Cynthia v N v Sycamore

Hello dear readers – I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned in any of my articles on this site that I’m planning on going to Collinsville in a little more than a month to compete in the Regional tournament there.  In preparation from that, I’m going to be posting a LOT of material on Ultra Prism and how it will affect the game over the next month.  I’m really excited about going to Collinsville, and I really want to be prepared for Ultra Prism’s impact on the meta.  As I’ve mentioned many times, the meta was very slow to adopt Sun & Moon last year.  I definitely want to put myself in the best position possible to take advantage of that mistake if the meta is slow to absorb UP this year.

I’m going to start out today with Cynthia and how she’s going to affect the game. 

Cynthia – Trainer – Supporter

Shuffle your hand into your deck. Then, draw 6 cards.

I don’t think there’s any question that Zoroark decks will now substitute Cynthia for Sycamore, or maybe leave 1 Sycamore at most now. I’m sure evolution decks as well will tech in more Cynthia and less Sycamore too.  I don’t think we can completely replace Sycamore with Cynthia as I don’t think it will get you enough draw support.  Four Cynthia and four N will be great for recycling and not having to worry about throwing cards you need later in the game away in your discard pile, but will it get you enough draw support?

For instance, if you have five or six cards in hand and reshuffle and then draw five or six cards, statistically, at least one or two of those cards will be repeaters – cards you had in hand prior to reshuffling.  Obviously, you couldn’t immediately use that card prior to reshuffling, and it’s more likely than not when you get it as a repeater, it won’t do you any good after reshuffling.  That’s the benefit of Sycamore: besides getting you the largest number of cards possible (excepting a turn 1 Lillie with an empty hand), it lessens the chances of putting repeat, non-usable cards in your hand.  It involves sacrificing resources later in the game for the opportunity to improve your current game status, but the logical reasoning for this is simple: if you can’t get out of the mess you’re in right now, there probably won’t be a late game scenario for those sacrificed cards to help you out down the line anyway.

So I don’t think Cynthia will completely replace Sycamore, but what about N?  My feelings on N are well known: I rarely tech it into a deck and hate it when I do.  It’s a simple fact: N helps your opponent twice as often as it hurts him.  We’ve all had games where we have a Greninja hand turn 1, we’re completely lost, our opponent will probably donk us on turn 2… and then he N’s us, gives us every card we need, and we wind up taking the game in short order from him.

This type of scenario happens twice as often as the late game scenario where you play N to limit your opponent to 1 or 2 cards.  I’ll post my analysis on N tomorrow, but the fact is that if you give your opponent even a single additional card more than what they previously had in hand, you are more likely than not improving their hand and giving them a much better chance at beating you.  If you look at N from that perspective, logically, N should be a one of at most in every deck, and Cynthia should completely replace it.

However, that was NOT the reaction I got from a reddit question I posted this weekend.  Let me clearly state that this is NOT an objective scientific study by any means.  I simply posted the question, “how Cynthia will impact your draw supporter selection” and generally categorized the responses.  From what I can tell, seven of the responders indicated they would run the same number of copies of N.  I did clearly identify four who would run less N, however.  I counted three people who indicated that they would run less Sycamore, and three who would run the same amount of Sycamore.  Eight out of nine responders, as far as I can tell, would run at least one copy of Cynthia, and everyone who was running Cynthia was choosing to reduce the amount of either Sycamore, N, or both.

Again, this is a VERY unscientific survey, and who knows how much more Cynthia will be used.  It’s all theorymon right now.  We just won’t really know until we actually start playing with these cards.  I will close with daftkenny’s comment from this reddit post because I thought it was a great reminder that Cynthia is actually a reincarnation of Professor Oak’s New Theory from the Call of Legends expansion set:

I remember Tome Dolezal’s speed darkrai. like it was yesterday; 4x Random reciever, 4 Juniper, 4 Oak’s New Theory.

Im gonna put a playset of Cynthia in every deck I can.

As well as Mater’s great line from Cars:

I don’t need to know where I’m goin’, I just need to know where I’ve been.


  1. I hate to say it, but the Pokemon TCG general community isn’t really keen on new ideas. That is until someone does something in a tournament with said new idea. Then it’s obvious that everyone should be doing that new idea because it’s “proven.” It’s our world’s version of “count da ringz” in sports, where some will argue that X player is better because they’ve won more championships.

    So I see you got downvoted to oblivion on reddit stating that N gives your opponent an advantage. Funny that no one who downvoted you actually put up real data. Just ideal situations where N is always advantageous and how you’re using it wrong.

    We all know we play N whether or not it gives our opponent a new hand. Also love it when someone plays N and they’ve saved me from my own disastrous hand and/or gave me +2 to +4 cards. But you know that’s only the opponent using it poorly. Everytime we use it, our opponent had a good hand anyway. ::rolleyes::

    1. Just won a game on turn 2. How?

      I had a crappy hand, opponent went first and played N. While it gave him 1 benched Ralts and an energy. He holds out the rest of his hand. I’m guessing he has something good there, since he’s holding onto 6 cards.

