Starters, Where Are We Now???

by Pikkdogs ~ August 2nd, 2011.

Hey all you OHKOers, this is Pikkdogs here with a strategy article. Starting Pokemon have been important since the rotation.  But, the way they are used have changed a lot over the summer.  To find out what will happen with them from now on, lets look back at what happened with Starters.

Before the Rotation

Before the rotation, most decks did not have a starter, decks were fast enough where you could probably do a decent attack on turn 1.  The decks that had a starter were Gyarados and Sabledonk, both of these decks ran Sableye.  Gyarados used it because that made it easier to put Magikarps in the discard pile, Sabledonk used it because it relied on two supporters working together in one turn.  Besides those exceptions, starting Pokemon were laughed at.

Leading up to Nationals

With the rotation Pokemon decks have lost a lot of draw power because of the loss of Uxie.  To respond to the HGSS on format, people have been using starting Pokemon in there deck.  These starting Pokemon have allowed decks to setup quickly without the need for draw power from Pokemon like Claydol or Uxie.

The most used starter at first was Cleffa.  It’s “Eeeeeek” attack lets you shuffle your hand in your deck and draw 6. It also puts itself to sleep, and thanks to his Poke-Body, he cannot receive damage from an attack while asleep.  The ability to hand refresh was really good, so most people put a lot of Cleffa’s in their Nationals deck.

Other starters that people were talking about were Manaphy, Tyrogue, and Stantler.  Manaphy has 60 HP, free retreat, and an attack that costs 1 energy and lets you shuffle your hand into your deck and draw 5.  Manaphy isn’t as good as Cleffa, but it has 30 more HP.  Tyrogue is a direct counter to Cleffa. I’m not sure if Tyrogue is an actual starter, but it is used early in the game.  It’s “Mischievous Punch” attack does the 30 damage neccessary to knock out Cleffa.  Stantler also was talked about, but not used as much. For one energy, Stantler let you search two basics from your deck and put them on your bench.


At nationals, most people decided to play a 3/1 mix of Cleffa and Tyrogue.  This gave them a good chance of getting a refreshed hand early, which means a great start, which means a better late game.  But, 4 baby Pokemon also meant that there was a good chance that you would start with a lone Baby.  This lead to a lot of games ending on the donk.  One player would start with a lone baby, the other would just Pokemon Collector for a Tyrogue, retreat, and end the game.  These donks happened a lot, and a lot of people got mad.  2nd place finisher Kyle. S used Manaphy as a starter instead, and just ran Tyrogue as a counter to Cleffa.  This helped him avoid being donked as much.  I also ran Manaphy instead of Cleffa, but I did not run Tyrgoue because my Pokemon had higher retreat cost, the inclusion of Manaphy instead of Cleffa was great because I did not suffer one donk the whole tournament.


While, I’m not sure what the best decks at Worlds will contain, I do know what a lot of people are talking about now.  The talk now seems to be a 1/1/1 line of Cleffa/Tyrogue/and Manaphy.  As mentioned, Manaphy is good but not as good as Cleffa.  The 1/1/1/ line could change to a just 2 Manaphys if the player expects a lot of Tyrogue.  If the player does not expect a lot of Tyrogue, expect a Nationals like starter line of a lot of Cleffas.

It can be  expected that Manaphy will be the most popular starter for worlds.  Stakes are too high at worlds to run a deck that has a high shot at being donked, especially in the Grinders.  But, we must remember that although Worlds is a very important tournament, it is not a huge tournament.  In a 9 round Swiss tournament it is easy to get donked a couple times, it is a little harder to get donked in a smaller tournament like Worlds.  I think we could see Cleffa come back at Worlds.  We may not see as many Cleffas in one deck as we did at Nats, but I could see the average play being 2/1 with Cleffa and Tyrogue, but I know Manaphy will be very popular.  For testing purposes the 1/1/1 line is a good start.

I could also see a deck only running 1 Manaphy just in-case they need it, and not rely on starters as much.  As we saw at Nats, Starters can be a liability as well as an asset.

Pokemon Catcher and the Future 

Pokemon Catcher will definitely change the role of starting Pokemon.  Baby Pokemon will not be as effective as walls with their “Sweet Sleeping Face” Poke-Body.  If you encounter a sleeping Baby you can just use Pokemon Catcher to bring up something else and attack that Pokemon.  It will still force the opponent to waste 1 Pokemon Catcher, and your opponent won’t always have a Catcher early in the game, but it still is a bad thing for  Baby Pokemon.  Catcher will also effect the non-Baby starters.  Opponents can now bring up Pokemon like Stantler to force you to waste your energy drop on a retreat. And if you try to Sacrifice Manaphy, your opponent can bring up your main attacker instead.

But Pokemon Catcher is not all bad for starters.  Stantler may see more play since it makes evolving a lot easier.  If you “Call for Family” for two of the same basic Pokemon, your opponent will only be able to knock out one of those basics. You are then free to evolve the other basic normally.  Stantler is really good in a Catcher heavy format for a deck that relies on evolutions.

Future sets will probably also change the role of starters.  We are not sure of what decks will be great in BR’s, Cities, and States; but we can be sure that the new decks will probably change the roles of starters somewhat.  However, there doesn’t seem to be any great draw cards coming out, or any starters that are better than Cleffa.  We can assume that the starters that are used immediately after Pokemon catcher, will also be used in the coming months.

So that’s all for now.  I hope you enjoyed this look back at starting Pokemon and can use it when you are making your Post Catcher decks.  Please tell us what you think about the upcoming role of starters in the comment box.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Category: Card Discussion | Tags: , , ,