Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Bath TCG blog. With only a week until rotation, I’m sure many of you will be well underway with your binder sorting. Today, we’re going to be looking at Unified Minds, the world’s set, which brought some of the most powerful Pokémon and trainer cards we have ever seen. We will also be taking a quick look at Hidden Fates, to see what relevant non-shiny vault cards (yes, there are some) will be rotating this year as well.
Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor GX
Our first TagTeam of the set, EggRow was the face of grass decks throughout its time in the Sword and Shield block. It was the perfect partner for Rillaboom from Sword and Shield, which is an excellent accelerator for any grass deck, as you could avoid using Rare Candies thanks to its Super Growth attack, which could turn any basic Pokémon into a stage one/two on turn one going second. This meant that from turn two you could accelerate two additional energy to your board every turn. Thanks to this combo, Eggrow Rillaboom became the leading grass archetype of choice, surpassing Rillaboom VMAX. Since this combo was also usable with Mew3, you could use multiple different grass-powered attackers and avoid being hit for weakness against fire matchups, making them much more manageable than before.
Speaking of fire decks, Heatran GX was a mainstay in nearly all fire archetypes, thanks to its ability to self accelerate to itself, and its unlimited damage cap GX attack. Burning Road allowed you to play down Heatran and surprise your opponent by moving as much fire energy as you liked to it. This in turn powered up its Hot Burn GX attack, which did 50 damage for each fire energy on Heatran. It’s not hard to see the synergy there, nor is it a surprise to hear the Heatran saw play with many cards such as ReshiZard, Baby Blowns, Centiskorch VMAX and Victini VMAX.
Although Victini was mainly played in only one archetype, it was a crucial piece that couldn’t be done without. Whilst Victini saw brief experimentation with ADP after the release of Cosmic Eclipse, the card was primarily paired with BirdTrio GX. With such awkward attack costs, Victini was needed to ensure that you could pull off a Trinity Burn on turn two. By attaching a fire/lightning energy and a water energy with Victini, you could use Tapu Koko Prism Star/Welder and a turn attachment on turn two to stary swinging for 210 damage.
Despite being a stage two, Chandelure saw some success thanks to its high damage cap and access to Dusk Stone. Dusk Stone meant that you could get out a stage two on turn two without having to bother with the Rare Candy combo. Being a single prize deck that could hit for over 300 damage was very appealing since this could be boosted with Pokémon such as Delphox, Infernape, and Inceneroar, all of which could be put straight onto your bench with Spirit Burner.
Slowpoke & Psyduck GX
Another primarily rogue archetype, SlowDuck’s Ditch and Splash attack saw you discarding and recycling supporter cards over and over again thanks to Lapras’ Mermaid’s Call ability to continuously recover Misty’s Favour. Even in a deck that played more than 20 supporters, the x40 multiplier just wasn’t large enough to continuously chain large attacks, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was much easier to recover energy to the hand in a deck such as Baby Blowns than it was for SlowDuck to recover supporters, and your lack of energy acceleration meant that missing a turn attachment was just as devastating as missing a KO.
Despite only doing 10 damage, Cryogonal’s Frozen Lock attack could cause serious trouble for opponents if they were playing a deck that was reliant on items or they had used up all of their switch cards. Cryogonal allowed decks such as ADP Zacian and Spiritomb more time to set up their attacks whilst your opponents were left stranded.
Keldeo GX would have seen much more play in standard if it hadn’t been released just three months before the final set to feature GX cards. However, before the release of Sword and Shield, Keldeo saw play in QuagNag and was the initial partner to ADP before being replaced by Zacian V. It’s Sonic Edge attack didn’t do a lot of damage for a GX Pokémon, and 170HP was relatively low for a basic, but its Pure Heart ability was strong enough to win games on its own – until the release of V Pokémon that is. In the Sword and Shield era, Keldeo saw play in various Frosmoth archetypes for its Resolute Blade GX attack, which could OHKO an Eternatus VMAX that had a full bench, even if it had a Big Charm attached.
