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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

The Night March Crew

Date Reviewed:
Oct. 25, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

See Below

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

Back to the main COTD Page


aroramage

Hey! Hope you guys didn't miss me too much, but don't worry, I'm back in time to review the Top 5...er, 4 cards in the list! To be fair, Startling Megaphone is great tech against Tools in general, so what more is there to say about that anyway? I digress, now we get to a group of cards that have shaped the game ever since their inception: the Night March Crew. 

Surprisingly, this is only a set of three cards: Lampent, Pumpkaboo, and the outlier Joltik. Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses and differences, but they all share one common feature: the Night March attack. Night March is very simple, dealing out 20 damage for every Pokemon in the discard pile that also has the Night March attack. Figuring in the total of 4 copies of each of these guys, any one of them can deal out as much as 220 damage - enough to OHKO almost anything in the game, outside of Mega-EXs!! 

And that's not even including any other damage boosts that can be applied! 

Now for the differences between the group. Let's start with Pumpkaboo, who is otherwise equipped with the 1-for-10 vanilla Ram attack. His Night March attack costs 3 of any type of Energy, he's got 60 HP, and he's a Basic Pokemon, so he's easy to get out and can be powered up in any way. Effectively, he's the middle of the road between these three and really more of a back-up to your main attacker in the build. And no, that is not Lampent. 

Of the three, Lampent is the slowest, being a Stage 1 Pokemon and requiring one of his 3 Energy for Night March to be Psychic. Sure, he does a little better than Pumpkaboo with 70 HP and has a decent attack with Cursed Drop, placing 3 damage counters down in any way you'd like for 1 Energy, but with the requirement of another Pokemon to even get put into play and requiring that one specific Energy for Night March, he really only serves the purpose of fueling the other Pokemon's Night March attacks. 

That leaves us with Joltik, the odd one out and yet the best one. Unlike the other two, he's an Electric-type to their Psychic-type, allowing him to hit other Pokemon a lot harder than the others could and without risking getting destroyed by being Weak to his own type. He's also got the advantage of having the cheapest Night March attack at only 2 Colorless Energy, meaning that yes, a DCE will do it. Ignoring Gnaw, Joltik becomes extremely dangerous...but he is extremely vulnerable too; with only 30 HP, most any hit will take him out very easily. 

So now you've got the idea of the deck in a nutshell: load up your discard pile with Lampent and other Night March attacks, and then use your Joltik and maybe even Pumpkaboo to wipe out your opponent's team long before they can even get up and running. Night March wants to set up quickly to deal out massive damage and steamroll opponents mercilessly, and with cards like Battle Compressor and Professor Sycamore, it was easy to thin out the deck, find that much-needed DCE, and start mashing through opponents. 

Bet you're glad they added the whole "can't attack on the first turn" clause now.

Rating 

Standard: N/A 

Expanded: 4.5/5 (the cards themselves aren't inherently powerful or devastating) 

Limited: 4/5 (but with the right set-up and speed, they can wreck shop very very quickly) 

Arora Notealus: The speed of the Night March deck, as well as its easy accessibility, ultimately gave it the edge that has made it the best deck in the format for the past few years, with competition only stemming from a few small counter decks. As time went on and players saw more and more of it, it didn't top as much but remained fairly popular to use, and that gave a lot of power to a deck that otherwise might not have had such potential without certain cards...course now with Karen it might not see so much play, but at the very least people have a great counter to it without structuring their entire deck to beat it. 

Next Time: The definitive Tool of a generation!


Otaku

Our fourth place finisher isn’t just a two-for-one, but a three-for-one!  Why?  Not because we had three cards tie perfectly but because we have three cards so closely related that they are interdependent: you cannot properly review one without reviewing the others.  So time to cover the Night March trio: Joltik (XY: Phantom Forces 26/119), Lampent (XY: Phantom Forces 42/119), and Pumpkaboo (XY: Phantom Forces 44/119).  As these are three different Pokémon from separate Evolution lines, united by a rarely used game mechanic, I won’t be going into my usual level of depth, but I’ll still detail these three specifically before really diving into the deck, because almost every aspect of these cards has proven relevant during their tenure as one of the best decks in Standard and/or Expanded play.  Plus odds are I’ll have to write some article in the future and having a nice, thorough CotD covering the cards, their deck, and their history of usage will be really handy when this is all just a vague memory.

