Pokémon Black/White TCG Expectations

By Mekkah and Zystral.
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Hello, card gamers! HS Triumphant—the very last set of the HS Legend Series, as well as the last set of Generation IV completely—is set to release in a few week's time. Calling it the end of an era would be an understatement. We've gone through many iterations of power, from Level X to Pokémon SP, all the way to the rare Primes. But don't despair—when one generation dies, another will always take its place. And Black and White are no exception. We'll see new Pokémon join the fray, and undoubtedly new card types replacing old ones. What's next? Who knows? All we do know, however, is that cards will follow roughly similar mechanics—so if all goes well, you'll still be able to use some old cards with the new! Here, I'll go a little into what might be nice additions to the card game, both competitively and flavour-wise.

No More SP!

Everyone will agree with you when you say that SP decks form the core of most competitive strategies now. With high-powered Pokémon readily available on tap, as well as their own set of specialized support cards, they can plow through any defense. Since the HS Legend series, they aren't printed anymore, which is good news. But they are still usable in the current Modified format. Who knows—maybe when BW are released for play, they'll bring a new set rotation with them which will oust the likes of Supreme Victors and Rising Rivals, making the game much more balanced.

Of course, you can't just yank out one of the most powerful archetypes in the game without having knock-on effects. So who knows, maybe we'll see a rise in slower, more powerful Stage 2 attackers? A decrease in Machamp usage, definitely, and perhaps even a new card type to replace SP! Although god forbid if they were anywhere near as powerful...

More Types!

Ask anyone who ever played the original series and they'll tell you types were confusing. By absurd levels. You had multiple game-types under a single type, card-wise. They also often never made sense. Perhaps WotC have fixed this and are now deciding to split each type off? Either way, more types would help greatly.

Seriously. Flying, Dragon and Normal are all grouped under "Colorless." And sure, that simplifies everything. But I don't want my Garchomp getting knocked out by Chatot. I don't want my Flygon to be resisted by Sableye. I guess due to the very nature of Dragon-types they'd be broken, having only a weakness to themselves and a plethora of resistances ranging from Grass to Fire to Electric. Perhaps give them a low HP to compensate?

"Psychic" has also been annoying. Weezing is Psychic-typed in the TCG. Gengar is Psychic-type, as is Mewtwo. And only one them is actually Psychic-type! I don't mind Poison using the Psychic symbol, since there's little knock-on, as most real Psychic-types nowadays are weak to Dark. But honestly, a Ghost-type would be helpful too. I don't want Machamp losing to Gengar.

And to add a little more, Water and Ice are the same, yet Ice-types are generally weak to Fire or Steel, which Water-types are known for resisting. That's annoying. Also, Bug and Grass share the same symbol, but I don't mind that as much, since it means my beloved Scizor still gets that damage boost from Cherrim!

Draw Engines

DP has only had one format cycle, but in that cycle, one of the most powerful cards ever printed was lost. GE Claydol was known for having one of the most powerful PokéPowers ever, being an extremely reliable draw engine. Once that was gone, people are relying on more Uxie, Giratina, and Judge to get what they need. Of course, I'm not asking for anything anywhere NEAR as powerful as Claydol, but something to keep people on their toes about what to expect as the opponent constantly pulls new options is always pretty interesting.

Alternatively, the other option is to cull ALL drawing power bar one or two small Supporters (i.e. Bill, Professor Oak's New Theory, Emcee's Chatter), meaning that more long-term planning is needed and you are much more able to predict your opponent's moves. This throws strategy as a much larger element into the game and removing luck, making the game more representative of a player's skill level, something that's been annoying some Smogonites about the video games for a while.

New Cards!

First off, I would like to dedicate some text to the well-known elemental monkey Pokémon. The TCG has a funny way of handling Pokémon with different formes, such as Castform, Deoxys, and Ditto. Generally, each of the cards has the ability to search out another and put it in play instead of the old one, generally removing Special Conditions and other effects but keeping all damage put on that Pokémon. Yanappu, Boappu, and Hiyappu are not really the same Pokémon, so we can't give them the exact treatment. Plus, it would be fun to put an emphasis on the reason you receive these monkeys, which is because you're being helped with your type advantage against your rival and the first gym.

So, here is an example of how to handle that in the TCG.

