Sword and Shield does not only bring the brand new Pokémon V and Pokémon VMax into the game, but also a slew of rule and wording changes. Let’s explore the interesting cards in more detail. We will look at the rule changes in another article soon.
Note; most of this was written before the English cards were revealed, so mistakes and mistranslations may have snuck in
Even though at first glance, Maractus seems a lot like Blissey (Lost Thunder 153), it is not quite as viable. Since Maractus is a basic Pokemon, it has no access to Acceleration Energy, which made Blissey so dangerous to begin with. Besides that and the slightly lower damage, Maractus also requires Grass Energy, greatly lowering its versatility. Unlike Blissey, Maractus is unlikely to see play in a successful rogue deck.
If used well, ‘Bug’s Radar’ along with discard effects completely locks an opponent out of the game. The obvious issue, of course, is that Orbeetle is a Stage 2 Pokemon, but if by turn 2 you can use a Rare Candy to get access to ‘Bug’s Radar’ and slow the opponent down drastically, you may have already won the game. Unless, of course, that opponent has set up their field with Welder by then and runs your field over faster than you can halt them. Orbeetle needs a lot of experience with the game, foresight, and luck to make work but can completely dominate a round.
Grass-Type Energy-Acceleration is something we rarely see, however, Rillaboom’s ‘Voltage Beat’ is not at all weaker than what we would see in a Fire-Type Pokemon’s Ability. Stage 2 Pokemon tend to not be worth the effort being put into evolving them, but Rillaboom very well may be. Though ‘Hammer In’ is not a good attack whatsoever, it still can get used for decent damage if necessary. Rillaboom’s first appearance in the TCG is quite a remarkable one.
Dhelmise V 7/10
Dhelmise V is simple, reliable and will likely fill a few decks’ need for such a card. No matter the state of the game, Dhelmise V will find some kind of use and always stays a threat, just not a big one. Celebi V 4/10 [G] Find A Friend: Search your deck for up to 2 Pokemon, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck. [G][C] Line Force 50+ damage: This attack deals 20 more damage for each of your benched Pokemon. Though up to 150 damage for 2 Energy sounds promising at first, it is just not good enough. Relying on ‘Line Force’ will often leave you helpless against decks containing Pokemon VMax or heal effects. As a single copy, however, Celebi V can be an unexpected and cheap attacker, set up in a single turn with Rillaboom’s ‘Voltage Beat’. In the unfortunate event that Celebi has to be in the active spot on the first turn, it seems like it should be able to set up your following turns with ‘Find A Friend’, but in all likeliness, there will be no further turn if Celebi V is the only Pokemon you have by that point.
Celebi V 4/10
Though up to 150 damage for 2 Energy sounds promising at first, it is just not good enough. Relying on ‘Line Force’ will often leave you helpless against decks containing Pokemon VMax or heal effects. As a single copy, however, Celebi V can be an unexpected and cheap attacker, set up in a single turn with Rillaboom’s ‘Voltage Beat’. In the unfortunate event that Celebi has to be in the active spot on the first turn, it seems like it should be able to set up your following turns with ‘Find A Friend’, but in all likeliness, there will be no further turn if Celebi V is the only Pokemon you have by that point.
Fire-Decks do not have many inherent options to switch Pokemon out repeatedly, which makes ‘Libero’ not as consistent as I would like it to be. Though Jirachi + Escape Board, as well as Switch, can help Cinderace, it is not as consistent as other current Fire-Decks currently are. Even though it has some issues currently, Cinderace is a very promising card that as a single-prize-attacker has a lot of potential.
Torkoal V 6/10
For ‘Flame Pillar’ to deal decent damage, you either need a lot of luck or to place a Fire-Energy card on top of the deck. The latter can be done with Magcargo (Celestial Storm 24) or Oranguru from this set, which may make ‘Flame Pillar’ a consistently powerful source of damage if the deck is built around it. The above-average HP combined with the currently vastly powerful Fire-Type Energy-Acceleration makes Torkoal a decent Pokemon, but it is unlikely to hold up against the already established Fire-Decks such as Blacephalon, Blacephalon GX and “Reshizard”.
