- All Ancient Trait Pokemon are now legal
- BANNED: Oranguru (Sun & Moon–Ultra Prism, 114/156)
- BANNED: Lysandre’s Trump Card (XY–Phantom Forces, 99/119 and 118/119)
Hello, Gym Leaders! It has been four months since the inception of Gym Leader Challenge, and I could not be happier with the progression of the format. I have witnessed some incredible battles and had hours and hours of fun crafting decks and playing games with the community and my close friends. Truly, creating and playing Gym Leader Challenge has been the most fun I have ever had playing Pokémon cards. Four months in, I feel like the format is really starting to take foot in the Pokémon TCG community. There have been online Gym Leader Challenge events, players have reported that they play Gym Leader Challenge at their local game stores, many streamers and YouTubers have produced Gym Leader Challenge content, and, of course, there have been two $1,000 cash prize Gym Leader Challenge events hosted by Full Grip Games for the releases of Evolving Skies and Fusion Strike. With the possibility of Gym Leader Challenge side events being hosted at upcoming Regional Championships, the prospects for Gym Leader Challenge format are bright!
My goal in creating Gym Leader Challenge was to make a simple, fun, and accessible format where all types of Pokémon –Basics, Stage 1, and Stage 2– could coexist, and I believe that Gym Leader Challenge accomplishes that! In order to keep things as simple as possible, especially early on, I wanted there to be no ban list. I wanted players to explore nearly every card released in the last decade and see what combinations they could come up with! The results have been awesome to watch. Players have pushed Gym Leader Challenge to levels I could have never conceived just months ago! No format is perfect, however, and not all Pokémon Cards printed in the last 10 years promote fun and interesting gameplay. After viewing results, testing, and listening to the Gym Leader Challenge community, I believe that the time is right for a few updates to be made to the format. These updates shouldn’t change much, but they will hopefully make the format more fun for players going forward!
Ancient Traits Are Free!
At first I thought a few of these would be too overpowered. So in order to rein things in, I kept them banned until now. Most of the Ancient Trait Pokémon are pretty bad, but some of them are clearly strong. The most notorious Ancient Trait Pokémon is Bunnelby. Bunnelby is a Basic Pokémon that can either mill two cards or recover two cards from the Discard pile, which is a great card for Colorless control. Control is already one of the best decks in Gym Leader Challenge, so I didn’t want to give it a new weapon without careful consideration or balancing it in another way.
Oranguru UPR Banned
On the list of worst designed Pokémon Cards since Black and White, Oranguru UPR is probably in the Top 3. This card single-handedly ushered in years of control dominance in Expanded format before eventually getting the ban hammer and was well on its way to dominating Gym Leader Challenge as well. I want control to exist in Gym Leader Challenge. Control decks are necessary for any healthy Pokémon TCG format. But with all of the amazing tools that control has available to it in GLC, the ability to recover three of them with a single Energy is just too powerful. With the ban of UPR Oranguru, Colorless control will have to embrace the newly unbanned Bunnelby PCL. My hope is that this change will only slightly nerf Colorless control while keeping it a skill-intensive part of the Gym Leader Challenge format.
Lysandre’s Trump Card Banned
On the list of worst designed Pokémon Cards of all time, Lysandre’s Trump Card, without a doubt, reigns supreme. Lysandre’s Trump Card was only legal for six months before getting emergency banned. The three time World Champion, Jason Klaczynski, proved he could draw through his deck multiple times a game with Shaymin-EX and Lysandre’s Trump Card, winning the 2015 Madison Regional Championship. Trump Card was banned immediately afterwards. The problem with Trump Card is that it has the potential to make your resources infinite, which is, at its core, un-Pok´mon. Limitations are a key part of the Pokémon TCG and ultimately what makes the game fun and skillful. You only have so many of each card, and using them at the right time to achieve victory is rewarding. This is even truer in a limited format like Gym Leader Challenge. Since Gym Leader Challenge is a singleton format, there should not be a card that can turn all of your one-ofs into two-ofs. If you discard your entire deck, it should be difficult to recover key resources, and players shouldn’t have a “get out of jail free” card to bail them out.
Since Gym Leader Challenge is a singleton format, it’s much more difficult for a single card to be broken than it is in Standard or Expanded, where four copies of the broken card can be played in a deck. This is one of the things that keeps Gym Leader Challenge so unique and satisfying to play: no one card can dominate a deck! The cards that have been banned here cheapen what I believe is a key tenet of a good Pokémon TCG format, resource management. Ironic, right? These changes should make games and tournaments more fun going forward! If you want to be a part of future discussions involving Gym Leader Challenge, make sure to join the Tricky Gym Discord!