A tech Pokémon played in a variety of two and three prize decks, Tapu Fini was designed to go toe to toe with Baby Blowns to even up the prize trade. Since it could OHKO a Blown for only one energy, it could take out multiple before being knocked out if your opponent struggled to set another one up in time. In fact, Tapu Fini was even included in some Blowns decks as a way to save resources and gain a quick prize lead over your opponent in the mirror match.
Raichu & Alolan Raichu GX
Although PikaRom was the star of the show, the deck wouldn’t have been as big a success if it wasn’t for ChuChu. Paralysis remains the strongest status condition in the game, and being able to paralyze your opponent multiple turns in a row late in a game would often be devastating. If your opponents had used up all of their switch cards, you could easily gust up a three prize Pokémon and start paralyzing, allowing you to KO it on the following turn with a Lightning Ride GX or PikaRom. Speaking of Lightning Ride GX, this attack was a powerful hit and run attack that allowed you to secure or set up a KO, and then move into a fresh TagTeam that your opponent would need to gust around, or otherwise struggle to KO.
Mewtwo & Mew GX
Perhaps the greatest TagTeam of all, Mew3 came out of the gates swinging in style, winning the 2019 World Championships just weeks after its release. The deck in question, Welder Mewtwo, was a powerful toolbox deck that allowed Mew3 to copy some of the best attacks in the game. This was the basis of nearly every deck that Mew3 was involved in, as the decks the card featured in included, but were not limited to, Welder Mewtwo, Psychic Mewtwo, Water/Grass Mewtwo, Dark Box, Cinncino Control, PikaRom, Ultimate Mewtwo, and Victini VMAX. The loss of some of Welder Mewtwo’s strongest attackers did little to stop Mew3 from seeing success, as that only opened up the door for experimentation with other typings. By including Mew3 in some of the decks listed above, they could avoid getting hit for weakness whilst also hitting for an additional one at the same time. As seen with Ultimate Mewtwo, Mew3 allowed for creative deckbuilding that saw some of the most obscure GX Pokémon have their moment in the spotlight (I’m looking at you, Alolan Raticate GX).
Espeon & Deoxys GX
One of the key components of Welder Mewtwo was of course Espeon & Deoxys GX, which had arguably one of the greatest GX attacks ever printed. Cross Division GX could be easily be powered up in two turns thanks to Welder, which could activate its amazing secondary effect. Dropping 10 damage counters wherever you wanted was already good enough, but being able to drop 20 took EspDeo to a whole new level. Using a full effect Cross Division GX against a single prize deck such as Malamar could be devastating, as you could take up to three prizes at once, all whilst crippling your opponent’s acceleration engine. Furthermore, the attack could also be used to take multiple knockouts at once on two and three prize Pokémon, meaning that you could win games in only a handful of attacks.
A staple of Spiritomb decks, Jynx allowed you to move damage around the board between your Spiritomb’s and other Pokémon you had out. Thanks to Scoop Up Net, you could use multiple Ominous Posture’s per turn to move even more damage around. Jynx was also a nice option for storing damage counters that you wanted to save for future Spiritombs, or if you wanted to put them out of range of Galarian Zigzagoon/Inteleon pings.
One of the cards that featured in Welder and Psychic Mewtwo builds, Mew3 could utilise Tag Purge to wall other TagTeam Pokémon, without having to abide by Latios GX’s annoying Power Bind ability. This attack could win games on its own, or force your opponent to find another, often less powerful attacker. In addition, Clear Vision GX could prevent some decks from playing their entire strategy, such as ADP Zacian. This reason alone saw Latios GX included in some single prize decks such as Spiritomb and Whimsicott, as a means of keeping up with the deck.
Since it was weak to itself, Jirachi GX was always a nice option to have if you were playing a Mew3 deck and were worried about being easily beaten in mirror matches. However, placing it down on the field, in addition to Dedenne GX, often gave your opponent some easy prizes that could have otherwise have been avoided. On the other hand, Star Search was a nice option for Mew3 decks that went second, as it allowed you to get in another attachment in addition to accelerating energy with Welder. With Jirachi GX recently being played in Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, it will be interesting to see how the archetype adapts to the Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX matchup post rotation.