Victini V 8.5/10
An easy to use, above-average Pokemon V with great potential to be used in many Fire-type decks as a multi-use tool. For only two Energy, ‘Energy Burst’ can deal decent damage and get some knockouts. The more important use however likely will be Victini V’s ability to scare Tag Team Pokemon and other Pokemon that need a lot of Energy for their attacks. A card such as Reshiram & Charizard GX that needs 6 Energy for the bonus effect of the GX attack is very susceptible to ‘Energy Burst’ as it deals at least 240 damage to them once they have the required Energy attached to them. Adding necessary Energy to get a one-hit-knockout with ‘Energy Burst’ is not difficult thanks to Welder, making Victini V always a threat to almost any Pokemon. Though not as powerful, ‘Spreading Flames’ should not be underestimated either. Early-game with the help of Dedenne GX and Ultra Balls, getting a few Energy cards into the discard pile to then use with ‘Spreading Flames’ is pretty easy. Victini GX is consistently powerful, fast and has multiple uses.
Though ‘Ice Dance’ is a slightly weaker version of ‘Rain Rance’ which is commonly seen on Blastoise, Frosmoth is, unlike Blastoise, not a Stage 2 Pokemon. This makes ‘Ice Dance’ much more reliable while being almost just as powerful. Thanks to Quagsire (Dragon Majesty 26), it makes hardly a difference anyway. Frosmoth is a very powerful card that is likely to be included in water-Type decks until it rotates out of the format.
Drizzle & Inteleon 7/10
The two Pokemon’s Abilities ‘Shady Business’ and ‘Shady Dealings’ are almost identical, with Inteleon’s version giving you one more Trainer card than the other. Either one of them can look for a wide variety of cards, as it is not limited to Supporter or Item cards, but any Trainer card(s). This makes both Inteleon and Drizzle useful for combo-heavy decks or a part of Stage-2 heavy decks as the Abilities can search for Evolution Incense and Rare Candy. Luckily, Inteleon can deal some decent damage once it is evolved and does not just sit on the bench. The universal utility of the Water-type starter line will likely make it find its way into some decks.
Keldeo V 8/10
A less risky but also less powerful version of Lapras Vmax. Though ‘Sacred Sword’s base damage is 10 lower than Quagsire’s ‘Hydro Pump’, the damage of ‘Sacred Sword’ increases by 30 per Water Energy instead of 20. This makes Keldeo in combination with Quagsire and Frosmoth an easy to set up but very potent attacker that can easily capitalize on the large amount of Water Energy the deck tries to bring onto the field.
Lapras V & Lapras V MAX 8/10
One of the first new Pokemon VMax, which is the TCG representation of Dynamax and Gigantimax. The process of evolving a Pokemon V into a Pokemon VMax raises the Prizes taken by your opponent from 2 to 3, should it get knocked out. It also makes the Pokemon’s HP get higher than they have ever been in the Pokemon TCG. Though ‘G-Max Pump’ has no cap on how much damage it can deal, it would need a total of 9 Energy attached to it to knock out a Snorlax VMax, which even with Frosmoth is anything but an easy task. Knocking out Pokemon GX, basic Pokemon V, as well as tag Team Pokemon, is much more feasible, however, allowing Lapras Vmax to be a dangerous threat against any deck it faces off against. Lapras V by itself is capable of dealing with threats as well, as ‘Ocean Loop’ can knock out most Pokemon that are not Pokemon VMax or Tag Team Pokemon. Though a decent pair of cards, Lapras V can not quite keep up with some other cards in this set.
Boltund makes for a very decent single-prize-attacker, thanks to the decent HP, single retreat cost and ‘Fighting Bite’ dealing a consistent 180 damage for three Energy. The effectiveness of Boltund goes down a lot when the opponent happens to play few to none Pokemon V/GX, which makes Boltund incapable of being the only attacker in a deck.
Tapu Koko V 9/10
Tapu Koko V has it all; A useful attack for when Tapu Koko has to be in the active spot early game, a very powerful generally useful attack, and free retreat cost. The only real negative this card has can be negated by simply using the free retreat of itself. Very consistent, powerful and fast, Tapu Koko V is an outstanding card that will easily find use in Electric-Type decks.
