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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

 Karen
- XY177 Promo

Date Reviewed:
Sep. 23, 2016

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 3.35
Expanded: 3.75
Limited: Promo

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

Back to the main COTD Page


Otaku

We finish our tiny week with a review of Karen (XY: Black Star Promos XY177).  Technically she is not legal until October 7th (if I calculated correctly) as she only just released as part of the Battle Arena Deck: Keldeo Vs Rayquaza on September 21st.  I do not believe any other major release becomes legal during this time, so we will just be reviewing her as if she were already legal.  I haven’t stated this for a while, but if you do not enjoy a long read, just skip to the Ratings section below, which includes a summary. 

Karen is a Trainer card, specifically a Supporter, that shuffles all Pokémon from each player’s discard pile into their respective decks.  There aren’t too many card effects that will care about her being a Trainer: while there are a couple dozen effects that mention “Trainer card” or “Trainer cards”, most are quite specific and will never apply to Karen.  Stuff like the Ancient Trait “Ω Barrier” which as far as I know, only works while that Pokémon is in play.  Probably should get a ruling on that just to be certain, as it could be important later on.  Apart from such things, we have a few attacks that haven’t been historically significant that might add, discard, or count (for the purpose of damage) the Trainers in your hand.  Perhaps a few other even more obscure effects I missed.  There are a few noteworthy Trainers that work with other Trainers.  If you are using it as your Ace Spec, Dowsing Machine can add any Trainer card from your discard pile to your hand at a two card discard cost, Skyla can add any Trainer from your deck to your hand, and Trainers’ Mail can snag any Trainer (other than another copy of itself) from the top four cards of your deck (if there is such a card there).  Trainers’ Mail is the only one that seems particularly relevant as competitive decks still use it for added speed/reliability, but the other two are fringe benefits because Karen is a Supporter. 

Supporters are that precious once-per-turn Trainer card that usually has an effect that is assumed or in fact was proven too strong as an Item.  Unlike Ace Spec cards, which were a kind of Trainer restricted to one per deck - not just up to one of each Ace Spec, but only one Ace Spec card overall - you may run many Supporters in your deck, but you still only may use one per turn and the rest are going to be dead in hand until your next turn.  This means they still all compete with each other more than another Trainer card subcategory, Items.  Many Supporters have had pretty good effects, but not good enough to see competitive play because of all the really great, great, kind of great, and really good Supporters crowding them out.  VS Seeker alleviates some of this, as it allows you to return a Supporter from your discard pile to your hand, and so niche Supporters can still slip into a deck as a single but be used multiple times (through VS Seeker) when needed.  In Expanded this works even better due to Battle Compressor, allowing you to intentionally remove such specialized Supporters from your deck early on (so they aren’t dead draws later on) or if you do need one, then Battle Compressor followed by VS Seeker effectively searches it from your deck. 

So with all that said, how does Karen stack up?  Her effect is a scaled back Lysandre’s Trump Card, which has some worried.  Thankfully, while the official reason for Lysandre’s Trump Card being banned was how it made it almost impossible to win through mill tactics, there were several abusive plays it allowed because it recycled everything but itself: all Pokémon, Trainers, and Energy cards.  Even if we hadn’t gotten it alongside VS Seeker (and Dowsing Machine was not an option), players would have included one, two, up to four so that they could be reckless with their decks.  As long as you’re focused on winning through Prizes, it doesn’t matter that Lysandre’s Trump Card recycled everything in your opponent’s discard pile (other than copies of itself) as well.  Since we did get it alongside VS Seeker, you only needed one Lysandre’s Trump Card for a potentially infinite deck.  VS Seeker proved so useful that it quickly became a four-per-deck staple, so that doesn’t really count against the combo’s “size”, and decks which were worried about Lysandre’s Trump Card being Prized could just run a spare copy, run a Town Map (so they could make it one of their earlier Prize pulls), or both. 

Karen just returns Pokémon.  There are decks that can make excellent use of this trick, of course.  The obvious is M Gardevoir-EX (XY: Steam Siege 79/114, 112/114) and its “Despair Ray” attack.  Said attack can do big damage for just [YC], so long as you have plenty of Benched Pokémon to discard (each adds 10 to the base 110 damage).  Karen allows a potential reload with much fewer resources.  M Rayquaza-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 76/108, 105/108), infamous for using Sky Field so that its “Emerald Break” attack hits big numbers; but when Sky Field gets discarded (especially by an opponent using Delinquent or Parallel City) a lot of Pokémon are likely to be discarded.  Again, there are other ways to get them back, but Karen gets every Pokémon in the discard pile back for a single card.  Useful Pokémon with effects that put themselves into your discard pile, if not right away than with only a minor delay are another category: Audino (BW: Boundaries Crossed 126/149), Klefki (XY: Steam Siege 80/124), and Unown (XY: Ancient Origins 30/98).  Lastly are cards with useful coming-into-play effects that players often want to discard themselves, because afterwards they are just wasting space and potentially easy Prizes, most notably Hoopa-EX (XY: Ancient Origins 36/98, 89/98; XY: Black Star Promos XY71) and Shaymin-EX (XY: Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108).  Any of these (or similar cards which I did not elaborate upon) will benefit from Karen in at least some (if not most) builds, and many can often work with each other (namely the Hoopa-EX and Shaymin-EX for either of the aforementioned attackers). 

