Fumbling with the Forbidden

Anticipating Expanded’s Evolution & Searching for Standard’s Spice

Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist back yet again, this time with a piece focusing on all the fun new cards that have been released in Forbidden Light! With this being my third piece inside of almost as many weeks I hope y’all aren’t getting tired of me! At least this time around my focus will be a bit different. Forbidden Light is the last new set of the 2017-2018 season, and like most final sets of the year it seems to be promising quite the shakeup to the meta for our homestretch.

We have both Standard and Expanded events creeping up on us very close to one another! This has created an interesting dynamic where the player base is a bit split on how they’re testing all the new stuff depending on what format is going to be the most relevant for them. The majority of players, myself included, are going to be focusing on Standard, but it is nice to see a reasonable amount of players focused on figuring out the impact on Expanded as soon as the set drops.

Fortunately for me, my first event with the new set will be the Madison Regional Championship, which gives me plenty of time to play with new cards and see different concepts played out on a competitive stage. While the Madison Regional Championship will be the first event attended by me with the new set out, I will not be competing in the main event and instead will be commentating! Commentating is something I’ve always been interested in but have never actually done beyond small local events and the occasional stream session on Twitch. I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to dazzle everyone with insightful analysis, witty humor, and a charming personality.

Misguided egotistical comments aside, I absolutely still plan to test as much as I can before the event in order to figure out all the best ideas, and the more experience with the format of the North American International Championship, the better! Even though I won’t be playing Expanded anytime soon, I still feel a desire to discuss the set’s impact on my favorite format if only for a bit. So before I start dropping all my wacky Standard creations, I’m going to itemize and analyze the cards I see having the most potential for impact on the Expanded format.

Expanded Examination

Soon, I will rule the format again!

In no particular order, here are the cards I see as having the highest chance of showing up in the Expanded format:

Yveltal-GX – It seems like not too long ago, Yveltal-EX was the BDIF. Israel Sosa was able to take the deck to a T8 finish much earlier in the season, but the deck just isn’t as strong as it used to be. Yveltal-GX gives the deck a new Yveltal to play with that has a 1 Energy GX attack capable of taking a free knockout, and Fighting resistance is even more useful considering the major boost that Buzzwole just received. I could see the new Yveltal-GX giving the deck just enough to be viable with Zoroark potentially being pushed out of the format.

Palkia-GX – The only deck I can see this card being played in is Archie’s Blastoise, but I do think it fills a very interesting niche there. The second attack is a slightly better Secret Sword which is cool, but the GX attack is the most interesting part. If you’re able to save your GX attack until after your opponent uses their Beast Rings, then Zero Vanish-GX can completely negate their extra attachments.

Volcanion p – Similarly to the previous two, I think this card does a lot for existing archetypes, but I’m not certain it will be game breaking on its own. With a decent ability and solid attack, this is a great option in any deck with W Energy like Archie’s Blastoise or Glaceon-GX archetypes.

Garchomp FLI – Garchomp is one of those decks that I’ve repeatedly put faith into and always end up getting burned on. I’m really hoping the Fighting ‘Chomp can help the deck get to the next level in Standard or Expanded. Getting Korrina/Sash in Expanded improves both consistency and longevity. The Diancie boost in both formats really helps round off numbers and overall seems very promising.

Buzzwole FLI – This little guy has been much better in testing than I initially expected. You can kind of force your opponent to 4 Prizes with quick Buzzwole-GX pressure that they have to deal with. This allows you to quickly follow up with this guy, who can reach a knockout on most Pokémon—especially after a Jet Punch—very easily.

Diancie p – This is one of those cards that’s so painfully obviously good it feels weird to even focus on it. The extra 20 helps Fighting decks be a bit more aggressive in Expanded where the format is faster and more consistent. If you’re playing a deck with Fighting Pokémon, then a constant +20 to all of your attacks is going to be way too good to pass up.

Mysterious Treasure I’m not sure how much it has really caught on yet, but I think this card is going to end up in a lot more decks that it might seem at first. One less discard than Ultra Ball and it can grab Tapu Lele?? There are also just a lot of good Psychic type Pokémon in the game right now, making this a phenomenal addition to the regular supply of Ultra Ball in order to increase consistency.

Beast Ring Easily the most hyped card out of the set—and for good reason. Even with the Prize restriction, pulling out 2 Basic Energy from the deck to attach is insane. Being able to load up multiple Ultra Beast at once will absolutely change how games will be played. This card finally gives Buzzwole the push it needed to compete for a Tier 1 spot in the Expanded format. I’m not sure how I feel about the prize count mechanic as a whole just yet, but it definitely has the potential to shake things up.