Morpeko V 8/10 & Morpeko V MAX 6.5/10
Unlikely to be the star of its own deck, Morpeko V and VMax neatly snuggles into the currently very powerful Electric-Type decks and gives them an evasive attacker and a spread-damage attacker with massive HP. This hangry rodent’s VMax form sadly does not add much to Electric-Type decks that they actually need, so it is unlikely to play a big role in most decks. The basic version, however, gives the deck an evasive high damage attacker, which is very valuable.
‘Life Shaker’ is very reminiscent of ‘Damage Swap’, an Ability that got introduced in Base Set and always was extremely powerful. It seems that ‘Life Shaker’ is an attempt to balance this effect more than its counterpart. Stacking all Damage Counters your Pokemon have on a single one of them, just to Super Scoop Up or Acerola that Pokemon was a valid stall and heal tactic that was used frequently, Gengar will likely lead to similar decks being created. It is worth mentioning that Gengar has an interesting interaction with Drifblim (Ultra Prism 52), allowing you to spread out the damage your Pokemon have and use ‘Damage Transport’ to deliver it all right back to where it came from. Gengar has potential but relies completely on the environment it is in, which may be perfect for it right now since the most commonly played Pokemon have massive amounts of HP.
Besides being happy with what a fitting set of attack names this Pokemon got, I am also pleased with its power. Though the HP is incredibly low for a Stage 1 Pokemon, the damage it can deal is enough reason to include it in the already established Gengar & Mimikyu Tag Team GX deck, giving the deck a decent single-prize-attacker that deals just as much damage as the main star of the deck, but is much more fragile in return. Though this deck is unlikely to be a top tier deck, Polteageist easily slots into it, giving it a cozy home.
Galarian Rapidash 5.5/10
Special conditions are more insignificant right now than maybe ever before. Poison is too easily healed and deals way too little damage in a game where over 300 HP is an easy feat to accomplish. Sleep and confusion are unreliable and burn is just a slightly better poison. The only dangerous Special Condition, paralysis, is too rare to be a threat and often connected to a coinflip anyway. It seems that the card-designers noticed this too, as Pastel Veil is simply an upgrade to Cobalion GX’s Metal Symbol. In addition to the already pushed Ability, Rapidash’s ‘Psychic’ is decently powerful for a utility Pokemon, allowing it to deal some damage if necessary. There is no issue with Galarian Rapidash itself, rather the current environment does not allow it to shine whatsoever.
Wobuffet V 6.5/10
Here we have what seems to be the perfect partner for Gengar, a big punching bag that trades damage counters with the opponent. While ‘Step Back’ is utterly useless when the target has already taken a lot of damage, ‘Shadow Bind’ can be used in those situations. Playing around with damage counters is always a risky thing to do though and without a way to damage your Pokemon consistently, the opponent has full control over how many damage counters you can deliver back to them. If they are not attacking or dealing less damage than they normally would though, you take away momentum from them which may be vital. In the correct deck, Wobuffet V can be a dangerous wall to overcome, but I doubt we have anywhere close to enough cards that work with this tactic to make an entire deck around it. Let’s wait and see.
Indeedee V 4/10
Heal effects get more and more useful the more HP a Pokemon commonly has. With Pokemon VMax getting up to 340 HP, knocking them out in a single attack is quite unlikely. That’s where ‘Watch Over’ comes into play, making even 2- or 3 turn knockouts or unlikely. However, one Indeedee V by itself is unlikely to succeed in doing so, making multiples necessary. While this sounds pretty good, Indeedee V is quite weak for a Pokemon that gives up two Prize Cards. The heal of 20 is very low, the damage is entirely reliant on the target being a Pokemon that already was or is in the process of being set up to attack and the retreat cost of 2 is annoying. In total, Indeedee V can be an element in a stall deck, but most of the time, Indeedee V seems like it wishes it was Shaymin (Lost Thunder 33).