Not seeing any real attention until the release of Scoop Up Net, Giratina saw most of its play in Dragapult VMAX decks, since it could be searched out with Mysterious Treasure and acted as additional energy disruption in combination with something like Crushing Hammer. Giratina also saw play in a few other archetypes, most recently in Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX after its release, as a means of discarding Rapid Strike Energy in mirror matches.
Upon its release, Aerodactyl GX saw play in Rampardos Fossils, which made use of its handy Primal Winds ability and Wild Dive GX combination. Primal Winds would mean that your opponent’s active Pokémon would need more energy attached to it in order to attack, which in turn powered up Wild Dive GX to do even more damage. Thanks to this combo, Aerodactyl was played in Cinncino Mill to make opponents use up more resources on their active attacker, which would not only waste time but also ensure that they were hit even harder with Wild Dive GX.
After the loss of Oranguru to last year’s rotation, control needed a new recovery Pokémon to front the archetype. Although it was a stage one as opposed to a basic, Excadrill could shuffle an extra card back into the deck. This made all the difference in control decks, as it allowed you to recover more combo pieces and Pokémon. In addition, Slash also did more damage than Oranguru’s Profound Knowledge, which could come in handy against certain annoying one prize Pokémon, or if you came against decks that were weak to you such as PikaRom or Eternatus VMAX.
Umbreon & Darkrai GX
Umbreon & Darkrai GX was undoubtedly one of the strongest TagTeam Pokémon on paper, but sadly for it, it just didn’t have the support needed to make it competitively viable for most of its time in standard. Being able to do a total of 210 damage for only three energy was very efficient damage, and was also very helpful in setting up future KOs. Dark Moon GX meanwhile was a nice panic option for when you were struggling to set up in the early game. Although, if you could get six energy onto Umbreon & Darkrai, you could KO any Pokémon in front of you whilst also turning off trainers for your opponents, which could completely prevent them from setting up another attacker. However, whilst a full effect Dark Moon GX was extremely strong, the means of accelerating the energy needed to do so just couldn’t be done in a consistent enough way. Dark Box required you to play Red & Blue to accelerate energy, in addition to Weavile GX and Silvally GX to move your energy around the board and draw you cards. This often meant that the deck just couldn’t consistently set up compared to other archetypes.
Mega Sableye & Tyranitar GX
Another attacker in the ill-fated Dark Box deck, SableTar was used as an attacker once you had used Dark Moon GX, as it required a lot of energy to attack and Greedy Crush did more damage than Black Lance. Being able to take extra cards on Pokémon such as Dedenne GX was also a nice bonus, and was the reason that SableTar was included in Ultimate Mewtwo. Once you had used Altered Creation GX from ADP, you could then knockout out Dedenne’s for four prizes and TagTeam Pokémon for 5! Gigafall GX on the other hand was definitely more of an optimist’s dream to pull off. Although it was a nice option if you just needed to do a heap load of damage, getting 10 energy on SableTar was often just too much of an ask. However, getting a full effect Gigafall GX was achievable in one archetype that made use of the Axew from Cosmic Eclipse that couldn’t be gusted up, and a Nanu. After attaching 10 dark energy to Axew, you could Nanu into a SableTar and mill a quarter of your opponent’s deck at the same time as taking a big OHKO.
The final centerpiece of Dark Box, Weavile GX was key to the archetype even functioning in the first place. Whilst the deck never strayed too far from rouge for most of its life, the deck did see some uptick in play after the release of Chilling Reign. The release of Galarian Moltres V, with its Direflame Wings ability, gave the deck another energy acceleration option and meant that you could play more supporters such as Professor’s Research and Marnie. With the recent release and rise of Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX, it’s a shame for Dark Box that all these cards are rotating when they are.
