Why is Trainers’ Mail good?
Think of it like this: look at a deck list form, and note how much room is allocated to the Trainers/Supporters/Stadium section. It’s at least double the allocated area for Pokémon and triple that of the energy section. This is an acknowledgement that the trainers, the cards that Trainer’s Mail can hit, are the majority of a standard deck. Anyone who has had an opportunity to playtest Trainer’s Mail in the few weeks it’s been out will know that it’s a very reliable draw accelerator, even more so with decks with a higher reliance on trainers. So Trainer’s Mail is usually likely to hit a legal target, only excluding from consideration Pokémon and Energy cards, but it can even hit trainers that can get Pokémon and Energy.
This is why I think Trainer’s Mail is amazing: in an appropriately built deck, it is a card that can reach for anything, with the user being able to select the most beneficial card for the current hand or field position. It can grab any of the highly used items, like Hammers, Lasers, VS Seekers, tools, Spirit Links, even stadiums and supporters. A trainer card that can often turn into what your hand is missing sounds like a good deal to me.
Trainers’ Mail over other Item-Based Draw Options
But why should you want to play Trainers’ Mail over some of the other amazing item-based draw options? Well, admittedly it is context dependent, but overall my vote goes to Trainers’ Mail. There are lots of other choices for non-supporter draw, and they include some worthy competitors.
Firstly, a long-time mainstay has been Bicycle (PLS 117/135), one of the older item-based draw options and consistency boosts available in the Standard Format. Bicycle saw a lot of play in decks that could handle the discard and small hand-size requirements that Bicycle needed to be usable. This suited the playstyle of decks like 2014 Darkrai and Plasma builds, and was often a popular inclusion in decks that wanted to up their consistency/supporter count without knowing what additional supporter would be of the most benefit or if all counts of relevant supporters had been exhausted. I personally love Bicycle, as it guarantees a draw until the hand is four cards in size, but obviously it cannot be played if the hand size is over four. This makes the card fairly circumstantial and unplayable in decks that can’t burn through their hand or discard heavily. If you’re playing a deck that wants to conserve resources or wait to play cards until they’re necessary, often the temptation of drawing a few cards would encourage reckless hand burning to roll the dice of the top deck again. I remember a lot of double Hypnotoxic Lasers or expensive Ultra Ball discards being made just to draw one or two more cards. It depends heavily if that’s a fair trade.
Next there is Roller Skates (XY 125/146). If anyone has had the pleasure of deck building with me and mentioned they want to run Roller Skates, they will know my position on this card. Roller Skates allows you to flip a coin when played, and upon heads you draw three cards, and on tails, it fails. I don’t think it is ever the right play, and I can remember talking at least five people out of playing this card, even just before competing at Worlds last year. What a mistake that would have been. I don’t think Roller Skates is a good play as it averages a 0.5 card draw, and sure it’s seen some success in decks that need to play their hand down to pull off an Archie’s or Maxie’s move, but alternating between being discardable and sometimes drawing three cards just doesn’t seem worth it.
A closer competitor is Acro Bike (PCL 122/160), which has seen a fair bit of play, I would attest, due to Acro Bike at least always being able to be played. Acro Bike allows the user to look at the top two cards of their deck, and put one of those cards to their hand and discard the other. Acro Bike is a solid card in decks that enjoy the recklessness and speed of discarding resources, like Flareon and Night March decks. The only real drawback is that not all decks want to be discarding so rampantly when they’re trying to piece together combo pieces or use resources sparingly.
I’ll briefly mention Fiery Torch (FLF 89/106) and the far superior Scorched Earth (PCL 136/160) as being decent draw assistants which also kindly escort a basic Fire or Fighting energy to the discard pile. Whilst these cards are decent additional draw support, their typing-specific cost of use obviously limits them. Scorched Earth especially offers some sweet combo moves with energy coming from the discard, however as additional draw support these are a little limited as they require a basic energy to discard to draw two cards, reducing their impact on play.
