Pokémon Sun & Moon – Guardians Rising Set Review

Sun & Moon – Guardians Rising has hit the scene. Months of trawling twitter for card scans, speculation on what cards will and won’t make it in and theorycrafting what will be competitive has finally all come to a head. The end of May will see the first big events to include the newest set, featuring more than 140 cards beginning to influence the metagame as they become legal for standard format.

To give players a head start on solving the incoming metagame and making informed decisions ahead of the first weekend of events for the newest set, I go over cards worthy of note below. There are some noteworthy cards I don’t mention – these cards are reprints, some of which I discussed in a previous article.

Without any further ado, lets jump into these cards.

Victreebel

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Victreebel is a curious stage 2 grass Pokémon whose appeal lies in the first attack ‘Pollen Hazard’ which inflicts Confuse, Poison and Burn on the defending Pokémon with a single energy. While ‘Forest of Giant Plants’ is still in standard format, there is potential for this card to steal a few wins when combined with Vileplume AOR. A lot of fun casually, but not likely to stand up to tier 1 threats.

Trevenant

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Trevenant is interesting. The Pokémon TCG has, a number of times, printed cards with a similar effect to ‘Poltergeist’ throughout the last era of the game, however they have not been very impactful. This time around, we see the attack printed on a Trevenant costing only two colourless (paid for with ‘Double Colourless Energy’) and dealing a whopping 30x the number of trainers in their opponent’s hand. Add in its pre-evolution being grass type allowing access to ‘Forest of Giant Plants’ for speed and synergy with the newest Garbodor card, it looks set to be the best iteration of ‘Poltergeist’ attackers yet.

Golisopod

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Golisopod is mildly interesting in its beefy stats with 130 HP and the ‘Armor’ ability as well as its relatively powerful attack threatening a one-hit KO on basic GX Pokémon with ‘Choice Band’. The attack cost can be satisfied with a Basic Grass and ‘Double Colourless Energy’. It may be good in formats to come, however the format is too fast at the moment for an attacker of this nature. Two energy attachments (with one needing to be a Double Colourless) is too much.

Victini

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The new Victini features a familiar ability in ‘Victory Star’, allowing you to retry a coin flip which is part of an attack. The last time this effect saw major success was in the infamous ‘VVV‘ deck which relied on this ability and an attack which inflicted paralysis on a coin flip to see success. Look for attacks which allow you to flip multiple times to ‘succeed’ with an effect. This Victini may work its way into decks in the future, but is not significantly strong for now.

Oricorio

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The first attack is what you’re looking at here – in the future it may prove to be a useful setup attack for Pokémon such as Incineroar SM in the early game. It isn’t otherwise necessary for the best Fire deck at the moment: Volcanion.

Turtonator-GX

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Turtonator-GX, unlike the Oricorio above, is a card set to find its way into Volcanion lists. Its attacks give it all-around interesting utility. ‘Shell Trap’ offers a way to attack for just two energy (which Volcanion typically doesn’t), with a base damage of 20 which can be powered up as needed. The follow up effect of placing damage on the opponent can then place them in an awkward position, as well as working to place damage on Pokémon like Jolteon-EX which can avoid regular damage.

‘Bright Flame’ is a very strong attack offering more base damage than Volcanion-EX – providing a means to do more damage than usual for less energy. ‘Nitro Tank GX’ is less necessary, but may provide an interesting mid-game option in the face of decks which look to disrupt your energy such as Umbreon-GX or Sylveon-GX.

Alolan Sandslash

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Alolan Sandslash is a couple of interesting things rolled into one. Slush Rush is the primary draw of the card, simply adding an extra card to your hand once a turn. Over time this does amount to a significant card advantage. In formats to come this ability may be more appreciated by players as the formats faster cards rotate out. Smash Turn is a welcome attack as well, allowing you to deal damage, then switch to a walling Pokémon to take incoming damage.

Alolan Ninetales-GX

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Alolan Ninetales-GX is an excellent entrant into the GX Pokémon family boasting three very useful attacks. ‘Blizzard Edge’ is your big damage attack and can be used successively with use of ‘Aqua Patch’. Its other attacks are both useful in their own right. Ice Blade threatens to set up (or even take) a KO whilst ‘Ice Path GX’ in particular threatens to set your opponent back a turn by undoing their damage to it. Expect players to find ways to make it work.

Wishiwashi-GX

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Basic Pokémon and high HP make it attractive. It is however, balanced out by its relatively high energy costs. It is not likely to see competitive play, but it would be possible to build a deck which looks to use ‘Max Elixir’, ‘Aqua Patch’ and ‘Double Colourless Energy’ to power up Wishiwashi-GX.

