Phantom Forces Review

Mega Gengar-EX from Phantom Forces

In an abandoned mansion...

Mysteriously coinciding with Halloween, Phantom Forces continues the trend of Type-themed sets by focusing on the Psychic-type...
Well, at least that's what it says on the tin. The complete set list is available on this link, if you want to research it.

Gengar Spirit Link from Phantom Forces

Phantom Forces is a decent set; slightly decreasing the amount of junk rares is a definite improvement over the entire BW series, not spoon-feeding players with a new VirGen by only giving them 6 good Pokémon out of a 105-card set.
But Psychic support is nowhere as significant as Fighting support was in Furious Fists. Nothing like a Psychic-version of Korrina for example. For a Ghost-themed expansion released on Halloween, Phantom Forces is a tad lackluster.

This set introduces two new mechanics. The first one circumvents the main problem with Mega-Evolutions : by giving a Spirit Link to the corresponding Pokémon-EX, Mega-Evolving won't end your turn. There are only two Spirit Links for now : Gengar Spirit Link and Manectric Spirit Link. Those two Pokémon appreciate the help those cards bring, especially Manectric-EX, but don't forget you won't be able to attach another Pokémon Tool to them in the process.

The second mechanic is Team Flare Hyper Gear. It is a new type of Pokémon Tool that is attached to your opponent's Pokémon, incapacitating them in the process. The two TF Hyper Gears in this set are specifically designed against Pokémon-EX, increasing their Energy cost and reducing their damage output. As they are still Tools, they cannot be attached to a Pokémon that has already a Pokémon Tool attached to it.

Where the flowers had withered...

Venomoth from Phantom Forces

Well, this is Phantom Forces, not Bug Forces. Grass Pokémon are not a force to be reckoned with in this expansion.

Venomoth is your everyday "a fantastic idea on a craptastic card". For Grass, each Trainer your opponent plays has a 50% chance of having no effect during his next turn. Good disruption, too bad it's wasted on a Stage 1 with 90 HP doing no damage. Come on, the cards designers are not even trying here.
Yanmega gives you a new hand of 6 cards for Grass, and deals 100 damage for ColorlessColorlessColorless if it was Benched this turn. With big Pokémon-EX in the format, you'd rather have solid reasons to play an Evolution : shutting down Abilities, playing more Energies, countering EXs, OHKOing for cheap... Yanmega is doing nothing of that.
Finally, Leavanny is a Stage 2 "set-up attack" Pokémon, which means it is useless. Next !

A fireplace was burning...

Pyroar from Phantom Forces

... But I was shivering, as there's only 2 fully-evolved Fire Pokémon in this set. And unfortunately, Talonflame is not going to warm me up. As a Stage 2, 60 on average for Fire and 120 for FireFireColorless with a huge penalty is unacceptable.

Pyroar, on the other hand, could warm my heart a bit. Its Attack is obviously not good, but its Ability might save it from the trash can. By discarding a Fire Energy attached to it, it drags an opponent's Pokémon from the Bench into the Active position. This looks decent because it can be coupled to the other Pyroar, as it gives more flexibility than Lysandre when you need to play another Supporter. It works well with Seismitoad-EX, so it is easy to include one copy of it in Pyroar / Seismitoad decks, with 3 Pyroar FLF. It requires nearly no changes in your decklist and doesn't slow down your deck thanks to Blacksmith.

Standard - Pyroar / Seismitoad-EX
12 Pokémon36 Trainers12 Energies
3× Pyroar FLF4× Professor Juniper4× Double Colorless Energy
1× Pyroar PHF4× N8× Fire Energy
4× Litleo2× Colress
2× Seismitoad-EX1× Skyla
2× Kyurem LTR2× Blacksmith
2× Lysandre
2× VS Seeker
1× Computer Search
4× Ultra Ball
2× Bicycle
2× Virbank City Gym
4× Hypnotoxik Laser
3× Muscle Band
3× Switch

=> Pyroar FLF stops most Big Basics that are played nowadays, making it a great metagame choice. Pyroar PHF acts as a Lysandre except you can still play a Supporter that turn. Seismitoad slows down the opponent early game, by blocking Item cards. It can also OHKO Phanpy and Litleo with Muscle Band. Kyurem is a great weapon against Donphan PLS and is not even 2HKO by Spinning Turn + Muscle Band.

Suddenly, a heavy downpour began.

Feraligatr from Phantom Forces

But the rain was heavily polluted. Brace yourselves, a wave of muddy water is coming.

