Prior to the release of Sun and Moon, there were several tools that were commonly played:
- Fighting Fury Belt was a natural option for decks that played a high count of basic Pokémon.
- Spirit Links featured in decks centred around Mega Pokémon.
- Float Stone was the utility tool of choice for any supporting Pokemon.
- Bursting Balloon and Assault Vest also saw some play.
The new Stage 1 and Stage 2 GX Pokémon are the first Pokémon with over 200 HP that do not benefit from the attachment of a Spirit Link, and are incompatible with Fighting Fury Belt.
Which tool card should you attach to your GX Pokémon?
To answer this question, we have classified every Tool Card that is currently legal to use for standard competitive play, into offensive, defensive, or utility, and analysed how they may be useful for the new GX Pokémon.
Note: It is always assumed that Fighting Fury Belt will be the tool of choice to attach to your basic Pokémon GX, so it has been omitted from the list of tools. Further, the effect of other tools on basic GX Pokémon will be not be discussed unless the tool may confer a benefit that is superior to Fighting Fury Belt.
Pokémon that are able to attack once or twice for a total damage output that is 60 damage short of the typical hit points of meta-relevant Pokémon, may benefit from having a Bursting Balloon attached. In the case of particular GX Pokémon;
Lunala GX, Lycanroc GX, Primarina GX and Lurantis GX all have attacks that deal 120 damage. With a Bursting Balloon attached, an un-Fighting Fury Belted 180 HP Pokémon will be knocked out if they choose to return with a damaging attack. Additionally, if Lurantis GX uses Flower Supply and has a Bursting Balloon attached, the opposing Pokémon will suffer a total of 100 damage if it remains active and deals damage with an attack. A Solar Blade from Lurantis GX (powered up through Flower Supply) on the following turn will result in a total of 220 damage dealt (potentially at the cost of only one energy attachment from hand).
Obviously the attack + Bursting Balloon damage only applies if the attacking Pokémon stays in the active spot, the Bursting Balloon is not removed, and the defending Pokémon deals damage with their attack. Thus, a Bursting Balloon only deals soft damage. However, Bursting Balloon is an extra consideration for your opponent, and may be used simply to manipulate the way they play.
Through its ability “Search the Premises,” Gumshoos GX may maximise the efficacy of your Bursting Balloon. You are able to determine when your opponent is likely to attack you, or when they may Lysandre, and thus determine when you should play the Bursting Balloon.
Poison Barb is an interesting Tool Card. There is a psychological element to this card- in this way it is similar to Bursting Balloon. Provided the opponent’s attacking Pokémon is not immune to status conditions, they deal damage with their attack, and they are not switched out of the active position, the Poison Barb will deal a minimum of 20 damage to the opponent’s attacking Pokémon.
By using Poison Barb, you are likely going for the long game. To that end, Poison Barb may pair well with:
- A bulky version of Lurantis GX (e.g. with Vileplume and healing options).
- Lunala GX (Moongeist Beam prevents your opponent from healing).
- Energy and retreat denial decks.
There is only one GX Pokémon that can use Wide Lens- Umbreon GX. There are not many meta-relevant Pokémon with a weakness to Dark, so Wide Lens may not be the best tool card for Umbreon GX. However, pairing Umbreon GX with any of the Ancient Origins Flareon, Jolteon, or Vaporeon increases the playability of Wide Lens. Fire, Lightning, and Water are much more relevant weaknesses in the current standard format. Interestingly, an Umbreon GX that is dual Lightning-Dark type (as a result of an Ancient Origins Jolteon in play) with a Wide Lens attached, can deal 60 damage with Shadow Bullet to a benched Shaymin EX. This pressures a 2HKO on an active Pokémon and a simultaneous 2HKO on the benched Shaymin EX.
In the current standard format, special energy is highly played. Almost every deck runs Double Colourless Energy (some run it exclusively). Double Dragon Energy, Strong Energy, and Rainbow Energy also feature in some of the top tier meta decks. Because of this, the ability to reduce damage received from Pokémon with a special energy attached (using Assault Vest) could be useful for all GX Pokémon.
Let’s consider some math. Mega Rayquaza-EX can deal a maximum of 240 damage, and Rainbow Road typically hits 240 damage. When a Pokémon has an Assault Vest attached, this damage is reduced to 200. This is enough to turn a OHKO into a 2HKO for Lurantis GX, Gumshoos GX, and Decidueye GX.
Gyarados can deal a maximum of 210 damage. When a Pokémon has an Assault Vest, this damage is reduced to 170. This is enough to turn a OHKO into a 2HKO for Lurantis GX, Espeon GX, Gumshoos GX, Lycanroc GC, and Umbreon GX.
Against an Yveltal EX, Assault Vest is an asset, however it is mitigated slightly by an opposing Yveltal EX’s Fighting Fury Belt. Having an Assault Vest attached to your active Pokémon means an opposing Yveltal EX will need to use Evil Ball (rather than energy-conserving Y-Cyclone) to deal significant damage when they have a DCE attached. Further, they will need 1-2 more energy than usual to be able to hit those significant damage numbers. Assault Vest is particularly good in this match-up if you run energy denial options like Umbreon GX or hammers.