Vikavolt-GX

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Vikavolt-GX looks to work in tandem with its non-GX counterpart in order to stream ‘Super Zap Cannon’ attacks every turn. The dream turn two would be to use ‘Gigatron GX’ to KO several unevolved basic Pokémon, but until the metagame shifts significantly away from high HP basic Pokémon, don’t expect explosive starts like this. With ‘Charge Beam’ helping you power up and Vikavolt SM’s ability fetching more energy, Vikavolt-GX is a very promising stage 2 attacker to look at building around.

Tapu Koko-GX

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Tapu Koko, one of the titular guardians of Guardians Rising, represents a new standard for damage without a draw back. ‘Sky-High Claws’ deals a vanilla 130 damage for three energy. With various means of accelerating energy into play at your disposal, you can look at attacking with Tapu Koko as soon as turn 2.  ‘Aero Trail’ offers a lot of flexibility, and can be a mechanism for you to deny prizes from your opponent by moving energy off a damaged Tapu Koko onto a fresh one and then using a ‘Max Potion’ to heal the damage. ‘Tapu Thunder GX’ makes for a punishing attack, dictating how many energy your opponent may put into play.

Tapu Koko-GX is a very powerful card. Look to build around it and expect to play against it. You may wish to take the route of backing it up with Vikavolt SM or Magnezone BKT, as well as simply relying on ‘Max Elixir’ and regular attachments.

Garbodor

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An excellent card which is looking to shake up the standard metagame, hopefully in a good way. See my previous article for my thoughts on the trash king.

Oricorio

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As though Vespiquen wasn’t struggling enough in the standard metagame, this Oricorio looks to seal its fate. ‘Supernatural Dance’ is the attack you’re looking at – a very accessible damage placement attack. Even if you’re not playing against Vespiquen, this attack can threaten to take knockouts on damaged or otherwise low HP Pokémon in the late game thanks to being a basic with colourless attacks. If your deck isn’t the type to take one-hit KOs, then look to add Oricorio if space permits.

Toxapex-GX

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Toxapex-GX, whilst featuring a couple of interesting attacks, doesn’t look like it will threaten the tier 1 decks of the metagame. It lacks access to effective ways to lock the opponent into the active position to make best use of ‘Super Intense Poison’. I think this attack demonstrates a different ‘flow’ that the game may take with KOs happening between turns which can open up opportunities for the opponent to be forced into unfavourable situations. However, the pace of the game at the moment doesn’t favour an attack which also cannot be augmented with ‘Choice Band’ or ‘Professor Kukui’.

Tapu Lele-GX

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Tapu Lele-GX is without question one of this set’s must have cards. A consistency fit for any deck with a great attack in ‘Energy Drive’ to boot. See my previous article for more on my thoughts about this card.

Machoke

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This Machoke’s ability is a rarity. Normally abilities or effects which prevent placing damage or damage counters will only prevent one of those things. ‘Daunting Pose’ however, is absolute in its prevention of damage or damage counters being placed on your bench. It is interesting to consider in a format with threats such as Decidueye-GX, Espeon-GX and Umbreon-GX being capable of placing damage onto your bench in numerous ways. Consider this in decks with fragile Pokémon such as Vespiquen or Gyarados.

Sudowoodo

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Aside from the general disruption of reducing your opponent’s bench size, ‘Roadblock’ presents a new form of counter play to the popular stadium ‘Sky Field’. Sky Field is often the first of many cards played on a turn where an opponent is able to bench many Pokémon and run through their deck very quickly before you get the opportunity to counter their stadium. With ‘Sky Field’ being denied by ‘Road Block’, many decks may now have an answer to the often explosive M Rayquaza-EX.

Lycanroc-GX

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Lycanroc-GX has many good things going for it. Fighting typing gives it access to ‘Strong Energy’ for extra damage. ‘Claw Slash’ can be powered for just two attachments thanks to ‘Double Colourless Energy’ and does a hefty 110 base damage. ‘Dangerous Rogue GX’ threatens a one-hit KO for just two energy. Finally, the ability ‘Bloodthirsty Eyes’ is a highly coveted effect in the trading card game – it is the latest iteration of the ‘Bright Look’ effect which famously appeared on ‘Luxray GL Lv. X’, the face of one of, if not the most skill intensive formats in the Pokémon TCG. Creating a deck around this card is definitely a worthwhile endeavour.

Sableye

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The attack ‘Limitation’ is similar to one we saw printed on an Exeggutor in the form of ‘Blockade’ late in the Black & White block. Together with other cards in the format, we saw a metagame filled with supporter lock and energy denial which eventually led to the banning of ‘Lysandre’s Trump Card’. There are a few differences between then and now which mean that for the moment, it doesn’t pose a significant threat to the current metagame and can be safely discounted from serious testing for the moment.