Kingler : 100 for WaterWaterWaterWater as a Stage 1 ? Clawitzer FFI deals 110 for WaterWaterWater. Go away, useless crab !
Feraligatr : While a guaranteed 160 for WaterWaterColorlessColorless is amazing, being a Stage 2 with a high Energy requirement is out of the question. Sorry Feraligatr, in another metagame I would have given you a chance to shine.
Lumineon : "Set-up attack" Stage 1 Pokémon. The day card designers of Pokémon Card Laboratory understand this is useless even in Booster Draft, this will be a small step for their R&D, and a giant leap for Pokémon TCG.
Jellicent : Printing bad cards was not enough, they had to print a card that helps your opponent to win !
Alomomola : Nice pick in Booster Draft with Double Colorless Energies. A Basic with 100HP dealing 80 for WaterColorlessColorlessColorless is strong and easy to splash with other colors. Funny how a common manage to be better than Kingler, Lumineon and Jellicent.

Mega Manectric-EX from Phantom Forces

And as the thunder roared...

Joltik from Phantom Forces

One Pokémon is shining in this thunderous night. Every creature around it fears its wrath, as it shall show no mercy to those who defy it. Shiver, foolish mortals, as its name is...

... not Pachirisu, which is disputing the « Worst Rare of Phantom Forces » award, against Jellicent and Musharna.
It's probably not Heliolisk either, even if it caused a great bang earlier in the evening with its Parabolic Spark. It did its best to impress the other Pokémon in the process, but failed miserably, having wasted all the batteries around itself and got smashed due to its craptastic 90 HP.
Perhaps it is an unexpected one, like Joltik ? This terrifying cute spiderling is capable of dealing up to 220 for a DCE, with the help of Battle Compressor which will be studied in more details later in this review.
« Impossible ! », Lysandre shouted after using its Trump Card for the 94618th time. Was it its evolution, Galvantula ? Well, it's probably not by using a nerfed Sludge Drag that it would strike down the competition...

M Manectric-EX from Phantom Forces

... Well. I suppose I could have figured out who was the culprit simply by looking at the cards, not even reading them. An Ultra-Rare with a Full-Art version, a Mega-Evolution, and an artwork in the Promotional material is obviously going to be the chase rare of Phantom Gates.
Manectric-EX and its Mega Evolution are both very powerful on their own, they utterly destroy Yveltal-EX, and they have some support in this set as well. Manectric-EX's Overrun is a mini-Hammerhead, dealing 20 damage to the Active and a Benched Pokémon for Colorless. Assult Laser is where Manectric-EX really shines, though. For LightningColorless, it deals 60 damage plus 60 more damage if the Defending Pokémon has a Pokémon Tool attached to it. This means that if you Attach a Head Ringer to one of your opponent's Pokémon, you will deal a guaranteed 120 damage for two energies, and you slow down your opponent's set up in the process. The best part of this attack is that Garbodor need a Pokémon Tool for its Ability to work. If you bring it to the Active position (Lysandre, Catcher...), you'll OHKO it.

Its Mega-Evolution has 210 HP, and its attack will make you want to play Manectric Spirit Link to attack with it on turn 2.
For LightningColorless, Turbo Bolt deals 110 damage and attach 2 Basic Energies from your Discard Pile to one of your Benched Pokémon. With the help of Ultra Ball, Computer Search and Battle Compressor, you should have 2 Basic Energies in your discard by turn 2.

Standard - Mewtric / Virizion-EX
Manectric-EX from Phantom Forces
11 Pokémon38 Trainers11 Energies
3× Mew-EX4× Professor Juniper4× Rainbow Energy
3× Manectric-EX4× N4× Lightning Energy
2× M Manectric-EX2× Colress3× Grass Energy
2× Virizion-EX1× Skyla
1× Tropius PLB1× Lysandre
1× Battle Compressor
2× VS Seeker
1× Computer Search
4× Ultra Ball
2× Bicycle
1× Professor's Letter
4× Dimension Valley
3× Head Ringer
2× Manectric Spirit Link
3× Muscle Band
1× Tool Retriever
2× Switch

=> The aim of this deck is to spam Emerald Slash and Assult Laser early game, and use Turbo Bolt when needed mid-game.
With Mew-EX these attacks cost a single Energy, thanks to Dimension Valley. It lets you use Emerald Slash on turn 1.
Heal your damage using Max Potion, as you only use a single Energy to attack, and Turbo Bolt gets them back from discard.
Virizion-EX works really well with Mew-EX and Dimension Valley, giving you a huge boost on turn 1, and protects from Special Conditions. It also provides an answer to Seismitoad-EX. You can add Shaymin-EX to deal 150+ for a single Grass late-game.
Tropius PLB might looks like a weird choice, but it can be quickly loaded using Emerald Slash or Turbo Bolt, and provides a decent answer to Suicune with Energy Press. It also saves you from a late-game N by letting you draw until you have 6 cards in hand with Return.
Head Ringer guarantees that Assualt Laser will deal 120 damage against EXs; it can stop Seismitoad-EX from using Quaking Punch early game, denies Dimension Valley's effect to your opponent, and slows down other EXs as well if they don't have a Tool already attached.

