A Format Without Catcher – What Could Have Been

Before I begin, I just want to say that this article is just my opinion on what might have been more playable if Pokémon Catcher wasn’t currently everywhere in our format.  It doesn’t mean that it would have happened for sure, but it is fun to imagine sometimes!

Every format seems to have one card or one deck that just seems to define what that format was about.  Last format, ‘Luxray GL Lv.X’ and ‘Garchomp C Lv.X’ were the two big cards to have as well as watch out for when playing Pokémon.  Both cards were part of a deck that was undeniably the best deck in the format at the time.  It utilized the amazing (and some would consider broken) SP engine to get out the deck’s main attackers quickly and begin overwhelming your opponent before they could set up properly.  ‘Luxchomp’ as the deck came to be known was one of a few SP themed decks that became recognized by all players at the time.  Even though I was around for only a little over a half of the competitive season last format, I quickly became aware of the SP deck’s potential and what it could do.   If you didn’t play SP or didn’t find a way to counter it, you were at a fairly big disadvantage.

Now let’s fast-forward a few months from that point.  The World Championship has just ended and Emerging Powers is out.  That set has a card that is on everyone’s mind – Pokémon Catcher.  If you’ve been playing in this format competitively for even a few days, you’ll know what Pokémon Catcher does.  After playing Pokémon Catcher, you can choose a Pokémon from your opponent’s bench and make it active.  If this sounds familiar to you, then you’ve probably played Pokémon when Base Set was dominant.  Pokémon Catcher is a reprint of Gust of Wind, a card that was broken more than a decade ago and is still broken now.

Why does Pokémon Catcher define our format so well right now?  The biggest reason it does is because the majority of decks today, despite what their main strategy might be, will either play Catcher or try to tech against it.  If you’ve read my Autumn Battleroads report, you could see that not having Catcher at the time put me at a disadvantage.  This heavy reliance on Catcher has caused a lot of players to develop a deep dislike of the card.  Pokémon Catcher creates an environment where Pokémon you are trying to set up on your bench will always be in danger of being brought up to the active spot and knocked out.  If you are trying to set up any kind of bench tech or some kind of attacker, you will always be at risk of your set up being ruined half-way through or even not getting started at all.  Even fully set up bench techs with a heavy retreat costs can be brought up mid-game as a form of disruption or stall and then eventually knocked out.

Let’s list a few examples of cards that could be much better if Pokémon Catcher was not in our format.  The first comes in a very big and familiar Fire type to most of us: Emboar.  Emboar #20, otherwise known as ‘Ability Emboar.’  Emboar has an amazing ability called ‘Inferno Fandango’ that lets you attach as many Fire energy per turn as you’d like to any of your Pokémon.  This will remind you of Feraligatr from HGSS or Blastoise from the Base Set, only instead of Water energy you’re attaching fire energy.  You can also attach it to any Pokémon you’d like; it doesn’t have to be Fire types.  That means that anything that has a Fire or Colorless energy cost can be instantly set up to attack if you have the correct number of Fire energy in hand.  It also doesn’t waste your energy attachment for the turn, meaning you can attach an additional energy of any type to a Pokémon that turn.  The Ability is incredibly powerful, making Emboar a strong tech.  Emboar’s weaknesses are its poor attack and expensive retreat cost.  This shouldn’t be a problem though, as you wouldn’t move Emboar to the active spot anyway.  At least, you wouldn’t if it were your choice.

Let’s put Pokémon Catcher in a scenario where Emboar is currently benched on your side of the field.  A Catcher is played and Emboar is chosen to bring up to the active spot.  Emboar takes a hit and you know that next turn your Emboar will be knocked out.  You’re faced with a decision; do you try to find a way to retreat it or do you let it go to the discard pile?  Unless you have a Switch in hand, retreating Emboar will mean losing four energy cards.  Inferno Fandango isn’t very useful if you don’t have any energy left in your hand.  Discarding four energy cards to retreat Emboar could leave you with no energy to attack with even if Emboar is still alive and kicking on your bench.  Having him knocked out means a prize for your opponent as well as a crippled set up for you.  Situations like these are becoming common for poor Emboar.  A lot of players have opted to start using Typhlosion Prime instead, a card that lets you move one fire energy card from your discard pile to a Pokémon of your choice.  It’s not quite as fast as a single Emboar, but having a 2 energy retreat cost and a decent attack makes Typhlosion a safer play with Pokémon Catcher in our format.  Having Typhlosion also means you don’t need to dedicate cards in your deck to energy recovery, another advantage that Typhlosion has over Emboar.  Still, Emboar can be a little faster and I believe that if Catcher was not in our format, then Emboar would be seeing a lot more play than it does now.  Not to say that Emboar is a bad card in this format, it is still used quite a lot.  It just suffers that massive weakness.

