Experts' corner

Franco Takahashi

Ho-Oh is Cool and Burning Hot

Franco goes over his Ho-Oh-GX list, breaking down in detail explaining why he believes that Ho-Oh is a strong deck along with some match up analysis and some changes you can try in the deck as well.

03/12/2018 by Franco Takahashi




Hello 60 Cards readers, now that the 2nd quarter has ended and we’ve entered into the 3rd quarter along with the new Ultra Prism set, things seems to be shaking up a little with the new cards and I’m sure everyone is still trying different combinations of cards and strategies trying to find the new formula for the new format, and I am currently working in that as well.  However, in this article I wanted to share some of my league cup experience from the 2nd quarter since I was able to win 2 cups using Ho-oh and I personally felt like Ho-oh was still good in the current standard format. Also we were able to notice that some Ho-oh decks were able to achieve some results at the Oceania Internationals and in the recent Regionals as well, and if the meta is shifting appropriately I even think that it can remain viable in the Ultra Prism format so I thought I would write this article about Ho-oh for those who are interested to know my experience or want to get to know Ho-oh better perhaps.


Ho-Oh-GX 1.0 

So here’s the original list I used to win one of the cups, it is a simple Ho-oh Salazzle build, but I’ll go into depth with the list.



3 Ho-oh-GX

The heart and main attacker of this deck.  It’s a 190 HP basic Pokémon that have lightning weakness which isn’t heavily popular in the current meta, and the fighting resistance is actually nice bonus against Pokémon like Buzzwole-GX and Lycanroc-GX forcing them to commit little more for them to hit the ideal damage output numbers.  Its main attack Phoenix Burn deals 180 damage which is actually good damage output number allowing you to one shot most EX Pokémon and GX Pokémon like Tapu Lele-GX.  In addition to this, by combining cards like Choice Band and Volcanion-EX’s Steam Up ability, Phoenix Burn can increase up to 210 or even 240 damage which it puts in one shot range for almost all of the popular GX Pokémon that are currently played at the moment.  Its other attack, Sacred Fire is not the best attack for 3 energies but it’s not so bad either allowing you to put 50 to the bench or even 80 to the active Pokémon with Steam Up ability can be helpful sometimes to setup those future knockouts as well.  Its GX attack, Eternal Wing-GX is a cute attack but in this deck you rather use Turtonator-GX’s Nitro Tank-GX attack almost every game so I personally never had the chance to use it at official events yet.  In addition to the attacks, since Phoenix Burn have a side effect where you can’t use Phoenix Burn the following turn, the 2 retreat cost is not the optimal but it is reasonably a nice retreat cost considering you have decent amount of ways to get those 2 energies back right away, it comes in handy time to time.  Ho-oh-GX is actually one of the Pokémon you would like to start with when the game begins, and since it is also your main attacker, I thought 3 would be a reasonable number to play in the deck , 4 is also a nice number and I’ve also considered before but due to the fact that the list is pretty tight and due to the fact that there are cards like Ultra Ball and Nest Ball that can search for Ho-oh from the deck as well so I decided that 3 was a fine number in the deck.



2 Volcanion-EX

Volcanion-EX is actually a very important card in the deck.  The first reason is the obvious reason of utilizing the ability Steam Up to deal more damage to your opponent’s Pokémon, however the other major role that Volcanion-EX have in the deck is that it is a 3 energy attacker.  Since Ho-oh requires  energies to do Phoenix Burn, having a good 3 energy secondary attacker becomes a key in the deck since it helps you to keep your temp better due to having 1 less energy to attack, therefore it helps you to maintain your attackers with attachment per turn and Max Elixirs.  Since Volcanion-EX is a Fire and Water type, having the option to hit for those weakness is a nice bonus, plus with a Choice Band and Steam Up on its own can deal 190 damage which is a good damage output as well, therefore it is another nice secondary target that you can use Kiawe if you need to also.  As of copies in the deck, despite that it plays fair amount of energies in the deck, you generally want to maintain your tempo and attackers streaming through the game, you generally don’t have much of the luxury to steam up all the time either since you want to consistently have an energy in hand to attach for your follow up attackers and another energy to steam up, however since you play cards like Kiawe and Max Elixirs plus adding the fact that several energies can end up been prized, sometimes it can become to have the luxury to Steam Up all the time, not to mention a Ho-oh-GX with Choice Band can still one shot most of the stage 1 GX Pokémon as well so you don’t really need to have to Steam Up all the time either; also unlike the traditional Volcanion heavy decks, the deck doesn’t have much ways to get the energies back to the board therefore your energy resource management becomes key when it comes to piloting this deck.  Therefore I thought that 2 was a solid number overall considering prizing and etc.