If ‘Octolock’ were to deal even a minuscule amount of damage, this card would be pretty decent. This way, Grapploct does nothing but semi Energy-removal and decent damage without any additional effects. While this is not bad, it is not good enough. Using actual Energy-removal with a strong attacker will always be the better option. For a control-based fun-deck, Grapploct would do a decent job regardless.
Regirock V 3.5/10
At first glance, Regirock V has a huge amount of HP for a basic Pokemon. Though ‘Rocky Tackle’ is capable of knocking out most basic Pokemon GX and some Pokemon V, it leaves Regirock with a virtual 190HP. Though this feeds into ‘Raging Hammer’, Regirock needs to have taken quite a lot of damage for this attack to be worth using. In total, Regirock V seems to be a worse version of Stonjourner V.
Stonjourner V & Stonjourner V MAX 8/10
Exactly as defensive as Stonjourner is in the video games, its Tcg version tries to be. During the early game, ‘Guard Press’ reduces damage Stonjourner V takes by a tiny amount and allows it to wall off an attack or two until it can attack with ‘Mega Kick’. This, however, is not what this big rock is meant to do. Stonjourner VMax is a much bigger threat. Healing any of your Pokemon for a massive 120HP while accelerating Energy is quite powerful of a Single-Energy attack, while ‘Max Rockfall’ knocks out most basic Pokemon GX in a single hit as well as anything else in two hits for just three Energy. Stonjourner V and VMax are very likely to become the centerpiece of Fighting-Type decks.
Here we see one of the new changes and one of the biggest; Poison-Type Pokemon in the TCG are now no longer represented by the Psychic-Type but instead are now Darkness-type. This makes Darkness-type Pokemon more common and gives the type more variety, however, cards printed before this set are unaffected. Croagunk itself is rather unspectacular, making the too weak Poison effect a little better at the cost of being a weak bench-sitter itself. Not worth it at all.
Galarian Zigzagoon 6.5/10 and Galarian Obstagoon 8/10
Dealing damage without attacking is almost always a good thing. The Galarian Zigzagoon line makes this rather easy and consistent, giving you a total of 40 damage simply by playing Zigzagoon and Obstagoon. Galarian Linoone has no such Ability, making Obstagoon a great target for Rare Candy plays and simply skipping Linoone. Though this sounds promising, it would be useless on a Pokemon with no good attacks. Luckily Obstagoon has an attack that makes it very relevant, ‘Obstruct’. With this attack, Obstagoon becomes difficult to overcome for many decks, leaving the few played evolution-Pokemon to deal with it. Depending on how relevant Obstagoon becomes in the game, every deck should be prepared for its basic Pokemon to have evolution-pokemon as a backup to deal with this very fittingly themed obstruction.
Sableye V 7/10
A perfect card for spread-damage decks as well as a good partner for Obstagoon. In rare cases, ‘Ore Search’ will be somewhat useful but should be avoided. ‘Wicked Claws’ however can rather easily deal massive damage, causing a knockout even on Snorlax Vmax if it has 5 or more damage counters on it beforehand. Though the uses of Sableye V are narrow, it is good at doing what it’s supposed to do.
Galarian Perrserker 6.5/10
A simple but powerful card. Perrserker makes many Metal-type Pokemon reach the necessary damage for knockouts they were previously not capable of. Perrserker itself is rather weak though, so finding a balance between attackers and a supporting cast of Perrserker is important.
Even with the drawback of ‘Mighty Trunk’ sometimes not working, 220 damage from a single-prize-attacker for only 3 Energy is astounding. Copperajah can knock out most basic Pokemon GX and Pokemon V in a single hit, easily winning the prize-race against decks consisting of mostly those cards. Even against Pokemon VMax, Copperajah can keep up in speed and damage, though it would likely need to get healed so ‘Mighty Trunk’ actually works. This card may very well be the currently best single-prize-attacker we have as well as an exceptionally powerful candidate for a budget deck that can even rank high in a tournament.
