Top 10 Cards from Sun & Moon!
Hey everyone, Paulo back again to analyse the upcoming set that is keen in promising to shake things up. Know all about it!
01/18/2017 by Paulo Mimoso
London Intercontinentals and the past recent Regionals all had distinct differences between them revealing a certain fluidity within the metagame and that among those top tier decks, instability was a certain thing -- something well received among fans of the game, appreciating a welcomed change from the previous Night March and Seismitoad general dominance before its respective rotation. We're witnessing some sort of a gigantic rock-paper-scissors game involving, of course, many more components that award predicting to its highest and generally preparing with the best surprise factor possible to come out above the competition. Sun & Moon seems to enlarge that variety pool rather than restricting it -- inserting a lot of new good Pokémon that can form excellent new archetypes or add something to already existing ones, while taking advantage of the already existing support in form of trainers, which didn't add much to this set but still have a word to say.
The following chart reflects my thoughts after some analysis on what I think will fare well (within the Standard format, mind you) either instantly or over the course of time from an individual and collective standpoint. Please notice that the metagame is ever so dynamic that is really hard to predict what will actually do well or not especially after some cards come out (like Choice Band) but in the present, this is what I believe that has the most potential as of now.
10 - Lunala-GX
One of the very first revelations of the new TCG generation along with Solgaleo right after Worlds in San Francisco last year, Lunala met with a lot of hype associated with its uncertainty regarding its evolutionary stage and energy cost for its attacks. When finally it became clear that Lunala would be a Stage 2 and that Moongeist Beam cost a whopping 4 Psychic Energy, expectations over it have since dwindled; however, Lunala-GX presents us with the revival of a long, traditional ability that has been part of the game since the TCG’s very own debut with Base Set Venusaur and most recently represented with XY’s Aromatisse that made, in itself, its own deck archetype along with Primal Clash’s M Gardevoir-EX and in Box decks featuring Seismitoad-EX, Malamar-EX, Virizion-EX and a ton of many other shenanigans that enabled Kyle Haverland to reach Top 4 of the infamous 2015 Madison Regionals won by Jason Klaczynski in an insane Finals. Now in form of Psychic Transfer, this same ability allows for Psychic Energy to move at will between Pokémon, enabling a huge variety of combos between attacks, abilities and trainers to be used, most notably with Max Potion and with energy-spam attacks like Psychic Infinity or Aero Ball. The downside of this is being an ability, and therefore affected by the overlord Garbodor, present in most of the metagame to counter two of the most prominent decks of the moment, Volcanion and Greninja. The attack and GX-attack, while really strong, also have a really steep associated cost without any real form of energy acceleration which isn’t ability or item-induced, and the fact that Lunala-GX is a Stage 2 that forces you to play Rare Candy makes its appeal be reduced immensely, but make no doubt that if the format slows down just enough for evolutions to be prevalent, then Lunala, much more so than Solgaleo, will be the card to look out for.
9 - Rotom Dex
This item actually has a huge potential and probably should be placed higher on this list, but I see it currently more like a strategy-specific card rather than something resembling a staple of sorts, and will gain upmost importance in fast burn decks that need certain cards in order to implement their strategy, coming Night March and Turbo Dark in mind for Expanded, or, slowing down a little bit, Greninja and Gyarados in Standard. Rotom Dex can be game-breaking late-game, in which you know your last VS Seeker or Supporter are in those prizes and you need to get them out, or to prevent yourself from any big opponents’ N, just thin out your deck with useless cards and shuffle it with useful prizes you know you might have – but these plays require lots of mental exercise and excellent timing, and I haven’t put much thought to it yet since the set is yet to come out, but I truly believe this will gain prominence in niche situations for really good players, as the skill curve for the best use of this trainer will be immensely steep.
8 - Decidueye-GX
Oliver Queen’s alter ego is currently the most hyped card in the set not only because fanboys screech uncontrollably due to it, but also because of its ability Feather Arrow, a prevalent snipe damage bonus per turn that can add up to a lot of damage when used with multiple Decidueye and as turns go by. The existence of Forest of Giant Plants to help it speed up instantly along with Devolution Spray to revalidate that damage, and the existence of Latios-EX, Professor Kukui and Fighting Fury Belt make it possible for a very fun donk deck (and believe me, I love donks) to exist, but the effectiveness of Decidueye-GX to stand on its own is severely strained by the lack of a proper fast damage setup (Razor Leaf deals 90 damage with 1 (G) and 1 DCE), being steamrolled by Volcanion (even with Weakness Policy) , and basically being reduced to nothingness when overlord Garbodor enters play. The GX attack, while nifty, is useless when cards such as N exist in the format (the very same reason Alolan Raticate didn’t make this list) and all we have left is a lackluster Stage 2 that *might* only give up 1 Prize if you Devolution Spray it with enough damage. The snipe in the format isn’t as relevant either since many of the decks use 130HP basics, from Xerneas to Yveltal and Volcanion. If this card were to come out last year with Night March, Greninja, Seismitoad and Trevenant being huge, then the story would be other altogether. With Forest of Giant Plants presumably rotating in the end of the season, Decidueye-GX will lose relevance over time.
