Will this clearly Tag Team Pokemon themed set show us how strong the bonds of Pokemon friendship can be, or will or break apart under the pressure? Let us dive in and see what Unbroken Bonds has to offer.
Note; most of this was written before the English cards were revealed, so mistakes and mistranslations may have snuck in…
and Butterfree 4/10
The Abilities ‘Pupation’ and ‘Emergence’ are pretty much identical, with the only difference being that one looks for Metapod as the other looks for Butterfree. Two successful coin flips are needed for Caterpie to become a Butterfree straight away and use ‘Triple Charge’ to quickly charge up your field with Energy. Another option could be to play Butterfree from Burning Shadows to use ‘Bye Bye Heal’, which heals every Pokemon on your side of the field, but shuffles Butterfree and all cards attached to it back into the deck at the cost of a single Grass Energy. This can serve stall decks as a reusable Max Potion you can potentially get back every time you have access to a Caterpie. Of course, coinflips are always a risk and make this inconsistent at best.
Each Vileplume’s ‘Variety Pollen’ gives you a 50% chance to cause free damage to the opponent. Sleep is another option, but a 50% chance to cause sleep, just to have that Pokemon wake up between turns is a huge waste. The last option, Confusion, can cause an opponent to retreat, but more importantly, it might keep them from attacking if they do not retreat somehow. It will allow control decks to stall with multiple Vileplume, making attacking hard while poison and burn whittle down opponents slowly. The inconsistency of coin flips may make this too unreliable, but there may be a way to make it work anyway.
An attack that can deal 130 damage for a single Energy sounds tempting, but thanks to the condition it will rarely be useful. This will still be enough for Kartana to find its way into some decks, similar to how Buzzwole from Forbidden Light did. The free retreat Kartana possesses makes it even more appealing. ‘False Swipe’ will not see much use whatsoever since the coin flip makes it way too unreliable for what little it does. A decent card overall that has multiple uses and may find its way in some decks if Grass becomes a more popular type.
Just like its GX counterpart, Blacephalon will surely find entire decks built around it. The very strong new Fire support cards like Welder and Fire Crystal make Fireball Circus a quite consistent and powerful attack that can knock Pokemon GX and even Tag Team Pokemon GX in a single hit. This power from a Pokemon that gives up only a single Prize Card when knocked out will make Blacephalon quite popular and likely to rank high in tournaments. There also is ‘Brazier’, but this attack will barely get used.
On your very first turn (if you go second) ‘Flare Starter’ is incredibly powerful and will give you a massive lead in resources. In a vacuum, Volcanion is a great setup Pokemon for Fire decks. However, Fire decks will not need this kind of setup past turn 1 when cards like Kiawe and Welder do the job better, possibly without wasting your attack for that turn. ‘High Heat Blow’ is almost always going to meet the condition for extra damage but it is still not quite enough to deal with many common threats. I suspect that Volcanion will find its way into some decks as a single copy, just to use ‘Flare Starter’ turn 1. Doing so most likely requires that deck to also have a consistent retreat option such as Escape Board Jirachi, which is not going to be likely. Volcanion sadly ends up on the lower end of all the amazing Fire support in this set, even though being quite powerful itself nonetheless.
Cards that allow straight up for a comeback when you are behind are rare, but for a good reason. Normally, you do not plan on being behind in a game, especially not by 3 or more Prizes. This poses a huge risk and relies on the opponent not seeing right through the plan of using ‘Never Give Up’, which makes such an attack even riskier than the condition already is. As if that was not enough already, ‘Never Give up’ is on an otherwise pretty useless Pokemon and uses your attack for the turn, giving the opponent another turn to react. An ability that activates when the Pokemon is played on the bench with the effect of ‘Never Give Up’ would at least be playable, even worthy of building a gimmick deck around. Raichu is not.
and Vikavolt 7.5/10
Charjabug’s ‘Battery’ makes a Vikavolt deck a more viable option than ever before. The expensive but very powerful attacks of Vikavolt and Vikavolt GX can be devastating and Vikavolt was already known to be able to charge those expensive attacks rather easily. Now any excess Chargjabug can be attached to Vikavolt or Vikavolt GX for fast, devastating attacks out of nowhere. Easily best Charjabug right now and a must play for decks using Vikavolt. The Vikavolt coming with this set is a viable option, just like the previous Vikavolt and Vikavolt GX were. They all can be played in any variation, depending on the potential matchups. Though the ability is pretty specific, it will be useful for as long as we have Buzzwole GX. With a Choice Band, ‘Lightning Strike’ can deal up to 250 damage, knocking out most Pokemon in one hit, even some Tag Team GX ones. A great card overall that only really suffers from being a Stage 2 Pokemon, but greatly benefits from Charjabug’s ‘Battery’ ability.
