By Tord Reklev, Contributing Writer
The newest Pokémon TCG expansion, Sword & Shield—Battle Styles, has just released. This set features an exciting new gameplay mechanic in the form of Single Strike and Rapid Strike cards. They have great synergy with cards of the same style—for example, Single Strike cards are designed to work well with other Single Strike cards. Just as importantly, they're sure to change up how we play the game.
To keep you updated and help you prepare, today I'm going over some of the most impactful cards from Sword & Shield—Battle Styles for the competitive scene. The beauty of these new Battle Style cards is how well they work with many different cards, so we'll look beyond just the five featured cards. Without further ado, here are some of the strongest cards from the new expansion.
Single Strike Urshifu VMAX
Why not start with what is probably the front-runner among Single Strike cards, Single Strike Urshifu VMAX? A Fighting type, it boasts a massive 330 HP and two strong attacks: Beatdown does 100 damage for 3 Colorless Energy, and the impressive G-Max One Blow does 270 damage for 3 Fighting and 1 Colorless Energy, ignoring any effects in its path.
Being a Fighting-type Pokémon has multiple perks in the current Standard format, as the two most popular support Pokémon, Dedenne-GX and Crobat V, both have Weakness to Fighting. This allows Beatdown to take easy Knock Outs. In addition, two of the most popular attackers in the format, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Eternatus VMAX, also both have Weakness to Fighting. Finally, Single Strike Urshifu VMAX's already-impressive 330 HP could be further enhanced by using Stone Fighting Energy, which reduces the damage a Fighting-type Pokémon takes.
One issue Pokémon VMAX have had lately is getting through popular “wall” Abilities, like Decidueye's Deep Forest Camo or Zamazenta V's Dauntless Shield. With G-Max One Blow, Single Strike Urshifu VMAX can easily go through these pesky Pokémon and deliver a Knock Out because the attack's damage isn't affected by any effects on the opponent's Active Pokémon.
Even with all that said, the true strength of this card does not lie directly in the card itself, but in the plethora of other cards for it to take advantage of. One of the most impactful cards that helps elevate Single Strike Urshifu VMAX to its full potential is Single Strike Scroll of Scorn. This powerful new Pokémon Tool gives Single Strike Pokémon a new attack called Furious Anger, which, for just 1 Fighting Energy, does 10 damage plus 10 more damage for each damage counter on that Pokémon. This is an excellent and inexpensive attacking option that can be used on the turn following a G-Max One Blow attack, which discards all of Single Strike Urshifu VMAX's attached Energy.
The Energy required for Single Strike Urshifu VMAX's two attacks can look quite costly at first, so let us look at some powerful ways to accelerate Energy onto this Pokémon.
We can start with Single Strike Urshifu V and Laser Focus, its powerful attack that allows you to pull 2 Fighting Energy cards directly from the deck and attach them to Single Strike Urshifu V. This sets it up so that you could potentially evolve it into Single Strike Urshifu VMAX and deliver a G-Max One Blow on your second turn of the game, and even quite consistently on future turns.
Houndoom (and Single Strike Energy)
Houndoom is a Stage 1 Darkness-type Pokémon that is also a Single Strike Pokémon. Its Single Strike Roar Ability lets you put a Single Strike Energy card from the deck directly onto a Single Strike Pokémon, but then you have to put 2 damage counters on that Pokémon. This will perhaps be the most reliable and effective way to power up Single Strike Urshifu VMAX, or any Single Strike Pokémon for that matter. Energy acceleration as an Ability has always been among the strongest effects a Pokémon can have, and getting Energy cards from the deck with Single Strike Roar makes it even better. Be sure to take note that the Ability can be used once per turn by each of your Houndoom in play, which means setting up multiple Houndoom will let you find and play multiple Single Strike Energy every turn.
The new Single Strike Energy can be attached only to Single Strike Pokémon, and it provides Darkness or Fighting Energy, but only 1 at a time. As a bonus, the Pokémon that the Energy is attached to does an additional 20 damage to the opponent's Active Pokémon. The more Single Strike Energy attached to a Pokémon, the more damage will it be able to do. Since it is a Special Energy, it will be limited to only four copies in your deck, which means that Houndoom might quickly run out of targets for its Ability. You can play the new Urn of Vitality Item card to move Single Strike Energy cards from your discard pile to your deck, ensuring you won't run out of Energy for Houndoom to grab.
The 2 damage counters placed when attaching an Energy card with Single Strike Roar might seem purely negative at first. But the damage has excellent synergy with the previously mentioned Single Strike Scroll of Scorn by adding even more damage onto a Pokémon to reach potentially big Knock Outs in a very efficient manner.
With Houndoom being such a great way to find and attach these powerful new Energy cards, it will no doubt be among the best support Pokémon available for a Single Strike-oriented deck.
Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX
Let's flip over to look at the other style, Rapid Strike. Like its Single Strike counterpart, the new Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX looks to be a strong contender to lead this style. It boasts the same 330 HP, Fighting type, and two powerful new attacks. Its first attack is Gale Thrust, which, for only 1 Fighting Energy, does an impressive 30 damage plus 120 more damage if Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX moved from the Bench to the Active Spot in the same turn. This attack is very reminiscent of Golisopod-GX's First Impression attack, but with a damage boost to adjust for the higher HP that many Pokémon have these days. Using the new Tower of Waters Stadium will reduce the Retreat Cost of Rapid Strike Pokémon by 2 Colorless Energy, enabling Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX to freely retreat and continuously activate Gale Thrust for its full effect every turn.
This Pokémon's second attack is G-Max Rapid Flow, which does 120 damage to 2 of the opponent's Pokémon at the cost of discarding all Energy from Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX. This attack is excellent against decks with low-HP Pokémon, or to deny your opponent the chance to evolve Pokémon while they're trying to set up. Some other great uses of this attack could be to soften up a big threat on the opponent's Bench, or to go after a couple of support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX, Crobat V, or Eldegoss V. Use G-Max Rapid Flow twice to punish these support Pokémon sitting on your opponent's Bench and draw up to 4 Prize cards at once!
The new Rapid Strike Energy is different from Single Strike Energy in that it does not boost the damage output, but instead provides 2 Energy at the same time: 2 Water, 2 Fighting, or 1 of each. This makes the G-Max Rapid Flow attack much easier to power up, and it offers a smooth transition so you can switch between the Pokémon's two attacks every other turn. For players really looking to take advantage of G-Max Rapid Flow every turn, using Karate Belt from the Sun & Moon—Unified Minds expansion plus Rapid Strike Energy would give this attack the power to be used every turn (as long as you're behind on taking Prizes). Using this attack repeatedly to set up a big, game-winning attack is also a great way to play around the popular Reset Stamp, an Item card you'll see in a lot of top decks.
Octillery is the Rapid Strike equivalent to Houndoom—it's a Stage 1 Pokémon designed to support allies with a powerful, deck-searching Ability. Rapid Strike Search lets you grab any Rapid Strike card and add it to your hand. The strength in this Pokémon lies in the flexibility it offers: being able to search out a main attacker or a Rapid Strike Energy every turn means you can keep a string of attacks going. Without a doubt, Octillery is extremely strong and could be the most important inclusion in any deck that wants to take advantage of Rapid Strike cards. Unlike Houndoom, this Ability cannot be used multiple times per turn, which means you do not need to set up more than one Octillery.
Octillery is so versatile that it can be used in many kinds of situations. If your opponent's Pokémon has Special Energy attached, have Octillery grab Fan of Waves to sink the Energy to the bottom of their deck. You can also use Rapid Strike Search to pick up Tower of Waters so you can bump out another Stadium, or just maintain flexibility when switching between Rapid Strike Pokémon.
In a pinch, Octillery can even pick up Korrina's Focus. This new Rapid Strike Supporter lets a player draw cards until they have 6 cards in their hand. This might be slightly weaker than other options currently in the format, but being able to grab it so easily with Octillery makes it well worth including.
The last card we'll look at is Kricketune V, which is neither a Single Strike nor a Rapid Strike Pokémon. Kricketune V has the powerful Exciting Stage Ability, which lets you draw cards until you have 3 cards in your hand. And if Kricketune V is in the Active Spot, you draw until you have 4 cards instead. This ability is a straight upgrade of Oranguru's Instruct Ability from the Sun & Moon expansion, which itself saw a lot of play not too long ago.
Abilities that draw cards have always been among the best in the game, especially those that can be used consistently each turn. With a lot of decks already including multiple Switch and Air Balloon, getting the full effect of Exciting Stage could happen quite frequently. Quick Ball is probably the format's most popular card; it's in virtually every deck, and it naturally thins out your hand to give Kricketune V more value each turn. Compared to Dedenne-GX and Crobat V, Kricketune V will need multiple turns to draw the same number of cards, but it can easily draw the most total cards over the course of the game.
This card will also be a powerful option for decks that want to better deal with Reset Stamp, as it shines best with low hand sizes and after Knock Outs. Just attach an Air Balloon to Kricketune V to use it as a pivot and get the maximum number of cards out of Exciting Stage every turn.
I believe that these are some of the strongest cards from the new Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion. Both Single Strike Style and Rapid Strike Style look to have a lot of potential, and they will surely be quick to make a splash in the metagame. While the Single Strike cards can provide high damage numbers and an aggressive playstyle, the Rapid Strike cards focus on being adaptive and flexible to find their strength. Kricketune V is also an exciting new draw option that could be featured in multiple decks, as well. Use the new cards to find your favorite way of battling, and best of luck in your upcoming matches!
For more Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis, be sure to visit Pokemon.com/Strategy.