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Chris Fulop

Welcome to Standard: Sun and Moon

Chris Fulop brings the hammer with detailed analysis on most of the Sun/Moon Expansion, along with a few new brews the new cards can create!

02/08/2017 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!


To start, I want to go over briefly the latest with my Rayquaza Raichu list that I've been spending a whole lot of time on this format. Rayquaza itself has seen a large uptick in success, putting up great results at the last US Regionals while also having major success in Europe as well. I'm not going to devote a lot of time to discussing the deck due to a lack of major innovations, but I'll showcase the "final" list I've settled on because I feel really confident there should be no additional changes.

Besides my friend Dan's t8 performance at a League Cup with the deck, Carl Scheu finished 2nd at a different Cup with the list, losing to Andrew Mahone's Vespiquen Zoroark deck in the finals in what is admittedly a pretty difficult matchup. Game 1 came down to Carl losing a coin flip, and game 2 was competitive. Any deck that forces you to KO a bunch of non-EX Pokemon is difficult because even if they cannot KO a Mega Rayquaza easily, you fall victim to getting your Shaymins and friends picked off from the bench and losing that way.

I wound up using the deck to win a small 5 dollar local tournament, but I'll also admit that it means almost nothing because the quality of player at the store wasn't really competitive. My friend Kristen, in the UK, took the deck to a League Cup and finished 3-1-2 with it, although she conceded the last draw to let her opponent into top 8 even though there was no visibly advantaged player. Her loss was to Rainbow Road, which falls under the category of non-EX based deck that can pick off your Shaymins. It is even tougher than other non-EX matchups because they can actually OHKO Ray as well. It gets a bit easier in that they are often forced to bench a lot of EXes too, so you can leverage your Raichu line.

With Sun and Moon coming out, though, I won't focus on pre S&M lists. Let’s look at some of the stand-outs from the new set!


Sun and Moon Set Review


I'm including Ratings for each card, on a scale of 1-10. I want to preface this with the fact that MOST cards, even playable ones, will fall between a 4 and a 7. A card has to really be great to jump above a 7. I do not grade like a school teacher where you need a 60% to pass. My grades would very much be a bell curve, saturated at the middle where most cards sit. If I give a card you think is good a 6, that doesn't mean I think it is bad. I think it may see play. The highest scores are for near surefire home runs, and cards which will make it into either multiple decks or be a total allstar in the decks it makes it into. I'm very stingy when it comes to my scores, so know that going in.


Trainers

 

Big Malasada: I spent the entire time I played my copy of Pokemon Moon wondering what this "Malasada" that kept getting rambled about was, and now I get to see what one is...and I'm still not really entirely sure. I feel like, based on the art, it is a donut stuffed with the filling those awful koala bear cookies I'd eat in elementary school packed lunches had in them. Honestly, if they didn't toss what looks like powdered sugar atop the uh, Malasada, I'd be totally unsure.

That rant aside, the card is interesting. We've seen healing cards like Fairy Drop and even Super Potion see play as Item cards, and Pokemon Center Lady has seen a lot of play as well. 20 is...low, but getting rid of conditions is nice if that were a more popular thing in the format. I do like that the 20 damage does save a Shaymin EX from back to back Pitch-Black Spears or Giant Water Shurikens. Having played my Ray list a lot, a deck with Skyla/Teammates and Puzzle of Times could really like this as a 1 of. I don't think this newest Potion is a front runner to see play, but it is a pretty reasonable card.

Rating: 4/10


Hau: Are sidekick people destined to all draw 3 cards and see no play at all? Seems like it. This isn't new, but it is still way too subpar to see play now either.

Rating: 3/10


Lillie: Okay, first off, a story. I bought my copy of Moon on release night. I decide to go with a female character, and name her after my favorite Magic the Gathering character, Liliana Vess. Content with my decision, I immediately get introduced to my game long sidekick...Lillie. I guess that could have played out better.

Anyways, I've seen a lot of positive hype around this card and I'm not even sure how I feel. The "bad" version is Professor Birch/Bianca, and well, that isn't anywhere I want to be at all. I get that "Set Up" on Shaymin is great, but "Set Up" as a Supporter is bad. I'm going to assume on the first turn of the game, the average hand can be comfortably reduced to 3-4 cards regularly, meaning Lillie draws you 4-5 cards. When you take into account that in many situations you're looking for SPECIFIC cards, and the 3-4 leftovers are usually stuck for a reason, it feels like in many cases it is worse than a Sycamore where you draw 7 new cards. N for a random six, shuffling the blanks back in is...close. The average upside of hitting this turn 1 makes it competitive with Sycamore and N, not necessarily superior. In order to optimize the chances of seeing it turn 1, where it is good, you want a lot of copies...a lot of cards that are bad as the game goes on. I actually want to be pretty negative towards this card, but I could end up being wrong. I don't mind it as much in Expanded where you can play Battle Compressor and run 1 copy which you can reliably see on the first turn without flooding your deck with them.

The card obviously gets better depending on how good your deck is at emptying cards out of your hand. Evolution decks, or slower clunkier ones should shy away. A deck relying on all basics can benefit much more from it. As a slight counter argument to "Bianca kind of sucks" from earlier, Lillie after being N'd in the late game is actually pretty good, so she just has this really awkward state of being pretty bad midgame, before the N stage of the game.

Rating: 6/10


Nest Ball: Well, this is an interesting one. I love the ability to freely get any Basic you want (it doesn't discriminate against EX Pokemon, like older designs would likely have). The big problem here is it places the Pokemon DIRECTLY onto the Bench. This means you only want these ALONGSIDE 4 Ultra Ball, because you want your 4 copies of "Shaymin EX". It also works negatively with Hoopa EX and Dragonite EX. There could likely be some turbo engines that run these and Ultra Balls, of course. I just feel it is important to note that I don't think there is a single deck in the game that would want these OVER Ultra Balls, and they'll only see play alongside them.

