A New Light

Alex’s Forbidden Light Set Review and Buylist, Plus Standard/Expanded Recommendations

Hey everyone! We’re just coming off of a short break from major tournaments and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I really enjoy travelling to tournaments, but 4 in 6 weeks was a bit much. However, those 4 Regionals gave me the boost I needed to make a Top 16 push, so I shouldn’t complain too much!

Thus, I’ll be attending Brazil in a few weeks and my testing focus is on that. However, I understand that many players probably aren’t, and don’t really care about a 3 month old Standard format. Honestly, I wish I didn’t have to care about it! I’d rather work on something new.

Speaking of something new, prereleases for Forbidden Light start this weekend, and hype for the set will be building soon. In preparation for that, I have here my first look at the cards in the set and a buylist for players looking to pick up the necessary cards for upcoming tournaments.

And for those of you who do care about the formats we have to play in the next few weeks, I’ll also give a few thoughts about Standard and Expanded at the end of the article. Let’s get started.

Forbidden Light: Set Review

Funny enough, I haven’t actually looked at most of the cards in this set. The last few months have been super busy with tournaments every weekend, and I usually like to keep my focus on the current formats. I’ve seen some of the best cards, the Malamar and Ultra Necrozma type of cards, but otherwise this will be a very honest first look at the set for me.

Also, when I’m reviewing a set, I tend to look at cards that seem weak and think about their potential. You’ll probably see me highlighting cards that are either likely bad or definitely bad right now. All I’m doing is noting their existence, and then I’ll remember that they exist if we ever get another card or a format that makes them playable.

If you need translations (or want to see pictures) for these cards, check out our friends over at Limitless. They have translations for both Forbidden Light and Ultra Force, the two sets that the English set will draw cards from.

Disclaimer: The English set list isn’t out yet, so some of these cards might not make the set in the end. I’ll update this article with any notable erroneous inclusions or exclusions when we get that list.

Standout Cards

Abomasnow – Is this a great way to accelerate energy? Not really. Do we have other good ways to accelerate Grass Energy? Not really. If we ever get something worth accelerating to, and something that we want powered up quickly, Abomasnow could be the Pokémon to do it.

Pyroar – I’m not sure it’s for the better, but we now have a recreation of Primal Groudon’s Omega Barrier in Standard. This one gets shut off by Garbodor, and doesn’t really attack in a meaningful way, so it’s nowhere near as good. However, I could see this being used in some sort of a lock deck in the future. Worth knowing this exists, but probably not going to have a big impact right now.

Greninja-GX (and accompanying Froakie/Frogadier) – The entire Greninja line is actually potentially playable here, but maybe only after August’s rotation. Both Froakie could be seen as better than the Breakpoint version, depending on how important keeping an energy, a Paralysis out, or 70 HP are in the format in question. Right now, I think the 70 HP one is pretty appealing, especially if Buzzwole becomes more popular in the future. The Frogadier is obviously not better than using a T2 Water Duplicates, but has a useful ability for when the better one rotates.

Greninja-GX is a heavy hitter that seems to buck the trend of low damage but energy efficient attacks, plus the spread/snipe focus that the other Greninja cards have had. However, the ability is quite interesting, especially if it can be combined with Devolution Spray, Super Scoop Up, or other similar effects. Add in a few attacks with Tapu Koko SM31 and one from Tapu Lele UPR and you could have a pretty interesting deck.

Magnezone – Funny enough, we have the same Pokémon with the same ability name that does the same exact thing in the Standard format right now. No one plays Magnezone BKT anyway, so I don’t expect this one to catch on right now, but Rain Dance abilities have always been good.

Volcanion pI’m not sure if this ability is ever going to be too important, especially since we’ve had Pokémon Catcher/Lysandre/Guzma to choose our opponent’s Active Pokémon since 2011. However, in the past, cards like Spiritomb have been problematic and led to players using Regice as a counter. I don’t know if we’ll get to the point in the current era where Volcanion would be worth inclusion. Even if not, I’m planning to pick up a Volcanion, as well as most or all Prism Stars in this set. The Prism Stars in Ultra Prism were incredibly cheap to pick up early, and they look pretty, so you have that going for you if they end up collecting dust in your binder.

Did you miss me?