With how easy it is to bring Lightning Energy onto the field, ‘Discharge’ can rather consistently knock out big Pokemon GX. The damage needed to knock the bigger Pokemon GX out requires a huge amount of resources though, making Zeraora unsuited as main attacker, but it can be used as a secondary attacker in the already existing Rayquaza GX and Zeraora GX decks that use Vikavolt as an Energy engine. Though less important of an attack, ‘Crushing Claw’ can be useful against decks that rely on Special Energy, but those are quite rare right now.
Stunfisk hurts its fellow Pokemon to deal extra damage. The irony in this is that Stunfisk’s damage is not especially high and does not make the self-damage very much worth it. There is a strong synergy with Spiritomb, allowing for an interesting fun deck. This kinda gameplan is not likely to be viable in tournament play though.
Interestingly enough, in a set that gives us Dedenne GX, we get another draw support Pokemon that might do the job just as good but at more manageable risk. At first glance, ‘Mysterious Message’ does not only require you to evolve into Mismagius to be able to even be used but also gives your opponent a Prize Card upon doing so. This is deceiving, however, since Mismagius can help set up your field astoundingly fast. It allows you to refresh your hand multiple times a turn without permanently taking up bench space unlike Dedenne GX would and still lets you use a supporter card in the end. This supporter card can, for example, be Judge, taking away any advantage from the opponent that the prize cards they took could have given them. This powerful ability is only made stronger by the card Dusk Stone that releases alongside it, allowing you to speed up this process even further or even get multiple uses of ‘Mysterious Message’ first turn. A deck that completely relies on only Tag Team GX Pokemon would be able to make great use of two Mismagius since the opponent would have to knock out 2 Tag Team GX Pokemon regardless of having taken 2 Prizes before. Also well worth mentioning is that Mismagius enables the use of cards that require the opponent to have more Prize Cards remaining, like the ‘Counter’ cards or Lt. Surge’s Battle. All around, Mismagius is an amazing card with many uses that will find its way into several decks.
We can completely ignore ‘Wrap’ on this card, as it is just way underpowered of an attack. But ‘Cruel Tentacles’ is where it’s at. The disruption this attack provides is great on its own, but the damage counters ‘Cruel Tentacles’ itself places can knock out a heavily damaged Pokemon while getting rid of additional Energy. This makes Tentacruel a weirdly unpredictable tech choice in slower decks, the purely colorless Energy requirements make it even easier to bring into any deck it is needed in. However, the fact that Tentacruel is a Stage 1 Pokemon is a blessing and a curse at the same time, as great Stage 1 support Pokemon exist plenty but Ditto Prism Star also exists to take Tentacool’s place.
If the condition is met, Seaking’s only attack ‘Excited Horn’ has an average of 90 damage for a single Energy, assuming Seaking carries a Choice Band this becomes 120 damage against Pokemon GX. Without any Tool card equipped, the damage of ‘Excited Horn’ is weak and absolutely not worth it. Seaking brings an inherent risk with it, that makes it quite unreliable not only thanks to the coinflips but also the need for a Tool card to even be worth using in the first place. Still, a fun card to use outside of serious matches.
There are a few not so obvious things about Quagsire that are making it worth using in most Water decks. Both attacks require nothing but Water Energy, which makes using this card in water decks quite easy. The typing of Quagsire is important though, because it hits Lightning-type Pokemon for weakness, though Lightning-type is often the weakness of Water Pokemon. Lastly, many Water decks already play Quagsire and Wooper from Dragon Majesty, because of the ‘Wash Out’ Ability. This makes adding a copy of this Quagsire easy to counter Lightning decks or unexpectedly hit them for weakness and knock Pokemon like Zeraora GX or even Pikachu & Zekrom GX out in a single hit with ‘Surf’. A simple but not to be underestimated tech-card for water decks in the future.
Another Pokemon that will only be used for their Ability and almost never get to partake in combat. Marshadow’s Ability ‘Reset Hole’ is likely going to be the universal way to get past the newly introduced Prism Star Stadium cards that can not be affected by Trainer cards. Their effect does not stop Pokemon from affecting them though, so Marshadow will most often be played onto the bench and immediately sent to the discard pile to get rid of pesky Stadium cards. The fact that Marshadow can be searched by not only Ultra Ball but also Mysterious Treasure makes this very consistent. A single Marshadow might become a normal thing to see in most decks for as long as Prism Star Stadium cards are prevalent.
Milling strategies are rare in the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Rhydon might help with these but is not very promising. Removing 5 cards from the opponent’s deck is good, but attacking is something those decks rarely do. Because of this, a deck that uses ‘Dirty Work’ needs to change their tactic and deck build quite a bit to take advantage of it. Luckily the attack requires only Colorless Energy, but what it also requires is Giovanni’s Exile. The latter may be the biggest problem here since constant use of Giovanni’s Exile is difficult if not impossible. There are likely much better ways to win by deck-out.