Ghosts appeared everywhere !

It was a spooky manor, with no maintenance made in years. Proof of this are the bats that have taken residence in the building.

Crobat from Phantom Forces

Golbat and Crobat have excellent Abilities, putting 2 and 3 damage counters when they come into play.
Finding free spaces in your deck to include these will be the hard part obviously.

Wobbuffet has an interesting Ability that disables all non-Psychic Abilities when it's in the Active Position. There are a lot of decks that are reliant on Abilities to work, including Blastoise's Deluge, Bronzong Metal Links, Keldeo-EX's Rush In, Genesect-EX's Red Signal, Goodra's Slip Trip... Note that you'll need a Float Stone to retreat it, as it disables your own Abilities as well.
Swalot is your usual junk rare. For PsychicColorless, it deals 30 damage and Poison, and for PsychicColorlessColorless it deals 100 damage if you have more HP that the Defending Pokémon. It should have been an uncommon at most.
And Musharna is the undisputable winner of the « Worst Rare of Phantom Forces » award. It's so bad it's hilarious.

Gourgeist from Phantom Forces

I proceeded further in the manor, to discover terrifying ghosts lurking in the dining room.
Chandelure has a great Ability, borrowing Gengar SF's Fainting Spell, but its attack is too weak for a Stage 2.

There was a Gourgeist as the main dish. It can buff up its HP to 200 with its Ability, and its Death Horror Note deals damage depending on your hand size. But what's more terrifying is its pre-evolution, Pumpkaboo, which share the same crazy Night March attack from Joltik ! Use Celebi-EX's Time Recall, and enjoy your 200 HP Pokémon that deals 140+ for a DCE. It could have been a very dangerous meal indeed, if not for the army of Garbodor and Lysandre's Trump Cards seating at the table. If you find a way to counter these two cards, you might be onto something.

Gengar-EX and its Mega Evolution are the other stars of the set. Gengar-EX has 170 HP, put 3 damage counters on any Pokémon for Colorless, and a Hit & Run attack that deals 60 damage + Poison for PsychicColorlessColorless; while M Gengar-EX hans 220 HP and can use any attack from your opponent for the same cost. It's a tad slow for a Mega-Evolution, even with its Spirit Link.
Gengar-EX is obviously strong, especially with cards that want to be in the Active position such as Substitute Robo, Wobbuffet from this set, Sigilyph LTR, Snorlax PLS, and Trevenant XY. Gengar-EX has two problems though : it is weak to Darkness, which is a big issue right now as Yveltal and Yveltal-EX are played a lot, anda lot of Metal and Darkness Pokémon are resistant to Psychic. This sample decklist needs to be tweaked, but provides a good starting list:

Standard - Gengar-EX / Trevenant
Gengar-EX from Phantom Forces
15 Pokémon34 Trainers11 Energies
3× Gengar-EX4× Professor Juniper4× Double Colorless Energy
3× Trevenant XY4× N7× Psychic Energy
3× Pumpkaboo XY2× Colress
1× Wobbuffet PHF2× Skyla
2× Dragalge FLF1× Lysandre
2× Skrelp1× Lysandre's Trump Card
1× Keldeo-EX2× VS Seeker
4× Ultra Ball
1× Evosoda
1× Professor's Letter
2× Virbank City Gym
1× Enhanced Hammer
2× Startling Megaphone
1× Life Dew
1× Muscle Band
1× Jamming Net
3× Float Stone
1× Switch