1 Turtonator-GX

Turtonator-GX is also another very key card in this deck.  Its Nitrotank-GX attack allows you to get back 5 fire energies from the discard into the board which is very good allowing you to setup another Ho-oh-GX and even Turtonator-GX itself putting your opponent on a spot where either Turtonator-GX or Ho-oh-GX can swing back the following turn.  It’s attack Bright Flame requires to discard 2 fire energies but the damage output with Choice Band and Steam Up an add up to 220 which is very nice and strong.  Its first attack Shell Trap is rarely used since majority of the times you want to go aggressive with Ho-oh-GX but still a nice option to have it around, and Turtonator is also another nice target to use Kiawe as well.  I have seen several other Ho-oh decks that plays multiple copies of Turtonator-GX in the deck, however since I run other attackers such as Salazzle-GX that takes significant slots in the deck, and generally I promote a Ho-oh-GX as an opening attacker then once that Ho-oh gets knocked out, I promote the Turtonator-GX to utilize Nitrotank-GX to charge up my board, generally the Turtonator that I promoted have the chance that it gets knocked out or gets scratched from the attacks so I felt like you won’t really be using more than 1 Turtonator if you manage to be attacking with Ho-oh-GX, yet still just like Volcanion-EX, it is a 3 energy attacker also this is also another important aspect to keep in mind as well. However unlike Ho-oh and Volcanion, since Turtonator requires discarding 2 energies it is actually much harder to constantly spam Bright Flame where Ho-oh and Volcanion-EX allows you to do that if you manage to switch back into the bench.  Under those reasons I came to conclusion to only play 1 copy in the deck  since it have a lower chance to get prized, and if anything since the deck goes aggressive taking prizes early game, I figured it wouldn’t be a major issue most of the time.


2-2 Salandit / Salazzle-GX

I personally think Salazzle-GX has a very important role in this deck for different reasons.  First, the Salandit is a nice basic Pokémon since 70 HP makes 3 shot range from attacks like Jet Punch from Buzzwole-GX, and the 1 retreat is also a nice bonus since you can combo with Guzma to retreat easily if you don’t have Tapu Lele-GX on the bench and helps you to attack with Ho-oh-GX to spam Phoenix Burn slightly better.  Now moving to Salazzle-GX, It’s attack Heat Blast is actually nice attack where it allows you to go aggressive early in the game in scenarios where you somehow weren’t able to hit the Turn 1 Kiawe to Ho-oh-GX or other big basic attackers and 110 is a nice damage output to putting things into two shot range and you also have Choice Band to change the numbers in you favor as well.  Due to this deck’s characteristic where it focuses on taking prizes really quickly, Salazzle-GX becomes a very important Pokémon that will allow you to close the game.  Its attack Diabolical Claws does 50 more damage per prize you have taken and it only requires 2 energies which is practical and strong late game since late game your opponent will most likely tries to N you to lower hand size and it becomes difficult to setup your board when most of your attackers requires 3 or 4 energies to deal significant damage to close the game.  Therefore Salazzle-GX becomes is important card that will put your opponent into a “check” state since once you take 4 prizes it can deal 200 damage and with Choice Band it will deal 230 damage which it puts majority of GX Pokémon in one shot range.  Since it is stage 1 Pokémon and important closer that even allows you to go aggressive early game, and there might be scenarios where you’re forced to discard the Salazzle-GX card early game or potential prizing, I thought that 2-2 line was balanced and consistent, also depending on certain matchups there are scenarios where you have to full utilize the 2-2 line Salazzle-GX as well so I felt like it was good number in the deck.

1 Volcanion

Volcanion is in the deck to serve as a midgame backup attacker since Power Heater allows you to get some energy back onto the board while you’re chipping some damage to your opponent’s Pokémon, and it also serves as the 7th prize card Pokémon as well.  From my personal experience the card comes in handy time to time but most of the time if you’re attacking with Power Heater at the start of the game, it is a sign that you’re not having a great start and most likely you could struggle mid game on.  It is helpful it isn’t essential, yet sometimes having that extra energy acceleration that Max Elixir can’t provide you is nice, therefore I thought 1 was enough in the deck as of now.



3 Tapu Lele-GX

Not much to explain here, the key card that allows you to search cards like Kiawe, Guzma, and draw supporter based on your board sate.  I have seen lists that play 4 Tapu Lele-GX in Ho-oh decks, but from my personal experience generally cards like Ho-oh-GX and Turtonator-GX puts so much pressure on board that your opponent generally don’t go after your Tapu Lele-GX early game unless their plays are limited that they are forced to go after, but if they go after Tapu Lele-GX that generally means that they are ignoring Ho-oh-GX and it’ll most likely get Phoenix Burned the following turn so the odds are pretty low in my experience for that scenario to occur.  In addition to this, I simply didn’t want to make my deck too ability reliant so Garbo Toxin Garbodor won’t hurt me was another reason.  As a result, having more Lele in the deck does help to increase your consistency, but I find that I generally only get to bench 2 Lele in a game and generally by the time I bench the 3rd Lele is to close the game or under desperate scenarios since each time you bench a Lele, it’ll most likely take up a bench spot for the most part in the game, therefore I thought that was 3 was a fine number in my deck.


4 Professor Sycamore

Standard draw supporter, this likes to go aggressive with its setup therefore 4 is a good number since you also play cards like Super Rod to get back some of the resources if anything.

3 N

Another draw supporter that can be useful time to time mid game on or even late game to disrupt your opponent,  I played 3 copies in my deck due to the fact that there weren’t many strong draw supporter at that time, but with the release of Cynthia I think it can be cut down to 2.


3 Kiawe

The primary energy acceleration card for Ho-oh-GX, one of the main cards of the deck.  I have seen some decks running 2 Kiawe and thicker line of Tapu Lele-GX, but as I explained before about Tapu Lele-GX, and also staring the game with Kiawe in hand also means that you don’t have to bench a Lele and you can save those Wonder Tags for later in the game for other occasions so I thought having 3 Kiawe seemed to be fine.

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