Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Bath TCG Blog. Today we’ll be taking a look at the most impactful cards from the new Evolving Skies expansion, and how they will affect the format going forwards. With this year’s rotation now only two weeks away, we’ll only be taking a look at these cards with our post-rotation goggles on. Let’s take a look!
Dragon Pokémon Are Back!
The biggest news from Evolving Skies is that, after 18 months in the wilderness, the dragon typing has returned to the Pokémon TCG. However, since the fairy typing has been merged into psychic, there was no obvious weakness for these Pokémon to have, so they have simply not been given one. This is much more preferable than simply making them weak to themselves, which would only serve to make them less fun to play. Although there is one obvious contender out of these new cards that stands out above the rest (more on that in a minute), there are still a number of interesting dragon Pokémon that are at least worth experimenting with.
Although Duraladon VMAX has the luxury of having access to two forms of energy acceleration, both have their own downsides. Houndoom can easily accelerate Single Strike Energy onto Duraladon, but it can only fulfill one of the three energy attachments that G-Max Pulverization needs. Meanwhile, the metal energy cost can be accelerated to the metal type Duraladon V from Champions Path with Metal Saucer, but this will be tough to do as you can only do so before evolving it, which can lead to awkward sequencing difficulties if you draw your combo pieces in the wrong order. However, despite these troubles, Duraladon VMAX’s Skyscraper ability completely breezes through certain matchups that are especially reliant on special energy. G-Max Pulverization also has the added bonus of being able to wall break, which is always a nice option to have for Pokémon such as Zamazenta V and Decidueye.
Speaking of wall breaking, Dragonite V’s Shred is a useful colourless attack that can be splashed into any archetype. Meanwhile, its Dragon Gale attack does a lot of damage, but there is no obvious deck that it fits into. The most popular water deck in the format is Ice Rider Clayrex, which can already do 250 damage with its Max Lance attack. Noivern V is in a similar situation. Whilst its free retreat makes it a nice option for decks, and its single attachment spread can do decent damage, Synchro Loud’s awkward attack cost makes it difficult to envisage Noivern ever being a serious attacking threat in the meta. To help keep these dragon Pokémon around for longer, they have access to the new Crystal Cave to heal off 30 damage every turn, which can be especially helpful to tanky VMAXs such as Duraladon. Zacian V and Zamazenta V decks will also benefit from this card post rotation, as Crystal Cave also heals 30 damage off metal Pokémon as well.
Ray Eels Makes A Return
The poster boy for Evolving Skies is undoubtedly Rayquaza VMAX, which is a spiritual successor to Rayquaza EX from Dragons Exalted. Its Max Burst attack can discard multiple energy cards at once for huge damage, and with no damage cap, can OHKO any Pokémon in the game by discarding four energy. To help you reload these energies back onto the board, Rayquaza has access to Flaaffy’s Dynamotor ability, which attaches a lightning energy from the discard pile to one of your benched Pokémon. This way, you can recycle up to four lightning energy per turn to your Rayquaza VMAXs to help you keep up the pressure. In order to get this energy into the discard pile, Rayquaza is equipped with a very handy ability called Azure Pure which allows you to discard energy in your hand and draw new cards which can help you find your next Flaaffy and Rayquaza pieces.
For even more energy acceleration, you can use Rose to attach two basic energy onto your Rayquaza VMAX, then use Azure Pulse to draw back into some cards after discarding your hand. The synergy these two cards have bodes well for the archetype, as it means you aren’t solely reliant on Flaaffy and manual attachments to accelerate energy, especially with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX running around. Unlike Ray Eels, this deck will involve you having to set up two stage one Pokémon but, thankfully, Evolving Skies brings along a new helpful stadium to help you set up those basics. Stormy Mountains allows you to search out a basic lightning or dragon Pokémon and put it on your bench, which could mean the difference between taking a prize on turn two and having your only Mareep/Rayquaza be knocked out.
Umbreon and Glaceon VMAX Arrive With Meta-Warping Abilities
Along with the return of dragon type Pokémon, Evolving Skies also comes with a VMAX for each Eeveelution. Out of all of these cards, Umbreon VMAX and Glaceon VMAX stand out as some of the most powerful, thanks to their very strong abilities. Umbreon VMAX’s Dark Signal ability was most recently seen on Lycanroc GX, a card that dominated the format with both its gusting and attacking abilities. Not only can Umbreon provide a gusting option for Eternatus VMAX, but it also adds to its damage output for Dread End. In addition, being a single strike Pokémon means that Umbreon can be featured in decks with Single Strike Urshifu VMAX, as its Max Darkness attack is boosted to 220 damage once it has had three Single Strike Energy attached to it with Houndoom. Unlike other single strike Pokémon, Umbreon can use this attack on consecutive turns and doesn’t discard any energy when it attacks, meaning that you can put it in the active and charge up some of your other Pokémon without worry.
Meanwhile, Glaceon VMAX brings an ability that we’ve seen before on a Pokémon V, but now it is on a Pokémon VMAX that has more HP and does more damage. In a post-rotation world with no more GX Pokémon, Glaceon’s Crystal Veil ability will be a nightmare for decks that don’t have strong V Pokémon or don’t play any wall breaking cards such as Pheobe. While your opponents struggle to find a way around Glaceon, you can start dealing damage with Max Icicle, which spreads 30 damage to an opponent’s bench Pokémon. This damage can help set up multiple knockouts in one turn, which can be achieved in combination with Inteleon’s Quick Shooting ability. Glaceon also has access to a powerful new tool called Snow Leaf Badge that not only removes your retreat cost entirely, but it also ensures that you are no longer weak to the most powerful V Pokémon in the entire game, Zacian V. This tool instantly pushes Glaceon into being a top contender in the format, thanks to having no obvious weakness in addition to being able to block nearly all of its fellow top-tier rivals.