Diglett has extremely limited use, being almost worthless if not discarded with Giovanni’s Exile. There is a mill-deck that Diglett may absolutely find a home in, but even in that deck ‘Underground Work’ is still a very weak effect.
Stakataka is quite the lacking Ultra Beast Pokemon. It seems to be made to fit into a deck that wins by deck-out, but it does not do this job very well. The high Energy cost of ‘Top Down’ combined with the reliance on coinflips makes it a useless attack for milling. If used in any other deck, the mill-effect is an almost nonexistent inconvenience attached to an attack with mediocre damage. Stalling by soaking up damage is more suited for Stakataka since 200HP for giving up a single Price Card is pretty good, but this only works late into the game thanks to the condition. Stall and mill decks have better options than to rely on a late game semi-damage sponge.
Weezing is a strange card that would have surprisingly high potential if not held back by the limitation of ‘Detention Gas’. It sadly only works when Weezing is the active Pokemon, which severely limits the potential of this card and makes using it much more difficult than it otherwise would be. Even with this unnecessary condition slapped onto Weezing’s Ability, it still is a decent Pokemon to spread damage with both its attack and Ability. Speaking of the attack, ‘Scatter Sludge’ requires two Colorless Energy, which allows Weezing to be used in any deck regardless of type.
Mew has exactly the same Ability as Mr. Mime from BREAKthrough but is way less ugly. It also can be searched with Professor Elm’s Lecture, which is a plus. Also, though unlikely, Mew can attack in any deck thanks to ‘Psychopower’ requiring only a single colorless Energy and actually being a somewhat decent attack in some circumstances. This is a good card and I won’t feel bad for using it like when I was defacing my decks with Mr. Mime.
This card is meant to recycle Supporter cards but does so in the slowest way possible. Putting the card on top of your deck gives the opponent an opportunity to interact with it by means of cards like Judge or Trumbeak from Lost Thunder. If successful, Mewtwo gives you the opportunity to re-use some of the strongest cards in the game but uses up bench space in return. This can become a semi-combo with Giovanni’s Exile, repeatedly allowing you to discard Mewtwo for the effect and enabling the extra effect of Rhydon or maybe a Diglett for extra milling. Unlike the Ability, ‘Psychoshock’ is rather useless and deals way too little damage for the high Energy Cost. Mewtwo has potential although being rather slow. Tactical decks like mill and combo decks may become Mewtwo’s home.
Gengar is quite disappointing for how promising the card looks at first glance. Dealing 60 free damage when evolving into Gengar sounds amazing at first, but the limitation of only being able to target Pokemon EX and Pokemon GX is a huge issue. The Ability ‘Shadow Pain’ will be completely worthless against decks that do not use those Pokemon. Even with only Colorless Energy as cost for ‘Twilight Poison’, the attack is not impressive in the slightest. The initial damage is low and even with poison, it takes 4 more turns to have dealt average damage. All these drawbacks on a Stage 2 Pokemon that is inherently difficult to play make Gengar a very weak card.
For a Stage 1 Pokemon, the ability ‘Hair Wall’ is way too weak. Reducing the damage by 10 is laughable, even in combination with Lucario & Melmetal GX’s ‘Full Metal Wall’. A good idea but horribly weak execution.
With only 130HP, Melmetal does not have nearly enough HP to make the Ability ‘Metal Eater’ useful. The Energy cost of ‘Heavy Impact is too high for the amount of damage it deals, especially for a Stage 1 Pokemon. Melmetal is just a horrible card in every way.
Despite the decent Ability and the potential for high damage, Sharpedo is still quite underwhelming. The damage ‘Bad Fang’ reaches with all 3 required Energy being Dark Energy is just enough to be a decent attack, but can be increased, though in too small steps. If ‘Greedy Evolution’ is lucky, it can charge Sharpedo up to attack straight away, but it is quite inconsistent. This card has some synergy with Greninja & Zoroark GX however, potentially giving ‘Dark Pulse’ a quick boost in power. This is still quite unreliable though.
Greninja could be used as a tech card in a regular Greninja GX deck, as ‘Bring Down’ synergizes quite well with the Abilities of Greninja GX and Frogadier from Forbidden Light. Outside of this fringe use, Greninja is not very good though, as ‘Bring Down’ possibly affecting your own Pokemon makes it a much less useful attack than it may seem at first. Though you are not forced to use ‘Bring Down’, but can either retreat for free or use ‘Mist Slash’ if you have Dark Energy, the main attack of Greninja is going to be a risky and often unusable one.
