By Ellis Longhurst, Contributing Writer
The recently introduced Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX have made an instant impact on the Pokémon TCG, with cards like Zacian V joining Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX to quickly became a popular choice for competitors around the globe. Now a new expansion has arrived to challenge the status quo and take down the established archetypes: Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash. This set includes a variety of exciting new Trainer cards, Energy cards, and Pokémon (including Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX) that help players implement radical strategies.
Take a look at some of the cards that could change the game with the launch of Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash.
The Rebel Leader: Dragapult VMAX
Dragapult VMAX has what it takes to lead a revolt against the top existing decks. This Pokémon has a rebellious attitude and the attributes to back it up. Dragapult VMAX's Max Phantom is a powerful, albeit unconventional attack that does 130 damage to the opponent's Active Pokémon and distributes 5 damage counters among their Benched Pokémon. It doesn't sound like much to begin with, but those damage counters will quickly start to add up. As a Psychic-type attacker, this Pokémon VMAX can take advantage of Spell Tag and the new Horror Psychic Energy to put even more damage counters on the opponent's Pokémon. With this in mind, the longer Dragapult VMAX stays on the battlefield, the better. Fortunately, it has an enormous 320 HP—more than nearly every other Pokémon in the entire Pokémon TCG!
Psychic-type Pokémon are renowned for being sneaky, so it makes sense that a good number of them place damage counters instead of doing direct attack damage. For example, Blacephalon spreads up to 12 damage counters across the opponent's Pokémon with its Fireworks Bomb attack, and the new Sigilyph's Psychic Assault attack does more damage based on the number of damage counters that are already on the target. Any of these Psychic-type Pokémon makes a perfect partner for Dragapult VMAX, especially since they can all be searched for using Mysterious Treasure.
Players have already achieved promising results at tournaments in Japan using decks that focus on Dragapult VMAX. This might be because Max Phantom almost does enough damage to Knock Out a Mewtwo & Mew-GX in one hit. If you're worried about facing Dragapult VMAX across the battlefield...you should be!
Rally Support: Eldegoss V
If you haven't heard about Eldegoss V, now's the time—there's a good chance it will be a valuable inclusion for many competitive decks. When you play Eldegoss V onto the Bench, its Happy Match Ability lets you recover a Supporter card from the discard pile. Playing Supporter cards is often crucial to a deck's winning strategy, so being able to access them at the right time is very important. Imagine how much more powerful Henry Brand's World Championship-winning Perfection deck would be if it had additional ways to find the Welder Supporter card! In fact, any deck that uses Quick Ball, Net Ball, or Pokémon Communication is primed to take advantage of Eldegoss V's Happy Match Ability.
Competitors who are well versed in the history of the Pokémon TCG will notice the similarity between Happy Match and the Item card VS Seeker, from the XY—Phantom Forces expansion. VS Seeker's effect was so useful that players routinely included four copies of the card in their deck. Will we see this again with Eldegoss V, or will the consensus be that one well-timed Happy Match is enough to secure a victory? Either way, if you haven't already cottoned on, Eldegoss V is a must-have card.
Disruptive Tactics: Galarian Weezing & Clefable
It's not just about you and your Pokémon; Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash includes several cards that enable players to disrupt their opponent's strategy. For example, Galarian Weezing's Neutralizing Gas Ability removes all Abilities from the opponent's Pokémon in play. Unlike the Power Plant Stadium card or Wobbuffet's Shady Tail Ability, this effect applies to all kinds of Pokémon. In the face of Neutralizing Gas, popular competitive decks like Malamar and Cinccino Mill are going to have a tough time!
It's important to remember that Galarian Weezing must be in the Active Spot for Neutralizing Gas to take effect. It might be best to play this Pokémon alongside other Pokémon with disruptive Abilities, or a hit-and-run style attacker like Beheeyem. One thing is certain—if your favorite deck relies on using Pokémon Abilities, it's time to start stocking up on cards like Custom Catcher or Boss's Orders to force your opponent's Galarian Weezing out of the Active Spot.
