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Ruin Your Opponent's Day: What Happened to Expanded?

My fellow Pokemon Trainers.  I come today to share with you not tidings of good disruption and great stall.  But, rather, of a bleak period of Pokemon which we happen to be in.  I speak of these days which will be looked upon as "disruption winter."  And a winter it surely is.  It is the winter of Pokemon.  It is the winter of our discontent.  I speak only, of course, of the Black & White - Sword and Shield expanded format.  

Please, allow me to pontificate at you, if I may.  Perhaps in sharing my fear with you, we may come to a solution to what ails the Pokemon Trading Card Game.  Perhaps we may yet save it, before it is swallowed by the all-consuming maw of "the game isn't fun."  

THE TOURNAMENT

We find ourselves in this place of abject fear after the tournament which concluded last weekend: Collinsville Regional.  I'm not sure when this article will come out, but I'm writing this the Tuesday after the tournament.  Why?  Because I thought nothing of this tournament.  I thought it was just a blip.  But then I really started to think about what this tournament means for us here at Ruin Your Opponent's Day (RYOD).  

This could be the death knell of disruption in the Expanded Format.  

THE DECKS

These three decks made up SEVEN OF THE TOP EIGHT DECKS at Collinsville.  SEVEN.  That's 87.5% of the day-two meta was made up of just hardcore disruption and stall.  

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN

The first thing we have to ask ourselves, and really the reason I wanted to write this article, is "how?"  How did we go from a meta of  Garchomp & Giratina-GX UNM 146, Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX UNB 130, Zoroark-GX SLG 53,  and the occasional stall deck to a meta of all stall, all the time?  

The answer, I believe, is the new Supporter rule.  As a quick reminder, starting on February 21, 2020 (the date Sword and Shield became legal), Pokemon changed the turn-one restrictions.  Prior to this date, the player going first could not attack, but could play supporter cards (think Cynthia UPR 119 and Professor Sycamore BKP 107).  The new rule said that the player going first now also cannot play any supporters.  So no turn one Sycamore or Brigette BKT 134

When they announced this rule change, even before it was announced in Americas/Europe (it was first announced in Japan), I said that restricting the turn one actions to just items and pokemon abilities will cause the format to be dominated by decks that are non-interactive (meaning they just play without any care of what your opponent is doing) or hyper-fast decks that can just speed through their deck really fast.  And the deck that could set up faster would almost always win.  I then opined that, while Standard would suffer a little bit, Expanded would suffer the most.  

And it would seem I was correct.  Because  we are seeing that exact thing play out. 

BUT WHY THESE DECKS? 

You see.  Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX PR-SM SM217 embodies this thesis perfectly.  Not only can the deck absolutely explode and set up in one turn, but it can do that while also slowing your opponent's setup.  You see, the deck is completely built around the fact that Shaymin-EX ROS 77 and Dedenne-GX UNB 57 can allow you to power through your deck in one turn without needing to play Supporters.  But it has one more thing up its sleeve.  You see, not only can the deck explode in one turn, but it can also stop your opponent dead in their tracks.  Gengar & Mimikyu-GX TEU 53 can prevent your opponent from playing any cards on their turn.  Combine this with the Night Watch attack from Trevenant & Dusknoir, which hits for 150 AND shuffles two random cards from your opponent's hand back into their library, and you have a deck that can always set up "faster" than the opponent, because you are stalling your opponent's setup.  

In fact, the only way you can beat this deck is to stop it cold.  This is why we see the number  two deck being a deck built around locking the opponent out with Vileplume AOR 3 and Vileplume BUS 6.  And Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX UNM 214 allows you, for zero energy, to evolve an oddish straight into one.  

So we have a situation where the number one and three deck is a massive disruption deck, and the number two deck is a deck specifically designed to beat it.  Rounding out the list is Doll Stall which is pretty straight forward.  Put something in the active they can't hurt.  Use dolls to stall.  

WHY IS THIS BAD?

Pokemon has, in the past, made no great secret of its distaste for disruptive decks.  In fact if you play disruption with any regularity, you'll recall a few months ago when they went on a rampage and banned, in Expanded, Jessie & James HIF 58, Delinquent BKP 98, Red Card GEN 71, Marshadow SLG 45, Chip-Chip Ice Axe UNB 165, Flabebe FLI 83, Reset Stamp UNM 206, Mismagius UNB 78, Lt. Surge's Strategy UNB 178, Ghetsis PLF 101, Lusamine CRI 96, and Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick PRC 133, all because they encouraged "disruptive" plays and made the game "not fun."  Well my friends, this is where we are at.  

Go watch the stream of the top eight matches at Collinsville.  They are not fun.  You can see it in the player's faces.  You can hear it in the announcer's voices.  Pokemon's push to make the game "more fair" by restricting the turn-one play has created a situation where only the most unfair decks can win.  

SO WHAT NEXT?

As much as I love seeing disruption decks do well.  I fear what this means moving forward.  Because there is no way Pokemon allows this meta to exist.  It's not fun for people to play in.  And it's definitely not fun to watch on stream.  This will have to be addressed.  But how?  

The CORRECT response is to admit the mistake and change the turn one supporter rule.  Let those other decks have a chance.  But that won't happen.  So the next best thing is a banning.  But of what?  The only real way to stop the deck is to outright ban Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX PR-SM SM217.  While I hate the idea of that (I love that card), I can't think of any other way to reign in the madness of this format.  This card suppressed anything which would attempt to rise above "basically OK" levels of competitiveness.  And this is what hurts me the most.  Because I agree.  I think "TrevNoir" needs to be banned.  I think the Expanded format will not be able to bounce back from this, and I don't think Pokemon want to print the kinds of cards that can overcome this card.  Heck, we HAVE the cards that overcome this.  They're still not enough.  

CONCLUSION

In summation, it is a sad day when you see the thing you love twisted for evil.  But that's what has happened to disruption.  It has infected Expanded, and the only cure is emergency amputation.  Even though it's fun to Ruin Your Opponent's Day, it's not fun to ruin an entire format.  We offer TrevNoir up and sacrifice it on the alter of "fun" because sometimes, we have to be the good guys.  Disruption is the hero Kanto deserves. 

But not the one it needs right now.

 


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