This might be a fun card to use, and maybe even be unexpectedly powerful in the right environment. Using attacks that normally need a lot of setup while disrupting the opponent sounds like a quite powerful combination. The only real issues here seem to be that Malamar is a Stage 1 Pokemon and that ‘Hypnotic Control’ is somewhat random. If the opponent has nothing strong on their hand, maybe even on purpose, the attack is wasted. This is not too bad though, because ‘Hypnotic Control’ does not need a lot of setup and requires only a single Energy to use. On the other hand, ‘Dark Pressure’ is pretty bad and should almost never be used. Though a bit on the random side, Malamar could be an actually useful Pokemon when used in a strong control deck.
Spiritomb is an interesting card that opens up a few previously unavailable combos. The Ability to damage itself without any other conditions to be met can make Pokemon that take advantage of your benched Pokemon being damaged much more viable. One simple example would be Stunfist and its ‘Revenge Cannon’ attack, that deals 30 damage for each Damage Counter on your benched Pokemon. If Spiritomb has taken enough damage, it even becomes a somewhat decent attacker itself, dealing 160 damage for a single Energy if it has 5 Damage Counters. This makes Spiritomb very easy to knock out the next turn, but it may be worth it. A good Pokemon with a lot of potential for fun decks.
Porygon Z 8/10
Despite not being a viable attacker as a Stage 2 Pokemon, Porygon Z can make a huge impact on the game if your deck is built around it. The Ability ‘Crazy Code’ is unusual, not only allowing you to use it multiple times in a turn, but also allowing any Special Energy to be used with it, not only specific ones. Evolving a Porygon into a Porygon Z by turn 2 with the use of a Rare Candy and then dropping a large amount of Blend Energy and Double Colorless Energy onto your Pokemon can allow for a fast and overwhelming attack. This is quite unreliable for multiple reasons though. There need to be good Pokemon to attach these Energy cards to as to make use of ‘Crazy Code’ in the first place. This tactic also requires you to have Porygon Z on the field in the first place and evolving a Stage 2 Pokemon, even with Rare Candy, not an easy task. There are many tactics that are far more reliable in the current meta but Porygon Z still has potential and only becomes stronger the more different Special Energy cards we get.
I despise attacks that are useless or way underpowered if their condition is not met; that is the case for ‘Big Counter’ as well. The measly 60 damage it deals normally is way too low, but the damage it deals against Tag Team GX Pokemon is quite respectable, knocking out any Tag Team GX Pokemon in two hits. Snorlax may see some play as single copy tech choice in a Tag Team Pokemon GX heavy meta, but the 3 Energy cost for the attack is still quite hefty and makes this an unlikely scenario.
Blastoise GX 7.5/10
The previously rather mediocre Blastoise now has a weirdly fitting partner in Blastoise GX. The attack ‘Rocket Splash’ synergizes incredibly well with Blastoise’s ‘Powerful Squall’, which makes massively damaging attacks with ‘Rocket Splash’ not only possible but also quite consistent. Blastoise and Blastoise GX share the same evolution line, making it quite easy to play them alongside each other, but this also means they share the 4 Squirtle/Wartortle to evolve from. This might cause problems and make it easier at the same time. Blastoise GX
Dedenne GX 10/10
What Shaymin EX was, now is going to be Dedenne GX. A must have and likely the most expensive card out of this set. The ability ‘Dede Change’ is going to be the most important aspect by far. This is also reflected by the GX attack ‘Zappy Return GX’ which seems to be meant to enable you to use ‘Dede Change’ again but is more likely to be used to save Dedenne GX from a knockout, if at all. Not even worth being used as a desperation attack is ‘Static Shock’. If you are in a position where you have to use this attack, you can just as well admit defeat. Dedenne GX is not meant for combat, but only to be used for the ability, which allows for explosive first turn plays and easy recovery later on. It does what it’s supposed to do very well and needs nothing else to be outstanding. The secret rare versions of this card will reach outrageous prices.
Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX 8.5/10
The biggest problem with this card is the weakness to Fire, thanks to how powerful Fire-type decks become with this set. Past this, however, Pheromosa and Buzzwole GX are a high-risk high reward card that allows you to finish games very abruptly if the opponent can not stop you. But fact is that the bonus effect of ‘Beast Game GX’ will rarely if ever be used, it is just too situational. As promising as winning an entire game by just knocking out one Pokemon may sound, if interrupted it may cost you the game. Though this card has an exact copy of Buzzwole GX’s ‘Jet Punch’, it does not get the easy damage boost from Diancie Prism Star, making feel a little less useful. It still is a great early game attack and can either get a knockout on small Pokemon or weaken ones that ‘Elegant Sole’ could not knock out in one hit. Talking of ‘Elegant Sole’, this attack’s damage is outstanding. On its own it knocks out most basic Pokemon GX, with a Choice Band or Beast Energy it knocks out any Stage 1 Pokemon GX and with both a Choice Band and Beast Energy it knocks out anything that isn’t one of the bigger Tag Team Pokemon GX. A previous hit with Jet Punch can substitute for either the Choice Band or Beast Energy in these cases. Any Pokemon that survives and does not retreat then can get knocked out by ‘Beast Game GX’ next turn for an extra Prize Card. The negative effect of ‘Elegant Sole’ dealing less damage next turn is better than the ones that prevent you from attacking altogether and can be worked around by switching just the same. Once tournaments are not flooded with Fire Type decks, Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX will find their time in the spotlight.
