A New Season Means New Strategies!

Every year, the Pokémon TCG rotation phases older expansions out of the Standard format. With each rotation, some decks fade away, some have to adapt, and some become stronger. For the 2016 Play! Pokémon season, we say goodbye to the Black & White Series, meaning that cards starting with XY—Kalos Starter Set and beyond will be Standard legal. Let's take a look at what changes to expect as the new tournament season gets under way.

Trainer Cards

Perhaps the biggest shake-up will be the loss of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. Without this toxic tandem, decks focusing on the popular Seismitoad-EX may not have enough firepower to compete with other high-HP Pokémon-EX. If we see fewer players using the Quaking Punch attack, creative strategies that rely on Item cards could flourish—especially ones with Rare Candy and Stage 2 Pokémon.

In addition, all ACE SPEC cards will rotate out of the format. Computer Search and Dowsing Machine were most commonly used, but plenty of creative strategies featured Scoop Up Cyclone, Scramble Switch, and Life Dew. Even Pokémon-specific ACE SPEC cards such as G Booster and Victory Piece saw success. Virtually every competitive deck included one of these powerful cards over the past few years, but now players will have to go without them.

We'll also say goodbye to the mainstay Supporter cards Colress and N. With the Sky Field Stadium card in play, players could draw up to 16 cards with Colress, giving them access to an incredible amount of resources. On the other hand, N could disrupt and devastate players by forcing them down to 1 card in hand. These cards weren't crucial for any particular strategy, but their absence will change the way the game is played.

Another major Trainer card that leaves the Standard format is Float Stone. In particular, decks that relied on Trevenant will have a hard time without it. Typically, Trevenant is paired with a Pokémon like Gengar-EX, using a hit-and-run strategy to take advantage of the Forest's Curse Ability. Without Float Stone to eliminate Trevenant's high Retreat Cost, players will have to find a new way to use this strategy.

Pokémon

Several current strategies will retire because their main Pokémon are gone. For example, take a look at all the prominent cards that are no longer available:

Some decks still function, but they become weaker after losing an important Pokémon. Even though the Night March deck still has Joltik, Lampent, and Pumpkaboo, Mew-EX with its Versatile Ability was crucial to the deck's success. With that high-HP attacker out of the format, the strategy becomes less effective. Many other decks may experience a similar effect.

Growing Stronger

Alternatively, some decks get stronger because their biggest enemy leaves the format. Raichu is a powerful force, but Landorus-EX was its perfect counter, with a major type advantage over the Mouse Pokémon. Strong Energy or Muscle Band gave Landorus-EX the power to Knock Out Raichu with one Hammerhead attack—and do 30 damage to a Benched Pokémon, too. With its main threat out of the way, Raichu looks to be a top contender. The combination of Sky Field and Muscle Band gives its Circle Circuit attack the potential to deal 180 damage, enough to Knock Out most Pokémon-EX.

Now that Garbodor with its disruptive Garbotoxin Ability is out of the picture, Metal-type decks that rely on Bronzong's Metal Links Ability gain some strength. Dialga-EX and Heatran are typical partners, but the major player is Aegislash-EX. Most decks rely heavily on Special Energy cards, meaning the Mighty Shield Ability can shut down strategies on its own. Look for this deck to remain a solid contender throughout the 2016 Play! Pokémon season.

Mega Evolution

Mega Evolution Pokémon debuted in the XY expansion, so most of the strategies revolving around them remain intact. So far, we've seen Mega Manectric-EX, Mega Gardevoir-EX, and both types of Mega Rayquaza-EX in tournament play.

But with the rotation, the most fearsome ones might be the Primal Reversion Pokémon: Primal Kyogre-EX and Primal Groudon-EX. Although these two massive Pokémon share a Weakness to Grass-type Pokémon, the major threats like Genesect-EX and Leafeon won't be standing in their way anymore.

Expanded Play

Remember that even though many cards are rotating out of Standard, all of the cards we discussed will still be legal in the Expanded format. Look forward to continuing to use these cards in tournaments that use that format throughout the season.

As more Pokémon TCG expansions are released, we'll keep track of how new strategies emerge and how old strategies adapt. No matter what happens, this season's Standard format will look very different than the previous one. Exciting times are ahead, Trainers! Good luck coming up with your next deck!

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