Malamar – This is likely the best card in the set, or at least in the top 5. I’m not even sure what this will end up powering up but the ability to charge 1 Energy per turn from the discard has been good since before 2004. The attack is pretty mediocre, but you can’t ask for much more than a great Ability. Also worth noting: Inkay BUS is probably the best version. I don’t want to get 1HKO’d by an Espeon-GX on turn 1 if I can help it.

Dawn Wings Necrozma – Well, here’s something to power up. I think there’ll be something better later on in the set, but for now, this is a solid Psychic type 1 Prize attacker to use with Malamar. The first attack is pretty mediocre, but 130 for 3 might be useful against Buzzwole and Lucario.

Naganadel-GX – I was wondering when I’d see the Ultra Beast payoff card. It’s kind of a shame that this is a Stage 1, but that’s probably necessary to balance it and not see T1 150 type of decks pop up. The other attacks are much less interesting than 120 for 1 (colorless!), but I could see some gimmicks coming out with resetting the game at 3-3 Prize cards. I was also going to comment on how good it is that Naganadel didn’t meet the same unfortunate fate as Dawn Wings Necrozma (weakness to Dark), but Psychic weakness might prove to be just as bad with Malamar coming out. Plus, it’s weak to itself which will probably make the mirror very volatile. This card will probably be strong, we’ll just have to see how strong.

Hoopa – I don’t know about you, but searching the deck for 2 Item cards seems exploitable to me. This might help to set up a Malamar deck or even some sort of Lunala strategy, but my thought with these cards always ends up being a control or milling type of strategy. Sableye is almost certainly better in Expanded so we’d have to find a Standard format that is amenable to a Hoopa control deck. Probably not the one we’re playing right now, but maybe in the future.

Binacle – Of course I had to jump in here and talk about Binacle. This one, while being the best Binacle for a Fighting deck, isn’t even good in Glaceon, so probably won’t see play anytime soon. But if you find a Fighting deck that uses Barbaracle, drawing a card with Binacle almost seems like the optimal start. Plus, Strong + Binacle gets you a prize and the top card of the deck when you’re looking at a Zorua, so that’s pretty cool.

Diancie p This card will bring immediate impact to Standard. No longer do Buzzwole players have to lament their inability to easily 1HKO Riolu and Grubbin, just Brooklet for Diancie and slap a Strong on! Reaching the 70 HP mark was my first thought when I read Diancie, but I’m sure there are other impactful numbers that it can help you to hit.

Lycanroc As I mentioned in my article about Buzzwole, this Lycanroc is probably the best non-GX variant to compliment Lycanroc-GX whenever one is necessary. Right now, I would only run it when the metagame has an abnormally high amount of Hoopa or other cards that shut Lycanroc-GX down. However, I could even see this as a strong attacker overall if the format starts to focus on non-GX attackers. I’ll be picking some of these up, and I really wish the beautiful prerelease promo art came in nonholo.

Florges – This is another card like Hoopa that seems exploitable in some sort of lock or control deck. If there was a Broken Time Space sort of effect that let you set several of these up quickly, or a truly broken Item card to reuse, I could see this being part of an interesting Tier 3 strategy.

Ultra Necrozma-GX – And here we have Malamar’s natural partner. It’s kind of unfortunate that Pokémon just gives us these 2 Pokémon combinations (Virizion+Genesect, Blastoise+Keldeo, etc) in the same set instead of letting us find the best partner through our own trial and error. But oh well, this card is insane. Attach from hand, attach with Malamar, do 180. Add Choice Band or more Malamar, and you can 1HKO literally anything. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a Pokémon that has attacked for more damage for this low of an energy cost.

The second attack is somewhat interesting, but unfortunately I think the “6 or less total prizes remaining” requirement is a big problem. Otherwise I’d want to play this in some sort of Koko spread deck if possible, but you can’t use the attack unless you’ve already taken at least 1 Prize. A deck like that would probably do best by just spreading for the entire game instead of taking prizes and then using Tapu Lele UPR to clean up, but this attack won’t let you do that. However, if you get to a point where you and your opponent both have 3 Prizes left, you can use Light of Destruction, assume the Necrozma gets 1HKO’d, and then follow up with Lele and Counter Energy to win. This strategy already has a few problems, and Counter Energy can’t be used to power up the {PM} attack cost, so Ultra Necrozma should probably just focus on massive 1HKOS.