Venomoth GX 7/10
Though Venomoth GX has only one attack to use every turn, the ways it can be used to great effect make this card seem like a viable contender for anti-meta decks. Both Koga’s Trap and Janine are underpowered Supporter cards that are more or less worthless on their own when compared to other Supporter cards like Cynthia and Welder. They need Venomoth GX just as much as Venomoth GX needs them. Many decks play few or even no evolved Pokemon so the effect given by playing Janine can be very powerful but if the opponent’s deck is focused on an evolution Pokemon or Venomoth GX is not attacking, playing Janine just a weaker Hau. The effect given by playing Koga’s Trap is more universally useful and can even lead to knocking out Pokemon with up to 210HP in one hit, or even 240HP when Venomoth GX carries a Choice Band. It is important to note that ‘Secret Of The Ninja’ can be used with a Double Colorless Energy, making the use of Venomoth much easier. Though the damage of ‘Tenfold Retaliation GX’ is only a small cherry on top of a decent GX attack, it can help to get some knockouts. Drawing up to 10 cards is a strong effect, though there are a few cards like ‘Judge’ and the widely played Marshadow that can make the effect of this attack become a wasted effort. Lastly, there is a possibility to use both ‘Janine’ and ‘Koga’s Trap’ in the same turn if ‘Lt. Surge’s Battle’ was used beforehand. Venomoth GX can be a scary threat for some decks but against others, it is easy to get past. It is likely not worth it to build an entire deck around these three cards, just to end up with missing puzzle pieces a lot of the time.
Charizard & Reshiram GX 9/10
With the release of the new supporter card Welder in this set as well as Kiawe, Charizard & Reshiram GX is a much better card than it otherwise would be. The ease of which ‘Flare Strike’ is usable thanks to Kiawe and Welder makes this card the number one Tag Team Pokemon GX killer and one of the best Tag Team GX Pokemon itself, if not the best. Easily knocking out most Pokemon with a single ‘Flare Strike’ by turn 2 is exactly what Charizard & Reshiram GX does best. If necessary, one use of Welder allows ‘Double Glaze GX’ to be used with the extra effect, knocking out any Pokemon we currently have, with the exception of some Pokemon possibly carrying Buff Padding. However, ‘Double Blaze GX’ is still useful as a first turn attack, since Welder and the manual attachment make usable right away, already dealing enough damage to knock out Blacephalon GX or Buzzwole GX. Sometimes ‘Outrage’ will be the best or at least most efficient choice of attack if the damage it deals would be enough for the knockout, but Charizard & Reshiram GX is absolutely meant to quickly hit big numbers and finish games early.
Marshadow & Machamp GX 9/10
In a meta where Pikachu & Zekrom GX, as well as Zoroark GX, are prevalent, Marshadow & Machamp GX makes for a card that will have some great value. The attack ‘Acme Of Heroism’ makes the value Marshadow & Machamp GX represents very clearly visible. Tag Team GX Pokemon give up 3 Prizes when knocked out, and Marshadow & Machamp GX is able to avoid being knocked out with ‘Acme Of Heroism GX’ if the single extra Energy is attached to this Tag Team Pokemon. This can bring the game into a state where every move the opponent does is a bad one. Do they attack and at least deal damage but take a ‘Hundred-Blows Impact’ to the face next turn, do they avoid attacking altogether and maybe throw a Pokemon they don’t mind getting knocked out into the active spot? Everything they do puts them at risk and gives you a huge advantage. Acerola also comes in handy in such a situation. Taking Marshadow & Machamp GX into your hand instead of having them get knocked out next turn can make a lot of work the opponent did end up worthless. Both ‘Revenge’ and ‘Hundred-Blows Impact’ hit for near ideal numbers of damage, with ‘Revenge’ able to knock out a Pikachu & Zekrom GX in a single hit if the condition is met. ‘Hundred-Blows Impact’ deals enough damage to knock out any commonly used Basic Pokemon GX in a single hit assuming you have either Diancie Prism Star and Fighting Dojo on the field or a Choice Band equipped. The base damage of ‘Hundred-Blows Impact’ already is enough to knock out almost anything that is not a Pokemon GX. There is only one glaring issue Marshadow & Machamp GX is that Fighting lacks any kind of Energy-Acceleration, potentially making effective use of this card a challenge, but one that pays off for sure.
