Pokémon TCG: Uncovering the Secrets of Sun and Moon

 

As inhabitants of Earth, we’re lucky enough to be treated to the Sun and Moon every day and night respectively*. Only once will we be treated to the release of the Pokémon Trading Card Game Sun and Moon set.

The Sun is an incredibly important star, and the Moon is a body of astronomical importance. But how important will the Pokémon Sun and Moon TCG sets be? Which cards are essential to collect at the up-coming prereleases (Saturday 28th/ Sunday 29th)? And will the proceeding sets be named after Twilight novels?

In my entirely scientific quest to find this out (discovering the secrets of the Universe will just have to take a back seat for now…), I gathered the perspectives, observations, opinions, and predictions (what an acronym) of some of Australia’s finest Pokémon TCG Masters players: Alexander Bray (WA), James Goreing (SA), Jordan Palmer (SA), Shane Quinn (NSW), Sameer Sangwan (VIC), and Brent Tonisson (NSW).

*Actually, sometimes you can see the moon during the day too. This baffled me as a child… and an adult. If you were never really invested in this article, you can learn about the Moon’s luminosity and ostensible defiance of man-made laws here.

Index

  1. Which cards from the Sun and Moon set would you consider to be immediately playable?
  2. Which cards in the Sun and Moon set may be viable in the future?
  3. Will any new Tier 1 or Tier 2 Competitive Decks emerge from the Sun and Moon Set? If so, what decks do you believe these will be?
  4. Are there any underplayed cards from Primal Clash to Evolutions that will be playable or stables once Sun and Moon is released?
  5. How do you believe the meta will shift once the Sun and Moon set is released?

Note: Clicking on a Japanese card will open it’s translation on Bulbapedia.

1. Which cards from the Sun and Moon set would you consider to be immediately playable?

Oranguru

Sameer: Oranguru is a colourless, basic version of Octillery that actually has a decent attack. It provides much-needed recovery from N to 1-2. This is arguably the best card in the set.

James: Oranguru means you will never draw dead off of an N to 1. It is blocked by Silent Lab, Hex Maniac, Garbodor, and Alolan Muk. But Oranguru being a basic is why I like it. Three cards may not seem like a lot, but that can pay for an Ultra Ball for Shaymin EX or draw you the energy or supporter for the game.

However,

Shane: Oranguru appears to be incredibly strong, but it is a card I am not sure about. The ability to draw to 3 is strong, but it is fairly rare to dip below three cards in hand at any time- save for a Delinquent or an N to 1. After a Delinquent, Oranguru could get at most two cards after you draw for turn, and after an N to 1, Oranguru would net you only one additional card. There are situations where that extra one or two cards could be game changing, but they do not happen very frequently.

Lurantis GX

Sameer: This is a grass-type Mega Manectric, but without the inherent inconsistency of Megas, and with the ability to take advantage of the speed that Forest of Giant Plants offers. There are numerous combinations for this card, such as with Eeveelutions, Vileplume, or even Trevenant EX. The GX attack can be a good game finisher as well, but unlike Umbreon and Espeon, it is purely an offensive one.

In addition to this,

James: The versatility, damage, energy ramp, ability to hit different increments, and the fact that it’s only a stage one, make this a very playable card.

However,

Shane: Whilst the first attack of Lurantis GX is good, it isn’t as good as Emerald Slash from Viridian EX PLB. It does have the versatility of accelerating any energy. Due due to its grass attack cost, and the fact that it is a stage 1, this cards only use may be to accelerate Grass Energy. There is potential for pairing this up with something like Vileplume AOR, as it does hit for a solid 120 damage. With decks like Volcanion sitting at tier 1 at the moment, I’m not sure how successful it will be.

Umbreon GX

James: Every part of Umbreon GX is good. The attacks are almost perfect with the costs being fair and damage being flexible. It provides options, fits with the dark ethos of DCE abuse, works well with existing dark type staples. The card even fits the Flare Grunt/ Hammers build of modern dark decks. All this, and still just a stage one. Stay Dark.