Rating: 6/10


Professor Kukui: I played the game. I still forgot his name was Kukui. I swear they always just referred to him non-properly throughout a majority of that game. I'm pretty sure this is exactly a reprint of Buck's Training, which didn't really see any play. Times are different though, as we have decks full of VS Seeker and games allow for more utility Supporter use. Giovanni's Scheme saw fringe play over time, and I'm pretty sure this is just better. You get both the "draw" AND "damage" modes with it. It isn't as good to draw out of N with, but there are a lot of spots where draw 2 is better than "draw up to 5". There is a card in this set anyway to help with the N issue, so it isn't as big a deal.

Rating: 6/10


Timer Ball: We have Dual Ball for Evolutions. I'm not sure I really like it. Dual Ball went from decent to good depending on the deck, but I do not think Timer Ball is a perfect parallel. The decks that got to use Dual Ball often benefitted from an aggressive streamlined shell that got to take advantage of pumping a bunch of stuff out. By the nature of this card wanting use in an Evolution heavy deck, you don't get that sort of great engine. Your deck gets inherently clunkier, and trying to stuff it full of unreliable draw/search Items is tough. I mean, look at a deck like Eels in Expanded even....I'd rather run Level Ball over it to reliably get 1 copy than flip for it. The 25% chance of whiffing entirely is so bad. I don't think the time you get 2 makes up for it. Even a deck like Greninja would rather run Dive Ball and play it safe too I think. I'm way too risk adverse to want to play this card, personally.

Rating: 4/10


Ilima: Both players shuffle in their hands and flip a coin to get either 6 or 3 card? Man is this unhealthy. Getting hit by this on the first turn into a 3 card hand is absolutely vile, and I mean that in a "terrible for the game" sort of way. It’s like Team Galactic's Wager, which was also a dumb card. You still have a "coin flip" (or Rock Paper Scissors) to wind up with 3 cards, only there is no longer a direct correlation with how many cards the opponent gets. On the other hand, playing this card can absolutely backfire if they flip heads and you get tails, so who knows how stable it will be and if players will shy from it as a result. You can still play cards like Oranguru or Unown (or even Octillery) to offset the risk, though. I hate this card, but think it is obnoxiously good.

Rating: 6/10


Poison Barb: Hmmm. I don't like this card very much even though it has got cool flavor. It is just worse than Bursting Balloon, which already gets played around. Poison is never doing over 60 damage total. The upside to this is that it doesn't get discarded at the end of turn, but I feel like even with that it is worse than Balloon. To top it off, repeated uses isn't a huge deal because of what percentage of the time attacks end up OHKOing someone. If you have Virbank in Expanded, MAYBE. You really need some real poison synergy to make it better than Balloon, a card that already doesn't see massive play.

Rating: 3/10


Repel: I love the flavor behind this card, but the awkward half of Escape Rope isn't going to be worth inclusion. It is super easy to mitigate the forced Switch when you just want the other half of Rope, and this not pulling double duty AS Switch is a huge strike against it. As long as Rope is legal, I don't see this ever getting played.

Rating: 2/10


Rotom Dex: In a continuing trend, Rotom is related to switching out prize cards, which is cool. I hated Town Map before, so I don't really like these types of effects but if you are a deck like Gyarados, or Night March in Expanded, where certain cards just NEED to be obtained, it is worth running it. I like it a lot more than I do Town Map, even though it can occasionally backfire by giving you worse prizes. Making sure you clear your deck of the non prized key cards before playing it is crucial.

Rating: 4/10


Team Skull Grunt: The Grunt theme is energy disruption, and Team Skull takes it in another direction, in that it attacks your hand. This can be really obnoxious if it catches your only energy, and it can hit Special Energy too, so clipping cards like DCE is very impactful. I don't know how much I like it because I hate playing a Supporter that has no impact on the board and can't really induce a dead draw either. I want to say this card isn't good enough, and it would require a very specific deck to make it work.

Rating: 3/10

 

Overall, most of these trainers are not too exciting. I like Lillie a lot less than general consensus/hype seems to suggest. The biggest ramifications to take from this is very, very long term, once sets start to rotate from Standard as they usually cut off at each new generation. We don't have a Sycamore/Juniper. We don't have N or VS Seeker. This is not saying they won't get a reprint or functional reprint in the next few sets, but the Sycamore effect would almost surely be on a Professor card, and we did not get that. It not being in the first set of the new generation is telling: We may not get one. This will be a really big change as this effect has been in the game since BW. I think it is kind of cool, personally.

On the other hand, we DO get Ultra Ball, which is another major pillar of the draw engine. Its pretty balanced when we don't account for Shaymin, so that is fine. I wouldn't have minded them mixing it up for the sake of making the formats feel different, but it isn't a big issue.


Pokemon GX

 

Decidueye GX: Okay, I'll use this as a point to praise the change from EX to GX in that GX Pokemon which are evolutions actually have to Evolve, like the original set of EX Pokemon had to do. This is much, much more balanced.

Decidueye is similar to Greninja in that it's Ability lets you put free damage into play each turn, but there are a lot of differences. The Owl's Ability only does 20 damage, and doesn't require any sort of discount. That is a HUGE decrease in damage, and that means you don't get the comeback/closeout power you'd get from Greninja. The good news is you are only a Stage 2 Pokemon, opposed to a functional Stage 3. The BETTER news is Forest of Giant Plants is legal, and you can really go nuts getting these things out as soon as turn one. You may not be able to attack on the first turn, but you can use Abilities, so you can apply some massive pressure with this guy.

240 HP is huge, but seemingly the norm for a stage 2 GX Pokemon. It's attacks are lackluster. 90 for GCC is acceptable with the selling point of the card being its Ability. It's GX attack is different since it gets you back a bunch of cards, which is unusual since most of the GX attacks are just massive amounts of damage. It makes it feel like you want to pair this guy with disruptive Items by design to take advantage of that.

