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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

 

AZ

- Phantom Forces

Date Reviewed:
Oct. 18, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

S
ee below

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being horrible.  3 ... average.  5 is awesome.

Back to the main COTD Page


Otaku

Ninth place for our Top 20 Cards Lost To Rotation list goes to AZ (XY: Phantom Forces 91/119, 117/119).  Like yesterday’s Blacksmith this is a Trainer and Supporter.  So general Trainer aid and counters apply, which is pretty good considering the former includes stuff like Trainers’ Mail while the latter includes nothing particularly competitive.  Supporters themselves have support, as well as counters, and the divide may be even more stark.  VS Seeker makes it so much easier to run a diverse assortment of Supporters, with a full four count allowing you an effective eight copies of a Supporter worth maxing out while a Supporter only worth running as a single could still be reused up to four times.  You also aren’t forced to choose which when building your deck but can make up your mind on the fly, only restricted by your discard pile and any Item locking effects your opponent throws at you.  Supporter counters have never proven competitive, at least in recent memory.  The actual effect of AZ is self bounce: select one of your in play Pokémon and return it to your hand with any attached cards being discarded.  AZ does return entire Pokémon lines (if present): even if you have the BREAK Evolution of a Stage 2, it will return the Basic, Stage 1, Stage 2, and BREAK Evolution to hand.  If you used a Rare Candy or similar trick to skip part of the Evolution line, that will not be returned to your hand.  For players who remember the earliest days of the game, AZ is like the Supporter version of Scoop Up, working the same way except Scoop Up was a “normal Trainer” (Item) and could not return Evolutions (you could target them, but only the Basic would return to hand while the Evolved forms were discarded). 

Why has AZ proven useful?  Bounce allows you to ditch everything on a Pokémon.  Usually you don’t like discarding the attached Energy and Tools, but sometimes even those you want gone (like with an opponent’s Pokémon Tool F cards).  Usually you do like getting rid of all damage counters, Special Conditions, and effects (attack, Ability, or other) on the Pokémon.  AZ is able to target any of your in play Pokémon, so it can also get something out of the Active slot, giving you another switching card.  AZ works regardless of whether or not you have a Bench: a misplay is on the player, but AZ effectively being a non-option because you lack a Bench (and thus would lose if you used it) is a legitimate limitation to the card.  When first reviewed here, we (Baby Mario, Aroramage, and myself) were not overly impressed with AZ.  I gave it the highest marks, but we weren’t too far apart.  We all recognized that in specialized decks AZ could be awesome, but expected it to prove suboptimal (at best!) in general usage.  We were thinking about how it could be great in decks where you needed to spam coming-into-play Abilities or could bounce a high HP target (preferably a Basic) but also manage to re-ready it (or a replacement) the same turn.  Turns out this was not a niché proposition but soon to (collectively) become a common part of the average deck. 

Battle Compressor, having released alongside AZ and VS Seeker cemented the age of low count Supporters.  Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108), as well as useful draw/search Items both old and new (Acro Bike, Bicycle, and Trainers’ Mail) lessened reliance on your Supporter as your source of draw power.  Together, these meant you could not only afford to burn your Supporter on something like AZ more often than in the past, but that you had an efficient means of getting AZ from deck to hand (usually via the discard pile) for when you did need it fast.  The heavy Shaymin-EX usage also rewarded including a copy of AZ, as you could bounce Shaymin-EX either to reuse the Ability or to simply get it out of harm's way (and without resorting to attacking with it).  Crobat (XY: Phantom Forces 33/119) with Golbat (XY: Phantom Forces 32/119; Generations 31/83) was used to back up various attackers, whether to provide spread or to effectively up the damage against the opponent’s Active.  Since it was both the Stage 1 and Stage 2 you wanted to return to hand, Super Scoop Up and AZ were preferably to Devolution Spray.  Several vicious attackers that were able to rebuild in a single turn became almost commonplace.  Deck that could quickly attach/reattach Energy might pack this as an alternative to Max Potion that VS Seeker could recycle and which Item lock could not block, but the number of strong attackers that used a single Energy (whether a Double Colorless Energy or something itself easy to recycle) kept growing.  Use of Pokémon to wall also increased; Wailord-EX for its stall/mill deck but also things like an opening Aegislash-EX or Wobbuffet (XY: Phantom Forces 36/119; Generations RC11/RC32).  Even tricks like bouncing your own Vileplume (XY: Ancient Origins 3/98) to re-enable Items, before playing Oddish, Gloom, and Vileplume down again that same turn thanks to Forest of Giant Plants. 

