Is Neo Upper Energy Good? (Guest Starring Meowscarada ex and Tinkaton ex)

With the release of Temporal Forces, ACE SPEC cards (unrelated to the asexuality spectrum of course!) are back in the Trading Card Game. ACE SPECs are powerful cards, but only one ACE SPEC can be in your deck. Deciding which ACE SPEC will go best in your deck is one of the fun, amusing things in Pokémon deck building. While the choice for many decks is Prime Catcher (this card is stupidly good in almost anything), some other things of note have come up. I was personally worried that Prime Catcher would be the best by far, and that this mechanic was basically over before it started, but I was quite wrong!

For example, many Lugia VSTAR decks are rolling with Master Ball, because they don't really need the switching effect of Prime Catcher that badly with Cinccino running over everything. Master Ball adds consistency to a deck that needs those awesome Turn 1's and the right pieces in the right spot.

In addition, Max Belt can fix a lot of math for decks. Notably, a local Arceus/Giratina deck used it on me to score the first KO against my Chien-Pao ex, which it normally struggles to do so after Double Turbo Energy is attached to Arceus VSTAR. That completely changed the momentum of the game, which otherwise was likely to go in my favor. Charizard ex can also use Max Belt in the same way, taking the initial damage of its attack from 180 to 230, knocking out almost every Basic ex instead of having to wait for a Prize Card deficit.

At the 2024 Europe International Championship, the first major tournament where Temporal Forces was legal, it was mentioned by stream casters that every ACE SPEC had made it into the event. EUIC was a huge event, so that's partly a numbers thing, but it was also mentioned that exactly ten players brought Neo Upper Energy in their decks. That's ten out of two-thousand six-hundred and five players in the event. So, what is Neo Upper Energy and why aren't people using it? Are we, as players, missing something with potential?

Neo Upper Energy reads:

As long as this card is attached to a Pokémon, it provides Energy. If this card is attached to a Stage 2 Pokémon, this card provides every type of Energy but provides only 2 Energy at a time.

Basically, it's a double Rainbow Energy for Stage 2 Pokémon. This means no, say, Noivern ex, or Banette ex, or any Eeveelution cards. This means it's not searchable with cards like Arven, and you must simply draw into it. The other ACE SPEC cards seem to be designed with no real downside. Master Ball is a true one-for-one of any Pokémon, Prime Catcher has no built-in restriction on what it can or can't switch, Hero's Cape can attach itself to anything, etc etc. This makes the Stage 2 restriction of Neo Upper Energy seem a bit strange. Remember, if you're running NUE, then you are not running any of the other powerful ACE SPECs. This seems like it would balance itself fairly well, especially with NUE being both unsearchable and difficult to recover from the discard pile with our present card pool. Both of those things are subject to change. But wait, didn't we just mention Lugia VSTAR?

This has to be the reason there's a restriction on NUE. Lugia VSTAR (or more specifically, Archeops) can search NUE out of the deck. In the 2021-2023 Standard format, when Lugia first became legal, many 'problem cards' enabled the deck to run almost anything it wanted as an attacker. Some common choices were Amazing Rare Raikou and Amazing Rare Yveltal, which would Knock Out anything. You could say the actual problem card here was Aurora Energy, which was a more traditional and stackable Rainbow Energy. From the end of November (Silver Tempest legality) to the April 2023 rotation, (which took away Amazing Rare Pokémon and Aurora from the early Sword & Shield sets) Lugia was a stunningly versatile deck with a strong grip on the metagame.

It doesn't seem like an accident or design flaw though. It's common for the last few sets in a block (the Sword & Shield era in this case) to have some of the most powerful cards. Sun &* Moon had the ridiculous Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX in its last main set. I believe the idea for Lugia VSTAR was that it would be absolutely nuts for six months, and then things would calm down after rotation for the Scarlet & Violet era.

If this is true, then it's quite likely that Special Energies are being very carefully designed to prevent too much abuse with Lugia VSTAR. Or at least, they have a different vision for Lugia VSTAR decks now, focusing on Colorless energy and Pokémon. I cannot stress how much the previously mentioned Cinccino is a monster.

So. this is probably how we ended up with a somewhat restrictive Neo Upper Energy. There may be other factors as well. Broadly speaking, it seems like the game designers want evolving Pokémon to be good and strong, and this would support that. Speculatively, they may have to design Special Energies around Lugia to a certain degree, but how true this is and what the wiggle room is can only be imagined.