I love this card, and it is probably the first card I want to try to build around in the format. You're clearly going to run a 4-4-4 line with 4 Forest, but beyond that its a bit more up in the air. Attacking with the Owl is totally unnecessary, so don't feel locked into being Grass type at all. Promo Jirachi is cute with it since you can wall behind it's Special Energy discarding attack and still do 80 damage that turn. Something like Jolteon EX or Regice to wall behind is good too. Defensive and disruptive Pokemon seem like the right fit for Decidueye, but it has a lot of options available to it for sure. I also like how, by virtue of being a Grass type, it can deal with Greninja easily.

Garbodor is a big problem, and one that needs to be addressed by the other 44 cards you play. If you race the Garbodor, though, you can snipe off Trubbishes before they even get to evolve. One partner I considered is Galvantula, since it can split 30/30 for an Energy, and being a Grass type, it also works with Forest so your turn 1 pressure is pretty overwhelming.

Rating: 8/10


Incineroar GX: Well, this monster has 250 HP. Not a bad start. I'd normally write off Burning Slam as generic massive fire damage attack, but 200 for THREE Energy is actually totally reasonable, plus it Burns. In Expanded, you can power this up in a turn with Blacksmith. It is a little awkward because, while it doesn't actually discard energy cards, it may as well? Tiger Swing is terrible, and I can't see any real scenario where you'd choose it over Hustling Strike, which is what I assume is the main selling point of Incineroar here. Since you can only use Burning Slam once, and should avoid Tiger Swing like the plague, dumping a lot of Fire on this guy is a bit of a waist once you hit a Slam.

That said, Hustling Strike is GREAT. With Sky Field, you can hit for 170 damage for a Fire Energy. With a 1 Energy cost, and 250 HP, it feels like a PERFECT target to abuse Max Potion with. I love this guy, and I absolutely hate cats. It'll be interesting to see how easy it will be to get going, since it is a Stage 2, but I'm optimistic!

Rating: 7/10


Primarina GX: Well, talk about drop off. Also equipped with 250 HP, Primarina, which was my Starter in the game, is not good at all. Let’s look at my track record over the years for favorite Starters to TCG translation...

Gen 1: Venusaur: worst of the three.

Gen 2: Typhlosion: they actually made all 3 of these good, it’s a toss up between it and Meganium for 2nd best though.

Gen 3: Swampert: Okay, I actually didn't like any of these 3 very much (Sorry Blaziken, you won me over in other ways!) Swampert was fine I guess though.

Gen 4: Torterra: Empoleon and Infernape were WAY better, even if Torterra did manage to t4 Nats and and I think win German Nationals in 2008.

Gen 5: Serperior: Worse than Emboar, maybe better than Samurott, but still generally equally unplayable.

Gen 6: Chesnaught: Well, worse than Delphox by a lot, and clearly not Pokemon's chosen one, Greninja. Not even remotely playable in any incarnation.

Gen 7: Primarina: I can't win.


Bitterness aside, let’s look at the card. Bubble Beat is kind of cool...except costing CC is irrelevent because it keys off of Water Energy. Its base damage makes it scale worse than say, Keldeo EX in Expanded, which is about the only place it could see play because of Blastoise. Otherwise you can't get that many Water Energy in play to make it worthwhile. This is a Stage 2 Pokemon, not Darkrai EX, which is lean and aggressive and abusive with Max Elixir. This CAN use Archie's Ace in the Hole, but the engine to do that isn't really a thing in Standard, and I just don't see this as worth the effort in a Blastoise shell in Expanded.

Roaring Seas is a good attack...120 for 4, and discarding an Energy, but its really expensive. I guess you could try to tank this thing with Rough Seas, but it just feels so much weaker than everything else you can be doing in the game right now. Grand Echo, it's GX attack, is cool and powerful, in that it heals your whole team...I'm sure that is the "selling point" of the Pokemon, but Healing as an attack is just NOT competitively viable.

Rating: 3/10


Lunala GX: Card is trash...requires me to get rid of Nebby. (I have an unhealthy obsession with Nebby). Okay, okay, a real evaluation. 250 HP - maybe my assessment that 240 was standard is off, and 240 is for the "weak" ones. It's Ability is Energy Transfer (Psychic Transfer) for Psychic Energy, which is really cool. These Abilities work great with a card like Max Potion, so I can see this being used to support beefy Basic attackers so you can hop between them and heal. Again, despite being a Legendary, this is a Stage 2, so it is a major commitment to build around.

It's GX attack is absurd. It just straight up KOs any Basic that isn't a GX...which means it can nuke an EX though! I love it. It costs PPP, so it isn't easy to do, but it can soak up Energy off your primary attackers, so it isn't a major commitment. (I like the idea of using the Evolutions Mewtwo EX to potentially soak up Energy to put in play then move - also remember Lunala can move Rainbow Energy and Double Dragon Energy).

Moongeist Beam is just an attack. 120 for 4 isn't good, and the inability to Heal shouldn't really come up. Since you're likely tanking with Max Potion, though, I guess a 4 Energy commitment isn't as scary. I'm pretty happy with this card, and I can see it being the lynchpin for a cool Mewtwo EX deck (Likely with a 2/2 split on Scatter Shot and Evo Mewtwos, but probably no Megas).

Rating: 7/10


Solgaleo GX: WOW, this is a lot to take in, because it is all over the place. You have a built in Switch with it's Ability, which seems like a great amount of utility, although less so on a Stage 2. It's Sunsteel Strike deals a ton of damage, but it strips itself of energy (In Expanded, it can easily be paired with Metal Link Bronzong, and it's Ability even comes in hand for refueling). The craziest part is Sol Burst. For a Metal, you can search your deck for FIVE Energy Cards - not BASIC Energy Cards, ENERGY cards, so DCEs, DDEs, anything. That is so powerful. It is easily the most powerful GX attack in the game by miles. ( or kilometers for my non-American readers! ) Its a stage 2, though, so I'm not sure how clunky it is going to be...if you can reliably Rare Candy this out, it has to be absurd. There are too many ways to abuse this for it not to see any play, although it is also the most scatter brained in design, so it is hard to really determine the best shell for it.