I’m going to group Random Receiver (DEX 99/108), Pal Pad (FLF 92/106) and VS Seeker (PHF 109/119) together, as they all function to increase the likelihood of accessing a supporter under different conditions. What’s great about cards like these, with VS Seeker seeing by far the most play out of this category of pseudo-supporters, is that they don’t compete with Trainer’s Mail, and can actually be targeted by Trainer’s Mail. Usually, most decks want to play their supporter for a turn, and then grab whatever extra draw power or consistency in reaching that supporter with items where they can. I’ve found VS Seeker to be a common target for my Trainer’s Mail, as it’s a great way to get around the limitation that Trainer’s Mail cannot target a Supporter directly. As such, these categories of cards work together amazingly as complementary non-supporter draw.
So these are your best bets for additional draw power and consistency. They can all be used in conjunction with Computer Search and Dowsing Machine, adding more options. From this, I find Trainer’s Mail to be the premiere option, obviously in conjunction with VS Seekers. If you go to a site that posts lists, you might be able to find some that don’t include Trainer’s Mail, and I doubt any wouldn’t include VS Seeker. I find Trainer’s Mail to be almost as much of a staple as VS Seeker, but it’s fairly deck dependent.
What Decks work best with Trainers’ Mail?
So now the fun part: what decks work best with Trainers’ Mail? Well, the more trainers a deck plays, the more likely Trainer’s Mail is to hit. So what decks are playing a lot of items? Almost all of them, honestly; decks like Flareon, Night March and Eggs all love their trainers, but my top three decks that benefit from Trainer’s Mail are, in reverse order:
Third place goes to Plasma builds that focus heavily on Lugia. Speed Lugia as a play came back into focus around the release of Lysandre’s Trump Card, when you could cycle through the deck and attach, discard and reattach the precious resource of Plasma Energy to Lugia with consistency and speed, often not even needing to use Thundurus to salvage lost energy. This speed Lugia strategy benefits greatly from Trainer’s Mail, as the list is filled with high counts of Team Plasma Balls, Colress Machines, Switches, Muscle Bands and even Acro Bikes if you like to go extra fast. Try playing Speed Lugia, now with Trainer’s Mail, and see how quickly you can chain Plasma Gales for chunks of prizes. It’s a surprisingly solid strategy against decks that don’t include Mega Pokémon or energy discarding. Unfortunately, both of these are fairly popular, so this deck idea isn’t further up the list.
Second place goes to Colourless Mega Rayquaza decks, released in the same set and natural pair to the speed of Trainer’s Mail. These builds aim to burn through as much of the deck as early as possible, and often include multiple burnable draw-power items, like high counts of Battle Compressors, Acro Bikes and Trainer’s Mails to help set up the field and reduce their hand size to maximize the additional draw power of playing multiple Shaymin EXs. A proper setup with a Mega Rayquaza deck really only requires a large bench, a Mega Evolution and three energies on Ray, all of which is not a huge ask with the speed at which these decks can draw. It’s hard to think something could use this card better, but there is such a deck.
My number one benefactor from the release of Trainer’s Mail is Seismitoad EX decks. The much maligned Toad deck has been able to shift early-mid draw power off Slurpuff to the explosive first turn power of including multiple Shaymin EXs. The deck even runs the full set of Super Scoop Ups, making the drop and pick up strategy of Shaymin for a huge amount of cards a turn a natural partnership. Toad decks almost always run high counts of all the disruptive trainers that it likes to abuse, like Super Scoop Ups, Hammers, Laser and the like, making a Trainer’s Mail often a sampler of the most hated cards in the format, there for you to choose from. Trainer’s Mail allows Toad decks to more safely play cards that require a coin flip as it is more likely to be able to draw into multiple copies of each card per turn, all the while waiting to Trump Card them back in when they’ve all been used. The options available with the combination of Trainer’s Mail, Super Scoop Ups and Shaymin EX really allows for a huge amount of speed and consistency, it’s honestly ridiculous. I’d expect to see this strategy used a lot going into Nats and Worlds.
So there you have it; a new staple trainer is born. Trainer’s Mail is an amazing new card, a super cheap uncommon trainer item that allows for great weaving of hands and strategies together. I’m honestly not sure which card I’m more impressed with, Trainer’s Mail or Shaymin. Luckily, they go together so well I won’t have to choose. I hope you enjoyed my musings on the position of Trainer’s Mail in the current arsenal of consistency-boosting item cards, and although most of these functions and pairing are obvious enough, I hope I’ve helped to show some of the possibilities this card has to offer. Let me know what you think of this article, what combos and options you’ve enjoyed if you’ve tested with this card, and what you’d like to see in future in-depth card spotlights.