The only thing they all have in common is a lack of Abilities, Ancient Traits, and the attack “Night March”.  Each has a different attack cost for the attack, and I’ll detail that when I do cover them individually, but for now know the attack does 20 damage times the number of Pokémon in your discard pile that have the Night March attack.  That means a range of zero damage to 220 before other modifiers, as so far there is no Pokémon which copies attacks from cards in the discard pile.  Joltik is a Basic Lightning Type with 30 HP, Fighting Weakness, Metal Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of [C].  It can “Gnaw” for [L] to do 10 damage and Night March for [CC].  Lampent is a Psychic Stage 1 Pokémon with 70 HP, Darkness Weakness, Fighting Resistance, and Retreat Cost [CC].  For [P] it can use “Cursed Drop” to place three damage counters on one of your opponent’s Pokémon (your choice which) and for [PCC] it can use Night March.  Pumpkaboo is a Psychic Type Basic Pokémon with 60 HP, Darkness Weakness, Fighting Resistance, and Retreat Cost [CC].  It can use “Ram” for [P] to do 10 damage and its version of Night March costs [CCC]. 

Being a Basic is the best and having one Lightning Type attacker and at least one Psychic Type helps hit a decent amount of Weakness; Resistance can be handled by alternating between the two, assuming you cannot just punch through it with overwhelming damage.  You might think having two different Types would result in no Type support being used, but most Night March builds rely on Dimension Valley, and among the exceptions some still include a copy or two for Pumpkaboo.  Being a Stage 1 means Lampent is discard fodder for the Night March attack.  Players have tried to find a way to use it (or for that matter the others) by Evolving all the way and then using Celebi-EX or Shrine of of Memories to still access Night March, but it has never proven successful.  The low HP means Joltik and Pumpkaboo are glass cannons, expected to attack and then be OHKO’d by the opponent; with Fighting Fury Belt or luck they can sometimes avoid this fate but usually it’s a done deal.  Quite significant is that the low HP scores makes Night March vulnerable to damage spread, or even just a bonus Bench hit.  With the low HP scores you might think Weakness a non-issue, and it almost is for Joltik as it just means any Fighting Type that can does more than 10 damage before Weakness ends up with a OHKO (and that means nearly all Fighting Types which see competitive play).  Darkness Weakness makes Pumpkaboo an easy OHKO for Darkness Type attackers, most notably Yveltal (XY 78/146; XY: Black Star Promos XY06; Generations RC16/RC32; XY: Steam Siege 65/114) and its “Oblivion Wing” a power play, relevant because Yveltal is such a solid opener for various Darkness Type decks.  Metal and Fighting Resistance are appreciated, however: -20 damage won’t matter often due to the HP scores but I’ve seen games won or lost by it.  The Retreat Costs seem small, but are a huge issue for Night March decks because they tend to run little in the way of extra Energy; expect them to pack some Trainers to help with it. 

All the attacks other than Night March have no real significance; Lampent doesn’t attack so even though Cursed Drop might be handy, it isn’t used.  Gnaw and Ram may or may not be an option depending on the exact Night March variant, but when they are used it means something went wrong because you ought to be attacking with Night March in a Night March deck.  That is because of the two Night March Pokémon that do see play, they have low enough attack costs, at least with some simple combos, that if it isn’t Turn 1, you should be able to afford to use Night March.  Double Colorless Energy covers the [CC] cost on Joltik and with Dimension Valley in play it also handles the now reduced to [CC] cost on Pumpkaboo.  Some variants include other Energy acceleration, like Bronzong (XY: Phantom Forces 61/119; XY: Black Star Promos XY21) so that the attack costs can be covered some or entirely with basic Metal Energy.  Between Acro Bike, Battle Compressor, Professor Juniper or Professor Sycamore, and Ultra Ball it’s bad luck or a bad build if your deck cannot dump at least a few Night March Pokémon into the discard pile ASAP. 

It may be hard to believe, but at first Night March wasn’t that great of a deck.  Why?  It debuted in the same set as Lysandre’s Trump Card; an opponent might Battle Compressor to discard his or her own copy of Lysandre’s Trump Card, then use VS Seeker to recycle everything (other than copies of Lysandre’s Trump Card) back into each player’s respective deck.  Though Night March would get all of its deck thinning tricks and Double Colorless Energy back while keeping its field, it would have to try and re-setup.  Making it trickier is that cards like Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108) that were still in play… were still in play; you now had to get a good open on what was actually your second, third, etc. turn and with less (or even no) Shaymin-EX to keep things moving.  Now giving up your Supporter to do this to your opponent often meant neglecting the setup for your own side of the field, but that was okay; Night March attackers were often so small you just needed to be able to attack to score a OHKO or at least a 2HKO.  Facing such a thing was also quite frustrating for the Night March player, increasing the odds of them going on tilt and making misplays.  Many of the sets after XY: Phantom Forces also added something to help Night March decks: Acro Bike in XY: Primal Clash, Trainers’ Mail and Shaymin-EX in XY: Roaring Skies, Unown, Hex Maniac, and Vespiquen (XY: Ancient Origins 10/98) in XY: Ancient Origins, and at least a few others have kept Night March on or near the top, even as counters for it (or something it needs) have been released. 