Shane: Umbreon GX is quite strong. It basically has the Night Spear attack from the old Darkrai EX, but for a better cost of DCC. It is also a potential partner for Yveltal EX, as it isn’t weak to and can deal with Jolteon EX. The GX attack presents some extra utility in board control, and although it may not be useful in every match-up it could be a good go-to against decks devoted to DCE or for slow starts in the mirror match in general. This coupled with the new Eevee, helps this card to shape up into something instantly playable.

Umbreon GX paired with Espeon GX

Sameer: These are both bulky stage 1’s with very powerful regular attacks and also interesting GX attacks. Umbreon acts as a universal double flare grunt, which can change the entire game when combined with an N (for example). Espeon spreads 10 damage counters wherever you want, which can finish off damaged targets on the bench without needing to use a Lysandre.

Jordan: Being able to discard any two energy with Umbreon GX’s attack could be enough to win an entire game against a deck like Vileplume Box. Espeon GX is actually a very good partner for Umbreon GX. For Psychic DCE, you can drop 100 damage on your opponent’s board in any way you like. When combined with Umbreon’s snipe attack, you can set up win conditions in just about any way you like. Espeon GX also has a decent regular attack, which deals an extra 30 damage for each energy attached to the defending Pokémon. Attacks of this nature have had lots of success in the game’s history, and it can really punish an opponent for playing too aggressively. If you are able to Night Spear for 180, you have a strong chance of winning the game.

Professor Kukui

James: The versatility of this card attracts me. Being able to draw cards and add damage at the same time, is amazing- even though the amounts of both may seem a little underwhelming. I loved playing Giovanni with Seismitoad EX, and I may be favouring this card due to the lack of solid competition for supporters.

Shane: Whilst Giovanni’s Scheme doesn’t see much play these days, Professor Kukui combines the best of both worlds. We get a 2 card draw as well as 20 more damage. As older supporters rotate out, Professor Kukui will gain strength,  keep this card in mind.

Decidueye GX

James: This is my “oh gosh, I hope this works” card for this set. It’s almost perfect- has access to Forest of Giant Plants, drops damage like bats, and recycles cards like Sableye. I haven’t looked at how to actually build with it yet, but this is an instant favourite of mine… at least in a vacuum.

Sameer: This card is like Phantom Forces Crobat on steroids. Its Ability can be used once per turn and also reused with Devolution Spray. It has obvious synergy with Forest of Giant Plants, which is the main reason it will succeed in the meta. The real question is, what should you pair it with?

Ace Trainer Australia’s Bodhi may have found a solution with his Decidueye GX/ Latios deck.

Nest Ball

Shane: Nest Ball is a costless search card for any basic Pokémon. You lose the ability to search out a Pokémon with an ability because the searched Pokémon is played immediately. Objectively, Ultra Ball is going to be better most of the time. Decks that do not use Shaymin EX, or that require more consistency than 4 Ultra Ball may benefit from Nest Ball.

Brent: Cards such as Nest Ball, as well as GX attacks that require some setting up, may be Pokémon’s way of hinting that they plan to slow the game down after the rotation of Shaymin EX.

Lapras GX

Sameer: Lapras GX are what waterbed decks have needed ever since Seismitoad EX was rotated. Lapras GX is a bulky water type that can OHKO common threats. With Fighting Fury Belt, Lapras can hit for 170, which is a nice number as it KOs many popular EX Pokémon, as well as Greninja Break. It is unfortunate that we probably will not get Choice Band for a while.  Choice Band would allow Lapras to hit for 210 (Choice Band + Professor Kukui), which KOs almost every viable Pokémon in the meta.

Jordan: This card should make people think of the very popular water Toolbox deck from last year. I think people will try to recreate this concept using Lapras GX- and for good reason. Lapras GX with Fighting Fury Belt, Rough Seas, Manaphy EX, and Palkia EX could be a formidable combination. The problem with this is that it will be slow to set-up and will be easily disrupted by Garbodor. I feel like this idea may become better if/ when Garbodor is no longer popular.