Lysandre p I’ve been hyped to start playing with this in Expanded because I think it has so much potential to force decks to be built differently if it can find a home. Most Expanded decks use 3-4 VS Seeker and a good number use Puzzle of Time. Cards like these allow the discard pile to become a “resource” in addition to the cards in your deck. Lysandre p is the first card to be printed that’s a real hard counter to that style of deck-building. Being able to put your opponent’s only Guzma or Hex Maniac into the Lost Zone can win you a game immediately and I’m really looking forward to brewing with this card.

Beast Energy p – Similar to Diancie p, this card feels difficult to give a unique analysis on because of how straightforward it is. It gives Buzzwole and any other Ultra Beasts that use the card a free +30 damage as a Rainbow Energy.

I think the only super obvious exclusions from this list are Malamar and Ultra Necrozma-GX. I chose not to include them because Expanded already has Eelektrik and Bronzong with very similar abilities that see little to no play as is. I’m optimistic that the combination of Beast Ring and Malamar can make this more viable in Expanded, but I’m going to have to stay skeptical until proven otherwise.

Standard Studies

Dusk til Dawn

Pokémon – 13

3 Dusk Mane Necrozma SM107

2 Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX

1 Solgaleo p

1 Dawn Wings Necrozma SM106

1 Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX

1 Lunala p

1 Mew FCO

1 Necrozma-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Wobbuffet GEN

Trainers – 34

4 N

4 Guzma

3 Cynthia

3 Professor Sycamore


4 Beast Ring

4 Ultra Ball

3 Choice Band

3 Float Stone

2 Mysterious Treasure

1 Rescue Stretcher


2 Ultra Space

1 Parallel City

Energy – 13

6 M

6 P

1 Beast p

I only recently learned about the existence of the non-GX Dusk Mane Necrozma and Dawn Wings Necrozma, and as soon as I did, I knew there was something to be done with the two cards. The non-GX Dawn Wings is fine, but especially powerful against Buzzwole in the early game. The non-GX Dusk Mane is very good and meant to be the star of this concept because 60 for M seems way too good to be true. The second attack is just a vanilla 100 but can be bumped up to 200 if your opponent only has 1 Prize left.

The Psychic types in the deck are a little less focused, but they serve different roles so giving them all a chance at the spotlight seems like a good start for now. Having access to the best of Metal and Psychic seems incredibly strong due to the sheer amount of single prize attacking options available for both types. I put together the initial list with fellow writer Brit Pybas and have been testing it a bit with moderate success. These kind of toolbox decks are always tough to figure out, especially with multiple types going on, but always have an incredibly high ceiling once optimized.

Deck Options

Nihilego-GX – I’ve been trying my best to fit this guy into a deck since it was printed in Crimson Invasion because I think the Ability is so interesting, but it keeps just barely missing the cut. The Ability is okay, but losing the Bench space is the most annoying part. Tack that onto an average attack that costs PPP and a relatively bad GX attack and we can see why this always seems to fall just short.

Kartana-GX – Similar to Nihilego-GX but only slightly more playable, Kartana-GX seemed like it was going to be much more impactful when it was first printed. It has only found moderate success since it came into existence, but it is also much easier to use. The Ability is less niche, the GX attack is more usable, and even the normal attack is much less daunting to figure out how to pull off. The GX attack seems like it could have some cool uses with how the prize mechanics are working with the new cards as well. Who doesn’t like the idea of a free Enhanced Hammer that can take a prize?

Naganadel-GX – I had this in the initial list as it seems like an obvious fit with something that has so many Ultra Beast Pokémon, but eventually cut it. It takes up a lot of space, evolving is just hard these days, and it wasn’t expanding our typing or attack pool enough to justify keeping it around. Having an attacker than can slam an easy ~100+ for a single energy is definitely powerful, but Dusk Mane Necrozma already fills a similar niche and Mew FCO and Dawn Wings Necrozma provide similar coverage for the Psychic typing. They may not have 210 HP, but being worth 1 Prize is incredibly strong.

Ninja Boy – I kinda forget this card exists sometimes until I get crushed by a Ninja Boy/Tauros-GX combo on PTCGO. I’ve been revisiting this otherwise bad card in this deck for a couple different reasons; the first is the obvious toolbox nature of the deck makes the ability to switch between attackers while keeping the energy incredibly appealing, but the second and most interesting appeal is with Beast Ring. Being able to load up an Ultra Beast with Energy from a couple of Beast Ring and then using Ninja Boy to switch into a non-Ultra Beast Pokémon seems like a decent combo if the right target can be found.

