With the World Championships over we bid goodbye to another competitive season and look to the next. Part of that is seeing off cards which leave standard format, but another is examining the landscape of the next season and in the case of this article, taking a closer look at the most recent addition to the card pool – Steam Siege.
Steam Siege has already had a chance to impact competitive play with a recent change to tournament legality rules allowing players to use cards from this set at the World Championships. This made for an exciting world event where onlookers were able to see the ingenuity of players shine through with their unique takes on how best to incorporate the newest set.
With that said, I’m going to run through some of the noteworthy cards in the set and make a case for why you should be on the lookout for them in the upcoming season.
Hoo Boy! Ninja Boy is a pretty rad Supporter. The effect is relatively unique and similar to a card named Swoop! Teleporter from many years ago. It provides a very interesting flexibility to decks, namely EX based decks which might feature a number of Pokémon for different situations.
For example you can:
- Switch in a more appropriate attacker.
- Remove a Shaymin-EX from the board (which frees up bench space and removes an out to an easy two prizes).
- Switch out a bench sitter (Like Regirock-EX) which has become ‘stuck’ in the active position through some effects, like an opponent’s Lysandre.
- Switch out an attacker which has a drawback effect applied to it after an attack (Such as Volcanion-EX).
One potential combo might be using it in tandem with Umbreon-EX in a Dark focused deck to finish off a mega Pokémon with a surprise ‘End Game’ to quite literally end the game with a huge 4-prize swing. This combo is helped along by Umbreon’s similar energy requirement to Yveltal-EX, a mainstay of the archetype.
Ninja Boy may give rise to ‘Tool Box’ type decks which focus on powering up different Pokémon suited for the matchup at hand.
It is one of those flexible cards which provides an effect which is weaker than other cards dedicated to particular effects, but can nonetheless be game changing in a variety of ways. Escape Rope is another example of this power which is difficult to quantify, but can be game winning.
Pokémon Ranger is another Supporter with an interesting effect, but is one which is difficult to describe to a newer player. A new player (who is new to trading card games) may not understand why the effect is so interesting (and playable) since it doesn’t search/draw cards or affect the board state in a ‘visible’ way. Even Hex Maniac addresses an in-game mechanic – Abilities.
Despite this, Pokémon Ranger’s effect is a relatively common theme in the TCG – removing effects from attacks has long been part of the strategy of the game. However, until now there hasn’t been a way to remove effects of attacks which affect the player themselves, such as preventing the opponent from playing Item cards or attaching special energy cards the following turn.
Pokémon attacks which themselves contained powerful effects have often been the centre of the metagame at one point or another (see: Seismitoad-EX or perhaps more relevant now, Giratina-EX). Proving to be particularly powerful were attacks which placed restrictions on the opponent themselves. Ranger solves this by providing a supporter-based ‘out’ to this restriction.
To better describe the ways in which you may want to think about playing this card, here’s a few common examples:
- Removing the effect of Giratina-EX‘s Chaos Wheel attack from yourself
- Removing drawbacks from certain attacks after they are applied such as with Volcanion-EX‘s attack
- Removing an effect an opponent’s Pokémon has applied to itself such as with Jolteon-EX‘s attack
The game has not typically offered very elegant counter-play to dampen the impact these attacks have and it is arguable whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that Giratina-EX or Jolteon-EX’s attacks force deck builders to have more diverse strategies.
Regardless, Pokémon Ranger, like Ninja Boy, looks set to become an important part of the card pool – although its impact may be dependent on the state of the metagame and which cards are popular. If Pokémon without powerful effects/drawbacks on their attacks are not popular, Pokémon Ranger may be less important while that is the case, similar to the impact Jirachi Promo had last season.
Volcanion STS and Volcanion-EX
These two cards are mentioned together as the backbone of a new archetype revolving around them. Pokémon will often print sets of cards which make up very obvious and intended archetypes and this one has the aspects of many successful ones rolled into one.
Volcanion STS is reminiscent of Yveltal and Xerneas (both of which have been reprinted) with its stats and attacks being very similar and arguably more powerful. The first attack does 20 damage and accelerates two energy from the discard, whilst the second attack is a vanilla 100 damage. There are small differences to the equivalent attacks featured on Yveltal and Xerneas and there are strengths and weaknesses to consider.
What really pushes Volcanion into the realm of high tiers is Volcanion-EX which complements Volcanion with its ability ‘Steam Up’. This is a built-in means of discarding energy for Volcanion to accelerate into play whilst simultaneously boosting Volcanion’s damage output. This is important as the deck has a means of augmenting its own damage and playing at whatever pace the match up dictates.
There’s a strong and deliberate synergy in play with both cards empowering each other in different ways. The combo is quite potent, creating an archetype which can be built around just these two Pokémon, or include other attackers such as Flareon-EX.
Whichever way it is played, after a strong showing at the Word Championships and many players discussing the deck online, expect to see it become a popular pick amongst the newest crop of contenders from Steam Siege.
Talonflame rounds out my picks for most interesting cards in the set. Any deck which slowly ramps up should in theory benefit from a Talonflame start, especially those pesky stage 2 decks like Greninja which require a great deal of setup.
In case there is any confusion, you will play just the stage 2 card without its previous evolutions – relying on its somewhat risky and unique ability to start the game with it in play.
Talonflame appeared in a number of decks which fared well at the World Championships, including two Greninja decks which placed in the top 8. Its set up and consistency power is not to be ignored, especially in these decks which do not have much of an early game.
Look for it in Vespiquen variants as well, with its usefulness extending further than the first turn as the card is discarded for Vespiquen’s ‘Bee Revenge’ attack.
With the format in its early days, there is a lot of experimenting happening, so don’t be afraid to test this Pokémon if you identify a shortfall in your deck’s earliest turns. An M Mewtwo-EX deck may not be the right home for Talonflame as it can attack very early on for example.
This about rounds up my discussion of the most noteworthy cards from Steam Siege, but it isn’t to say there aren’t more worth investigating. From M Gardevoir-EX to the humble Foongus, there are plenty of yet to be explored ideas and decks. Their competitiveness may be up for debate, but they are certainly interesting and welcome cards. Be on the lookout for new cards releasing in promotional boxes soon and check back here for Australian Tabletop Gaming Network’s reviews.