[G] – 50 HP – W: [R]+10 – R: [W]-10
PokéPower – Evolutionary Instinct – Once during your turn, before your attack, when you put Yanappu from your hand onto your bench, you may search your deck for a card named Yanakki and a [G] Energy card, show them to your opponent, and put it in your hand. Shuffle your deck afterward. You cannot use this power if you do not have any [R]+ Pokémon in play.
[G] – Vine Whip (20)

[G] – 80 HP – W: [R]+30 – R: [W]-20
PokéBody – Overgrow – If your opponent has [W] Pokémon in play, Yanakki's attacks do 30 more damage to your opponent's Active Pokémon.
GC – Seed Bomb (40)

The other monkeys would have the exact same properties, except for replacing [G] with [R]+, [R]+ with [W] and [W] with [G].

The card summarizes the monkeys: quick techs that work best if used in a deck where they would help against a bad type match-up. This card sets sets up extremely quickly, but only does vanilla damage that quite clearly doesn't cut it against the decks it isn't made to combat. However, if you are using that Gyarados deck and your opponent is using Jumpluff, you can count on Baokki to take it down.

[F] – 130 HP – W: [W]x2 – R: [L]-20
PokéBody – Earthquake Spiral – Whenever Warubiaru Knocks Out a Pokémon (either yours or your opponent's) with an attack, put an Earthquake Spiral counter on Warubiaru. Warubiaru's attacks do 20 more damage to the Active Pokémon for every Earthquake Spiral counters on it.
[F] – Dig (30): During your opponent's next turn, reduce damage from your opponent's attacks done to Warubiaru by 20.
FCC – Earthquake (80): Does 10 damage to each of your benched Pokémon.

Here we have our favourite desert dweller's evolution, executing what I believe to be a reasonable way to interpret Earthquake Spiral. Generally, whenever you encounter a dual-type in the Pokémon TCG, they will put a lot of emphasis on either one side or the other. In this case, this croc is much more of a Ground-type than a Dark-type, as can be seen by the [F] type card, the crippling [W] weakness and the crucial [L] resistance. Dig isn't a very inspired attack, but anyone who has used the criminal crocodile in-game knows how useful that early Dig TM is for raising it (even though that darned Emonga happily floats over).

Earthquake is where real strategy combines with nice flavour. It's a very traditional Earthquake, seen earlier on cards such as Base Set Dugtrio, though its cost has been reduced to go along with the enormous power creep in the transition from Base Set to the current sets. The idea here is to give the player the option to Knock Out his own Bench in order to abuse Earthquake Spiral for more powerful consecutive Digs and Earthquakes. Earthquake's enormous base damage was needed to differentiate Warubiaru from the very popular Donphan Prime, who has the same HP and typing, but more durability and power off the bat. However, Warubiaru has an easier time getting KOs on high HP opponents if it had the opportunity to Knock Out some Pokémon before it.

Of course, killing your own Bench just to use Earthquake Spiral may very well not be a good idea, especially since once Warubiaru is KOed, you no longer get the damage bonus, but you did hand your opponent several prizes. But keep in mind, we're not trying to make a Tier 1 competitive card here, we're interpreting Earthquake Spiral for the Trading Card Game.

[D] – 70 HP – W: Fx2 – R: P-20
PokéPower – Illusion: Once during your turn, before your attack, if Zoroark is on your bench, you may use this Power. Discard all cards attached to Zoroark. Your opponent turns around and may not look at the table. Choose one of your other Pokémon in play and put Zoroark under that Pokémon, so that it cannot be seen. While Zoroark is attached to that Pokémon, that Pokémon now has Zoroark's HP, Weakness, Resistance, type, PokéBodies and attacks instead of its own, and may use them as its own, however it does not have this PokéPower.
PokéBody – Illusion Fade: If Zoroark has any damage counters on it, discard any Zoroark attached to it.
[C][C] – Night Slash (40): If Zoroark has no damage counters on it, this attack does 80 damage, and this attack's damage is not affected by PokéBodies, Resistance, and other effects on your opponent's active Pokémon. You cannot use this attack if Zoroark was put on the Bench this turn.

Perhaps the most intriguing ability of all time, Illusion. It impersonates another team member in almost every aspect, allowing you to launch a surprise attack on an unsuspecting switch-in. Translating this into a card was very hard, because most methods would involve the card having any powers before it came into play. I decided to not make a groundbreaking exception like that through PokéNotes, Powers or Bodies, and instead made it a Power you can use while in play. It is often not practical to make your opponent look away, and at tournament settings there would never be enough judges around to make sure all Zoroark play is fair and square from both sides. But, as a theoretical concept, it's worth it. With just this card and a Double Colorless Energy, you can have a seemingly harmless Pokémon do as much as 80 damage if it has been left alone for a turn. Perhaps a better option would have been to make the Zoroark player write down the Pokémon that became an Illusion, but then you run into trouble when there are multiple copies of the same card in play (say, two Azelf).