What about decks in general?  Mass Pokémon recycling can be good, but sometimes you have stuff you’d rather leave in the discard pile, and you are extending this benefit to your opponent as well.  So why should your average deck consider Karen?  In most cases, it is because the drawbacks can be advantageous in some situations.  As a Supporter, most decks can reuse Karen up to four times, so while she is more costly to play, she’s more reliable.  So many games I’ll get something like Super Rod early and have to toss it or use it for a reduced effect because I need to use Professor Sycamore or Shaymin-EX or Ultra Ball.  With Karen I usually have the option of getting it back with VS Seeker.  Yeah I might recycle stuff I didn’t really want to, but the scope is every Pokémon in both discard piles.  This can counter mill decks, but it won’t hard counter them (make them completely harmless); most decks need their Energy and Trainer cards as well, so you may only be delaying the inevitable.  Now for the reason most of you already knew; what this does hard counter are attacks based on Pokémon in your discard pile.  Flareon (BW: Plasma Freeze 12/116), Night March attackers, and Vespiquen (XY: Ancient Origins 10/98) have at times been the dominant deck in the game, and indeed prior to rotation while the latter two didn’t win Worlds, what did win were decks with strong match ups against them. 

Some believe their dominance was a mistake; Lysandre’s Trump Card used to threaten a reset of the discard pile every turn.  However Lysandre’s Trump Card would recycle the draw/search/discard engines of the decks built around these cards, in addition to the Pokémon they wished to keep in the discard pile.  Maybe I was wrong, but I even would risk a Lysandre’s Trump Card myself in such decks, because sometimes I would over do it and risk losing via deck out, or at least running out of viable attackers.  How could I hope that would work?  Well as I was getting all of my copies of Acro Bike, Trainers’ Mail, Battle Compressor, Professor Sycamore, etc. back, a turn or two and I would be swinging away again at full strength.  Karen avoids this; instead such a deck only has its Pokémon recycled and now has to try and discard them through whatever Trainers remain.  Waiting for your opponent to KO enough is rarely an option as he or she will take his or her remaining Prizes long before the “Bee Revenge”, “Night March”, or “Vengeance” attacks can do significant amounts of damage. 

A single Karen may not become a staple for the same reason many other dramatic hard counters get left out: it might work a little too good.  If Karen crushes these decks as well as expected, then enough people will stop running them, and so at best we might get into a cycle: decks countered by Karen do well, people run Karen, those decks fall out of favor so people use them less, Karen falls out of favor because deck space is so precious, decks countered by Karen start to win again because people have stopped running her, so people start packing Karen again, etc.  Most decks want a card for Pokémon recycling, so Karen may still have a shot.  She faces competition though, especially in the decks that don’t want to recycle every Pokémon in both players discard piles.  In Standard you’ve got Super Rod to shuffle three cards from discard pile to deck, and they can be Pokémon or basic Energy.  In Expanded, you have Sacred Ash to shuffle five Pokémon from discard pile to deck.  It isn’t out yet, but Brock’s Guts is a new Supporter we ought to receive in XY: Evolutions, and if translated correctly he’s basically a double Super Rod; six cards from discard pile to deck, but they must be either Pokémon or basic Energy cards or a combination of the two. 

Personally, I’m probably going to use her in many decks.  No, not to be a creepy otaku, but a stubborn one as she’s going to cost me to obtain in one way or another.  Right now Karen is only available in the aforementioned Keldeo Vs Rayquaza Battle Arena Deck set. Either you’ve got to buy it or find someone who did and trade for a copy of Karen: there is only one copy of her in that deck set.  Fortunately besides here there are several major Trainers (and some still good cards) for players who are new to the game, or want to free up some rarer versions of these cards for trade.  The Battle Arena Deck is actually two decks sold together, and each contains a VS Seeker, a card I have seen going for up to $15 USD.  Even if this release causes the price to drop, it should still be worth the MSRP of $29.99 (again, USD).  Players on the PTCGO should be able to acquire Karen by using a Redemption Code found in the Battle Arena Deck or (again) by trading.  Again though with only one Karen in the Battle Arena Deck, a lot of folks probably aren’t going to have a spare copy to trade. 

Ratings 

Standard: 3.35/5 

Expanded: 3.75/5 

Limited: N/A 

Summary: Karen brings the safer aspect of Lysandre’s Trump Card back to the Pokémon TCG, which counters some infamous attackers.  Only one such attacker is found in Standard, so Karen has to earn her place mostly by being what she is: mass Pokémon recycling that hits both players, in the form of a Supporter.  Most decks could use her, but only some can use her well, and they may be enough so that the rest don’t have to include her at all.  Just the threat of a hard counter might be enough to discourage Vespiquen decks from competitive play. 

