We continue our look at some of the favorite cards of each era as selected by the top members of the Pokémon TCG community. This time, we visit sunny Alola and the cards of the Sun & Moon Series.
Be sure to take a look at which top Pokémon TCG cards these pros selected from the Sword & Shield era, and look forward to more retrospectives of each Pokémon TCG era throughout the year.
Few cards have had as big an impact on the competitive scene as what Zoroark-GX delivered during its run. At its release, it received attention because of its Trade Ability, which lets the player discard one card from their hand in order to draw two cards from their deck. In addition, the Riotous Beating attack turned out to be incredibly cost-effective, therefore making Zoroark-GX a great attacker, too. These two traits combined a powerful supporter and a decent attacker into one card. The Trade Ability is also not restricted, meaning a player could use one Trade from multiple Zoroark-GX every turn to quickly build a large hand size. Discarding potentially important resources is never easy, but the players who were able to map out their hand correctly reaped the rewards.
Given how flexible this card proved to be, it was used with multiple different partners and ended up winning almost all the major events until it rotated out. Some versions even included Darkness Energy to activate its Trickster-GX attack. There should be no doubt Zoroark-GX created some of the most interesting and complicated games of all time, and for that, Zoroark-GX is my favorite card.
There have been multiple ways of targeting down Benched Pokémon in the past, but Guzma was in a league of its own. At the time we only had Lysandre (a card revived recently as Boss's Orders) to target Benched Pokémon. Guzma came with a switching effect for both players, not just the opponent, and the player who used Guzma would be able to decide which Pokémon on both sides of the field would end up in the Active Spot. If a player had a Float Stone attached to any of their Pokémon, they could switch back to their previous Active Pokémon for no cost. This card dramatically changed how the game was played.
In a Pokémon TCG game, there are multiple win conditions, but most games are won by taking all six Prize cards. When a player falls too far behind in the Prize race, they will often try to look for alternative ways to win. The most common one is to run the opposing player out of cards to draw by sticking a Pokémon that cannot attack in the Active Spot. Guzma's presence almost completely invalidated that strategy, as both players now had a good offensive and defensive option in the same card.
Today, players rely on Item cards like Quick Ball and Pokémon Communication to bring their best Pokémon into play. Back in 2017 and 2018, the same held true, with players relying on similar Items, like Ultra Ball. Without these Item cards, decks would be slow to set up or might not set up at all, which is why Garbodor's Trashalanche was so effective—players had no choice except to walk into it.
Making Trashalanche even harder to play around was the fact that one of 2017 and 2018's most used Supporters, Professor Sycamore, forced the user to discard their hand. This usually meant even more Items entering the discard pile. And Garbodor players had one more trick up their sleeve: Field Blower, which further boosted Trashalanche's damage. Late in games, it wasn't uncommon to see Trashalanche reach 200+ damage, enough to one-hit KO most Pokémon-GX. All of this for a single Psychic Energy, which allowed players to easily chain Trashalanche attacks from multiple Garbodor.
Garbodor dominated alongside a variety of partners throughout 2017. It wasn't until the end of that season that Garbodor finally got some bad news: Gardevoir-GX debuted with a Twilight-GX attack that could shuffle 10 cards from the discard pile back into the deck—enough to reduce a 200-damage Trashalanche down to zero!
Throughout Pokémon's lengthy history, countless games have come down to what a player draws (or doesn't draw) off of a dramatic late-game N.
Oranguru's Instruct allowed players to prepare a defense to this common endgame tactic that might otherwise leave them starting their turn with only a single card in hand. What was important about drawing your hand up to three cards was that this was the precise number of cards needed to use Ultra Ball. In 2017 and 2018, Oranguru was in a format with Tapu Lele-GX. Tapu Lele-GX's Wonder Tag meant an Ultra Ball could be used to find whatever Supporter card a player needed. That Supporter, be it a Professor Sycamore, Lysandre, Guzma, or sometimes even their own N, usually ended up being enough to seal the game. In 2017, players could also use Ultra Ball to find Shaymin-EX, using Set Up to draw back up to six.
In the process, an otherwise useless draw, like Ultra Ball, was transformed into a game-winning card. It's for this reason that I've always felt Oranguru was one of the most underrated cards during its time, allowing you to narrowly escape those tough final turns with a win.
Tapu Lele-GX is one of the best support Pokémon ever created. Its Ability Wonder Tag allowed for an interesting deckbuilding style that utilized Brigette to get out Pokémon from the deck to set up early in games. Wonder Tag also turned every Ultra Ball effectively into a Supporter option. Deck building became more creative by having single copies of Supporters, because they would be easily accessible. This Ability allowed everyone to be able to play the game and avoid bad draws.
The attacks on Tapu Lele-GX were also pretty good. Energy Drive did 20 times the number of Energy on both Active Pokémon. In a format with Double Colorless Energy, this card could do enough damage to set up a two-hit Knock Out for later in the game. Energy Drive also improved on Mewtwo-EX by not applying Weakness and Resistance. A big problem with Mewtwo-EX was that it would get Knocked Out by other Mewtwo-EX, causing games to accelerate. Tapu Cure-GX is also a pretty useful GX attack: being able to heal all the damage from two Benched Pokémon can negate multiple attacks from your opponent.