7 - Lillie
The adult pokéfans’ new favourite loli, Lillie won’t find huge relevance just yet but I believe it will be a Colress-like fill supporter when Shaymin-EX rotates out but we still have lots of ways of discarding cards from our hand, especially during your first turn. Lillie is basically a slightly improved Bianca with the perk of a turn one 8-draw possibility; generally, Professor Sycamore is just plain better, and it’s hard to imagine that no equivalent will exist in 2018-on, but if it doesn’t, then Lillie is the next best thing, out of better solutions. It being a Supporter makes it less appealing, but fast burn decks might want to at least play a one-of in their lists to avoid playing an untimely N and replenishing an opponents’ hand early game when you know they have a bad hand (thank you Gumshoos-GX?) as well as a Sycamore to discard some really important stuff like a Big Malasada upfront (did you know that the Malasada is actually a Portuguese delicacy and that we here give it the name Bola de Berlim (Berlin Ball)? Funnily enough, I only knew of the Hawaiian variance when I started playing Pokémon Sun and from the name (and the music in-game) I thought it would be Mexican or whatever instead of being related to my own country. Weird.).
6 - Professor Kukui
Arguably the most useful trainer to come out of this set (and that means a lot for the usefulness of trainers here, definitely not a set you want to buy for the bulk trainers), Professor Kukui was long rumoured, following recent patterns, to be a Sycamore successor, but the effect revealed itself more like a Giovanni look-alike, replacing even the Breakthrough’s trainer permanently due to its generally better effect. +20 damage for the turn AS WELL AS drawing extra 2 cards. Not too shabby or impressive, but nonetheless something with utility even as a Supporter, and will undoubtedly see play in many instances as a one-of in decks that need it for the 2-shot or one-shot while controlling the opponent and gaining a small hand boost in the process. It’s just yucky that you can’t use it along with Lysandre, but hey, there’s always Pokémon Catcher…right?
5 - Alolan Muk
There you have it folks: mighty Garbodor’s own hellish spawn, but this time nerfed to only affecting basics, turning itself basically into a glorified Silent Lab, and for the look of it the format will in the future run rampant with evolutions’ abilities – one more sign of the direction that PCL wants to go within the metagame – if Hex Maniac isn’t reprinted in the meantime (preferably with a Full Art for some people). Players can use this to their advantage and use ability-heavy decks revolving around Evolutions while using Alolan Muk to shut down opponents’ strategies relying in basics. Giratina and Volcanion are options coming to mind, for instance. The 120 damage is a set-up from the more fragile trash bag, but the 4 retreat cost make it a really risky Lysandre target, although it fortunately isn’t affected by Fright Night nor Evolutions’ Rattata, so big factors in its favour as there isn’t any more reliable way to discard tools sans a really frail Beedrill-EX; Alolan Muk has anything and everything to be successful and to pose a various serious metagame threat capable of provoking a shift on it, on its own. Maybe still not as impactful as Garbogod, the rainbow sludge will only rise as time goes by, so prepared for it, or embrace it to cause salt to unwary opponents.
4 - Skarmory
This card is absolutely insane, borderline broken even. A 110 HP basic with just one retreat cost, needing 1 DCE to perform one of the most ridiculous attacks I’ve ever seen. “Hey man, I see you’re playing Vileplume Box/Giratina Hammers. That’s really cool, I see you have filled your board with special energies and are doing your best to deny me of any possible turnaround. Oh, I’m sorry, you just lost x turns of energy attachments and now either you are forced to replenish/save resources and/or to switch decks because special energy rely is just plain futile with this little creep I have here”. That’s it. No better possible way to explain it. Metal Sounds in a Crushing Hammer deck or even on its own is powerful enough to win you a game under the right circumstances. Some cards, even previous Tier 2 decks, are rendered useless thanks to this little birdie. It will be used until they aren’t prevalent anymore. In many cases, this Skarmory is truly similar to what Jirachi Promo with Stardust represented against Seismitoad and Giratina variants at the time, without Pokémon Ranger to help dealing out with the situation. As if that wasn’t enough, Special Energy hate is now personified into a ridiculously splashable basic Pokémon (another one), and will only help further encouraging the use of basic energy use-reusal decks like Volcanion, Greninja and Lurantis-GX. To players that loved control decks that often depended on these special energies such as me, Skarmory is the ultimate nail in the coffin, and even worse: it’s. a. freaking. common. 20 cents for one of the most meta-defining effects in this game. Not even Garbodor can save you.