Rating: 7/10

 

Gumshoos GX: I hate this thing. I'd hate it even if it didn't look like an even stupider Donald Trump - nope, not avoiding politics here kids.

Anyways, this is a slight chance of pace because it is a Stage 1 and not a Stage 2, so it gets only 210 HP. It's Ability lets you see your opponent's hand each turn. I remember loving the Holon Phantom's Mew EX in 2006's Mew Lock deck, but that also was a deck that really needed to make plays based on what the opponent had each turn. There aren't really many decks like that here, although you always will benefit from knowing your opponent's hand and how to play around it. When to use N being the easiest example, but knowing when a Lysandre is or is not upcoming matters a lot too. I'd love this Ability if it were on a Basic, but a Stage 1 is a bit more demanding to include and set up.

Headbutt Bounce is a fine attack for a Pokemon that doesn't look to play the role of a primary attacker. Gumshoe Chance (just in case no one guessed what its name was supposed to be a play on) does 50 damage per Energy attached to the Defending Pokemon for only a C, and that is actually really powerful. Unfortunately, it falls just shy of OHKOing most attackers. Anything that uses 3 energy has at least 160 HP. Even Mega Mewtwo likely caps at 4 Energy, meaning it'll live a hit as well.

I could see this guy getting a 1-1 line treatment in disruptive decks, or in decks that want a good answer to a specific attacker that tanks up on Energy, but I think ole Gumshoos is just shy of where it needs to be.

Rating: 4/10


Lurantis-GX: Another Stage 1 GX, also with 210 HP. Lurantis has an attack for a Grass which attaches 2 Basic Energy from your Discard to your Pokemon. Energy acceleration, especially cheap acceleration, is always strong. This is even more useful in a type like Grass which both has very little acceleration, and also has access to Forest of Giant Plants so this can happen on the first turn. The challenge is getting 2 Energy discarded, but it can be done.

It's 2nd attack does 120 for GGC while healing 30 off of itself. That’s a pretty good rate on damage and the 210 HP makes healing off 30 actually impactful. I can see this card requiring a three hit fairly regularly. That being said, I don't expect Lurantis to be the deck's primary attacker, and more of the accelerant, so I wouldn't judge it based off of this attack anyways.

Chloroscythe, it's GX attack does 50x the number of Grass attached to Lurantis, which is actually not super impressive. 200 for GGGG isn't a commitment I want to make for 1 attack, and it doesn't even OHKO a GX, or an EX with a Belt attached. The fact that the reward for stacking energy is a one time use attack makes it even more awkward. Still, as set-up, this card seems awesome.

Rating: 6/10


Lapras-GX: FINALLY we get a sweet Lapras, and by sweet I mean, at least a Lapras that is a featured Pokemon. It is an underappreciated Pokemon. Lapras somehow gets as much HP as Snorlax ( RUDE ) at 190 as a basic GX, and has a sweet set-up attack for a W that draws you 3 cards. I'm not sure you want to be wasting attacks doing that, but it’s a good rate nonetheless.

Beyond being a set-up Pokemon, Lapras has 2 three energy attacks. It's GX attack does 100 and automatically paralyzes, which is awesome. Hitting that backed by an N is really disruptive and can buy a full turn a lot of games. It's main attack does 160 but must take a turn off. With a Belt, this guy has 230 HP and hits for 170, which is awesome. Pairing it with Switching cards, or Zoroark (or Keldeo in Expanded) and you have an actual reasonable attacker that is competitive. "Waterbox" hasn't seen play lately, but if you wanted a Water based Elixir deck, I actually think Lapras is good enough. I can see it as a 1 of in Archie's Blastoise decks in Expanded too, where it's synergy with Keldeo shines. Don’t forget Manaphy EX offers free retreat to cycle through Lapras GXs.

Rating: 5/10


Espeon-GX: Espeon is hard to evaluate without also noting the other Pokemon you get in addition to Espeon by running it. You get Umbreon-GX as well, who I'll go over in a bit, but you also get the cycle of Ancient Origins Eeveelutions to help give you better type coverage. In most cases, these GX Pokemon following the standard Evolution rule is a disadvantage, but in this case, being able to type shift may make Espeon ( and Umbreon) being a Stage 1 an advantage. Vaporeon helps against Volcanion. Jolteon is great against Yveltal and Rayquaza. Flareon, whose claim to fame previously was enabling Blacksmith, gets a new lease on life if Decidueye becomes an issue.

30 damage for a Psychic Energy on a stage 1 isn't really appealing, but the Confusion makes Espeon's first attack pretty good. This attack is an annoying set-up hit and can buy time. From there, both of Espeon's attacks need PCC to attack, so you can bridge from its first attack easily enough.

Espeon can do 60 damage plus 30 for each Energy attached to the Defending Pokemon. This should end up doing 60-150 damage, which is fine in it's own right, but in many cases, you'll be able to use the other Eeveelutions to take advantage of Weakness. I don't expect Espeon to pull off many OHKOs, but that plays into it's GX attack.

Also for PCC, Espeon can place 10 Damage Counters on your ooponents Pokemon, divided as chosen. This is actually not an attack I am super excited for, because how often do you end up with a bench full of near dead Pokemon? Not often. In most cases this will be "do 100 to a Pokemon" or be used to finish something off while getting to place a few additional counters elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, that is still really good, but it is your GX attack, and often will be a "do 100 to any Pokemon" snipe attack that has a bit of upside. Pairing it with something like Greninja or Decidueye would be cool, where you can actually take advantage of a dedicated spread game plan. I don't really see it meshing specifically with those cards, but that’s the idea behind it.