      However he gave me a killer hand! I put down a bunch of Xerneas and an Oranguru. Draw some more with the Oranguru, and have energy accelerated (Max Elixir). The fatal blow? I play Judge.

      Next turn he doesn’t have anything but put a second energy, while I KO his first pokemon and he throws in the towel.

      Basically just won that game on his N. So there you go…

      1. I kept a log of a game I played a month or so ago where I had a completely dead hand turn one and probably would have lost… until my opponent N’d me and I ended up donking him turn 2.

        I guess I should really think about being downvoted though, I guess that’s something I have to consider going forward.

  2. It really must have been a bummer on reddit, but as Mike said: The community isn’t accepting of new ideas and concepts. Well, granted we are, but when it comes time to rip open packs and purchase the cards needed from a new set, most (myself included) tend to try teching in small, beneficial changes to our current builds and just wait for news of a tournament or something along those lines to guide us towards the next BDIF. Case in point: Metagross GX. That Pokemon was severely underestimated by many in the community, but ended up winning. Not long ago Mismagius was looked at for it’s Chaos Wheel attack and was given plenty of hype…I have not seen her at all.

    As for the N argument, sometimes you just can’t convince anyone until it comes into play. When Garbodor was running rampant, most people were probably unsure of how to even begin to adjusts all the decks to Garbodor’s oppression. But of course, the players that truly put in all the work, the ones who’ve devoted their time and energy on the game, and tried to be innovative in their creations, were the ones that were able to find the formula to counteract Trashalanche in standard.

    But in the end, whether its online or in real life, most of us just don’t stray from the general consensus of things. Back then I was concerned about Sycamore’s discarding, but as I started playing him more and more, I began to understand why he was so good even if I was discarding things. It was a “learn from experience” kind of thing. And that was true when I piloted you Golisopod build: N can be good, but depending on the deck it can simply be done away with.

    Regardless, unless N gets reprinted in a next few sets, he’s gone by September of this year. Ilima won’t do any good, Wicke won’t be too good either, so what will be left? Lillie, Hala, and Cynthia are the ones that come to mind when it comes to major draw supporters post rotation, and N and Sycamore will be delegated to the expanded format.

    But as of right now, you just do what you feel most comfortable with. You’re analysis are on super computer levels and you enjoy the statistics behind plays and builds of all walks of life. Personally, I favor N’s disruptive and conservative nature, but I did learn from your articles and from the experience in general. Yes I retain N in most decks, and I might never let him go so readily, but at the very least I give my plays more consideration and thought, especially when it appears that the opponent is dead drawing: that’s when you cross your arms and focus more on the next play to make.

    That and it’s a card that can potentially set you up to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat…even when it looks bad, sometimes we all just need a bit of hope to keep us fighting on for a little while longer.

    So to you 21Times: clear the clouds hovering over your head. We all have our own playstyles, like how some players prefer slow and steady, or fast and aggro. At the very least, people read your words and it sparked a good discussion. So no downbeat moods okay!

    1. I think part of the question is N vs Cynthia. If (and when) both are standard, I think Cynthia will replace N, nearly completely. While there are upsides to N (when you are losing in prizes or need to shuffle their hand), there are downsides as well. Playing N early gives your opponent a fresh hand, and perhaps new cards. Additionally (and no one mentioned this) what happens when you need a card late in the game, and you draw an N? Playing an N to draw 1-3 cards isn’t ideal, and Cynthia would be a clear superior card at that point.

      FWIW I’ve played H2H against 21 many times, and I can’t tell you how annoying it is to not be on the receiving end of an N when you need it!

      Right now I play N – 4 in just about every deck. However after seeing 21times’ stats and playing against him too often (LOL), I’d immediately switch over to Cynthia if possible. And if more people do that, you’re going to experience a lot more dead hands without relief.

      1. You have a point, but at the same time if more people do run Cynthia, dead hands might not be a thing at all: Cynthia’s under everyone’s radar and I have plenty of decks that have Shaunas around. I will most certainly replace them come Ultra Prism and see what works and what does not. For the first week or two, I’m sure that’s how people are gunna be like for awhile: just seeing how good Cynthia is and whether N should drop, Sycamore should drop, and so on.

        That and the game comes down to draws and chance: not every deck runs Zoroark engines with Puzzles or Octillery’s. Some decks like Volcanion choose Lele over the draw engines that are made to support for the long run. And yes there will be games where you’re stuck, want a strong draw power, annnnnd you pull N at the climax of the game. For those without their engine, that might be the end of the game for them.

        There’s really no right and wrong answer: the game comes down to chance more often than not. Key cards getting prized, not drawing the cards you need, etc, we shall see how the game evolves next month, but its all up in the air at this point.

        On a random note: N the card (not N the character) can be summed up in 1 sentence: He can be your best friend, your worst nightmare, you frenemy, or your mortal nemesis…you never know which way it goes.

        1. Love your last thought there Juan. Perfectly encapsulates N.

          I’ve been looking at prospective post UP deck builds and almost all of them are 4 N. It’s Sycamore that’s getting cut.

          And I was in a fine mood until I saw Shaymin on the ladder. It’s not going to be worth 6 GRI after this week.

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