Another side of it though is that a lot of what I just mentioned: so many things that benefit Night March are not just for Night March.  Night March ends up using or even relying upon cards that help out several other decks, often most other decks.  This means the skill required for running it often transfers in some capacity from or to running/building other decks.  Some critics have labeled Night March a deck deck that requires no skill.  Even adjusting for the hyperbole, this is absurd, and I learned that first hand from running it, though if you’re honest and accurate in your deck analysis, it should be readily apparent.  It is a relatively straight forward deck in its approach: fill your discard pile with Night March Pokémon and take OHKOs with Pokémon that are usually worth only a single Prize, require a single Energy attachment, and don’t Evolve.  Against other competitive decks Night March usually has a good chance of winning, but some bad luck or a misplay hands it to the opponent as the margin isn’t huge.  Your opponent will be taking Prizes almost as quickly as you are, at least at first.  Most of its bad matchups still allow it a reasonable chance of winning, and where Night March is favored, it tends to be quite lopsided.  That isn’t the same thing as not requiring much skill; the deck has so many moving pieces and so many times you’ll have to choose carefully what to use, what to discard, and when that it pretty easily falls apart.  I do understand people who grew bored facing it, because it became such a common sight, but that isn’t the same thing as not requiring skill. 

Being so common brings up another point: Night March is technically a budget deck.  Given how pricey Shaymin-EX currently is and how that card has never been inexpensive, that might seem like a foolish statement.  Most decks want one to three Shaymin-EX, even if they hope to only actually play one or two to the field: no sense penalizing Night March for at worst wanting an extra one or two Shaymin-EX over the norm.  When builds with the “average” amount of Shaymin-EX are the best option, Night March is basically a budget deck; everything in it tends to be Commons or Uncommons (including the Night March Pokémon themselves) and the exceptions are near universal and/or low card count options.  Another way Night March bucks the trend is that it took what would normally be filler Pokémon (two Evolving Basics and an Evolving Stage 1) and made them either main attackers or at least staples.  Even Lampent being discard bound still makes it more important to Night March than the average Evolving Stage 1, only included in case Item lock, search/recycling demands, or something deck specific make running Rare Candy alone a poor option.  When so many players complain about the game revolving around Rare/Holo-Rare big Basic Pokémon and “Ultra Rare” Pokémon-EX, the would-be filler Evolving Pokémon being the deck focus should have been a breath of fresh air… and for some of us it still kind of is. 

While still Standard legal, the Standard Format’s metagame eventually evolved to revolve around Night March.  Even when it wasn’t the top deck, all top decks needed to have an edge over it to truly be viable.  Mostly this meant a metagame focused on Item lock, disruption, or damage spread.  Sometimes there would be wall/stall or just a deck that denied OHKOs.  Night March decks could be built to handle all of those, but not at once and in the end Night March was not the top deck for the 2016 World Championships.  In the Masters Division Night March decks managed to finish in both the sixth and seventh place, but the deck was heavily played, and if it really was the be-all end-all deck, even in a hostile metagame it should have done better.  It did better in the Seniors Division but still stopped out at third place, and actually did a bit worse in the Juniors Division where it only managed to finish in eighth place. 

So how is it doing now in the Expanded Format?  At the Regional Championship held in Phoenix, AZ (USA) on October 1st and 2nd, by the end of it all it looks like the best performing Night March deck came in at 9th place, with five other Night March variants making the Top 32.  This is a very good performance, but if Night March was the best deck in the format, it should have a great showing here.  This tournament is also expected to be Night March’s last hurrah because it occurred shortly before Karen became tournament legal.  As that Supporter is a nerfed Lysandre’s Trump Card, you should expect it to hamper Night March: upon closer examination you should realize it probably kills Night March and Vespiquen decks (and of course the two run together) and counters them far more severely than Lysandre’s Trump Card.  There is the same shuffling of Pokémon back into the deck, but Lysandre’s Trump Card showed some pity to Night March because it also returned draw/search, Double Colorless Energy, etc.  Imagine your opponent stuck with Night March Pokémon swinging for no damage and your opponent has few or no cards left to add Night March Pokémon to the discard pile.  Even if no Prizes have yet been taken, odds are against the Night March deck making a comeback.  That means not only does Night March have to face many strong decks that have a natural edge over it, but also any deck could TecH in a copy of Karen and in this format, have Battle Compressor plus VS Seeker or Jirachi-EX to quickly fetch it.  I’m predicting Night March is done here. 

