Enter Iono: Hand disruption to another level | Pokémon
June 28, 2023
Elena (Gaia Storm)
Paldea Evolved, Iono
Paldea Evolved, the next Pokémon TCG set, is about to be officially released and that of course will have some massive implications given that the new cards will be legal for tournament play at NAIC (North American International Championship) and Worlds 2023. If this is not reason enough to be hyped for this new set, let me give you another one: it features one of the most incredible card-disruption cards in years, and I am more than sure that it is going to have a crazy impact in the game. So, that is why in this article we are going to be talking about the importance of these types of cards in Pokémon and what to expect once Paldea Evolved is here.
Pokémon: What are hand disruption cards?
Ok, I feel everyone that plays Trading Card Games kind of knows the answer but let me explain why it might be a bit different in the case of Pokémon. Hand disruption refers, at a very high level, to the capacity of reducing your opponent’s hand size in order to limit their playing options. I don’t need to tell you how powerful this is and there are countless examples out there (funny how Thoughtseize is the first thing that comes to my mind even if I am not a Magic player). The thing with Pokémon is that discarding just one or even two cards from the opponent’s hand is simply not worth it. Why? Because remember that every deck has plenty of (supporter) cards that replenish the entire hand turn after turn. Yes, Professor’s research, I am looking right at you. So, in a nutshell, you should never waste deck space and resources trying to discard a couple of cards at the best.
However, the issue with Pokémon is that there have been some crazy, absurd combos in the past that had to do with card disruption that even forced an emergency ban because, instead of reducing what your opponent was able to do, they couldn’t play the game. Let me give you an example. Not so long ago, in the Expanded Pokémon format, there was a deck that revolved around a very powerful Tag Team. Trevenant & Dusknoir had an attack that forced your opponent to shuffle back two cards in their hand every time Trevenant declared an attack. Now, the deck was built on a very simple premise: make the most out of it. You basically set up several Milotic in play and “sacrifice” them to power up your Trevenant in turn 1. Then, you played Ace Trainer so that your opponent will be left with just two cards and proceed to attack with Trevenant, leaving them with just 1 card in hand. Good luck dealing with a 270HP Pokémon with one card. Oh, if this was not enough, I need to point out that this combo was executed in TURN 2 and that the deck also had the capability to set up a way to stop abilities on the board. If you think this sounds toxic, you are right. It was an absolute nightmare, which is why Pokémon had to start banning cards after a while.
Ok, I think I drifted a little bit here but in my defense I played so much the deck (and against the deck) that I had to at least mention it. Anyways, the lesson from all this is that card disruption in Pokémon does not work as it does in other games and that sometimes there are some crazy, insane combos that have forced Pokémon to take action. But the thing is that there have been some properly and balanced hand control cards that have been really beneficial for the game.
Iono joins the party
Locks are bad, we all agree. But having the possibility to punish your opponent or to make a late game comeback is not and this is why there have been some very powerful, game-changing cards which became really popular. In the Black and White era, we used to have N, which not only had one of the most beautiful artworks I’ve ever seen but it also had a really solid effect. You could basically use it at every point during the game and both players draw cards depending on the amount of remaining prize cards. This meant that N was good in early game in case you wanted a fresh new hand of 6 cards but that it was also a great play that left your opponent with limited resources in case they were taking the lead too early. In fact, N to 1 or N to 2 was really effective and forced players to “play around N”.
In the current, Standard format, most decks play one copy of Roxanne, which is more limited than N in a sense but can, theoretically, brick your opponent when they are about to win (then your opponent proceeds to draw the perfect two card combo out of Roxanne, but it is what it is). There is also Judge, a very old-school but trustworthy card that is played in control strategies like Arceus VSTAR and Mew VMAX in an attempt to shut down your opponent’s plays while they block abilities with Path to the Peak.
And now, we have a new member joining the hand disruption party: meet Iono! In case you haven’t played the most recent games, which you should because they are actually pretty good, Iono is the electric-type gym leader and the most popular streamer in Paldea (don’t ask). Her card is, without any question, the best one in the entire set because it is a combination of Marnie and N in one single effect.
Basically, both players put their hand in the bottom of their deck and draw according to the remaining prize cards they have left. In early game this is huge because, unlike N, you make sure that you are definitely progressing and see 6 new additional cards from your deck. In late game, it is extremely effective as well. And you know the best part? That it is a very straightforward way of punishing these types of decks that accumulate a 15 card hand through the game.
What are Iono’s implications?
Iono is a very welcome addition to the game. The only other “generic” hand disruption card we had was Judge but it sometimes bricked you more than it did to your opponent. WIth Iono, players are definitely going to have much more control both in early and late game. A card like that should always be celebrated, in my opinion. Will every single deck in the format run Iono? It is early to tell but I would say that most of the decks will and that, in fact, we will see 3-4 copies of Iono being included in the majority of the strategies. Now, not every single deck is going to be destroyed by Iono but there is one in particular that will have a harder time now: Lost Box. Until now, it was impossible to disrupt Lost Box’s hand unless you were in such a bad situation that you were forced to activate Roxanne. Now, we have a card that can be played almost every turn, limiting the power of Lost Box and preventing them from getting a big, aggressive combo. I am not saying that Lost Box will become unplayable but it will definitely be less powerful than it is now. I also feel that the two main cards that will be replaced by Iono are Roxanne and Judge because, if you think about it, there is no reason to play them anymore since they have more restrictive conditions to activate. Here is a list of a Japanese Lugia list that has decided to swap the well-know two copies of Judge for Iono:
4 Lugia V SIT 138 3 Lugia VSTAR SIT 139 4 Archeops SIT 147 2 Lumineon V BRS 40 2 Tyranitar V BST 97 1 Yveltal FST 175 1 Stonjourner BST 84 1 Luxray SV2D 21 1 Radiant Tsareena SIT 16
4 Single Strike Energy BST 141 3 Double Turbo Energy BRS 151 3 Gift Energy LOR 171 2 Jet Energy SV1a 72 1 V Guard Energy SIT 169 1 Reversal Energy SV2P 71
3 Professor's Research SVI 189 3 Boss's Orders BRS 132 2 Iono SV2D 69 1 Professor Burnet PR-SW 167 4 Ultra Ball SVI 196 4 Capturing Aroma SIT 153 3 Urn of Vitality BST 139 2 Nest Ball SVI 181 1 Choice Belt BRS 135 2 Tower of Darkness BST 137 2 Collapsed Stadium BRS 137
So, all in all, Iono is going to define a new way of playing Standard. Players will need to be more careful with their resources and make sure they get rid of non-usable cards to minimize the damage that Iono can have in the last turns of the game. Oh, and one last thing, good luck if you are planning to get 4 Alternative Art copies because it is going to be nothing but cheap. Apparently, Iono is the most beloved character of the generation!
Elena (Gaia Storm)
Elena has been playing Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2011 and has never stopped. With her partner, she runs Gaia Storm, one of the largest Pokémon TCG Youtube channels in the world. She has a problem remembering the names of all the Pokémon but tends to open the most broken Pokémon packs.