Timer Ball

Sameer: This is Dual Ball, except for evolutions. It has no downsides whatsoever, and more evolution decks should consider running a couple of copies. Timer Ball will also help increase the consistency of evolution-based decks, and perhaps allow them to compete in the big-basic dominated meta.

2. Which cards in the Sun and Moon set may be viable in the future?

These may be cards that have potential, and you would consider to be playable if the meta shifts dramatically, cards are rotated, or certain mechanics re-emerge. 

Solgaleo GX and Lunala GX

Sameer: Both Solgaleo and Lunala GX are good cards, but not suited to our current meta. I would recommend obtaining playsets of both while they remain relatively cheap.

Alex: Solgaleo GX may not fit into the current format straight away. Though the individual strength of the card means that it has the potential to be exploited in the future. It will need some support, like a “metal links” Pokémon for Solgaleo.

Shane: I am always a fan of cards like Solgaleo GX. It has hard-hitting, high cost attacks a la Black Kyurem EX PLS. Solgaleo GX combines many things about the old Blastoise archetype. It has the Ultra Road ability, its attack, Sunsteel Strike, and acceleration through Sol Burst GX. However, the fact that is is a Stage 2 with a lacklustre Basic and Stage 1, in a meta that is generally quite fast-paced. We could also see a resurgence of Vileplume, which means that i don’t hold out much hope for it. If the meta slows down, or item lock rotates out, this card could be incredible. It is definitely worth picking up for a good price.

Lunala GX being a stage 2, greatly hurts it’s versatility. At present, the only real way to have enough psychic energy in play in order to make use of Psychic Transfer would be to accelerate them (or Rainbow Energies) with Solgaleo GX. This is obviously the archetype that this set is pushing, but given the special energy hate present in the format. It is unlikely that a dual Stage 2 set-up like this would be viable. Cards like this are always good to keep in mind for the future, though, so it may be worth picking up a copy or two when they are cheap.

Lillie

Shane: A similar card, Bianca, was sometimes used as a one-of in decks when Professor Juniper and N were in format. However, this was in a time without VS Seeker. Whilst Lillie has a slight buff to it on the first turn, in this current format with N and Judge for hand disruption, the extra cards drawn through Lillie are unlikely to be kept when it is played on the first turn. Similar to Professor Kukui, Lillie will gain strength once supporters such as Professor Sycamore and N rotate out.

Vikavolt

Sameer: Energy acceleration is always worth a second look.

Shane: The ability on this card is incredibly strong, but being a Stage 2 holds it back. The attack isn’t fantastic, but if the right partner for it is printed, then it could be. One other thing to note is that whilst we have a grass type Grubbin, we do not have a grass type Charjabug. If we happen to get a grass type Charjabug before Forest of Giant Plants rotates out, then this card will definitely be worth a much closer look.

Alolan Muk

Shane: I do not see a great deal of potential for this card in the format right now due to the overwhelming strength of Garbodor. Once Garbodor rotates, it is highly likely that this will be our only method of locking abilities consistently. Realistically, it could be used in a deck that has problems with something like Volcanion EX- where it wants to lock off basic abilities, but not those of evolutions. Unfortunately, Alolan Muk has a retreat cost of 4, which means it is a huge Lysandre target. It needs a Float Stone, which takes up the same amount of deck space as Garbodor normally does.

Jordan: For the time being, Alolan Muk is inferior to Garbodor. There is little reason to use this card at the moment. However, once Garbodor rotates out, Alolan Muk will be an important card. Ability lock is always considered a good thing, and Alolan Muk offers this and almost no way to shut it off.

Other Notable Mentions

  • Sameer:
    • Golduck: powerful Stage 1 attacker with low energy cost
    • Shiinotic: very nifty search ability for grass decks
    • Araquanid: immunity from fire-type Pokémon is quite good
    • Team Skull Grunt: solid disruption
  • Jordan:
    • Tsareena: Absol from the Sun and Moon set may be a good partner for this card.
  • Brent:
    • Tauros GX (the most splashable GX)
  • James:
    • Eevee
    • Cosmog / Cosmoem

3. Will any new Tier 1 or Tier 2 Competitive Decks emerge from the Sun and Moon Set? If so, what decks do you believe these will be?

