Though not described as costs, many cards in Pokémon require the person using them to do things that aren’t always ideal. The original examples of this were Professor Oak, Computer Search, Pokémon Trader, Maintenance, Revive, and Item Finder. That was Base Set, and our current modified format has many similar cards like Professor Juniper, Pokémon Communication, Sage’s Training, Ultra Ball, and Junk Arm. In between there have been too many examples to list here. Many decks use these cards despite their cost, because they’re better than other cards that, instead of having a cost, involve the chance of doing nothing, like Poké Ball. Today I’ll be focusing on how to turn those costs into benefits.
First I should be clear that I’m not talking about minimizing the cost. Discarding two energy for Ultra Ball and then using Energy Retrieval to get them back is often a great move. Doing this nets you card advantage, but it doesn’t really gain you any additional benefit.
The theme of the costs on Trainer cards is often that you must give up cards in your hand for cards that are in your deck or discard pile. Players using Typhlosion last season and early this season played cards like Junk Arm, Sage’s Training, and Professor Juniper. All three were good cards that helped their deck get the right Pokémon into play for them to attack and draw into or retrieve important Trainer cards like PlusPower, Pokémon Reversal, and, later, Pokémon Catcher. The experienced readers out there already know the important side effect: these cards were also putting Fire Energy into the discard pile for Typhlosion to use Afterburner on. When Eelektrik was printed, the same cards were used to help make decks including him more viable. The same goes for Dark Patch. Notice, however, that retrieving the energies you discarded for Reshiram or Zekrom EX is actually minimizing the cost: it is less of a drawback to discard two Energy cards when I can use Poké-Powers and Abilities to put three into play every turn.
Another important case to think about involves Uxie, Claydol, and Magnezone Prime.
Each of these Pokémon allow you to fill your hand to a certain number of cards. Next format, Bianca will be one of the few cards that allow you to do this. Lowering the number of cards in your hand with things like Pokémon Communication, Ultra Ball, or even just playing cards from your hand for their normal benefit (after all, one of the costs of Pokémon Catcher is putting it from your hand to the discard pile) will make these Pokémon and Bianca more effective to let you see fresh cards to further your strategy.
A more nuanced example takes place when we combine Professor Juniper and Pokémon Communication.
Most players will try to play as many cards from their hand as possible before playing Professor Juniper. Normally, having to return a Pokémon back to your deck for Pokémon Communication is a cost. It is one less card available to you immediately in exchange for a card that is more important in that moment. Sometimes even when you don’t need another Pokémon (perhaps your bench is full or you’re concerned about keeping a bench spot open), you could play Pokémon Communication before Professor Juniper to avoid discarding a Pokémon that might be crucial later in the game. Better still, you might search for a Pokémon that will be useless to you for the rest of the game and discard it with Professor Juniper in order to have one less bad card remaining in your deck.
That last point I made when discussing Pokémon Communication and Professor Juniper is a lesson that has been around for a while, but is often tough to observe. The first mention of it online I saw was in Jason Klaczynski’s 2006 Worlds Report.
“One thing that may seem weird is I am opting to play TV Reporter over Mary’s Request. The main reason is simply because Mewtric often has cards it would opt to discard if it could, mostly useless Battle Frontiers and basics. Discarding these basics benefits you later in the game, increasing your odds of drawing good cards through you & your opponents’ Rocket’s Admins.”
This lesson is more relevant than ever, with Rocket’s Admin. being reprinted as N and Mary’s Request being a less powerful version of Cheren. People might react by thinking that TV Reporter isn’t legal, so this isn’t a big deal. As I’ve been getting at, the concept remains the same even as the cards change. Sage’s Training eliminates cards, even though it is rotating. Ultra Ball will stick around for a few years though, and Computer Search is getting reprinted.
A few days before I wrote this, the Cold Flare and Freeze Bolt translations became available. To give you all an idea of what cards we can look forward to this Winter that can have costs turned into benefits, be sure to check out a Bianca reprint, Bicycle (a Trainer version of Bianca for 4 cards), and the most complex of the trio: Hugh.
Hugh – Trainer Supporter
Both players draw or discard cards until they have 5 cards in their hand.
I hope this gives some of you a fresh perspective on how to view your deck’s synergy, or perhaps just a new way to try and communicate the ideas you’ve already been toying with.