Hoopa is the kind of card that will be missed by everyone, just for its utility to be able to be put in all sorts of decks and archetypes. Evil Admonition could be teched into any deck that wanted a great prize-trading option. Given the number of abilities that are played in every deck (bar Green’s decks), Hoopa could easily do around 100 damage, which is especially efficient when you consider that this could be done for only a single energy. Thanks to this utility, Hoopa was included in all sorts of archetypes, such as Reshizard, Blacephalon (both Baby and GX), PikaRom, Spiritomb, ADP, and Eternatus VMAX.
From a card that will be missed by all, to a card that will be missed by very few, Mawile GX was a prominent component of both ADP Zacian and Combo Zacian’s game plans. Its Captivating Wink ability allowed you to force down weak two prize Pokémon such as Dedenne GX, Crobat V, and Eldegoss V for you two take three prizes on with either Zacian, ADP, or even Mawile GX itself. Its Wily Bite attack could do 190 damage thanks to the damage boost from Altered Creation GX, and up to 270 if you were up against Eternatus VMAX with a full bench. Needless to say, players certainly won’t miss having their two prize Pokémon with coming into play abilities forced down onto the field with no effect.
Garchomp & Giratina GX
Although it was much more popular in expanded format, TinaChomp still saw a decent amount of play in standard format. Despite having the usual dragon type disadvantage of having awkward attack costs, there were a few neat tricks that TinaChomp could use to make Calamitous Slash a little bit easier to use. Thanks to a Mismagius engine, you could put yourself down on prizes on the first or second turn of the game. This activated tools such as Karate Belt and Counter Gain, which meant that you could start attacking from turn two. Although 160 damage for only two attachments was still excellent damage output, if you went second you could set up even more damage with a Linear Attack, which meant that you could do 240 damage on turn two – powerful stuff! In addition, GG End GX was always a nice option for when you wanted to get rid of a powerful threat with a lot of energy to give yourself a nice lead in tempo over your opponent.
Another dragon GX Pokémon, but this time one with an all colourless attack cost, Dragonite GX was included in a variety of Mew3 decks that could utilise its Sky Judgement attack in the late game to take massive OHKOs on TagTeam Pokémon. Included in Welder, Psychic and Grass varients, Mew3’s that stuck around on the board for a long time could have five energy loaded up on them to take a big knockout to finish a game.
Speaking of Mew3, Naganadel GX was included in both the Welder and Psychic variants as a neat sniping option for already damaged three prize Pokémon, or weaker two prize Pokémon such as Dedenne GX. You could simply discard Naganadel, knowing that you could call upon it at any point in the game where you needed to snipe an opponent’s Pokémon. Naganadel was also featured in Blacephalon GX decks, as its Ultra Conversion was a nice draw option for the deck that could also utilise its attacks.
One of the only baby Pokémon with turn-ending abilities to see play, Munchlax’s Snack Search was a nice option for stall decks such as Florges Dolls and the recent Snorlax VMAX/Cheryl control deck to recycle cards such as items and special energy that otherwise couldn’t be recovered.
Possible one of, if not the greatest, item card printed in the Sun and Moon era, Cherish Ball quite simply did what it said on the tin. Being able to search for any GX Pokémon, including TagTeams, with no downside made Cherish Ball an instant include in any deck that centered around GX Pokémon. Cherish Ball did what all great items cards do: be simple, and be effective.
Being a card with specific requirements for it to be used effectively, Coach Trainer was included in specific archetypes that mainly centered around TagTeam Pokémon that didn’t play any setup Pokémon such as Jirachi. The main user of Coach Trainer was Gardeon, which would only ever include four TagTeam Pokemon and one or two tech Pokémon. Since Green’s Exploration could only ever search out two trainer cards, Coach Trainer allowed for some additional draw that didn’t make you shuffle in large hand sizes, unlike Cynthia, and on average the number of cards you would draw was larger than the amount you would draw from a Lillie.
