage 1 combo of Seismitoad EX and Giratina EX) on the way later this year, we are not sorry to see DDE go. For that matter, we hope it does not return. Rather, we would like to see Pokemon do what they should have done from the beginning. Print a dang basic Dragon-type energy!
There are no significant pokemon that survive the Roaring Skies rotation. Those that do are listed above. Roaring Skies is one of several printings of “Ultra Ball”, which appears to be locked into the Standard Format for at least two more years. The only other Trainer card that does stay from ROS is “Wally”. “Wally”, despite his frail disposition, stays in the game thanks to a Generations reprint.
The third and final set to leave the Standard format with this rotation is Ancient Origins. With only 100 cards in the set, Ancient Origins is the smallest of the three. While no one card in AOR is as game changing as Shaymin EX, you’ll see that combination of cards lost with this set is a massive in terms of the format at the moment and heading towards Worlds. The lists below bring to mind at least ten decks that we at the Gym either play or have played recently. Gym Leaders Logan and Georgia both picked up big chunks of Championship Points last year in route to their 2016 Worlds invitations on the backs of Ancient Origins based decks. Read ‘em and weep.
Ancient Origins – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:
- Ace Trainer
- Eco Arm
- Faded Town (Stadium)
- Forest of Giant Plants (Stadium)
- Hex Maniac
- Level Ball
- Lucky Helmet
- Paint Roller
- Trainers’ Mail
- Dangerous Energy
- Flash Energy
Ancient Origins – Trainer Cards That Remain In Format:
- Energy Recycler (reprinted in GRI)
- Energy Retrieval (reprinted in EVO & SUM)
Ancient Origins – Pokemon That Are Rotated:
- Ampharos EX (regular & full art)
- M Ampharos EX (regular & full art)
- Giratina EX (regular & full art)
- Kyurem EX (“Glaciate”, regular & full art)
- Lugia EX (“Aero Ball”, regular & full art)
- Sceptile EX (“Unseen Claw”, regular & full art)
- M Sceptile EX (“Jagged Saber”, regular & full art)
- Tyranitar EX (regular & full art)
- M Tyranitar EX (regular & full art)
- M Rayquaza EX (“Theta Max” ancient trait, full art)
- Primal Kyogre EX (“Theta Max” ancient trait, full art)
- Primal Groudon EX (“Theta Max” ancient trait, full art)
- Ariados (“Poisonous Nest”)
- Entei (“Combat Blaze”)
- Entei (“Theta Double” trait)
- Flareon (“Flare Effect”)
- Jolteon (“Electric Effect”)
- Vaporeon (“Aqua Effect”)
- Golurk (“Double Type”)
- Gyarados (“Full Retaliation”)
- Regice (“Resistance Blizzard”)
- Unown (“Farewell Letter”)
- Vespiquen (“Bee Revenge”)
- Vileplume (“Irritating Pollen”)
Ancient Origins – Pokemon That Remain In Format:
- Hoopa EX (“Scoundrel Ring”, reprinted as XYP 71)
- Machamp EX (“Crazy Hammer”, reprinted as XYP 108)
We guess the place to start with AOR is the Grass-type support. As the Fincastle Gym’s Grass-type Gym Leader, Joel has been thankful for how easy this set has made his job of defending the Grass-type badge. It is likely a debate without a definitive answer as to which pokemon has been more dominant. Regardless, Vespiquen and Vileplume are both major forces in the TCG. While once paired together, the two have diverged into different decks as of late. Players have discovered that Vespiquen functions best on its own, while Vileplume has settled into a very clunky home with Decidueye GX. While price was a major talking point in discussing Roaring Skies, that is not the case for these two. Vespiquen is definitely a player’s card, as it is an “Uncommon” that is rarely sold for more than $1 each. It took the top spot at last year’s Worlds and looks to be a contender again this year. Likewise, Vileplume (w/Decidueye) dominated much of the Regional season and is still dangerous in the hands of a skilled player. Vileplume has also paired successfully with Lurantis GX, claiming wins at smaller events. In similar fashion, Mega Sceptile EX with and without Ariados (“Poisonous Nest”) has posted wins in all age groups over the last two years.
The force behind all of the Grass-types mentioned above is the Stadium card, “Forest of Giant Plants”. “Forest”, just like “Broken Time Space” years ago, allows players to break evolution rules and immediately evolve any Grass-type pokemon that was just put into play. The ability to evolve in this fashion would not be so devastating if not for Vileplume. First-turn item lock has proved unhealthy for the spirit of the game and event attendance, yet Pokemon insists on bringing it back again and again. It leaves again on September 1, 2017. We’d like to say it is gone for good, but we know they’ll “fix it” and bring it back, probably sooner than we’d like.
The trainer card “Lysandre” joined us in 2014 as a worthy and more balanced replacement for “Pokemon Catcher”. “Lysandre” leaves the format with this rotation and will pass his torch on to “Guzma” when SM3 is released later this year. The mechanic will change slightly, but the sentiment remains. “Hex Maniac”, the 1-turn ability killer, also leaves with AOR. “Level Ball” will surely be missed by those who play evolution decks. It rotated and returned before… so you may see it again one day.
There are a few notable pokemon from AOR that survive thanks to their promo printings. Machamp EX, which has been little more that an alternate attacker in fun decks sticks around to see if finds a place in the future. The bigger save from the set is Hoopa EX. With the loss of Shaymin EX and the introduction of GX pokemon (which are not searchable with Hoopa), Hoopa EX has less influence in the upcoming format. However, its EX-searching ability is still strong in the remaining Mega EX decks and in Volcanion EX.