Interestingly, Galarian Weezing is not the only Pokémon in Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash with an Ability designed to disrupt the opponent. When Clefable enters the battlefield, its Prankish Ability allows players to choose an Energy attached to the opponent's Active Pokémon and put it on top of the deck. Removing the opponent's Energy cards from play is one way to prevent them from powering up a big attack—and putting it on top of their deck instead of in their hand essentially blanks their next draw. In combination with Crushing Hammer and Team Yell Grunt, Clefable's Prankish Ability could keep the opponent from attacking at all! Expect competitors to experiment with adding cards like Scoop Up Net and Super Scoop Up to their decks so they can use Clefable's Prankish Ability multiple times each game.
Be in Charge: Boss's Orders
Take control of the game with Boss's Orders. This new Supporter card has a simple but potentially game-changing effect: choose any 1 of your opponent's Benched Pokémon and switch it with their Active Pokémon. It seems the Boss is no longer fixated on just catching Pikachu.
Boss's Orders complements various strategies, so plan to see this card featured in a variety of decks. Trap an opponent's Pokémon in the Active Spot, stop a Pokémon from being powered up on the Bench, or take a Knock Out on a crucial support Pokémon. Once the Boss's Orders are issued, no Benched Pokémon is safe.
Cards with a similar or identical effect to Boss's Orders already feature in successful competitive decks. For example, Custom Catcher and Pokémon Catcher are routinely included in deck lists for the Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX with Zacian V archetype. These Item cards enable players to press a lead or turn the tide of a battle. The advantage of playing Boss's Orders is that its effect is unconditional, and it can be recovered from the discard pile using Eldegoss V's Happy Match Ability.
Listen up: from now on, players are going to need to be careful about which Pokémon they play onto their Bench.
Creative Mayhem: Scoop Up Net
Battlers can save their own Pokémon from Dragapult VMAX and Boss's Orders by...swinging a Net? Don't be fooled by the way it looks! Scoop Up Net is a utility Item like no other. When using this card, players can recover from Special Conditions, reset attacks, and deny Prize cards to their opponent. All of a sudden, your opponent needs to think twice about where they are going to put damage counters with Abilities or attacks.
In addition, Scoop Up Net allows players to get more value out of their Pokémon with Abilities, as they can be picked up and used again. For example, you could use one Jirachi's Stellar Wish multiple times in the same turn to search for key cards, or put loads of damage counters on the opponent's Pokémon by reusing Galarian Zigzagoon's Headbutt Tantrum. Both Pokémon have featured in successful competitive archetypes, so it would be no surprise if Scoop Up Net made its way into the decks of top competitors.
Scoop Up Net may also encourage players to explore new strategies using Pokémon with powerful Abilities that are triggered when the Pokémon comes into play, which were previously overlooked because they were considered a hindrance on the battlefield thereafter. For example, you could gain an edge over the opponent by repeatedly using Darkrai 's Nightmare Star Ability to flood the battlefield with Energy (assuming you have a way to move that Energy around), Mewtwo's Mind Report Ability to recover Supporter cards, or Giratina's Dimension Breach Ability to discard the opponent's Special Energy cards from play.
Underground Operation: Galar Mine
If you're searching for the hidden gem of this set, look no further than Galar Mine. When this new Stadium card is on the battlefield, the Retreat Cost of each player's Active Pokémon is 2 more Energy. This effect may not sound very exciting, but it can be highly disruptive. If a Trainer cannot retreat their Active Pokémon, they may miss out on an attack that turn.
What's more, good players commonly rely on Jirachi and Escape Board to search for important resources, then retreat for free into their preferred attacker—but when Galar Mine is in play, this strategy is no longer viable. Make sure you include plenty of Switch cards, Air Balloons, or your own Stadiums in your deck to ensure your Pokémon are never trapped in the Active Spot in this way.
Milotic V becomes a fearsome foe when Galar Mine is on the battlefield. This new Pokémon V's Aqua Impact attack does 10 damage plus 50 more for each in the Retreat Cost of the opponent's Active Pokémon. By taking advantage of Galar Mine and Absol's Dark Ambition Ability, Milotic V can Knock Out Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX or Zacian V in one hit! Even Absol becomes a threatening attacker in the presence of Galar Mine—its Shadow Seeker attack can now do enough damage to deliver a Knock Out against Dragapult V.
This is just a taste of the potentially game-changing cards available in the new Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash expansion. With over 190 new cards to collect, including 15 Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX, there are plenty of other exciting combinations and radical strategies to explore. Will you craft the deck that will rock the competitive Pokémon scene?
Look for more Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis at Pokemon.com/Strategy.