Get an early look at some of the top-tier tactics you could see when you sit down at your next Pokémon TCG competition.
By Ellis Longhurst, Contributing Writer
Dazzle your opponents with cards from the new Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Astral Radiance expansion. The set introduces Radiant Pokémon, which have attacks and Abilities so powerful that you can’t have more than 1 Radiant Pokémon in your deck. There are also a variety of other exciting Pokémon, including eight new Pokémon VSTAR, all looking to eclipse the established archetypes as the top choice for players.
But the new expansion isn’t just about a few stars—there are whole constellations of connected strategies to take a closer look at. Read on to learn how to put your gameplay light-years ahead of the competition.
Success Is in the Stars for Water-Type Pokémon
Make space on the battlefield for Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR. This Legendary Pokémon brings a whole new dimension to the Water archetype through its impressive VSTAR Power: Star Portal enables the player to attach up to 3 Water Energy cards from the discard pile to their Water-type Pokémon in any way they like. This Ability makes it possible for one or more powerful Water-type Pokémon to become battle-ready on the turn they are played.
A potential target for Star Portal is the new—and rather thematic—Starmie V. Its Energy Spiral attack is a great counterstrike to Arceus VSTAR’s Trinity Nova, which accelerates Energy onto the opponent’s Pokémon. If the stars align, Starmie V can respond to Arceus VSTAR with over 300 damage.
Flood the battlefield with Pokémon so Palkia can join in on the Knock Outs with its Subspace Swell attack. One of those Pokémon could be the new Keldeo, whose Line Force attack is similar but doesn’t hit as hard—but on the plus side, Keldeo gives up only one Prize card when Knocked Out and is unaffected by Miltank’s Miracle Body Ability. (More on that later!)
The new Irida is a great way to flush Water-type Pokémon out of the deck when required. As an added bonus, this Supporter card also lets the player search for an Item card. Irida could be used to search up 3 Pokémon on your first turn via Battle VIP Pass, set up a Stage 2 Pokémon with Rare Candy, or find two Item cards by seeking out Drizzile with the Shady Dealings Ability.
Water-type decks centered on Palkia have already begun to make waves at tournaments in Japan. Take note of this Legendary Pokémon, or you may end up feeling washed up.
Radiant Pokémon Are Serious Contenders
Add a shine to your deck with all-new Radiant Pokémon. These Pokémon have powerful attacks and Abilities, but you will have to choose carefully—each deck can include only one.
Radiant Greninja makes a strong case for its inclusion in any deck. Once per turn, its Concealed Cards Ability enables the player to draw 2 cards by discarding an Energy card from their hand. The more cards in hand, the more likely it is that you have the resources needed to execute your strategy. That’s why Pokémon with similar Abilities, such as Cinccino and Zoroark-GX, have been played to great success. Additionally, the discard component of this Ability has synergy with Item cards like Dark Patch and Stadium cards like Magma Basin. It also complements Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR’s Star Portal VSTAR Power, and it can combine with Melony to accelerate even more Water Energy cards onto the battlefield.
Radiant Hawlucha also has a globally useful Ability: When this Pokémon is on the Bench, its Big Match Ability boosts your attacks to do 30 more damage to the opponent’s Active Pokémon VMAX—it’s like a Choice Belt for your whole team! With Radiant Hawlucha in your corner, Pokémon VMAX don’t stand a chance.
If a deck needs firepower, look no further than Radiant Heatran. This Pokémon can do a burst of damage with its Raging Blast attack. Set up Radiant Heatran to take Knock Outs by combining it with Magma Basin or the new Gapejaw Bog Stadium card.
Remember, each deck can include only one Radiant Pokémon. This means that any deck relying on Radiant Pokémon to execute its winning strategy should have a way to search through and swap out the Prize cards. Trainer cards with this effect, such as Peonia and the new Hisuian Heavy Ball, ensure that your single Radiant Pokémon will not be missing from a battle.
Turn to the Dark Side with Dark Patch
The Dark Patch Item card deserves a glowing recommendation. It was originally printed many moons ago in the Black & White—Dark Explorers expansion and was a core component of the winning decks in the Masters Division at the 2012 and 2013 Pokémon World Championships. More recently, the equivalent card for Metal-type Pokémon, Metal Saucer, has enabled Zacian V to succeed.