Despite identifying some interesting and powerful cards in the Sun and Moon set, many players do not believe that any completely new competitive decks will emerge. 

James: I think that most of what is good now, will hold on. There is currently so much support for Basics and EXs. Whilst Sun and Moon may bring a move to evolution pieces and possibly slower starts to games, that is exactly what decks like DarkGarb and Volcanion can prey on.

Shane: The set presents a few new options of some existing decks, but short of the potential Lurantis GX/ Vileplume deck and some sort of Solgaleo GX deck, there aren’t likely to be any brand new archetypes established. I see this set as a sort of reset button on the power creep of the format in general. The set itself isn’t going to change the game too much overnight. Though, a few sets like this in a row could set the pace for a more diverse format going forward after a rotation or two.

Alex: The only deck I deem anything close to tier 1 or 2 would be Solgaleo GX- though I doubt it can be built to consistently attack turn after turn.

Brent: Most of the revealed Pokémon GX are not up to part with the refined and developed archetypes we are currently seeing at tournaments.

However, some players were optimistic about the development of new Sun and Moon-related decks.

Sameer: Decidueye GX will be a tier 2 competitive deck at worst. The cards has so much going for it, and the damage from 3-4 Decidueye GX can easily pile up and overwhelm your opponent. It can also go of on your first turn, potentially allowing for a donk if you run hot (i.e. hitting head on Timer Ball).

The 2 Eeveelutions in the set, Umbreon GX and Espeon GX may or may not be tier 1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of these Pokémon specific decks making Top 32 at the Oceanic International.

A Lurantis GX deck seemed to be a popular prediction for players.

Brent: The development of the Lurantis GX archetype will be very rapid- a refined archetype or a dismissal of the archetype will occur shortly after Sun and Moon is released.

Sameer: Lurantis GX has potential with many different partners- Vileplume, Trevenant EX, or even by itself.

Jordan: Lurantis GX will initially be paired with Vileplume, in an attempt to build a fast and aggressive turn 1 lock. This is similar to the Vespiquen/ Vileplume deck that saw success last season. Unlike that deck, Lurantis GX acts as a more stable attacking line, with 210 HP. Its second attack costs 3 energy and heals 30. This is an ideal effect to pair with an item-lock based deck. Item lock slows down the game, but this forces your opponent to apply constant pressure. This, or they will watch all their hard work be slowly removed. Combined with cards such as Pokémon Centre Lady or Olympia, you can heal up to 90 per turn under item lock. It also has energy acceleration from the discard for a single energy, which is quite easy to fuel with cards like Ultra Ball and Acro Bike.

Lurantis will also work well with Trevenant EX, which has a “Secret Sword”-like attack. Obviously attacks like these work very well with powerful energy acceleration cards. With the ability to lock your opponent active with its Dark Forest attack for just one energy, Trevenant EX could also see success as a disruptive way to slow down your opponent.

Lucia EX will act as a decent partner for Lurantis GX for a similar reason. It reminds me of the Virizion EX/ Mewtwo EX deck that saw play a few years ago. The main advantage Lugia EX has over Trevenant EX is typing. It gives you a decent attacker against fire decks and can attack for a cheap amount of energy too. There are a large number of viable attackers to pair Lurantis GX with!

4. Are there any underplayed cards from Primal Clash to Evolutions that will be playable or staples once Sun and Moon is released?

For example, Fairy Drop or Delphox Break

James: I loved that Donphan became so good with the release of Strong Energy and other additions, but was bulk fodder at its release. With the release of Sun and Moon, I see cards that aid set up becoming playable. Cards like: Teammates, Brigette, Level Ball, Rare Candy, Puzzle of Time and Talonflame have potential. They  will help put together the combo pieces needed to get out non-Basic GXs. Other things I see as getting more play include Bursting Balloon (as HP caps increase), as well as the AOR Eeveelutions. Further, more Evolutions will be played, so I like where Glaceon EX is sitting. Stay strong, cool cat.