The next card I will be looking at is Roserade from Unleashed.  Roserade has a very interesting PokéPower called ‘Energy Signal.’  Whenever you attach Grass energy to Roserade, your opponents active Pokémon becomes confused.  Whenever you attach Psychic energy to Roserade, your opponents active Pokémon becomes poisoned.  Rainbow Energy will take on the effects of both, leaving your opponent both confused and poisoned at the same time.  Having Roserade on your bench provides an easy way to both disrupt your opponent and deal extra damage when the situation calls for it.  Roserade’s attack, Power Blow, isn’t too bad either as it makes use of all the energy you spent time attaching to it.  Power Blow will do 20 damage times the number of energy attached to Roserade.  While this isn’t quite as good as Pokémon like Cinccino who can do a lot of damage much more quickly, it does make for an optional attacker if the situation calls for it.  You can also move the energy attached to Roserade around with techs like Shaymin.  Roserade’s biggest weaknesses are its low HP and poor typing.  With all the Fire types running around, Roserade will not appreciate being in the active spot all day.  Still, Roserade’s primary job is to sit on the bench and slow your opponent down with special conditions.  That means his spot on the bench makes him pretty safe from anything but snipes.

Then your opponent drops a Pokémon Catcher and demands that Roserade be brought up to the active spot.  Poor Roserade is knocked out in one hit and sent to your discard pile.  His days of disrupting your opponent and helping you out are over and you need to find a new way to deal extra damage.  Not to mention your opponent is now up another prize card.   Because of this, Roserade typically is only included in lists such as Ross’s Deck and other trainer locking variants.  That is actually kind of sad, as Roserade could have provided the extra damage that a lot of Pokémon needed to knock out the massive basic Pokémon we are seeing this format, such as Reshiram and Zekrom.

The last Pokémon I want to look at is Metapod.  You might be thinking to yourself “Andrew, why a Metapod of all Pokémon?!”  I don’t know if this would have made a huge difference this format, but Metapod from HGSS has a PokéBody called ‘Green Shield.’  The text for Green Shield is pretty simple.  All of your Grass type Pokémon have no weakness.  As long as Metapod is sitting on your bench, any Grass type Pokémon you have active that is weak to fire, psychic, or electricity in Yanmega’s case, will no longer have to worry quite as much about being quickly knocked out.  Let’s use Yanmega as an example since we had mentioned him earlier.  Anything that is of the Electric type that tries to attack you will hit for normal damage and not weakness damage.  Magnezones will now have to send three of their precious energy to the lost zone instead of two if they attack you without a Pluspower.  A damaged Zekrom won’t be able to rely on Outrage as much against a Yanmega and may have to use Bolt Strike, dealing 40 damage to Zekrom itself.  Since Yanmega typically runs alongside Cinccino, Donphan, Zoroark, or Magnezone, that means that Zekrom is probably going to be knocked out next turn. This gives your opponent more to think about before they take the KO on Yanmega.  Any Grass type weak to Fire (which is about 80% of them) will no longer have to worry quite as much about Reshiram decks.

Of course, Catcher exists in our format.  Metapod, sitting there with only 80 HP, is an easy target for almost anyone to knock out and take the easy prize.  You could play a copy of Butterfree from HGSS in your deck, giving you the free retreat, but that immediately shuts off Metapod’s PokéBody.  Having to pay two energy to retreat isn’t the best, though I doubt you will even be given the option to retreat as most of the time Metapod will be knocked out in one hit once it hits the active spot.

Examples like the ones I mentioned will continue to pop up.  Victini from Noble Victories will be a card that will see quite a bit of play, but will suffer a Catcher weakness like all bench techs.  Elektrik, a card that accelerates a deck similarly to Typhlosion but with Electric energy, will also have a huge Catcher Weakness.  A lot of pretty creative ideas can no longer be as useful because Pokémon Catcher exists in our format.  And that’s the root of the problem here with Catcher – a lot of good tech Pokémon that might have made our game a lot more interesting have been cut out from the top tier because Catcher will eliminate them almost immediately.  There are ways to block Catcher, but right now it seems like you’re restricted to just Trainer Item lock, which is just another way of cutting some creativity from the format.  Maybe if the effect of Pokémon Catcher were a little more difficult to use it would be better, but right now it seems too broken to make full use of all the format has to offer.  Maybe they could make it more difficult to use, but I don’t mean add a coin flip (that would be Pokémon Reversal and no one liked that card).  Maybe if you were forced to discard cards from your hand, not be able to attack that turn, or were forced to switch your own Pokémon like Warp Point did, then it would be more balanced.  Pokémon Catcher seems to be defining our current format as one that relies almost entirely on the tactic of just attacking over and over again, taking bench knock-outs if what’s in front of you is too bulky unless your name is Vileplume or Gothitelle, both of which follow a very straight forward locking strategy.  If you try to play any tech Pokémon that takes a little space on your bench or time to set up, odds are it will encounter a Pokémon Catcher at one point or another.