If you manage to engage in some Limited Format play with XY: Phantom Forces, Night March Pokémon are unpredictable.  Your opponent may simply be running them for their Evolved form, or perhaps he or she has enough to actually focus on Night March.  This set contains Battle Compressor so you have an option other than allowing three of your Night Marchers to be KO’d to do decent damage.  An extremely lucky player might pull multiple Battle Compressor and sufficient Night March Pokémon to make the deck work, and remember that in Limited play the “four per deck” restriction does not apply.  If you pull five Joltik, you may run them all.  Dimension Valley is even in this set as well… but odds are you won’t get enough of any of them to matter.  Now what about a hypothetical reprint for these cards, making them once again Standard legal?  You need all three to be reprinted (or else more Night March Pokémon released) or you won’t be able to hit hard enough for it to matter.  Even assuming you get three Night Marchers (so you can have up to 11 Night March Pokémon in the discard pile), even if Karen is seldom played, Night March would still probably be a mortally wounded or dead deck.  Battle Compressor is gone.  Dimension Valley is gone.  Mew (XY: Fates Collide 29/124) is still here, but with no Dimension Valley you’ll have to include Energy acceleration (Max Elixir?) or try to focus exclusively on attacking with Mew and Joltik.  No more AZ or Super Scoop Up, so you’ll have to Ninja Boy away your Shaymin-EX to avoid your opponent using them to avoid an unfavorable Prize trade.  Muscle Band is gone but Fighting Fury Belt remains, which might sound good but Fighting Fury Belt probably helps opposing decks far more.  Like I said, no Battle Compressor, so filling your discard pile with the exact Night Marchers you won’t be needing is more difficult, and without Startling Megaphone or Xerosic you will have to punch through those boosted HP scores.  The only bright side is that some of the decks with a favorable matchup against Night March like Trevenant BREAK and Greninja BREAK decks also lost key cards, either killing that deck or leaving it far less effective. 

Ratings 

(Collective) 

Standard: N/A 

Expanded: 2/5 

Limited: 2/5 

Summary: If you skipped straight to the Summary, you might be wonderings what is wrong with me.  Five pages long with about a one page summary is pretty bad.  If however you are disappointed because you believe Night March is still a top deck, or even worse believe it to be “...the most brokenest deck ever!” Oh no; Pokémon began with broken decks even in the Base Set, when only card scarcity kept most of that set viable in the face of the original Haymaker and Rain Dance decks.  We’ve had way worse since then (after all, cards have been banned before).  Plus as I tried to explain, it was not even the most unbalancing aspect of Standard when it was Standard legal, or in Expanded prior to Karen.  Night March was perhaps the overall best deck for much of the Standard/Expanded metagame post Lysandre’s Trump Card ban, but by the end the metagame adjusted and it was just another really good deck.  I could honestly still call it “broken”, but that is because I’m the guy who says the entire competitive metagame has horribly pacing and card balance (re: all the metagame is to some extent broken).  At least in some places, you may have found me trying to explain how Night March does (or at least did) require skill to do what it did and that beating it was mostly a matter of working on your own skill and not pursuing a long shot in the metagame.  Had we removed Night March from the equation back then, the metagame would have been different, but mostly just some shuffling around of what was already working because the anti-Night March decks were usually strong against a lot of other things. 

Had we re-reviewed Night March prior to rotation and Karen, the Pokémon themselves would not have scored that high.  Lampent was/is only run to be another Night Marcher in the discard pile so a two-out-of-five would be generous.  The other two are glass cannons that rely heavily upon combos to do their thing, and are so fragile that even Mew-EX was run alongside them to serve as an alternate attacker.  A Pokémon-EX with only 120 HP and that depended upon its Ability was still sometimes a preferable, more durable choice; that says something.  Joltik and Pumpkaboo would probably score three-out-of-five, maybe upwards of three-and-a-half-out-of-five.  Now?  I am being generous giving them a two-out-of-five in case someone comes up with something clever or the metagame shifts in a way that Karen is not a worthwhile piece of TecH in enough decks.  Even pre-Karen in tournaments where Night March variants were (collectively) the most run deck, they still crashed into stuff that shut them out of first place or being the runner up, with the most recent of those results seeing them just miss the Top 8.  We are adding Karen to all that. 