=> Set up Trevenant and Dragalge as soon as possible, then spam Dark Corridor with Gengar-EX, and send Trevenant as an active to put your opponent under Trainer lock, with Dragalge preventing Retreat. Virbank City Gym is obviously an automatic entry in this deck. Wobbuffet neutralizes non-Psychic Abilities when it's Active, negating Blastoise, Bronzong, Goodra and many others; note that your Keldeo-EX won't be able to Rush In while Wobbuffet is in the Active position. It offers a backup plan against Goodra's Slip Trip, and it can also attack when needed after a Dark Corridor. Keldeo-EX can bring back the Trevenant to the Bench in case it can't retreat.
The 3 Float Stones lets your Trevenant and Wobbuffet switch out for free. Enhanced Hammer discards DCE, Plasma and Rainbow Energies, slowing down your opponent early to mid game. Startling Megaphone is mandatory because of Garbodor, once its Tool is discarded, the Trainer lock will prevent your opponent frome attaching another one. Jamming Net stops fast EX attackers in their tracks.
Life Dew is really strong in this deck, as your Trevenant won't give up a Prize upon K.O.; and it can be reused with Lysandre's Trump Card.
You can also try Substitute Robo if you find free spaces, it's great late game after you play N. And Dedenne FFI could provide an emergency answer to Yveltal for a single Energy.

I had no intention of fighting them.

That will be quick, there is nothing to review in this Color. Gliscor is yet another junk rare, don't play it.
Gigalith has an Ability which reduces the damage it receives by 50 while at full HP, but it has a craptacular attack named Overdrive Smash, which deals 60 damage... for FightingFightingFightingColorless. I shouldn't need to tell you to not play it either.

Suddenly, the lights went out !

Malamar-EX from Phantom Forces

But stay calm, there's nothing to fear. The Darkness Pokémon of this set won't harm you. They're too weak to do that.
Honchkrow is bad. Stage 1, 100 HP, deals 120 if the Defending Pokémon is Asleep for DarkColorlessColorless.
Mightyena is worse, Stage 1, 90 HP, deals 80 for DarkColorlessColorless.
Liepard is even worse, Stage 1, 90 HP, deals 40 for DarkDark.
Spiritomb is even even worse, Basic, 70 HP, does nothing useful.

Malamar-EX has a useful Ability but a bad attack for an EX, except with a rigged coin. Here is the average damage:
• 2 Energy : 60
• 3 Energy : 90
• 4 Energy : 120
Malamar-EX has a useful Ability, making the Defending Pokémon Asleep; it could be useful with Ninetales Promo.
With luck on your side, MAXamar can reach the magic number of 180, OHKOing every EX played in the format.
Consistent damage output with Yveltal-EX should remain the way to go, in my humble opinion.

With a steel resolve, I opened the panelboard.

Dialga-EX from Phantom Forces

HEATRAN IS A LAVA POKÉMON THAT IS WEAK TO FIRE. How could they screw up that one so hard ? It's cruel because without that Fire Weakness, Heatran would likely has seen play in Bronzong decks. As it is, it's merely playable.
80 for MetalColorlessColorless, 130 for MetalMetalColorlessColorless on a non-EX Basic is decent, but with another Weakness it would have been better.
Escavalier is a junk rare. Enough of these might fix my wobbly table, hopefully.
Klefki has a Call for Family attack. It's ok in Draft, but in Standard Emolga LTR is better.
Skarmory is the only Metal Pokémon not weak to Fire in Standard, as even Heatran is weak to it. Unfortunately, that fact will stay in the Trivia category as it is a bad card in Standard. However, it is good in Draft, as it is a 100 HP common which deals 90 for MetalMetalColorless.
Dialga-EX is decent, it could have been better if Chrono Wind was worded differently. As it is, your opponent simply has to retreat to remove the effect. Its Full Metal Impact deals 150 for MetalMetalColorlessColorless and discards 2 Metal Energy cards, which works well with Bronzong.

Aegislash-EX from Phantom Forces

Aegislash-EX looks good on paper. Its Ability prevents all damage from Pokémon with Special Energies. Its attack deals 40 + 20 for each Metal Energy attached to Aegislash-EX. So for MetalMetalMetal it deals 100, for MetalMetalMetalMetal 120, etc. There are some important points to consider while choosing between Cobalion-EX and Aegislash-EX. I'll start with the pros for Cobalion-EX and finish the the pros for Aegislash-EX:
• Aegislash-EX only prevents damage. The opponent can still attack, inflict status, putting damage counters...
• Aegislash-EX has no 1 Energy attack, while Cobalion-EX deals 30 and destroys a Special Energy right on turn 1.
• Cobalion-EX destroys your opponent's resources early game, while Aegislash-EX cannot and lets your opponent set up.
• Garbodor hurts. Lysandre + Mewtwo-EX helps against it, but it will have already done its job if it hits the field.
• Aegislash-EX is walled by Suicune, Sigilyph and Pyroar, Cobalion-EX is not.
• Aegislash-EX can wall completely a Pokémon early / mid / end game, if the opponent can't discard Special Energies.
• Aegislash-EX forces your opponent to burn its resources to get Basic Energies early game.
• Aegislash-EX works well with Mewtwo-EX, unlike Cobalion-EX.