There is a second Special Energy on the way, Legacy Energy. This provides only one Rainbow Energy but a powerful defensive effect, reducing the number of prize cards your opponent takes for Knocking Out a Pokémon with it by one. The only restriction here is that this defensive effect can only apply once per game. This is very powerful for Lugia, the opposing player would get zero prizes for KOing a Cinccino with Legacy Energy. It also out-functions the current Rainbow Energy in format, Luminous Energy, which turns off when other Special Energies are attached. This means Lugia can have a little bit of tech, as a treat. This enables potential threats like Iron Hands ex to come into the deck. It remains to be seen what the ACE SPEC of choice will be for the deck after Twilight Masquerade releases, but I believe it's pretty likely to be Legacy Energy.

Back to our subject, is Neo Upper Energy useless as it stands today? Not exactly! To help give us examples, I have enlisted two cards to help illuminate where Neo Upper Energy can be used. Introduce yourselves, ex Pokémon!

Hi trainers! I am Meowscarada ex (He/They), a Stage 2 Grass type Pokémon card with a great ability. Has anyone seen Charizard ex around?

And I am Tinkaton ex (She/Her)! I am a Stage 2 Psychic type Pokémon card. Just like Chien-Pao ex, I have nearly uncapped damage on my primary attack, Big Hammer!

Thanks for joining, everyone. Meowscarada, may we start with you? By all accounts, you lived and died by Double Turbo Energy, so what does Neo Upper Energy do for you?

As you said, Double Turbo Energy is something I utilized very well. Although, it's annoying too! My ability, Bouqet Magic, allows me to place 3 damage counters on 1 of my opponent's Benched Pokémon by discarding a Grass Energy from my trainer's hand. My attack, Scratching Nails, has a meager 100 damage, but if I attack something that has damage counters on it, I get 120 additional damage for 220 total!

A sharp-eyed Trainer will see how much work this all is! I am unable to put damage counters on the active Pokémon, and I am discarding Grass Energy that could otherwise be used to power up my attack. But Grass Energy is one of the hardest Energy types to accelerate in my format! Meanwhile, Double Turbo Energy is reducing my damage by 20, nullifying some of the mathematical advantage I would have by placing those damage counters to begin with!

Neo Upper Energy is a great assistant in my show! It acts as a more powerful, fifth copy of Double Turbo Energy, where my damage isn't reduced, while also needing just one Energy attachment to power up.

Very powerful. Why don't we talk to Miss Tinkaton next? Tinkaton, tell us about how you can use Neo Upper Energy.

Wow, that was a lot of math and strategy! Glad I don't have to do all that! My first attack, Big Hammer, does 30 damage for each card in my Trainer's hand. That means we just have to draw like crazy! My best friend in drawing cards lately has been Dudunsparce! Look at that little guy go! He's helped me do 400 or 500 damage on some turns!

While I may not have an Ability, my smaller, non-ex counterpart, does, allowing her to discard one card to draw three. Because my Trainer lost that one card, that means 60 more damage for my attack in a pinch! Mini-Me can also use her attack, Special Hammer, with a Neo Upper Energy attached for 180 damage. Stuff like that comes up from time to time, especially if I'm getting Knocked Out!

My ability to use Neo Upper Energy is much like our green friend here. No more losing damage because of Double Turbo Energy! I'm also not unlikely to draw it, because I'm drawing so many cards already! I'm a big fan of the card!

Thanks for the insight, both of you! Does either of you know of any other Pokémon cards that could use NUE? And would you say it's a good card overall?

I'm not sure how effective it is, but some of those Water Pokémon seem like they could use it. I'm referring to Blastoise ex and Quaquaval ex. With Blastoise ex, you're saving the Water Energy that you need to discard, just like how I need to save some Grass Energy! Quaquaval ex can put the Neo back in your hand, which could give you a lot of value if you have another Stage 2 attacker that can use it.

Neo Upper Energy is not a bad card for some of us, but it doesn't help everyone the way Prime Catcher can. You could say it's a tactical weapon. If you decide to use it in your deck, Trainers, be mindful!

It's tricky for me to answer because other Psychic type Pokémon can get Gardevoir ex to help them. My friend Alakazam ex might be able to use it though. With Neo Upper Energy, he can use both of his attacks easily without a damage penalty. The utility is very similar for all Stage 2 attacking Pokémon, don't you think? It's the strongest on Pokémon that require two Energy to attack, but it could help others too!

Our enemies, Dragon type Pokémon, usually feature mixed energy requirements. There's a new Dragapult ex coming in Twilight Masquerade that requires one Fire and one Psychic.

I think Neo Upper Energy can be good, but only sometimes! After the foolish birds, Lugia and Archeops, go away, new Pokémon may come out who can utilize it extremely well! For now, though, I'm probably the best use of it~ teehee!