A useful stadium for dark decks that could utilise their basic Pokémon as free pivots, Dark City was played in decks such as Dark Box and Eternatus VMAX that played a lot of basic Pokémon. However, Dark City never saw a huge amount of play, due to the fact that Dark Box was mainly a rouge archetype, and Eternatus VMAX switched over to using Chaotic Swell as a stadium and Yveltal from Team Up as its free pivot.
Primarily played in Dragapult VMAX decks, along with some use in Gardeon, Giant Bomb was used to increase the amount of damage that Dragapult could do to the opponent. Since Dragapult could only do 130 damage to the opposing active Pokémon, Giant Bomb was used in combination with cards such as Galarian Zigzagoon/Scoop Up Net and Horror Psychic Energy to add an extra boost to its damage output.
The final piece of the Welder package to rotate this year, Giant Hearth ensured that you could access the energy needed for a Welder at any point in the game. As long as you had a Giant Hearth in play, you had a constant supply of energy throughout the game, with the added bonus that this would in turn thin the deck out of energy cards in the early game to make it consistent in the late game. It’s hard to pinpoint a deck that utilised Giant Hearth most, but it was a key piece for Baby Blacephalon decks that wanted to fill the hand with large amounts of basic fire energy.
Another simple but effective item, Great Potion was a staple in Green’s Exploration decks that could tutor out this healing effect at any time. These decks were most often based around large TagTeam that wanted to keep these large HP Pokémon on the board for as long as possible, such as Reshizard, Gardeon, and ADP.
Being an extremely aggressive supporter, Hapu was mostly included in decks that didn’t mind discarding cards or had discard synergy in their decks. Archetypes that wanted to race to the bottom of the deck and didn’t mind discarding resources, such as Pidgeotto Control, could use Hapu to pick out the most important early game combo pieces and recover the rest later with Oranguru. Meanwhile, decks like Welder Mewtwo could use Hapu to discard GX Pokémon ready for copying with Mew3.
For the longest time throughout its time in standard, Karate Belt saw pretty much no play, due to the fact that the last few years have given us very few viable fighting attackers. The only deck that Karate Belt did see play in was in fact TinaChomp, which used the tool to reduce the awkward cost of its attacks. However, with the release of Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, Karate Belt found a new home as it enabled Urshifu to use Gale Thrust for free, and G-Max Rapid Flow for only one Rapid Strike Energy. It says a lot about the usefulness of Karate Belt when it is arguably the biggest loss the deck will suffer this rotation.
As previously mentioned, Misty’s Favor only saw play in SlowDuck archetypes, as a means of getting large amounts of supporter cards in your hand which could then be discarded with Ditch and Splash. Thanks to Lapras’ Mermaid’s Call ability, you could keep recovering Misty’s Favor every turn for continued use.
Pokémon Research Lab
Although Fossil decks have always been (and continue to be) largely irrelevant, Pokémon Research Lab did allow the ones with a little bit of potential a means to skip having to evolve from Unidentified Fossil. Decks like Rampardos Fossils, AeroPod, and other decks that played Fossil Pokémon like Areodactyl GX could end their first turn by getting two powerful stage one cards into play.
With the departure of Reset Stamp to this year’s rotation, we will be left with no comeback mechanic in the standard format. Now, when your opponent is ahead in prize cards, there is no way to punish them for taking prizes and building up a large hand size. Whilst we still have cards like Marnie to disrupt the opponent’s hand, putting them down to four cards is nothing like putting them down to just one. Putting them down to just one card could completely brick your opponent, and when combined with cards such as Power Plant or ChuChu (for paralysis), Reset Stamp could get you right back into the game. To put it simply, Reset Stamp was great when it came out, it was great in every format it was played in, and it will continue to be great until the day that it rotates.