Finally, Bronzong is one of the best cards in the set. Its Ability lets you attach a Metal Energy from your Discard Pile each turn. It comboes well with Cobalion-EX and Dialga-EX obviously, but it also works well with non-Metal Pokémon such as Mewtwo-EX. The main issue here is that Bronzong is a Stage 1, which means it will be supporting Basic attackers, which means it will be awfully weak to Pyroar. Adding insult to the injury is the Fire Weakness shared by every Metal Pokémon. Sounds a lot less interesting all of a sudden. You could have to find a way to handle Pyroar if you want to try this deck. It might be more effective in Expanded with access to Level Ball and Heavy Ball.

Standard - Metal Links
Bronzong from Phantom Forces
16 Pokémon32 Trainers12 Energies
4× Bronzong4× Professor Juniper4× Double Colorless Energy
4× Bronzor4× N8× Metal Energy
2× Dialga-EX3× Colress
2× Cobalion-EX2× Skyla
1× Cobalion LTR1× Team Flare Grunt
1× Seismitoad-EX1× Lysandre
1× Mewtwo-EX3× VS Seeker
1× Keldeo-EX1× Computer Search
4× Ultra Ball
1× Battle Compressor
1× Professor's Letter
2× Startling Megaphone
2× Muscle Band
3× Float Stone
1× Switch

=> Well, this looks like a weird decklist. The philosophy here is that we can't counter Pyroar, as Beartic FFI would make the deck inconsistent; so at least we'll slow it down enough so Cobalion-EX can be ready before Pyroar is. Spamming Quaking Punch + Team Flare Grunt early game might give you a slight chance to win this match-up, but don't expect too much. To show you how desperate I was when I built this decklist, I even considered Psyduck BCR in it. Yeah, I was REALLY desperate.
Other than that, the deck is pretty straightforward : set up two or more Bronzong on your Bench, and load a Cobalion-EX or Dialga-EX depending on what you're facing. Mewtwo-EX is only there for the cheap K.O. on Garbodor, as the Energy removal cards don't work well with it. If you find a place for it, you can include Steel Shelter to protect your Pokémon from Special Conditions.

I swear it's not a Fairy tale...

Florges-EX from Phantom Forces

There is only one useful Fairy in this set, so this will be nearly as quick to review as Fighting-type.

Slurpuff lets you draw 1 or 2 cards with its Ability. Not enough for a Stage 1, as its attack is useless.
Diancie is a top-contender for the « Worst Rare of Phantom Forces » award, but still a bit behind Musharna.
Dedenne is a somewhat useable uncommon in Draft, dealing 60 for FairyColorlessColorless. Don't use it in Standard, obviously.

Florges-EX has low HP for an EX, but it deals 120 damage for FairyColorless, provided you have a Bench full of Fairy and Grass Pokémon. That shouldn't be a problem in the deck that would run it, as it works well with Aromatisse and Xerneas.
Virizion-EX is also a good partner, protecting it from Special Conditions, and Fairy Garden for the free Retreat.

A mighty Dragon was inside !

Hydreigon from Phantom Forces

Two Dragons are offered to us in this set, and they are both interesting.
Hydreigon has 140 HP, and attaches a Dark Energy from the discard pile to your Active Pokémon once per turn with its Ability. We had no way of attaching Darkness Energy from discard in Standard since the rotation of Dark Patch, so Hydreigon could have some potential; unfortunately, it's a Stage 2 so it requires a bit of set up. It has a decent attack, dealing 130 for PsychicDarkColorlessColorless, considering it can attach Energies to itself with its Ability.
The second Dragon is Goodra. It also has 140 HP, and its Ability Slip Trip blocks all Pokémon Tools. If you set up this just after a Starling Megaphone, your opponent could have a hard time playing without Float Stones and Muscle Band. The best part is that even Garbodor can't negate this, as your opponent won't be able to attach a Tool to it. Note that it doesn't block Team Flare Hyper Gears, as they are attached to your opponent's Pokémon. I think this Ability has a nice potential, as it spells doom to some decks if they haven't prepared an answer to Slip Trip, like Gengar-EX, but it may be too slow on a Stage 2 for an effect which has a limited impact. Goodra's attack is useable, it deals 130 damage for WaterFairyColorlessColorless.