Sameer: The Eeveelutions (Jolteon, Vaporeon and Flareon) should all become very playable. Sun and Moon introduces powerful new Stage 1 Pokémon that could benefit from typing manipulation. Yveltal is weak to lightning, Volcanion is weak to water, and Lurantis/ Decidueye/ Scizor are all weak to fire. This creates a very interesting dynamic moving forward.

I also believe that Weakness Policy will see a huge resurgence in popularity. It helps address this rock-paper-scissors format that may occur. The fact that there is no tool removal, makes this card especially effective right now. For example, Greninja will have a tough time against new grass decks, but it can easily find room for 2-3 Weakness Policy. This would swing the match-up in its favour.

GX

Alex: We may see the return of Regirock to support Lunala GX based decks. You can stack psychic energy onto it with max elixir until you get Lunala X out, then move the energy onto it.

Jordan: Ninja Boy. We recently saw the combination of Snorlax GX + Ninja Boy take many people by surprise. This is a trend I think will continue with Pokémon like Tauros GX. You can Ninja Boy damaged Pokémon into Tauros FC and deal triple that damage back with its GX attack. It becomes difficult for your opponent to play around Tauros GC when you can turn damage on any of your basic Pokémon against them. Just the threat of this play is enough to somewhat control how your opponent must play out their game-plan.

5. How do you believe the meta will shift once the Sun and Moon set is released?

Tiers

Sameer: All the current Tier 1 decks will still exist (Yveltal, Volcanion, Greninja, Gardevoir). However they will be adjusted to answer the new threats such as Decidueye GX, Umbreon GX, and Lurantis GX. Decks such as Yveltal/ Garbodor that normally tech for the mirror match, will have to use their free slots wisely. Getting Garbodor out is definitely more important in this new format, so perhaps we will see a shift to 3 Trubbish in these decks. I also believe Mega Mewtwo will decrease in popularity due to the presence of Espeon GX (a great counter). This is probably the final nail in the coffin for Mewtwo, but I could be wrong as the deck continues to surprise me.

Speed

James: I hope the game slows down a little bit, to accommodate the greater setup required by GXs over hyper aggressive basics and EXs. I see the cross-over years of EXs, Megas, Breaks and GXs as being a bit of a cluster simulator. I have a lot of hope for the pure GX days. Breaks are good, but evolving when EXs can just eat them, is unfortunate. I liked the idea of Megas, but Spirit Links make lists too tight and more just weren’t worth the effort. I’m personally really looking forward to playing with Primes worth two prizes.

Deck Building

Brent: I don’t expect all decks to slot in some form of GX attack but there will be many, if not most, using this GX mechanic. I think that it will be the same as Megas, it’ll take some time for them to really kick off. Though they will be somewhat different due to not having restrictions such as losing a turn to evolve. As for particular cards, I think that promo Giratina will not impact the meta as much as people would think. This is due to Silent Lab being a natural fit for Greninja decks. Plus, they have already become built to deal with ability lock from Garbotoxin.

Jordan: The Sun and Moon expansion has a lot of interesting and powerful cards to offer, though it will not actually have a huge impact on the meta. Overall none of the current decks are really hindered by this set. I suspect all of the currently successful decks will continue to see play post Sun and Moon. In my opinion, what will change most is they way people decide to build their lists. We may see more Ninja Boy-like strategies appearing. Some new powerful trainer cards being used, such as Nest Ball or Professor Kukui. Oranguru is another interesting card in Sun and Moon, which could change the way people choose to build their lists.

Thank you to all the players for their contribution to this article!

About Ellis Longhurst

Competitive Pokemon Trading Card game player since 2006. Competed for Australia at the 2015 World Championships, & the 2017 European International Championships. On-stream commentator and post-match interviewer at the 2016 Australian National Championships. Currently invested in supporting the growth of the Australian Pokemon TCG community. Current Video Game journalist for GameCloud Australia.
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