Rating: 6/10


Umbreon-GX: Oh cool, Night Spear for DCC. Actually, with the way the game has progressed, this isn't even particularly overpowered. It is great, but not anywhere near as degenerate as Night Spear was in relation to the rest of the format Darkrai was in when it debuted. I don't think I need to argue how good of an attack Night Spear is, but there are some differences. Umbreon can't use Fighting Fury Belt (I do like how the new "power" Pokemon are no longer able to use this card). You can still use Max Elixir to power this out, it just has to be while Eevee is still Eevee. That is a pretty reasonable demand. Like Espeon, you get access to the AOR Eeveelutions for coverage. Still, this attack is the bread and butter of Umbreon-GX.

It's GX attack is really powerful, discarding any 2 Energy for DC. This actually feels like it will be less powerful than it initially reads. I'm pretty judgmental on all of these GX attacks, and don't get me wrong, they are all really powerful attacks, but in many cases, the rest of a Pokemon's attacks are scaled back in order to facilitate them. Therefore, I judge their strength in regards to if their ONE use makes running the whole line worthwhile, opposed to viewing the attacks in a vacuum. Luckily, Umbreon here has a great primary attack, so this utility option is just a good add-on, and not the entire pull of the card. Discarding 2 Energy is powerful but you don't do any damage at all in the proces. A lot of decks are really streamlined, and have low energy demands. Mega Rayquaza can power up in one turn. Volcanion floods the board. Greninja has very little energy requirement. Gardevoir is super cheap to attack with and runs Mega Turbo. Mewtwo and Yveltal are weak to this, but a lot of the format is built to recover well enough from eating an energy wiping KO most turns, so in a lot of cases, you just get a KO's worth of energy discarded, while not actually taking a KO. For DC, it isn't bad, but the format is very high impact and I hate taking a turn off to not do damage. This is pretty good with disruption, and can really wreck a board alongside N in the later stages of the game, but I think it is important to recognize this attack is a great role player and not much more (Magearna EX also puts a stop to this to a degree, for decks which can run it - otherwise Vileplume Toolbox would get rammed by this card).

I didn't touch on Umbreon's first attack, which is a 30 damage hit and run for D. It isn't too great but I do love 1 energy attacks which do some damage and protect it while you power it up. It’s a nice attack to round out the cards overall impressive package.

Rating: 7/10

Tauros-GX: Don't hit the Tauros. That seems to be the running theme with this card, as two of it's attacks are "Rage" type attacks, doing more damage for every Damage Counter on Tauros. I won't overlook it's simple CC 60 attack. Thats 60 damage for a DCE on a 180 HP Basic Pokemon. This will become more threatening if more Evolution decks pop up, but even without that condition met, that’s a pretty good rate on something that can swing right out of the gate.

Sadly, 180 HP is not THAT much, and Pokemon will either two hit it in such a way to mitigate the Rage damage output, or they will be able to one shot it. With Fury Belt, it becomes a lot more difficult of course. That doesn't take into account Tauros' GX attack, which does a whopping 30x damage per Counter on it, which actually WILL OHKO a lot of Pokemon. The problem Tauros has is that it is pretty easy to play around. It's mid and late game damage output requires you to be hit, so avoiding it, through Escape Rope and Lysandre (or honestly just passing the turn in some spots) can kind of keep it in check.

What I really do like with Tauros is Ninja Boy. Being able to surprise an opponent by converting a damaged Pokemon into Tauros and unleash a large amount of damage is great. I always talk about how there has to be some good Ninja Boy deck available, but it hasn't sprung up yet. If such a thing materializes, I expect Tauros to find a great home in it. Even otherwise, it is fast, and bulky, and requires almost no work-around, so I could see it just seeing play anyways. Even tossing it in alongside Yveltal and Garbodor could work as a great turn 1 attacker (in a deck that doesn't use any other GX attackers, assuming it doesn't branch off into Umbreon) that also gives the deck a non-Lightning weak Pokemon that can attack on the first turn, two issues the deck does have (the Elixir t1 attack is rare, although possible).


Rating: 7/10


Pokemon

 

Oranguru: This is my favorite Pokemon in the new Generation (and I am not basing this off of any dumb Harambe jokes) FINALLY a Pokemon I like gets a good card. I mentioned before how the set introduced an anti-N card, and Oranguru is it. It draws you up to 3 cards each turn, which sometimes comes up in the early game, but almost always comes up in the late game. Being a Basic, it is easily to play than a 1-1 Octillery line, which admittedly is superior. I played Unown as anti-N defense in how many decks? Oranguru is much better. To top it off, it has 120 HP...and only a 2 retreat cost, so it can be retreated off a DCE and isn't just Lysandre bait entirely.


To top it off, it has a good attack for CCC. Psychic does a base 60 damage PLUS 20 more for every Energy attached to it's target? That is REALLY good for an attack on a back up attacker, seeing how you primarily run it for it's Ability. Luckily, both aspects of what this card have to offer are great for the game. I expect this to be a 1 of in a lot of decks (decks with better built in N protection, and decks using Garbodor being likely exclusions).

Rating: 9/10


Ribombee: Ribo here is completely a one trick pony, and it is a trick that generally isn't competitive. It's Ability heals 20 damage off of any of your Pokemon. These stack, if you manage to get multiples in play. It isn't unreasonable to be able to heal 60-80 damage a turn. The problem is Pokemon Center Lady, Fairy Drop, and Max Potion are all legal and see play. I guess this could be cute alongside some of that, but it requires such a commitment to set up, and so much deck space. The other problem is, there are multiple decks that can just OHKO anything anyways, and healing is therefore wasted on it. Devoting a few spots for a Center Lady, or a few Items is one thing. Tossing in a 3-3 line is another altogether. Even if you had something super tanky you'd like to protect, it only works vs a portion of the metagame. The card isn't bad, not by a long shot, but damage output is so high, and we have Lysandre, so defensive play is just not particularly viable.

