A New Era: Pokémon TCG Sun & Moon – Opening & Review

sm01_logo_169_enPokémon Sun & Moon marks the first 7th generation entry into the long running series of games. Likewise, the newest Pokémon Trading Card Game set which is simply titled ‘Sun & Moon’ marks the beginning of a new era, introducing new Pokémon, new mechanics and even new card rarities.

SM1_EN_27Pokémon-GX are the face of the new mechanic set to shape the future of the game. Very similarly to Pokémon-EX, Pokémon-GX feature high HP, stronger attacks and abilities in exchange for being worth two prize cards when knocked out. Unlike Pokémon-EX however, they are not just basic Pokémon – many have been printed as stage 1 and stage 2 Pokémon. For example, Incineroar-GX is a stage 2 Pokémon which evolves from Torracat.

While this is a big change in design on its own, there is also another distinction from Pokémon-EX which is the introduction of ‘GX Attacks’. Each Pokémon-GX has a GX attack which is vastly superior to regular attacks both in terms of power and cost, however each player may only use one GX attack per game.

Something quite interesting to consider is that there have been no Pokémon-EX or Mega Evolution Pokémon printed in Sun & Moon and this does not appear to be changing with the equivalent Japanese set after this one. This is the first time in roughly five years that we have not had a Pokémon-EX printed, truly marking the end of an era. This means that in two years time, Standard format may not feature any Pokémon-EX at all.

Sun & Moon is quite large even for a base set, with the regular set numbering 149 cards and ‘Secret Rares’ totalling 14 if you include the new ‘Hyper Rare’ cards which are a silver color scheme version of their Full-Art counterparts.

The card layout has changed, with newer layouts on each type of card. The colour scheme is slightly brighter as well. Reverse holo patterns have changed, with the left side of the card featuring a single, large symbol with the rest of the card covered in a smaller symbol pattern.

A Japanese Hyper Rare Tauros-GX

A Japanese Hyper Rare Tauros-GX

For collectors, this set offers a tantalising array of cards to collect. ‘Regular-Art’ Ultra Rares now have artworks which span the whole card. Full-Art cards are similar to previous Full-Arts. The previously mentioned Hyper Rare cards are the same artwork as the Full-Arts with a silver texture instead of their regular colour. Secret Rare cards in this set are gold boarded and many feature gold texture within the art. Unlike previous Secret Rares, these have artworks which span the entire length of the card.

Interestingly, Ultra Ball and Switch are amongst these Ultra Rares, which sent shockwaves through the collective Pokémon TCG community as Secret Rare Ultra Ball was renowned for being very expensive. So to see a new secret rare print of that card is surprising for players and disappointing for some collectors who may have wanted to see the value of this particular card rise.

Another aesthetic to consider is the choice of wording used on cards in Sun & Moon. Although it may not make a huge impact, cards which feature words and phrases that are common or similar to previous cards have been changed or simplified where possible. Reducing ambiguity in the way cards are worded is important for players new and old to interpret how card effects and attacks interact with each other.

Provided by Banter Toys, below is a video of us (Anthony & Jessica) opening a Pokémon Sun & Moon booster box to give you an idea of what to expect when you decide to buy a few boosters (or more) of the set.

Although we obviously didn’t get to discuss every single card, in the video we talked about many of the interesting cards in the set competitive-wise. The following is an overview of the set’s most noteworthy cards for competitive play.

Decidueye-GX

SM1_EN_12

Strategy:
Set up multiple Decidueye-GX via trainers and abilities to overwhelm the opponent with the Feather Arrow ability coupled with fast attacking Pokémon.

Goes well with:
Forest of Giant Plants
Shaymin-EX
Devolution Spray
Latios-EX or other fast attackers

Decidueye-GX is a Stage 2 Grass Pokémon featuring the ability ‘Feather Arrow’ – allowing 2 damage counters to be placed on one of your opponent’s Pokémon once per turn. In recent times (and in the case of Golbat, we still do) we had decks featuring Golbat and Crobat which had similar abilities that would only activate as they came into play. Decidueye on the other has an ability which will apply damage each turn, quickly accumulating damage if left unchecked, making it a very appealing Pokémon. What pushes Decidueye-GX into the realms of hype it currently carries is its grass typing which allows players to utilise ‘Forest of Giant Plants’ to immediately evolve to Decidueye (and Dartrix) as soon as you have the evolutions in hand.

Setting up the deck’s strategy quickly is the initial challenge, demanding fast draw options in Professor Sycamore, Shaymin-EX, Acro Bike and Trainer’s Mail to ensure you draw all the pieces you need.

Paired with a quick attacker like Latios-EX or Lugia-EX, your strategy will be to overwhelm your opponent’s board with damage and to use ‘Feather Arrow’ to place residual damage to take eventual knockouts.