So the Night March trio garnered 39 voting points.  We agreed ahead of time to treat them as a single entry, so we avoided any messiness there.  This beat out yesterday’s Startling Megaphone by two voting points, and only missed tying for third place by one point.  I basically just wrote a long-winded, rambling piece explaining why this should not have been the case.  I wish I had started writing this review two weeks ago so that by now it would have been concise and more coherent, but hopefully if you really did read it (or just pay attention to what works and how it works), the only reason you’re disagreeing with me is because you’re thinking of this list as more of a “Top Cards of 2016” list (that is something we’ll probably be doing soon enough) and so being awesome for so long still makes you want to rate these cards highly.  I don’t agree with that criterion, but I totally understand it.  If rotation had not occurred, Night March would have taken a big hit thanks to Karen TecH, as no rotation would mean it retained its various bits of support but also that almost every deck would have room and justification to include Battle Compressor, VS Seeker, and Karen.  As Night March was already seeing diminishing returns prior to rotation, I believe this would put them into functional-but-non-competitive territory.  Vespiquen was still doing well enough that even if Night March wasn’t worth countering, Vespiquen might be.  Have rotation occur, but just reprint Joltik, Lampent, and Pumpkaboo?  If you’re me then you include them as the 20th place position mostly because you cannot bring yourself to leave them off the list entirely.


Zach Carmichael

Today is Tuesday, and we will continue our list of cards lost in the Primal Clash-on rotation with the notorious group of Pokémon that wreaked havoc on the format for so long – the Night Marchers. Combined with cards like Battle Compressor and Shaymin-EX, the trio was able to deal godly amounts of damage and quickly overwhelm opponents for a single Energy attachment. With this in mind, perhaps these cards rotating isn’t such a bad thing, as it will enable a number of decks to now shine in the spotlight and see competitive play. 

The Night Marchers consist of Pumpkaboo, Joltik, and Lampent from Phantom Forces. They all have the Night March attack, which does 20 damage times the number of Pokémon with the Night March attack in the discard. They were quickly disregarded upon release, as it was difficult to actually get them in the discard besides using Professor Sycamore and Ultra Ball. Mew-EX was a solid partner, though using a Pokémon-EX defeated the idea of winning the prize trade with multiple non-EX Pokémon. Battle Compressor was a thing, but again, the deck simply was not fast enough to keep up with big threats like Seismitoad-EX, which served as a hard counter by preventing Items from being played. All of this changed with Shaymin-EX was released. Alongside Acro Bike, you could now burn through practically the entire deck in a span of just a couple turns, letting you quickly discard your Night Marchers and hit for KOs as early as the first turn by easily finding that Double Colorless Energy. Adding to this was Puzzle of Time, which let you reuse cards from the discard, making counters like Enhanced Hammer nearly useless.

At the 2016 US Nationals, Night March players were able to correctly predict the meta filled with Seismitoad-EX and Greninja variants by including Vespiquen in their decks. Its Bee Revenge attack paired nicely with the theme of discarding Pokémon and enabled the deck to effectively combat Water-types. The Jirachi XY promo also played a role here, as its Stardust attack shut down Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX to give them an out to play their Items and Special Energy again, at least for a turn or two. It’s a shame that the deck didn’t perform so hot at the World Championships – ultimately losing to decks like M Audino-EX – as it would have been a blast to casually play the deck with friends when the 2016 World Championship decks are released in a few weeks. 

In Expanded, Night March lives on. Archeops is a great addition to the deck, as its Ability shuts off Evolution cards in a pinch, giving the deck an out to Greninja and Trevenant BREAKs. Special Charge from Steam Siege also gave it a boost, making the deck a bit less reliant on Puzzle of Time (though it’s still played because why not?). Water Box decks will continue to be a threat, but often times the sheer speed and power of Night March is enough to conquer Seismitoad. 

Ratings 

Standard: n/a

Expanded: 4/5

Limited: 1/5 

Summary: Most players are relieved knowing that Night March is gone in Standard. Cards like Puzzle of Time and Shaymin-EX made the deck overpowered, to the point where it continued to dominate tournaments with ease up until the World Championships. It seems the card developers continued making the deck stronger and stronger just as players would seemingly find ways to counter the deck, but thankfully this will no longer be an issue. Despite this, Night March will continue to live on in Expanded, and I wouldn’t be surprised if future cards will make the deck even stronger.


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