Hello friends! Travis Nunlist back again with a fresh and exciting topic today. May is quite the busy month for me, so unfortunately I most likely won’t be able to play Pokémon until Seattle Regionals. Conveniently, this will be the first major tournament to feature the new Guardians Rising Expansion. Guardians Rising is already being hyped as the best set printed in years, so I’m insanely excited to start exploring the possibilities it brings to the table. This set feels like a power set, and there are very few cards that actually appear unviable. Even if they don’t see immediate play, there are so many cards in the set that have sleeper value and should be kept in the back of your mind moving forward. With that being said, I’m going to focus on some concepts that I see immediate value in and will definitely get to testing as soon as possible.
I’ve said it before, but I’ve always really enjoyed the period between a hot new set dropping and the first big event with said set. I love exploring new concepts and their viability when matched up against established archetypes. Discovering something new and doing well with it is always an incredible experience, and I hope I can help spark some creativity that leads into an explosion of new concepts at Seattle Regionals.
Sparky and Spunky – Vikavolt
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 31
Energy – 13
Vikavolt SUM is a card I was very interested in when it was released, and now that it has a GX counterpart, the concept can only be stronger. The general strategy is to get out all of your Grubbin ASAP and evolve them into Vikavolts. From there, you begin using your multiple methods of Energy acceleration to get your attackers online and ready to start dishing out serious damage.
The acceleration provided by Vikavolt SUM is actually incredibly powerful, and is complemented by the acceleration attack on the GX! With a single Vikavolt’s energy acceleration plus an attachment, you can get any basic attacker in your deck swinging immediately, and can have Vikavolt-GX attacking much quicker than you’d think. You also have access to two very powerful GX attacks, Gigatron-GX and Tapu Thunder-GX, which can both be game breaking when used correctly. Aether Paradise Conservation Area effectively gives all of your Pokémon 30 more HP and gives you an out to Parallel City.
3/2 Vikavolt Split
I’m very excited to see Pokémon printing GX and non-GX versions of the same Pokémon that are compatible together. Not only is it very fun to see use different versions of the same Pokémon in a game, but it also aids consistency by allowing you to run more than 4 copies of said Pokémon. I’ve chosen the split in favor of the GX because I think you’ll only ever really need 1 non-GX out in a game, and most of the time would rather have your first evolution be the GX to begin attacking.
I have become incredibly enamored with this card with the release of Tapu Lele and the increasing focus on the GX mechanic. Because of Tapu Lele, Brigette is easily accessible early game, and it has the ability to grab Basic Pokémon-GX in addition to other, normal Basics. For those of us that have been playing for awhile, it is similar to Pokémon Collector, which allowed you to grab 3 of any Basic Pokémon with no restrictions. A T1 Ultra Ball into Tapu Lele/Brigette can leave your board ready to party very quickly, allowing you to end T1 with at least 5 Pokémon in play!
I think Rescue Stretcher is a very powerful card, and, in a lot of decks, will become the go-to form of recovery due to its versatility. Here, I chose a 1/1 split here because of how good getting Energy back can be with Vikavolt’s ability. 13 Energy may seem like a lot, but when you’re pulling 2 from deck every turn, it’s easy to see how we can run out of targets for Strong Charge rather quickly. Having the ability to put Energy back into the deck to get with Strong Charge is very powerful, and could honestly be reason enough to run 2 Super Rod.
Other Card Options
Trevenant-EX is another basic attacker addition that could go in over Raikou or Tapu Koko. Because it uses Grass Energy, it helps to diversify type coverage a bit, and is really the only option for attacking on Turn 1. Dark Forest can also slow the game down a bit by trapping something active, buying you more time to setup your board. The non-EX Tapu Koko can help setup some knockouts as well, spreading to your opponent’s entire field early on, and requires a few less resources than Raikou to get rolling.
Editor’s Note: Tapu Koko SMPR is due for release in a promo box on May 19. It’s not yet completely clear when this card will be legal for play.