I turned pale.

Regigigas from Phantom Forces

And it's not because of the dragon I accidentally awakened from its deep slumber in the panelboard.
What other reaction could I have when I saw the mediocrity of the Colorless Pokémon in this set ?

Fearow is bad. Girafarig is bad. Exploud is bad. Diggersby is bad.
Furfrou is the sixth reprint of the one from Kalos Starter Set. I'm not even exeggerating ! There are NINE different hair trims for Furfrou and we have only seen 4 of these in the TCG, so this means we're in for another 5 reprints of this horrible card in a near future.
Blissey could have been fun to play if it didn't have a coin flip for Tender Vengeance.
Regigigas is the only playable Colorless Pokémon in this set. 130 HP is good. For ColorlessColorlessColorless it deals 80 damage and it reduces the damage dealt by the Defending Pokémon by 40, before applying Weakness and Resistance.
It is slow and by no means a powerhouse, but it is at least useable.

Hopefully, I had a Master Ball !

Head Ringer from Phantom Forces

Phantom Forces offers us a lot of interesting new Trainers. As explained in the intro of this set review, Team Flare Hyper Gears are Pokémon Tool that you attach to your opponent's Pokémon to incapacitate them.
There are two Team Flare Hyper Gear in this set : Head Ringer and Jamming Net.
Head Ringer increases by Colorless the cost of the attacks of a Pokémon-EX. This will slow down Pokémon-EXs early game, especially those who have debilitating effects associated with cheap attacks (hey Seismitoad-EX).
Jamming Net, on the other hand, reduces by 20 the damage of the attacks of a Pokémon-EX. This is useful for decks that need to be able to halt fast EX attackers, such as Gengar / Trevenant. Which one you choose to run depends on your deck and your playstyle. Head Ringer seems better overall, though. Startling Megaphone might be useful if you play these, as you may need to discard a previously attached Float Stone or Muscle Band beforehand.

Dimension Valley from Phantom Forces

There are two new Stadiums in this set, one for Psychic Pokémon, the other for Steel Pokémon.
Dimension Valley is the one that draws the most attention, and rightfully so.
Mew-EX is obviously the biggest recipient, as every attack it copies will have its cost reduced by Colorless. Be prepared to see a lot of Mew-EX in the next months, as it is a top-tier with this Stadium. It is not a good time to have a Psychic weakness.
On the other hand, Gengar-EX will not use it as it need the additional Poison damage from Virbank City Gym.
Here is a comprehensive list of Pokémon that actually benefit from Dimension Valley:
Mew-EX : Night March, Emerald Slash, Revenge Blast, Assualt Laser, Turbo Bolt, Mind Jack, Vilify, Revenge...
Pumpkaboo/Gourgeist PHF : Night March for a DCE is great, and Horror Note helps vs Lysandre's Trump Card.
Trubbish PLS : Startling Megaphone killed it, but this Stadium and Team Flare Hyper Gears could resurrect it.
Drifblim Promo : Shadow Steal for free is awesome against decks playing 4 DCE and Strong Energy.
Wobbuffet : Psychic Assult for Psychic makes it more flexible and easy to use, not needing prior Energy attachement.
Steel Shelter from Phantom ForcesMewtwo-EX : X Ball for Colorless, Psydrive for PsychicPsychic, nothing stupendous but it's acceptable.
Chandelure-EX : Eerie Glow for PsychicPsychic is still a bit too slow, and isn't a threat with Float Stone and Switch everywhere.

Dimension Valley will definitely have a great impact on the metagame, with Mew-EX in the front line.

The other Stadium, Steel Shelter, is a bit less powerful but still useful nonetheless. It protects each Metal Pokémon from Special Conditions, and removes any Special Condition affecting them when it is played. This might be useful in Bronzong decks, provided you find a free space for it, and it has the added bonus of discarding Virbank City Gym.

Substitute Robo from Phantom Forces

To the Item cards ! We start with the much awaited reprint of Enhanced Hammer is a good news for every Special Energy hater out there, and a terrible news for Fighting deck users, as Strong Energy will be shot on sight. With several decks running 4 copies of Double Colorless Energy, it is hard to imagine this card won't see some play in the next few months.

VS Seeker also gets reprinted. Retrieving powerful Supporters like Lysandre or Skyla when needed adds a lot of versatility, and it comboes with Battle Compressor, so it should be included in every deck in 3 or 4 copies.

