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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Pokemon Catcher
- Sun & Moon

Date Reviewed:
April 20, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: 2.25

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

Back to the main COTD Page


21times

Pokemon Catcher (Sun & Moon, 126/149) allows you to switch one of your opponent's benched Pokemon with their active Pokemon – if you flip heads.  Most players tend to shun this card in favor of the more dependable Lysandre (Ancient Origins, 78/98) primarily because of that coin flip.  Players in the current meta have widely embraced the strategy of forcing a Pokemon your opponent wants to leave on the bench into the active position.  Every turn you have to consider what you will do if your opponent Lysandres one of your Pokemon into the active position.  Moreover, with the impending arrival of the card Field Blower (Guardians Rising), we can no longer live in our safe and happy little bubble where every tool card we attach to a Pokemon will stay there forever.  I would imagine that every deck will run Field Blower as at least a two of (especially since it can discard stadiums as well), and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it become a four of.  While running Float Stones (Breakthrough, 137/162) will still be favorable to other single use switch cards, we can no longer count on a Float Stone remaining on the Pokemon it is attached to indefinitely.  The Lysandre stall strategy will gain popularity and success because of Field Blower, and we will have to come up with ways to counter it other than just running four Float Stones in a deck.

For better or worse, however, Lysandre will rotate out in September.  Pokemon Catcher could step in as the main replacement to continue the active Pokemon switching strategy, but I mentioned in our review yesterday a more than possible replacement for Lysandre: Alolan Persian (Sun & Moon, 79/149).  You can read through yesterday’s review for the details on Alolan Persian, but it basically has a zero energy attack that allows you to switch your opponent’s active Pokemon with one from the bench.  Granted, it’s a Stage 1 Pokemon and it needs to use an attack to switch the Pokemon, but it’s at least worth trying, and you almost certainly will get more uses out of it than you would from four Pokemon Catchers.  Moreover, it doesn’t depend on a coin flip, which is the major drawback to Pokemon Catcher.

Rating

Standard: 1.5 out of 5

Conclusion

This is just one of those cards that if it weren’t a coin flip, it’d undoubtedly be a four of in every deck.  We’d be rotating each other’s active Pokemon left and right and it’d be the dominant strategy in the meta.  This card would be one of the most impactful cards in the game.  Because they put a coin flip on it, however, Pokemon Catcher sees almost no use in the meta today.  This might change in September after the next rotation, but I think the coin flip still makes it fairly prohibitive.  Alolan Persian might present itself as an alternative, another card might be introduced that will function similarly to Lysandre, or people might simply drop the active Pokemon switching strategy in favor of other tactics, but I don’t think we’ll see much use out of Pokemon Catcher in the future.


Otaku

Today’s Throwback Thursday pick is Pokémon Catcher (BW: Emerging Powers 95/98; BW: Dark Explorers 111/108; BW: Plasma Blast 83/101; XY: Kalos Starter Set 36/39; XY: BREAKpoint 105/122; Sun & Moon 126/149).  This card is nearly six years old, and for about the first three it was a deck staple… because for about the first two-and-a-half, it had a different effect.  The current version is an Item that has you flip a coin; if “tails” the card does nothing, but if “heads” you select one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon and make it his or her new Active (forcing the former Active to the Bench). The original had the same effect without requiring a coin flip.  For those fringe cases where it matters, you’re targeting a Benched Pokémon, not the Active.  We’ve reviewed it twice before, and I was surprised both of those are before the errata.  For those wanting to use the spiffy Secret Rare “Gold” Pokémon Catcher, since an errata overrides the original, written text, it should still be legal for competitive play even though the old wording is now quite wrong.  So, how did this card perform in the past, how does it perform now in the present, and how might it perform in the future? 

With “tails fails” effects, there are three things to consider: 

  1. What does it do?
  2. What is it on?
  3. How many uses do you get?

Controlling your opponent’s Active can be very, very potent, but it can also be worthless.  For starters, if your opponent lacks anything on his or her Bench, or everything he or she has in play are actual or functional equals, changing them out won’t matter.  In fact, if your opponent has no Bench, you cannot even play Pokémon Catcher (important, given various draw effects).  As long as your opponent’s side of the field has some variety, you may attempt to force him or her to use up additional resources reversing your decision… which may not be many, as a simple retreat or Item card like Switch can reverse this situation.  Your opponent may be able to fully ready the new Active for attacking, which can also make changing things out pretty pointless.  Other times, though, you can strand something up front that your opponent will struggle to get out of the way, which can buy you time or even lead to a win in some rare situations.  The big trick is forcing up something you can OHKO (or more easily OHKO), especially if it is important to the opponent’s setup.  Pokémon Catcher pre-errata made it very hard to run a Stage 2 Evolution line, as you basically had to drop two copies of your Evolving Basic first turn in the hope that one would survive to Evolve the next turn.  Even now, it can try to pull that trick off with a “heads”. 