Wide Lens is only useful in conjunction with Vikavolt-GX’s GX attack. If you have a Wide Lens and use Gigatron-GX, you will instantly KO any and all Shaymin-EX your opponent has in play, along with dealing 120 to any other Lightning-weak Pokémon on the field. The card also gets a little better with the non-EX Tapu Koko, but ultimately is probably not worth the space.
Rough Seas is something to consider over Aether Paradise Conservation Area. They accomplish similar things, but ultimately are very different. Rough Seas can guarantee a 30 heal on your turn, while Aether Paradise can be bumped on your opponent’s turn, providing no positive effect for you. However, Aether Paradise effectively gives your Pokémon more HP, and if not bumped, can prevent a 1HKO from something like M Rayquaza on your Vikavolt-GX. Because all of our attackers are currently Lightning, it is definitely something to consider, and, ultimately, testing will prove which is superior.
Waterbox – Ninetales and Friends
Pokémon – 15
4 Alolan Ninetales-GX
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
This is my first crack at trying to break open the insane card that is Aqua Patch. We’re all familiar with Dark Patch’s dominance since it was first printed in Dark Explorers (also a Spring set, interestingly enough) and the effect it has continued to have on formats where it is legal. Alolan Ninetales-GX is a card that I find very interesting, and I’m honestly in love with the Vulpix as well. Vulpix can search out any 2 Pokémon and add them to your hand — for free. This is an incredibly powerful setup attack on an evolving Basic and the added consistency is half the reason I think Ninetales is even viable.
A more basic-centric version of “Waterbox” may prove optimal, but I’m definitely going to give Ninetales a try. The first attack can setup knockouts for future turns and even KO threats like Oddish. The second attack does a whopping 160 at the cost of discarding two energy, but with DCE and Aqua Patch, this shouldn’t hinder us too much. The GX attack is essentially Mewtwo’s Damage Change, which can provide us with insane tempo-swinging plays. If our opponent can reasonably play around that option, we always have Lapras-GX to fall back on for a powerful GX attack.
4-4 Alolan Ninetales-GX
A full playset is essential to me for a couple reasons. Not only is Vulpix our best starter by far, but having access to a full count of Ninetales is essential in forcing your opponent take out three 210 HP beasts — while still trying to play around Ice Path-GX. Ninetales is intended to be the focus of the deck, while the other Basics are just support.
It’s not a surprise that Tapu Lele is making 1-of supporters more relevant than they’ve been all season in Standard. I think Kukui is the strongest tech Supporter option in this deck because the damage modifying options can really help us reach some critical numbers. Choice Band and Kukui reaches 210, which can 1HKO a huge number of things in the format. Even missing the Band allows us to hit 180, which can also be incredibly important. The draw is always nice as well, and overall the strength of Professor Kukui is maximized by the existence of Tapu Lele.
1-of Water Pokémon
I like all of the single tech water types in the list now because they all fill unique niches:
- Palkia-EX – Alternative Energy Acceleration/Snipe Damage
- Lapras-GX – Draw boost/Alternative GX attack
- Glaceon-EX – Cleanup attack/Evolution Lock
- Manaphy-EX – Free Retreat
I think Palkia EX is the most cuttable, but testing will prove which are the most essential.
Other Card Options
Wishiwashi-GX, Tauros Package/Basic Focus
Wishiwashi-GX seems almost good to me. Having access to the Basic Wishiwashi to swap is very cool, but the GX’s attacks are a little too costly. You could try focusing around a quick GX attack for an easy early KO and solid board for the rest of the game, but I think it would detract from the Ninetales focus here and would have to be a separate deck all together.
The Ninja Boy/Tauros package saw success in a basic-focused version of Waterbox at Anaheim Regionals, and is probably very useful in a more basic focused version of the deck. Cutting Ninetales and focusing entirely on basic EX and Pokémon-GX gives the deck a bit more room to utilize non-Pokémon additions, and helps to maximize the usefulness of Ninja Boy with Tapu Lele.
Drampa-GX/GarbodorOld Trash –
I was introduced to this deck by my good friend Drew Allen who sent me this Japanese winning list. Their format is currently XY-GUR, but I do think the power of the deck translates very well into our current format and is definitely something worth testing. Drampa-GX is insanely underrated, and is definitely the most slept on card in my opinion. Garbodor will prove to be format-warping because of how powerful its attack is, and I would not be surprised at all to see it absolutely dominate the first part of the new format.