Another option would have been to make a Trainer or Supporter (N's Disguise sounds nice) that executes the Illusion instead.

[C] – 90 HP – W: [L]x2 – R: [F]-20
PokéBody – Encourage: Ignore any effects of attacks by your active Pokémon, excluding damage, done to your opponent's and your own active Pokémon. Whenever your active Pokémon uses an attack with one or more effects that is prevented by this ability, that attack does 20 more damage to your opponent's active Pokémon. You cannot use more than one Encourage PokéBody every turn.
[C][C][C][C] – Free Fall (40)
If Wargle used this attack last turn, this attack does 40 damage plus 40 more damage.

As you might suspect when you see the attack, Wargle is meant to sit on the bench, making it more of a supporting Stage 1 than an actual attacker, just like its feathered friend (or rival) Staraptor FB. While this eagle is on the bench, almost anything with a secondary effect is going to be more powerful, at the cost of being less interesting. This makes Wargle effectively moot on vanilla hard-hitters such as Donphan, Jumpluff, and Gyarados. However, it does give you the option to power up attacks from the likes of Rising Rivals Flygon, whose first attack (Sand Wall) isn't very strong, and the effect is optional. Overall, this card probably would not end up making anything interesting viable enough for play, but at least you get to ignore Platinum Slaking's Best Dash side-effect.

[F] – 90 HP – W: [L]x2 – R:
PokéBody – Weak-Kneed: If Aakeosu has 4 or more damage counters on it, its attacks do 50 less damage to the opponent's Active Pokémon.
[F][C][C][C] – Acrobat (50+): If Aakeosu does not have any Pokémon Tools attached to it, this attack does 50 damage plus 40 more damage.

This thing was first known as "the new Aerodactyl", but personally I believe "the new Slaking/Regigigas" is more fitting. It's a simple concept that seemingly failed miserably every time they tried—give a Pokémon amazing stat distribution, then an ability that nerfs it so that everything else can still compete with it. Last two times, they made the Pokémon's stats so high that they seemingly felt obligated to give them abilities that would turn Rayquaza from a monstrous Uber competitor to a miserable excuse for a Pokémon that's lucky if it is deemed too powerful for the Little Cup metagame. This time, the Pokémon's only excelling stats are offensive ones, and he can use them to full extent in normal battling conditions, consistently.

So that's what I've tried to replicate here. Weak-Kneed needs no explanation because it's pretty much the same as in-game. I made sure to stop the card from being a donk champion (meaning it doesn't get first turn KOs too easily) by giving it an Energy cost that would take two turns to fulfill, and an attack that doesn't necessarily benefit from Expert Belt. Aakeosu can be counted on doing 90 damage on turn 2 somewhat easily if it's treated like a normal Stage 1, though the chances of this happening are very small as Nintendo likes to make Fossil Pokémon evolve from the frail Fossil cards instead.

More Absurdities

Let's be honest, when you see a card like Rayquaza C Lv. X, with its unnecessarily high energy costs and damage output, you can be sure the seven-year-olds this game was aimed at will squeal with delight once they get one. In fact, back in the Neo Series, we had Shining Pokemon, who were the epitome of over-complicated and unusable cards that were there only to be collected. So why not have something similar? Something that just looks awesome sitting in your folder yet will never actually see the light of day in your deck. In the HS series we had the Alph Lithographs, but they're boring. Bring in something like Mewtwo G ex Lv. X Delta, who is Steel, Dark, and Psychic at the same time, with an attack cost of [P][M][D][R][W][G][C] and does 40 damage times the number of Pokémon you have in play to each of your opponent's Pokemon or something! Make it interesting!

Closing Words

So, that about wraps her up. I'll wait (for a pretty long time) and see what Nintendo ends up doing with these cards when they actually do release them. I don't expect my interpretations to be correct by any means, especially any that take more than two sentences to explain. But at least they should offer some inspiration for fake cards, or if nothing else, obnoxious fanboyism. Because we all need that on our internet to look relatively smart.

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