Robo Substitute is a new Clefairy Doll. When you play it, it becomes a Colorless Pokémon that can't attack, can't retreat, and doesn't give up a Prize when it's K.O.'d. Its main use is obviously with Hit & Run attackers, such as Gengar-EX. Attack with your attacker, retreat and replace it with a Robo Substitute. If you find free spaces in Gengar-EX / Trevenant, don't hesit to try it !

Substitute Robo from Phantom ForcesTrick Coin lets you reflip the coins for an attack once per turn. It is a Pokémon Tool so this take the space of Float Stone and Muscle Band for an inconsistent effect. It is not even worth it on Malamar-EX, the Pokémon this card was designed for. With 2 Energies, Malamar-EX averages at 60 damage without Trick Coin, and 75 damage with it. Muscle Band is better. It can help reach the 180 magic number with 3 Energies, though. Trick Coin could be used on Pokémon with incapacitating effects, like Paralysis, as they require coin flips in order to succeed, but it cannot be used in combination with Fliptini, which severely narrows its usefulness.

Target Whistle is a reprint of Pokémon Flute from Base Set. This will probably be hard to find free spaces for it, but it has several uses. It can provides you with cheap K.O.s at the end of the game. It also increases the damage output of Absol PLF's Mind Jack, Empoleon PLF's Attack Command, and Shiftry FLF's Deranged Dance. If you choose to run Target Whistle in your deck, you should play a few copies of Colress with it, as you'll draw more cards with the extra Benched Pokémon.

Battle Compressor from Phantom Forces

Last Item reviewed, but not least, Battle Compressor is a polyvalent card that has a lot of uses. It lets you discard up to 3 cards from your deck. Here is a comprehensive list of what you can do with it in Standard and Expanded:
• Discard Ho-Oh-EX with 2 Basic Energies and activate Rebirth.
• Discard Joltik, Lampent, Pumpkaboo to increase Night March damage output up to 220.
• Discard 3 Pokémon cards to increase Flareon PLF's Vengeance damage output.
• Discard Exeggcute and return it to your hand with Propagation.
• Discard Basic Energies to increase Kingdra PLF's Dragon Vortex damage output.
• Discard a Supporter and retrieve it with VS Seeker.
• Discard a Trainer and retrieve it with Dowsing Machine.
• Discard a Team Plasma card and retrieve it with Shadow Triad.
• Discard Basic Energies to put them into play with Abilities or Trainers, such as Bronzong or M Manectric-EX.
• Discard cards that are useless in the current match-up, reducing the odds of dead draws later in the game.
• Discard Archen PLB, Lileep PLB or Tirtouga PLB to put it under your deck.
• Discard 2 Fossil Item cards, and retrieve them with Relicanth PLB's Fossil Hunt.
• Discard two Items to retrieve with Sableye DEX's Junk Hunt.
This card asks to be experimented. It should see play in most decks for the next few months.

'Twas the end of my perilous journey.

Three new Supporters join the ranks of the 26 Supporters available in Standard.
AZ works like Scoop Up from Base Set, except it's a Supporter and it spares Evolution cards. When it says « Discard all cards attached to that Pokémon », it really means discarding EVERY card attached to that Pokémon. Ouch. Most of the time, Max Poition and Scoop Up Cyclone will still be the best choices in most cases, as it won't make you use up the Supporter of your turn.
Still, it lets you save your Pokémon under your opponent's Quaking Punch, and can be searched with Jirachi-EX. AZ also has some uses with Seismitoad-EX, as it will prevent your opponent from taking 2 Prize cards while allowing you to keep the Trainer lock up with a single DCE. Playing one copy of AZ along with VS Seeker and Jirachi-EX might be a good idea.

Lysandre's Trump Card from Phantom ForcesLysandre's Trump Card is a excellent Supporter in every format. It is great in Standard, it is awesome in Expanded, and it is absurdly broken in Unlimited. Lysandre's Trump Card makes all players shuffle their entire discard pile into their decks. As you can imagine, it didn't take ten minutes to find a way to abuse this in Unlimited (hey Porygon2, draw your entire deck an infinite number of times !).
In Standard and Expanded, it fullfills three roles. The first is the most obvious, it renews your resources, whether because they got K.O.'d, destroyed, or because you discarded them with Ultra Balls; it also pretty much excludes the possibility of losing by decking out in Standard. Its second and perhaps most important role is to clean your opponent's discard pile. There are numerous effects that exploits the discard pile nowadays: Blacksmith, Bronzong, Eelectric, M Manectric-EX, Night March, VS Seeker, Yveltal... By using Lysandre's Trump Card at the right time, you can break your opponent's tempo, making him or her lose a few turns in the process. Its third role is to re-use your Ace Spec card. It might looks like a detail, but using 2 Life Dew in a game can make a huge difference. You should by no means ignore this effect.
Lysandre's Trump Card is probably going to be played in 1 copy in most decks. A few won't need it (or even will be hurt by it, like Night March). But the decks that do play it will love it.