Dialga-GX – The Dragon-type Dialga-GX was interesting, but has yet to make a big impact. Unfortunately, it probably never will. This version ditches the weakness to Fairy for Fire, a much more appealing choice, and the Psychic Resistance might come in handy too. I hope this card gets some play, but only Time(less) will tell.

Dusk Mane Necrozma – This is the only non-GX Ultra Beast in the set that I can see making its way into non-Ultra Beast strategies. Sniping 60 for 1 M is a bit stronger than I usually expect, and a non-GX that can swing for 200 to close out a game really interests me. I’m not sure if either of those attacks puts it over Cobalion STS, a card that sees little to no play, but this card definitely has potential.

Arceus p – The requirement to have 3 specific types of Pokémon on your bench seems restricting, but can be combined with Brigette to set up nicely on T1. I’m not sure what you’d want to power up, or which Pokémon you’d use to hit the requirements. But accelerating 3 energy from the deck is incredibly strong, especially if you can use it 2+ times. If only it wasn’t weak to Fighting…

Other Type Changing Pokémon – Similarly to Magnezone and Dialga, there are a few other dual-type Pokémon that got a reprint of a past card with their second type in this set. The other ones (Palkia, Empoleon, etc) just aren’t anything to write home about. If a Pokémon is mediocre in one type, it’s probably just as mediocre in a new one.

Generic Ultra Beasts – I’m somewhat unfairly combining these cards into one section just because they’re just not very interesting on their own. They all have an expensive (3 energy) attack with a weird stipulation (have 1 or 3 Prizes left) but with a big payoff (180+ damage, paralyze your opponent, etc). On their own, these cards obviously suck. With Beast Ring for acceleration and Naganadel for consistent early game damage, these cards are much more interesting. I’m excited to start brewing with these Pokémon to see if they’re worth playing.

Beast Ring – Wow, this card is good. Even though you can only use it in the middle of the game, the way that this can power you into or through the late game is unprecedented. Combine this with the costly but incredibly strong Ultra Beast attacks, and you’ve got the makings of an interesting aggro deck.

Diantha – Some players are pretty hype about this card, especially in Gardevoir decks, but I’m not sure it’s really that great. You’d likely want to adjust the entire Ralts/Kirlia split to Fairy to have more opportunities to activate Diantha, which is probably best with Psychic Pokémon making a resurgence anyway. Even then, I don’t think you get Fairy Pokémon KO’d too often, and when you do, can you afford to just get 2 cards from your discard pile and not play an N? I’ll have to test this to see if it’s that impactful.

Eneporter – Move a DCE from Zoroark to Exeggcute? Sounds fun. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t ever going to be better than Enhanced Hammer, but it could be an interesting replacement if it ever rotates.

Fossil Excavation Map – Fossil decks haven’t impressed yet, and I’m not sure this solves their problem. It’s rather unfortunate that the “Basic Pokémon” has to be an Item card, so you can’t search it out with Brigette. Maybe if you use this card and a turbo draw engine, you’ll be able to pump out a few Unidentified Fossil on T1.

Lysandre p – I really like the design of this card, especially in the context of an Expanded format with VS Seeker. Is your opponent bullying you with VS Seeker for Hex Maniac turn after turn? Just get rid of the Hex Maniac! I wish this was more splashable, as the option to get rid of something in your opponent’s discard pile really interests me, but it might still see play.

Mystery Treasure – If you’re running a Psychic or Dragon deck, this card is just better than Ultra Ball. Tapu Lele is a Psychic Pokémon, so what else do you need to get? This will give a big advantage to Malamar decks, but they really didn’t need one!

Ultra Recon Squad – Dang, they’re really trying to get us to play Ultra Beasts. I’m not sure how many Ultra Beasts you’ll need to play to get good use out of this card, but to put this into perspective, Felicity’s Drawing let you discard 2 to get 4 cards and it saw a good amount of play around 2010. This card nets you way more than that, but comes at a potentially steep cost, especially if you can’t search for Ultra Beasts well.

Ultra SpaceAlright this is getting kind of out of hand. You don’t even have to get a Basic Ultra Beast! You can pick up Naganadel on T2 and just start swinging. The Ultra Beast deck is going to be super good.

Wake – When I look at a card and see “search your deck for any card”, I’m intrigued. When you consider that most decks that play basic Water Energy usually play a lot of them (Blastoise especially, and Greninja to some extents in recent years), the drawback here seems miniscule. We also have Starmie EVO in the format to fuel the discard for this card, so I expect this to be very strong at some point.