Decks will have to change they way they’re built just to account for Garbodor, and if you don’t then the trash monster will surely make you see this devastating mistake. If there is one piece of advice I can give for preparing for the new format is that you will have to learn how to play against the new Garbodor. Here is a list I’ve made to adjust for our format.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
Drampa is 100% your ideal starter in this deck. Turn 1 you generally try to Ultra Ball into Tapu Lele for Brigette and then follow up with a Big Wheel-GX. Having a hand of 10 cards on T1 is nothing to scoff at. Even if your opponent plays an N, your hand is still refreshed to 6 (7 after your draw) after you played a setup supporter, not a draw supporter. Committing to using your GX attack early also makes Hala viable during the entire game, and it’s a powerful draw supporter when optimized. Righteous Edge is very good at combating early game pressure from decks that rely on Special Energy, and the second attack is actually pretty easy to hit hard with when you consider Team Magma’s Secret Base.
The Garbodor line is pretty optimal. Having access to Trashalanche and shutting off Abilities makes the line insanely powerful, even with Field Blower existing to combat Garbotoxin. Just the threat of the new Garbodor is enough to force your opponent to play differently, and if they don’t play around it, then you will most likely have a non-EX swinging for 200+ damage as early as Turn 2! The existence of Field Blower makes Garbodor even better because you can actually boost your own output while disrupting your opponent’s field. Garbodor is easily the best card in the set.
These three tech supporters are all essential. Brigette and Hala boost your consistency a ton, and are both very accessible at any point in the game with 2 Tapu Lele. Delinquent is not only a powerful card in its own right, but can actually put your opponent in some very compromising situations when you consider Trashalanche. Your opponent may have to consider discarding cards they need just to avoid discarding Items that would allow you reach higher damage with Garbodor.
Other Card Options
Wobbuffet is a card to consider because of how good Decidueye currently is. Because we play Psychic Energy, we can actually attack with it, and having the guaranteed out to lock is always nice. I chose not to include it initially because I think Drampa as a whole is very powerful against Decidueye on its own, but if Decidueye remains popular enough going into Seattle, then it definitely gains a lot of power.
Altar of the Moone gives Drampa free retreat (while allowing you to keep a Choice Band on it), giving you a solid way to rotate between Drampa and increasing your outs to maximizing Berserk. It also reduces both Garbdors’ Retreat Costs to 1, letting you safely Choice Band either one without having to worry about being stuck with a Lysandre play from your opponent.
Team Flare Grunt is insanely powerful against the right decks when combined with Righteous Edge, and is even powerful enough on its own. No deck likes to have their energy removed. The card has always been a favorite of mine, and with Tapu Lele allowing access to it at the right time, it can be game-breaking.
An Aside on Virginia Regionals
Discussing new sets is always incredibly fun and refreshing, but let’s not forget: we still have one more Regionals in the current Standard format. Decidueye/Vileplume is definitely the deck to be the most worried about going into the tournament, but don’t forget there are a plethora of viable decks to be prepared for.
If I were going this weekend I would most likely be playing Decidueye or Volcanion. Decidueye being BDIF in an incredibly diverse format is so appealing because it makes it very difficult for other decks to hard counter you. Volcanion just has so much consistency going for it that I’m rarely worried about setting up and hitting what I need while playing it, and with Scorched Earth, I believe it gives the deck the extra draw it needs to beat Vileplume. With that much consistency, and optimal play, I think it’s easy to see why good players have consistently piloted Volcanion to the top tables.
I hope this discussion has begun to open up the possibilities that Guardians Rising brings to the table. I truly believe this is one of the best sets I’ve seen since I started playing Pokémon in 2011, and I would not be surprised to see the entire game revolving around cards printed in this set. I’m very much looking forward to exploring the plethora of options here in all kinds of iterations, and hope that all of my readers will do the same. I’m very much looking forward to Seattle Regionals and the craziness that may ensue. As always it is a pleasure to write for SixPrizes and an honor to produce content. Until next time!
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