Muk & Alolan Muk GX
Though slow just like Tag Team Pokemon GX tend to be, the damage of ‘Bad Poison’ is quite impressive at first. There are some glaring weaknesses about this attack though and about Muk & Alolan Muk GX in general. First of all, the poison damage of ‘Bad Poison’ only guarantees 80 damage, switching the poisoned Pokemon out after the attack makes ‘Bad Poison’ way underpowered. This, however, can be avoided with the card Dust Island which makes Muk & Alolan Muk GX a lot more viable. If the opponent’s Pokemon is poisoned, ‘Poison Lick’ is an awesome attack for a Pokemon with 270HP. The self-heal makes this card difficult to knock out if not done so in a single hit. If the condition is not met however, this attack is underpowered for the huge Energy Cost of 4. Just like ‘Bad Poison’, ‘Sticky Mix GX’ does not deal any initial damage but causes poison. It also paralyzes, but Escape Board and Guzma make this relatively easy to get around. If Muk &Alolan Muk has 4 (or more) Energy attached, the previously normal poison of ‘Sticky Mix GX’ becomes a massive 150 damage a turn, knocking out any Pokemon at the end of the opponent’s turn. Again, Guzma and Escape Board can cause the Pokemon to retreat even when paralyzed, but Dust Island mitigates some of this. Muk & Alolan Muk is a more than decent attempt at making poison a viable status condition and will see some play, but is not consistent enough to reliably win tournaments like other Tag Team GX Pokemon are.
Lucario & Melmetal GX 8/10
One of my favorite cards of this set for a few reasons, but they are more personal than connected to how good or bad the card really is. ‘Steel Fist’ is a better than average acceleration attack that, assuming Double Colorless Energy is used, makes ‘Heavy Impact’ usable by turn 2. Even with a Choice Band equipped, the just mentioned ‘Heavy Impact’ is somewhat underwhelming though, as it lacks at least 10 damage to knock out some commonly played Basic Pokemon GX like Ultra Necrozma GX and Buzzwole GX. It deals enough damage to deal with Lucario & Melmetal GX’s biggest threat, however, knocking out Blacephalon GX in one hit. Without a Choice Band, ‘Heavy Impact’ also falls short of two-shotting the bulky Tag Team GX Pokemon if they are equipped with Buff Padding, making stall decks quite hard to overcome for Lucario & Melmetal GX. The main attraction of this card is the GX attack, without question. A more than decent effect that lasts the entire game for a single colorless Energy is astounding and can amass a huge amount of prevented damage. If this card has an additional Energy equipped, which is easy to do with Double Colorless Energy, ‘Full Metal Wall GX’ discards any and all Energy attached to the opponent’s active Pokemon, giving it a strong effect even late into the game. The biggest issue with this card is the weakness to Fire, since the Fire-Type gains incredibly strong support in this set and is likely to be among the strongest decks for quite a while, cards like Blacephalon and Blacephalon GX can easily and without spending many resources knock Lucario & Melmetal GX out, unless it carries a Metal Frying Pan that is. Lucario & Melmetal GX has a huge amount of potential, but might just never see the spotlight it deserves, thanks to Fire-Type decks just being too powerful.
Honchcrow GX 9/10
This is an amazing card for a control deck, not only limiting the card types the opponent can use, but also reliably spreading damage on the opponent’s field. As if that was not already enough for a Stage 1 Pokemon GX, Honchcrow GX makes great use of Double Colorless Energy, which enables you to use ‘Unfair GX’ as well as pays for 2 of the 3 Energy required for ‘Feather Storm’. With the card Dusk Stone, Murkrow can evolve into Honchcrow straight away and use ‘Unfair GX’ if it is the second turn of the game, potentially crippling the opponent’s hand completely or ripping combo pieces out of their hand. This very strong GX attack is supported by ‘Ruler Of The Night’, which can keep the opponent from using the cards you left them with. All this comes from Honchcrow alone, making it hard to imagine how powerful a dedicated control deck with a lot more control elements could be. Honchcrow is likely to pop up every so often, depending on how much ‘Ruler Of The Night’ causes problems for current meta-decks.
Greninja & Zoroark GX 9/10
A riskier but much stronger version of Darkrai EX from BREAKpoint. The damage this card can cause quickly racks up and will easily knock out Pokemon GX and even Tag Team GX with little effort. Though Greninja & Zoroark GX is likely a lot stronger in Expanded format, it will be a huge threat in Standard format as well. As powerful as this card may be though, the very popular Buzzwole GX’s ‘Knuckle Impact’ can knock out Greninja & Zoroark GX in one hit. As if that was not bad enough, the Tag Team GX cards give up 3 prizes, which makes the matchup with Buzzwole GX almost unwinnable. As typical for Tag Team GX cards, the GX attack requires extra Energy attached to the card for an additional effect, but since ‘Dark Pulse’ requires great amounts of Energy to be attached to your Pokemon anyway, this is not too much of an issue. ‘Night Unison GX’s extra effect can be very strong, but deals no damage and leaves Greninja & Zoroark GX wide open. This is only worth it if this card is safe during the next turn. The risk of running into a Buzzwole GX deck with this card is high, but there absolutely is a way to make Greninja & Zoroark GX part of a strong and consistent deck.