Lycanroc-GX has a strong Ability, a decent attack, and a powerful GX attack. A card that is good at some things but not everything is how I imagine a well-designed good card. The Bloodthirsty Eyes Ability lets you bring up one of your opponent's Benched Pokémon to the Active Spot when Lycanroc-GX enters battle. This Ability gives more control of the game while not using up your Supporter for the turn. And Dangerous Rogue-GX is one of the best-designed GX attacks in the game. It doesn't just Knock Out your opponent, but forces them to a decision. By limiting their Bench, they can lower the amount of damage that Dangerous Rogue-GX can do, but doing so makes Bloodthirsty Eyes more effective because it has targets. On the other hand, Claw Slash costs three Energy and only does 110 damage; this is important because Lycanroc-GX will have problems getting Knock Outs unless it is hitting for Weakness.
This card is my favorite card from the Sun & Moon era. It is balanced in design, and the Pokémon itself is very cool. Having different forms is a neat trait for Pokémon to have, giving the same Pokémon the chance to have different card designs.
I had to pick the best Pokémon TCG card of my favorite Pokémon, Pidgeotto! Pidgeotto's strength is its Air Mail Ability, which is identical to the popular Uxie Lv.X's Trade Off Poké-Power from several years earlier. Its low 60 HP is sometimes a liability, but allows it to be the rare Evolution card that can be found by Professor Elm's Lecture. With one or two of these in the early game, you can easily get three Pidgeotto out and start seeing many cards fast.
Pidgeotto's Air Mail has supported many types of decks. One of my favorite tournaments was winning a League Cup finals in a Pidgeotto “mirror match” of sorts. I was using Air Mail every turn to fuel big attacks with Blacephalon and Victini Prism Star. My opponent was using Air Mail, Oranguru, and Mars to repeatedly discard my cards, and using Chip-Chip Ice Axe to control the cards I drew. Fortunately, Air Mail itself is one of the best counters to such a strategy!
Magikarp & Wailord-GX
Magikarp & Wailord-GX is a history-making card! It was the first TAG TEAM to be revealed, a new style where we saw two (and later three) Pokémon partner up on the same card. TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX also brought along a new twist to GX attacks, where extra Energy attached would provide new, often game-changing extra damage or effects. Additionally, Magikarp & Wailord-GX was the first three-Prize Pokémon to be introduced, and the first Pokémon with 300 HP! It was initially released as a promo card, so for about a month, it was the only TAG TEAM card in the game, until the Sun & Moon—Team Up expansion was released in February 2019.
These two Pokémon are separated by 44 feet in length, but united in spirit. Magikarp & Wailord-GX's strength is its Towering Splash-GX attack, one of the strongest Bench-hitting moves in the game. I played this card in my Quagsire/Naganadel deck in that first month where it was the only TAG TEAM. It would take a while to build up the eight Energy necessary for the full attack. When you did, though, a Towering Splash-GX to clear a Bench of Malamar was always a thrilling way to win!
Ditto Prism Star
I'm well known as a Ditto fan, so when I was asked to write about Sun & Moon cards, I jumped at the chance to choose this card. Not only is this a Ditto, it is also a Prism Star. Prism Star cards were introduced in Sun & Moon—Ultra Prism and appeared throughout the rest of the Sun & Moon expansions. They balanced very powerful cards with powerful restrictions. Prism Star cards were not only limited to one per deck, but also, when removed from play, they were sent to the Lost Zone and were unrecoverable.
While there have been a number of Ditto cards printed over the years, very few of them have been playable. But boy, this one was! What made Ditto Prism Star popular was that it gave you an extra Basic Pokémon for any of the Evolution lines in your deck. You could evolve it into any Stage 1 Pokémon by using its Almighty Evolution Ability. And not just one of the Evolution lines—any and all of them. Since the rules of the Pokémon TCG limit decks to four of any card name, having a card that acts like an extra copy of your Basic Pokémon increases your odds of getting it out at the beginning of the game by 20%, which is nothing to sneeze at! And usually whoever gets set up first winds up winning the game. Ditto Prism Star was an MVP!
Lillie's Poké Doll
Poké Doll has been a favorite of mine ever since Clefairy Doll (Base Set #70) was one of the very first Pokémon TCG cards. I also had a little Poké Doll figure that I used as a mascot when I was playing, which I kept on top of my Prize cards. It always brought me joy when my opponent would compliment my “Clefairy” figure and I'd say, “That's not Clefairy. Take a closer look,” and they would be confused.
I was very happy when I saw that a version of Poké Doll was back. And not just back, but this Lillie's Poké Doll was even better than the original. Just like the original Clefairy Doll, it is a Trainer card that you can play as if it is a Basic Pokémon, and it doesn't give up any Prize cards when it is Knocked Out. Where it exceeds the original is that it also can be sent from the Active Spot back into the deck, giving the player a tool to prevent from being decked out...a very cool effect. And very cool artwork, too, with the scruffy little Poké Doll sitting there next to Lille's bag and hat, showing lots of love from Lillie. Just like mine.
The Pokémon TCG community would not be the same without these five contributors to the game, and we appreciate their valuable insights. Be sure to check back throughout the year to see more of their reflections on their favorite cards from the long history of the Pokémon TCG.