Zacian V 9/10
Not only the star of Pokemon Sword but also the star of a lot of upcoming Metal decks, this good dog accelerates Energy, provides card-draw and deals more than decent damage. If you happen to be incapable of attacking, which is likely in the first 1-2 turns, ‘Inteprid Sword’ gives you a mix of up to 3 between additional cards and accelerating Metal Energy. This makes Zacian V an amazing substitute for a supporter card during the first turn, lets you attack the very next turn if you happen to accelerate any Energy with the Ability and can knock out most basic Pokemon GX and Pokemon V without issue. Tag Team Pokemon may be a slight issue, but Perrserker can help with this. Though this power does not come without a drawback, not being able to attack twice in a row with Zacian V can easily be played around with switch-style cards. An amazing card and surely the reason we will see Metal-type decks become popular even with the threat of Fire-decks being everywhere.
Zamazenta V 4/10
Unlike its brother, the shield-dog is rather underwhelming. Though putting a stop to any Pokemon Vmax, they will be and likely stay a rare occurrence. This makes half of this card useless most of the time. The other half, ‘Assault Tackle’, is merely a mediocre attack against any Pokemon that does not happen to have any Special Energy attached. Zamazenta V may be much more useful in the future if Special Energy or Pokemon Vmax become more popular, but until then, the shield lives in the shadow of the sword.
Being Zoroark GX but without the damage potential, Cinccino will almost always sit on the bench and allow you to cycle through your cards. Just like Zoroark GX, Cinccino will find its way into many decks, though likely in lower amounts than Zoroark, thanks to the lack of a powerful attack.
Thanks to being a Stage 1 Pokemon, Noctowl has access to Triple Acceleration Energy. This makes using ‘Spirit Off Into The Mountains’ very easy to use consistently and get rid of threats on the bench without knocking them out. Though this is the only use Noctowl has, it is a very powerful one that will make it appear in quite a few decks.
Oranguru’s ‘Ape Wisdom’ provides synergy with many other Abilities such as Zacian V’s ‘Inteprid Sword’ and Magcargo’s ‘Smooth Over’ as well as Torkoal V’s ‘Flame Pillar’ attack. It also allows you to save a card from discarding it by placing it on the deck before playing Professor’s Research or similar cards. This seems like just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities for this card, which is very likely to find its way into many decks.
Cramorant V 8/10
Thanks to this weird bird not requiring any colored Energy, it gives almost any deck access to a powerful bench-sniper as well as a way to search for any card they need. During the early game, ‘Beak Catch’ gives you a head start while ‘Spit Shot’ lets you easily knock out damaged Pokemon on the opponent’s bench or get rid of important bench-sitter Pokemon. Cramorant V will likely play an important role in many decks.
Snorlax V 5/10 and Snorlax Vmax 8/10
With a maximum of 210 damage, G-Max fall can knock out most basic Pokemon GX and Pokemon V. Any other Pokemon gets knocked out in two hits, making Snorlax Vmax a more than viable attacker in any format. The extreme HP of 340 also come in very handy, since most Pokemon will have to work very hard to even get a two-hit knockout on this landmass of a Pokemon. Snorlax V by itself is rather unimpressive compared to its Vmax version, but can still stand its ground if necessary. The lack of colored Energy in any of Snorlax Vmax’s attacks allows it to adapt to any kind of Energy-Acceleration, so seeing a Snorlax Vmax team up with Rillaboom is not unlikely.
Quick Ball 9.5/10
Discard 1 card from your hand to play this card.
Search your deck for a Basic Pokemon, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck.
For some decks, Quick Ball is simply a better Ultra Ball. But rather than being a substitute for Ultra Ball, Quick Ball will likely be played alongside Ultra Ball, giving decks much more consistency. An easy include for almost any deck.
Metal Patch 9/10
Not only does the Metal-type get the best new budget attacker in the set but also one of the best Pokemon V and now Energy-Acceleration as well. Identical to Aqua Patch and Dark Patch from previous sets, Metal Patch will make any Metal-type deck more consistent and will be an auto-include in those.
Sitrus Berry 0/10
Potion is better than this card.
Lum Berry 1/10
Seeing how weak status conditions are currently, this card is unusable. At least it does its job better than the regular item (Full Heal) would.