Unit Energy LPM – This is another card I included in the first draft because it seems strange for them to share a Unit Energy and then not actually use it. Unfortunately, the acceleration of Solgaleo p, Lunala p, and Beast Ring begs for as many Basic Energy in the deck as we can fit, and my first games with the deck have shown Unit Energy to be incredibly average while the desire for more Basic Energy exists.

Foxes & Frogs

Pokémon – 21

4 Froakie BKP

4 Frogadier FLI

3 Greninja-GX

1 Greninja BKP

1 Greninja BREAK

2 Eevee SUM

2 Glaceon-GX

1 Lapras-GX

1 Volcanion p

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 27

4 N

3 Cynthia

3 Professor Sycamore

3 Guzma

1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball

2 Aqua Patch

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

2 Timer Ball

1 Super Rod

Energy – 12

8 W

4 Double Colorless

New set, same old Greninja problems. I’ve been incredibly intrigued by the idea of playing the new Greninja-GX alongside Greninja BKP and Greninja BREAK, but figuring out the exact recipe for success here has been rather difficult. The cards don’t pair very well together with their radically different attack costs, desire to use the coming into play Abilities, and the GX’s inability to get to the BREAK evolution. I’ve chosen Glaceon-GX as the main attacking partner because Freezing Gaze Ability has so much potential to slow the game down. Shutting down a crucial Tapu Lele-GX can be huge for halting any pressure put on your little guys. In addition the combination of Frost Bullet, Polar Spear-GX, and Gale Shuriken/Shuriken Flurry seem to synergize well if you can place the damage correctly.

Deck Options

Palkia-GX – Similar to my analysis of this card above, I think it has potential but is probably just shy of being actually good. The first attack is okay, the second is a slightly better Secret Sword, but the GX attack is the real attention puller. Zero Vanish-GX is an absolutely busted answer to a Beast Ring Turn should you be able to pull it off. Unfortunately, I don’t think Aqua Patch is good enough to make up for the massive 5 energy attack, but you better believe I’m sure going to try it anyway.

Tapu Fini-GX – In the new world of Ultra Beasts, you would think we would take every Tapu we can, but unfortunately Fini is a card I’ve been repeatedly underwhelmed by since it was printed. The first attack isn’t great, the second attack is okay but the energy/output ratio is lackluster at best, and the GX attack is merely fine—not great. Hydro Shot can snipe Bench-sitters like Octillery and Malamar which is always nice, but that’s about it. I’ll always have it in the back of my mind as an option but am not holding my breath.

Manaphy-EX – Free retreat for all Pokémon with W energy is very powerful, but 120 HP on a 2 Prize Pokémon is not. Unfortunately, the Ability is simply not good enough to risk having the 2 Prize liability take up a Bench spot. If either the attack was better or it had more HP I would be into it, but Pokémon really didn’t feel like trying to make another Darkrai-EX with this one.

Manaphy SLG – This is kind of like Rough Seas for one Pokémon, right? I thought this was going to be much better than it actually ended up being, which is unfortunate. Healing 20 damage from only one Pokémon once per turn is unfortunately not that great and a bit too slow. It would work much better with multiple Manaphy out or when combined with something like Lana, but in a world where Buzzwole is trying to pull off 1HKOs left and right, it simply isn’t good enough.

Lana – I definitely think this is better than Manaphy SLG because the heal has more potential to be impactful and it doesn’t take up a Bench spot. However, being slightly better than Manaphy doesn’t solve all the problems of being a defensive deck in a Buzzwole format and ultimately suffers from the majority of the same issues.

Splash Energy – A Greninja deck without Splash Energy seems criminal, but this plays out much differently than traditional Greninja decks. You need to play DCE to help the attack costs of Glaceon-GX and Greninja-GX and also need enough Waters to ensure you can always trigger Energy Evolution. Add Aqua Patch and Giant Water Shuriken into the mix and it becomes obvious why we prioritze the energy this way.


“Mom, look at these new cards!”

I’m very optimistic about the incoming format changes with Forbidden Light. The new cards seem poised to make quite the impact on the Standard format, and I’m really excited to see what, if anything, is able to dethrone Buzzwole-GX after its domination of the BKT–ULP format. I know there are plenty more spicy deck options out there just waiting to be discovered and I’m going to be doing some more exploring myself leading up to the Madison Regional Championship.

As always, good luck at future events and don’t ever hesitate to come up and say hello! I had some individuals at Salt Lake City chat with me about my writing and could not have been more excited as meeting readers is one of my favorite activities at events. Hearing from all of you always makes this infinitely more rewarding & fun. Hopefully you can all catch me commentating on Madison in the very near future! Until next time!

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