The top competitive decks in the Pokémon Trading Card Game meta rely heavily on the abilities and attacks of Benched Pokémon. The reigning Fusion Strike Mew VMAX deck takes advantage of Mew VMAX’s Cross Fusion Strike to copy Genesect V’s Techno Blast for a more powerful offense. On the other hand, the Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX deck tries to take out Benched Pokémon using the titular Pokémon’s G-Max Rapid Flow to deal damage to both the opponent’s Active Pokémon and one Benched Pokémon.
Brilliant Stars, the latest set in the TCG, is looking to shake up the meta with Manaphy by reintroducing an ability not seen since XY. Manaphy’s ability will afford protection to Benched Pokémon and force decks that rely on sniping Benched Pokémon to re-evaluate their strategy. Not only will Benched Pokémon have protection, but a new Stadium card will limit the number of Pokémon players can have on their Bench.
At first glance, Manaphy does not appear like much. It is a Basic Pokémon with 70 HP and one attack that deals only 20 damage. What’s exciting about the card is its Wave Veil ability. Wave Veil prevents all attack damage done to a player’s Benched Pokémon by an opponent’s Pokémon. This ability is the same as Mr. Mime’s Bench Barrier from the XY sets, which have since been removed from the competitive standard format.
Players should also note that Manaphy only protects from Pokémon attacks. Wave Veil does not prevent the placing of damage counters should a card call for that. For example, Shadow Rider Calyrex V’s Astral Barrage calls for players to place five damage counters on an opponent’s Benched Pokémon. In this instance, placing damage counters acts as an effect. Manaphy’s Wave Veil would not protect Benched Pokémon since Astral Barrage does not cause attack damage, as shown by the absence of a corresponding damage number on the card.
Wave Veil will force players to reconsider what Pokémon they will use to attack Benched Pokémon. While decks like Mew VMAX or Gengar VMAX rely on Benched Pokémon to either power up attacks or generate Energy cards, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and Jolteon VMAX specifically target Benched Pokémon to try and take them out.
The key is to get Manaphy onto the Bench so that its ability can be used, and Trainer cards like Gloria or Ultra Ball can help. On the flip side, the new Stadium card Collapsed Stadium limits the number of Pokémon a player can have on the Bench, which means Manaphy may take the place of an equally important Pokémon that would otherwise be needed on a player’s Bench.
On the whole, Brilliant Stars is offering new and subtle changes to the game. Fire-type decks have received a much-needed boost with the Magma Basin Stadium, and each new VSTAR power supports different deck-building styles. What remains to be seen is how much the meta will change and whether a new deck will emerge as the reigning competitive champion.