Vitality Band 4/10
Dealing extra damage is always nice, but 10 damage per attack is extremely low. Vitality band is weaker than poison, which already is regarded as a rather useless status condition. If your deck’s main attacker lacks 10-20 damage to handle a bad matchup, Vitality Band can help with that. Most of the time, there will be a better tool card to equip or even simply a better card to use though.
Evolution Incense 9/10
Search your deck for an Evolution Pokemon, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck.
Another powerful Pokemon search item that will make decks much more consistent. Though not as universally useful as Quick Ball is, Evolution Incense does not require any discard and greatly helps Stage 2 Pokemon to finally become meta relevant again. Evolution Incense also helps Pokemon VMax become very consistent immediately with their first appearance in the game.
Rotom Bike 4/10
Thanks to Supporter cards no longer being allowed to be played during the first turn of a game, Rotom Bike is likely meant to be played instead of a Supporter. Except for during this very first turn of the game, Rotom Bike is a rather terrible item card thanks to it ending your turn. In decks that do not mean to attack, such as mill-decks, Rotom Bike might be a must-have, but in most other decks it is more of a nuisance than a decent card-draw.
Big Charm 7/10
This card on its own will stop a lot of two-hit knockouts from happening of make your basic Pokemon GX and Pokemon V much more unlikely to get knocked out in a single hit. Unless your deck is specifically focused on Pokemon with 4 retreat cost, which would make Buff Padding better than this card, Big Charm is a universally useful card that can and will save you many times.
Air Balloon 8/10
Air Balloon is not quite a Float Stone, but good enough to make a significant impact on the standard format. In some decks, Escape Board and U-Turn Board may simply be better, but Air Balloon makes heavier Pokemon less risky to play and more likely to succeed. It also may enable free switching if an Ability like Dawn Wings Necrozma GX’s ‘Invasion’ returns to the game someday.
Lucky Egg 6.5/10
It is unlikely that decks based on Pokemon V and Pokemon GX will rely on a card that wants to see their Pokemon get knocked out. Even more unlikely if those Pokemon are Tag Team or VMax. Single-prize-attackers, however, will love this card and it will make its way into a few decks that play few to none Pokemon GX and Pokemon V.
Ordinary Rod 7/10
Just like Rescue Stretcher and Super Rod before, Ordinary Rod will see a great amount of play, fulfilling the same role as the other two mentioned cards. Ordinary Rod will help decks focused on single-Prize-attackers to repeatedly reuse their Pokemon and Energy while other decks will recycle their utility Pokemon this way.
Team Yell Grunt 1.5/10
If you happen to play this atrocious card, hope you go up against an incredibly slow deck without any Energy-Acceleration.
This card shows how incredibly pushed Welder is. Bede attaches a single Energy instead of up to two, targets only benched Pokemon, does not draw you any cards and still is a decent card. Most decks do not need this kind of Energy-acceleration though unless Bede allows them to consistently attack a turn faster than they otherwise would. Bede gets overshadowed by a lot of stronger Energy-acceleration but will find its way into some decks that can make good use of the extra Energy.
Poke Kid 2/10
Poke Kid (or Trevor in disguise) may have been a commonly played card in previous standard formats. Now, however, we have so many search item cards that a Supporter card doing the same thing is just too slow.
Professor’s Research 10/10
Simply a must play in every deck. Though Professor Magnolia played a rather small role in the videogame, she will play a huge role in the TCG.
Not quite as universally useful as Professor’s Research, what Marnie lacks in card-draw, she makes up in disruption and seems to be this format’s ‘N’. Be aware that thanks to how the effect is worded, at least one card has to be in at least one player’s hand for the card-draw to happen.
The usual rival card that will never see play outside of starter-decks. Extra negative points for how annoying the character is in the games and how awkward he looks in the artwork.
A decent set with a few very powerful cards. Professor’s Research, Marnie and Quick Ball are 4-of must-haves that every deck will play from now on, making their secret rare versions very sought after and expensive in the process. Collectors will have a lot of new faces and Pokemon to add to their collection, as well as beautiful new effects on Secret rares and a new style of reverse-holographic cards. It also is a rather small set, which is a welcome change. Not an extremely powerful set overall, but it has a lot of value for players and collectors alike.
8 / Great