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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

 AZ

- Phantom Forces

Date Reviewed:
Dec. 1, 2014

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.75
Expanded: 2.75
Limited: 4.13

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being the worst. 
3 ... average.  
5 is the highest rating.

Back to the main COTD Page

Baby Mario
2010 UK National
Seniors
Champion

AZ 

The freaky giant guy from the XY games gets his own card at last and it’s . . . ok. Not as good as the stuff Lysander gets, mind you. 

AZ does what a lot of cards throughout the games history have done in various ways: it picks one of your Pokémon up off the Field. In the case of AZ, it returns the Pokémon (which includes all the Stages of an Evolution) to your hand and discards anything that is attached (which would be Energy and Tool cards). It’s pretty clear how this might be useful for re-using something like Jirachi EX, getting a damaged or Status-inflicted Pokémon off the Field, or as an alternative to retreating an active Pokémon under certain situations such as Item or retreat lock. 

Functionally, AZ is quite similar to Cassius. Cassius doesn’t discard attached cards, but it does send everything to the deck rather than your hand. Obviously AZ is the better choice for something like Jirachi EX, which won’t have any attachments, or in a deck using Bronzong PHF which can recover the Energy. The real competition for this card isn’t Cassius, however (or even Super Scoop Up), but other Supporters. We rely on them so much for the draw that keeps our decks flowing that it is very hard to give that up for a turn to play something like AZ. An aggressive card like Lysandre, sure . . . but defence is more often of secondary importance in this format. 

I can see single copies of AZ making it into something like Dialga EX/Bronzong decks, but elsewhere I think that Pokémon Centre Lady is probably a better option for healing and/or dealing with Status Conditions. Most players are likely to prefer Lysandre or even Xerosic as a non-draw Supporter anyway.

Rating 

Modified: 2.75 (useful in certain circumstances and for certain decks)

Expanded: 2.75 (as above)

Limited: 4.5 (Prize denial is great and you aren’t likely to have many other Supporters to compete for usage)


aroramage

Hello hello, and welcome back to another week of Pokemon cards! Today we're taking a look at the Supporter known only as AZ, the mysterious wanderer of the Kalos region. The story of XY revolves partly around him, and the story goes he used a super weapon long ago to end a war and lost his best friend, a Floette, forever. Since that time he's been wandering the Kalos region in search of his missing Floette.
 
Today's card relates to AZ in the idea of retrieving a friend of yours, but the cost of it may be too much. You return Pokemon back to your hand and discard any other cards from it, which makes it useful for denying a KO and getting rid of the new Team Flare Hyper Gear, but that's about it. You lose whatever Tools were attached to and all the Energy you had on the Pokemon you return to your hand, which sets you back in terms of set-up.
 
Now if you've got a deck that can retrieve Energy from the discard pile, then losing Energy isn't a set-back but a set-up, and luckily there are several decks that can do that these days! Fighting and Steel decks both benefit from having Energy in the discard pile, and going into Expanded you've got Dark Patch and Eelektrik to add to the stack. I'd avoid running AZ in Blastoise and Emboar decks, as even though they do have Energy acceleration, it comes from your hand, and since AZ is your Supporter for the turn, you better have a large hand filled with Energy ready to go - or else just have another ready attacker.
 
On that note, it'll be tough fitting AZ into a deck, even with all the support he can give, but his function is so simple I wouldn't be surprised if he were glossed over. The two biggest problems I can think of are that AZ doesn't work well with Evolutions (he gets back 1 Pokemon and discards the rest, which in the case of an Evolution discards the Basic form and probably the Stage 1 if it's there, so you end up with Ultra Ball fodder) and he gets rid of any Tools on the Pokemon (which if not from your opponent are from you, and Tools aren't as easy to get back as Energy). Add in the necessity for draw Supporters like Sycaper, and AZ just doesn't stack up.
 
Some decks may be able to throw a copy or two of AZ into their decks and be able to function off of that, but for the most part it looks like AZ will just have to keep on wandering...
 
Rating
 
Standard: 2.5/5 (does one thing well, but not flawlessly)
 
Expanded: 2.5/5 (about the same here)
 
Limited: 3/5 (denying a KO here can be pretty crucial, but be careful on which Pokemon you use it with)
 
Arora Notealus: If there's one thing I think they could've done better with XY's story, it's put the focus on AZ a lot more - make him far more central to the plot rather than just kinda tacking him on there. Trust me, that ending would've hit a lot harder if you'd been traveling with AZ rather than just by chance meeting him.
 
