One month ago, my friend Antoine (who you might know as @ToineLay on Twitter) came back from Japan for a few weeks and they brought a Japanese box of Fusion Arts to open with some friends. In my first pack, I opened an Item card which I faintly remembered having seen during the leaks but couldn’t remember what it did. “That’s Battle VIP Pass,” Antoine told me and explained the card’s effect. “It’s seeing a bit of play in Japan.” “Okay,” I said and moved on to the next pack.
Battle VIP Pass didn’t make a huge impression on me, is what I mean. So why am I talking about it today? There were a couple elements that made me think more deeply about that card. First, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, a top Japanese player, played Shadow Rider with Battle VIP Pass in the most recent Champions League (Japan’s equivalent of Regionals). He went 7-2 (technically 7-1-1 but ties are worth no points in Japan) and while that’s not enough to make top cut in Japan’s harsh tournament structure, it is a solid record. He then went on to win a City League with the deck, wrote an article on it and my Twitter timeline became flooded his retweets of people quoting his article with the successes they’ve had with the list. This makes it clear that Battle VIP Pass is a tournament-viable card.
Why is it good, you may ask? After all, a card that can’t be played after turn one will often be dead weight. Is its effect on turn one good enough to outweigh that drawback? The answer is yes – with some caveats. Battle VIP Pass doesn’t fit in every deck. In this article, I want to explain which ones can use the card and why. As always, I’ll include decklists and explanations.
If you think Battle VIP Pass is bad, the main argument I can give to convince you otherwise is that it’s the successor to setup Supporters. In the past, many decks have played cards like Professor Elm’s Lecture, Brigette, or Pokemon Collector to search for their Basic Pokemon on turn one. In Evolution-focused formats, like PRC–GRI (the format of the first North American International Championships in 2017), most decks would play at least one copy of Brigette (searchable via Tapu Lele-GX), because it was so important to set up several Basic Pokemon on turn one. For example, Decidueye-GX / Alolan Ninetales-GX, my favorite deck in that format, loved to have at least two Rowlet and two Alolan Vulpix out on turn one. Zoroark-GX is another powerful archetype (or maybe a category of archetypes) that was very often paired with Brigette (and later with Professor Elm’s Lecture).
Since the first turn rule change of Sword & Shield, though, these Supporters have become unusable because, if you go first, you can’t play them and by turn two, you want to be doing more than using your Supporter to set up Basics. In the early days of last season, I played a few events with a Centiskorch VMAX / Salazzle deck which used Sonia because it wanted to set up multiple Salandit as soon as possible (and later, getting Fire Energy with Sonia was still useful because these could be turned into cards thanks to Salazzle’s Ability). Sonia felt good when I went second but having it in hand when going first was frustrating. If it was playable going first, I think it would be much more playable, even in your fast-paced metagame.
The perfect example of a deck that wants to set up many Basics on turn one is Zoroark-GX. Having multiple Zorua out means that you can get multiple Zoroark-GX afterwards, which kicks your draw engine into gear, which means the deck works. If you end your first turn with only one Zorua in play, then even though you can attack on turn two, you won’t draw enough cards and you won’t be able to do the powerful things that the deck is known for. Therefore, since Sword & Shield, Expanded Zoroark-GX decks have struggled a lot; they want to play Brigette to set up, but they can only do so going second. Therefore, they still need to play Item cards like Quick Ball and Level Ball to set up when going first, which is inefficient.
This brings me back to Battle VIP Pass: it acts as a mini-Brigette on turn one, but it’s not a Supporter, which means:
- You can play it going first.
- You can play multiples of it.
- If you go second, you can play it alongside a Supporter, so you can still play the Supporters you already want to play (Professor’s Research and Marnie), and they’ll help you find the Battle VIP Pass.
In decks that rely on setting up a specific board, Battle VIP Pass is therefore good. Sure, it’s useless after turn one, but so are set up Supporters. There were decks that played four Professor Elm’s Lecture or three Brigette in the past; you didn’t want to play these cards after turn one either, but you would just find a way to discard them. Like Quick Ball, which you’re already playing.
By the way, there’s a perfect way to discard them in the current format: Cram-o-matic. On your first turn, you can Cram-o-matic to search for Battle VIP Pass. Later, you can instead use it to discard Battle VIP Pass to find a more relevant Item. I’m not as hyped on Cram-o-matic as I am on Battle VIP Pass, because Cram-o-matic is a flip card and I don’t like its unreliability. However, it can be worth a spot in some decks.
Now, are there decks which don’t want Battle VIP Pass? Absolutely. I think that Inteleon decks don’t benefit enough from it, for example: you don’t need to play all your Sobble on turn one and you already have enough Pokemon-searching Items in your deck to find one or two consistently, thanks to Level Ball which is of course amazing in any deck with Drizzile. Plus, Inteleon decks tend to play more utility Supporters since they can search for them (for example, Cheryl in Inteleon VMAX or Jolteon VMAX), whereas other decks will play basic draw Supporters (like Professor’s Research) more frequently, which is good to get rid of any useless Passes in hand.
If you’re building a deck and you’re wondering whether Battle VIP Pass fits in it, ask yourself: do I need a specific board state for my strategy to work? If the answer is no, you probably don’t need it. For example, Leafeon VMAX basically only needs its namesake attacker and a backup Leafeon; while the deck plays the Inteleon line, it’s there only to find other cards (like Galar Mine).
On the other hand, if the answer is yes, you should consider Battle VIP Pass. For example, Rayquaza VMAX / Flaaffy needs as many Flaaffy as possible in play to work, so a card that gets you two Mareep (or Rayquaza V) on the first turn is useful there.
If Zoroark-GX is the best user of setup Supporters, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX is its closest equivalent in Standard. With this deck, you want as many Shadow Rider V in play as possible on turn one. Each Shadow Rider VMAX will let you not only attach more Energy (boosting your damage), but also draw cards, so the first Shadow Rider VMAX helps you find another one and so on. The benefits of getting more Shadow Rider V on turn one are exponential. That’s why, even though the deck already runs four copies of Quick Ball and Fog Crystal, adding Battle VIP Pass is also good. Plus, when going second, you can also get Cresselia more easily to add more Energy to the board. With enough Pokemon-searching cards, you don’t have to choose between setting up Shadow Riders or getting Cresselia.