Sylveon & Gardevoir GX 8.5/10
For a single Energy attachment, ‘Fairy Song’ can accelerate Fairy Energy and allow for a fully set up bench before Sylveon & Gardevoir GX itself can attack for damage. Not only dealing an above average amount of damage but also potentially rearranging your Energy cards, ‘Kaleidostorm’ is an outstanding attack. It allows you to take all Energy off Sylveon & Gardevoir GX to follow up with Max Potion or Acerola and deny the opponent from taking any Prizes. In addition to that, it can help set up a benched Sylveon & Gardevoir GX’s ‘Magical Miracle’ to use the extra effect of emptying the opponent’s hand. Fairy-Type Pokemon have several cards that help them greatly, like the Fairy Charm cards that allow the deck to counter specific meta-relevant decks. I have rarely seen a card that synergizes with itself as well as this one does, and it will surely see play in some dedicated control decks that try to outlast the opponent.
Whimsicott GX 2/10
Whimsicott seems like a cheap attacker at first, but ‘Energy Blow’ is absolutely horrendous at dealing decent damage. The ratio in which the damage increases per Energy attached to Whimsicott GX always leaves it below average in total damage. This should not be the case for a Stage 1 Pokemon GX though, even with an Ability such as ‘Fluffy Cotton’. This Ability prevents damage from 50% of attacks on average, but obviously, coinflips are always unreliable. Such an unreliable and potentially worthless Ability does not make up for below average damage and below average HP. If the opponent does not happen to have a card like Judge or Marshadow from Shining Legends, ‘Toy Box GX’ gives you a huge advantage on your next turn. This once per game attack may be the only good thing about Whimsicott GX but not a reason to play it, not even as a 1-1 line.
Persian GX 6/10
Everything about this card struggles with either being very good or almost useless and barely anything in-between. First of all, ‘Slashback GX’ is absolutely horrid as a GX attack, but in rare cases, it can save Persian GX from getting knocked out the next turn. Next, we have ‘Revenge’ which only really pays off when there are at least 6 Pokemon in your Discard Pile. The maximum damage would be 190, 220 with a Choice Band. This sounds great at first, but the effort that needs to be put into getting this much damage is too high to pay off. If there already is a decent amount of Pokemon in your Discard Pile, there is nothing holding you back from using ‘Revenge’ though. Just like ‘Revenge’, the Ability ‘Catwalk’ is sometimes very powerful but is just as if not more likely to be useless. Searching for any 2 cards in your deck is a very strong effect, but the condition allows you to do it 2 times at most, and you have no control over when this condition is met in the first place. Even then, it is still a very powerful effect that can help you turn the game around if you pick the right cards at the right time. In total, Persian GX is a card that might be played as a single copy in a deck, if at all.
This card makes Fire decks multiple levels more powerful and elevates some Pokemon from good to top tier status. Basic Pokemon that require 2 or 3 Energy to attack can do so first turn and deal massive damage before the opponent is even close to set up. Welder not only advances the board state and enables quick and strong attacks, but also gives you 3 new cards.
Giovanni’s Exile 6/10
This card can easily get rid of Pokemon that would be easy targets otherwise, most of the time this will be used to remove Tapu Lele GX from the bench. The requirement of the chosen Pokemon being free of damage makes this pretty useless against any deck that runs Promo Tapu Koko though. If it gets used at all, Giovanni’s Exile will be a one-off in GX heavy decks.
Lt. Surge’s Strategy 9.5/10
This card perfectly synergizes with Mismagius, allowing you to reach the condition by yourself without relying on the opponent. Even without Mismagius though, Lt. Surge’s Strategy is an amazingly powerful card that allows you to get far ahead in just one turn and take advantage of some of the strongest cards in the game multiple times a turn. An outstanding card.
Green’s Exploration 9.5/10
An amazing search card for any deck that plays no Pokemon with Abilities or only ones that do not stay on the field like Mismagius. There is not much else to say about this card but players should always keep it in the back of their head when building a deck in the upcoming months.
Koga’s Trap 6.5/10
A Trainer card that deals damage, though only minimal, always has some use. This minimal damage, however, is almost never worth playing over Guzma, Cynthia or even Acerola. The confusion Koga’s Trap causes might force a retreat, which depending on the matchup either is worthless or stalls the match for a while. Stall decks like the somewhat popular Celebi & Venusaur GX deck may pack a few of this to prevent some damage while poison causes some additional damage. The obvious choice to pair this card with is Venomoth GX from this set, as it’s Secret of The Ninja’ gains extra effects if Koga’s Trap was used in the same turn, but how viable this combination is in a real match is yet to be seen.