Next Time: What kind of card is that? It is a mystery~


Otaku

Welcome to another week of card reviews!  This week put us in a bit of a pickle: on one hand we just finished the first weekend of City Championships, so it is tempting to review what won… except we don’t know yet.  You see, someone needs to compile a list of cards to review for the following week no later than the Saturday morning (we’ll say 10 AM CST for an international reference point) of the previous week.  By the time you’re reading this, odds are the results of the first weekend are at least “sort of” known, but we needed to write this CotD before then… and some of us may be writing all five of this week’s CotDs before!  So we are going to focus on some of the useful supporting (including but not limited to Supporters) cards we have left to review in XY: Phantom Forces, plus something else I just threw in for variety. 

First up is indeed a Supporter: AZ.  In fact, this is the last Supporter left in the set that isn’t a reprint (don’t hold your breath for new reviews of Professor Sycamore, Shauna or Tierno).  His effect is to return one of your Pokémon to your hand (your choice, of course): other attached cards are discarded.  The big question is does this apply to all Stages of an Evolution, and fortunately this has indeed been answered.  From The Pokémon Trading Card Game Rulings Compendium Black And White: 

AZ    (Phantom Forces)

Q. When playing the AZ supporter, do I put all Pokemon stages into my hand, or just the Basic or highest stage?

A. You put all of the Pokemon cards into your hand, including all Stages and Mega cards. (Phantom Forces FAQ; Nov 13, 2014 TPCi Rules Team) 

This makes the card not quite a Supporter version of the old Scoop Up but also not quite a Supporter version of Super Scoop Up or Scoop Up Cyclone.  It also explains why in some decks you may prefer to use Cassius; even though it sends the Pokémon to the deck (requiring more effort to get the target back out) it sends all cards attached to said Pokémon as well (so Energy and Trainers are also salvaged).  You can use AZ to heal a Pokémon, get rid of attack effects, get a Pokémon out of the way or to reuse “coming into play” Abilities.  All of these effects are valuable in general, but also often already present in decks via other cards being run.  This brings up concepts like reliability, utility and versatility. 

AZ is all or nothing: you give up a Supporter and get its effect.  You can’t just shed the damage counters and/or Bench the target Pokémon to ditch effects resting on it or just get it out of the way: the Pokémon goes into hand and while you don’t lose Evolutions, for better or worse you’ve got to go through the process of Evolving (possibly without important Items like Spirit Link cards or Rare Candy).  If you have Energy attached, you lose it along with attached Trainers.  Burning a Switch and a Max Potion is two cards versus one, but you also reap the benefits that come from running them in general and you’re not giving up a Supporter.  Plus the target leaving play isn’t always a benefit, even apart from concerns over discarding Energy and attached Trainers. 

Cassius, Scoop Up Cyclone and Super Scoop Up help demonstrate how reliability is difficult to define.  Cassius is also a Supporter but it sends the target Pokémon and all cards attached to it to your deck; Scoop Up Cyclone is an Ace Spec but sends everything attached to the target Pokémon (plus itself) back to your hand.  Super Scoop Up is Scoop Up Cyclone but trades being an Ace Spec for being a “tails fails” card, where it does nothing if you can’t get “heads” on the mandatory coin flip.  Like AZ you can’t just get the end result of the effect without the entire aspect and like AZ this is why they can’t really compete with Max Potion in decks that can move Energy around or cope with the Energy discard.  So AZ finds itself with a niche, but one that is crowded.  Does it have a place there? 

Yes it does, largely thanks to VS Seeker (and to a lesser extent Battle Compressor).  High counts of of AZ increase the odds of it getting in the way: drawing them after using a Supporter, being unable to use them up before playing a Professor Juniper or Professor Sycamore, or drawing AZ instead of the Supporter you really needed.  VS Seeker isn’t any more useful when you’ve got the Supporter you most need to use in hand already, but it gives you the option of trading it in for an AZ or a draw supporter, a Lysandre etc.  If you run (for example) two AZ and four VS Seeker, you can bounce something of your own up to six times without sending it to the deck instead and having to dig it back out (Cassius), burning your Ace Spec slot (Scoop Up Cyclone) or relying on a coin flip (Super Scoop Up) plus have the option of digging out a different Supporter instead that is more appropriate to the situation. 