The second and third aspects are closely related, but cards like Hooligans Jim & Cas persuaded me to separate the two.  Being an Item means you’ll have to deal with Item lock, but apart from that it also means being inexpensive, lacking not only a card specific cost, but not requiring you use any once-per-turn resources like Energy attachments, Evolving, playing of Stadium cards from hand, or playing of Supporter cards from hand.  If you have multiple copies of Pokémon Catcher in hand, you may use them all; pretty important if that first one fails.  There are some bits of Item support that are very useful as well, like Trainers’ Mail.  Getting to the third and final consideration for “tails fails” cards, each copy may be used only once, though as I just stated, if you do have multiple copies you are free to use as many as you wish during your turn.  We’ve seen similar effects (again, post-errata) on Pokémon before, where you could use them turn after turn, and that makes them even better… but even on an Item, this is pretty good.  A decent amount of the time, you’re flipping a coin to turn a little advantage into a lot of advantage, including helping an attack to win the game. 

Which brings me to this card’s past.  It is a bit longer than I indicated before because of the tendency for Pokémon card design to recycle; thanks to the errata, there aren’t one but two past cards that are Pokémon Catcher by another name… or rather it became these cards by another name: Gust of Wind (Base Set 93/102; Base Set 2 120/130).  The CotD crew of the time reviewed it here, but that probably isn’t as useful as it sounds because “the time” was 2007, years after we saw a lot of serious Unlimited Format play.  Until the establishment of “Modified” (what we now call “Standard”), it was a deck staple and often referred to as “Gust of Win” because of how often it would precede the winning KO (or keep an opponent from ever really setting up), in conjunction with the offense and/or disruption you ran alongside it.  Since it dates back to not only the Base Set but was contained in the original 2-Player Starter Set which contained Base Set cards and (I thought) was the first actual TCG product to hit shelves, the first few years of the game were shaped by Gust of Wind.  It made the pre-errata version of Pokémon Catcher quite a surprise and hotly debated.  We all knew it was a powerful card, and I recall single copies going for $15 USD with many decks preferring a full playset; the debate was whether or not it was good for the game. 

That might sound kind of silly; I’ve already touched upon how difficult it made it to play Evolving Pokémon, and while there were successful Evolution based decks during the pre-errata time period of Pokémon Catcher, they were few and far between and insanely powerful.  You need to know what came immediately before we received Pokémon Catcher; the era of Pokémon Reversal (Expedition 146/165; EX: Ruby & Sapphire 87/109; EX: FireRed/LeafGreen 97/112; EX: Unseen Forces 88/115; HeartGold & SoulSilver 99/123).  Apparently, we’ve only reviewed it once before, here; its effect is that of the post-errata Pokémon Catcher.  The short reviews the staff did of Pokémon Reversal paint a fairly accurate picture of the card’s usefulness until late in its lifespan.  It was shortly after the final printing when Pokémon Reversal went from a solid play to a must run, owing to the combination of Junk Arm being released and the other Gust-effect cards rotating out of Standard play.  It became a format where if you wanted to top cut, you needed to flip “heads” at the right time or times.  It wasn’t that you could never flip “tails”, but if you were winning the event, you needed the coins to go your way a little more than typical for the Pokémon TCG.  Pokémon Catcher totally eclipsed Pokémon Reversal, and while it made it even more difficult for many decks to compete, it also meant that wins were far less dependent upon coin flips.  If you play the PTCGO using the Legacy Format rules, you’ll see a good deal of Pokémon Catcher being run, but using its post-errata text; there are enough alternate strategies/options that it doesn’t seem quite as bad as in those final days of Pokémon Reversal (which you may run instead, if you prefer - they function the same), but it can be close. 

So that covers the past, what about the present?  Lysandre is the go-to card for controlling what your opponent has Active, and some would prefer to reliably force the opponent’s Active out with Escape Rope than a 50/50 chance of getting an Item-based Lysandre or nothing from the deal.  I have seen more decks, though, working in Pokémon Catcher.  This was before the latest increase in Item lock, so the trend may have already reversed, but your Supporter use is becoming so important, that Pokémon Catcher is starting to become a worthwhile play once again.  As for the future, unless we see a reprint then Standard play will almost certainly bid him adieu alongside XY: Ancient Origins (only one time have we had a Standard rotation that would have spared the second oldest expansion from the prior format).  Barring a future card that does a better job, Pokémon Catcher is slated to become at least a loose deck staple at that point.  None of this will matter for Expanded play, where it functions about as well as it does in Standard at present.  For Limited play, this is a wonderful card to have; you may not be able to capitalize on it as well as in Constructed play, but your opponent will also likely have a harder time dealing with it.  It strikes me as a glimpse at why Gust of Wind and the pre-errata version of Pokémon Catcher would have been thought balanced; if your opponent cannot so easily score a OHKO, manually retreating, playing a Switch, etc. can turn this devastating power play to your favor… as you made your opponent essentially waste an attack. 

Ratings 

Standard: 3/5 

Expanded: 3/5 

Limited: 4.5/5 

Legacy: 4/5 

Conclusion 

Pokémon Catcher was an incredibly important and potent card before its text was changed via errata (and later printings).  Even now, with the coin flip, it is a potent play in the Legacy Format and Limited Formats, and a good play in Standard and Expanded.  Just not good enough for most decks, because of competition from Lysandre, how crowded decks are in general and the threat of Item lock.  Without Lysandre, I’d be scoring Pokémon Catcher about as highly in these formats as I did for the Legacy Format.  Finally, the future may see Pokémon Catcher rise to prominence again in Standard, as Lysandre is quite, quite likely to be leaving Standard play with the next rotation (probably around September 1st, but nothing official has said anything about it yet).


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