Rating: 4/10


Alolan Dugtrio: This is one of the stupidest Pokemon I've ever seen, and I love Dugtrio. It’s like they made the Hanson brothers a Pokemon. Its attack isn't bad, letting Dugtrio here Mmmbop any Pokemon for a moderate 50 damage for CCC, but if this sees play, it would be for the Ability which passively increases your opponent's retreat cost by 1. If there are other Pokemon which key off of this, it could see play. This alongside the Aqua stadium could be cute. The problem is, most decks run Float Stone (which circumvents this) or actual switching Items, so unless you abuse it in other ways, this won't be that disruptive.

Rating: 3/10


Sharpedo: Okay, I don't really imagine this being playable, but it is a good example of something you'd pair with Dugtrio. With a bench of Dugtrio and the Aqua Stadium, the damage output on Sharpedo could get rather high. Not high enough to be competitive, but it would make for a fun deck to lug to league.

Rating: 3/10


Palossand: I have a soft spot for this Pokemon, although I don't think it is very good. This is another one that gets the "League Play" nod from me, because it can tank extremely well against anything that can't OHKO it. It has 130 HP (an effective 150 with it's Ability) and a hefty FCCC attack cot to only do 50 damage The attack cost can be offset by Carbink BREAK, and it is a Fighting type. Strong Energy, Regirock EX (and Fighting Stadium in Expanded) can help boost that damage. The sand castle then heals damage equal to how much it deals overall, so you can make one of these things a HUGE chore to OHKO. The problem is a lot of the EX Pokemon can still OHKO it. Maybe Carbink is enough to help fend EX off, but it’s unlikely, especially since Regirock is an easy Lysandre target, and without it, the damage output is too low. Cool card design though, for sure!

Rating: 4/10


Alolan Raticate: At first I thought it's searching ability was powerful enough to help complex decks set up, and that the overall Ratatta line offered enough options that this could see play splashed in alongside some of the other options, but then I realized it had to evolve specifically from Alolan Rattata and that the lines didn't overlap. Oops.

Rating: 3/10


Alolan Muk: This is by far my favorite Alolan form, and Muk again is back at it with the Ability denial. Muk's disruption only impacts Basic Pokemon, which is a BIG downgrade from Garbodor, whose tool requirement (which Muk does not have) is almost a non-issue because you need Float Stones to retreat these guys anyways, and Fighting Fury Belt or Spirit Links (which can go on Garbodor) wind up in most of the builds anyways. Not hitting Greninja, on the other hand, is a big deal. I know something like Magnezone doesn't see play now, but I honestly feel a big part of that is because of Garbodor's prevailence. I'd argue this will not see much play as long as it lives in Garbodor's shadow, but there could definitely be some build wanting to use the Abilities of it's own Evolutions while locking the opponent off of their Shaymins/Hoopas/Volcanions/Etc. I'm not sure what that home is, but it could exist.

Rating: 6/10


Tsareena: I originally noted this Pokemon as really interesting as it is really disruptive, but I definitely thought it was a Stage 1 (hey, I am still learning all the new guys! I really get exposed to the new generation of Pokemon as they get their cards). As a Stage 1, with Forest of Giant Plants, it would be a huge beating to have Supporters stripped from your hand on the first turn. It also pairs well with N or Red Card at any stage of the game really (though less so with Oranguru printed in the same set). I guess it is good it isn't a Stage 1, as it can't be that hard to spew multiples of them on the first turn that way, which would make for some really dumb non-games. As a stage 2, it’s harder to pull off, plus it eats up a ton of deck space. I'm not sure it’s worth chasing this disruptive dream, but it could be.

Rating: 4/10


Shiinotic: Shiinotic is a nice utility Pokemon, grabbing you Grass types each turn. Normally, with the amount of search we have available in the format, I wouldn't be too thrilled to be using a Stage 1 to start setting up, but this is Grass types we are looking at, and Forest of Giant Plants has leant itself to a design space where Grass types often want to just flood the board in large numbers (and they are often Stage 2s that don't mind being swarmed with). Due to this, there is more demand to continually grab Grass Pokemon than in most types, so I could see this working, especially since it benefits from the Forest itself. I feel like it could be really useful in Decidueye decks, which want to get out as many as 4 Stage 2 Pokemon as quckly as possible.

Rating: 5/10


Passimian: Passimian is a really, really aggressive and gimmicky Pokemon. It has 110 HP, and it can do 100 damage for a DCE on the first turn, which is the card's selling point. This of course requires you to get all 4 Passimian in play, and you can't prize any of course. With a Belt, it hits for 110. I imagine you'd want to pair the card with proper disruption because while the pressure is huge, it does scale off pretty badly as the game progresses.

I mention the "110" cap, and that is more or less a lie, though. The "combo" with this Pokemon is to pair it with Mew or Mew EX, which can use its attack while leaving it on the bench so you can actually count 4 Passimian as benched, letting you do 130 damage, or 140 with a Belt. That should KO most non-EX Pokemon. Against EX decks, you are fast, and you also are a non-EX so you force them to take a lot of KOs which is difficult for sure. I actually am really excited to test with this card because it has so much room in the deck outside of it's very basic skeleton.

Rating: 8/10

In closing, there are a LOT of potentially good Pokemon in this set! To be fair, it is a really, really large set, but they did a good job or making most of the rare or better cards at least interesting. Most of the GX Pokemon look intriguing, and I really feel like Oranguru and Passimian are the real deal.

So what do I take from this set and what sort of impact it will have on Standard going forward? I'm going to focus on what the set does for Standard over it's Expanded implications for a few reasons. One, it is a smaller card pool, and therefore a bit easier to evaluate potential changes. Standard is also the much more played format, so it is more pertinent. Finally, Expanded features extremely powerful decks, and the barrier to entry for a new card to be "good enough" to make an impact is really high. Looking at Standard first is just more exciting.