Lurantis-GX

1302_RR006_754.inddStrategy:
Quickly evolve into Lurantis-GX and use its first attack to power up your Pokémon with energy from the discard pile. Follow up with Solar Blade to damage and heal at the same time. (Click here for the translation. There are no official resources with the English artwork available at the time of writing)

Goes well with:
Forest of Giant Plants
Shiinotic SM
Trevenant-EX
Vileplume AOR

Lurantis-GX is a stage 1 grass Pokémon featuring three useful attacks. The first attack ‘Flower Supply’ is particularly notable as it allows you to accelerate two energy in your discard pile to your Pokémon in any way you like. It can be to itself or to any combination of one or two of your Pokémon. It’s second attack ‘Solar Blade’ does 120 damage and heals 30 damage from Lurantis. The third attack ‘Choloroscythe GX’ deals 50 damage times the amount of grass energy attached to Lurantis-GX.

Its status as a stage 1 Pokémon, self sufficiency with energy and access to ‘Forest of Giant Plants’ make it a prime candidate to either be partnered with Vileplume AOR to lock your opponent out of items or to simply focus on attacking with Lurantis-GX itself, relying on Trainers such as Energy Switch, Assault Vest, Max Potion and Professor Kukui to give you the edge.

Passimian

Strategy:
Quickly fill your bench with Passimian to use its second attack ‘Team Play’ which deals 10 + 30 for each Passimian on your bench.

Goes well with:
Mew FCO
Nest Ball
Revive
Fighting Fury Belt

The strategy around Passimian is quite straight forward. Its second attack ‘Team Play’ does 10 + 30 more for each Passimian on your bench. The strategy here is to run the card alongside Mew FCO in order to maximise the amount of Passimian on your bench, ensuring that Passimians are kept on your bench as much as possible. Since the majority of the strategy surrounds Basic Pokemon with low attack costs, the hp and attack boost that Fighting Fury Belt gives is a great addition. Pairing that with cards such as Nest Ball can assist with setting up while Revive and Special Charge ensure you can keep attacking.

Umbreon-GX

1302_RR037_197BLACKYgx.inddStrategy:
Use Eevee’s ability to quickly set up Umbreon-GX and a multitude of Eevee’s evolutions. Hit for weakness utilising the ability on Flareon AOR, Jolteon AOR and Vaporeon AOR. (Click here for the translation).

Goes well with:
Flareon AOR
Jolteon AOR
Vapreon AOR
Espeon-GX

Umbreon-GX rounds out the most hyped Pokémon from this set. As an archetype, ‘Eeveelutions’ is very interesting with access to Flareon AOR, Jolteon AOR and Vaporeon AOR which can add new typings to your existing Stage 1 attackers. This makes attacking with Umbreon-GX’s second attack ‘Shadow Bullet’ particularly potent as it already does 90 damage and spreads 30 to an opponent’s benched Pokémon.

For example, if on a previous turn you spread 30 damage to a benched Lurantis-GX, its HP would reduce from 210 to 180. On the following turn, if it were to become active, you could potentially KO it with Shadow Bullet in combination with Flareon AOR to provide Fire typing to Umbreon to hit for weakness.

Beyond that, Umbreon-GX features a very interesting GX attack in Dark Call GX which discards 2 energy from your opponent’s Pokémon. This in combination with other energy denial cards such as Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer and Team Skull Grunt present an opportunity to cripple your opponent’s energy on board and in hand.

Other Noteworthy Cards

Below is a list of cards from Sun & Moon which are also very interesting. While they may not be forerunners in terms of hyped cards in the set, they each have the potential to be very competitive given the right circumstances. Definitely consider building decks around these cards if you get the opportunity.

SM1_EN_89Solgaleo-GX
Lunala-GX
Shiinotic
Tsareena
Incineroar-GX
Golduck
Lapras-GX
Vikavolt
Alolan Muk
Skarmory
Dratini, Dragonair and Dragonite
Tauros-GX
Gumshoos-GX
Oranguru

SM1_EN_123Lastly, of the Trainer cards which do not already exist in Standard, the most noteworthy are:

Lillie
Professor Kukui
Nest Ball
Poison Barb
Rotom Dex
Team Skull Grunt
Timer Ball

Be sure to look for opportunities to include these cards in decks moving forward. Timer Ball and Nest Ball in particular are very welcome additions to the standard format as Pokémon search cards are always very desirable.

That wraps up this review of Pokémon Sun & Moon. The beginning of the Sun & Moon block of cards is heralding an exciting new age of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The types of Supporter cards printed hints at a future which may not demand the extremely quick pace that the game has today and pave the way for even more interesting strategies in the future. With so many new cards with varied attacks, effects and abilities, this set is definitely worth your time to collect and is one of our favourite new set releases to date.

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