If your deck needs a lot of bounce you can run some combination of all of the above, or perhaps just turn to Lysandre’s Trump Card to keep using which every specific option is most useful.  This again both helps and hurts AZ; it too can benefit.  Obviously you won’t be playing it the same turn you use Lysandre’s Trump Card and the only things your strategy (using both) can do is run your opponent out of are Prizes or time.  You still wouldn’t be using it just for the healing aspects, as again Max Potion beats out the whole group under similar circumstances.   This niche is most definitely about spamming coming-into-play effects.  Something like Jirachi-EX is counterproductive (if you want to give up a Supporter to get a Supporter, use Skyla).  It is also quite a pain for Stage 2 Pokémon or Mega Evolutions since Rare Candy and Spirit Link cards are lost without more combos.  You should probably have AZ handle Basics or Stage 1 Pokémon instead of Stage 2s, unless the Stage 1 form of a Stage 2 line is important.  As I write this, I can think of three candidates that could allow AZ to show some value. 

The first is Crobat (XY: Phantom Forces 33/119) and part of that is because of Golbat (XY: Phantom Forces 32/119): both having coming-into-play Abilities that place damage counters on your opponent’s Pokémon.  I’m not sure if there is a “good” deck to build around them, but AZ seems to fit them the best as drawbacks of the other options are more significant here.  Forretress (XY: Flashfire 60/106) similarly may prefer being able to reliably bounce to the hand without having to be searched out from the deck, burn your Ace Spec or rely on a coin flip.  The third candidate is the one I find the most promising: Dragonite-EX.  Though you should still be running Super Scoop Up alongside it, and possibly Cassius if you want the option of salvaging a Pokémon Tool, giving up your Supporter for the reliable bounce is worth it since the deck is all about keeping a few Energy in play, moved from Dragonite-EX to Dragonite-EX via its Ability… which also forces the opponent to deal with a fresh Dragonite-EX.  You still probably won’t max it out, but if Super Scoop Up fails it is good to know you can cash in a VS Seeker to still keep the combo working.  In all cases, the deck will need to augment its ability to draw with things other than Supporters.   

Ratings 

Standard: 3/5 - This is a composite score as the card is a potentially useful but regularly suboptimal general play, and can even backfire: if you forget and play it when you’ve only got one Pokémon in play, you lose.  As we look at more and more specific decks, it gets better and better, but I think is best as the emergency back-up option for when your copy (or copies) of Super Scoop Up fail and can trade in VS Seeker for a clutch, guaranteed bounce. 

Expanded: 3/5 - Same score but slightly different reasons.  Again, in general it isn’t useless but it won’t often be the optimum play.  The difference here is that for Evolutions, they regain access to Devolution Spray (making AZ even less needed) but also certain combos for spamming Items, which indirectly helps AZ while helping out the more obvious candidates.  For example, Sableye (BW: Dark Explorers 62/108) can use its Junk Hunt attack to safely reclaim Devolution Spray and/or Super Scoop Up… but VS Seeker is also a legal target, and you can get back Roller Skates and or Bicycle if you need to VS Seeker for AZ but also want to draw. 

Limited: 4.9/5 - Nearly a must run, the exception is when you’re building a deck around a lone big, Basic Pokémon: the +39 deck means it becomes a stylish way to concede (which might tempt a few more flamboyant players to run it anyway).  For “regular” decks, you often aren’t going to have to worry about having other Supporters, you’ll probably have space, denying Prizes is more effective here, and those cases of overkill I listed earlier, like being stuck using it in place of a Switch?  Those other options aren’t present in this set so that concern is also nullified.  Unlike some Supporters where I’ve given high marks because “you might as well”, here it is worth running over some other useful cards. 

Summary: AZ was a far more difficult review than I expected.  Even with recent tricks, giving up a Supporter for this effect is quite expensive, and most of the decks I can think of which would use it are still going to want to use something else instead.  At the same time, accepting its the kind of card you won’t run more than two of and that is reserved for very specific usage (occasionally being handy in general), it does its job.  Not being familiar with the character AZ. I looked him up and now am a torn about this card in another, rather silly way: without spoiling too much, his backstory would have made it thematically appropriate to allow the effect to bounce either one of your Pokémon or one of your opponent’s of your choice, but besides being pure fancy on my part, it would then have been more than a bit broken.


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