I don't think the Trainers are too impactful. I don't see the Supporters really breaking up the Sycamore/N/Lysandre core, and the rest of the draw engine in most decks is Shaymin/VS Seeker/Ultra Ball, so there just isn't a lot of flex room for additional draw Supporters. I know that shows my pessimism towards poor Lillie, but I don't think she'll get widespread play.

Oranguru is a welcome addition to the format, as it is an easy splashable safety net against hand disruption. Decks are still going to play N, Ace Trainer and Delinquent, but those are very unfun cards to play against, so having a balanced solution to it is great.

One thing I've also noticed is that it looks like we'll be getting less broken Basic Pokemon, and a lot of the new showcase Pokemon will be evolutions. I hope this means we'll see an evolution line supported by EX Pokemon opposed to foregoing them entirely. Will Yveltal embrace an Umbreon line? That seems like a cooler design space than "hey jam all the best basics your energy can support!" at least. Hoopa EX, like N/Ace Trainer/Delinquent, is another "loser" with this set's release. Let me clarify, these cards are all still good! Especially Hoopa and N. They will still see a ton of play. N will be in every deck. It just is less effective as disruption than before. Ace Trainer and Delinquent I actually do think lost reasonable ground. Hoopa's loss stems from the fact that GX is not EX, and therefore future new cards will be off limits to its Ability. Decks wanting to use GX Pokemon will have less incentive to crutch on Hoopa as much. Therefore more and more decks will be coming out which do not want Hoopa. The decks using a bunch of EXes still will, of course, but it will be less universal play. By the same logic, Klefki gets worse, too.

Decklists

I'm going to go over some brews I have. I mainly test on PTCGO, and the set as of this writing is not yet legal, so a lot of this is theorycrafting and honestly just skeletal lists in the infancy of their development. I'm not pledging these as brilliant fleshed out perfected lists, so take them as a starting point, not a final product.

So the goal of this deck is to be able to play both as a traditional Volcanion deck, and as an Incineroar deck. Now, I'm not saying you can play anywhere near the level of a streamlined Volcanion build, nor should it be your goal. You should, on the other hand, be able to perform well enough to buy time while you get the big cat out. If your opponent is Lysandre'ing Incineroar, it resets your Volcanion EX. You do eventually need to get Incineroar out, of course, but you have some basic game when you don't.

Clearly, the deck had to cut Max Elixir for space (alongside a lot of the Switching cards which are less necessary without the pressure to chain Volcanion EX attacks) so you're slower. I'm not running any Fighting Fury Belt either, but I could see running a lone copy. In order to help facilitate the admittedly awkward Rare Candy (you don't need too many Incineroar out, they are hard to KO especially alongside Max Potion, and you do have very real back up attackers). We run Skyla, which is a card I've just really grown to like. It gets your Rare Candy, Max Potion, Skyla, Energy Retrieval, and other key cards in a pinch. Also, since the deck does want to fill it's bench wide, getting Ultra Ball for Hoopa EX is powerful. It plays similarly to how it does in Mega Rayquaza, only you also care about the Rare Candy.

"Why would you bother with Incineroar over just playing a streamlined Volcanion list?" you ask? Well, that is a good question and I'm not saying it is even the better build, but there are definitely some selling points. First off, Incineroar deals very real damage without Abilities. It does a lot better against Garbodor, which otherwise is a huge issue for the deck. The same can be said for Hex Maniac. As long as you maintain a big bench, it deals a lot of damage! Even Greninja is going to struggle to chew through its 250 HP and raw damage output even under Shadow Stitching. Greninja BREAK has 170 HP. Incineroar can do 170 damage for one Fire Energy without Abilities. You can actually get multiple attacks in a row without losing an Incineroar with Max Potion, too. I feel like with a turn 2 Incineroar, you are in really good shape against Greninja.

Also, with Incineroar only having 1 energy cost, it shrugs off attacks from Mega Mewtwo and Yveltal really well. You can chew through a lot of Pokemon with Max Potion without giving up any KOs. Packing 250 HP, it is 10 HP out of range of a OHKO by my boy Mega Rayquaza, which is another historically difficult matchup for Volcanion. The same thing applies to Mega Gardevoir. You cover a lot of bases because Incineroar covers a lot of issues Volcanion has overall. You clearly pay for it in that the deck gets a lot clunkier for it, but I think it is worth it!

"You want a full bench of Fire Pokemon...but you run Hoopa and Shaymin EX!" I do. They are too useful for set up. You just have to run them. You assume most games the opponent is going to end up discarding a Sky Field, which is your chance to dump your non-Fire Pokemon.

You'll also notice I run only 10 Fire Energy, no Fisherman, and no Max Elixir. You don't need to attach as many energy to attack with, and due to Incineroar's natural damage output, you don't need to discard to Volcanion as often. As a result, I feel like 10 Fire, 1 Super Rod, and 3 Energy Retrieval is sufficient. I could be wrong, and could use a Prof. Letter, 2nd Rod, or 4th Retrieval. Skyla being able to reliably get Rod or Retrieval helps offset the thinner numbers too.

Of the lists I'm including today, this is the one I am least happy with but there are just so many different directions you can take this general idea. I'd be surprised if the right build wound up with Galvantula, but it is certainly something and it is at least pretty proactive. You have 4 Ultra Ball 4 Level Ball and 4 Trainers' Mail to help accelerate everything coming out. With that package, plus 3 Skyla and 4 Forest of Giant Plant, you should reliably get to "go off" on the first turn of the game.

Your basic game plan is to spread damage with Decidueyes, while either piling on more damage with Galvantula (as soon as the first turn) or using Jirachi to discard their energy and stall. 3 Revitalizer helps to get KOed Pokemon back to replenish the set up further. I feel like whatever the correct build ends up being will be more streamlined and less reliant on additional evolution lines simply because it is so demanding on deck space to set it all up. I was half jokingly looking at Latios EX from Roaring Skies as an option since it can attack for a Psychic on the first turn of the game, which means you can get some really frustrating first turn kills with this deck if you draw well. Even if you don't win the game that turn, you can probably put a ton of pressure that snowballs over the next few turns.