Bent Spoon prevents:
- Status conditions from attacks (like paralysis through Lapras GX’ s Ice Beam)
- Damage counters placed by attacks like with Espeon GX’s Divide and Mewtwo EX’s Damage Change
- Energy Removal through attacks like Umbreon GX’s Dark Call or Lycanroc GX’s Crunch
- Other effects of attacks like an instant knockout on a basic through Lunala GX’s Lunar Fall
Bent Spoon also prevents Jirachi from fulfilling the requirement for the effect of Stardust. Pokémon that rely on DCE or other special energy should consider running Bent Spoon, as this significantly limits the opponent’s options to discard special energy.
It should be noted that Bent Spoon does not get around Jolteon EX or Glaceon EX, as the effect is applied to that Pokémon, not your Pokémon with Bent Spoon attached.
Weakness Policy is particularly relevant for GX Pokémon with a weakness to fire, water, dark, or grass. Interestingly, there are not many strong fighting Pokémon in the current standard format, so this may not be relevant for GX Pokémon with a fighting weakness.
There are no GX Pokémon with a weakness to lightning. However, if a player runs the Ancient Origins Jolteon to add the lightning typing to their stage 1 GX Pokémon, and also runs Zebstrika, any damage dealt by attacks from their Pokémon will not be affected by Weakness Policy.
The choice to play Weakness Policy comes down to your own meta call.
There are two GX Pokémon that can utilise Heavy Boots- Incineroar GX and Solgaleo GX. These are two of the GX Pokémon that share the highest base hit points (250 HP). Heavy Boots would give both of these Pokémon 270 HP- a number that is only surpassed by Wailord EX with a Fighting Fury Belt attached. At face value, anti-confusion may seem like a useless perk. However, Espeon GX is a meta-relevant Pokémon that utilises the confusion mechanic, and immunity to confusion has no draw back. Despite the high retreat cost, Solgaleo GX has free retreat through its ability, so does not need to run Float Stone, and could preference the attachment of Heavy Boots.
Energy Pouch is not a good option for decks that accelerate from the discard pile e.g. Lurantis GX decks or Lycanroc GX decks (as they will likely run Carbink Break). Incineroar GX may run this tool if it is being played alongside Volcanion EX (as the energy can be used to power up Volcanion EX’s attack through its ability, on the following turn). Snorlax GX may utilise Energy Pouch if it is run with Lightning-Energy in a Magnezone deck, to keep a chain of Snorlax’s attacking.
Any Pokémon with a retreat cost can benefit from Float Stone. It is particularly useful for those with a retreat cost that can not be satisfied by a single energy attachment. Float Stone is generally attached to supportive Pokémon e.g. Wobbuffet, Garbodor or Hoopa EX (to prevent stalling). However, there are other reasons to run Float Stones in a GX deck. Some Pokémon will need to be switched out of the active spot after attacking e.g. Lapras GX after Blizzard Burn and Lycanroc GX after LycanFang (to retreat and utilise Carbink Break’s energy acceleration).
Solgaleo GX will not necessarily benefit from Float Stone, as its ability gives you a free switch every turn. However, if you happen to be running a Solgaleo GX deck with Garbodor, it might be important to increase your Float Stone count.
EXP Share may be useful if attached to an Espeon GX, Umbreon GX, Gumshoos GX, or Decidueye GX. This is because you can keep streaming attackers simply through a DCE attachment after your lead Pokemon is knocked out. EXP Share may also be useful in a mono-psychic Lunala GX deck, as it will ensure that Psychic Energy are never lost from the field. This style of deck could be run in the same way as the old Fairy Transfer- Max Potion decks.
This tool is only useful for Pokémon that require many energy to be attached from the hand. Perhaps this would be useful in conjunction with Magnezone to heal a significant amount of damage in one turn. I am not convinced this is a particularly strong tool option for the current GX Pokemon…
Floral Crown may be useful in a Tauros GX damage manipulation deck in order to keep the math perfect. If you know the opposing deck has a damage cap, you can manipulate the damage on Tauros GX in order to maximise the damage output from Rage and Mad Bull, while keeping Tauros GX out of KO range. This could be played alongside Shaymin- EX XY148 Promo.
Recently, Lucky Helmet has seen success in Gyarados decks. This indicates that Lucky Helmet would benefit decks that rely on having more cards in hand or rely on having specific cards to pull off strategies. Lurantis GX may want to run Lucky Helmet if it is partnered with Vileplume, in order to try to hit a supporter or draw more cards while locked out of items.
It is important to note that Lucky Helmet does not trigger when damage counters are placed (e.g. through Espeon GX’s Divide).
There are a plethora of tool cards in the current standard format, and each are useful in certain situations. As the format shifts to include cards from Sun and Moon, I would expect Weakness Policy and Assault Vest to see an increase in play, as the Ancient Origins Flareon, Jolteon, and Vaporeon have been hyped, and there is a heavy reliance on DCE. Float Stone will remain the most useful utility tool. However, EXP Share may be useful to dig out of the depths of your collection because many GX Pokémon require a high number of energy to attack, or benefit from having a large number of energy in play (e.g. Snorlax GX, Lunala GX or Lurantis GX).
This article is part of a weekly series for competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game players. Never miss an article! Follow me on Twitter here.
Special thanks to fellow Sydney player, David Patane, for his contributions to this article.