Xerosic from Phantom ForcesXerosic is the last of the 3 new Supporters. It discards a Pokémon Tool or a Special Energy in play. That is a variation of Team Flare Grunt that can target your own Pokémon and Pokémon Tools, but cannot target Basic Energy cards. It's by no means a bad card; I'd even say it might become a card that most decks play in 1 copy when the other Type-specific Special Energies will be released. Its polyvalence is a good thing, having the choice to slow down your opponent or to remove troublesome Tools on your own field is great. The fact it is a Supporter hurts it though, and the fact it cannot target Basic Energies cannot be ignored. In some match-ups, this will be a dead draw (vs Manectric-EX for example).

The last card to be reviewed is Mystery Energy, the Psychic-specific Special Energy. This time, it reduces the Retreat Cost of a Psychic Pokémon by 2. A few weeks sooner, I would have said it is a nice effect; but right now I'm going to say it is really bad. With Enhanced Hammer and Aegislash in the set, your Special Energies better have a good effect, or you might consider not playing them. Mystery Energy ? It's a Float Stone. Strong Energy is good because it helps you getting K.O.s, and it is stackable with Muscle Band. Mystery Energy does nothing, and is a duplicate of Float Stone. Into the trash it goes !

The End.

Phantom Forces will have a positive impact in the metagame. Helping the Mega-Evolutions with Spirit Links was a welcomed addition, as ending your turn without attacking is too costly for most decks nowadays. M Manectric-EX will rock obviously, but there is not a clear archetype that seems to be really better than the others right now, and that will make Standard interesting to follow in the next months. I'd like it though if the amount of junk rares was significantly decreased. I know every type of player has to be satisfied, but no one is happy to open a Musharna in a Phantom Forces booster. The little kid is sad because it only deals 30 damage, the casual gamer is sad because it looks really bad, and the competitive player is sad because it opened the worst rare ever printed since Victini BCR. I'd rather have complex cards as rare rather than crap cards, so casual players and little kids don't run into them too often, and the competitive player can try doing something interesting out of it. I really like what PCL did in this set with Night March and Battle Compressor. I have to give credit to them for trying to establish a new way of playing the game in a deck that's pretty fun to play if your opponent doesn't play Lysandre's Trump Card. I'd love to see novel ideas like this one more often.

SpiderlingTo finish this article, I'd like to show a fun deck using the Night March Pokémon found in this set.
Simply discard as many Night March Pokémon in your discard pile as you can, then use Night March with Mew-EX to deal massive amounts of damage for a single Energy, thanks to Dimension Valley.
Lysandre's Trump Card hurts; and since Joltik has 30 HP and Pumpkaboo 60 HP, you have to be as aggressive as possible to win the game quickly. Mew-EX is not the only attacker in this deck, for example Joltik can revenge kill Yveltal-EX early game for a single DCE !
Virizion protects from Special Conditions, gives Emerald Slash to Mew-EX, and helps against Seismitoad.
VS Seeker has a great synergy with Battle Compressor, getting any Supporter from your deck to your hand.
You can try a version with Gourgeist and Celebi-EX. It is slower and less consistent, but Gourgeist is able to withstand a hit from most EXs with its 200HP. It provides a way to K.O. Pyroar, too.

Standard - Night March
Pumpkaboo from Phantom Forces
18 Pokémon35 Trainers7 Energies
4× Joltik3× Dimension Valley4× Double Colorless Energy
4× Pumpkaboo4× Professor Juniper3× Grass Energy
4× Lampent3× N
3× Mew-EX2× Lysandre
1× Mr. Mime4× VS Seeker
1× Virizion-EX4× Battle Compressor
1× Jirachi-EX1× Computer Search
4× Ultra Ball
4× Bicycle
3× Roller Skates
1× Escape Rope
2× Muscle Band

Have fun working on this deck !
If you notice something wrong or have some different ideas about a card in the set, do not hesitate to post a comment about it below !

In the next article, we will start a travel in the history of Pokémon TCG ! We'll talk about Base Set : the best decks at that time obviously, but also the merchandising and the context in which it came out.
Good luck in your next tournaments with Phantom Forces !

By Mantidactyle - November 3 2014, 6:42 am
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