This is a really straight forward approach to the deck, with a pretty aggressive draw engine featuring Trainers' Mail, Puzzle of Time, and Unowns. You really, really need to hit your DCEs, but I feel like you draw enough that you should be able to fairly reliably. Once they start getting KOs, you transition over to using Teammates, which should assure you an attack each turn. Puzzle of Time and one Special Charge lets you restock on those DCEs.

Buddy Buddy Rescue is the lowest maintenance means by which to constantly get back the Monkeys, but it also lets you re-use Unown if it would otherwise be a dead card (Unown is also good for using Puzzle of Time as a source of draw power to dig for an early DCE) and it also lets you play a pair of Klefki to loop. I mentioned in my set review that you can OHKO most non-EX Pokemon, so why not give the deck some insurance against those EX decks? While this doesn't really help against GX Pokemon, but we can't win em all, right?

I am using this opportunity to test out Prof. Kukui, which I think is going to be good in this deck. The extra 20 damage is nice, so we'll see if it is good enough. I'm running a pair of Enhanced Hammer to help slow decks down, and you get a ton of mileage off the pair due to the Puzzles too. Maybe it is correct to even run Crushing Hammer as well just to really give the deck some powerful disruption to go with it's speed.

Rotom Dex is an unfortunate must, just because you have to liberate Monkeys out of the Prizes if you get them stuck. I like Escape Rope as a means of Switching, but also because you can use them as mini Lysandres to get around Pokemon too beefy to KO early on. I like what they should do for the deck.

I do have a few other ideas (behind the Crushing Hammers) for what to do with this deck. First off, I'm curious about how good Bursting Balloon would be in this deck. You hit for 130 (using a Beltless Mew) or 150 with Kukui. If they swing into a Balloon, that’s 210 damage in a turn cycle, which may be better than Fighting Fury Belt? I don't know if there should be a split, or just that one is distinctly better than the other. I feel like giving Mew an extra 40 HP is a big deal, and taking Passimian up to 150 HP makes it a very real attacker. With Balloon, I'm just afraid I'll see too many Ropes and Lysandre for it to be reliable.

Also, I don't know if there should be any Stadiums in here. I would normally say Silent Lab is a big deal, but you really only need that for Mew, so you can still pull off 100 damage for a DCE. I guess a lone copy of a Stadium gets some extra mileage due to the Puzzles and Teammates.

Finally, and this is just due to not really getting to test the deck enough to know exactly where it's weaknesses lie but the deck can run additional attackers that use DCE to attack. I'm sure there are great options that are worth it. There is a lot of space in this deck since I went for a pure consistency build, so if you have any additions, there is room.

Okay, so I'll get it out of the way first: The Trainers' Mail could easily become a split of Supporter cards, such as Team Flare Grunt, Delinquent, or Pokemon Center Lady. With a less defined Metagame, I'm going with the more consistent Mail option. With Tauros, you are a bit more aggressive anyways, so I figure that is worthwhile (Pokemon Center Lady isn't the best with Tauros either, although that doesn't make it poor with the rest of your attackers). I like Delinquent less with Oranguru around, which I am choosing not to run because I want to have Garbodor out. On top of that, this deck is pretty stable against N because you can use Y-Cyclone to conserve energy.

The rest of the list isn't too different from a standard Yveltal Garbodor list so I don't want to dwell too much on explanations. You basically only need to make two cuts to fit in a pair of Tauros-GX as they don't ask for much support. You may honestly only want one copy and to re-add the Super Rod, but I'm feeling adventurous here.

This basically takes the Mega-less Mewtwo build that saw play at Regionals and stuffed in a Lunala line. You lose some of the utility trainers but you get a lot better late game for it. You get to play the cute Max Potion game with Mewtwo and Lunala, letting you really stockpile Psychic Energy in play so Scattershot deals an abusive amount of damage. If the opponent's deck can't really OHKO you, you'll be hard pressed to lose as Mewtwo gets 210 HP and Lunala GX has even more. With 4 Max Potions, KOs will be so hard to obtain.

The opportunity cost here is not non-existent. You lose access to Garbodor, which may be too much to give up. You lose a lot against Greninja and Volcanion. You also lose the "Parallel City + Garbodor" plan which is very important against Rainbow Road and Rayquaza. A potential solution to this is to actually run both packages, which is less unreasonable than it may sound. You could trim to a 2-0-2 (or 2-1-2 if you are the conservative type) and a thin Garbodor line as well (I recommend 2-1, although in either scenario a Super Rod likely needs added). You go with whichever route is better in the matchup. That is one selling point for having the deck's offensive package being a Basic Pokemon.

I'm doing a 3-1 split on Mewtwo in favor of the Scattershot one, who is your main attacker. The one Evolutions EX is great to sit and absorb energy back with if you fall behind, though, and should not be overlooked as an option. One thing that is worth noting too in this deck is that both Lunala and Hoopa EX are reasonable attackers! Since you don't have to waste time actually powering them up, you can actually transition into them pretty easily. The option to hop between attackers is why we're going pretty heavy on switching effects. Lunala and Hoopa like Float Stones, but you want to Belt Mewtwo up, so you want Items not Tools for swapping around there. Perhaps an Olympia would be great in here as well.

Anyways, those are some starting brews highlighting some of the more exciting cards from Sun and Moon, which is one of the most fun looking expansions I've seen for the game in a long long time! At the end of the day, I assume most of the "best decks" that will emerge will be focused on the same archetypes we have now, but I really did not want to sit here, right after release, and continue to write about Rayquaza, Volcanion, Yveltal, Gardevoir, Darkrai, Gyarados, Rainbow Road and Greninja when there are a bunch of new exciting cards entering the format! Hopefully we end up seeing at least some of the new cards make a format warping impact!

 

Chris

[+13] okko


 

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