3 - Golduck
If Alolan Muk is the new Garbodor, then Golduck, in many ways, is the new Vespiquen/Greninja hybrid. Golduck is a fantastic card having in account all the support existent for it presently, and all the right numbers it hits and shows. 90HP means it is Level Ball searchable, Splash Energy allows for it to be recycled with ease, it has NO RETREAT COST, and, on top of it all, the attack is a 1-energy cost 120 damage attack with tons of flexibility and with a plethora of trainers to help substantiate for water energies to be in hand at all times similar to Volcanion to keep the attack always charging – without being affected by pesky Garbodors or Fright Nights. Double Jet OHKO’s Volcanion with Fighting Fury Belt and a negative Parallel City in field, and 2-shots anything in format that is remotely useful; it even goes above Assault Vest unlike its nearest companions Vespiquen, Raichu and Zoroark, all of whom found a small revival in the recent metagame shifts. It has a significant disadvantage being particularly vulnerable to Decidueye and especially Lurantis-GX, but even Lurantis takes a 2-hit KO after the 30 heal. Circumstances make Golduck a ridiculously powerful card and I’m really curious to see how this card will be used to assert its place within the metagame, which will undoubtedly exist for sure, probably with Octillery at first, but most likely best with Talonflame, Bursting Balloon and Starmie from Evolutions. My chips are on Golduck, who could be number one on this list with ease if the next 2 cards weren’t as good as they can potentially be.
2 - Lurantis-GX
An easy-evolving 210HP Pokémon whose first attack deals 40 damage and recycles 2 basic energy to ANY of your Pokémon for just one energy is borderline maniac and makes for an excellent engine that isn’t perfect because of the absence of Battle Compressor in Standard; Solar Blade, although a 3 energy attack, dealing 120 and serving simultaneously as a Potion can really make a difference against 2-shot decks such as Yveltal and M Gardevoir-EX, and even the GX attack is probably one of the most cost-efficient right now, with the flexibility of dealing damage along with the energies a player might want to invest to hit the right numbers. Lurantis-GX single-handedly destroys Greninja forever and despite being weak against Volcanion, the best Lurantis build I can think of can include either Assault Vest and/or Weakness Policy since grass types don’t exactly have a better tool alternative, and to be played alongside the emperor Garbodor to shut down all of its underlying threats except maybe M Rayquaza EX. My prediction is that Lurantis/Garbodor can be at least Tier 2 if well built and planned. It’s simply a really well-thought out card, really simple and with a way out for almost anything that exists in the format. Relative big energy investment and lack of mobility are probably its greatest faults, but nothing too impeditive of it gaining its own spotlight and for the right players to pilot it well.
1 - Umbreon-GX
Umbreon doesn’t have the capability of being its own deck like Lurantis-GX or being an over-simplified card as Golduck is, but Umbreon-GX won me over its cruel flexibility in the best archetype right now, Dark. Both Darkrai and Yveltal decks can greatly benefit from the inclusion of Umbreon-GX, minimally resembling a mixture of Donphan and Darkrai-EX – not nearly as powerful, of course, but Umbreon presents its own particular traits. The new basic Eevee allows for an immediate evolution for a 200HP strong card that can retreat itself while causing damage and therefore being a bad Lysandre target, and dealing initial 90 damage with 30 damage snipe that can be manipulated with Roaring Skies Absol or aided further by Yveltal Break should a deck be willing to bet on it. Night Spear is historically a really strong attack and the tendency should continue with Umbreon-GX especially if dark decks can stall effectively with whatever means they deem available especially because the GX attack discards any 2 energy in play, greatly reducing the game rhythm if the opponent doesn’t have a way to immediately replenish those energies. Umbreon-GX’s versatility is absolutely outstanding, and while it might not be in itself the best card in this set (Lurantis and Golduck would easily take the spot), Umbreon-GX is undoubtedly the most impactful in a way that it can and will be used in all sorts of possible ways within the Dark decks’ variable strategies and finding a place within them all. A card that can be evolved in turn 1, have mobility, be somewhat bulky, have good support behind it, and being able to snipe and energy denial has all sorts of potential to be good in any moment of the metagame during its unpredictable shifts. I’ve learned to greatly enjoy these type of cards. And so will most of players who can rely in Umbreon-GX to serve their purposes in whichever game its necessity calls for it most.
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