Beast Energy p – My first thought is that this card would be super good even if it didn’t provide the +30 damage! Actually, I think the +30 damage is the best part of the card, especially when you consider that most Ultra Beasts attack for 2-of 1 energy type and 1 Colorless. So this isn’t the end all card for splashing with Ultra Beasts. However, I think this will possibly be the only Psychic Energy in many Ultra Beast decks, allowing you to use Naganadel and the 2nd attack when you don’t want to play Basic Psychic otherwise.

I think that’s just about everything in the set that interests me. Most of the GXs are pretty underwhelming, but the Ultra Beast cards are ridiculous. Let me know on the forums or on Twitter if you think I left anything off the list that deserves some attention!


Must Have:

4-4 Malamar (Inkay from BUS)
3 Ultra Necrozma-GX
4-4 Naganadel-GX
1 Diancie p
4 Beast Ring
4 Mystery Treasure
4 Ultra Recon Squad
4 Ultra Space
1 Beast Energy p

2 to 4-of each Ultra Beast not named Guzzlord (Dusk Mane Necrozma, Dawn Wings Necrozma, Buzzwole, Xurkitree, Pheromosa)

Interesting/Has Potential:

4-4-4 Greninja-GX
3 Magnezone
1 Volcanion p
3 Lycanroc
1 Dialga-GX
1 Arceus p
2 Diantha
4 Fossil Excavation Map
1 Lysandre p
4 Wake

Don’t Bulk:

4-4 Abomasnow
2-2 Pyroar
4 Hoopa
2 Binacle
4 Florges
4 Eneporter

Back Up: Current Set Recommendations

Standard – Although this is the format that I have enjoyed the most this year, and the one that I’ve seen the most success in, I feel somewhat lost as far as what to play. I played Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu at my last 3 Cups (the same list as my 3rd place run in Portland) and finished Swiss in those events as 0-2, 4-0 and a scoop, and 0-2. So, the deck’s a bit streaky. I don’t think it’s what I’ll end up playing in Brazil, just too risky. However, I do think the deck has a very high ceiling and could be a good call for someone looking to spike at a League Cup. It also has good or decent matchups against all kinds of problematic decks like Hoopa, Sylveon, and Greninja, the latter of which being uncommonly popular in my area.

Likely the best card in the format.

Instead, I’m looking more toward Buzzwole and Zoroark/Lycanroc as my top choices. Buzzwole has solid matchups across the board, and wins almost any matchup when it goes off. The floor for the deck, however, can be quite poor, and the release of Lucario may lead to more Mew-EX being played which can give Buzzwole some trouble.

Zoroark/Lycanroc has become my comfort deck of sorts after playing it to some success in Memphis and Charlotte. I like the way that the engine gives you access to all kinds of options, especially the big plays that Multi Switch and Lycanroc can spring out of nowhere. Players like Azul Griego and Michael Pramawat have seen some success with the deck at recent League Cups, and even showing off some new technology in Timer Ball. This might be the best “safe” deck in the format right now.

Expanded – I’ve made my distaste for the Expanded format abundantly clear, which, combined with the fact that I only have to play it once more this season, has led to me almost never playing the format. When I do have to start preparing for the format, I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking mostly at Drampa/Garbodor and Glaceon.

Starting with the latter, I still think the deck is incredibly strong in the format and steals games from all kinds of exploitable aggro decks. My main concern is the matchup against the former, since I think Drampa will be a popular choice among top players. I’ve found it to be relatively even, but Azul Griego thinks it’s strongly in Drampa’s favor, so I think it’s worth giving another look.

Speaking of Drampa, it’s probably just the best deck in Expanded. I don’t expect it to ever be as dominant as Zoroark, but I think it has the best chance to win the most amount of matchups. However, the deck is definitely hard to play in relation to the other decks in the format, so I’ll have to put some time into learning it before Virginia. And who knows, a potential change to the banlist in the coming weeks could make the format interesting again.


10 Days til Brazil!

That’s about all I’ve got for today. I hope to see you all soon, either in Brazil or somewhere in the following 2 months of nonstop Pokémon! Best of luck in the coming tournaments and with your Prerelease pulls!

As always, if you have questions about a deck, what to pick up, a tournament, etc, just shoot me a message on the forums here or on Twitter.

Until next time,


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