So… that also explains most of why it will be missed in Standard as well as why it remains important for Expanded play.  Were it to be suddenly reprinted, sure some of those tricks I mentioned are no longer Standard legal, but enough remain that AZ would be welcomed, especially in light of the only other generic bounce (Super Scoop Up) also having left Standard play.  Nearly a must run for Limited play as well; skip it if you’re trying to build a deck around a single, strong Basic (like a Pokémon-EX).  I mean that you literally are running only that one Basic Pokémon, a +39 deck; you cannot bounce without losing.  So for all the decks that are using more than one Basic, of course you include this.  All the general usage combos are more likely to come up and probably more likely to swing the game than in Constructed play, and you won’t have another Supporter you could be using instead most turns.  If you pull it along something like the Crobat-Golbat line (which is in this set), you might have a real power play.  The only reason I’m not ranking it as high as I did for Limited play the first time is because I approach scoring for that format a little differently than I once did.  It still scores quite high, it is just that it has a legitimate risk of not showing up at the right time. 

Ratings 

Standard: N/A 

Expanded: 3.75/5 

Limited: 4.35/5 

Summary: AZ is one of the three main forms of bounce used in Expanded play (the other two are Scoop Up Cyclone and Super Scoop Up), and until the September 1st rotation a single copy was more or less a staple in Standard play as well.  I probably should have had us bundle AZ and Super Scoop Up together as a two-in-one review; I mean they were close enough in the countdown. 

AZ amassed 31 voting points, two above yesterday’s Blacksmith and three below tomorrow’s pick.  This is another card I think we collectively lowballed; I had AZ as my fourth place pick because again, it is either a loose, near, or once-per-deck staple.  Some decks did skip it, but most I remember wanted a copy (sometimes two), and that is before we got to the decks that really focused on bounce (and might run even more copies).


Zach Carmichael

Today’s Card of the day is AZ from Phantom Forces. Much like Super Scoop Up but in Supporter form, AZ allows a Pokemon to be brought back to your hand, but unlike its Item counterpart forces you to discard whatever was on it, whether it be Energy or Tool cards. It became a one-of staple in most competitive decks in Standard because of its versatility, acting both as a switch and heal card. While Olympia from Generations is in some ways a replacement, AZ will be sorely missed in the new Primal Clash-on rotation. 

Many decks in Standard revolved around AZ as part of their strategies. For example, Golbat and Crobat from Phantom Forces provided constant damage spread thanks to their “Sneaky Bite” Abilities. AZ enabled these cards to be used multiple times by devolving them in an instant, potentially setting up combos where you could play back down multiple bats in a given turn. Right before the rotation, a Vileplume “Toolbox” deck emerged at Regional and National Championships, using attackers like Jolteon-EX and Regice to counter most of the format’s popular decks. Because Vileplume had such a high retreat cost and locked yourself from playing Items, players would max their counts of AZ to get around this. A clever play, it allowed you to scoop up your Pokemon in a pinch and let yourself use Items freely, only to play down Vileplume and put the lock in place once again thanks to Forest of Giant Plants. This deck is still seen in the current format, but clearly it is much weaker because AZ is no longer with us. Players now use Manaphy-EX’s “Aqua Tube” Ability and play Rainbow and Water Energy as a way to retreat freely, as well as Olympia, but these cards just aren’t the same as AZ

AZ will continue to see play in Expanded. Again, it serves as a one-of in most decks because its effect is simply too strong not to include it. Being able to scoop up a damaged Pokemon is huge, allowing you to prevent unnecessary prizes being taken and freeing your bench space. Vileplume decks are fairly popular in Expanded, as are Seismitoad/Crobat decks. Wailord-EX is a natural partner to AZ, too. Being able to heal off damage from its massive 250 HP is huge (it ultimately finished 2nd at this past US Nationals and took the tournament by complete surprise), but this deck isn’t really played in Expanded due to mass amounts of Vespiquen and Item lock, not to mention that Karen was recently printed, preventing Wailord-EX from stalling to the point of decking out your opponent. 

Ratings 

Standard: N/A

Expanded: 4/5

Limited: 4/5 

Summary: AZ was a great utility card in Standard and was used in nearly every competitive deck. Olympia is a sufficient as a switch card, but otherwise it is lackluster replacement. Vileplume Toolbox decks will continue to be popular, but unfortunately they take a huge hit in consistency from losing AZ, now having to rely on the clunkiness of benching Manaphy-EX and playing Water Energy to provide a means to retreat with “Aqua Tube.” Here’s to hoping we will see a number of reprints in Evolutions and other upcoming expansions, as many of these cards rotating will be greatly missed. 


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