I see! So, Neo Upper Energy is still a card to mess with and keep in mind as we get deeper into the Scarlet & Violet era. It's hard to even conceptualize a deck that absolutely wants NUE over all the other powerful cards, especially without easy Special Energy recursion. But we can try, right? There are Pokémon cards in the game that gain additional effects. For a Stage 2 example, Coalossal here gains 80 more damage on its first attack for each Fire energy attached to it, where the actual attack cost is one Fighting. With NUE attached, the cost is fulfilled and the damage will shoot up from 40 to 200!

If we were to design a card that can strongly use NUE, I think this effect is our best bet. It isn't a Stage 2, but the new Okidogi card coming in Twilight Masquerade that gains 100 HP and does 100 more damage when a Dark Energy is attached to it. That's a pretty significant boost!

We still need to be thoughtful with this kind of design though if the goal is to get NUE to be good, or the best ACE SPEC in a deck. If Okidogi were a Stage 2, it wouldn't be a big ask for a player to find and attach the Basic Energy manually. If we, say, splash our hypothetical Okidogi into Lost Box, Mirage Gate will do all the work for us and probably draw us into the pieces to evolve Okidogi.

Designing A Card For Neo Upper Energy

I can't claim to be a good game designer for any particular reason, but I'm hoping this creation will illustrate the concept. Behold...the fake, designed by me, Goodra ex!

This template was made by icycatelf on DeviantArt. The template is based on prototype designs for Pokémon cards that were featured in CoroCoro Magazine before the TCG launched in Japan. I just think they're neat. Let's go over Goodra ex. Goodra ex is a Stage 2 Dragon type Pokémon with 310 HP, and the following ability and attack.

Ability: Rain Dragon - For each Water Energy attached to this Pokémon, it takes 20 less damage from opponent's attacks.

Dragon Thunder - 210 Damage

The thought process here is that now, Neo Upper Energy is providing a huge value for one Energy attachment! The damage reduction ability means that Goodra will need to be hit for 350 to be Knocked Out, while powering up its attack at the same time. I believe a card like this could be the ideal scenario. I didn't get into the nitty gritty of designing an appropriate Goomy and Sliggo to match, and 210 damage with no effect isn't much to write home about for many players, even if it is fairly tanky. Still, it could get the job done and be fun to play with, as you increase Goodra's damage reduction effect.

By requiring three different energy types, and a Rare Candy or Stage 1 evolution, we've probably taken this card out of Lost Box. Especially since it's a Dragon type and won't hit anything for Weakness, the main reason cards get teched into Lost Box to begin with! If Chien-Pao ex wanted to abuse this card, it would most likely run the Basic Psychic Energy (most decks already run one Lightning for Iron Hands ex), but using a valuable Candy and losing some consistency is a big ask, even if we're able to attach a ton of Water Energy on Goodra to potentially stall with. It's not a great use of resources for Pao, though Baxcalibur could be a partner for Goodra. The deck would have to change a lot.

Thus, in my mind, this Goodra is best played in a semi-dedicated deck with Neo Upper Energy. Chien Pao is NOT dropping Prime Catcher for any reason. Because a hypothetical Goodra ex deck would be able to survive a hit from most Pokémon ex and clap back, take out most single prize Pokémon right away, it doesn't as badly need Prime Catcher to take out crucial targets. At least not so badly that it can't just run an extra Boss's Orders somewhere.

At the same time though, Goodra would not be impossible to play without NUE. Our current Standard format is the world of Electric Generator and Xatu, after all, so there's some wiggle room. You'll get the most bang for your buck right away though if you can attach a Neo Upper Energy. You'll have to think of something else for your other Goodra, or maybe try to get NUE back with Cyllene, but the advantage you'll get from the NUE attach and tankiness of Goodra should buy you a turn or two to build another one.

I had a ton of fun thinking about this card, but it's still a quick, untested mockup. So maybe it's totally trash or unacceptably broken. Hopefully though, we all have some idea of what kind of card could utilize NUE.

As it stands today though, Neo Upper Energy is a niche-within-niche pick. First, you must be playing a Stage 2 deck, which is not an issue in itself, and we've gone over the likely reasons this restriction exists. Within that though, the Pokémon you're powering up needs to justify a Double Rainbow vs powering up through other methods that don't use your ACE SPEC (I'm getting sick of capitalizing this!) slot. This will typically mean two-cost attacks, like Meowscarada and Tinkaton demonstrated. The scope of what the card can do is limited, but a Double Rainbow Energy is not a bad effect. In its time, Double Dragon Energy was an awesome card for anything playing Dragon type Pokémon. We know that effect can be good, but remember that you could have four copies of Double Dragon Energy in your deck. NUE is, in most situations, a one-and-done deal. The power needs to justify the limits.

We'll have to see what cards get designed while NUE is legal. It's probably best in your binder today, but remember which page it's in for later! The potential is there.

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I choose you!

- James