When a new set of cards is released, I do my best to figure out a few things. What cards are actually good from the set, and just how good are they? Do any of them change the metagame? Do I have to change the way my decks are built now? Are games quicker or slower now that a certain card is out? For example, when Mewtwo EX came out last season, the game got flipped upside down. All of a sudden, we saw games ending as quickly as the third turn, and everybody’s decks had to adapt. So, do we have any “Mewtwos” with Plasma Storm? I haven’t tested too much with the new set, but here are my initial thoughts on how competitive play will change with Plasma Storm.
Hypnotoxic Laser is the real deal, folks. At every point in the game, the card is a powerhouse – and especially in the first few turns. But the Laser is only so strong because of Virbank City Gym. Getting pinged by Poison for 10 every turn is annoying, but damage adds up quickly when that 10 becomes 30. Clearly your first solution is going to be adding ways to switch out of the Active spot, whether that be Switch, Escape Rope, or Keldeo EX. If you’re feeling particularly cheeky, Full Heal and Audino are other options. However, these won’t always be enough. If you miss a turn of getting rid of that Poison, your Active is as good as gone. So, you’ll probably have to start running Stadium cards of your own. Of course, if you’re already running Lasers yourself, you’ll be running Virbank. But for those other decks, you’ll have to find a counter. Currently your viable options are Skyarrow Bridge, Pokémon Center, Tropical Beach, Battle City, and perhaps Plasma Frigate. If you can win the Stadium war with your opponent, you can nullify the Hypnotoxic Laser threat. Oh, and does anyone else think that Hypnotoxic Laser is an obnoxious name for a card? Not looking forward to typing and saying that so often in the future.
When you introduce a combo like Laser + Virbank into the format, games naturally speed up; it’s simple to generate a bunch of damage in a short amount of time. Now, there are a few consequences to this. If you don’t draw into multiple Pokémon early on, odds are you aren’t going to survive very long, regardless of what Pokémon it is. Starting with a non-EX is scarier than ever, too. Now even your Sableyes and Emolgas aren’t safe from a quick Laser + Virbank + attack from Tornadus EX or Mewtwo EX! In addition, if you don’t draw a way to get rid of that Poison early on, you can lose an EX by the second or third turn. Sure, you always have N at your disposal to make comebacks, but your window of time to draw out of these situations is smaller now. Once the Laser + Virbank hits, the clock starts ticking. The pressure is on a lot earlier and a lot more often.
With the addition of Laser + Virbank into the format, it’s not unreasonable to think that a Stage 2 deck would be phased out. When you think about it, all of the math works against Blastoise. Tornadus EX can Blow Through for a KO on Squirtle when a Stadium is in play. Landorus EX + Laser + Virbank can Hammerhead for a perfect KO on Squirtle. Darkrai EX + Dark Claw + Laser + Virbank hits the magical 140 damage with a Night Spear to KO Blastoise. Heck, even a Sableye + Dark Claw + Laser + Virbank can KO a Squirtle with Confuse Ray! Still, Keldeo EX is pretty good, especially because it can get out of Status effects. Right now I haven’t figured out if it’s better to roll with the old fashioned Blastoise/Keldeo or if Black Kyurem EX is the way to go. No matter what math works against Blastoise, hitting for 200 with Black Ballista sure is a big middle finger to all the other Pokémon-EX in the format. It’s really tough to ignore that raw power, but can you afford to discard three Energy every turn? We’ll find out, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Blastoise decks will stick around.
On paper, Plasma Steel seems like a ridiculous Ability. None of my Metal Pokémon can be damaged by Pokémon-EX? Jackpot! Most decks in the format rely on attacking with those things! Well, here’s the problem. Metal is one of the worst types in the game. Weakness to Fire is pretty unfortunate, seeing as V-Create Victini is one of the few non-EX Pokémon we have in the format that can do a large amount of damage. To make things worse, it requires only one Fire Energy to use, which makes it easy to splash into decks. Moltres is another option for a Fire attacker. So, if Klinklang ever does get popular, it’s easy to keep in check. On top of that, there really aren’t any great Metal attackers. Sure, Cobalion EX can 2HKO everything in the format with Steel Bullet, but it doesn’t actually OHKO too many things. What are your other options? Registeel EX, Cobalion (Iron Breaker), and Klinklang honestly seem to be the only other attackers. Lucario can work, but the Riolu will be vulnerable until it evolves. Finally, you have no Energy acceleration available. If you’re up against a deck still using Sableye + Crushing Hammer, you’re going to just run out of Energy. Then you will die a slow, painful death to Confuse Rays. Even if they don’t run Hammers, a constant barrage of Lasers and Confuse Rays can bring you to your knees. It’s not pretty. Whenever I win a game with this deck, it’s a huge struggle that takes forever. Maybe I’m using it incorrectly, but I don’t see the appeal of Klinklang.
When making decks before, choosing my Ace Spec was pretty simple. Unless I was using my Quad Rayquaza deck, Computer Search was the first card I put into everything. Sure, Gold Potion crossed my mind, but CPU got the nod every time. Now my choice is a lot tougher. In most decks, you could make the case for Scramble Switch, Dowsing Machine, or Computer Search. In my early testing, I’ve been favoring Scramble Switch, though. At first I just wanted to see what it could do. But the more I played with it, the more I liked it. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been using it in decks with Lugia EX, but it really does feel like the most powerful Ace Spec out of all of them. If you haven’t already, give Scramble Switch a try! It’s a fun card.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but most Stage 2 Pokémon aren’t going to survive this format. Sure, Crobat seems promising, but a little testing against a simple Sableye/Darkrai/Laser deck might make you change your mind pretty quickly. “But Pooka, Gallade can do infinite damage! It goes so well with Gardevoir!” you might say. The fact of the matter is, if your deck revolves around attacking with Stage 2 Pokémon, it just isn’t going to work. Getting a Stage 2 out is too much hassle, and normally the attack costs are too expensive. Unfortunately, Plasma Storm just brought more help to those big Basic Pokémon-EX everyone loves so much. When will our good old Evolutions catch a break? Not in the foreseeable future.
Okay, hear me out. Can you build a deck with just Lugia EX as the main attacker? Well, no. Since Plasma Gale does only 120 damage, it doesn’t exactly hit too many magic numbers for OHKOs. Then you have the nasty drawback of having to discard a Plasma Energy to use its attack, which you can play only four of. Not to mention it takes four Energy to use. Does this make it bad? Of course not! Overflow is a ridiculous Ability, and the attack requires only Colorless Energy! I still haven’t figured out the best way to use this big bird, but I’m convinced that it’s very powerful. With Colress Machine, DCE, and Scramble Switch, it’s not extremely difficult to power Lugia up. Being able to KO a Sableye for two prizes or any EX for three prizes is absurdly good. If there’s a comeback card in the format, this is it. Being able to swoop in with this thing to take your last prizes is very reminiscent of Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND in Emboar decks.
Overall, Plasma Storm is a very good set with a ton of powerful cards. How is it for the health of the game, though? At first glance, I’m going to say that this set is bad for competitive play. When you add more cards that can dish out lots of damage quickly, you put more emphasis on going first, being aggressive, and drawing well. If you’re a fan of incredible games decided by strategy and clever plays, you probably won’t like what this set does to Pokémon. From a spectator’s point of view, games are going to be fast paced and exciting, though. So, while it may not be great for the players, at least it makes for a good show!