New Friends For The Top Contenders
As well a bringing a number of new archetypes to the table, Evolving Skies also brings a number of new Pokémon that can partner up with some of the preexisting top-tier decks in the format. Medicham V slots straight into Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX with its potentially game-changing Yoga Loop attack. With the help of G-Max Rapid Flow and some Quick Shooting pings from Inteleon, you can set up damage on one of your opponent’s Pokémon so that you can do a 20 damage ping with Yoga Loop for a knockout. If you can pull off this tricky combo, you are rewarded with an extra turn. This means a whole turn of energy attachments, draw supporters, new basics and evolutions, and of course attacks. Although it is a lot of work and math fixing to set up, Yoga Loop’s effect is strong enough to play in any Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX deck, as it has the ability to literally turn the tide of a game.
Whatever shape Victini VMAX takes in the post-rotation meta, it will always have the ability to call upon the new Volcarona V, with its Surging Flames attack striking memories of Victini Prism Star. Being a basic that only requires one attachment means that you can spring it out of nowhere in the late game once you have lots of basic energy in the discard pile. Although Victini VMAX doesn’t require a lot of energy to attack, the possibility is always open for a new energy hungry attacker to come in and provide the fuel for Volcarona’s flames.
Meanwhile, the Calyrex VMAX pair gain some new tools that are guaranteed to come in handy. Suicune V slots straight into Ice Rider Calyrex as an efficeint attacker that can be powered up in a single turn thanks to Melony. With full benches on both sides of the field, Suicune can hit for 220 damage, which is very efficient for only two energy. In addition, its Fleet-Footed ability means that Suicune (with an Air Balloon) can act as a pivot for the deck that also happens to draw free cards. If you can get Suicune out early, this could amount to an extra free four or five cards a game! On the purple side of things, Galarian Articuno provides a quick burst of energy acceleration for Shadow Rider Calyrex to help boost the damage of Max Geist. If you have run out of Underworld Door abilities to use for the turn and still have psychic energy in hand, you can put down a Galarian Articuno to still get full damage value, which could mean the difference between missing and securing a KO.
Powerful Eeveelution Attackers Look To Take Centre Stage
Not only do the Eeveelutions bring some powerful abilities, but they also come with some very strong attacks. Leafeon VMAX has two attacks, but the star of the show is its Grass Knot. Whilst we have seen this style of attack already in the Sword and Shield block with Milotic V, Grass Knot has a higher multiplier and requires one less energy. Oh, and it’s also on a Pokémon with 310HP. Thanks to cards such as Galar Mine, Boss’ Orders and Tool Jammer, you can trap your opponents VMAX Pokémon in the active and then swing for massive damage. With most VMAX cards having a retreat cost of at least two, a Galar Mine allows you to guarantee a two-shot on all three prize Pokémon in the format, as well as a OHKO on the majority of Pokémon V. Thanks to Tool Jammer, you can also shut off retreating tools such as Air Balloon and the new Snow Leaf Badge.
On the other hand, Jolteon VMAX boasts a powerful (and brilliantly named) Max Thunder Rumble, which boasts excellent damage spread for just two energy. In fact, thanks to the new Elemental Badge tool card, you can do 200 damage for just one energy! With this insanely efficient damage output, Jolteon VMAX can easily pair up with other Pokémon such as Zacian V. With Zacian’s Brave Blade doing 230 damage, Pokémon VMAX who run to the bench can be easily sniped by Jolteon for a KO, whilst you also do damage another VMAX in the active which can then be finished off by Zacian on the following turn. In addition, thanks to Jolteon’s free retreat cost, you don’t have to worry about playing as many switch cards to reset Zacian’s Brave Blade attack.
New Supporters Are Here To Shake Up The Status Quo
Not only do we receive some powerful new Pokémon, tools, and items in Evolving Skies, but the set also comes with three supporter cards that will be hoping to shake up the traditional Marnie/Professor’s Research combination. Raihan is similar to the outgoing Rosa, in that it can only be used when you have had a Pokémon knocked out in your previous turn. By allowing you to search your deck for any card, whilst also accelerating a basic energy from the discard pile, you can power up a two energy VMAX in one turn by attaching an energy for turn, then using Raihan to attach another and also find your VMAX to evolve into. For two attachment decks such as Victini VMAX, Rapid Strike Urshifu and Leafeon VMAX, Raihan is sure to be a welcome addition. The other new supporter of note from Evolving Skies is Zinnia’s Resolve, which has a similar effect to the also outgoing Erika’s Hospitality. Since you need to discard cards from your hand in order to be able to use it, Zinnia’s Resolve is most likely to be effective in decks that require discard synergy for their energy acceleration. Attackers such as Zacian V, Rayquaza VMAX and Galarian Moltres V all require basic energy in the discard pile, so it can then be accelerated onto them through their various means. Zinnia’s Resolve allows you to both get these accelerators online, and draw you up to six new cards at the same time.
Although Copycat is a reprint, it can still be effective as a one copy against certain matchups. Against decks that naturally draw into large hand sizes, such as Shadow Rider Calyrex, Copycat can be a surprise supporter that has the potential to draw you into everything you need all in one go. To help you search out these low count supporters, you can use Altaria’s Tempting Tune ability, which enables you to have instant access to a supporter at any time, given that you can draw it off the top of the deck with something like an Oranguru, Crobat V or Suicune V. Altaria will most come in handy when you need access to your tech supporters, your opponent has Marnie’d you into a dead hand, or you need access to a game-winning Boss’ Orders for a final KO.