BLACK STAR PROMO CARDS & DOUBLE CRISIS
The long and often random list of promo cards is usually the piece that complicates most rotations. As you’ve seen above, occasionally pokemon, usually EX’s, that would leave with the normal rotation, stick around long after their set thanks to promo releases. These promo cards are often the centerpiece of a collector’s tin or big, flashy EX or Mega Evolution boxes seen at retailers across the country. For example, Yveltal EX and Xerneas EX are still in the Standard Format owing to their XYP #’s (149 & 150), despite being cards from the XY base set. The last rotation cut the XYP lot at #35. This year’s cut removes those from #36 to #66. Most of these cards are reprints of either EX’s from the 3 rotated sets or are the pre-release version of cards from these 3 sets. The rest of the lot seems to be a group of EX’s that saw little to no play. Here’s what goes:
Black Star Promo – Pokemon That Are Rotated:
- Kyogre EX (reprint of PRC)
- Groudon EX (reprint of PRC)
- Diancie EX (“Moonblast”)
- M Diancie EX (“Diamond Force”)
- Gallade EX (“Assault Sword”)
- Sceptile EX (“Strong Slash”)
- Blaziken EX (“Fist of Focus”)
- Swampert EX (“Mud Flood”)
- Flygon EX (“Spiral Buzz”)
- Absol EX (“Dark Fang”)
- M Absol EX (“Disaster Wing”)
- Regirock (“Omega Barrier” ancient trait)
As you can see, the promos lost in this rotation were, for the most part, un-played. This was the last set of Mega EX’s released without a matching “Spirit Link” card, which was the main reason they never saw play. During Mega Sceptile EX‘s brief moment in the sun, the promo Sceptile EX above was mixed into some lists. Regirock (the one you can’t catch w/Lysandre) has seen the most use of any of theses promo cards, as players have experimented with it a both a place to store energy and a “Ninja Boy” target.
The last set of cards that bears mention as cards rotated out of the Standard Format is the Double Crisis set (DCR). DCR was meant to be a set of cards that all supported cards exclusive to the set. Much like earlier versions (Team Galactic and Team Plasma), DCR centers around Teams Aqua and Magma. The key difference is that DCR simply did not work as well. However, we singled out the 3 cards that we’ve seen used in other, non-team affiliated decks.
Double Crisis – Pokemon That Are Rotated:
- Team Magma’s Camerupt (“Burning Draft”)
Double Crisis – Trainer Cards That Are Rotated:
- Team Aqua’s Secret Base (stadium)
- Team Magma’s Secret Base (stadium)
“Team Magma’s Secret Base” had a sudden resurgence in the TCG recently. Gyarodos (AOR) decks, which rely on 4 copies of “Base” saw recent success in Europe, leading to increased play as US regionals. Once the internet declared Drampa/Zoroark the “best deck in the format” entering Nationals (take w/a grain of salt, as such declarations are made almost weekly on the web), “Base” became very hard to find, as both Drampa EX decks (Zororark & Garbodor) play 2 to 3 copies of the card.
So, now that we’ve reviewed all of the significant cards lost and kept in the 2017 rotation, the next logical question is what does this mean? From what we can tell, it appears that we are entering into a balanced start of the next season (which started July 10, 2017, by the way). The 2 biggest obstacles to this past season were “Garbotoxin” Garbodor and anything with “Forest of Giant Plants” and Vileplume. The issue with Garbodor was fixed with the release of the item card “Field Blower” in Guardians Rising. This rotation cures problem # 2.
As we think about the viable decks in the format as of September 1, 2017, it is difficult to see one that truly outshines the others. We’re sure that the top decks now (minus Decidueye/Vileplume) will all still contend. What we at the Gym like when we think about it is that when you mention any of these decks, we can instantly think of a deck that counters it. For example, Greninja beats Volcanion, Luranits beats Greninja, Volcanion beats Lurantis. Darkrai EX and Drampa/Zoroark can be checked by Fighting-types like Zygarde EX, Passimian or Lycanroc GX, which are immediately more playable with the exit of Vespiquen, Vileplume and “Forest”. Espeon GX checks “Trashalanche” Garbodor and almost any of the above decks are capable of beating Espeon. We could go on but we think you see our point. There was a strong mix of decks at this year’s North American International Championships, which was nice to see. It looks like that situation will only improve for the time being. Anyone looking to declare a “BDIF” should do what we are doing… go back and look at everything and don’t rule anything out.
We did not mention anything about the Expanded Format because nothing changed regarding it. All sets from Black & White to present are still included, making Expanded a hideous place that we hope we don’t have to visit often. There is a possibility of a ban list for some cards in Expanded at some point, but that merits no discussion until it actually happens, and again will not affect us much at the Gym.
Any cards we missed in the above sections will be updated as we find them. We hope we didn’t miss anything major and are very thankful that the rotation did not cut any deeper, as we would have needed to start a “part II” to this article to include any more cards. If you have any questions about the rotation, see us at league, at any local tournament or any area event at our Dark Moon Cards & Games booth. Feel free to shoot us any questions on Facebook or at our league email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope the answers to most question are covered above, but we’re glad to help with anything else. Check back here soon for more about our leagues and upcoming events. See you soon at the Gym!