On her own, Janine cannot even remotely keep up with draw support cards we already have. A deck that looks for specific combo pieces, however, might want to take advantage of the card selection Janine offers. Then there is Venomoth GX that needs Janine to gain a special effect on ‘Secret Of The Ninja’, but the effect of Koga’s Trap is more reliably useful and makes Janine mostly a side card even in a deck that is based around her.
Red’s Challenge 6/10
Computer Search in a Supporter card. Red’s Challenge is very strong, but most cards in a deck can be searched by other means already without using the single Supporter a turn. In decks where a specific combo is the aim, this card will find a home. In most decks, however, this card will be played at a single copy or 2 copies at most.
Fire Crystal 8/10
One of the new Fire support cards that the new set brings us. Fire Crystal is less essential to the main combo than Welder and Fiery Flint are, but still very powerful. Mostly Blacephalon will take advantage of this card to cause consistent, huge damage. Expanded Format may have even more uses for this card thanks to Fire Crystal feeding Volcanion EX’s ‘Steam Up’.
Surprise Box 1.5/10
The few and in between uses of this card can make it a tech choice in some inconsistent versions of decks that would work much better without this card in them. Any version of the attack ‘Poltergeist’ or other cards that need specific cards on the opponent’s hand like Malamar can make use of Surprise Box, but it will almost never be worth the effort. Giving the opponent free resources is almost always a horrible idea.
PokeGear 3.0 9/10
A reprint of a 9-year-old card and a very welcome one at that. Access to supporter cards is something every deck needs and PokeGear 3.0 makes this a lot easier. It greatly improves consistency as well as making it much easier to get specific Supporter cards your deck might rely on. This card will find its way into many decks and will likely still get used months after release.
Dusk Stone 9/10
Evolve into the listed Pokemon straight from your deck, without the need of having them in your hand or even waiting a turn. Dusk Stone is an amazing card that allows easy access to the very powerful Mismagius as well as Honchcrow GX and likely more to come in the future. As powerful as this card may be, there is not much to say about it. Play it if you play any of the listed Pokemon.
Electromagnetic Radar 7/10
At first glance, this card seems to be a perfect substitute for Ultra Ball in any Lightning deck. However, Electromagnetic Radar cannot search for Tapu Lele GX, Jirachi or any other Pokemon that are not both a Pokemon GX/EX and Lightning-type. This limits the use of this card and makes it more of an additional search card next to Ultra Ball. Depending on the deck, Nest Ball may be the better card
Chip-Chip Ice Axe 4/10
Either pick a great card for yourself to draw next turn or make the opponent draw a useless card. This is what this card seems to be meant to do, but the small amount of only 3 cards to choose from is just too few to reliably find a card you want that player to draw. There are potential synergies with cards that access the top card of a player’s deck though, so maybe someday we will see something interesting happen involving this card.
Fighting Dojo 9/10
Cards that increase the damage of Fighting Pokemon’s attacks are a common thing to see and Fighting Dojo is one I am sure will become a staple in every Fighting-Type deck. The damage increase it offers is pretty universal but when the player is behind on Prizes, Fighting Dojo helps them retaliate with a massive 40 points of more damage. In a mirror match, Fighting Dojo will cause carnage and the players need to evaluate when to get ahead in the Prize race and when to maybe hold back a little. It is very important to note that this card does not work for Ultra Beast Pokemon so Buzzwole GX will not be able to take advantage of this card.
Dust Island 6.5/10
Poison is not a very consistent way of dealing damage because it can be removed rather easily by retreating or evolving. Dust Island takes away one of these common ways of healing poison, this way the opponent can heal the poison either by evolving the active Pokemon or with effects that remove special conditions but these are extremely rarely played if at all. The biggest issue with Dust Island is that it does nothing by itself and needs a whole deck built around it to be useful. Currently, Muk & Alolan Muk GX is the best poison-focused card we have and a deck based on it may work out, but even with Dust Island, I do not see poison being strong enough to base a viable deck around it.
Triple Acceleration Energy 7/10
Though situational and risky to use, this card will find a home in some decks. An attack that requires several colorless Energy will easily be accessible with Triple Acceleration Energy, even if it gets discarded at the end of the turn. Triple Acceleration Energy is a fringe card with a very high ceiling.
An amazingly strong set that not only introduces several new staples to the game but also gives us several new archetypes, some stronger than others. Unbroken Bonds will likely become one of the most expensive sets we have to date, possibly rivaling XY Roaring Skies in its prime. Secret Rare Dedenne GX and Reshiram & Charizard GX will absolutely be the money cards of this set, but there are several more very strong cards for players and secret rares that collectors will be happy to collect.
Meta impact: High
Collectors value: Medium/High