By maximizing the number of Dark Patch cards in a deck, players can quickly amass Darkness Energy onto the battlefield. This is perfect for Darkrai VSTAR because its Dark Pulse attack does 30 more damage for each Darkness Energy attached to all of your Pokémon. Players can even take advantage of Darkrai VSTAR’s Star Abyss Ability to reuse two copies of Dark Patch, which effectively means the deck has access to six copies of the card. If you combine this with Pokémon like Galarian Moltres V and Galarian Moltres, the damage done by Dark Pulse will quickly start to add up.
First, you need to put Darkness Energy cards into the discard pile. Consider adding other cards from Sword & Shield—Astral Radiance, such as Trekking Shoes, Radiant Greninja, and Kamado, to achieve this. Once there’s loads of Darkness Energy in play, Wyrdeer V can also do an astronomical amount of damage with its Frontier Road Ability and Psyshield Bash attack.
Hisuian Samurott VSTAR is another powerful Darkness-type Pokémon that benefits from Dark Patch. Its Merciless Blade attack requires two Darkness Energy and does a huge 220 damage to the opponent’s Active Pokémon if that Pokémon is already damaged. There is synergy with Hisuian Samurott VSTAR’s Moon Cleave Star Ability, but players can also use Inteleon’s Quick Shooting or Galarian Zigzagoon’s Headbutt Tantrum to place damage counters.
Gravitate Toward Victory
Counter your opponent’s strategy and send them spiraling back down to Earth with the following cards from Sword & Shield—Astral Radiance: Temple of Sinnoh, Miltank, Mightyena, and Roxanne. These Pokémon and Trainer cards can be splashed into most decks, and should be included with consideration for the expected metagame.
The Temple of Sinnoh Stadium card is an easy way to disrupt many of the top-performing archetypes. Arceus VSTAR and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX rely on Double Turbo Energy and Rapid Strike Energy to apply pressure to the opponent as quickly as possible. With Temple of Sinnoh on the battlefield, these Pokémon would need an extra turn to ready their attacks. Rapid Strike Malamar would not even be able to use Spiral Energy to satisfy the attack cost of Rapid Strike Tentacles. In Fusion Strike decks, Pokémon would no longer be protected by Fusion Strike Energy, which means they become susceptible to the effects of Abilities such as Inteleon’s Quick Shooting and Hisuian Samurott VSTAR’s Moon Cleave Star.
Every player needs to be prepared to deal with Miltank on the battlefield. Its Miracle Body Ability renders it immune to damage done by attacks from the opponent’s Pokémon V (a designation that also includes Pokémon VSTAR and VMAX). Consider pairing Pokémon like Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR with Keldeo, or Darkrai VSTAR with the new Absol, to ensure that an opposing Miltank does not become an impenetrable wall. Another option is to spray some Canceling Cologne.
For players who favor Pokémon VMAX, Mightyena’s bark is just as scary as its bite. Mew VMAX, in particular, has a reason to be afraid of this fierce fighter—after Weakness is applied, Mightyena can do 320 damage for no Energy thanks to its Hustle Bark Ability. That’s enough damage to Knock Out Mew VMAX in one hit! Mightyena will make an excellent addition to any deck that uses Zoroark’s Phantom Transformation Ability.
When the going gets tough, you can rely on Roxanne. This Supporter card acts as a comeback mechanic because it disrupts the opponent’s hand and can only be played when they have 3 or fewer Prize cards remaining. Decks that have a convenient method of searching for Supporter cards—such as Lumineon V, Eldegoss V, or Drizzile—should include one or two copies of Roxanne.
This is just a flash of the brilliant cards available in the new Sword & Shield—Astral Radiance expansion. With over 180 new cards to collect, including three brand-new Radiant Pokémon, eight awesome Pokémon VSTAR, and two enormous Pokémon VMAX, there are plenty of other exciting combinations and strategies to explore. Will you be able to craft a deck that is out of this world?
Look for more Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis at Pokemon.co.uk/Strategy.