In Expanded Karen can counter more threats, and much more importantly, has access to Battle Compressor.  A single Karen you can toss possibly on your first turn, and if you end up needing it you just use VS Seeker to reclaim and use it (assuming Items aren’t being locked down).  She isn’t an option for Limited as I do not believe anything official uses Battle Arena Decks, though she’d be a must run there, I think.  We actually might want to push for Nintendo to create such a Limited events; a little Prize support means it should be no more (perhaps less expensive) for us, and with both increased production (often bulk production reduces the cost per unit) and overall increased sales still increasing profits. 


Zach Carmichael

When Lysandre’s Trump Card was first released in Phantom Forces, players did not really see any underlying concerns about it making the game unhealthy. Both Acro Bike and Trainers’ Mail changed that, however, allowing players to burn through their decks mindlessly while recycling all cards back into their deck to quickly gain an overwhelming advantage against their opponents.  (Jason Klaczynski won a Regional Championship last year using a Seismitoad-EX deck that did just that.) The card was eventually banned from tournament play, leaving players only with options such as Super Rod and Revitalizer in Standard to recover discarded Pokémon. Perhaps the card developers underestimated the power creep that is evidently apparent in today’s format but still sought to make a card with an effect similar to the infamous Lysandre’s Trump Card, albeit with a lesser effect. Karen is just that card, and I believe it will bring a much-needed sense of balance to the game. 

Karen makes both players shuffle all Pokémon in their discard piles back into their respective decks. Unlike Lysandre’s Trump Card, it does not put Trainer or Energy cards back into the deck. Typically, a deck that centers around Pokémon-EX might contain 10-12 Pokémon total, so shuffling this relatively low number of cards back into the deck is certainly more balanced compared to up to 58 cards with Lysandre’s Trump Card! However, I would argue that the fact it forces your opponent to do the same is what makes the card worth looking at.  

In Standard, perhaps the most hyped deck right now is Vespiquen. Its “Bee Revenge” attack is dependent on the number of Pokémon in your discard pile. The deck usually plays around 25 Pokémon – you don’t even have to do the math to realize that’s a lot of damage! Adding to this, it is quite easy to put so many Pokémon in the discard with this deck because it is geared toward speed. Unown’s “Farewell Letter” Ability lets you discard the Pokémon to draw a card; Klefki lets you do something known to players as “key-chaining,” or using its “Wonder Lock” Ability to stream discarding multiple copies of it; and maxed out counts of cards like Acro Bike and Shaymin-EX allow the deck to burn through cards at a blazing pace. Finally, it can be rather difficult winning against a Vespiquen deck just because it is using single-prize attackers, giving your opponent a massive advantage in the prize trade if you can’t constantly Lysandre out their Shaymin-EX. Karen aims to balance this by putting all of those Pokémon back in the deck. This can be incredibly powerful in the late game, as your opponent will have already burned through their Item and Supporter cards, leaving them with a deck full of useless Pokémon and a “Bee Revenge” attack that does negligible damage.  

With Mega Rayquaza-EX, things become a bit stickier. While the ability to shuffle all of your Pokémon back into the deck sounds very good in a deck that relies on a high count of Benched Pokémon – especially in a format where Parallel City is everywhere, keep in mind that Karen is balanced by the fact that it is a Supporter card. It is a situational card, one that can’t be used freely by Mega Rayquaza-EX players unless they can also hit other draw cards like Shaymin-EX to refill their bench. Many competitive players have argued that the card doesn’t warrant the spot in the deck for that reason alone; perhaps playing two Super Rod is a better option if only because it can recover both Pokémon and Basic Energy while still allowing you to play a Supporter such as Professor Sycamore to continue drawing cards. 

In Expanded, Karen also serves the purpose of counteracting Night March, which took 1st at the U.S. National Championships this past July (using Vespiquen as a secondary attacker nonetheless). Night Marchers such as Joltik and Pumpkaboo also rely on the number of Pokémon in the discard pile for maximum damage output, so Karen can quickly turn the tides in this match-up. Again, using Karen in the later stages of the game is crucial in order to force your opponent to have a deck full of Pokémon that no longer serve a purpose if they are not in the discard pile. Notably, Karen is also a useful addition to decks that rely heavily on Evolutions in general. Greninja BREAK players will rejoice, as they can now shuffle their entire Evolution lines – typically a 4-4-4-3 Greninja line – back into the deck. Trevenant and Yanmega BREAK decks can also benefit from this new Supporter. 

Ratings

Standard: 3.5/5 

Expanded: 4/5

Limited: N/A 

Summary: Karen will certainly see play in both Standard and Expanded Formats. Whether or not it becomes a staple in competitive decks remains to be seen, as it is a Supporter Card that is situational at best and not every deck can benefit from the effect. That said, in Standard we are now seeing the rise of Evolution and Pokémon BREAK cards, and these types of decks can certainly take advantage of putting all Pokémon back into the deck. As the game continues to evolve this season, we will progressively get a better of picture of how playable Karen will be.


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