I’m not saying that the game is no longer fun because of Catcher.  I still greatly enjoy playing the Pokémon TCG and probably will continue playing for a very long time.  I’m just saying I don’t like where the format is going at the moment and could be improved.  Being a competitive player, I will continue to use Pokémon Catcher since it is a must-have option in our current format if you want to keep up with everyone else.  I hope in the future, however, that Pokémon does something to balance the power of Catcher.

Thanks again to PokemanDan for posting this article and thanks again to you, the reader, for reading!  Good luck with upcoming City Championships!

Posted by at November 28, 2011
Filed in category: TCG Articles,
  • oliver barnett

    Very nice analysis if I do say so myself. Catcher has its bad points but also its good points, E.G. Eliminating key threats off the bench such as Typhlosion Prime. As well as without Catcher we would all use Pokemon Reversal anyways :p

  • http://twitter.com/pokeamph Poke Amph

    I personally like Pokemon Catcher. I used to play from Base through Neo Genesis so I guess I’m just used to playing in “broken” formats. Gust of Wind, and countering it, is instilled in the way I play Pokemon. My first Battle Roads in September surprised me because everyone was playing easy prizes on the bench for no reason…they didn’t have an evolution ready in their hand, they weren’t unleashing any powers upon the play of the basic…they were just playing them down for no reason at all. If anything, I think Pokemon Catcher makes people play smarter and put more thought into how they play.

  • PKMN Trainer Andrew

    Yes, Catcher is very useful. I love sniping Cyndaquils before they become Typhlosions as much as the next guy :p. But I still thinks its kind of broken. There have been gust of wind-ish effects in almost all of the formats, but Catcher just seems too easy to play. I miss the days of warp point, lol.

  • PKMN Trainer Andrew

    I think there are a lot of players who, out of some kind of instinct, instantly play basics from their hands without really thinking “wait, what am I gaining from playing this and are there any negative consequences.” I think one of the positives of Catcher is it helps players think before they play anything. But, I still feel its a broken card. I thought most of base set was broken and bringing mechanics back from then isn’t a good idea, but thats just my opinion. I still enjoy Pokemon and will probably play the TCG regardless.

  • n1ghtmare90

    I feel like something like Double Gust would have been better than Catcher. It forces you to think about what you are doing but comes with a draw back.

  • Krimzen85

    It takes a great deal of enjoyment out of the game for me. Granted, I have my competitive games (most notably Type 1 Magic), and Pokemon is more of a fun game for me. I’m new to Pokemon, though obviously I’ve been playing other card games competitively for 10 years now, and I’m quite good. Anyway, I played my first 50-80 friendly-competitive games over this past weekend. Even though it’s more fun for me, I like to think my decks are still built well, consistent, correctly proportioned and decent, even though I know they lack the super staple power money cards. After those matches, I can’t help but feel that Pokemon Catcher and the introduction of Basic EX’s are kind of turning the game into BS. My years of buying the staples (i.e. power 9) are over. I’m not going out and dropping hundreds of dollars on Ex’s and $60 per deck for a playset of Catcher’s. I’ve already proved I can win if I shell out a bunch of cash. Needless to say, I had no EX’s or Catcher’s, and I won 3 games out of 80, because I was facing playsets of Mewtwo EX, Terrakion EX and Pokemon Catcher’s every time.

    However, in Magic, for example, you can still make competitive, winning decks without power…and that’s my problem here; if you don’t run 4 Pokemon Catcher’s and at least 4 EX’s, you WILL lose. And let me tell you how annoying it is to search, evolve, put energy on, and get a benched Pokemon fully operational just to have him Pokemon Catchered into the active spot and see those 7 cards go to the discard pile. I know this sounds like complaining, and I don’t mean it to. I knew I was the underdog not having any EX’s, but I didn’t expect to win only 3/50 games SOLELY because of that. That’s not a disadvantage…that’s “play EX’s and Catcher’s or forfeit.”

    Also, let’s be honest, the EX rule is not enough of a drawback. Sure, I get two prize cards, but they just got 3-4 prize cards due to partial damage and fodder I have to throw at an EX just to have them put the next of two more basic Mewtwo EX’s in the active spot. At least keep them as level 2 evos like they were in the past. Basic EX’s are BS. And the Catcher’s may as well say, “Destroy target creature, destroy 4 lands, take a prize card and put it in your hand.”