Metagross-GX

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250 HP. A GX attack designed to help set you up with multiple Metagross-GX. An ability to help recover and accelerate energy and a hefty attack with a manageable drawback. Metagross-GX demands attention and can certainly be built with the goal of attacking with it, or using it to power up other Pokémon such as Genesect-EX, or Pokémon like Mewtwo-EX or Lugia-EX to offset the unfortunate fire type weakness.

Sylveon-GX

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This card is quickly gaining hype as the primary deck to beat along with Garbodor. So much so that it was remiss of me not to mention it in my previous article. Sylveon-GX is all about disruption and denial. ‘Magical Ribbon’  can be used as early as the second turn of the game to begin denying your opponent’s strategy and aggressively whittle down their ability to mount an offensive. Before you know it, by the time you are taking KOs, you have likely gone through so many resources that you will be close to losing.

Kommo-o-GX

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An extremely no frills card. Kommo-o-GX hits some big numbers with ‘Shred’ and ‘Ultra Uppercut-GX’, but even with access to ‘Double Dragon’ and ‘Double Colourless Energy’, it is not likely that this card will see much competitive play. There are simply more compelling choices for the amount of investment this Pokémon demands.

Rayquaza

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‘Turbo Storm’ is another take on the classic ‘use a smaller Pokémon to power up bigger ones’ strategy. What’s interesting here is that it is a colourless attack which can accelerate basic energy of any type. With ‘Double Colourless Energy’, you are using Rayquaza as early as turn 2 and can deal up to 60 damage with just a ‘Choice Band’ equipped, setting up for a KO the following turn and giving up only 1 prize card in the process. This card could enable decks which rely on a variety of big, basic Pokémon to exploit weaknesses or simply beat them down with powerful attacks.

Drampa-GX

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Drampa-GX is finding favour with deck builders at the moment thanks to ‘Big Wheel GX’ offering you a significant hand refresh at the end of your first attacking turn. ‘Berserk’ also doles out significant damage once the requirement for damage to be on a benched Pokémon is met. If your deck needs time to set up, uses ‘Double Colourless Energy’ or doesn’t necessarily go for one-hit KOs, consider adding Drampa to your lineup.

Aether Paradise Conservation Area
Altar of the Moone
Altar of the Sunne
Brooklet Hill

Each of these stadium cards offer worthwhile effects which can be considered for decks moving into the new format. I am fond of ‘Brooklet Hill’ and ‘Altar of the Moone’ as they feature effects which can provide immediate value. With the introduction of ‘Field Blower’, it seems as though the designers have created a good excuse for strong stadium cards to exist.

Aqua Patch

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Expect ‘Aqua Patch’ to make a splash (pardon the pun) as a strong energy acceleration option for water Pokémon. With many strong water Pokémon in format at the moment, it serves to shore up an already strong set of water based archetypes.

Choice Band

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‘Choice Band’ is a great card and I am very thankful for the way it has been designed. It can be equipped to any Pokémon, however it will only increase damage against EX and GX Pokémon. A very fortunate design consideration as this would have had the potential to needlessly enable EX Pokémon to continue dominating the format. Dealing an extra 30 damage can often be the difference between scoring a KO or not, so keeping a count of 2-3 in any deck will be common.

Field Blower

‘Field Blower’ is a welcome relief. We finally have a check to Garbodor’s ability lock. It is fast and effective tool removal which does not consume an attack or a bench space. Read on here where I expand on this card in my last article.

Hala and Mallow

These two cards are two of the newest supporter cards to the standard format. Both are interesting and should be kept in mind more for when the more powerful supporter cards in format rotate out (‘Professor Sycamore’ and ‘N’ are the main offenders here). For the moment, consider these cards at no more of a 1-of. At a stretch you may consider combos such as ‘Hala’ with set up decks which use a GX move early (such as Metagross-GX) or ‘Mallow’ in decks which also feature draw effects like Oranguru’s ‘Instruct’ ability.

Rescue Stretcher

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Rounding things out, ‘Rescue Stretcher’ offers a new item-based recovery option for Pokémon. It flexibly allows you to either immediately grab a Pokémon back for use, or shuffle 3 from your discard pile into your deck for use later. However, space in your sixty cards often means this will lose out to Super Rod as energy recovery is often sought after for the late game.

That does it for my review. To finish things off, if you’re curious as to what you’re in for when you crack open a booster box of the new set, see the video below for our experience opening 36 packs!

A huge thank you to Banter Toys & Collectibles for supplying the booster box used for this review.

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