Since you are allowed to play four copies of a stadium card in your deck, Stadium Nav would have seemed like an unusual card to print. However, with the introduction of Prism Star Stadiums, of which you were only allowed to include one copy, Stadium Nav became the tutoring option of choice to find these powerful stadium cards in the early game to get your game plan up and running. The two main beneficiaries of Stadium Nav were Thunder Mountain and Heat Factory Prism Star. Since it reduced your attack cost, getting a Thunder Mountain out early was key to getting off the fabled turn one Full Blitz. Meanwhile, Heat Factory allowed Baby Blowns to get fire energy into the discard pile for Fire Crystal activation, whilst also building up a large hand size at the same time.
Another staple of PikaRom, Tag Switch was a neat item that allowed you to quickly and easily move your energy around the board to different attackers, or to TagTeams that wanted to use a full effect GX attack. Tag Switch meant that you weren’t as heavily punished for your Full Blitz/Tapu Koko attachments, as you could always move the energy off damaged Pokémon and onto a PikaRom, ChuChu, or Mew3 later on in the game.
Sadly for U-Turn Board, it was hard to justify its use in decks when Escape Rope was also in format. Since it could be used with Jirachi to make sure it could still retreat whilst asleep, U-Turn Boards reusability just wasn’t a good enough effect to even consider it. However, U-Turn Board was pivotal in the creation of the Whimsicott archetype from Vivid Voltage, as its reusability meant that you had a consistent damage output throughout the game if you could get all four copies out early.
A staple of Control archetypes, Recycle Energy was key as you could keep using Oranguru’s Resource Management to recover other cards in your deck, as opposed to energy since your Oranguru’s would most likely be knocked out multiple times in a game. Recycle Energy was also a key component of any Porygon-Z deck, as it meant that you didn’t lose all of your special energy whenever one of your Pokémon were knocked out.
Weakness Guard Energy
Simple, yet effective, Weakness Guard Energy was mostly used in Mew3 decks that didn’t want to get hit for weakness against other Mew3 decks, whether they were mirror matches or not. Other decks to make use of Weakness Guard Energy were EggRow Rillaboom decks, to avoid the plethora of Welder decks in the format, and Eternatus VMAX, so it could stand a better chance against Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX.
Our first card of the Hidden Fates expansion, Charizard GX was used in Welder Mewtwo decks for its Flare Blitz GX attack, which could OHKO any GX Pokémon in the format. As long as you could attach an energy to a Mew3 on your first turn, a Welder and attachment meant that you could use Flare Blitz on turn two. This was particularly useful against ADP decks, as you could OHKO an ADP before they had even got off an Ultimate Ray, or even a full effect Altered Creation GX.
Seeing play in Water Mewtwo decks, Starmie GX’s Star Stream attack allowed you to attach two additional energy to one of your Pokémon, which could be done on your first turn going second. This meant that, even if you missed a turn two Frosmoth, you still had a decent amount of energy on the board to shuffle back into the deck with Blastoise GX’s Rocket Splash.
Combining with the Jessie & James supporter (more on that in a bit), Weezing allowed you to discard additional cards from your opponent’s hand, making them less likely to draw out of the hand lock. In addition, discarding Weezing meant that you didn’t have to discard other helpful resources that you otherwise would have needed during your turn.
Moltres & Articuno & Zapdos GX
One of the more extravagant TagTeam Pokémon, Bird Trio was played in decks on its own, with ADP, and in Rainbow Energy builds of Welder Mewtwo. In the latter, its Trinity Burn attack could be copied by Mew3 as a nice alternative to Reshizard’s Flare Blitz, which couldn’t be used every turn and only did 20 more damage. Meanwhile, in the other two variants, Trinity Burn’s awkward attack cost was powered up by Victini, in combination with Welder and Tapu Koko Prism Star. For all decks that played Bird Trio, Sky Legends GX was a nice option for when you wanted to save a damaged TagTeam from being knocked out, or for when you wanted to snipe a number of single prize Pokémon at once that were on your opponent’s board.
Jessie & James
Our final card of part three, Jessie & James formed a nice combo with Weezing as well as being good enough to play without it. Since you could rely on your Cinccino or Pidgeotto draw engine to get you cards, you could play Jessie & James over something like Mars, which didn’t offer as powerful a discard effect on your opponent’s hand.